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Friday September 18, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, Smokey Boutwell made it two in a row at Stafford as he won the final Friday night program of the season. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Dick Elliot, Leo Cleary, Bill Slater, Jack Malone and Dick Watson. Albany-Saratogo ran a 100 lapper and it was none other than Rene Charland taking the win over Dick Clark, Dick Fowler and Lou Lazzaro. At Norwood on Saturday, Leo Cleary showed the kids the fast way around as he took the win. Bob Baccioce finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Eddie Flemke. At Airborne it was Dave Gaul over Guy Chartrand and Jerry Cook and at Islip, Billy Spade won out over Jim Hendrickson and Herbie Hulse. Newt Palm won at Waterford. Thompson closed out the weekend with a 100 lapper. Bugsy Stevens won a classic duel with Smokey Boutwell.


Newt Palm was the Waterford winner 40 years ago.
Shany Photo

Cleary finished third and was followed by Perk Brown and Ralph Hop Harrington. Brown, from North Carolina, raced weekly in New England in order to be near his son who was in the Navy and stationed at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.

Thirty-five years ago in 1974, Charlie Jarzombek had quite a weekend on Long Island. Riverhead ran twin features on Wednesday night and he won them both. At Freeport on Friday, he recorded a second behind Fred Harbach and at Islip on Saturday he recorded another second, this time behind George Wagner. Bob Potter was the winner at Waterford. In other weekend action, Maynard Troyer won the Lancaster 200 over Geoff Bodine and Ron Martin. At Fulton's final on Sunday, Troyer had to settle for second behind Bodine.

Thirty years ago in 1979, the annual Thompson 300 was on tap and drew 146 modifieds. Geoff Bodine in the Richard Armstrong No.1 led four times including the last 96 laps to win the longest event on the schedule for the modifieds. Maynard Troyer finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary who came all the way from a 37th starting spot. John Rosati finished fourth and was followed by George Kent, Gomer Taylor, Wayne Anderson, Bugsy Stevens and Brett Bodine. Rusty Ball won the non-qualifiers race. The event drew 10,500 spectators. Richie Evans who won the night before at Shangri-La was in the hunt at Thompson until losing an engine and ended up 24th.Seekonk ran their final program of the season. Eddie StAngelo took the win over Leo Cleary and Bugsy Stevens.

Twenty-five years ago in 1984, Brian Ross took the lead on lap 192 of the 250 lap Pocono Race of Champions and went on to take the biggest win of his career. Brett Bodine finished second and was followed by Corky Cookman, George Brunnhoelzl, Mike McLaughlin and George Kent. The event drew 109 modifieds and 130 Street Stocks. Scott Poirier won the Street Stock championship. Waterford and Riverside rained out. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Harry Gant took the win. Randy LaJoie won the Saturday Busch North event.
 


Don Pratt lost his life during the running of the 1989 Pocono Race of Champions. Photo courtesy of John Bisci

Twenty years ago in 1989,Tony Hirschman won the 250 lap Pocono Race of Champions but a dark cloud hung over the speedway as New York state driver Don Pratt lost his life during the running of the event. Brian Ross finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero, George Kent, Mike McLaughlin, Jamie Tomaino and Mike Stefanik. It was also a big day for Brian McCarthy who beat out Tony Sylvester to win the 40 lap Street Stock-Late Model Stock event. Saturday night racing at Riverside Park rained out.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, the Pocono Race of Champions was gone from the Pocono Raceway and was scheduled to run at the Flemington Speedway later in the year.

The only action in New England was at Waterford where Mike Gada won a 40 lapper at Waterford over Phil Rondeau, Jerry Pearl and Mark LaJunesse. It rained at Riverside and Riverhead. In Winston Cup action at Dover Rusty Wallace took the win under caution, out of gas and with a flat left rear tire. It was also at Dover that Johnny Benson got his first Grandnational win.

Ten years ago, in 1999, Hurricane Floyd washed out the time trials for the Busch North Series and Featherlite Modifieds at Loudon. At race time on Saturday, 60,000 spectators jammed the front grandstand to watch the best New England had to offer. Tony Hirshman took the lead with five to go in the 100-mile event and went on to record the win. Mike Ewanitsko finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Reggie Ruggerio and Ed Flemke Jr. Brad Leighton won the Busch North event. Ted Christopher started 35th and finished second. In Winston Cup action at Loudon, Joe Nemacheck scored his first win.

Five years ago in 2004, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire for the weekend. Forty-one cars were on hand for the second of two events at the one-mile oval. Ted Christopher, who won the July race took the pole with a speed of 128.173 mph. Taking the outside pole was Reggie Ruggiero at 126.990 mph. Rounding out the top five were Todd Szegedy, Tony Hirschman and Donnie Lia. Mike Christopher, runner-up to his brother in July qualified 24th. Steve Park in the Joe Brady No.00 qualified 19th.

Rain on Friday and Saturday forced NASCAR to re-schedule the event to Monday. Those who stayed more than got their money’s worth, as once again the Modifieds were the best show of the weekend. Ted Christopher made it two for two at Loudon in 2004 as he drove to a convincing almost full straightaway win. Because of Monday being a workday only about 6,000 fans were on hand. Five cautions before the half way mark slowed the early going. The first caution came on lap 3 when Richie Gallup hit the backstretch wall. The second caution flew for Fred Vordermeir when he spun on the front stretch. Caution 3 was for Nevin George who spun while running fifth. George also brought out the fourth caution when he hit the inside wall in turn four on lap 27. The fifth and final caution was for Ron Silk who lost an engine. Christopher’s only challenge came from Mike Stefanik on lap 22 when he made a strong charge but was unable to out power Christopher. Stefanik later spun and was never a factor after that. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Donnie Lia, Tom Cloce and Chuck Hossfeld. Eric Beers, Zack Sylvester, Ken Barry and Doug Coby rounded out the top 10.

NASCAR officially announced that Whelen Industries would be the title sponsor of the Modified Tour Series in 2005. NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter officially welcomed the lighting manufacturer and indicated that it’s a good bet that the Modifieds will get more television time in 2005 and hinted that the Modifieds could very well be returning to Martinsville. The 2005 schedule is usually announced at the awards banquet in November. Present title sponsor Featherlite Trailers would remain involved in the series as they would sponsor the Most Improved Driver award and a year ending award of $3,000 to the driver that wins the most races.

Ryan Moore, the 21year old son of Kelly Moore signed a driver development contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Moore, who would still compete in the Busch North Series when his schedule permits, would do testing and a limited Busch Series schedule in 2005.

Busch North scribe Alan Claffie stated that a meeting was held with series owners and drivers at Loudon where they were told a new series title sponsor was expected to be announced plus short track purses would be doubled in 2005. Point moneys would be paid out three or four times a year and professionally installed car bodies would no longer be needed as individual body panels would no longer be blended to one another. A fifteen-race schedule was almost complete and Claffie alluded to the fact that Seekonk, Waterford and Beech Ridge in Maine would not be on the schedule.

The Dodge Weekly Racing Thursday night Thunder at Thompson fell victim to heavy mist that blanketed the Connecticut area most of the day. The cancellation solidified current Sunoco Modified point leader Todd Ceravolo a hefty payday in the NASCAR New England Regional Dodge Racing Series. Point leaders, as of September 19, would gather in Nashville, Tenn. later in the year for awards distribution. Ted Christopher, the point leader at Stafford was the apparent winner of the series title. Dick Wolf, who raced at Lee USA in New Hampshire had closed dramatically in recent weeks and had got the attention of NASCAR. It seems that the Speedway has been “helping” Wolf with his title attempt. Wolf finished third on September 10 and was basically out of the title hope. Then, it seems Lee Officials disqualified the first and second place finishers and elevated Wolf to the No.1 spot which may have displaced Christopher from the standings lead. NASCAR did not release the standings as of Thursday as those in charge wanted to investigate what happened at Lee and make sure everything is on the up and up. In the past it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when a track was helping their guy out. It’s a big deal to be the track where the champion comes from and track operators have been known to show a little favoritism at times if their guy needed it. Hopefully NASCAR will straighten this situation out. In addition to Christopher, Ceravolo and Wolf, Jeff Struck who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania, Aaron Fellows who raced at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH, Vinnie Annarummo who raced at Seekonk Speedway in Mass, Eddie Reed who raced at Waterford, Bob Gahan who raced at the Star Speedway in New Hampshire and Bub Bilodeau who raced at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine were in the top tier of the New England Regional standings.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was quiet on Friday night. Championships in all three NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions had been settled. Ted Christopher with eight wins in 18 starts is the 2004 SK Modified Champion. In addition to being the top winner Christopher was the most consistent with18 top 10s. Christopher actually ran in 19 events but was disqualified on May 14, after finishing third, as his car weighed in with too much left side weight. During mid season from July 2 to August 6 Christopher was on a tear as he won five in a row, bring his lifetime feature win total at Stafford to 79. During the final weeks of competition Christopher has become unhappy with the way track officials have treated him and has made it known that he will not participate in the speedway’s awards banquet. Finishing a distant second to Christopher is Todd Owen. Ryan Posocco, with five wins has a lock on the Late Model championship and Kevin Gambacorta with one win is the DARE Stock champion. The speedway published their official ruling on the September 10 actions of Chris Jones. Jones is now under indefinite suspension and is not allowed on speedway property.

Heavy rain at the Waterford Speedbowl forced the track management to pull the plug on Saturday night’s races. Eddie Reed Jr. and car owner Flash Gordon Rogers were extremely happy with the rain-out as it locked them into a first tier finishing spot in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series, New England Region and a healthy payday at seasons end. Reed led defending SK Modified champion Dennis Gada by 12 points. As he does at Thompson, Corey Hutchings led the Late Model standings at Waterford. In addition to his nine wins at Thompson, Hutchings has five at Waterford.

The Nextel Cup division of NASCAR was at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH this past weekend. The Busch Series had a week off. Qualifying was rained out and points set the field. Jeff Gordon was given the pole starting position and Jimmie Johnson, the outside pole. Kurt Busch took the win after leading half the event. Matt Kenseth finished second with Dale Earnhardt Jr., third.
 

Chris Economaki, editor of National Speed Sport, reported that NASCAR and the people within have donated generously to the political campaign of President George Busch. Five members of the France family that owns and controls NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation had each donated the maximum allowed $2,000. NASCAR President Mike Helton sprung for $1,000 plus $500 to the Republican National Committee. On the competitive side, Teresa Earnhardt gave $2,000 to Bush. Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett also gave. Three members of the Hendrick family gave $4,000 to Democratic candidate John Edwards.

On a sad note, Ray DeLisle, a former competitor at the Waterford Speedbowl in the 50’s and 60’s, passed away.


Ray DeLisle passed away 5 years ago this week.
Shany Photo

Last year, 2008, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour converged on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New Hampshire 100 on Saturday. Thirty-nine cars were on hand for qualifying which was held on Thursday. Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 29.658 seconds (127.453 mph). Chuck Hossfeld, who won the New England 100 at New Hampshire on June 28, joined Newman on the front row with a qualifying effort of 29.745 seconds (127.080 mph). Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Jimmy Blewett, Eric Beers and Bobby Grigas III. Series points leader Ted Christopher qualified 12th for Saturday’s 100-lap race. Ryan Preece and Glen Reen did not go out for timed laps. Both drivers were given provisionals. Preece, who drives the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family had engine trouble and had to send to Freetown Mass for a back-up. Reen crashed hard at Thompson and was given the opportunity to drive the Todd Szegedy back-up car. Sent packing was the No. 00 of Joe Brady which was driven by Jon McKennedy.

The New Hampshire 100 turned into a wreckfest for the Modifieds with 18 of the original 38 starters running at the finish. Ted Christopher, who finished second to Chuck Hossfeld by just .001 seconds in the New England 100 at New Hampshire in June, garnered his third win of the 2008 season and extended his points lead in the process. Jimmy Blewett led seven times in the race but had to settle for a second place finish. Ryan Preece came all the way from a tail starting position to finish a strong third. Rob Summers ended up fourth with Danny Sammons, fifth for his best finish of the season. Rounding out the the top 10 were Matt Hirschman, Erick Rudolph, Woody Pitkat, Jamie Tomaino and Eric Beers.

Numerous wrecks slowed the event that saw 15 lead changes among 5 drivers. The event started off with a bang when 12 cars were collected on the front chute at the drop of the green. Ricky Fuller’s engine had a malfunction and didn’t come up to speed when Fuller punched the throttle. This incident necessitated a complete restart. Ryan Newman, Chuck Hossfeld and Jimmy Blewett swapped the lead on numerouds occasions until the red flag was displayed on lap 62 laps because of extensive damage to the guard rail on the backstretch caused by an accident that had Anthony Sesely making a hard hit. Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld were involved in the most devastating wreck of the day. Goodale spun out in turn two on lap 52 without a yellow being displayed. Continuing on to turn four he spun again. Just as he spun Blewett went high and Hossfeld went low as they were fighting for the lead. Hossfeld cought the spinning Goodale with his right front tire and almost launched himself. Because of a TV time commitment to the Craftsman Trucks the Modified event was put on hold under red at 2:45 for a 3:00pm start for the trucks. The race resumed at just before 6:00pm and was over by 6:30. The quote of the day came from Todd Szegedy as he talked to his crew on the radio. “This is why they treat us like amateurs because we drive like a bunch of a__h___s”

A tip of the hat to Jerry Gappens, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager who made the decision not to end the Modified event until the advertised distance was completed. Gappens went on the tracks public address system and explained to the crowd that the Modifieds would return to run the complete distance following the Truck race. “I don’t want to cheat anybody out of a single lap of Modified racing," he said”. This was the third race in the last four for the Modifieds at New Hampshire to be cut short because of television commitments for one of NASCAR’s national touring series. On each of the two previous occasions, however, the race was called official and cut short.

With his win, Christopher had a 99-point lead on Hirschman in the season standings with four races to go on the schedule.

Saturday at Loudon was a busy day. In addition to the Modified 100 there was also Sprint Cup practice as well as a 125-mile event for the NASCAR Camping World East Series (formerly Busch North) and a 200 lap event for the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks. Former Busch North Series competitor Brad Leighton appeared to have victory in sight when he ran out of gas on lap 120 as he exited turn two. Steve Park, who was running second, inherited the lead but his lust for glory came up short as he was passed with two to go by Eddie MacDonald. Park held on for the runner-up spot and was followed by Matt Kobyluck and Matt Hirschman. Hirschman did such a good job that Gillett Evernham will field a car for him for this Friday's Camping World East race at Dover International Raceway. Ron Hornaday won the Truck race. Crewmembers of Germain Racing teams for Todd Bodine and David Reutimann slugged it out with David Starr and members of his crew as the trucks were brought to a halt following the race. During the race, contact initiated by Starr sent the trucks of Bodine, Reutimann and Randy Moss Motorsports driver Donny Lia into the turn one wall.

Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson International Speedway began with a moving tribute by long-time announcer Russ Dowd to the victims of the September 11th attacks. There was a moment of silence before the engines were fired. Keith Rocco roared into victory lane for his fourth win of the 2008 season. Jeff Connors, also turned in a dominating performance to score his first Pro Stock feature win of the season. Marc Palmisano took down an exciting win in the Late Model main event. Joe Coates of was hailed as the winner in the Limited Sportsman division and Scott Michalski of was tops in the Mini Stocks. Kurt Vigeant extended his point lead in the TIS Modified division with his second win of the 2008 season.

Rocco took the lead early and went on to stretch out his lead during the caution-free main event for the Sunoco Modifieds on Thursday night. Tommy Cravenho started the race from the point and held the top spot with Tim Sullivan having a strong run in the early going in second. Rocco was on a tear on his way to the front. He made quick work of Todd Ceravolo and with a bump and run on Tim Sullivan moved into second. Cravenho held his line as Rocco was relentless in pursuit of the lead. With the two battling, Ceravolo was able to catch the lead duo. A bonsai move in the inside groove exiting turn three, gave Rocco the lead on lap 12. Ceravolo continued to trail closely.

Kerry Malone, who swapped cars with teammate Woody Pitkat for the evening was locked in a battle with Bert Marvin just outside of the top-five. Once free of Malone, Marvin took over the fourth spot from Sullivan. While Rocco was getting away from the pack, Ceravolo worked over Cravenho for second. Blewett, who started scratch on the field after making his way down from qualifying his Whelen Modified Tour car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, had moved by Danny Cates and Pitkat with only three laps remaining. Rocco, never missed a beat in lapped traffic, cruising to his fourth win of the year. Cravenho held on to finish second. Ceravolo joined the duo on the podium. Marvin had a strong run to finish fourth. Sullivan had a career-best top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to the elements in what was supposed to be their final Friday night of racing.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Jeff Pearl and Matt Gallo won the twin 25-lap SK Modified features at the Double-Down Shootout on Saturday evening. Crowned overall Double-Down Shootout champions were Rob Janovic Jr. (SK Modified), Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), and Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stock). Claming victories in round-two features (rescheduled from an earlier date), were Tim Jordan (Late Model), Al Stone III (Sportsman), and Glenn Colvin (Mini Stock). In the accompanying Legends and X-Car main events it was Jason Palmer and Patrick D’Addario Sr. respectively.

Pearl jumped out to an early lead in the first of dual 25-lap SK events, but was shortly chased closely by Keith Rocco. With eleven-laps remaining, Rocco and third-place Dennis Gada tangled, the latter slamming the wall with great force finishing both for the event. Upon resumption, it was Pearl again, with Doug Coby in hot pursuit. With only a handful of circuits remaining, Ron Yuhas Jr. overtook Coby for second. It was the 30th career Speedbowl SK triumph for the 1998 champion. In the second feature, it was veteran Pete Pavone taking the lead followed closely by Dan LaJeunesse. A late restart shuffled the top-spots, with Tyler Chadwick getting the advantage at the green. Yet another yellow set the stage for a 2-lap shootout between young guns Chadwick, Matt Gallo and LaJeunesse. At the finish, Gallo prevailed to win his first-ever SK Modified feature. Following was 2007 champion Rob Janovic Jr., Chadwick, LaJeunesse and Doug Coby. Gallo is a senior at Berlin , Ct. High School and a member of a long-time racing family.

Greg Biffle won the Sprint Cup event at Loudon. Joey Logano, the 18-year-old Connecticut native who will be replacing Tony Stewart in the No. 20 in 2009, had a long race in his Cup debut. He pulled away on an early pit stop with the jack hanging from his car and had to return for a penalty that mired him in the back of the field. He finished 32nd, three laps down.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos from the Plainville Stadium, courtesy of the SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com. A big Plainville Stadium reunion is set for Saturday October 10, 2009.  For More information of the reunion <<CLICK HERE>>
Photos by Phil Hoyt and Steve Kennedy
Click on Photo for Full Size


Tony "Jap" Membrino


Bob Vivari


Loren Trobley


Tommy Hughes

Danny Gaudiosi

Dave Alkas


Timmy Berndt


Dave Germano


Elton Hill

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

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

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