The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


April 30, 2010

Fifty years ago in 1960 the Waterford Speedbowl suffered their first rainout of the year. After dominating at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1959 Bill Slater and the Connecticut Valley Rocket No. V-8 went on the road to Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA. Norwood had just secured a NASCAR sanction and the word was out that the race purses were high. Slater took full advantage as he started a string of six features in a row on this weekend at the Route 1 oval.

   Forty five years ago in 1965 Ed Moody, who would eventually become the assistant to the chief technical inspector at Stafford in the late 70’s won the Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. His engine builder was Bruce Watt. Marvin Chase, who was an inspector for the Connecticut DMV made it two in a row in Late Model Daredevil action. Lou Lazzaro was the top dog on the dirt at Fonda on Saturday night and at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday Elton Hill took the win over Eddie Flemke SR and Mario “Fats” Caruso.

   Forty years ago in 1970, Dick Nephew was the Friday night winner at Malta. Leo Cleary who had been driving the Koszela Woodchopper became embroiled in a dispute with car owner Sonny Koszela that resulted in them going their separate ways. Fred DeSarro, who had started the season with Joe Brady, moved over to the Koszela car after Brady ran out of money. In their first outing, DeSarro finished fifth. In twin 25-lap action at Stafford on Saturday night, former National Champion Ernie Gahan scored double wins. Bernie Miller finished second in the first event and was followed by Ed Yerrington, Lou Toro and Daring Dick Caso. Caso finished second in the nightcap and was followed by Moose Hewitt, Jerry Dostie and Bugsy Stevens. At Fonda on Saturday night, Lou Lazzaro ruled the roost as he won the twin 25's on the race card. In the first event, Lee Millington finished second and was followed by Maynard Forette and Dave Lape. Kenny Shoemaker in the Bobby Judkins 2x, finished second in the second event with Don Wayman and Peppy Pepicelli following. DeSarro hit full stride on Sunday at Thompson where he dominated the twin 25's run there. Ed Yerrington in the Freddy's TV 23 finished second in the first feature and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Jerry Cook and Lou Toro. Sal Dee in the Mystic Missile finished second in the nightcap with Stevens, Cook and Ernie Gahan following. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to a shoreline rain storm.

   Thirty five years ago in 1975, events at Freeport scheduled for Friday and Sunday were cancelled because of poor crowds. Bugsy Stevens in the Koszela No.15 took down the win at Stafford on Saturday night. Brian Ross in the Mystic Missile finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary and Bob Santos. At Islip it was George Brunnhoelzl over Wayne Anderson and at Shangri-La, Richie Evans crossed the stripe ahead of Roger Treichler and Maynard Troyer. Jerry Pearl took the Modified win at Waterford.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, John Rosati in the Tuck Hoffman no.73 scored a popular win at Stafford on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Ray Miller, Ronnie Bouchard, Jerry Cook and Mike Stefanik. Cook left Stafford and drove all night to Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. where he won an added point event. From North Carolina Cook went to Thompson where he finished fourth behind winner, Richie Evans, George Kent and John Rosati. Earlier in the day, the members of the New England Drivers and owners club staged a boycott at Thompson because of excessive pit fees. The speedway management relented and gave $5.00 back to each car. In Late Model Sportsman (Busch Grandnational) competition in the south, Geoff Bodine scored a grand slam as he won events at Langley Field, Southside and at South Boston Speedways. Other weekend winners were George Kent at Shangri-La, Wayne Anderson at Islip and Mike Murphey at Star.

   Twenty five years ago in 1985, heavy rain washed out Stafford on Friday night. At Waterford on Saturday, Charlie Savage took the win over Rick Fuller, Ted Christopher and Richie Gallup. Allen McClure won at Riverside and at Riverhead, Don Howe beat out Tom Baldwin and Fred Harbach. Richie Evans and Tony Siscone finished one-two in a championship event at New Egypt. At Thompson on Sunday Wayne Dion won out over Joe Tiezzi.

   Twenty years ago in 1990, Waterford and Riverside rained out. Riverhead managed to avoid the rain as Bill Park held off Wayne Anderson and Don Howe for the win. Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko rounded out the top five. Sunday at Monadnock, Jerry Marquis was the winner over Tom Bolles and Mike Stefanik. No racing at Stafford as the Arutes opted for a late May opening. Based on all the rain during the month of May, maybe they made the right decision.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995, New England racing personalities Gavin Couper and Bob Echo passed away. Stafford rained out on Friday but at Waterford on Saturday, Todd Ceravolo went pole to pole to win the 35-lap feature. Bob Potter finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick and Jerry Pearl. Jeff Karns was the mini stock winner, Larry Cote won the late model feature and Bud Kuhene was the Strictly Stock winner. Dan Avery won at Riverside and Chuck Steuer won at Riverhead. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin in the closing laps to take the win. Robbie Crouch was the Busch North winner at Jennerstown.

   Ten years ago in 2000, the modifieds raced at Richmond on Thursday night. Reggie Ruggerio took the lead on lap 146 of the 150-lap event and went on to record his 40th Featherlite Modified Tour win. Tony Hirshman finished second and was followed by Mike Christopher, Jerry Marquis and Dan Avery. The event, although on an off night, drew 49 cars and 15,000 spectators. In the northeast, Ted Christopher went two for two as he won at both Stafford on Friday and at Waterford on Saturday. Willie Hardie finished second at Stafford and was followed by Jerry Marquis. At Waterford, Ed Reed Jr. was the runner-up. Jay Miller finished third and was followed by Mike Holdredge and Rob Janovic. Joe Hartmann went pole to pole at Riverhead. Back at Richmond, Jeff Green was the Busch GN winner and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Winston Cup winner.

   Five years ago in 2005 the Stafford Motor Speedway got their Friday night program in the books while Waterford suffered its second rainout in a row. At Stafford Lloyd Agor passed Frank Ruocco on lap 31 of the 40 lap feature and went on to take the win in the SK Modified division. Ruocco finished second followed by Willie Hardie, Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. A slim field of only 20 SK Modifieds was on hand. Many have wondered as to why the fields of SK Modifieds have dwindled at Stafford. The SK Modifieds have gotten out of hand cost wise plus the fact that there was much destruction at Stafford last year. Some car owners have sold out while others have chosen to race elsewhere or just park their cars. Ryan Posocco and Jay Stuart finished one-two in Late Model action while Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Sportsman feature and John Hurley won the Dare Stock event. James Civali who won the SK Modified portion of the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker and finished fourth in the recent SK Modified portion of the Spring Sizzler before being disqualified for refusing tech inspection now finds himself in a select group of drivers at the Stafford Speedway that have been suspended from racing at Stafford indefinitely for actions detrimental to racing. In other words Civali was put on suspension because he drove through the pit area at high speed and almost ran an official down. In addition to Waterford being rained out the opening night festivities at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island were also cancelled due to rain.

   New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese who had been in the process of proposing a domed racetrack in Plainfield, Ct. won a crucial zoning approval after a close vote by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel voted 3-2 to rezone roughly 900 acres off Interstate 395 and include the land in a recently established "resort/recreational development zone." Opponents of New England Raceway LLC's 140,000-seat racetrack plan said they wouldl appeal the commission's decision. Arganese said he planned to move forward with the project despite the prospect of legal challenges. Six appeals had already been filed against the commission's approval of the new resort/recreational development zone. He said the design process should take about five months, and he intended to bring the plans before the commission by January. Arganese's $343 million project would include the racetrack, a convention center, a 700-room hotel and 800,000-square-foot retail complex. He continued to say he hoped to attract NASCAR, Indy and CART events to the New England Raceway track, along with drag races, concerts and trade shows.

   Jeff Gordon won the wreck marred Aarons 499 at the Talledega Speedway. Martin Truex was the Busch Series winner. The Busch race was also a wreck fest.

   Last year, 2009 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stopped at the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. The weekend had picture perfect weather with temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s. A near full house of fans were on hand for the event.
Ted Christopher made it two-for-two in 2009 as he earned his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole Award of the season Saturday afternoon. Christopher, turned a fast lap of 18.150 seconds (99.174 mph) in the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet Saturday for his 20th career Coors Light Pole Award, and his third at Stafford . The reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and defending winner of the Spring Sizzler also captured the pole for the season opener at Thompson ( Conn. ) International Speedway, and wound up in Victory Lane the following day. Mike Stefanik was the second-fastest qualifier as he toured the Stafford oval in 18.368 seconds (99.997 mph). Ryan Preece, Eric Berndt and Donny Lia rounded out the top five fastest cars in time trials. The top 10 qualifiers redrew following time trials. Preece and Stefanik ended up starting on the front row for Sunday’s 200-lap feature followed in the second row by Christopher and Berndt. There were 33 cars on hand.

   Ted Christopher, the dominant car for the first half of Sunday’s 200-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, survived a cut tire and an accident in the second 100 to earn his second trip in a row to Victory Lane in the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher, of Plainville, Conn., piloted the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet from mid-pack with 70 laps to go to earn his 33rd career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. The Coors Light Pole Award winner on Saturday, Christopher led 82 of the first 100 laps and appeared early to be the dominant car for the second week in a row. While under caution, Christopher had to come to pit road on Lap 121 with a cut tire and surrendered the lead on to Mike Stefanik. After rejoining the field, seven laps later he was skidding through the grass on the backstretch after getting caught up in an accident and a second-consecutive victory seemed unlikely. All that didn’t deter the defending series champion from returning to Victory Lane, however, as he quickly moved up through the field and finally got by Todd Szegedy on Lap 182. The result was his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler win and his ninth career tour triumph at the Connecticut half mile. Szegedy finished as the runner-up and led three-different times for 33 laps in the race. Ryan Preece posted a third-place finish while Stefanik and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Donny Lia, Woody Pitkat, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett and Ed Flemke Jr.

   In other weekend action at Stafford, the 38th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST kicked off the 2009 SK Modified® and Late Model seasons with Richie Pallai, Jr. taking the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and Dillon Moltz taking the 30-lap Late Model feature.
Keith Rocco made it two in a row in SK Modified action at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The 35-lap SK event began with Jeffrey Paul leading the first ten laps from his pole starting position. The action immediately heated up behind Paul as Corey Hutchings, Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr., and Keith Rocco were jockeying for track position. Rocco, who came from the ninth starting spot, worked his M&M Motorsports #57 SK Mod in the low groove in the opening laps, and then moved to the ‘Bowl’s very capable outside groove. He moved outside Janovic for fourth on lap 6, then outside Chadwick for third a lap later. Still in the high line, he pressured Hutchings for second before completing the pass just 2 laps later. He immediately went to work on the leader Paul, again using the high groove to gain the lead on lap 10. Hutchings and Chadwick followed Rocco around Paul, and the lead pack began to open up some space under green flag

   At halfway, Rocco continued to lead Hutchings, Chadwick and Janovic. Jeff Pearl was making forward progress, moving into the top five by lap 19. The event’s first caution waved with 10 laps remaining for a spin by Wayne Arute. Rocco would get the jump on three ensuing restarts after more single car spins from the rear of the field. With just three laps remaining, contact in the lead pack sent cars scattering with Jeff Pearl and Dennis Gada taking direct hits, while Justin Gaydosh and Ron Yuhas Jr. also received damage. Only Yuhas was able to continue after a visit to the pits. Rocco resumed control on the restart and went on to the victory by a car length over Chadwick. Janovic, Shawn Solomito - making just his second career Speedbowl start, and Wendell Dailey completed the top-five. Hutchings, who ran second nearly the entire event, saw his strong run end in the turn 4 wall on the last lap as a victim of a cut tire.

   Other winners from Saturday night action included Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, while Chris Williams took the checkered in the Mini Stocks and Jason Palmer in Legends Cars action.

   The True Value Modified Racing Series opened their season at the lightning fast ¼ mile Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night. It was one of the wildest nights in recent memory as the TVMS kicked off it’s sixth season in front of a large crowd. When the dust settled after nine caution periods, Rob Goodenough, Swanzey, NH; notched his second career win capturing the “Bond Auto Parts 100 Spring Dash” for open-wheel modified race cars. Goodenough started fifth in a 24 car field and was in the hunt for the lead throughout the race. Cross town rival Kirk Alexander took the top spot at the drop of the green flag and fought off all that was thrown at him from Peter Jarvis, Ascutney,VT; Ed Dachenhausen,Danbury CT; and Goodenough. Through eight caution periods, Alexander set a torrid pace until lap 90 when while trying to pass a slower car, the three-time champion made contact with a safety barrier knocking himself out of the race and wiping out a chance at
an unprecedented 15th career win at his “home” track.

   When the race resumed, Goodenough paced the field to the finish with 2006 series champion Dwight Jarvis chasing him to the checkered flag finishing a half car length behind the winner.Jon McKennedy, Chelmsford, MA; Dachenhausen, Sean Bodreau, Claremont, NH; Rowan Pennink, Huntington Valley, PA; Mike Douglas, Auburn,NH; Joe Doucette,Framingham,MA; Jack Bateman, Canaan,N H; and Bill Park, Long Island, NY rounded out the top ten. Qualifying heat races were won by P.Jarvis, Alexander, and Dachenhausen, with Pennink winning the 15 lap consolation race.

   In some sad news, Gordon Reinig, retired Buffalo, NY fireman and Lancaster (NY) Speedway photographer (1967-1974) passed away Monday night (April 20) in Buffalo. He was responsible for the photos used in the book "Lancaster Heroes”.

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Carl Edwards' battered car soared 15-feet off the ground, scraping along the safety fence, then bouncing back onto the track in flames. Wreckage from the last-lap accident spewed into the stands, sending two fans to the hospital in the aftermath of yet another "Big One" at Talladega. It was a frightening finish to another crash-marred restrictor plate race, which won't be remembered for unheralded Brad Keselowski's last-lap pass for his first Sprint Cup Series victory. Instead, the lasting images will be Edwards airborne, his upside-down car coming eerily close to flying into the grandstands. The frontstretch safety fence bowed upon impact, but held, and seven fans were injured from the flying debris. An eighth seated in that section of the grandstands was treated for an undisclosed medical condition. Edwards, who climbed from the fiery wreckage and crossed the finish line on foot, was thankful it wasn't worse. Dr. Bobby
Lewis, Talladega's onsite physician, said two people in the crowd were airlifted from the track to avoid the heavy traffic. One woman had a possible broken jaw, and none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

   The dangerous but dramatic restrictor-plate racing came under fire after Edwards' attempt to block Keselowski's winning pass triggered the last of several frightening accidents at one of the sport's most exciting tracks. Keselowski pushed Edwards past Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. into the lead on the final lap, and the 25-year-old Earnhardt protege peeked around Edwards as they closed on the finish line. Edwards ducked low to block the pass, but Keselowski was too close and couldn't avoid contact that sent Edwards into a spin up the track and into Newman's path. Edwards' car flew over the top of Newman's hood, then shot into the frontstretch fence.

   In Nationwide Series racing at Talledega, David Ragan won the Aaron's 312 for his first career NASCAR win in 196 races: 85 in Nationwide, 82 in Sprint Cup and 29 in truck. He made the pass for the lead coming to the start finish line after Ryan Newman & Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made contact coming through the tri-oval on a green-white-checker finish. Newman held on to second, while Joey Logano snuck into third place at the finish and Tony Raines finished fourth Earnhardt, Jr. fell to 5th place at the checkered flag.

   As he was about to be sentenced for federal income tax fraud, those in the courtroom stood up for Larry McClure [owner of the #4 Chevy in Sprint Cup Series, three Daytona 500 wins]. Supporters of the motorsports icon filled the courtroom, which was too small to hold them. Family members, friends, giants of the stock car racing world – around 50 people– spilled into the hallway, stood on benches and stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with McClure and his family. Junior Johnson, the fabled moonshiner-turned-dirt track racer and NASCAR team owner, turned out. Joy Stata, a Florida native, was there to support the man who put her hometown of Bartow on the racing map. Jeff Byrd, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, stood outside, having arrived too late to get a seat.

   Inside the courtroom of Judge James P. Jones, McClure made his last public statement. “I’d like to apologize to you, the court,” he told Jones, chief judge for the Western District of Virginia. “To the opposing counsel, to my family, my God. His will be done, whatever you decide.” Jones’ decision ushered in a stunned silence, punctuated by sniffles: McClure will serve 18 months in prison, the low end of the sentencing range. For McClure’s supporters, it was a crushing end to a three-year criminal investigation that has taken a toll on him personally and financially. McClure pleaded guilty in January to five counts of filing a false income tax return, obstructing the federal investigation and lying to Internal Revenue Service investigators.

   In addition to the prison time, McClure was fined $40,000, ordered to reimburse the IRS $25,000 for its investigation, and to pay nearly $60,000 in restitution to Eastman-Kodak for filing a false invoice. He was also ordered to refile his personal income tax returns for 2002, 2003 and 2004. During those years, McClure admitted to accepting $269,000 in cash payments from a friend in exchange for services provided by Morgan-McClure Motorsports, of which McClure is a part owner. He did not report the income to the corporation or on his personal tax returns, and owed the government just over $100,000.

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.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

This week are several vintage racing photos of the highly under rated Elton Hill,
who won races throughout the northeast and New York,
courtesy of
SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.


All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and VintageModifieds.com

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 30, 2010

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