The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


May 7, 2010

Fifty years ago in 1960 Joe McNulty, driving the Bounty Hunter of Robert “Slim” Ross was the Modified feature winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the Non-Ford winner and Ed Moody won in the Bombers. Bill Slater made it two in a row at the Norwood Arena.

   Forty five years ago in 1965 Jerry Dostie was the Modified winner at Waterford while Bill Scrivner won his third feature in the Bomber ranks. Kenny Shoemaker recorded his second win of the year at Fonda. Don Flynn took the win at Riverside Park and at Utica-Rome Rene Charland took the win over Frank Mathalia and Ken Meahl.

   Forty years ago in 1970, Lou Lazzaro was the top dog at Malta on Friday night. Lazzaro, who ran the same car on asphalt as he did on dirt, beat Eddie Flemke to the stripe. Guy Chartrand finished third with Fred DeSarro, fourth. Lazzaro carried his winning ways over to Saturday as he won the first half of the twin 25-lap program at Fonda. Rene Charland, who finished second to Lazzaro in the opener, won the nitecap. At Airborne Park on Saturday night, Guy Chartrand in the Hemi-Cuda took the top spot over Gene Mangino and Dick Nephew. Racing at Stafford, Thompson and Utica-Rome was rained out. Donnie Bunnell beat the rain and the entire Modified field at Waterford. Ron Cote was the Late Model Daredevil winner.

   Thirty five years ago in 1975, Keilor was the Friday night winner on the flat quarter mile at Freeport. Charlie Jarzombek finished second with Art Tappen, third followed by Jerry Cook. Almost as soon as the checker had dropped, Cook was on the truck and headed for Winston-Salem, NC for a 200 lap extra point event. Cook finished third behind John Bryant and Billy Hensley. Meanwhile, back in the northeast, Geoff Bodine in the Armstrong No.1 took down the feature at Stafford. Ray Miller, Ron Bouchard, Bugsy Stevens and Eddie Flemke rounded out the top five. At Islip, Jim Hendrickson in the Tony Ferrenti x3 beat out Fred Harbach and Charlie J. for the win and at Shangri-La, George Kent took the win. At the Waterford Speedbowl Mike Beebe took the Modified win. Taking top honors in the Grand American Late Models was Don Fowler. Cook made it back from Winston-Salem in time to race at Fulton where he finished third behind Maynard Troyer and Richie Evans. In open competition small block modified action at Thompson on Sunday night, Fred DeSarro took the win over Eddie Flemke, Moose Hewitt, Dick Caso and Dick Dunn.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, Stafford had thirty-five Modifieds in the pit area on Friday night. Richie Evans was the 35-lap feature winner. Bob Polverari finished second and was followed by John Rosati, Ray Miller and Jerry Cook. At Riverside on Saturday night, Evans had rear end gear problems and Rosati lost an engine. This opened the door for Polverari who beat Ray Miller to the stripe. Jerry Cook finished third with Mike Stefanik, fourth. Westboro ran a 100 lap open on Sunday which drew all the big guns. Greg Sacks took the win over Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens and Jerry Cook who had lapped the field. Charlie Jarzombek, down one lap, finished fifth and was followed by Ron Bouchard, John Rosati and Roland LaPierre Jr. Other weekend winners were Bob Potter over Rick Donnelly at Waterford, George Kent at Shangri-La, Roger Treichler over Billy Colton at Lancaster and Charlie Jarzombek over Fred Harbach at Islip.

   Twenty five years ago in 1985, Stafford continued to showcase the best in the business on Friday nights with 30 modifieds on hand to do battle. Charlie Jarzombek took a hotly contested win over Brian Ross, Bob Fuller, Corky Cookman and Jamie Tomaino. At Waterford on Saturday night it was Bob Gada Jr. over Mark LaJunesse and at Riverside, Dan Avery held off John Rosati for the win and at Riverhead, Fred Harbach won out over Wayne Anderson and Eddie Brunnhoelzl. Rosati was all business at Monadnock on Sunday as he took down the win. Other weekend winners were Randy LaJoie at Thunder Road, John Blewett Jr. at Wall Stadium, George Kent at Shangri-La and Rit Patchen at Thompson.

   Twenty years ago in 1990, Ronnie Rocco went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night. George Greco finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick and Bob Potter. Phil Rondeau was the late model winner. Reggie Ruggerio gave his peers a driving lesson at Riverside as he came from a 16th starting spot to win the 50-lap main at Riverside Park. Stan Gregger finished second and was followed by Kenny Bouchard and Bob Polverari. At Riverhead, Chris Young went pole to pole with Dan Jivanelli and Wayne Anderson following. At Wall Stadium, the modified winner was Jamie Tomaino.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995,Stafford extended their feature distance to 50 laps and started counting cautions because of numerous delays incurred because of rough riding and wrecks. Needless to say the feature went 40 laps before being rained out. The competitors didn't get the message as 28 of the 40 laps run were under caution. Tony Sylvester was the eventual winner. Ted Christopher finished second and was followed by Steve Park and John Anderson. Jim Broderick beat out Bert Marvin at Waterford. Rick Young finished third with Jeff Pearl, fourth. Todd Ceravolo lost an engine in his family owned modified. His crew went home to get a back up which he qualified through the consi and ended up fifth in the feature. At Riverhead it was Tom McCann over Don Howe. The Winston Cup cars of NASCAR had a week off and the Busch Grand Nationals were at Loudon for the Chevy Dealers 250 which was won by Chad Little. The highest finishing BGNN competitor was Tom Bolles who finished ninth.

   Ten years ago in 2000, the weekend started on a sad note as Adam Petty passed away after hitting the wall at Loudon during a Busch Grand National practice session. Curt Brainard went pole to pole to win the 50 lap SK modified event at Stafford. Ted Christopher took a provisional as he missed qualifying and made the most of it as he finished second. Jerry Marquis finished third. At Waterford, Ron Yuhas Jr. took the win over Tucker Reynolds and Dennis Gada. Jerry Pearl flipped midway in the event and was able to restart and finished 10th.Frank Vigliorlo won at Riverhead and the recently deceased Lou Lazzaro's ashes were scattered at the Fonda Speedway.

   Five years ago in 2005 the Stafford Motor Speedway beat the rain on Friday but the Waterford Speedbowl did not as they suffered their third rain out in a row.

   At Stafford Jeff Baral went pole to pole to win the 40-lap SK Modified feature. Ted Christopher started 12th and finished second with Eric Berndt, third. Keith Rocco recorded the best finish of his young rookie season with a fourth, and Frank Ruocco rounded out the top-5. Cold temperatures and a threat of rain kept the crowd down. During warm-ups, a stuck throttle caused the #25 SK of Billy Bolton to wreck and cause extensive damage that will not allow them to compete in tonight's event. Another practice crash involving the #2 SK of New Milford rookie and protégé of Jon Cote Jr., Jess Hilger, apparently forced the #47 of Donny Lia into the turn #1 wall. The rookie left the track unscathed, while the WMT driver Donny Lia's mount needed assistance to leave the track. Rookie Jess Hilger, although apparently undamaged from the practice wreck with Donny Lia chose not to start the night's event. In the 30-lap Late Model feature, Rick Lanagan, of Stafford Springs, took the lead on lap-9 and led the rest of the way to capture his first career Late Model feature win. Tom Fearn closed in on Lanagan in the final laps, but was unable to get close enough to make a bid for the lead. Jim Mavlouganes finished third, with Jim Peterson and Ryan Posocco rounding out the top-5. The 20-lap Limited Late Model feature event saw a race long battle between Eric Grant and Michael Bennett, with both drivers taking turns at the front of the pack. In the closing laps, it was all Bennett, as he took the checkered flag ahead of Grant. Bennett's rims were found to not meet the rules in post race inspection, and he was thus disqualified from his finishing position. Eric Grant was declared the feature winner, with Dan King, Ed Charette, Jr., Michael Nadeau, and Paul Varricchio, Jr. rounding out the top-5. In the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, Joey Ferrigno survived a wild green white checkered flag restart to take his first feature
win of the 2005 season. George Nocera, Jr. came up to second behind Ferrigno on the white flag lap, with Stacey Botticello, David Gambacorta, and Neil Provost, Jr. rounding out the top-5.

  Al Fini, President of the New England Antique Auto Racers since January of 1997 tended his resignation as President effective July 1, 2005. Fini, who had recently turned 66, cited increased pressure of his business and a lack of energy as the main reasons for stepping down.

   The once proud Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania, a regular stop for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Busch North Series would soon fade into oblivion as the International Speedway Corporation had sold the property for $19 million to a developer who intended to build a domed hockey rink. Originally a dirt track, the Nazareth Speedway had been in existence for 39 years.

   The Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire was also in danger of disappearing as the track had been denied the permits to open. The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that the reason for the denial was because of unsafe grandstands On Friday, May 6, The Exeter News Letter in New Hampshire reported that the Star Speedway would not open any time soon because of uncorrected safety issues. Town officials were trying to get to the bottom of conflicting reports by structural engineers hired by the owner to inspect the facility. One of those reports, detailing serious deficiencies, was purposely withheld from the town. The April 18 report, nearly three pages, noted that the six sections of the grandstand were in need of support repairs, and "there were a number of areas where the ground beneath the A-frame feet had settled or washed away, reducing its capacity to support the weight of the occupants." Seat planks and footrest planks were also a concern, as some showed signs of splitting, cracking, or excessive deflection.

   Last year, 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, was on “Spring Break” Ted Christopher, who was two for two after winning the Ice Breaker at the Thompson Speedway and the Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway led Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece by 35 points. Szegedy finished fifth at Thompson and second at Stafford. Preece was fourth at Thompson and third at Stafford. Donny Lia was 10 points behind Szegedy and Preece. Rounding out the top five is Jimmy Blewett, seven points behind Lia. Sixth through tenth are Mike Stefanik, Ron Silk, Woody Pitkat, Bobby Grigas, III and Jamie Tomaino.

   Despite the fact that the first two events were successful at drawing very good crowds at both tracks and good car counts the competitors and those who follow the Modified Tour Series were upset with the goings on, especially from NASCAR. First off, in a completely gutless move, the sanctioning body announced through the media and the mail that the season ending awards banquet would be moving to the Charlotte, NC area and competitors would be required to attend if they wanted to receive their point money. NASCAR had made this decision before the Thompson event. Why didn’t they announce it then? A very sneaky move to say the least! The main object was to avoid confrontations between the competitors and the NASCAR officials at the race. NASCAR fails to realize that most Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers, owners and pit crews are not full time racers like those in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Most of them have full time jobs. NASCAR says they care about their competitors, in reality that’s a lot of crap!

   The next sneaky tactic by NASCAR was the announcement by mail after the running of the Stafford event that the May 22 TSI Harley-Davidson Classic at Stafford would have a reduced distance of 100 laps instead of the previously posted 150 laps. They also announced that the purse had been reduced by 20%! NASCAR and the management of the Stafford Speedway knew this before the running of the Sizzler but used the mail again in order to avoid confrontations. Another gutless move!

   It was estimated that the recent Spring Sizzler at Stafford drew 8,000 fans. General admission was $35. Run the numbers, that’s $280,000 taken in at the front gate. A conservative guess would have at least another $20,000 coming through the back gate. In the current economy it’s good to see that Stafford had a good day. Instead of crying poverty they should give some back to those who put on the show.
NASCAR continued to discourage competitors from running rival series including the New England based True Value Series and the New York based Race of Champions Modified Series. Slowly but surely NASCAR was pushing the Modified competitors away to alternate series’ and they can’t understand why. Competitors do have another alternative, they can just stay home!

   The Friday night racing season opener at the Stafford Motor Speedway was cancelled last week. It could have been because of the economy or quite possibly a threat of Swine Flu. Needless to say, it rained on and off most of the day.

   After three straight rainouts the Waterford Speedbowl looked to be on the upswing. Car counts had been a little light but the spectator count had been on the rise. Much of the credit had to go to the competitors and loyal fans who had beat the bushes and got the word out that there is in fact racing, good racing at the shoreline oval. Track management had not advertised but it seems that word of mouth has done the job. Front gate attendance at the shoreline oval took a step backwards Saturday. The SK Modifieds, the big draw, had the night off. Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to Victory Lane as he won the Late Model feature in strong fashion. Other winners from the night included Allen Coates in the NEATV Truck Series, Al Stone III in the Street Stocks, Phil Evans in the Mini Stocks, and Jason Palmer repeating in the Legends Cars feature. The stands were almost empty without the SK's. Despite the fact that the SKs were off, the admission was still $14 for the
grandstand. There were only 12 Late Models, 24 Legend's,(light for that division), not a bad field of stockers and 4 cylinders and only 7 trucks.
In some sad news it was learned that former Modified driver Billy Schulz had passed away at the age of 73. Schulz, along with his brother Fred were competitors at the Norwood Arena for many years.

   Kyle Busch passed Carl Edwards on the first lap of a restart with 22 laps to go and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Richmond International Raceway. Busch, who led four times in the Lipton Tea 250, made the move that counted in the third and fourth turns on the 229th trip around the 0.75-mile oval. Edwards led the previous 71 laps, with Busch seemingly the only other driver with a car to contend.

   Tony Stewart was second, followed by Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin. Burton and Martin both recovered from earlier accidents - Burton spun after contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin was involved in an accident with Martin Truex Jr. - for their strong finishes.

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 Hall of Famer,
the late Dick Watson,
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: May 7, 2010

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