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September 21, 2012

By Phil Smith

Sixty-Five years ago, in 1947, George Rice, who is being inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in November, was the winner of the midget feature at Cherry Park Speedway in Avon, Ct. Chet Conklin was second followed by Bert Brooks.

Fifty Years ago in 1962, Ernie Gahan made it four in a row on the Stafford dirt winning the 25 lap feature. Rene Charland was second follow by George Janoski, southerner Eddie Crouse and Bill Slater. Bob Leach was the Novice winner. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Ray Moran won the 25-lap feature followed by Ted Stack and Don Collins. At Plainville Stadium Johnny Georgiades was the winner of the season closing 150-lap feature. Jack Lecuyer was second followed by Bobby Bard, Hank Williams and Al Jencik. Ernie Olson was the winner of the 75-lap Novice feature.

Forty-five years ago, in 1967
, rain washed out all racing in New England. The only action was at the Utica-Rome Speedway where a 150-lap season finale was held. Don MacTavish took the win over Jerry Cook, Bill Wimble, Sonney Seamon and Kenny Shoemaker. Wimble was crowned the Modified Track Champion and Bernie Miller was the Sportsman champion. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Richard Petty won the 500-lap event by four laps over Dick Hutcherson.

Forty years ago, in 1972, the modifieds headed to Martinsville for a 100 lapper. Local favorite Paul Radford took the win over Denis Giroux, Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens’ hopes of a fourth national title were going away as Cook held an 890-point lead. Jim Shampine took the season ending Oswego Modified-Sportsman 200.Eddie Flemke finished second with Mike Loescher, Roger Treichler and Geoff Bodine rounding out the top five.

Thirty-five years ago in 1977, a full plate of racing was to be had both in the northeast and in the south. Stafford ran an open competition 30 lapper on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard being declared the winner after the event was stopped after 19 laps because of rain. Bugsy Stevens ended up in second with John Rosati, third. Seekonk’s 100 lap open and Islip’s All Star 300 also fell victim to rain as well as the Sunday Small Block Modified event at Thompson. In the Southland, Donald ”Satch” Worley won the fall 150 at Martinsville on Saturday afternoon. Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Wayne Anderson rounded out the top 5. The modifieds headed up the road on Saturday night to the Franklin County Speedway where Geoff Bodine took the win over Paul Radford, Worley, Troyer and Cook.

Thirty years ago in 1982, Greg Sacks continued his dream year of almost total domination of the modifieds as he won the annual Race of Champions at the Pocono International Speedway. Sacks took the lead from Jim Spencer on lap 160 of the 250-lap event. Richie Evans moved past Spencer on lap 169 and dogged Sacks to the finish. Spencer held is own in third spot until he lost an engine on lap 221. Ray Miller ended up third with Graeme Bolia fourth and George Summers rounding out the top five. During pre-race activities, driver and car builder Maynard Troyer was presented the Fred DeSarro Memorial Award. Shortly after the presentation Troyer announced that he was retiring from driving at the conclusion of the event. Brian Horn won the National Parts Peddler Street Stock Championship event. Jan Leaty finished second. Waterford’s Mike Lovetere finished fourth. Among those in the street stock event was Ricky Fuller. Although he didn’t finish in the top five in the main, Fuller was the big show in the consi as he came from a 27th starting spot to take the lead in six laps on the tricky ¾ mile oval. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Darrell Waltrip took the 500-mile win over Kyle Petty.

Twenty-five years ago in 1987, George Brunnhoelzl Jr. made his mark in the record books as he won the Race of Champions at Pocono. Brunnhoelzl took the lead from John Blewett Jr. on lap 185 and never looked back for the remainder of the 250-lap event. Doug Hevron finished second and was followed by George Kent, Wayne Edwards, Roger Treichler and Ron Shepherd. Peter”Buzzie”Erickson was the winner of the companion Street Stock event. Two Hundred Forty eight cars, including 108 modifieds were entered into competition. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Ricky Rudd took the win over Davey Allison.

Twenty years ago in 1992, the entire East Coast was covered with rain.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, the re-born Race of Champions was run at Oswego. With the exception of Tony Hirschman, Jan Leaty, Tim Arre and Ted Christopher, the event drew mostly local drivers from Lancaster and Tioga. Hirshman, driving a Leaty teamcar, won the 200-lap event. Leaty finished second and was followed by Arre. At one time, the ROC was 'THE" modified event but since falling on hard times a few years ago when promoters checks bounced, many competitors chose to ignore the event now. Saturday night action at Waterford rained out. At Dover Downs, Buckshot Jones spun while leading with 14 laps to go and handed the Grand National victory to Joe Bessey. Randy LaJoie finished second. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Kyle Petty had the field covered until he was forced to pit for fuel with 20 laps to go. Mark Martin took the win with Dale Earnhardt coming home in second spot.

Ten years ago in 2002 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was off .The series point standings showed Eddie Flemke still leading by a slim margin of five points over Jerry Marquis. Mike Stefanik, who had all but conceded a repeat title until his Thompson 300 win, sat third, seventeen points behind Flemke. By virtue of his Loudon win, Chuck Hossfeld had moved to within 48 points of the leader. Fifth thru tenth were Rick Fuller, Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy, Nevin George, John Blewett III and Jamie Tomaino. NASCAR’s Jim Hunter said, “The short tracks and the regional tours are the backbone of NASCAR. NASCAR”s Chris Boals said that the sanctioning body was developing a strategic plan to boost these series. Boals said that just about everything was now in place and an announcement should be coming from NASCAR in the not too distant future. Evidently part of the plan was the announcement made that The National NWRS Champion, Peter Daniels, will be invited to the NYC Banquet. Also, all of the Regional Touring Series Champions (including the FMS and the BNS) will be a part of the banquet. This was announced in the Drivers Meeting at New Hampshire.

The regular weekly racing in Southern New England was slowly but surely coming to a halt. Thompsom ran their final Thursday night Thunder series, which turned into a slugfest between Bo Gunning and Ted Christopher. Gunning had taken the lead from Christopher on lap 14 and was holding the former National Champion at bay until the final lap. Christopher made a move to the bottom and the two came together. Gunning went on to take the win as Christopher gathered it back up to finish second. Christopher claims the move was deliberate, Gunning, on the other hand said, “That’s racing”. Tom Fox finished third. Stafford was idle on Friday night. Tom Fox got a definite gift at Waterford on Saturday night. Dennis Charette had led a good part of the event with Fox on the outside. With 12 laps to go, Fox got a little wiggly in turn four and the next thing you know, both were in the fence. Both were able to drive away. Charette pitted and Fox took a position at the head of the field. Fox definitely lost foreword motion and should have re-started in the rear. It is common practice that when one causes the caution, which he did, and when one loses foreword motion, which he did, the car in question goes to the rear. Ed Reed Jr. finished second and closed the gap to 28 points behind Dennis Gada who is looking to win the championship. Gada had his problems and had to pit with a broken tie rod but made a remarkable recovery as he came from the back to nip Ron Yuhas Jr. at the finish line and record a fourth place finish. Mark Lajunesse finished third as he too, received a gift from officials. During the closing laps Ron Silk was attempting to pass Lajunesse on the outside in turn two when Silk felt that Lajunesse rode him up and he hit the wall. With obvious right side damage, Silk managed to make the next re-start and dumped Lajunesse into the infield as a pay back. Silk was black flagged and bounced for the night and Lajunesse was given his spot back.

Five years ago in 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, Silk’s 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. Ruggiero 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 night’s 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 O’Sullivan, scored his second Thompson Pro Stock championship in winning-style taking down Thursday night’s 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 doesn’t 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 Series’ 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.

Last year, 2011 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour made its annual stop on the road course at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut last weekend. It was no surprise that a slim field of 21 Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Todd Szegedy was the top qualifier as he toured the facility at 100.182 mph. Ron Silk was second fastest. Erick Rudolph, Justin Bonsignore and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top five.

Todd Szegedy battled back after losing the lead during on a pit stop and then making an off-track excursion to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified 66/99 presented by Town Fair Tire at Lime Rock Park on Saturday. Szegedy, who had experience at LRP in other racing series prior to his NASCAR career, dominated the early action. He started from the pole in his No. 2 Wisk Detergent/A&J Romano Construction Ford and opened up a lead of more than two seconds early. However, he fell to fourth following a pit stop during a caution on Lap 44. He later went off course, but quickly recovered and set out after the leaders. After moving up to second on Lap 60, Szegedy took the lead from Mike Stefanik a lap later and then pulled away from the field to win by a margin of 1.796 seconds.

Stefanik finished second followed by Justin Bonsignore, Richie Pallai, and Ted Christopher. Rowan Pennink, Erick Rudolph, Eric Beers, Kevin Goodale and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top 10.

Previous race winner Doug Coby looked poised to go back-to-back but wrecked while in the lead on Lap 55 and finished 18th.

The race featured seven lead changes among five drivers. Szegedy led a race-high 49 circuits. Fourteen of the original starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Szegedy's win propelled him into the points lead as the series now moves to Loudon for the first of three events left on the 2011 schedule. Previous point leader Ron Silk finished 15th, one lap down.
In NASCAR weekly racing action at Thompson on Thursday night the weatherman prevailed as the speedway cancelled due to impending rain.

The Stafford Motor Speedway closed out their Friday night season. Woody Pitkat picked up his second win of the 2011 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event and Ryan Preece clinched the 2011 SK Modified® track champion with a 4th place finish, Woody Pitakt picked up his second consecutive and fifth overall win of the 2011 season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Kyle Spencer picked up his second win of the 2011 season with a green white checkered pass for the lead in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera, Jr. picked up his fifth win of the 2011 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cliff Saunders picked up his second win of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Keith Rocco, who had been in contention for the NASCAR National Championship saw his hopes vanish on lap 23 of the 40 lap event when he spun after he was tapped by Todd Owen. Owen was sent to the rear but it was all over for Rocco despite the fact that he rallied to finish third behind Pitkat and Glen Reen. Preece and Eric Berndt rounded out the top five.

At the Waterford Speedbowl emotions ran high as the night rolled on, especially in the SK Modified division. Tom Abele reaped the benefit of the win as front running contenders Keith Rocco and Todd Ceravolo tangled while fighting for the lead. Ceravolo, on Rocco's bumper went low into turn one on lap 22. The instant video replay indicated that Rocco was in the second lane and Ceravolo was in the bottom lane when contact incurred. It did not appear to be deliberate as both had their respective lines when they drifted into each other. In other words it was just good hard racing. Rocco spun into the first turn wall and suffered severe race ending damage. Ceravolo, who later apologized for being over-aggressive, was sent to the rear.

Abele and Nicole Morgillo were back on the front row for the restart, with Mark Bakaj and Long Islander Shawn Solomito in row 2. Abele would pull out front into turn one with Bakaj moving to second inside Morgillo. The final 13 laps were run through the checkered flag with Abele and Bakaj finishing one-two. Morgillo finished third and Solomito and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five. Ceravolo rallied to finish eleventh while Rocco was credited with 14th in the final rundown.
Others earning victories on the night included Jeff Smith who leapfrogged into the championship points lead by virtue of a win in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, Chris Meyer visited the winner’s circle in the Street Stocks while Phil Evans took the win in the Mini Stocks. Completing the feature winners on the night were Dave Garbo Jr. in the Legends Cars and Curt D’addario in the X-Cars.

On a sad note, former Waterford Speedbowl driver Richard (Dick) Beauregard, 85, of Hesperia, Calif. passed away on September 7, 2011. He was born on January 2, 1926. in Norwich Ct. He was a plastering contractor in Norwich, CT and later an insulator at the Long Beach Navel Shipyard in Calif. He was a popular race car driver at the Waterford Speedbowl . He was a two time champion in 1952,& 1962.

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

This week are several Vintage photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Jim Shampine


Johnny Georgidas


Bill Wimble

T
Prentice "Corky" Cookman

Dick Beauregard

George Rice

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, 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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