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September 28, 2012

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago in 1952 Joe McNulty won the final Wednesday night Sportsman feature of the year at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bud Matter made it three in a row in Claiming Car action. The shoreline oval shifted to Sundays with twin 25 lap Sportsman features which were won by Ray Delisle and Fred Luchesi.

Fifty five years ago in 1957, the New London-Waterford shifted to Sunday afternoon programs. George Lombardo, who normally raced at the Plainville Stadium was up for the occasion as he took the win in the 25 lap Sportsman feature at the shoreline oval. Arnie Harris was the non-Ford winner.

Fifty years ago in 1962, Dick Beauregard won the 25 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Bobby Santos Sr won the 35 lap Connecticut State Bomber Championship. At Plainville Stadium Harry Bliss won the 100-lap Open Competition feature and George Hotchkiss was the Novice winner.

Forty five years ago in 1967, the season was slowly but surely winding down. The only action was at Stafford where Gene Bergin made it three in a row and locked up the first asphalt modified championship by taking a hard fought win over Dick Watson and Bob Melnick. Rounding out the top five were Fred Harbach and Jerry Wheeler. Bill Slater was crowned the Sportsman Champion. The midgets also ran at Stafford that weekend with Lou Fray taking the win over George Monson. Dick Dunn recorded a Modified win at Waterford. with Charlie Webster second. Following where Newt Palm, Lou Caso and Don Collins. Butch Reed was the daredevil winner. At Plainville Stadium Tony Mordino and Bob Black tied in the 100-lap Madcap race. Ray Smith and Dave Pelzer followed. Dan Gaudiosi won the Track Championship. The only other action was the All-Star League which ran on the dirt at the 1-1/8 mile Nazareth Speedway. Frankie Schenieder took the win over Will Cagle, Dick Havens, Sonny Hutchins and Lee Hendrickson.

Forty years ago in 1972, many of the modified teams in he northeast were making preparations for the following week’s Race of Champions at the Trenton Fairgrounds in New Jersey. Waterford ran their season ending 50 lapper which was won by Dick Dunn in Budda's Bullet owned by Al Gaudreau. Dick Dunn was declared the Modified Champion and Ron Cote, the Daredevil Champion at Waterford for the 1972 season. Plainville Stadium's 100-lap feature was rained out.

Thirty five years ago in 1977, for the second week in a row, rain washed out the 300 lap All Star event at Islip as well as a scheduled 100 lapper at Seekonk a 30 lap event at Thompson and a 100 lapper at Plainville Stadium.

Thirty years ago in 1982, the NASCAR Modifieds visited the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine for a 100-lap event. The third mile oval provided some hot competition but when all was said and done, Richie Evans sat in victory lane. George Kent finished second and was followed by Dave Thomas, Bob Park, Jerry Cook, Brian Ross, George Murray and Mike McLaughlin. Waterford ran a 50 lapper for the Modifieds, which saw Glynn Shafer take the top spot over Dickie Doo Ceravolo and Randy LaJoie. Brian McCarthy won the Super Stock event. On Saturday night at the Shangri-La Speedway, Jim Spencer took the win with Richie Evans, second and Jerry Cook, third. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, N.C., Darrell Waltrip won both the pole and the race

Twenty five years ago in 1987, Mike McLaughlin scored a convincing win as he won the Annual Thompson 300. Doug Hevron finished second with Brian Ross, George Kent and Dave Reszendes rounding out the top five. Ted Christopher won the 50 lap SK-Modified event over Ronnie Rocco and Bob Potter. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip took the win with Dale Earnhardt finishing in second spot.

Twenty years ago in 1992, rain again washed out the entire weekend of racing.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, Jim Broderick won his fourth of the season at Waterford on Saturday night. Don Fowler finished second with Mark LaJunesse, third. At the Fall Final 300 at Stafford, Tim Connolly took the lead on the final lap and scored a popular win. Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Tony Hirshman and Ed Flemke jr. Ricky Fuller drew the pole and led the first 149 laps. Reggie Ruggiero led from lap 150 to173 before giving way to Jan Leaty who led from lap 174 to 186.Fuller led again from 187 to 235 when he pitted for tires. Connolly assumed the point and led the way until lap 237 when he gave way to Marquis. During the last five laps, Connolly charged to the front from fourth spot. In SK modified action, Bill Sharp went pole to pole, crossed the line first and was disqualified because of illegal cylinder heads Mike Christopher was awarded the win with Bob Potter, second. Winston Cup action at Martinsville was rained out and the event was run on Monday. Rusty Wallace was leading with 20 laps to go when NASCAR said he jumped a restart and black-flagged him in for a stop and go which handed the win to Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt finished second. Wallace was later fined for swearing on TV and was fined $5,000 which he paid in pennies (500,000).

Ten years ago in 2002 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series and the Busch North Series were at Stafford for the Fall Final-Twin 150s. Both Touring series were well represented with 48 Featherlite Modifieds and 34 Busch North cars in the pit area. Chuck Hossfeld, fresh of his recent win at Loudon was the Busch Pole Sitter as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.369 seconds. Mike Johnson was the Busch North Series pole sitter. His time was 20.004. The big surprise of the day was the fact that Ted Christopher failed to qualify his Busch North Series entry. A capacity crowd was on hand. Chuck Hossfeld and car owner Bob Garbarino made the decision to go non-stop. Mike Stefanik and car owner Art Barry decided to do it with one stop with the hopes of fresh rubber giving them the edge at the finish. Needless to say, Stefanik and Barry made the right call, as they were able to over power Hossfeld on lap 91. Stefanik pitted relatively early on lap 59 and passed many of those ahead of him when they pitted on lap 84. With the exception of a brief moment when Hossfeld took the lead back from lap 126 to 128 Stefanik remained in control. Stefanik’s win coupled with Ed Flemke’s misfortune; put the defending Featherlite Modified Tour Series champion in the point lead. David Berghman had the big steam at the end but had to settle for second spot in the final order. Hossfeld held on to finish third with Jerry Marquis and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Flemke had his hopes dashed on lap 92 when his car suffered terminal damage after a confrontation with Joey Caracciea. Flemke was very upset over the fact that he was taken out of the event and possibly out of the championship picture.

The series point standings showed Mike Stefanik in the lead by 8 points over Jerry Marquis. Chuck Hossfeld sat in third spot, 44 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five were Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Todd Szegedy, Nevin George, David Berghman and Jamie Tomaino.

Five years ago in 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. 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.

Last year, 2011, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH. Steady rain greeted competitors as they arrived at the track for tech inspection. The skies cleared on Thursday afternoon, allowing qualifying. Ron Silk, looking to get his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points lead back, was the top qualifier of the 29 cars on hand. Silk had a top lap of 29.764 seconds (127.967 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval. It was the fifth career pole for the Norwalk, Conn., driver, who won at the ‘Magic Mile’ in 2009. Eric Beers qualified second with a lap of 29.793 (127.842), followed by Justin Bonsignore at 29.799 (127.816). NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman, the defending race winner, and Erick Rudolph rounded out the top five. Rowan Pennink, Matt Hirschman, Todd Szegedy, Woody Pitkat and rookie Patrick Emerling completed the top 10. Bobby Santos, who incurred a flight delay and Ted Christopher who was absent because of personal reasons, did not take time which forced them to take provisionals.

The New Hampshire weather on Saturday was shakey to say the least and had an adverse effect on the crowd, especially those who chose just to attend Saturday's events. Ron Silk pulled away from the field on a green-white-checkered finish to win the New Hampshire 100 and take back to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points lead. Silk got a push from Todd Szegedy on the final restart to open some ground on the rest of the field and was unchallenged over the final two laps. Szegedy, who won the tour race at New Hampshire in July, finished second followed by an outstanding run by Justin Bonsignore who finished third.

Ted Christopher came from a 29th starting spot to finish fourth with outside pole sitter Eric Beers rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Erick Rudolph, Zane Zeiner, Mike Stefanik, Matt Hirschman and Eric Goodale. Twenty one of the original 29 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who had problems was Rowan Pennink who was robbed of a top three finish when his car developed fuel delivery problems in the final moments. In the blink of an eye, Pennink went from running second to Silk on lap 97 to 22nd, one lap down, at the finish. Eric Berndt had a multitude of problems as he finished 23rd, four laps down. Wade Cole, who had been running in 23rd spot, broke an axle after completing 81 laps and ended up 24th. Richie Pallai, Jr and James Civali were eliminated in a wreck on lap 65. Bobby Santos III appeared to be down on power on a restart causing cars behind him to bunch up and make contact. Santos managed to remain on the lead lap, finishing 18th while Pallai ended up 25th and Civali, 26th. A big disappointment was the fact that Woody Pitkat suffered engine problems and finished 27th. Pitkat, who was told by his car owner Don King that he was shutting down his race team, had qualified ninth and had led at two different points, made his final ride and finish in the King Car a bitter pill to swallow. Ryan Newman, who was looking for absolution after being disqualified in a previous event with an illegal engine, dropped out on lap 28 with a blown engine. Newman, whom many thought would stink up the show, had qualified fourth, was running sixth, when his power plant died. Finishing 29th and first out was Jake Marosz who had a handling problem.

The actual race took 1 hour 13 minutes to complete, not counting a slight rain delay on Lap 43. There were four cautions for 25 laps and there were 17 lead changes among five drivers. In addition to Silk, Pennenk and Pitkat, Erick Beers and Bob Santos led laps.

In Whelen Southern Modified Tour action south of the Mason-Dixon line George Brunnhoelzl III’s fourth with of the 2011 campaign moved him one step closer to a second NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship as he took home the Tri-County 150 Saturday at Tri-County Motor Speedway in Hudson, NC.

After earning the Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the evening, Brunnhoelzl led early on and the regained the lead from Jason Myers with a decisive pass on lap 73. The 2009 tour champion put it on cruise control from there for his 10th career victory. Brunnhoelzl stretched his lead by more than 10 car lengths as the end neared, but just the second caution of the event came out with five laps to go to negate the significant advantage. The West Babylon, N.Y., native was able to hold off his Andy Seuss, his teammate – on the final restart to seal the deal. Seuss settled for second followed by last year’s Tri-County winner Burt Myers, Brandon Ward and Jason Myers in the top five.

With the victory, Brunnhoelzl extended his lead in the championship standings by 20 points on Seuss Saturday night. Sixth through tenth were Tim Brown, L.W. Miller, Austin Pack, Renee Dupuis and Frank Fleming. There were 18 cars on hand.

In NASCAR weekly racing action at Thompson rain again prevailed.

With two events remaining on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule Ron Silk, with 2182 points led Todd Szegedy by a mere 8 points. Rowan Pennink sat in the third spot, 164 behind the leader. Eric Beers and Doug Coby rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Justin Bonsignore, Bobby. Santos III, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco put the previous weekend's disappointment behind him as he padded his point lead and picked up his 11th feature win of the year in the SK Modifieds®. Also scoring victories on the night were Al Stone, who won his sixth Street Stock feature of the season, Charles Canfield notched his first career victory in the Mini Stocks and Chris Correll captured his first career SK Light Modified checkered flag. In the touring NEMA races, Russ Stoehr won for the second time at the Speedbowl in 2011 while Anthony Nocella scored victory in the companion NEMA Lite feature race.

George Silbermann, NASCAR Vice President of Regional and Touring Series, officially notified Philip Morris that he had won his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship based on his standout season in an asphalt Late Model. To claim the title, Morris won nine of his last 10 races. He closed out his second track title at South Boston (Va.) Speedway and then went to his old home track, Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va. and won his 20th race of the season on Sept. 10. Morris edged defending national champion Keith Rocco of Wallingford, Conn., 789-778. Morris finished with 20 wins in 28 starts. Rocco, who started 51 events, won 24.

In addition to his championship run last year, Rocco finished second to Morris in 2009 and fourth in each of the two previous years.

The New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame announced the Class 2012. Driver Reggie Ruggiero and car owner Mario Fiore, at one time a powerful force on the modified scene, head up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame class of 2012. Driver Joey Kourafas, car owner/mechanic Jim Jorgensen and track owner Irene Venditti are also members of the class.

The group, along with three choices from the Veterans Committee, will be inducted at the NEAR’s 15th annual banquet Sunday Jan. 29 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor , CT.

In Sprint Cup racing at Loudon, Tony Stewart made it two in a row as he led a pack that included four other Chase drivers in the top 10. Brad Keselowski was second, Jeff Gordon was fourth, Matt Kenseth was sixth and Carl Edwards finished eighth. Gordon rocketed from 11th to sixth in the standings and was still a legitimate contender for his fifth championship.

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


Dick Dunn & Budda


Joe McNulty


Arnie Harris

T
Bobby Black

Brian Ross

Reggie Ruggiero

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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