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Friday September 4, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, Labor Day weekend meant many extra distance events were on the schedule. Albany -Saratoga started it off with a regular program, which saw Lou Lazzaro take the top spot over Bugsy Stevens and Jerry Pennock. Saturday night at Norwood Eddie Flemke won a double point event over Freddie Schulz and Bob Bacciocce. At Airborne it was Dick Nephew over Guy Chartrand and in South Boston, Va., Mr Modified, Ray Hendrick won a 400 lapper over Perk Brown and Jimmie Hensley. Charlie Jarzombek made it two in a row at Islip as he beat out Jim Hendrickson and Fred Harbach. Waterford ran on Saturday night as well as on Monday. Fred “Fuzzy” Baer was the Saturday night winner with Don Collins taking the victory on Monday. Lou Lazzaro made it two for two on the weekend as he won the Utica-Rome 400 on Sunday night.


Fuzzy Baer was the Waterford winner in 1969. (Shany Photo)

Dave Lape finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Jerry Cook, Perk Brown and Bill Slater. From Utica it was off to Dover Downs for the All Star 100. Ray Hendrick cleaned house for the win. Sonny Hutchins finished second and was followed by Buzzie Reutiman, Bill Greco, Charlie Jarzombek and Bugsy Stevens. A 150 lapper scheduled for Labor Day at Stafford was cancelled. It was also during this week that NASCAR Winston Cup drivers formed the Pro Drivers Association and elected Richard Petty as their president.

Thirty-five years ago in 1974, Wednesday night racing at Riverhead and Friday night racing at Freeport rained out. Utica-Rome ran a 100 lapper on Friday, which saw Geoff Bodine take the win. Lou Lazzaro finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. Saturday night at Islip saw Charlie Jarzombek take the win over Charlie Siebert and at Stafford Bugsy Stevens edged out Leo Cleary and Ronnie Bouchard. Racing at Shangri-La was cancelled due to a power failure. Rain prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl. At Fulton on Sunday, Clayton Sonney Seamon held off Bernie Miller and Maynard Troyer. In New England, Monadnock, Seekonk and Thompson went head to head. Jerry Pearl won at Thompson while it was Eddie Flemke at Seekonk and Brian Ross at Monadnock. Stafford ran a 100 lapper on Labor Day and Bugsy Stevens made it two for two at the half-mile oval for the weekend. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Fred DeSarro, fourth.
 


Ronnie Rocco took down a Plainville Stadium win in 1979.
 (Phil Hoyt Photo)

Thirty years ago in 1979, Labor Day weekend started on Wednesday with a 200 lap event at New Egypt. Richie Evans took the win over Jerry Cook and John Blewett Jr. Friday night at Stafford belonged to Ronnie Bouchard who led the way to victory over Evans. Oswego ran their annual Modified 200 on Saturday, which drew 72 Modifieds. Geoff Bodine and Jerry Cook finished one-two in a lap by themselves. Richie Evans finished third, one lap down. At Seekonk, Leo Cleary gave Eddie StAngelo a driving lesson and at Waterford, Rick Donnelly took the win. Charlie Jarzombek beat out Greg Sacks at Islip and at Westboro; Jeff Fuller took the top spot. Stafford capped off the weekend with their annual 200, which drew 60 Modifieds. Richie Evans took the win and sewed up the track championship.

Maynard Troyer finished second and was followed by Mark Malcuit, Gil Hearne and Jerry Pearl. Other weekend winners were Reggie Ruggiero at Riverside and Monadnock, Jerry Cook at Spencer, Bruce Batchelder at Claremont, Ronnie Rocco at Plainville and Ronnie Bouchard at Thompson. Joe Howard sewed up the Thompson championship. Two days after his Oswego win, Geoff Bodine and car owner Lee Allard split up.

Twenty-five years ago in 1984, Reggie Ruggiero was the kingpin at Stafford as he won the Friday night 30 lapper and the Labor Day 200. Kenny Bouchard finished second on Friday and was followed by George Brunnhoelzl and Ray Miller. Richie Evans finished second in the 200 and was followed by Bouchard, Brian Ross and Mike McLaughlin. At Waterford on Saturday, Dale Holdredge beat out Gomer Taylor and at Riverside John Rosati took the win. The Oswego 200 was still the race to win as 62 Modifieds were on hand. Richie Evans took the win, which was worth $17,500. Jeff Fuller finished second and was followed by George Kent, Roger Treichler and Tony Hirschman. Other weekend winners included Kent at Spencer, Don Howe at Islip and Tom McCann at Wall Stadium. Down in the southland, Ronnie Bouchard won the Saturday Grandnational event at Darlington.

Twenty years ago in 1989, it rained at Stafford on Friday night. At Waterford on Saturday, Richie Gallup was the winner and Phil Rondeau scored his 12th win of the season in the late model ranks. The Oswego 200 was won by Tony Hirschman. Brad Hietella won at Riverside and Fred Harbach took the win at Riverhead.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Thompson ran on Wednesday. Wayne Dion took the win over John Sneade and Frank Cardile. Ted Christopher was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Bob Potter finished second with John Jensen,third. Waterford ran double features with Jim Broderick winning both. Dan Avery won at Riverside and Dan Watts won at Riverhead. The Modified Tour Series was at Apple Valley (Shangri-La). Mike Ewanitsko recovered from a mid race flat tire to win the event. Wayne Anderson finished second and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak. Richie Gallup and Rick Fuller were eliminated in separate wrecks after tangles with Ed Flemke Jr. Flemke ended up seventh. At Darlington, Mark Martin was the Grand National winner and Bill Elliott won the Winston Cup event.

Ten years ago in 1999, Willie Hardie took the Friday night SK Modified win at Stafford. Todd Szegedy finished second with Curt Brainard, third. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour made its final visit to the soon to be closed Riverside Park Speedway for a 200 lapper. The event drew 49 Modifieds and a packed grandstand. Pole sitter Bob Polverari. Polverari led the first 61 laps before giving way to Reggie Ruggiero. Ruggiero held the point until passed by Ricky Miller on lap 126. Ruggerio faded to eventually finish 15th while Miller went on to take the win. Mike Ewanitsko, in the Art Barry No. 21, finished second and was followed by Ted Riggot, Tony Hirschman and Ricky Fuller. Dennis Gada scored his eighth win of the season at Waterford. David Gada, who initially finished fourth was moved up to second after it was discovered that the cylinder heads on the cars of Todd Ceravolo and Tucker Reynolds were illegal. Jay Stuart recorded his fourth in a row in Late Model competition and Richard Brooks took the Mini Stock feature. Eddie Brunnhoelzl won at Riverhead and at Thompson on Sunday Todd Ceravolo took the win over Curt Brainard. In Winston Cup action at Darlington Jeff Burton won the rain shortened Southern 500. Burton also earned the No-Bull $1million bonus. Ward Burton finished second. Mark Martin won the Darlington Busch Series 300.

Five years ago in 2004, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Tongues were wagging in a positive way over the announcement that Whelen Engineering would take over as title sponsor of the series in 2005. Thirty-four Modifieds were on hand for the event that carried a $70,000 purse. Tony Hirschman took the Busch Pole. The draw for starting spots saw Hirschman draw the outside pole along side Eddie Flemke Jr. who drew the pole. Flemke took the lead at the start and held the position for 42 laps when Doug Coby was able to get by Coby lasted five laps on the point until Flemke took it back. The lead seesawed back and forth until lap 76 when Coby became the victim of a slipping clutch, ending his night. Flemke led until lap 96 when he began backing up, giving the lead to Todd Szegedy. Szegedy led the remaining distance to complete the 150-lap distance. Jerry Marquis, who started 12th, moved into the second spot on lap 96 but couldn’t catch Szegedy sleeping. Marquis settled for second. Mike Stefanik ran virtually without fanfare and ended up third while Flemke slipped to fourth at the finish. Tony Hirschman, in a determined run after having to pit with a flat tire, finished fifth. Sixth through tenth were Chuck Hossfeld, Kevin Konopka, Kenny Barry, Jamie Tomaino and Greg Shivers. Seven cautions for 42 laps slowed the event The most severe came as the field completed the first lap when a multi-car tangle occurred on the front stretch which resulted in Ted Christopher receiving severe rear end damage. Christopher drove to the pit area but never returned.

The Modified Tour Series continued to be the strongest regional touring series that NASCAR has. Among those missing from the Waterford Mod Tour event were Bobby Santos III who normally drives the Joe Brady No.00. John Blewett III pinch-hit for Santos while he was at Oswego, NY for their annual Supermodified Classic. Santos finished second to Greg Furlong in the 200-lap grind. In the companion ISMA Super Nationals Santos swapped spots with Furlong as he took the win.

In Dodge Weekly Racing Thursday night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway Todd Ceravolo put himself back on top of the Sunoco Modified standings with a convincing win over Bert Marvin and Kerry Malone. It was his fifth win in which may be his final season. Ceravolo, an electrical contractor, had indicated that he would retire from racing at season’s end and would like nothing better than to go out as a champion. Ceravolo also stands a good chance of a high finish in the first tier of the NASCAR Dodge Regional standings. A single file re-start with three laps to go told the story. Bert Marvin was looking to record the win until Ceravolo powered by on the backstretch and that’s all she wrote. Following Ceravolo and Marvin at the finish were Kerry Malone, Eric Berndt, Jeff Malave and Richard Savory. Ted Christopher, who was the odds on favorite to become the NASCAR regional champion finished eighth after recovering from a lap six spin. David Berghman rebounded from a two-race slump as he recorded his seventh Pro Stock win of the season. Other Thursday night Thunder winners were Ryan Posocco in the Late Models, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman and Jason Paquette in the Mini-Stocks. On a sad note, Bo Gunning took a mean fall from atop the Eddie Partridge hauler and had to be transported to a nearby hospital. Evidently Gunning was assisting his crew in the removal of his car from the hauler when his cell phone rang which diverted his attention. The car rolled out of the truck on to the elevator ramp, striking Gunning. Gunning was taken to the hospital and released. Car owner Eddie Partridge made the decision to call it a night and did not enter his car into competition. Partridge, who was at Waterford on Saturday night stated that Gunning was sore but had no broken bones.

Double features were on tap at Stafford on Friday night. Ted Christopher wrapped up his fifth track championship but it wasn’t pretty and he wasn’t happy. Steve Chowanski won the opening 30 lap SK Modified event with Jeff Malave hot on his tail. Todd Owen finished third. Christopher finished a conservative 10th. Christopher needed to finish 20th in the second event. Jeff Malave ended up taking the win in the second event after Christopher was put to the tail of the field for rough riding and ended up finishing tenth, again. Chris Jones, who has a short temper at times started on the pole of the second event and was able to hold onto the front spot until the five to go signal was given. All of a sudden Jones’ car drifted up and Christopher, running in second made a move to take the lead. Once Jones realized what was happening he turned left to block, making contact with Christopher and ended up spinning into the infield. Taking somewhat of a fit,
Jones spun his car in the dirt. Race director Frank Sgambato Jr. gave the word that Jones was done for the night. The next thing you know, he puts Christopher to the rear for rough riding. Christopher, not a saint by any means, was the victim of a bad call. Jones came into him, period! Christopher vented his frustration with the Stafford management on Saturday night at Waterford. “I hope they enjoy themselves at the banquet this year, I know I won’t be there”, he said. In Late Model action Ryan Posocco made it three in a row.

The tech man at the Waterford Speedbowl got tough on Saturday night. Doug Coby, who apparently had won the SK Modified main event found himself disqualified after the tech man discovered illegal chassis height. Rob Janovic, who finished second, was declared the winner. Tom Fox ended up second with Ed Reed Jr., third. Allen Coates, who was unhappy to hear he had to pay income tax on the vehicle he won in the Funkmaster event, took his fourth Late Model victory of the year. Richard Brooks made it two in a row in Mini Stock action and Jim Procaccini won the Sportsman feature. Twin 25’s at Wall Township were won by Kevin Flockart and Shannon Mongeau. At Riverhead, Bill Park took the win.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the California Speedway in Fontana last weekend. For the first time since 1950 the Nextel Cup and Busch Racing series was not at the Darlington Speedway in South Carolina as NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation has seen fit to break tradition. Gregg Biffle won the Busch Series event after putting the fender to Casey Mears late in the race. Elliott Sadler was the Nextel Cup winner.

Last year, 2008, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had the Labor Day weekend off before moving on to Thompson International Speedway for the Sunoco Modified Mania 150 on Sunday, Sept 7. Ted Christopher led the point standings as he had a 60 point lead over Chuck Hossfeld. Matt Hirschman sat in third spot, 26 points behind. Mike Stefanik and Ronnie Silk rounded out the top five. Sixth through 10th were Todd Szegedy, Eric Beers, Jimmy Blewett, Ed Flemke Jr and Rowan Pennick.

Don Lia, who was the series champion in 2007 was released from his NASCAR Craftsman Truck ride. He had 12th at Bristol in his last outing in the #71 Chevy TRG Motorsports entry. Lia recorded a win in the truck series earlier in the year at Mansfield Ohio and had been a consistent top ten finisher. Word had it that Lia will be entered in the upcoming Whelen Modified Tour Series event at Loudon and will be driving new '09 Troyer House car normally driven in the New York Race of Champions Series by Chuck Hossfeld.

It was literally “Showtime” at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night as the Sunoco Modifieds (SK type) took center stage with a 50 lap event. Jimmy Blewett, driving the Eddie Partridge owned No. 12 started fifth on the grid and wasted little time in marching to the front. Kerry Malone was the initial leader but could not hold back the advances of Blewett who took the lead on lap four. After withstanding numerous restarts Blewett streaked under the checkers almost a half straightaway over Woody Pitkat and Malone. Todd Ceravolo who entered the event as the point leader increased his lead by two points over Danny Cates as he finished fourth. Cates, who has come into his own this year, has been persistent as he continues to keep Ceravolo in sight. Cates rounded out the top five. Keith Rocco, who had been fourth in track points plus is ranked high in NASCAR Whelen Weekly Racing Series points suffered a major setback when his engine expired shortly after the opening green.

In other Thursday Night Thunder action at Thompson George “MadDog” Bessette cleaned house in the Pro Stock division. Rick Gentes made it two in a row in the Late Models. Scott Sundeen MA, took top honors in the Limited Sportsman feature. Scott Michalski scored a victory in Mini Stocks while Leo Oliveira triumphed in the TIS Modifieds.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of another classic battle between Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco. Christopher, fresh off his recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series win in Mansfield, Ohio won out over his former crew chief as he scored his 102nd career win at the Arute Family oval. Christopher and Rocco are also locked into a torrid battle for the track’s SK Modified Championship. Christopher is the defending champion. With the Stafford season rapidly winding down there won’t be too many opportunities left for Rocco to overtake his mentor. There are only two more Friday night dates remaining before the season ending Fall Final on September 28.

In other Friday night action at the Nutmeg oval, Dillon Moltz won his second consecutive and fifth overall Late Model feature of the 2008 season. Matt Chiarizio took the 15-lap DARE Stock feature and there were two first-time winners as Raymond Grassetti took the 20-lap SK Light feature and Darrin Havenec won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Christopher outlasted Rocco to take home the victory. Corey Hutchings jumped out to the early lead from the outside pole, but gave way to Curt Brainard on lap-3. Rocco moved by Brainard one lap later to take the lead and had Zach Sylvester hot on his bumper. Sylvester moved by Rocco for the lead on lap-10, but Rocco took the lead back on a lap-11 restart. Rocco held the lead to the half-way point of the race, which is when Christopher moved to the front of the field for the first time. Rocco gave chase to Christopher the entire second half of the race, but was unable to get by as Christopher took down his fourth victory of the 2008 season. Rocco finished second, with Jeff Malave, Sylvester, and Richie Pallai, Jr. rounding out the top-5.

In the 30-lap Late Model feature event, it was Waterford High School student Dillon Moltz taking his second consecutive feature win. Scott Cook took the early lead and led the first two laps before spinning in turn 2, which handed the race lead over to Michael Bennett. Bennett held the lead until lap-6 when Moltz charged into the lead. Moltz held the lead until lap-14 when Bennett went back to the front, but Moltz went back by Bennett on the next lap to retake the race lead. The race went green to the checkered flag with Moltz pulling away from Bennett to take his second consecutive feature win and fifth overall win of the 2008 season. Bennett finished second, with Ryan Posocco, Woody Pitkat, and Mike Mordino rounding out the top-5.
 

At the Waterford Speedbowl, the action began with Wacky Wednesday where Ryan Morgan, 14, scored his third Legends Cars victory of the season. Morgan absolutely dominated 20-lap Legends feature action. The Ledyard High School student had the field fully-covered by the early laps, and went on to triumph over perennial front-runners Jason Palmer and Max Zachem by a wide-margin.

On Saturday, heavy fog rolled into the area before the Waterford Speedbowl’s Double Down Shootout presented by Mohegan Sun Casino could be completed. Only three of the scheduled eight main events were run before cancellation.


Ryan Morgan scored his 3rd victory of the 2008 season.
 (Keith Cyr Photo)

Winning features in the abbreviated event were Bruce Thomas Jr., (Late Model), Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), and Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stock). Both 25-lap SK Modified features were victims of the cancellation.

Phil Rondeau, who has over 100 career victories at the shoreline oval, returned to action in the Late Model ranks and recorded a ninth place finish.

The New London Day reported that Terry Eames, the principal owner of 1080 Hartford Road, LLC, which owns the Waterford Speedbowl, would be in court on Sept 2 after filing a suit against Jerry Robinson, the leaseholder and president of the New Waterford Speedbowl, LLC, which runs the day-to-day operations of the track.

The suit was filed Friday, Aug. 15 in New London Civil Court. Eames said that Robinson has failed to pay property taxes in the neighborhood of $45,000 and has also failed to meet a payment plan for rent money from last year, 2007, when he began running the track, as well as this year. Eames admitted the property taxes are ultimately the responsibility of both he and Robinson, but said, “it's fairly common for a tenant to lease things on what they call a triple-net lease.”

A triple-net lease is a lease agreement on a property where the tenant agrees to pay all real estate taxes, building insurance and maintenance on the property, in addition to any normal fees that are expected under the agreement, including rent. In such a lease, the tenant is responsible for all costs associated with repairs of the structural building elements of the property.

The True Value Modified Series suffered a rain-out at their scheduled holiday event at the Seekonk Speedway. With a steady rain through mid afternoon, a forecast that showed more of the same for the evening, and rain in surrounding areas, Seekonk management was forced to cancel the Del's Lemonade 100 for the True Value Modified Racing Series.

Get well wishes to three time NASCAR National Modified Champion Carl Bugsy Stevens who was recovering from the effects of Lyme disease.

In some good news, the Wall Township Speedway, which had remained closed for the 2008 season will host the annual Turkey Derby on Thanksgiving weekend. Former Public Relations director Mike Clayton made the announcement this past Sunday. Turkey Derby XXXV is a go for November 28th and 29th, 2008. Practice the two weekends before. Jim Morton is renting the track to run this race. No track owners involved. More details will be available next weekend, September 7th.

Kyle Busch was dominant Saturday night on the 2-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., leading 144 of the 150 laps to race off with his seventh Nationwide Series victory of the season. Busch held off Sprint Cup rival Carl Edwards on a pair of late-race restarts, piling up his record 18th NASCAR victory of the season, including eight in Cup, and three in the Craftsman Truck Series.

Edwards, the defending Nationwide champion who is locked in a three-way points battle with leader Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski, finished second, followed by Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer. Jimmie Johnson overpowered the field Sunday night at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for his third NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season. Runner-up Greg Biffle had the next best car throughout the race, but he couldn't keep up with Johnson's No.48 Chevrolet, finishing more than 2 seconds back.

The Charlotte NC Business Journal reported that Bruton Smith, the Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and chief executive expects the $78 million acquisition of the Kentucky Speedway announced in May to be completed later in the month. Concord-based Speedway Motorsports (NYSE:TRK) had a 90-day option from the time the deal was announced to make the purchase. With that deadline arriving this month, Smith says an announcement on the completion of the deal could come within a few days.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection, courtesy of the SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Ed Pieniazek


Denis Giroux


Ernie Caruso


Mark Ferris


Dick Jackson


Red O'Keefe

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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