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Friday September 19, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1968, Gene Bergin had the M-6 in top form as he took the victory at Stafford on Friday night. Leo finished second with Fred DeSarro, third. Bobby Santos and Don MacTavish rounded out the top five. On Saturday afternoon, Martinsville ran their Fall 100 with Jimmy Hensley taking the win. Saturday night at Norwood, Leo Cleary took the top spot and at Malta, Richie Evans closed the trackís season with a 50-lap win over Ron Narducci, Jerry Cook, Dave Gaul and Lou Lazzaro. Bugsy Stevens closed out the weekend with a win at Thompson on Sunday.

Thirty five years ago in 1973, the big event of the weekend was the All-Star 300 at the Islip Speedway on Long Island. Jim Landry, the former Supermodified pilot from Rochester, N.H., took a surprise win over Jerry Cook, Bugsy Stevens and Jim Hoffman.


Jim Landry pictured here in 1976 took down the All-Star 300 at Islip Speedway in 1973.

Thirty years ago in 1978, the Pocono Race of Champions ran on the same weekend as two modified events in Virginia. Richie Evans had the luxury of two cars, two crews and a plane and was able to run in all three. Ronnie Bouchard won the Martinsville 150 on Saturday afternoon over Jerry Cook, Paul Radford, Harry Gant and Brian Ross. Evans finished eighth. At the Franklin County Speedway on Saturday night, Evans finished fifth behind Radford, Satch Worley, Cook and Brian Ross. At Pocono, Geoff Bodine was untouchable as he beat out Doug Hewitt for the win. Evans lost an engine and finished 30th.


Jerry Pearl was the SK Mod winner at Stafford Speedway in 1983.

Twenty five years ago in 1983, Stafford ran a 40-lap SK event on Friday night. Jerry Pearl took the win over Kerry Malone and Mario Fats Caruso. At Waterford on Saturday night, Donnie Bunnell took the top spot over Gomer Taylor, Dale Holdredge and Bob Potter. At Wall Stadium, a young Ray Everham beat out veteran Tony Siscone for top honors. At Shangri-La, Jim Spencer beat out George Kent, Mike McLaughlin and Richie Evans. Oxford Plains ran a 100 lapper on Sunday and it was George Summers taking top honors. Kenny Bouchard finished second. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Ricky Rudd took the win over Bobby Allison.

Twenty years ago in 1988, Mike McLaughlin beat out Jeff Fuller and Randy Hedger at Shangri-La. Waterford ran twin 75,s for the Modifieds. John Anderson took the first on with Ted Christopher, second. Richie Gallup and Anderson finished one-two in the nightcap. Waterford also ran twin 50,s for Late Models. Phil Rondeau and Ricky Shawn finished one-two in both events.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, Jim Broderick won a 40 lapper at Waterford over David Gada and Jerry Pearl. Pearl wrapped up the modified title. Jay Stewart won the late model feature and Glenn Boss won in the Strictly Stocks. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Ernie Irvan took the win over Rusty Wallace and Jim Spencer. The Busch North Series and the Modified Tour series were scheduled for Loudon but were rained out.

Ten years ago, in 1998, Mike Stefanik recorded his 12th modified win of the season as he dominated the Stafford Fall Final 300.Stefanik took the lead on lap 220 when Rick Fuller pitted and outran Tom Baldwin to the checker. Mike Ewanitsko finished third and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr., Carl Pasteryak, Jim Broderick, Mike Christopher and Tim Connolly. Because of slippery conditions, 1/3 of the event, 100 laps were run under caution. Chris Jones was the 50 lap SK Modified winner and was followed by Broderick, Larry Ross and Steve Chowanski. At Waterford on Saturday night, Todd Ceravolo took the win over Mike Gada, Tucker Reynolds and Bert Marvin. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Ricky Rudd extended his winning streak to 16 straight years as he ran to victory in 100+ degree heat. Jeff Gordon finished second with Mark Martin, third.

Five years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series took a week off in order to prepare for the final three-race stretch run which would determine the 2004 series champion. Sophomore driver Todd Szegedy led the NASCAR Modified Tour Point standings. Szegedy, who had four wins in 16 starts, led John Blewett III by 84 points. In 16 starts, Blewett had won twice. Chuck Hossfeld, another sophomore driver, sat in third spot, 89 points behind the leader. Hossfeld had three wins in 16 starts. Ted Christopher was the fourth and final contender for the title. Christopher, 198 points behind the leader is 198 points behind the leader and had two wins to his credit. Rounding out the top five was former series champion, Jerry Marquis, 247 points behind the leader. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Jamie Tomaino, Ed Flemke Jr. and Donnie Lia. It had been a long time coming as NASCAR finally relented and eliminated racing back to the caution for itís top three divisions, Winston Cup, Busch Racing Series and Craftsman Trucks. It was announced that all three divisions would carry electronic scoring transponders and there would be no doubt as to where competitors would line up for re-starts. There had been a lot of close calls when competitors raced to the caution and luckily no one had been hurt. Hurricane Isabel didnít hamper the racing at Thompson on Thursday night. It was cool and a bit windy but it didnít slow Todd Ceravolo who romped to his third win of the season. Ceravolo staged a torrid side by side battle with Ted Christopher during the latter part of the 30-lap feature. Ceravoloís win propelled him into the second spot in the point standings, 40 points behind Eric Berndt. Berndt ended up in 15th spot after a bout with the wall in the closing laps. Berndt had been running sixth before misfortune struck. Following Ceravolo and Christopher were Bo Gunning, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Bert Marvin. Other Thursday night winners were GeGe Gravel in the Pro Stocks, Charles Bailey III in the Late Models, Shawn Monahan in the Limited Sportsman and Scott Michalski in the Mini-Stocks. Despite his miss-fortune, Eric Berndt held a forty-point edge over Todd Ceravolo. Ceravolo, who had come on strong, led Jeff Malave by a mere two points. Also in the hunt for the Sunoco SK-type Modified Championship was Bert Marvin who was behind Malave by four points. Chuck Docherty held a four-point advantage over David Berghman for Pro Stock honors. Other point leaders at Thompson were Glenn Boss in the Limited Sportsman and Michael Veins in the Mini-Stocks. Scott Bronczyk had already sewed up the Late Model title. The Stafford Speedway issued the following penalties during the week. Defending SK Modified Champion Bo Gunning was suspended indefinitely. The reason being actions detrimental to the sport of auto racing. In other words, the Stafford management saw an incident between Gunning and Ted Christopher on September 12 and evidently heard the pre-race threats that were allegedly made. Other penalties issued were to Frank Wainwright for his unsportsmanlike driving and the post race contact he had with another car. Wainwright was fined $250 and was handicapped out of the top 20 for the following weeks Fall Final. Ronnie Silk received the same fine and penalty for a similar incident. James Civali was suspended from competing in the Fall Final for unsportsmanlike conduct while on probation. Civali intentionally hit another car while the speedway was under a red flag condition. Late Model Championship contender Jay Stuart let his temper get the best of him when he hit another competitor following the feature on September 12. Stuart was fined and was handicapped out of the top 20 for the Fall Final. This had an adverse effect on his championship plans. Speaking of championships, when NASCAR and Dover Downs Speedway cancelled their Busch North event because of an impending hurricane they all but handed Andy Santerre the 2003 series title. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night, Dennis Gada didnít have the best of nights, as he was involved in a devastating crash on lap 20. In spite of it all it looked like he had won the NASCAR Weekly Racing by Dodge New England Regional title, which was worth in the neighborhood of $45,000. Gadaís rival for the regional title. Meme DeSantis who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania met a similar misfortune as he crashed out of his feature event and lost his spot as the leader of both his track points and regional points. Gada still maintained the point lead for the Modified title at Waterford even though he finished 18th and with two more races to go before the track's season ends he could become the tracks first five-time champion. He was currently tied with Dick Dunn with four titles each. Ricky Young held off Rob Janovic to take the win, his first since1996. Young started on the pole and led 33 of the 35 laps.Rounding out the top five in the modified feature were Chris Pasteryak, Zack Sylvester and Jeff Pearl. Other Saturday night winners at Waterford were Wayne Coury in the Late Models, Shawn Monihan in the Sportsman, Glen Colvin in the Mini Stocks and Corey Williams in the Legends. The Oswego Speedway, a 5/8-mile oval on the shores of Lake Ontario and known as the Supermodified Capitol of the World, was sold to former speedway competitor Steve Gioia Jr. and his partner Pat Furlong. The Caruso Family had run the Oswego Speedway, which has also hosted some high paying Modified events in years past, for 53 years. Since the closing of a near-by Miller Brewery and a Nestle Chocolate factory the speedway had fallen on hard times. NASCAR suspended Busch Series driver Shane Hmeil indefinitely for violation of the sanctioning bodyís substance abuse policy. Brian Vickers won the Busch Racing Series event at Dover. In Winston Cup action, Ryan Newman battled back after being almost two laps down to win his seventh of the season.

Last year, 2007, The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour headed back to Thompson to complete the Modified Mania weekend that was cut short by rain on September 9. As the weekend approached it appeared that NASCAR was dragging its feet as far as declaring officially who was the winner of the recent event at Loudon on September 15. Todd Szegedy had taken the apparent win when NASCAR decided to take a closer look at his intake manifold before making an official decision. It took five days to make a decision as it was announced late on Thursday that the part in question was declared legal and the win would stand.
 
Ronnie Silk earned his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour during the running of part two of Modified Mania II. Silk scored a popular win in the Whelen Modified Tour 150 at Thompson in front of a crowded house. In the opening stages of the event current point leader Donnie Lia and Ron Yuhas, Jr. ran at the head of the field. After making tracks through the pack, Christopher dogged leader Lia. At lap 55, the bulk of the field came down to pit road for service. Christopher opted to stay out on the track to inherit the lead on the restart. Silk had moved into the third spot with Reggie Ruggiero taking chase. During a long green flag run, Silkís car continued to get better. He was able to take the top spot from Christopher one lap shy of the century mark taking Ruggiero along for the ride. Szegedy had gotten by Lia and started to make his presence known. On a restart late in the race, Ruggiero was able to power by Silk to take command of the race.

Silk, never far behind, continued to chase the new leader. On lap 137, Silk got underneath Ruggiero and with sparks flying Silk was the leader once again on lap 138. A caution on lap 139 shook up the running order inside the top five. Contact between Christopher and Flemke ended with Flemke in the outside wall and Christopher on pit road to serve a one-lap penalty. Silk easily held off the competition on the final single file restart to score the popular win. Ruggeiro settled for second ahead of Szegedy. Bobby Santos and James Civali rounded out the top five. Series point leader Don Lia finished eighth.

In True Value Modified Racing at Thompson Louie Mechalides turned in a dominating performance to win the 75-lapper for the northern New England based series. The event, which had been stopped by rain two weeks previous resumed on lap four with Andy Seuss at the helm with Chris Pasteryak and Jimmy Kuhn taking chase. Seuss held the top spot through a number of early race cautions. An early incident directly behind the leader that started when Brian Schofield got out of shape, caused a chain reaction that collected a number of cars including championship contenders Kirk Alexander and Les Hinckley along with Rich Savary and others. Alexander was taken off the track by double hook.The young driver held off several advances from Mechalides before relinquishing the lead on lap 15. Seuss saw his great run come to an end on lap 27 when his racer made hard contact with the outside wall. Everything was going Mechalides way as Hinckley was making great strides heading back to the front of the pack. Thompson Speedway regular Tommy Cravenho made it interesting in the closing laps giving Mechalides all he could handle. In the end, Mechalides was up to the task taking down the victory over Cravenho. Jon McKennedy came home third ahead of Jimmy Kuhn and Hinckley.

In regular NASCAR Whelen Weekly Racing action at the Thompson Speedway a season packed with racing excitement at Thompson International Speedway came down to the final Thursday night with champions crowned in all six NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. At the nightís end, Woody Pitkat made his first appearance in Sunoco Modified victory lane. But, it was Keith Rocco who drove his Bannister Motorsports #6 to a fifth place finish to earn the team their second championship in three seasons. In Pro Stock action, Mike OíSullivan, scored his second Thompson Pro Stock championship in winning-style taking down Thursday nightís feature win. In similar fashion, Kurt Vigeant capped off his first TIS Modified championship with a feature win in the regular season finale. John Materas earned his first career Late Model win in a wild main event that also found Rick Gentes in for the divisional championship. Larry Barnett scored his fourth Limited Sportsman feature win while a seventh place finish allowed a retiring Keith DeSanctis to go out as a champion. Scott Michalski made it two in a row in Mini Stock competition but it was Mike Romano who took the championship.

Pitkat saved the best for last; earning his lone feature win in the finale. After a 2007 season of consistent finishes, Pitkat was in the running for the track title on the final night. He took the lead just after halfway and withstood heavy pressure from Kerry Malone to score the victory; however it was not enough to catch the point leader Rocco. An opening lap melee that started with contact in the front row ended with Masse hard into the outside wall in the turn one. Also collected were championship contenders Rocco and Tommy Cravenho as well as Bert Marvin. With the race underway, Geoff Gernhard was the early leader with Josh Steeves coming along for the ride in second. Steeves made a move on Gernhard to take the lead on lap four with Malone and Pitkat battling hard for the third spot. A pair of laps later, Pitkat was able to race ahead of Gernhard to take over the second spot. Malone put the young driver back to fourth. Meanwhile, Cravenho and Rocco were making their way back to the front. On lap 10, Cravenho was sixth and Rocco eighth. Up front, Steeves continued to lead Pitkat. Malone ran in second a comfortable margin ahead of Gernhard. On lap 13, Cravenho joined the top five. Rocco mirrored his moves to run in the sixth position. The #0 of Danny LeJeunesse came to rest on the backstretch on lap 14 to bring out the second caution. The restart pitted Steeves against Pitkat for the top spot. Steeves was up for the challenge and held on to the lead on the race. On lap 16, Pitkat got a run Steeves to take over the top spot. Steeves bobbled after contact with Pitkat; opening the door for Malone. Steeves was shuffled back into third. Cravenho had cleared Gernhard to move into the fourth. Rocco made his first appearance in the top-five on lap 21. Malone tailed Pitkat lap after lap while Cravenho was getting racy for third. Despite the efforts of both Malone and Cravenho they had to settle back in line.

At the checkers, it was Pitkat in for the win over Malone. Steeves edged out Cravenho by inches to finish third. The newly crowned champion Rocco rounded out the top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway closed out their regular Friday night season. Taking feature wins were Keith Rocco, who had wrapped up the Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified Championship the previous evening, won the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Ryan Posocco in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joe Allegro, Jr. in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Rick Lanagan in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Rob Lawrence in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with Willie Hardie leading the first two laps of the race before Lloyd Agor moved out front. Agor held the lead until lap-6 when Jeff Malave moved out front. Malave's pass allowed Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher to both move by Agor, dropping him from the lead to fourth place. Agor would continue to backslide as Woody Pitkat and Brad Hietala moved into the fourth and fifth positions. The race ran green to lap-32 before the first caution came out and erased a sizeable lead for Malave. Malave would hold the race lead until lap-38 when he drifted up the track just enough in turn 4 to allow Rocco to dive to the bottom and take the lead. The caution came back out and set up a green white checkered finish. Rocco took the lead on the restart with Ted Christopher and Malave locked in a side by side duel for second. That side by side action gave Rocco all the cushion he needed as he took his fourth feature win of the 2007 season. Christopher finished second, with Pitkat, Malave, and Doug Coby rounding out the top-5.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl the shoreline oval wrapped up its 2007 season with the Town Fair Tire Fall Finale. Dennis Gada won the battle but lost the war as Rob Janovic finished third and wrapped up the track championship. Don Fowler finished second with Diego Monahan and Jeff Pearl rounding out the top five. According to reports the Speedbowl took it on the chin at the front gate as attendance was way off for this event. The Thompson Speedway opted to run their rained out Modified Mania on the same date so as to accommodate an event that was held at the Oswego Speedway in New York. Because of the fact that Waterford and Thompson are NASCAR sanctioned and Oswego is not makes it hard to believe why NASCAR would let this conflict occur between two of their tracks that are less than 60 miles apart and draw from the same fan base. Both tracks shell out considerable money to the Daytona based organization. Letting a situation like this occur leads one to believe that NASCAR doesnít care two cents about its short tracks.

Carl Edwards was the Nextel Cup winner at Dover Downs. Denny Hamlin was the Busch Series winner. Joey Logano finished second but became the NASCAR Busch East Seriesí first rookie champion in the Sunoco 150 at Dover International Speedway Friday afternoon. Sean Caisse took the race lead from Logano with just eight laps to go, and then withstood a final charge by Logano to win by a car length.

This week are several vintage racing photos of early Modified star Connecticut's Johnny "The Greek" Georgiadis from the Collection of Danny Pardi, Courtesy of VintageModifieds.com
 


This photo has some trivia to it. The kid looking out the window went on to be the 1972 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the year, Denny Zimmerman.

Thatís it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.
 

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