Forty years ago in 1968,
driving the legendary Ole Blue of Len Boehler, closed out the season and
wrapped up the modified track championship with a convincing win on
Sunday at Stafford. Don MacTavish finished second with Fred DeSarro,
third. Fred Harbach and Holly Wilder rounded out the top five. Leo
Cleary made it two in a row at Norwood on Saturday night and at the
Fulton Raceway in New York on Sunday, Richie Evans took his first of 40
victories he would earn in nine seasons.
Thirty five years ago in 1973, the modified action was in
the southland. Richie Evans scored a one-two punch as he won the
Martinsville 150 on Saturday afternoon and won a 100 lapper at the
Caraway Speedway on Saturday night. At Martinsville, Jerry Cook finished
second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Paul Radford. Cook also
finished second at Caraway as Satch Worley finished third with Stevens,
fourth. Ray Hendrick, driving the Dick Armstrong No.1 finished fifth.
Hendrick had blown an engine at Martinsville, which necessitated Hop
Harrington and crew making a hasty motor change.
Thirty years ago in 1978, Waterford ran on Saturday night
and it was Roland LaPierre Jr. taking the win. Eddie Flemke finished
second with Pete Fiandacca, third. Oswego ran their season ending 30
lapper, which saw George Kent brave the cold and hold off Richie Evans
for the win. Jerry Cook finished third with Doug Hewitt, fourth. Seekonk
ran a 100-lap open competition event on Sunday and it was Ronnie
Bouchard in the Bobby Judkins 2x taking the win over Geoff Bodine.
Twenty five years ago in 1983, the Fall Final was a 100
lapper. Richie Evans took the win. Kenny Bouchard, driving for Ted
Marsh, finished second and was followed by Corky Cookman and Bugsy
Stevens. Jerry Pearl won the companion SK modified event with Kerry
Malone, second. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Darrell
Waltrip was the pole sitter and race winner.
Twenty years ago in 1988, the Fall Final featured the SK
Modifieds and Ted Christopher took the win over Bob Potter and Jerry
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Waterford ran a 150-lap event.
Ricky Young took the win after taking over the lead on lap 106 when Bob
Potter pitted with a soft tire. Mark LaJunesse finished second and was
followed by Jim Broderick, Potter and Bob Georgiades. At Riverside Park,
Stan Greger took a win over Ed Kennedy. At the Fall Final at Stafford,
Mike Stefanik took the lead from Jeff Fuller on lap 83 and went on to
win the 150-lap event. Satch Worley finished second and was followed by
Rick Fuller and Jeff Fuller. Steve Chowanski was the SK Modified winner.
John Anderson won the SK event but was disqualified after it was
discovered that his engine had an illegal crankshaft. Hermie Sadler
recorded his first Grand National win at Rougemont, N.C. In Winston Cup
action at North Wilkesboro, Rusty Wallace took the lead with 100 laps to
go and went on to take the win over Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant
announced that he would retire as a
driver at seasons end.
Ten years ago in 1998, the Modified Tour Series was
scheduled for Flemington but was washed out. Waterford ran their season
finale 100 lapper and it was young gun, Eric Berndt taking the win.
Tucker Reynolds finished second and was followed by Bert Marvin, Mark
LaJunesse and Todd Ceravolo. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Mark
Martin took the win over Ward Burton. The event was stopped midway when
sewage backed up and flowed across the backstretch. Mike McLaughlin won
the 300-mile Grand National event.
Five years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Modified Tour Series was
at the Stafford Speedway with the Busch North Series for the annual Fall
Final. All qualifying was completed on Saturday but rain-washed out the
main events, which were to be run Sunday. The event was been
re-scheduled for the following Saturday with a rain date of Sunday.
There were 42 Featherlite Modifieds at Stafford. Nevin George was the
top qualifier with a speed of 98.382 mph. Series point leader Todd
Szegedy was a tick slower as his speed was 98.291 mph. Ted Christopher
was third fastest with a speed of 98.167 mph. The re-draw for starting
positions showed Szegedy on the pole with Eric Beers, outside pole.
Eddie Flemke Jr. drew third with Tony Hirshman and Jamie Tomaino making
up the front five. Nevin George drew 7th and Christopher, eighth. The
long awaited return of Reggie Ruggerio turned into a non-event, event.
Ruggerio, who teamed up with Long Island car owner
Gary Cretty had the miss-fortune of having clutch problems and missed
most of the practice and set-up sessions. Needless to say, he didn’t
Joey McCarthy took the Busch Pole for the Busch North Series Fall
Final. Mike Johnson was second with Matt Kobyluck, third. Current series
point leader Andy Santerre, who was hoping to sew up the series title,
will start sixth. Christopher, Jerry Marquis and Mike Stefanik saw
double duty. Christopher starts 11th, Marquis, 16th and Stefanik, 18th.
Eric Berndt managed to avoid a serious last lap wreck to sew up his
first ever Modified Track Championship. Berndt knew what he had to do
going into the final event of the point season. With a healthy cushion
on second place runner Todd Ceravolo, Berndt drove conservatively and in
the end finished fifth. Ceravolo, who finished third, could only gain if
Berndt had trouble, which he didn’t. Third generation driver Bobby
Santos III lined up on the front row along side Kelly McDougall.
McDougall, a rookie, had no business starting on the point, as she was
clearly slower than those behind her. Santos got the jump and looked to
be on his way to his first modified win until the last lap when his
hopes ended up in the wall in turn four. Ted Christopher, who is known
to intimidate his competition, put the pressure on as the pair took the
white flag. Christopher took the lead between turns one and two. Santos
took it back in three; Christopher took it back in four in the run to
the checker. Santos bumped with Kerry Malone and hit the wall, ending
his night in 16th spot. Malone limped under the checkered flag with
severe front damage and was credited with fourth place. Jeff Malave
finished in second spot and garnered enough points to tie with Todd
Ceravolo for second in the final track standings. Sixth through tenth
finishers in the 30 lap feature were Bert Marvin, Ron Yuhas Jr., Matty
Adanti, Kelly McDougall and Butch Perry. David Berghman won the Pro
Stock division track title in fine style as he took the win in his main
event. Other feature winners were Woody Pitkat in the Late Models, Shawn
Monahan, three in a row in the Limited Sportsman and Joe Godbout in the
Mini-Stocks. Scott Bronczyk was crowned the Late Model Champ, Glenn
Boss, the Limited Sportsman Champ and Ray Veins, the Mini Stock Champ.
The Stafford Speedway recently issued a notice stating that Bo
Gunning had been suspended indefinitely. After viewing videotapes of the
incidents leading up to the suspension it appeared that race officials
over-reacted. First off, Gunning was not denying that he threw a punch
at Ted Christopher but if one were to view why he did what he did maybe
Christopher had it coming as he did attempt to take Gunning out and as a
matter of fact he succeeded. Gunning was also accused of assaulting
track owner Jack Arute Sr. The video showed a verbal confrontation
between the two. Gunning later apologized and it was accepted. It was
also stated that Gunning hit another car after the caution had been
displayed. The video clearly shows Ted Christopher slamming into Gunning
after the yellow had been displayed. Race officials took no action
against Christopher as they said they didn’t see it. Evidently race
officials at Stafford were not allowed to view videos of
events and were not allowed to let a recorded video influence their
decisions. Bo Gunning is no saint and he will be the first to admit it
but he feels that whenever Ted Christopher is involved in a situation
they tend to look the other way. Gunning swears he never said he was
going to “Take care of Teddy”. What he did say to Kerry Malone was that
he would not race with him, as he knew he was running for a
championship. Gunning made a similar statement to Eric Berndt and Todd
Ceravolo on the final night for track points at Thompson.
At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night in regular Dodge
Series weekly racing series competition Dennis Gada got his seventh
SK-Modified win of the year. Gada, who had been involved or collected in
many wrecks during the 2003 season, managed to keep most of the
destruction behind him. Gada started near the front, which meant that he
would have a fighting chance of staying alive in the point race. Looking
for his fifth straight championship, Gada added 10 points to his lead
over Ed Reed Jr. Reed finished sixth. The action was hot and heavy as
Dennis Charette finishing second. Ron Yuhas Jr., Chris Pasteryak and
John Brouwer Jr. rounded out the top five. Allen Coats won the Late
Model war but it was Corey Hutchins who clinched the Championship.
Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Dave Zemke
in the Sportsman division, Dave Trudeau in the Mini Stocks and Mike
Beebe Jr. in the Legends. NASCAR made it official the following Tuesday
when they announced that Dennis Gada was officially the New England
Regional Weekly Racing Series by Dodge Champion. It wasn’t a cakewalk by
any means for the four-time Waterford Speedbowl Modified Champion. In 18
events he garnered six wins and 11 top ten finishes. Modified racing at
Waterford can be rough and tumble at times and Gada has had more than
his share of tumbles. Starting in the rear or near the rear just about
every week Gada ran to win rather than just finish as his record shows.
Much of the credit goes to car owner Harry Wyant and his crew who did
yeoman’s work to keep the mighty No.3 on the track and in contention.
For his efforts Gada received $45,000+ in awards. With one more week to
go, Gada stood a good chance of breaking the track championship record
of Al Gaudreau and Dick Dunn who have four track titles in a row. Ed
Dachenhausen, a Waterford alumni, won the North East Regional
Championship. Dachenhausen raced at the Chemung Speedrome in New York
where he won 12 out of the 19 events he ran. Mark McFarland who raced at
the Old Dominion Speedway in Virginia was named as the National Champion
as well as winning the Atlantic Regional Championship. McFarland
pocketed $213,000 for his efforts. Other regional champions included Tom
Seets, Heartland, Mark Wertz, Southeastern Coastal, Jerry Robertson,
Northwest, Rip Michaels, Sunbelt and Kyle Berck, Midwest.
Following Gada in the New England Region standings were Jeff Strunk,
who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania, Scott Bonney, who
raced at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire, Eric Berndt, who raced
at Thompson, Dwight Jarvis, who raced at Claremont Speedway in New
Hampshire, Bobby Babb, who raced at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine,
John Fortin, who raced at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Rick
Houlihan, who raced at Seekonk in Mass, Jeff Crowley, who raced at the
Star Speedway in New Hampshire and Kerry Malone, who raced at Stafford.
The top-10 received their awards in Nashville, Tenn. in early November.
The Short Track regionals honor second division drivers. Ryan Posocco,
who raced at Stafford, is the New England Champion. Aaron Fellows, who
raced at the Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire, finished second.
Waterford Late Model Champion Corey Hutchins finished third followed by
Scott Bronczyk, who raced at Thompson.
In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Elliott Sadler took the Busch
Pole. Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified tenth but had his time dis-allowed
when inspectors determined that his right side body panel was too low.
Earnhardt started in the rear and made up a lost lap to finish second to
Michael Waltrip. Sadler had a good run going until four laps to go when
he flipped violently.
Last year, 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
That’s it for this week from 40 Clark Street, Westerly RI 02891.
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E Mail
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications for over 3
This week are
several vintage racing photos of former Stafford Motor Speedway's
general manager, the late Ed Yerrington, courtesy
The Chrome Horn
'Looking Back with Phil Smith' Archive