The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


September 3, 2010

    Fifty years ago in 1960 Ernie Gahan, one of the chosen few to win on both dirt and asphalt at Stafford took the Friday night win on the dirt. Gahan continued his hot streak over to Saturday night at Norwood where he took his second win of the weekend. Bill Slater finished second with Red Foote, third. The New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran on three different days, Wednesday, with Don Collins taking the Modified win, Collins again on Saturday and Billy Harman on Sunday.

   Forty five years ago in 1965 Bill Wimble scored his seventh win on the dirt at Stafford. Sal Dee was the 75 lap Modified winner at Waterford on Saturday night. Charlie Webster was the Sunday Modified winner. Back then, a track could run two nights a week and make money! Twin 50’s were run at the Albany – Saratoga Speedway. Elton Hill won the first 50 and was followed by Jerry Humiston, Billy Greco and Don Flynn. Greco won the second 50 with Flynn, 2nd. Ed Patnoad finished third with Humiston, fourth. Fonda was shut down for a fair. The New Yorker 400 at the Utica – Rome Speedway was split into two, 200 lap events. Rene Charland, with two second place finishes, was declared the overall winner. Bill Wimble won the first 200 with Jerry Cook, third. Fred Harbach won the night cap with Jerry Humiston, third.

   Forty years ago in 1970, the twin 25's took a strange twist at Stafford on Saturday night. Bugsy Stevens won the first one and was followed by Ed Flemke, Ed Yerrington and Lou Toro. Just past half way in the second 25,the red flag was displayed because a major fire had broken out in the town of Stafford and the fire truck and ambulance had to leave. When it was determined that the emergency vehicles would not return, then leader, Billy Harman in the Ted Marsh No.55 was declared the winner. It was to be Harman's only career win at Stafford. Yerrington was placed in second spot and was followed by Stevens, Bob Vee and Bobby Santos. Denis Giroux won a double point event at Plattsburg. Fred DeSarro finished a disappointing 16th after dropping out with mechanical problems. Dick Watson was the 30 lap Modified winner at Waterford. On Sunday at Thompson, Bob Santos and Eddie Flemke each won 25 lappers and at Utica-Rome on Sunday night, it rained.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1975, Maynard Troyer won the Lancaster 200 over Paul Radford, Richie Evans and Lou Lazzaro. Dick Dunn scored a big win as he won the Fall Stinger 100 at the Waterford Speedbowl. At Islip, Charlie Siebert took the win and at Fulton, Jerry Cook beat out Evans and Sonney Seamon for the win. Leo Cleary was the small block modified winner at Thompson.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, Jeff Fuller in the Tom Dunn T-5 took the win at Westboro over Bugsy Stevens and Mike Weeden. At Riverside it was Ray Miller over Richie Evans and Bob Polverari and at Waterford a 200 lapper was on tap and Bob Potter took the win over Moose Hewitt. Sunday afternoon at Thompson, Ronnie Bouchard took the win over Fuller and John Rosati. At the conclusion, Bouchard and Rosati headed for Monadnock for a Sunday night event. Bouchard drove and Rosati flew. Much to many surprised fans, Bouchard arrived 15 minutes before the consi and made it into the show. Rosati got there late and never got a chance to qualify. Mike Weeden took the win with Bouchard, second and Marty Radwick, third. Islip ran a 250-lap event on Sunday. Charlie Jarzombek led for 247 laps when he lost an engine and handed the eventual victory to Richie Evans. George Wagner finished second with Fred Harbach, third. Despite losing an engine, Jarzombek still finished fourth. Other weekend winners were Don LaJoie at Danbury, Roger Treichler at Lancaster, Gil Hearne at Wall, Jim Shampine at Star and George Kent at Shangri-La. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Bobby Allison took the win. Harry Gant crashed with 50 to go as he was trying to take the lead.

   Twenty-five years ago in 1985, Spencer Speedway ran on Friday night with Jan Leaty taking the win over Randy Hedger and Doug Hewitt. The annual Thompson 300 was on tap and with temperatures in the 90's it proved to be a test of man and machine. Richie Evans led 155 laps to win the event over Doug Hewitt and Bob Polverari. Doug Hevron had been running second with four to go when he suffered a flat and had to pit. Wayne Dion was the Thompson SK Modified winner. Riverside Park ran open competition on Saturday night with Reggie Ruggerio taking the win over Polverari and Richie Gallup. Chris Young ended the season at Riverhead with a win. The first ever Enduro was run at Waterford and drew 268 cars and 80000+ people. Richie Evans sewed up the NASCAR Northeastern Regional Championship and in Winston Cup action at Richmond, Geoff Bodine was the pole sitter and Darrell Waltrip took the win.

   Twenty years ago in 1990,the Thompson 300 was a double header with the Busch North Series, which gave fans the best of both worlds. Mike McLaughlin won the modified portion, which paid $15050 to win. Satch Worley finished second with Doug Hevron, third. Forty-one cars started the event. Kenny Bouchard was the Busch North series winner. The pit fee was $40.00.Reggie Ruggerio got his fifth of the season at Monadnock on Friday night and Jim Broderick went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995, Mike Gada went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night. Mark LaJunesse finished second with John Anderson, third. Matt Kobyluck was the late model winner. The Busch North Series ran at Stafford. Ted Christopher was leading with two laps to go when Andy Santarre dumped him. Tom Bolles was in the right spot at the right time and took the win. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio got his fourth win of the season over Steve Park. The Thompson 300 ran on Sunday. Steve Park won the preliminary Pro Stock 100 and came back to win the 300.In the Banzul No.8; Park led five times for 155 laps. Ricky Fuller finished second and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Jamie Tomaino and Charlie Pasteryak. Point leader Tony Hirschman, wrecked. Barefoot Bob McCreadie won the Lebanon Valley 200 DIRT event and at Richmond, Dale Jarrett was the Grandnational winner and Rusty Wallace was the Winston Cup winner.

   Ten years ago, in 2000, Willie Hardie won the final Friday night SK modified event of the season at Stafford. Zack Sylvester finished second with Frank Wainwrite finished third. Ted Christopher finished seventh and wrapped up the 2000 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series North East Championship. Stafford closed out their regular Friday night series with the announcement that the Pro Stocks would be eliminated for the 2001 season. At Waterford on Saturday night, Dennis Gada got his sixth win of the season. Ed Dachenhausen and Eric Berndt followed. Riverhead ran twin features to close their season. Taking the wins were J.R.Bertuccio and Frank Vigliorolo. Scott Quinn took the win at Thompson on Sunday after Todd Ceravolo lost an engine. Ted Christopher finished second with Kerry Malone, third. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Jeff Gordon took the win but a post race inspection showed that Gordon’s car had a magnesium intake manifold. The win was allowed. Gordon and car owner Rick Hendrick were docked 100 points and fined $25,000.Jeff Burton was the BGN winner at Richmond.

   Five years ago in 2005 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on Saturday night. With gasoline approaching the $3.50 per gallon mark there were not too many race fans heading south from New England. Forty-six Northern and Southern Modifieds were on hand for qualifying which was held on Friday night. Chuck Hossfeld was the quickest as he took the Busch Pole with a speed of 99.979 mph. Eric Beers was second fastest at 99.355 mph. Tony Hirschman, Don Lia and John Blewett III rounded out the top five. The top eight redrew for starting spots. Ted Christopher, who qualified seventh, drew the pole. Hossfeld drew the outside pole.
A 50 lap Last Chance qualifier, won by Reggie Ruggiero preceded what had to be one of the best attended stand alone, non Nextel Cup events at the Virginia oval. Years ago stand alone Modified events at Martinsville drew in excess of 20,000 fans.

   Ted Christopher got back on track in his quest for the Whelen Modified Tour Series Championship, as he was able to out duel Mike Stefanik for the win. Christopher, who led a total of 164 laps of the 250-lap event, took the lead for the final time on lap 227. John Blewett III finished a strong third with Eric Beers and Doug Coby rounding out the top five. A total of 46 Modifieds were on hand. The Speed Channel taped the race which was tentatively scheduled to be shown sometime in December. Ted Christopher had regained the Series point lead from Tony Hirschman. Jerry Marquis was third with Chuck Hossfeld fourth and Eric Beers, fifth.

   Jeff Malave all but saw all his hopes for a NASCAR Division IV championship go up in smoke on Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway. Malave, a former Long Islander who now lived in Manchester, CT., was a scant two points behind Donny Reuvers of Shakopee, MN. Malave ended his night in the wall after Ronnie Silk made a bonsai move on Todd Ceravolo for the lead. Silk hit Ceravolo, spinning him to the infield. Malave got collected. Malave, who was quite upset, stated that Silk had no business doing what he did. While Malave’s crew was trying to make repairs Ceravolo was given his spot back which allowed him to eventually record his third win of the season. Kerry Malone, who had had a string of bad luck, finished second. John Sandberg, who was under suspension at Stafford finished third and was followed by Ricky Shawn and Ron Yuhas Jr. The Division IV Championship, which would end on September 18, was worth $25,000 to the winner. During the early going it appeared that Jimmy Blewett had a good chance of recording his first feature at Thompson when he was forced to retire with motor problems. Other Thursday night winners were Jeff Zuidema in the Late Models, Fred Astle Jr in the Pro Stocks, Danny Cates in the Limited Sportsman, Scott Michalski in the Mini Stocks and Leo Olivero in the Thompson Modifieds.

   Jeff Malave’s bad luck carried over to the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. Malave hit the second turn wall on lap 33 of the 40 lap feature. Frank Ruocco led all but the first two laps of the feature as he notched the win. Woody Pitkat gave him some late race heat but in the end had to settle for second. Jeff Baral finished third with Mike Holdredge and Kenny Horton rounding out the top five. Other Friday night winners were Tom Fearn in the Late Models, Andrew Durand in the Limited Late Models and Mike Sweeney Jr in the DARE Stocks.

   The Waterford Speedbowl continued to be a one-groove race track as Dennis Charette held his line on the bottom after taking the lead on the ninth lap of the 35 lap SK Modified feature. Rob Janovic finished second. Janovic started 14th. Ronnie Silk finished third with Don Fowler and Ron Yuhas rounding out the top five. Allen Coates was the Late Model winner with Bruce Thomas, second and Rob Summers finished third. Other Saturday night winners were Chis Bakaj in the Legends, Danny Field in the Mini Stocks and Dan Darnstaed in the Sportsman.

   Last year, 2009 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway last Thursday night. The competition and excitement provided by the “Men that Live by the Grace of God and 600 horsepower” was at a fever pitch as fans were on the edge of their seats for almost the entire 150 laps of the event. Donny Lia, in a show of sheer determination after being all but ridden into the wall by Ted Christopher, came from the rear of the field after a lap 113 restart and latterly blew the defending series champion away as he retook the lead in turn 4 on lap 139. Many of those on hand expected a “Pay Back” to Christopher was coming but Lia didn’t lower himself as he was in a hurry. Once back in the lead Lia dominated to the end as he recorded a convincing win. Christopher, who was experiencing electrical problems with his radiator fan ended up in the runner-up spot and was followed by Todd Szegedy, Rowan Pennink and Keith Rocco who was making his debut in the Eddie Partridge No.12 that had been vacated by Jimmy Blewett. Sixth through tenth were Eric Beers, Eric Berndt, Bob Grigas, Glen Reen and Eric Rudolph.

   There were 33 cars on hand as the economy and high cost of racing is taking its toll. Christopher, who drew the pole starting position, took the lead on the start after running outside pole sitter Mike Stefanik into the marbles between turns one and two. Christopher led until a restart on Lap 29 when Ryan Preece took the lead away in turn 2. Preece was running like a bear as he had ‘Ole Blu flat out. Stefanik spun out and hit the inside wall on the backstretch on lap 32. Preece led the restart on lap 37 but quickly lost the lead to Christopher. Preece developed power steering problems and eventually ended up going laps down before his crew cut the power steering belt in order to bypass the steering pump. While Preece was having his problems Lia, who started ninth, moved into the second spot on lap 39. Lia took the lead in turn three on lap 47 as Christopher’s tires were shot and he began fading fast. Rowan Pennick moved into the second spot on lap

   Preece spun on lap 72 which allowed almost the entire field to pit for tires. Lia only took on a right rear tire, which allowed him to get back out ahead of most of the field as he restarted in third spot behind Berndt who chose not to pit. Berndt led the restart on lap 76 and held Lia at bay until a restart on lap 92 when Lia retook the point. A nine-car wreck on the backstretch on lap 93 brought out the red as the track was blocked. Among those who were involved were Woody Pitkat, Renee Dupuis, Kevin Goodale, Johnny Bush and Rob Summers. Once the wrecks were cleaned up Lia led the charge to the green on lap 98. Christopher took the lead in turn 4 on lap 103. Lia took it back in turn 4 on lap 106. One lap later Christopher attempted to move Lia up between turns one and two. Lia went into the concrete slightly, doing no damage. On the lap 113 restart Lia started in the rear of the field while Christopher diced for the lead with Todd Szegedy. Szegedy took
the lead in turn 3 while Lia began his determined march to the front. By lap 123 Lia was back in the top five and closing fast. Following a lap 137 restart, Christopher took the lead with Lia hot on his bumper. The final lead change came in turn 4 on lap 139 when Lia took the lead for the final time.

   There were seven caution periods for 35 laps. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will hold its 10th race of the 2009 season at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 19. The pit fee was $50.

   The Hartford Courant announced that Jimmy Blewett had given up his Whelen Modified Tour Series ride and his SK-Sunoco Modified ride. Long Islander Eddie Partridge owns both cars. Blewett left to concentrate more time to his family and the family owned scrap metal business. Keith Rocco moved into Blewett’s vacant seat in the WMT car while Ron Silk assumed the driving chores in the SK-Sunoco car. Following the WMT event Partridge stated that he was happy with Rocco’s performance. Partridge was also happy with Silk as he finished fifth in the Sunoco-SK type Modified event.

   In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson, Rowan Pennink took a hard fought win in the Sunoco SK type Modifieds. Pennink led the opening lap but immediately had his hands full with Kerry Malone and Ted Christopher. Pennink was able to maintain the lead as Malone settled back in line ahead of Christopher. The fiercest battle amid the pack was for the fourth position between Tim Sullivan, Keith Rocco and Woody Pitkat. Sullivan had the spot with Rocco and Pitkat within striking distance. The action cooled when the first caution flew for a spin by Harry Rheaume. On the restart, Malone was able to get the edge but his advancement was for naught as the caution flew before the leaders could get out of turn two. The dreadful season for Sullivan continued as he made hard contact with the outside wall in turn one to bring out the second caution. Malone got slightly out of shape on the ensuing restart making contact with Ted Christopher. Christopher slid through
the infield making contact with the inside wall on the front stretch. The damage forced Christopher to retire from the event.

   Rocco looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart moving to the second spot. Pitkat was able to get by Malone as well. A quick restart allowed Pitkat to gain another spot into the second position. Ronnie Silk, the new driver of the TS Haulers #12, made his first appearance inside the top five. After a stop on pit road, Danny Cates had come back to ride in the sixth spot. A bobble by leader Pennink exiting turn four one lap shy of halfway gave Pitkat a shot at the lead. Pennink recovered to maintain the position. A half-lap later, Pitkat tried the low side in turn three. The lane swap gave Rocco the edge to put him back in the runner-up position. Pennink continued to show the way with Rocco bearing down. Pitkat had settled back into the third position before the fifth caution of the event flew for a spin by Carl Oberg. Cates was back on pit road during the caution at lap 17.

   It was much of the same on the restart as Pennink had to fight off the advances of Rocco. Pitkat laid in wait in third followed by Malone and Silk. Rocco pushed Pennink on the straight-aways lap-after-lap. Rocco got alongside Pennink exiting turn four on lap 21. He had to settle back in line as Pitkat began to apply pressure to Rocco. On a restart on lap 24, Rocco tried the crossover move looking for the lead. He got the car a bit out of shape as he dove too low and into the dirt giving Pitkat daylight. Pitkat was able to take the second spot away. Rocco pulled in behind Pitkat. The two continued to dog Pennink. On the final two laps the cat and mouse for the second position between Pitkat and Rocco allowed Pennink to celebrate his birthday with a victory as he flashed under the checkers. Pitkat finished a strong second followed by Rocco. Malone and Silk completed the top-five.

   In other Thursday night Thunder action, Derek Ramstrom and Larry Barnett stretched their point leads in the Super Late Model and Limited Sportsman divisions respectively. After post race tech, Tommy O’Sullivan was awarded his third Late Model victory of the season. Brian Tagg streaked in TIS Modified competition with his second straight victory. Randy Churchill took down his first Mini Stock feature event win at Thompson.

   Dick Ceravolo continued to show a slight improvement in his condition Ceravolo gained a little ground. Surgery to reset broken bones had been scheduled but was put on hold as a minor complication developed. Ceravolo, 70, suffered serious injuries on Aug 21while attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor.

   Among those on hand at the Thompson WMT event was former three time NASCAR Modified National Champion Carl “Bugs” Stevens. Getting a Bear Hug from the Bugman was the highlight of this reporter’s night. Also spectating was recently retired Dick Berggren. Berggren who was at the helm of Speedway Illustrated says that he will continue his work as a pit reporter on televised races but will take life easy when not doing that.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway Stafford Speedway returned to action after two rainouts with its Second Annual Late Model 100. Tom Butler was the big winner of the night, taking his second win of the 2009 season in the 100-lap extra distance race. Woody Pitkat made it two for the weekend as he scored his first Stafford win of 2009 in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Earl Pelletier was the winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Andrew Durand won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Bill Dunn was the winner in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   Justin Gaydosh and Keith Rocco split the twin 25-lap SK Modified races, which headlined the Waterford Speedbowl’s Thunder on the Sound event. Other 25-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series wins went to Bruce Thomas Jr. in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Al Stone in the Street Stocks while Louis Bellisle III was a popular winner in the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock event. Jason Palmer, Allen Coates, Rob Corey and Onie Pierce also found themselves in Speedbowl Victory Lane on the night taking 25-lap wins of their own. With his win Gaydosh earned a guaranteed starting birth in the annual North-South Shootout taking place November 5th - 7th at Concord Motorsports Park in North Carolina. Fans at the shoreline oval got a little extra excitement as a concession stand caught fire. The Cohanze Fire Dept. made short order of the blaze.

   Kasey Kahne greatly improved his hopes of making the season-ending Chase for the Championship with a Sprint Cup victory Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, pulling away from Kevin Harvick after a fortunate yellow flag late in the race. Kevin Harvick, who won the Nationwide race Saturday night, was in position for a weekend double until teammate Clint Bowyer spun with 15 laps to go, bringing out the final caution of the night. Kahne got Harvick on the restart and pulled away to an easy 1.766-second win. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third.

That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, R.I.02891.
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail,

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

This week are several vintage racing photos
courtesy of & Dave Dyke's Racing


  Dick Berggren                                            Doug Garrison                                        Ernie Gahan    
                                                                     John Grady Photo                                       John Grady Photo


    Buddy Krebs                                            Pete Cory                                               Richie Evans   
John Grady Photo                                       John Grady Photo                                         John Grady Photo 

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: September 3, 2010

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