April 9, 2010
Forty five years ago in 1965 Ray Delisle was the 30 lap Modified
winner at was then called the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Savage
took the Bomber main.
Forty years ago in 1970,
the Stafford Speedway and the Thompson Speedway were running twin 25 lap
features for the Modifieds. When the Norwood Arena decided to drop the
Modifieds at the end of the 1969 season Stafford petitioned NASCAR to change
their race dates from Friday to Saturday nights. NASCAR allowed Stafford to
change their race night and in doing so opened up the flood gates at the
Albany-Saratoga Speedway to the New Englanders who wanted to race on Friday
nights. Taking the opening 25 lapper at Stafford was Carl Bugsy Stevens
driving the mighty no. 3 of Len Boehler. Ralph “Hop” Harrington driving the
famous Tant/Mitchell coupe that had been purchased by Richard Armstrong
finished second. Fred DeSarro in the Joe Brady No. 41 finished third. Jerry
Dostie and Roland LaPierre Sr rounded out the top five. Harrington won the
nightcap with Stevens a close second. Billy Greco, Ted Stack and Ed
Yerrington rounded out the top five. At Thompson on Sunday Stevens took the
first 25 lapper and was followed by George “Moose” Hewitt, Yerrington,
DeSarro and Leo Cleary who was in the Koszela Woodchopper. Hewitt took the
nightcap and was followed by Yerrington, DeSarro, Stevens and Jerry Cook.
The Fonda Speedway in New York was also running twin 25’s. Rene Charland won
the first one and was followed by Dave Buanno, Jerry Cook, Ron Narducci and
Irv Taylor. The second 25 lapper was won by Narducci with Taylor second. Wes
Moody finished third with Charland, fourth. Also running this weekend was
the Fulton Raceway where Lou Lazzaro beat out Richie Evans for the win and
Langley Field in Virginia where Ray Hendrick won in the new Tant/Mitchell
Camaro. After two consecutive rain outs the Waterford Speedbowl finally got
to run their opener. Walt Dombrowski won the 30 lap Modified feature. Johnny
DrLong was the Late Model Daredevil winner.
Thirty five years ago in 1975,
Jack Arute had a vision that if the Modifieds switched from 15 inch wide
tires to narrow ones the cars would be slower and the car owners would be
spending less. His heart was in the right place but his vision was mis-guided.
In the season opening Spring Sizzler Richie Evans did him one better as used
eight inch rubber that was used by NASCAR’s Winston Cup division. Evans won
the Sizzler with Eddie Flemke Sr, second. Freddie Schulz, Ronnie Bouchard
and Fred DeSarro rounded out the top five. Racing at Fulton was called
because of rain.
Thirty years ago in 1980,
SJ Evonsion was the Saturday night winner at Riverside Park Doug Hevron, in
the Mario Fiore No. 44 finished second with John Rosati, third. Richie Evans
won the 80 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Brian Ross in his home built No.
73 finished second. Hevron, who won the 50 lap non-qualifiers race came from
a dead last starting position to finish third in the Sizzler. Jimmy Spencer
was fourth with Reggie Ruggiero, fifth. In Winston Cup action at Darlington,
Bill Elliott took the win. Ron Bouchard qualified sixth and finished 13th
while Geoff Bodine qualified 11th and finished seventh.
Twenty five years ago in 1985,
a banner field of 99 Modifieds was on hand for the Spring Sizzler at
Stafford. Geoff Bodine, driving the Lee Allard No.99, cleaned house as he
took the win over Bugsy Stevens and Charlie Jarzombek. Bobby Vee and John
Rosati rounded out the top five. Among those who failed to finish was Richie
Evans who broke an a-frame and placed last in the 30 car field. Leo Cleary,
who had been driving for Len Boehler since Fred DeSarro had passed away, was
given his walking papers as he was informed that he was replaced by Ron
Bouchard. It was also announced that the Thompson Speedway had been granted
a NASCAR sanction for all future events.
Twenty years ago in 1990,
Jerry Marquis made it two in a row in Modified action at Riverside Park.
Marquis drove the famous No. 2x of Bobby Judkins. Bob Ploverari finished
second with Kenny Bouchard, third. Dick Trayner and Tom Bolles rounded out
the top five. During the running of the event Ricky Summers in the Bill
Simons Excavator No. 9 set an altitude record as he rode over a wheel and
sailed 25 feet into the air.
Fifteen years ago in 1995,
Chris Kopec picked the pole and led from start to finish at Riverside Park
on Saturday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Paul Corazzo, third.
Tom Cravenho and Ted Riggot rounded out the top five. In NASCAR Grand
National action at Hickory, NC Johnny Benson took the win after Chad Little
was knocked out of the event by Kevin LePage.
Ten years ago in 2000,
it was Easter weekend. Scheduled events at Riverhead, Wall and Waterford
were rained out. The only activity was the fact that Mike Liberty filed suit
against Bob Bahre and Bill France Jr. Liberty believed that Bahre and France
had lied to him and had mislead him when he purchased the Oxford Plains
Speedway in Maine.
Five years ago in 2005,
The Waterford Speedbowl began its 55th consecutive year of staging auto
races. Despite the cool night a good crowd was on hand. Ron Yuhas Jr figured
he had a tenth place car until Shawn Monahan triggered a massive wreck that
eliminated nine of the front runners. Yuhas ended up with the victory with
Chris Pasteryak ending up second. Jeff Pearl finished third. Allen Coates
won the Late Model feature. Danny Field edged Richard Brooks to take the win
in the Mini-Stocks and Len Beebe just nipped Jeff Paul for the Legends
feature. Norman Root was the Sportsman winner.
The Whelen Modified Tour opener at the Thompson Speedway provided a
surprise ending and almost a new winner. Zack Sylvester was well on his way
to victory until a stalled car on lap 146 of the 150 lap Modified main event
bunched the field. It ended up being a green- white checkered situation.
Sylvester led the restart with Chuck Hossfeld and Ted Christopher in tow.
Hossfeld got under Sylvester going into turn one and about the same time Ted
Christopher dove underneath both of them to take the lead. On the final lap
Sylvester got by Hossfeld and raced wheel to wheel to the finish line with
Christopher It looked like Sylvester nipped him by six inches. NASCAR
officials saw it differently and awarded the win to Christopher. Hossfeld
ended up third with Mike Stefanik, fourth. Rick Fuller rounded out the top
five. Ten caution periods kept the event to a bunch of short sprints. The
longest green flag period was from lap 108 to lap 146.
Kenny Bouchard led the initial start but was quickly overhauled by
Eddie Flemke. Flemke led until lap 8 when Donnie Lia passed him. Two laps
later, Ted Christopher took the lead. The first caution came on lap 12 when
Tony Ferrante and Chris Kopec spun in turn two, collecting Tom Cloce, Kenny
Barry and Tom Bolles. Christopher continued to lead as the second caution
waved on lap 21 for a six-car tangle in turn one. The third caution flew on
lap 29 for a 13-car melee. Christopher and Hossfeld swapped the lead until
lap55 when many of the leaders pitted after Howie Brode and Eric Beers
tangled in turn four. Beers went head long into the fourth turn wall and
suffered shoulder injuries. Despite the many front runners pitting for tires
Christopher elected to stay out. Christopher finally pitted for tires on lap
105. Tony Hirschman, who took the lead on lap 76, paced the field until his
tires wore out as Sylvester powered by on lap 134. Christopher made a
determined charge and until the final caution when he was running third.
In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, the car counts and spectators
continued to be great. There were 46 Modifieds on hand and there weren’t too
many empty seats as a crowd estimate of 10,000 was announced. Had it not
been for the LaJoie seat and the exceptional workmanship on the Boehler No.3
Eric Beers could have suffered serious injury when he made hard impact into
the turn four wall. In other Ice Breaker action James Civali won the twin
Sunoco Modified SK type events. Dennis Botticello won the Saturday night 20
lap Late Model event and Charles Bailey III won the Sunday event. Joe Lemay
was the Pro Stock winner and Glen Boss, the Sportsman winner. Jeff Gordon
made up three laps to win the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville.
Last year, 2009 The
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour began its 25th anniversary year at the Thompson
Speedway ICEBREAKER last weekend. This year’s event marked the 107th time
that the WMT has raced at Thompson since the formation of the Tour in 1985.
An outstanding field of competitors attempted to qualify on Saturday
afternoon for a starting spot in the 150-lap main event which was run on
Sunday. The WMT was joined by Thompson’s “Super 6” NASCAR Whelen All
American Series divisions in this two-day racing spectacle that has ushered
in the beginning of the auto racing season in New England for well over 40
Thirty five NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for practice and
qualifying at Thompson. Jimmy Blewett made himself the pre-race favorite as
he was the fastest in pre-time trial practice. Blewett toured the 5/8 mile
oval in 18.612 seconds, 120.890 mph. Also up to speed and in contention were
Doug Coby, Jamie Tomaino, Todd Szegedy and Reggie Ruggiero.
Blewett might have been the fastest one in practice but Ted
Christopher was the fastest when it counted. Christopher won the Coors Light
Pole in qualifying for Icebreaker 2009 With a lap of 18.642 seconds (120.890
MPH), Christopher earned his 19th career WMT pole and his eighth career pole
at Thompson. Doug Coby qualified second. There were a few surprises in
qualifying including Glenn Reen, Jamie Tomaino and Rowan Pennink who rounded
out the top-five. After the redraw, Coby and Pennink ended up on the front
row while Tomaino, who would make his record-setting 500th career start
would go third. Christopher picked the fourth position followed by Mike
Stefanik and Reen.
Christopher began his title defense the way he ended it, with a win
at Thompson. Once the green flag was displayed to start the 150 lapper
Christopher wasted little time in showing what he had as he took the lead
from Doug Coby on lap 10. Jamie Tomaino, who was making his 500th start, was
quite stout in the early going as he wrestled the lead from Christopher on
lap 41 and held it until a restart on lap 58 when he gave way to Mike
Stefanik. A caution on lap 48 when John Busch spun out in turn two opened
the door for pit stops by Christopher along with Don Lia, Ron Silk, Jimmy
Blewett and Rowan Pennick. Stefanik and Tomaino had elected to remain on the
track. By lap 62 Lia had worked his way back to 4th spot and had Christopher
and Silk in tow. Four laps later Lia was third. Tomaino retook the lead on
lap 67. Stefanik began to fade with obvious worn tires. Tomaino was able to
hold on until lap 74 when his tires went south as Christopher stormed by Lia
take the lead. By lap 120 Christopher continued to lead as Ronnie Silk had
moved him into the second spot. For all intents and purposes Silks run for
the front ended a few laps later when Jimmy Blewett roughed him up and
almost planted him in the first turn wall. Blewett also roughed up Lia
before he passed him for the second spot. A caution on lap 133 for a Reggie
Ruggeri spin set the stage for some late race excitement. With Blewett on
the outside and Christopher on the inside they led the field to a restart on
lap137. As Christopher entered turn three Blewett made a bottom shot and in
the process moved him up to take the lead. Christopher returned the favor in
turn four as he retook the lead. A Woody Pitkat spin on lap 148 precipitated
a Green – White – Checkered finish. The field restarted for the final time
on lap 152, single file. Despite the fact that Blewett beat and banged on
the back of Christopher the defending champion never gave the aggressor the
opportunity for another bottom shot as he scored an impressive win. Blewett,
reluctantly settled for the runner-up spot with Lia, third. Ryan Preece and
Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Silk,
Stefanik, Coby, Pennink and Bob Grigas.
For his efforts Christopher pocketed $8,800. He also received the
first commemorative Tissot wrist watch, which will be presented by NASCAR
and tour sponsor Whelen Engineering to each of the 14 race winners
throughout the 25th anniversary season. The win was Christopher’s eighth at
Thompson and his third in the track’s Icebreaker. He also won the
traditional season-opener, which hosted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s
first race in 1985, in 2004 and 2005. Christopher also moved into sole
possession of fourth-place on the tour’s all-time win list with his 32nd
victory. He trails only Mike Stefanik (69), Reggie Ruggiero (44) and Tony
In Saturday night Sunoco Modified action at Thompson Keith Rocco
scored his first win of the 2009 season in a fiercely competitive opener. As
Rocco crossed the line to take down the victory, contact between Tom
Cravenho and Ted Christopher sent Christopher head-on into the turn four
wall. Christopher took a hard hit but walked away from the incident. Todd
Ceravolo finished a strong second over Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink, and Zach
Sylvester. After post-race technical inspection, Goodale was stripped of his
third-place finish; moving Pennink and Sylvester up a position and Jimmy
Blewett inside the top five.
Defending division champion Jeff Zuidema of North Brookfield, CT, led
wire-to-wire to win the first of two Late Model main events scheduled for
Todd Ceravolo earned a hard-fought victory among a strong field of
Sunoco Modifieds on Sunday afternoon. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, kicked- off
a new era in full-fendered racing at Thompson Speedway with the first-ever
Super Late Model victory. Jeff Zuidema of N. Brookfield, CT, went
two-for-two in Late Model competition on Icebreaker weekend winning both
ends of the double-header. Joe Arena of Bristol, CT, turned in a dominating
performance to score the victory in the season-opener for the Limited
Sportsman division. Chuck Rogers of Quaker Hill, CT, scored his first-ever
winner at the Thompson Speedway in the Mini Stocks. Brian Sullivan of S.
Windsor, CT picked up where he left off winning TIS Modified features.
Ceravolo jumped out to the early lead of the main event followed by
Keith Rocco. On the final lap, Bert Marvin got up alongside Ceravolo but
could not muster up enough momentum to make the pass. Ceravolo rolled into
victory lane for his first win of the season. Marvin had to settle for
second followed by Rocco. Woody Pitkat had a strong run to finish fourth.
Cravenho completed the top five.
The Waterford Speedbowl tried to open for the season but a forecast
of rain and possible snow put a damper on action at the shoreline oval.
The True Value Modified Racing Series reports that a record 53 teams had
secured numbers and paid fee’s to compete in 2009. Series founder Jack
Bateman structured a 16 race schedule in response and additional prize money
would be paid.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Jeff Gordon ended a 47-race winless
drought, the longest of his career as he beat Hendrick Motorsports teammate
Jimmie Johnson to win the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort
Worth. It was the 17th Cup race at Texas, the track where Gordon has his
only two last-place finishes in his 552 career starts. One of the 43rd-place
finishes came last spring before he was runner-up to Carl Edwards in the
fall race after winning the pole.Gordon won by 0.542 of a second over
Johnson with an average speed of 146.372 mph. Middletown CT native Joey
Logano, who started 10th, finished 30th. A strong rumor hadhis ride in
Kyle Busch won his third consecutive Nationwide race in Texas with
another dominating performance, leading a race-record 178 of 200 laps to win
the O'Reilly 300 even though he insisted it wasn't as easy as it looked.
Busch finished 1.447 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart, who made a late charge
from seventh with four new tires after a caution on lap 188. Brad Keselowski,
forced to start 42nd in a backup car, finished third..
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly,
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail,firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
Looking Back Archive
Smith / Looking Back A Bit