Fifty years ago in 1960
George Janoski and Bill Slater won the opening night NASCAR Modified
features at the Stafford Springs Speedway. It was the beginning of the
second year that NASCAR sanctioned races at the Connecticut oval. Slater
carried his winning ways over to Saturday night at the Norwood Arena where
he made it five features in a row at the fast ¼ mile oval. Local favorite
Don Collins was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie
Webster was the Non-Ford winner and Newt Palm made it three in a row in the
Bombers. Waterford also ran on Monday. Collins and Webster continued their
win streaks as they each won twin features that were part of the Memorial
Forty five years ago in 1965
Don Wayman continued the domination of the New York drivers as he recorded
the Friday night Modified win on the dirt at Stafford. Rain washed out the
racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. Waterford scheduled an event for Monday
which was won by Charlie Webster. Bob Potter was the Bomber winner.Irv
Taylor took the win at Fonda on Saturday night. Sunday night at Utica-Rome
Rene Charland scored his second win as he held off Jerry Cook and Eddie
Forty years ago in 1970
Walt Dombrowski made it two in a row at the Waterford Speedbowl as he won
the 36 lap Spring Modified Championship. Mike Daignault was the Late Model
Thirty five years ago in 1975,
it was the first night back for the big tires at Stafford. Stafford had been
running under a tire rule that mandated a narrow width which was supposed to
be more economical for the car owners and provide better competition. Ronnie
Bouchard in the Bob Johnson No.17 wasted little time in his run to the front
and when all was said and done, came home the winner. Brian Ross finished
second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Bob Vee and John Rosati. At Islip,
Jerry Bartlet took the win over Charlie Siebert and Fred Harbach. George
Kent beat out Jerry Cook and Sonney Seamon at Shangri-La in the first of
twin events. Richie Evans won the nitecap over Billy Colton and Cook. Dick
Dunn, in the Albert Gaudreau No.3 took the Modified win at the Waterford
Speedbowl. At Fulton on Sunday, Maynard Troyer was the top dog over Evans,
Mike Loescher and Cook. In open competition small block Modified action at
Thompson on Sunday, Steady Eddie Flemke broke Fred DeSarro's win streak.
DeSarro finished second with John Rosati, third. Because of light crowds,
the Stafford management announced that they were dropping their General
Admission price to $4.00 starting on June 7.Also on this weekend, the
formation of the New England-Yankee All Star League was announced.
Thirty years ago in 1980,
Richie Evans made it three in a row at Stafford as he continued to be
unbeatable. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. Evans
carried his winning ways over to Riverside Park on Saturday as he won out
over Reggie Ruggiero and Ray Miller. Geoff Bodine was also on a tear as he
went three for three as he won on Friday at Spencer Speedway, Saturday at
Shangri-la Speedway and on Sunday at the Oswego Speedway. In other weekend
action, Bugsy Stevens won at Westboro, Mike Beebe at Waterford, Charlie
Jarzombek at Islip, Bruce Batchelder at Claremont, Tony Siscone at Wall and
New Evergreen, Ronnie Bouchard at Monadnock and Roger Treichler at
Twenty five years ago in 1985,
Brian Ross in his own No.73 won the Memorial Day 100 at Stafford on Friday
night over Charlie Jarzombek. At Waterford two features were on tap. Rodney
Tulba won the first over John Anderson and Ted Christopher, the nitecap. At
Riverside Park it was Bob Polverari and at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island
it was Bob Park over Wayne Anderson. And at Wall Stadium, Tony Siscone was
the king of the hill. Richie Evans won twin events at Shangri-La and Doug
Hewitt was victorious at Spencer. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte,
Darrell Waltrip won both the Winston and the WC 500.Tim Richmond was the
Busch Grandnational winner.
Twenty years ago in 1990,
the modified tour was at the Stafford Motor Speedway for a 100 lapper which
turned into a yawner as Jeff Fuller went pole to pole in an event that saw
hardly any passing. Rick Fuller finished second with Tom Bolles, third. At
Waterford on Saturday night, Harry Rice beat out Jim Broderick for the win
and at Riverside Park it was Reggie Ruggiero over Jerry Marquis. At
Riverhead it rained and at Shangri-La, Jan Leaty went pole to pole to win
out over Tony Hirschman and George Kent. The Oswego Speedway ran the Richie
Evans 100 for the Modifieds without a NASCAR sanction and the car count
reflected NASCAR's drawing power as only 19 cars were on hand. With many of
the top guns missing, it was a good show that saw five different leaders
before Jan Leaty took the checker. Chip Graves finished second with Lee
Sherwood, third. At Monadnock, also on Sunday, Mike Stefanik won out over
Fifteen years ago in 1995,
the Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik
took the lead on lap 72 and never looked back. Charlie Pasteryak finished a
strong second and was followed by Satch Worley, Mike Ewanitsko and Rick
Fuller. Bob Potter took the 50 lap SK event after Ted Christopher and Ed
Flemke Jr tangled with six laps to go. At Waterford on Saturday night, Bert
Marvin passed Moose Hewitt at the half way mark of the 35 lap feature and
went on to take the win. Bob Potter ended up third with Jim Broderick,
third. Ted Riggot took the win at Riverside Park and Ed Brunnhoelzl won out
over Don Howe at Riverhead. George Kent won at Tioga and at Seekonk, veteran
retired driver Tex Barry passed away after suffering a heart attack shortly
after his son won the Pro Stock feature there. In other action, Bentley
Warren won the Little 500 at Anderson, Indiana and a Supermodified event at
Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Ten years ago in 2000,
Eddie Flemke Jr used an early pit stop to his advantage as he brought the
Hill Enterprises No.79 home in the top spot at the Featherlite Modified Tour
150 at Stafford. Flemke pitted on lap 59 and when the rest of the field
stopped on lap 85 he found himself in the lead which he never gave up. Tim
Connolly finished second and was followed by Tony Hirschman, LW Miller,
Chris Kopec and Ted Christopher. Christopher overcame being put to the rear
during the early going of the SK modified 50 lapper and took the lead in
that event with one to go. At Waterford on Saturday, Jeff Pearl beat out Ed
Reed Jr for the win and in SK Mod action at Thompson on Sunday; Christopher
won out over Todd Ceravolo and Bert Marvin. In Winston Cup action at
Charlotte, Matt Kenseth took the win. Jeff Burton was the GN winner. Five
pit crew members were injured during a pre-race pyro show. In Daytona Beach,
a group of blacks picketed NASCAR headquarters when the sanctioning body
refused an entry of a black driver In all fairness to NASCAR the driver in
question was very slow in a practice session at Martinsville and wasn't even
close to being competitive. They made the right decision!
Five years ago in 2005
the Whelen Modified Tour traveled to Stafford on Friday night only to get
rained on. Forty-one Modifieds were on hand. Donnie Lia was the Busch Pole
fastest qualifier as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.25 seconds. Tony
Hirschman was second fastest with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Nevin George and
Eric Beers rounded out the top five. The event was rescheduled for Sunday,
July 3.In some good news it was learned that Mike Ewanitsko would be
returning to the Whelen Modified Tour Series wars at Stafford on August 2 or
at Thompson on August 18. Ewanitsko was scheduled to be driving for Ed
Whelen. Ewanitsko was forced out of competition because of vision problems
caused by sugar diabetes. With his problems behind him he felt he was ready
to rejoin the tour.
The Waterford Speedbowl finally got a break from the weatherman, as
they were able to complete a Saturday night program. Dennis Gada ended a
yearlong dry spell as he held of Ted Christopher to record his 47th career
win at the shoreline oval. Christopher attempted to rattle Gada with a few
love taps with his bumper but it was all for naught. Christopher settled for
second and was followed by Ron Yuhas jr, Rob Janovic and Jay Miller. John
Puglisi won the 20-lap Sportsman feature, which went pole to pole without a
caution. Bill Gertsch Jr. was second and Joe Curioso was third. Phil Evans
picked up his second Mini Stock win of the year in the 20-lap feature. Evans
started 12th, passed Bill Leonard for the lead with eight laps to go.
Leonard finished second, followed by Joe Godbout. Moose Douton led every lap
in winning the 30-lap Late Model feature. Defending division champion Corey
Hutchings, making his first start of the season, was second. Mark St.
Hilaire was third, followed by Charles Bailey III and Allen Coates. Lou
Ciccone dominated the 50-lap International Supermodified Association (ISMA)
feature. The main buzz around the Speedbowl was still the possible sale of
the property in which the track is located. There were people out there that
wanted to buy the track and keep it in its present form. Track PR man Pete
Zanardi alluded to the fact that no track is safe forever from being sold
and added that the closing of the track was a premature conclusion as it has
been stated that racing would continue through 2005 and quite possibly 2006.
In other racing, Kirk Alexander came from a dead last starting spot
to win the True Value Modified Series event at the Seekonk Speedway and Tom
Rogers and JR Bertuccio shared victory lane at the Riverhead Raceway. Jimmie
Johnson won the World 600 Nextel Cup event and Kyle Busch won the Busch 300.
Dan Weldon won the Indianapolis 500. Female driver Danica Patrick almost won
it as she finished fourth.
Last year, 2009, The
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14
events, had been on “Spring Break” since the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on
April 26. Friday it was back to Stafford for the TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON
CONNECTICUT CLASSIC 100. Thirty-three Modifieds were on hand for the event.
During a somewhat heated drivers meeting NASCAR did its best to alienate two
of its top drivers when they questioned a restart policy. They, Mike
Stefanik and Ed Flemke, were told to take it “off line”. George Silbermann,
managing director of NASCAR’s racing series was at Stafford for all of the
action and one must wonder why he wasn’t at the driver’s meeting to get the
first hand knowledge of what dialog is missing between the officials and
competitors A year or two from now NASCAR will wonder where the cars and
loyalty went. In other words the Whelen Modified Tours outspoken drivers
were told in so many words if you don’t
like the way the races are run that’s just tough!
Jimmy Blewett was able to slow down Ted Christopher’s dominant
start to the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season when he took home the
checkered flag in the TSI Harley-Davidson Classic Friday night at Stafford
Motor Speedway. Blewett went pole to pole. Christopher had won the first two
races of the season, and earned his third-consecutive Coors Light Pole Award
earlier on Friday, but Blewett started on the front row on the redraw and
led flag-to-flag for his fifth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory.
Blewett survived six restarts during the race, including a
green-white-checker finish, but would not be denied his second career win at
the Connecticut half-mile. Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford) ran up
front the majority of the race with Blewett, and tried once to go around on
the outside late in the race, but Blewett never relinquished the lead.
Szegedy settled for a third place finish when Christopher got past him on
the white flag lap.
Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero rounded out the top five finishers in the
100-lap event. Chris Pasteryak, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and
Ryan Preece brought home the top 10.
The Stafford Motor Speedway weekly feature winners were Ted
Christopher in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Michael Bennett in the
30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Membrino, Jr. in the 20-lap SK Light
Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature,
and Tony Membrino, Jr. in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag with Curt
Brainard taking the early lead. Brainard had Matt Gallo all over his back
bumper looking to move to the front. After several laps of trying both the
high and low grooves, Gallo was able to make a move into the lead on lap-6.
Gallo's pass brought Frank Ruocco past Brainard and Ruocco moved by Gallo on
lap-9 to move to the front.
Ted Christopher was behind Ruocco and the middle stages of the race saw some
great racing between the top-2 as Christopher was searching for a way around
Ruocco. Christopher was finally able to make a move to the inside of Ruocco
on lap-28 and take the lead for the first time. The field was slowed by the
caution with 30 laps complete.
On the lap-30 restart, the cars of Chris Jones and Ruocco came
together in turn 1 while battling for second place, with Ruocco spinning and
collecting the cars of Brad Hietala and Dave Salzarulo. Jones was sent to
the rear of the field for rough riding by NASCAR officials. This put
Brainard back alongside Christopher for the restart. Several late cautions
kept the field in close contact, but Christopher was up to the task on each
restart and he held off Brainard at the checkered flag for his first SK
Modified® feature victory of the 2009 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind
Christopher and Brainard was Gallo, Wade Mattesen, and Mark Bakaj.
After being penalized the previous week for allegedly jumping a
restart Christopher swore up and down that he would not return to Stafford.
Evidently someone gave him an attitude adjustment as he knuckled under and
was back in the SK Modified lineup like nothing ever happened.
From the way it sounded the Race of Champions Series event run at
the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York was far better than the Whelen
Modified Tour Series at Stafford. Ted Christopher took advantage of Bill
Putney’s locked up wheel with only three laps remaining of the 75 lap Richie
Evans Memorial Port City 150. Christopher driving a car prepared and owned
by Terry Zacharias of Candor, NY knew the last three laps were going to be
tough. As defending RoC Champion Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa. was now
in second and Matt who was undefeated at Oswego in 2008 was looking to keep
his streak intact. Following another yellow on lap 72 a three-lap shootout
was set and everyone in attendance knew it was going to be an exciting
finish. Christopher, a multi time NASCAR National Modified Champion used
plenty of different driving strategies to keep Hirschman at bay. However
entering turn three on the final lap Hirschman got on the outside of
Christopher and the two exited turn four side by side with the crowd
standing on their feet. Christopher moved up the track just a hair but left
Hirschman enough room to stay alongside of him. As the two drivers drag
raced to the start finish line Christopher in his Ron Hutter powered Troyer
chassis car had just enough to hold off Hirschman by inches for the $2,800
win. Jan Leaty of Williamson, NY who started 11th ended up in third with
Eric Beers of Northampton, Pa. in fourth after starting 21st and Erick
Rudolph of Ransomville, NY finishing fifth after starting 16th.
The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid the numerous showers that
hit Connecticut on Saturday night. Groton native Ron Yuhas Jr. nearly won
the Waterford Speedbowl’s opening Saturday night event in April before Keith
Rocco stole the win by mere inches, but on Saturday night Yuhas would not be
denied going on to win the 35-lap SK Modified main event. Ohio native Dave
Shullick Jr. won the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified special in a caution filled
event, Bruce Thomas Jr. the Late Model event, Josh Galvin in the Street
Stocks, and Bill Leonard was the Mini Stock winner.
The SK Modifieds were first up with their 35-lap main event. Corey
Hutchings jumped to the lead over Jeff Pearl on the initial green, and the
field would stretch out over an extended period of green flag racing.
Hutchings would pull a straightaway lead over the competition as laps
clicked away. By halfway, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco were asserting
themselves working through traffic. Yuhas jumped to the outside lane to move
his way through the top five and into the top three. The event’s first
caution flew on lap 28 when Jeff Paul, running second, went up in smoke in
turn three ending his strong run to that point. Paul turned in the event’s
fastest lap. On the restart the action heated up with Yuhas looking outside
Hutchings. Meanwhile, Rocco applied pressure to both Hutchings and Yuhas
from third place. The entertaining action would be interrupted by caution
when Justin Gaydosh spun on the backstretch with four laps to go. Yuhas
battled his way into the lead in the outside lane on the restart, overcoming
Hutchings with three laps remaining. The event’s final caution waved with
two laps remaining setting up a green-white-checkered finish and a restart
rematch with Hutchings outside Yuhas. Hutchings could not muster the steam
from the outside, and would tuck into second behind Yuhas who would go on to
win by a car length. Rocco took an impressive third, Tyler Chadwick ran a
good race for fourth, and Rob Janovic Jr. rallied to finish fifth at the
There were 20 Modifieds on hand. Tough luck reared its ugly head
when Todd Ceravolo and Keith Rocco made contact which ended up with
Ceravolo’s car sustaining severe damage. Car owner Dickie Doo Ceravolo said
it will be a few weeks before the car returns to action.
The True Value Modified Series was at the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre,
Vermont. Steve Masse won his first ever True Value event. Rowan Pennick
finished second with Kirk Alexander, third. Ed Dachenhausen and Jack Bateman
rounded out the top five. Chris Pasteryak led from the start until lap 87
when he had issues and began to fade. The race, plagued by 12 caution
periods and one red flag to clear the track from damaged cars, slowed the
pace of the feature race, the third event of a 15 race schedule. Nine of
those caution periods came between laps 70 and 80.
Like their fellow NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors
the TVMS would go back on Spring Break. The next event for the TVMRS will be
the Granite State Harley-Davidson 100, Friday night, June 5, at Twin State
Speedway, Claremont, NH. At 7 PM.
The Thompson Speedway came alive on Thursday night with what had to
be some of the best open wheeled Modified racing seen in quite a while.
Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, scored the feature win in a dramatic finish
for the Speedway’s premier division. It was the second win for Rocco at
Thompson after his victory back in April on Icebreaker Saturday. In the
early going Kerry Malone got the edge on pole sitter Ted Christopher before
the caution flew for a pile-up exiting turn two. Danny Cates was sent
spinning from the fifth position and several drivers took evasive action.
Only the #36 of Tim Sullivan headed down pit road for service. He was able
to rejoin the field. On the restart it was Malone moving out to a five-car
length advantage over Jimmy Blewett. It was action-packed for the third spot
as Josh Sylvester had his hands full with Christopher and Woody Pitkat.
Keith Rocco, who was involved in the lap three caution, had worked his way
back inside the top-ten by lap eight. With 10-laps down, Blewett and company
had caught Malone. Blewett made a power move exiting turn two to take over
the lead. Sylvester and Christopher followed through. Christopher made quick
work of Sylvester to move into second. A single-lap later the caution flew
for a spin by Dana Young. Under the caution, Malone gave up the fourth spot
to head to pit road for adjustments. An incident that involved Harry Rheaume,
Tim Sullivan, Dave LaCroix and Andy Gasper brought out the caution again on
lap 16. The cars of Rheaume and Sullivan sustained heavy damage.
Back under green, Christopher was all but pushing leader Blewett
while Sylvester, Pitkat and Rocco where locked in a heavy battle for third.
Sparks flew when Christopher made a bid for the lead. Contact between the
lead duo ended with Christopher stopped on the front stretch with a flat
tire; necessitating the caution. Todd Ceravolo pitted from the fifth
position under the caution. Ceravolo parked his car after it was determined
that his mount had sustained suspension damage that could not be repaired.
Pitkat looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart giving Blewett
a run for the lead. Sylvester stood his ground. Pitkat slipped back to third
behind Sylvester. Rocco was now fourth followed by Marvin, who had worked
his way back into contention after being involved in the first caution. On
lap 23, Rocco muscled his way passed both Pitkat and Sylvester and into the
second spot. The young gun had five laps to chase down Blewett. It didn’t
take one as Rocco caught Blewett. In turn three, Rocco made a dive bomb move
under Blewett. The car drifted up allowing Blewett to maintain his lead. The
cat-and-mouse continued over the final two laps.
On the white flag lap, Rocco ran Blewett up toward the wall in turn
one. Coming to the checkers, Rocco drifted high pushing Blewett toward the
wall once again in turn three. Sylvester saw a glimmer of light in the
middle while Pitkat looked low. All four cars had a shot at the victory.
Slight contact with Sylvester slowed Rocco but not enough to derail the run
to the victory. Blewett barely edged out Pitkat for second. Sylvester
settled for fourth. Marvin completed the top-five.
Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, a winner during the Icebreaker in April,
continued his winning ways in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes of
Woonsocket, RI edged out fan favorite Jeff Zuidema to earn the Late Model
checkers. Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, in Limited Sportsman; Brian Sullivan
of S. Windsor, CT in the TIS Modifieds; and Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT in
the Mini Stocks also visited victory lane on the opening Thursday night.
Mike Bliss raced to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory
since 2004, catching a break to claim the rain-shortened event at Lowe's
Motor Speedway. Bliss, who started from the back of the field, took the lead
because he was in the right position when the caution flag came out with 39
laps to go. The caution put Bliss ahead of series points leader Kyle Busch,
who clearly had the car to beat most of the night. It looked as if Busch
would get lucky when rain halted the race a few laps later and got him back
near Bliss' bumper. But more showers came, and NASCAR officials called the
Carquest Auto Parts 300 with 30 laps to go and Bliss still out front.
Brendan Gaughan was second, followed by Busch, Brian Vickers and Joey
Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500. The winner pulled away
over the final laps to beat Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick, who eclipsed her
historic fourth-place finish as a rookie in 2005 by crossing the strip of
bricks in third - the highest finish ever for a female driver.
NASCAR's longest race of the season spilled into a second day Sunday night
when the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC was
postponed by rain for the first time in 50 years. Bruton Smith, the
outspoken, multimillionaire chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., ripped
NASCAR for choosing not to disclose the banned substance involved in driver
Jeremy Mayfield's suspension, for dropping record penalties on underfunded
driver Carl Long and for the kind of racing created with the Car of
Tomorrow. Smith also criticized two former Kentucky Speedway owners who
refused to drop an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR. Their decision has
delayed the track from getting a Sprint Cup race.
NASCAR declared David Reutimann the winner when an ominous weather
forecast indicated it would be impossible to run the Coca Cola 600 to its
conclusion. The drivers had figured that out a day earlier, when the race
was postponed and carried over to Memorial Day for the first time in its
50-year history. With intermittent showers spraying the track all day
Monday, the race was one of strategy, as every driver simply tried to be in
front when the event was finally washed out. Reutimann gave it his best shot
when, running 14th, he and crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to join
the parade of cars following leader Kyle Busch down pit road during a
caution for rain 22 laps past the halfway point.
The race had reached the point where if it was stopped again for
rain, it was official, and the Michael Waltrip Racing team prayed the end
was soon. Reutimann claimed the lead, with pole-sitter Ryan Newman and Robby
Gordon following him to the front as the rest of the field went to pit road
for fuel and fresh tires. He didn't lead a single lap under green-flag
racing, but was out front for five laps under caution before NASCAR called
the cars back to pit road for the third rain stoppage. Most drivers headed
to their motorhomes to wait out the rain. Not Reutimann. He was joined at
his car by his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, a racer with one career NASCAR
start who still tears it up in dirt track events at East Bay Raceway near
Tampa, Fla. The two didn't bother with an umbrella as they stood in a steady
drizzle for just over 2 hours. Newman finished second and Gordon was third.
Gordon might have a problem, though. NASCAR confiscated his real axle
following post-race inspection for further evaluation. Carl Edwards, who had
changed into street clothes by the time the race was called, finished
fourth, followed by Brian Vickers and Busch.
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.
week are several vintage racing photos from Norwood Arena,
courtesy of Don Thomas of
NorwoodArena.com, Norwood Arena is having there annual reunion on
Sunday June 6th. at Bezema Buick-GMC at 402 Providence Hwy. (US Rt. 1) in
All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
Looking Back Archive