Thirty-five years ago, in 1972,
the Modified season came to a close at Martinsville where
Santos put the Art Barry No.09 in victory lane. Mike Loescher finished
third and was followed by Eddie Flemke, Bernie Miller and Melvin ”Puddin”
Swisher. Rounding out the top ten were Hank Thomas, Bugsy Stevens, Ray
Hendrick, Leo Cleary and RE Brim. Sixty-one modifieds were on hand.
Thirty years ago, in 1977, Thompson’s World
Series fell victim to rain. The only modified action was in the
Southland at the Hickory Speedway in North Carolina .
Jerry Cook took
the win over Paul Radford.
Twenty five years ago, in 1982, Greg Sacks and
the invincible Ernie Wilsburg No.5 continued their domination of the
modified division as they cleaned house at the World Series at Thompson;
George Kent finished second with Kenny Bouchard in third spot. Rounding
out the top five were Reggie Ruggerio and George Summers. New Egypt ,
which was asphalt at the time also, ran with Jerry Cranmer taking the
win over Wayne Anderson, John Blewett JR, Jerry Cook and Lenny Boyd. In
Winston Cup action at Martinsville , Darrell Waltrip took the win over
Twenty years ago, in 1987, Reggie Ruggiero won
the 50 lap modified portion of the Thompson World Series. Ruggiero was
with some hot company as he had Jimmy Spencer on his bumper for most of
the way. Ruggerio started sixth and took the lead from Mike Stefanik on
lap 11. Spencer started tenth and bulled his way to the front. Moving
into second on a lap 16 restart, Spencer used every trick in the book to
no avail as Ruggerio was on top of his game and wasn’t about to be
denied. Jamie Tomaino had a strong run going in third spot by the half
way mark but a slowly leaking tire was his un-doing. Tomaino’s
miss-fortune opened the door for Mike Mclaughlin, who moved into third.
Mike Stefanik and George Kent were running fourth and fifth in the late
stages but they too, ran into problems. Stefanik pitted with a flat with
ten to go and Kent spun out. Jeff Fuller, who was driving for Art Barry,
moved into fourth spot and remained there to the finish. Ricky Fuller
rounded out the top five. Tom Baldwin finished sixth and was followed by
Don Howe, Carl Pasteryak, George Kent and Doug Hevron. Bob Potter won
the 35 lap SK Modified portion. Ted Christopher finished second and
wrapped up the Tri-Track championship. Jerry Pearl finished third.
Fifteen years ago, in 1992, the NASCAR Featherlite
Modified Tour Series was in Martinsville for a 200-lap event. Jan Leaty
was the pole sitter but in the end it was Mike Stefanik taking the win
over Wayne Anderson. Jeff Fuller finished third and wrapped up the
series championship. Doug Hevron and Mike Ewanitsko rounded out the top
five. Also, on the same day, was the Octoberfest at Lee Raceway where
Ted and Mike Christopher finished one-two.
Ten years ago, in 1997, Waterford ran its final event
on Saturday night. Jim Broderick took the lead on lap 26 of the 35-lap
event and went on to record his fifth win of the year. Todd Ceravolo
finished second and sewed up the track championship. Tucker Reynolds was
third with Jeff Pearl, fourth. Ted Christopher scored an impressive win
in BGNN action at Lime Rock. After starting tenth, Christopher took the
lead for the final time with two laps to go. Kim Baker finished second
with Dennis Doyle, third. Mike Stefanik finished ninth and became the
first driver to ever win the Busch North and Modified championships in
the same year. It was a very hectic weekend In addition to the Busch
North Series event at Lime Rock the Featherlite Modified Tour Series was
at the Thompson Speedway for the World Series. The 125 lap main event
was full of excitement and the crowd of over 10,000 got their money’s
worth. Mike Ewanitsko, driving the Sheba Racing No.8, dove under Rick
Fuller with two laps to go in an attempt to take the lead. Fuller tried
to pinch him off but instead ended up spinning out after making contact.
Tony Hirshman ended up in second spot with Tim Connolly, Jamie Tomaino
and Ed Flemke JR rounding out the top five. Fuller, driving the Art
Barry No.21 recovered to finish seventh. Ed Flemke JR was the winner of
the SK-Modified feature over Mike Christopher, Ted Christopher and Scott
Quinn. In Busch Grand National action at Fontana , California , Steve
Park was the pole sitter with Bob Labonte on the outside. Labonte had
the race won until he ran out of gas with less than ten laps to go and
handed the win to Todd Bodine. Park finished second.
Five years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite
Modified Tour was at Martinsville . Forty seven Modifieds were on hand
to qualify for the forty starting spots. Ken Woolley Jr. took the Busch
Pole with Ricky Fuller, Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Ted
Christopher rounding out the top five. L.W. Miller took the win. The
racing was far from mundane. Fuller jumped out to take the lead on the
start. Fred Vordermeir was the first casualty as he hit the wall on lap
15 after suffering a cut tire. Jerry Marquis, who is a contender for the
tour series championship, suffered a major setback on lap 28 when his
engine soured, forcing him to park it for the day. Also having engine
problems which put them out were Eric Beers, Tom Baldwin and Tim Arre.
Fuller led until lap 76 when Woolley mustered the required steam and
took the point. Woolley led until lap 94 when fellow New Jersey
competitor and former series champion Jamie Tomaino took his turn in the
lead. Tomaino, having one of his best runs in quite a while, led until
lap 150 when L.W. Miller took command. Miller never looked back and went
on to take his first ever Modified Tour Series win. Once Miller took the
lead the rest of the field turned up the wick and that’s when the action
started. Todd Szegedy and Chuck Hossfeld got into a side-swiping duel
when Szegedy dove under Hossfeld in turns three and four on lap
165.Szegedy drifted up as he came out of four and pinched Hossfeld into
the wall. Hossfeld came off the wall and moved down on Szegedy who in
turn dumped him into the wall, then spun himself and triggered a big
wreck that took out David Berghman, Tony Hirschman and ultimately Ed
Flemke Jr. A red flag was required to remove the wrecked cars that
blocked the track. The next big incident of the day occurred on lap 190
when Ricky Fuller drilled Ted Christopher and spun him out. Christopher,
far from being a happy camper was able to recover and finish ninth.
Fuller finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Jamie Tomaino,
John Blewett III, Robbie Summers and Charlie Pasteryak.
Shortly after the completion of the event Christopher met
with tour officials in the NASCAR trailer. Evidently he didn’t like what
they had to say and what they did or didn’t see. Christopher left the
trailer in a huff, slamming the door so hard it almost came off the
hinges. The tape of the incident was available. Pictures don’t lie and
NASCAR should have taken some action on this issue.
The Busch North Series couldn’t get a break as rain washed out the
season finale at Lime Rock again.
Wall Stadium ran a Race of Champions Tour event on Sunday.
Jimmie Blewett took the win. Ken Woolley Jr. and John Blewett III made
it back from Martinsville and ended up second and third. George Kent,
who previously sewed up the 2002 ROC title crossed the finish line in
third spot but was disqualified after a post race inspection revealed
that he had tires that had been chemically altered.
Last year, 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was
at the Thompson Speedway for the annual World Series. Tony Hirschman set
fast time in qualifying. It was the fourth Bud Pole Award of the season
for Hirschman, the defending series champion, and also locked up the
season long 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award
Hirschman toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.697 seconds for an average
speed of 120.340 mph. Ron Yuhas of Groton, Conn. was second fastest with
a speed of 120.077 mph. Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. qualified
third with a speed of 120.045 mph. Defending race winner Jerry Marquis
was fourth fastest and Waterford winner Donny Lia rounded out the Top-5.
The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Jimmy Blewett and
Marquis made up the front row. Christopher started third while Hirschman
lined up fourth. Yuhas drew fifth flanked by Lia. There were 42 cars on
hand for time trials.
In other Saturday action at Thompson, Adam Norton of
Brookfield , MA scored the victory in the Harry Kourafas Memorial for
the Pro-Four Modified and Bernie Singer of Danbury , CT was the winner
of the All-Star Truck Series event. Thompson regulars visiting victory
lane included Danny Cates of Chaplin , MA winning a thriller in the
Limited Sportsman event, Joe Godbout III of Hope Valley, RI in the Mini
Stocks and Roger Larson, Jr. of Milford , MA in the TIS Modifieds.
Feature events were also run for the Outlaw divisions with Rick Gentes
of Woonsocket , RI (Late Model), Jimmy Silvia of Middletown , RI
(Strictly Stock) and Michael O’Connor of Barrington , NH (Mini Stock).
Sunday was a perfect fall day for racing.. The only thing
negative was the way that campers hogged space in the parking lot. There
is no order for them to park as they park every which way. The speedway
needs to regulate the camper parking in the future.
In what ended up being a surprise finish Reggie Ruggiero took the
checkered flag in the Whelen Modified Tour Series Xtramart 150. Ted
Christopher had taken the lead from Jimmy Blewett as they exited turn
four on the 122nd lap. One lap later Billy Pauch Jr hit the wall in turn
two, bringing out the caution. When the field went back to green on
lap146 Christopher led the charge with John Blewett III in hot pursuit.
On lap 147 as Christopher entered turn three Blewett attempted to pass
on the low side. Christopher moved down to block. Blewett knew he was
about to be pinched into the infield grass and turned into Christopher,
sending him hard into the wall. With both cars destroyed Reggie
Ruggiero, who was running third, inherited the lead for a green – white
– checkered finish on lap 158. Jimmy Blewett ended up in second spot as
he had nothing for Ruggerio at the finish. Jerry Marquis finished third
with Donny Lia and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top five.
Jimmy Blewett led the charge at the drop of the green. Jerry
Marquis took the lead by the time the field got to turn two. The first
caution flew on lap 20 for Billy Pauch Jr who spun on the front chute.
Marquis continued to lead until lap 25 when Tony Hirschman took the
lead. The second caution flew on lap 35 when Danny Sammons and Kenny
Barry got together in turn three. The green flew on lap 40 but one lap
later the caution was out again for a seven car tangle on the front
chute. Marquis retook the lead when the field went back to green on lap
46. Hirschman faded to fourth as Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher
slipped by. Two laps later the caution flew again, this time for a 14
car tangle in turn one that brought out the red. The field went back to
green on lap 53 with Marquis leading Ruggerio, Christopher and Jimmy
Blewett. By the time the field entered turn one Christopher had shot
into the lead. Lap 55 saw the caution waving again, this time as Bob
Grigas drilled Eric Beers into the turn four wall. Back under green at
lap 60, Christopher still led Marquis as John Blewett III moved into
third. Blewett moved past Marquis on lap 78. Christopher continued to
lead as Blewett’s tires began to wear. By lap 94 Blewett had slipped to
fourth when he spun by himself as he exited turn two. Blewett along with
Christopher, Marquis and a host of others pitted for fresh rubber on lap
96. Richard Savory assumed the lead over Donny Lia as the field took the
green on lap 100. A three wide move by Grigas on the backstretch
triggered a wreck that collected among others, Mike Stefanik and Tony
Hirschman, which ended their bid for a possible win. Savory led until
Jimmy Blewett on lap 122, as previously mentioned, passed him. It was
the 44th career victory for Ruggiero, who drives the Atlantic Sprinkler
Chevrolet, and his first since 2004 when he won at Wall Township , N.J.
Ruggiero’s last win at Thompson occurred in 1998.
“Nobody seemed to want to win this race tonight, “ said
Ruggiero. “I was just glad we were in a position to get it at the end.”
Christopher was credited with 19th position after the lap 148
accident, effectively ending his hopes for his first NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour Championship. Mike Stefanik of Coventry , R.I. finished
fifth in the race and now leads Christopher by 148 points. Stefanik
needs to earn at least a last place finish in the final race of the year
at Stafford Springs , Conn. on Oct. 28 to secure his seventh career
In other Sunday action at Thompson, Todd Ceravolo scored a
convincing win over Jimmy Blewett, Jeff Malave, Zach Sylvester and Woody
Pitkat. David Berghman beat out Fred Astle Jr for the 50 lap Pro Stock
win. A scary moment occurred on lap 29 when Scott Rotherford went up
and over another competitor and slid on his roof into the turn one wall
and catching fire. Ben Dodge Jr, special assistant to track owner Don
Hoenig, ran to the accident and pulled Rotherford to safety as fire
engulfed the entire car. Ben Seitz won the NEMA Midget 25 lapper and
Nokie Fornoro won the 50 lap ISMA Supermodified event after early leader
Chris Perley dropped out. Sixty five year old Bentley Warren finished
Norwich , Conn. Native
Bob Potter was selected to the New
England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Potter, who has 140 feature wins to
his credit, is a five time Modified Track Champion at the Waterford
Speedbowl and a five time Modified Track Champion at the Stafford Motor
Speedway. He was also the 1988 Duel Track (Thompson – Stafford )
Champion. A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six
finishes at Stafford in 1994-95. Potter will be inducted to the Hall of
Fame on January 28, 2007 at the La Renaissance Banquet Hall in East
Windsor, CT. Potter joins an elite group that includes Richie Evans,
Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Gene Bergin and Wild Bill
Slater to name a few. Also to be inducted along with Potter are
Supermodified great Bentley Warren, Busch East competitor Dave Dion,
Canadian Jean Paul Cabana, John Rosati, car owner and former owner of
the Westboro, Mass. Speedway John Falconi Sr, car builder/crew chief Bob
Johnson and former Northeastern Midget Association president John
McCarthy. The 10th anniversary inductees represent over a thousand
victories and three-dozen championships.
That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891.
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail:
The Chrome Horn
'Looking Back with Phil Smith' Archive
Phil Smith/Courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
October 19, 2007