The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


June 4, 2010

Fifty years ago, in 1960, Wild Bill Slater, driving the Connecticut Valley Rocket, V-8, won a 100 mile modified event at the Trenton Fairgrounds in New Jersey. The night before, Slater made it six wins in a row at the Norwood Arena as 8000 spectators looked on. Slater took the lead on the last lap from Mario “Fats” Caruso. Wally Silva finished third. Ernie Gahan was the winner on the dirt at Stafford. Don Collins won three Modified features in one day at the Waterford Speedbowl as the shoreline oval presented triple Modified features. Newt Palm was the Bomber winner.

   Forty five years ago in 1965 New Yorker Bill Wimble won his first of eight season wins at Stafford on Friday night. Dick Dunn won a 50 lap Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Bunnell was the Bomber winner. Freddie Schultz took the Modified win at Norwood. Lou Lazzaro was the winner at the Fonda Speedway and Steady Eddie Flemke won a 100 lapper at the Utica-Rome Speedway over Rene Charland and Elton Hill.

   Forty years ago in 1970, Eddie Pieniezak was the Friday night winner at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. Jerry Cook finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. Stafford rained out on Saturday. At Fonda, Kenny Shoemaker in the Bob Judkins 2x and Don Wayman each won 25 lap events and at Plattsburg, Dick Fowler took the win. Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster took the 30 lap Modified feature. Johnny Delong won the Late Model Daredevil feature. In twin 25's at Thompson on Sunday, Eddie Flemke and Bob Santos shared victory lane and at Utica-Rome, local favorite Dave Kotary beat out Jerry Cook for the win.

   Thirty five years ago in 1975, In Friday night action at Freeport, Art Tappen took the win over Charlie Jarzombek. At Utica-Rome, Sonney Seamon bested Lou Lazzaro and Dick Fowler. Jerry Pearl was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Don Fowler made it two in a row in Late Model Daredevil action. At Stafford on Saturday night, 53 Modifieds and 5000+ spectators were on hand as Leo Cleary beat Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens. The event went non stop after three restarts. At Islip, Jarzombek turned the tables on Tappen as he took the top spot and at Lancaster, Maynard Troyer went two for two. George Kent was the top dog at Shangri-La and at Fulton on Sunday it was Richie Evans over Jerry Cook. Sunday night racing at Thompson had to be postponed when the lights went out and couldn't be restored. Shortly there after Speedway owner Don Hoenig procured a diesel generator to make his own electricity.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, the New England Drivers and Owners Club (NEDOC) met with Don Hoenig for six hours to discuss problems and requests pertaining to pit fees. NEDOC wanted Hoenig to give owners, drivers and mechanics a break on their pit fees. Nothing was settled and a strike was called. In response to NEDOC's action, Hoenig announced that the Thompson Speedway would be closed indefinitely. At Stafford on Friday night, Ronnie Bouchard was the Modified winner as he beat out Satch Worley and Jerry Cook. At Monadnock, Kenny Bouchard took the win over Bob Karvonen and Ernie Hastings. Rain washed out action at Westboro, Spencer, Waterford and Lancaster.Richie Evans headed south to Winston Salem, NC where he scored a 200 lap win over Don Smith and Ralph Brinkley. It was the first time a northerner won at the North Carolina bull ring since Eddie Flemke Sr won back to back New Years Day Tobacco Bowl Classics in the early 60’s. At Islip it was Don Howe over Wayne Anderson and at New Egypt, Fred and Alan Harbach finished one-two.

   Twenty five years ago in 1985, Reggie Ruggiero ruled the roost at Stafford on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens finished second with Bobby Fuller, third. Kenny Bouchard made it three in a row at Waterford on Saturday. Richie Gallup was second with Bob Potter, third. At Riverside Park it was Marty Radwick over Dan Avery and at Riverhead, on Long Island it rained. John Blewett Jr won at New Egypt over Bob Park and Tony Siscone and at Spencer, Tom Druar took the checker. Jim Spencer outran George Kent at Shangri-La and at Oswego on Sunday, Richie Evans and Brian Ross finished one-two. In Winston Cup action at Pocono Raceway, Bill Elliott was both pole sitter and winner.

   Twenty years ago in 1990, Rain washed out just about everything except Riverhead and Monadnock. Steve Park took the win at Riverhead over Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr and Don Howe. At Monadnock a NASCAR Modified championship event was run. Jamie Tomaino took the win over George Kent and Bruce Del.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995, Steve Park was the Friday night SK Modified winner at Stafford. Curt Brainard finished second with Bob Potter, third. In dirt track action at Malta, N.Y. Brett Hearne recorded his 400th career win. At Waterford on Saturday night, Jerry Pearl took the win after early leader Bert Marvin broke a crankshaft. Todd Ceravolo finished second with Jeff Pearl, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggiero scored yet another win and at Riverhead, Quinn Vollegraph scored his first win. It was also on this weekend that agless veteran Pete Fiandaca scored his 300th career win, that coming in Sunday night action at Hudson, Speedway. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Terry Labonte had a win handed to him when Jeff Gordon missed a shift in a late restart and broke a rocker arm shaft. Last but not least, Kelly Moore won a Busch Grand National North event at Beech Ridge in Maine.

   Ten years ago in 2000, Ted Christopher made it two in a row at Stafford as he won a 100 lapper there on Friday night. Christopher, who led the final 50 laps, was followed by Jim Williams, Todd Szegedy and Eric Berndt. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night. The event drew 48 cars and was won by Jerry Marquis who took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 158. Fuller ended up in second spot and was trailed by Tim Connolly, Howie Brode, Ted Christopher and John Blewett III. Early in the evening Blewett had just missed out in trying to qualify and was headed back to New Jersey when Rob Summers had his time disallowed because of having two different ignition boxes. Blewett carried a beeper and recieved the message to return to the track as he was traveling down the Long Island Expressway. At Waterford, Dennis Gada recorded his third win of the season. Ed Reed jr finished second and was followed by Bob Potter and Tucker Reynolds. The World of Outlaws ran on the dirt at Bristol with 50,000 spectators on hand. Tracy Gordon won the Busch North Series event at Beech Ridge and on a sad note, Larry Nuber, the original co-anchor of the ESPN Midget and Winston Cup broadcasts, passed away.

   Five years ago in 2005 year The Whelen Modified Tour joined hands with the Busch North Series for twin 100 lap events at the Thompson Speedway on Sunday. With intense humidity and temperatures in the 90’s most of the day the twin bill turned into a test of man and machine. When it was all said and done the weatherman won another one as torrential rain hit the speedway causing yet another rain out. There were 41 Modifieds and 34 Busch North Series Late Models in the pits when the races were called.

   Frank Ruocco staged a spirited battle with Jeff Malave in the closing moments of the 40 lap SK-Modified feature at Stafford on Friday night. Ruocco won out in the end as he recorded his first victory of 2005. Malave ended up second with Doug Coby, third. Ted Christopher and Lloyd Agor rounded out the top five. The SK Modified field continued to hover around the 21 car count. This was good and bad. The good was that everyone that showed up went home with a paycheck. The bad was the qualifying heats which are no more than glorified practice sessions. Joe Rzeszutek took advantage of a confrontation that escalated between Tom Fearn and Mike Quintiliano as he won the Late Model feature. Fearn and Quintiliano were battling one-two until contact and a spin after a late restart took both out of contention. Tom Butler finished second. Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Late Model feature and Stacy Botticello was the DARE Stock winner.

   The Waterford Speedbowl had Rob Janovic taking the win in the SK Modified feature after taking the lead from Frank Mucciacco with two laps to go in the 35 lap feature. Mucciacco faded to third after being passed by Ron Silk on the final lap. Jay Miller and Tom Fox rounded out the top five. Joe Curioso is a security officer at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. by day and a racer by night. On Saturday night he garnered his first win in the Speedbowl’s tough Sportsman division. Bruce Thomas was the 30-lap Late Model feature winner and Nick Pappacoda took the win in the Mini-Stocks.

   Jeffrey Paul continued to showcase his ability as a racer in Wednesday night's (June 9) Wild n' Wacky action at the Waterford Speedbowl. The 17-year old captured both the 20-lap Legends and the 15-lap X-Modified features. Paul didn't lead the Legends' race until lap 18 and then held off Jason Palmer. He edged Bill Leonard and Dean Christensen, in the X-Modified event. Paul was looking to make it two in a row in the Legends on Saturday night when he became involved in a violent wreck that all but destroyed his mount. George Whitney ended up taking the win.

   Carl Edwards won the Nextel Cup event at the Pocono Int, Raceway and Clint Bowyer won the rain delayed Sportsman event at Nashville. On a sad note, Patrick Evans passed away at the age of 47 after a long bout with cancer.

   Last year, 2009 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first three, of 14 events, had gone back on “Spring Break” until June 27 when the ground pounders would travel to Loudon, NH. Evidently NASCAR had chosen to ignore competitor’s requests for a “Town Hall” type of meeting where they could air their concerns and complaints.

   Defending WMT Champion Ted Christopher had himself a busy schedule. Starting off at Thompson on Thursday night where he finished sixth, he had planned on running at Stafford until the rain prevailed. To round out the weekend Christopher traveled to the Franklin County Speedway, which is located in the Moonshine Capitol of the world, Callaway, VA. The Virginia event, which drew only 14 cars, was won by Brian King. Burt Myers was second with Danny Bohn, third. Christopher and Ron Silk drove team cars for Roger Hill’s Hillbilly Racing and finished eighth and ninth respectively.

   In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Danny Cates of Chaplin, CT, was the big winner as he scored his first-ever Sunoco Modified feature event win. Derek Ramstrom of was tops in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes celebrated his birthday with a Late Model victory. Leo Oliveira earned the TIS Modified feature win in a photo-finish. Leadfoot Larry Barnett of Ledyard, CT, took down the Limited Sportsman feature win on Thompson Night at the races. Tim Taylor made it two straight in Mini Stocks.

   Cates took advantage when a situation erupted between Keith Rocco and Todd Ceravolo when they were fighting for the lead in the closing moments and ultimately crashed. Both drivers escaped unhurt but their cars sustained thousands of dollars in damages. Setting the stage for the confrontation, Ceravolo took the lead from Kerry Malone on a lap 18 restart. By lap 22 Rocco had moved into second spot. On lap 25 of the 30 lap contest Rocco drilled into the side of Ceravolo’s car, almost pushing him into the concrete wall between turns one and two. Ceravolo lost a couple of spots as he managed to regain control of his family owned mount. By lap 27 Ceravolo had worked his way back into second spot. As the pair entered the third turn Ceravolo dove in low. Rocco attempted to block and the two made contact with the end result showing Rocco taking a hard shot into the wall along with Ceravolo.

   In the beginning, Kerry Malone drove by pole-sitter Ted Christopher to lead lap one. Josh Sylvester ran in third ahead of Woody Pitkat and Ceravolo. The cars got strung out immediately throughout the pack. The first car to step out of line was Pitkat looking for position on Sylvester. Keith Rocco was a bit more successful taking the ninth position from Jimmy Blewett. Ceravolo was making his way toward the front taking the fourth spot from Pitkat. A lap later, he took the third spot from Sylvester. Rocco was mired behind a double-file battle between Bert Marvin and Cates.

   On lap 10, Marvin was able to free himself of Cates. Rocco followed through. Up front, Malone had worked his way out to a half straightaway advantage over a brewing battle between Christopher and Ceravolo. Ceravolo was able to take over the second position on lap 14. Rocco made a bonsai move exiting turn three to shove Marvin out of the groove. Rocco gained the edge and the position. He made quick work of Sylvester making his first appearance in the top five. Jimmy Blewett was off the pace with a faulty ignition on lap 18, coming to a stop in turn one, to bring out the event’s first caution. On the restart, Pitkat got out of shape nearly making contact with the backstretch wall. He fell back as far as ninth. Rocco got a run on Christopher to take over the third position. A spin by Blewett brought out another caution on lap 22.
On the restart, Ceravolo got the jump leaving Malone to defend his position against Rocco and Cates. Contact between Pitkat and Christopher on lap 23 resulted in a melee on the front stretch. Cars also involved included Malone, who had slipped back to fourth, Sylvester, Marvin, Dave LaCroix, Ricky Shawn, John Catania, Brett LeBlanc, and Carl Oberg.

   Rocco was able to muscle the lead away from Ceravolo on the restart. Cates moved into the second position following Rocco. Ceravolo gathered it back in to make a run at Rocco. The two made contact on several occasions. The final blow resulted in the two making hard contact with the outside wall in turn four. Cates emerged to take the caution as the new leader. On the restart, Danny Cates could taste his first career victory rocketing to the lead. He sailed under the checkers to take down the coveted win.Despite an eventful night for both Pitkat and Blewett, they were able to come home second and third respectively. Malone also salvaged a good finish in fourth ahead of Rowan Pennink.

   The racing at Thompson so far had been nothing short of being exciting and spectacular!

   The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to rain for the second week in a row.

   The Waterford Speedbowl managed to get their racing program in the record books despite the threatening coastal fog that was creeping in. Jeffrey Paul earned his first 2009 win by passing pole-sitter Don Fowler with 9 laps to go on a restart in the SK Modified main event. Paul survived some incredibly rough driving by Don Fowler. Fowler has a reputation of being a blocker. Rob Janovic, Keith Rocco, Tom Abele and Tyler Chadwick completed the top 5. Other wins on Saturday night went to Vin Esposito in the 30-lap Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late-Model Stock Car feature; Ed Puleo in the 20-lap Street Stock feature, and to Jay Palmer in the 20-lap Legends Cars feature.

   After winning his heat race, in a new car, young driving sensation Flyin Ryan Morgan started the 20 lap feature event in sixth position. On lap four, Ryan took the lead and looked like he was in a position to win his second feature event of the season until Jason Palmer, the winner of all feature events he completed this season, made a pass for the lead with five to go. Ryan's car developed a push near the end of the race and crossed the finish line a close second, not what the team wanted, but not bad for being the first time on the track with a new race car.
The RVM race team is scheduled to compete the next two Saturday nights, 6-13 and 6-20 at the Speedbowl.

   The True Value Modified Series traveled to the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH. for the running of the “Granite State Harley- Davidson 100.” Jon McKennedy became the fourth different winner in four races, winning the True Value Modified Racing Series sanctioned event. It was McKennedy’s first win this season and his third career TVMRS victory. Rowan Pennink, from his pole starting position, took the lead at the drop of the green flag and held it until lap 19 when three-time series champion Kirk Alexander snuck by. Pennink regained the lead three laps later, lost it to defending champion Chris Pasteryak, regained it again on lap 27, before turning it over to Alexander on lap 29, at which point the series all time winning driver took control until the mid-way mark.

   Dwight Jarvis, who started 24th on the field, worked his way to the front to contest for the lead. Jarvis and Alexander tossed the lead back and forth between laps 51 and 70. McKennedy, who started third in the lineup, faded to fifth in the early going and then methodically made his way to the front by mid-race. The part time ISMA supermodified driver moved to fourth on lap 46, third on lap 53, and then the lead as he passed both Jarvis and Alexander on lap 71. Jarvis took the lead back for one circuit on lap 87 only to turn it over to the race winner a lap later.

   Jarvis finished a strong second, Alexander third, Eddie Dachenhausen, fourth, and Steve Masse, fifth. Pasteryak, Les Hinckley, Ron Goodenough, Sean Bodreau, and Mike Holdridge, rounded out the top ten. 18 of the original 24 starters finished the event. Nine caution flags for minor spins slowed the race that took 52 minutes 59 seconds to complete. The top 15 drivers finished on the lead lap. 26 teams entered the event.

   Kyle Busch raced to his fourth Nationwide Series victory of the year and ninth overall NASCAR win of the season, easily holding off Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards in the Federated Auto Parts 300 at the Nashville Superspeedway in Tennessee.

   Tony Stewart used every trick available to stretch out his fuel during the final laps Sunday at Pocono Raceway, and came from the rear of the field in his backup car to win his first Cup points race with his new team. Stewart made his last pit stop with 41 laps to go and figured he could drive the rest of the way without another break. He took the lead in the No. 14 Chevrolet with 37 laps remaining and roared to a 6-second lead over Carl Edwards that gave him a crucial buffer down the stretch. Edwards pushed Stewart and whittled the lead down to about 2 seconds with inside 10 laps remaining, and the two-time Cup champion was unsure of how much gas he had left in the tank. Edwards was second, followed by David Reutimann and Gordon. Stewart's SHR teammate Ryan Newman was fifth.

   Lou Modestino reported that Sunday’s fourth annual Norwood Arena Reunion saw a huge gathering of the competitors, officials and fans who frequented the famed Massachusetts quarter-mile oval every Saturday night during the spring, summer and fall. The event was held again at Bezema Buick, Pontiac, GMC on the Auto Mile located on Route 1 in Norwood. Norwood ran its last event in 1972. Among those on hand were Bill Slater, John Grady, Val LeSeur, Lew Boyd, Bruce Cohen, Bugsy Stevens, Leo Cleary and Deke Astle.

   Marvin Rifchin, owner of the former M&H Tire Company in Watertown, MA, passed away on Tuesday, June 2, at the age of 94. Rifchin started in racing after WWII as the owner of midgets. Later on he got involved in stock cars. His cars raced at many area tracks, including Thompson and Waterford. He won championships at Seekonk and Stafford. The last raced car he owned was the #7 pinto bodied modified, driven by Ron Bouchard in the years before Bouchard moved south to become the 1981 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. M&H shod Modifieds, Supermodifieds and Midgets won just about everywhere. During the 1970's, he was at the top of his game as was Dick Dunn, driving Al & Peg Gaudreau's #3 to four straight Modified titles at the Waterford Speedbowl. Rifchin took on Firestone and Goodyear, beating them both. Rifchin was also a man of his own convictions. When the New England Drivers and Owners Club attempted to institute a track tire at Stafford, Seekonk and Thompson Rifchin felt that he was being put out of business and filed an anti-trust suit against the club and the tracks as well as Hoosier Tire. He eventually lost the suit in the appeal process. Following his defeat he focused on the Midgets where he spent most of his time until his passing. Rifchin was a tough businessman but he was also a friend to many racers as he helped thousands with tires and money in order to keep them racing. RIP!

   In other sad news, Frank E. Anyzeski, of Ashaway,RI the beloved husband of Ann (Palmer) Anyzeski for 46 years, died on Friday, June 5, 2009 at R.I. Hospital in Providence, at the age of 67. Frank, also known as Frankie Edwards, was a former All American Six Cylinder Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. He was the half brother of the late Leo “Ace” Hill of North Stonington, CT.

   BusinessWeek Magazine reported less than a week after NASCAR called a mandatory state-of-the-circuit meeting for all Sprint cup drivers and team owners to discuss the dire economy, General Motors filed for the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history. While the U.S. government will pump an estimated $50 billion into the failed company, ensuring at least its short-term survival, there was no word as to what the bankruptcy might mean for GM's motorsports sponsorship programs, putting their estimated $125 million annual NASCAR investment into question.

   NASCAR has likely been hurt more than any other sport as a result of the current economic climate. Attendance is down because of the high cost of traveling to races, while TV ratings are off due to a perceived lack of exciting ones. Every telecast on FOX has seen a drop in ratings from the respective 2008 broadcast, with total ratings on the network down 13% from last year. And only an estimated 100,000 people attended the NASCAR Sprint Cup Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway, well off the approximate 140,000 in years past..

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 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 Norwood, MA.

Booker Jones                                           Ron Narducci                                         Ed Yerrington

Brian Ross                                                Billy Greco                                              Gino Spada

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and VintageModifieds.com

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: June 4, 2010

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