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Friday September 26, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1968, Bugsy Stevens, driving the legendary Ole Blu of Len Boehler, closed out the season and wrapped up the modified track championship with a convincing win on Sunday at Stafford. Don MacTavish finished second with Fred DeSarro, third. Fred Harbach and Holly Wilder rounded out the top five. Leo Cleary made it two in a row at Norwood on Saturday night and at the Fulton Raceway in New York on Sunday, Richie Evans took his first of 40 victories he would earn in nine seasons.

Thirty five years ago in 1973, the modified action was in the southland. Richie Evans scored a one-two punch as he won the Martinsville 150 on Saturday afternoon and won a 100 lapper at the Caraway Speedway on Saturday night.


Bugs Stevens wrapped up the Stafford Championship in 1968.

At Martinsville, Jerry Cook finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Paul Radford. Cook also finished second at Caraway as Satch Worley finished third with Stevens, fourth. Ray Hendrick, driving the Dick Armstrong No.1 finished fifth. Hendrick had blown an engine at Martinsville, which necessitated Hop Harrington and crew making a hasty motor change.
 


Thirty Years ago Roland LaPierre, Jr. beat out Ed Flemke, Sr. at the Waterford Speedbowl.

Thirty years ago in 1978, Waterford ran on Saturday night and it was Roland LaPierre Jr. taking the win. Eddie Flemke finished second with Pete Fiandacca, third. Oswego ran their season ending 30 lapper, which saw George Kent brave the cold and hold off Richie Evans for the win. Jerry Cook finished third with Doug Hewitt, fourth. Seekonk ran a 100-lap open competition event on Sunday and it was Ronnie Bouchard in the Bobby Judkins 2x taking the win over Geoff Bodine.

Twenty five years ago in 1983,the Fall Final was a 100 lapper. Richie Evans took the win. Kenny Bouchard, driving for Ted Marsh, finished second and was followed by Corky Cookman and Bugsy Stevens. Jerry Pearl won the companion SK modified event with Kerry Malone, second. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Darrell Waltrip was the pole sitter and race winner.

Twenty years ago in 1988, the Fall Final featured the SK Modifieds and Ted Christopher took the win over Bob Potter and Jerry Pearl.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, Waterford ran a 150-lap event. Ricky Young took the win after taking over the lead on lap 106 when Bob Potter pitted with a soft tire. Mark LaJunesse finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick, Potter and Bob Georgiades. At Riverside Park, Stan Greger took a win over Ed Kennedy. At the Fall Final at Stafford, Mike Stefanik took the lead from Jeff Fuller on lap 83 and went on to win the 150-lap event. Satch Worley finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller and Jeff Fuller. Steve Chowanski was the SK Modified winner. John Anderson won the SK event but was disqualified after it was discovered that his engine had an illegal crankshaft. Hermie Sadler recorded his first Grand National win at Rougemont, N.C. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Rusty Wallace took the lead with 100 laps to go and went on to take the win over Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant announced that he would retire as a driver at seasons end.

Ten years ago in 1998, the Modified Tour Series was scheduled for Flemington but was washed out. Waterford ran their season finale 100 lapper and it was young gun, Eric Berndt taking the win. Tucker Reynolds finished second and was followed by Bert Marvin, Mark LaJunesse and Todd Ceravolo. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Mark Martin took the win over Ward Burton. The event was stopped midway when sewage backed up and flowed across the backstretch. Mike McLaughlin won the 300-mile Grandnational event.

Five years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Speedway with the Busch North Series for the annual Fall Final. All qualifying was completed on Saturday but rain-washed out the main events, which were to be run Sunday. The event was been re-scheduled for the following Saturday with a rain date of Sunday. There were 42 Featherlite Modifieds at Stafford. Nevin George was the top qualifier with a speed of 98.382 mph. Series point leader Todd Szegedy was a tick slower as his speed was 98.291 mph. Ted Christopher was third fastest with a speed of 98.167 mph. The re-draw for starting positions showed Szegedy on the pole with Eric Beers, outside pole. Eddie Flemke Jr. drew third with Tony Hirshman and Jamie Tomaino making up the front five. Nevin George drew 7th and Christopher, eighth. The long awaited return of Reggie Ruggerio turned into a non-event, event. Ruggerio, who teamed up with Long Island car owner Gary Cretty had the miss-fortune of having clutch problems and missed most of the practice and set-up sessions. Needless to say, he didn’t qualify.

Joey McCarthy took the Busch Pole for the Busch North Series Fall Final. Mike Johnson was second with Matt Kobyluck, third. Current series point leader Andy Santerre, who was hoping to sew up the series title, will start sixth. Christopher, Jerry Marquis and Mike Stefanik saw double duty. Christopher starts 11th, Marquis, 16th and Stefanik, 18th. Eric Berndt managed to avoid a serious last lap wreck to sew up his first ever Modified Track Championship. Berndt knew what he had to do going into the final event of the point season. With a healthy cushion on second place runner Todd Ceravolo, Berndt drove conservatively and in the end finished fifth. Ceravolo, who finished third, could only gain if Berndt had trouble, which he didn’t. Third generation driver Bobby Santos III lined up on the front row along side Kelly McDougall. McDougall, a rookie, had no business starting on the point, as she was clearly slower than those behind her. Santos got the jump and looked to be on his way to his first modified win until the last lap when his hopes ended up in the wall in turn four. Ted Christopher, who is known to intimidate his competition, put the pressure on as the pair took the white flag. Christopher took the lead between turns one and two. Santos took it back in three; Christopher took it back in four in the run to the checker. Santos bumped with Kerry Malone and hit the wall, ending his night in 16th spot. Malone limped under the checkered flag with severe front damage and was credited with fourth place. Jeff Malave finished in second spot and garnered enough points to tie with Todd Ceravolo for second in the final track standings. Sixth through tenth finishers in the 30 lap feature were Bert Marvin, Ron Yuhas Jr., Matty Adanti, Kelly McDougall and Butch Perry. David Berghman won the Pro Stock division track title in fine style as he took the win in his main event. Other feature winners were Woody Pitkat in the Late Models, Shawn Monahan, three in a row in the Limited Sportsman and Joe Godbout in the Mini-Stocks. Scott Bronczyk was crowned the Late Model Champ, Glenn Boss, the Limited Sportsman Champ and Ray Veins, the Mini Stock Champ.

The Stafford Speedway recently issued a notice stating that Bo Gunning had been suspended indefinitely. After viewing videotapes of the incidents leading up to the suspension it appeared that race officials over-reacted. First off, Gunning was not denying that he threw a punch at Ted Christopher but if one were to view why he did what he did maybe Christopher had it coming as he did attempt to take Gunning out and as a matter of fact he succeeded. Gunning was also accused of assaulting track owner Jack Arute Sr. The video showed a verbal confrontation between the two. Gunning later apologized and it was accepted. It was also stated that Gunning hit another car after the caution had been displayed. The video clearly shows Ted Christopher slamming into Gunning after the yellow had been displayed. Race officials took no action against Christopher as they said they didn’t see it. Evidently race officials at Stafford were not allowed to view videos of events and were not allowed to let a recorded video influence their decisions. Bo Gunning is no saint and he will be the first to admit it but he feels that whenever Ted Christopher is involved in a situation they tend to look the other way. Gunning swears he never said he was going to “Take care of Teddy”. What he did say to Kerry Malone was that he would not race with him, as he knew he was running for a championship. Gunning made a similar statement to Eric Berndt and Todd Ceravolo on the final night for track points at Thompson.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night in regular Dodge Series weekly racing series competition Dennis Gada got his seventh SK-Modified win of the year. Gada, who had been involved or collected in many wrecks during the 2003 season, managed to keep most of the destruction behind him. Gada started near the front, which meant that he would have a fighting chance of staying alive in the point race. Looking for his fifth straight championship, Gada added 10 points to his lead over Ed Reed Jr. Reed finished sixth. The action was hot and heavy as Dennis Charette finishing second. Ron Yuhas Jr., Chris Pasteryak and John Brouwer Jr. rounded out the top five. Allen Coats won the Late Model war but it was Corey Hutchins who clinched the Championship. Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Dave Zemke in the Sportsman division, Dave Trudeau in the Mini Stocks and Mike Beebe Jr. in the Legends. NASCAR made it official the following Tuesday when they announced that Dennis Gada was officially the New England Regional Weekly Racing Series by Dodge Champion. It wasn’t a cakewalk by any means for the four-time Waterford Speedbowl Modified Champion. In 18 events he garnered six wins and 11 top ten finishes. Modified racing at Waterford can be rough and tumble at times and Gada has had more than his share of tumbles. Starting in the rear or near the rear just about every week Gada ran to win rather than just finish as his record shows. Much of the credit goes to car owner Harry Wyant and his crew who did yeoman’s work to keep the mighty No.3 on the track and in contention. For his efforts Gada received $45,000+ in awards. With one more week to go, Gada stood a good chance of breaking the track championship record of Al Gaudreau and Dick Dunn who have four track titles in a row. Ed Dachenhausen, a Waterford alumni, won the North East Regional Championship. Dachenhausen raced at the Chemung Speedrome in New York where he won 12 out of the 19 events he ran. Mark McFarland who raced at the Old Dominion Speedway in Virginia was named as the National Champion as well as winning the Atlantic Regional Championship. McFarland pocketed $213,000 for his efforts. Other regional champions included Tom Seets, Heartland, Mark Wertz, Southeastern Coastal, Jerry Robertson, Northwest, Rip Michaels, Sunbelt and Kyle Berck, Midwest. Following Gada in the New England Region standings were Jeff Strunk, who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania, Scott Bonney, who raced at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire, Eric Berndt, who raced at Thompson, Dwight Jarvis, who raced at Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire, Bobby Babb, who raced at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine, John Fortin, who raced at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Rick Houlihan, who raced at Seekonk in Mass, Jeff Crowley, who raced at the Star Speedway in New Hampshire and Kerry Malone, who raced at Stafford. The top-10 received their awards in Nashville, Tenn. in early November. The Short Track regionals honor second division drivers. Ryan Posocco, who raced at Stafford, is the New England Champion. Aaron Fellows, who raced at the Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire, finished second. Waterford Late Model Champion Corey Hutchins finished third followed by Scott Bronczyk, who raced at Thompson.

In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Elliott Sadler took the Busch Pole. Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified tenth but had his time dis-allowed when inspectors determined that his right side body panel was too low. Earnhardt started in the rear and made up a lost lap to finish second to Michael Waltrip. Sadler had a good run going until four laps to go when he flipped violently.

Last year, 2007, The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour converged on the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Fall Final. There were 39 Modifieds on hand for qualifying. Eric Beers who has not been a tour regular this year was the Busch Pole sitter as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.267 second fastest. Second fastest was Doug Coby who was pinch-hitting for Dick Houlihan. Current point leader Donny Lia was third fastest. Rounding out the top five in time trials were Todd Szegedy and Ronnie Silk. The re-draw for starting positions for the 150 lap Fall Final saw Szegedy picking the pole with Lia picking the outside pole. Lia knew he needed to finish ninth or better to wrap up the championship for himself and car owner Bob Garbarino. He did it with two positions to spare as he finished seventh. Lia led only one lap and was content to pace himself and stay out of trouble as Mike Stefanik went on to take the win. Stefanik passed Matt Hirschman on lap 91 to take the lead. Ted Christopher followed but was shuffled back to third spot on lap 115 after a bump and grind with Tony Hirschman. Hirschman held off Christopher to finish second. Matt Hirschman finished fourth with Ronnie Silk, fifth. Eight caution periods for 42 laps kept Stefanik’s average speed at 63.395 mph. Carl Pasteryak, Ryan Preece, Jerry Marquis and Billy Pauch JR were eliminated in wrecks. Jamie Tomaino lost an engine and Woody Pitkat retired with suspension problems.
 

There was joy in Mystic CT and joy on Long Island at Jericho. For Bob Garbarino, winning the Whelen Modified Tour Series Championship was a life long dream. Garbarino has built and owned NASCAR Modifieds since the early 1960s and has raced them from Maine to North Carolina. From humble beginnings at the Waterford Speedbowl Garbarino has become one of the most professional and well respected car owners in the Modified division. Before the days of the Troyer chassis and the Hutter engines Garbarino fabricated his own chassis and built his own engines in a single one car garage that is attached to his home. Many top named drivers have sat in the seat of Garbarino Modifieds known as the Mystic Missile Don Bachand, Dick Watson, Joe Kelly, Leo Cleary, Gene Bergin, SJ Evonsion, Eddie Flemke, Geoff Bodine, Brian Ross, Bugsy Stevens, Jerry Marquis and Tim Connelly are a few that come to mind.


Last year Donny Lia finally won a championship for
long time car owner Bob Garbarino.
(Howie Hodge Photo)

All of his many years of hard work came to bare last Sunday night as the impact of winning the championship settled in. Through it all and equally deserving is Joan Garbarino who has served as scorer, trip planner, lots of patience and moral support. For Lia it was also a first for him. Lia cut his racing teeth at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island and honed is skills on bigger tracks from Connecticut to Florida. Lia’s record for the season includes six wins and 11 top fives in 15 races.

The Stafford Motor Speedway closed out its 2007 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season with the 35th Annual CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend. Woody Pitkat capped a spectacular 2007 SK Modified season by capturing his 8th feature victory of the year, but it was Ted Christopher who locked up the championship by 34 points over Pitkat with a second place finish. In the 40-lap Late Model feature, it was 16-year old Dillon Moltz driving to his second feature win of the season with Corey Hutchings taking the Late Model title in his rookie season at Stafford with a third place finish. The 50-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag with Wade Mattesen taking the lead from John Cleary on the opening lap of the race. Mattesen held the race lead until lap-3 when Woody Pitkat made a hard charge to move from third place to the lead. Once Pitkat was out front, he put on a dominating drive to score his eighth feature victory of the 2007 season. Pitkat had Ted Christopher chasing him for much of the race and several caution periods kept the two cars in close proximity. But the final 22 laps of the race ran green and Pitkat was never seriously challenged by Christopher as he slowly extended his lead lap by lap. Christopher finished second with Ken Barry, Brad Hietala, and Bo Gunning rounding out the top-5.

A penalty for speeding on pit road sent Kyle Busch to the back of the pack. All he did after that, with the help of a lot of yellow flags, was pass everyone else on the track. Busch slipped inside of Matt Kenseth with just over 17 laps to go, then held off Kenseth's challenges after a late restart to win Saturday's Busch Series race at Kansas Speedway.Busch's car failed the post-race inspection because the intake manifold did not meet NASCAR specifications. Kenseth dove inside the white line just before the finish of the Yellow Transportation 300, but couldn't slip past Busch's No. 5 Chevrolet. Busch won by .085 of a second on the 1.5-mile tri-oval, his third victory in his last six races and the 10th of his career. In Nextel Cup racing, darkness finally ended the disaster at Kansas Speedway, where the Chase for the championship field imploded and the finish of Sunday's event was in question long after winner Greg Biffle crossed the finish line. Biffle scored his first win of the season by winning a race that was stopped twice for rain delays, was shortened 85 miles because of darkness, ended under caution and saw six Chase drivers finish 29th or worse. And when Biffle's sputtering car slowed before the finish line, title contenders Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson passed him and both believed they finished ahead of him. Johnson, who finished third to reclaim the points lead, said Biffle wasn't the winner. “NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Biffle was the winner because the race ended under caution, the field was frozen and passing is not allowed under caution.

This week are several vintage racing photos of former Stafford Motor Speedway General Manager the late Ed Yerrington, Courtesy of VintageModifieds.com
 

That’s 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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