The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


September 17, 2010

     Fifty years ago in 1960 George Janoski, a local favorite, was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Dick Watson was the 25 lap Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Ray Moran was the non-Ford winner and Dick Dunn took the win in the Bombers

   Forty five years ago in 1965 the Stafford Springs Speedway was quiet. Newt Palm won the 30 lap September Championship at the Waterford Speedbowl. Daring Dick Caso won in the Bombers and Bill Scrivner was the Late Model Daredevil winner. The Albany-Saratoga Speedway wound up their inaugural season with a 100 lapper which was won by Dick Dixon. Don Collins finished second followed by Frank Mathalia and Don Flynn. Billy Greco was crowned the track’s first Modified Champion. Lou Lazzaro was the winner at Fonda and at Norwood Mario “Fats” Caruso was the Modified winner while Johnny Thompson was the Sportsman winner. At the Utica-Rome Speedway Richie Evans scored his first career Modified win over Sonny Seamon and Bernie Miller.

   Forty years ago in 1970, Jerry Cook was desperately trying to make up some lost ground on the national point ladder as he went to Martinsville where he won the Fall 100 over John Bryant and Melvin Puddin Swisher. Conspicuous by his absence was Ray Hendrick who went north to Oswego where he took a big win. Stafford ran their final event of the year, which saw Bugsy Stevens take the win over Ray Miller, Fred DeSarro who also wrapped up the 1970 NASCAR Modified Championship, Moose Hewitt and Bernie Miller. Ed Yerrington finished eighth and wrapped up the Stafford track championship. Sunday racing at Thompson and Waterford rained out.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1975, Richie Evans went two for three as he won at Fulton on Friday night over Sonney Seamon, Geoff Bodine and Fred DeSarro. On Sunday, Evans traveled to Islip where he led from pole to pole to win the All-Star 300.Charlie Jarzombek finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Maynard Troyer. In between all of that was the Oswego Modified 200 which saw Maynard Troyer take the win which was worth in excess of $15,000.Bodine finished second and was followed by Evans, Roger Treichler and Greme Bolia. Dick Dunn put a lid on the season at Waterford with a 100 lap win in the Al Gaudreau No. 3.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, it was Race of Champions weekend at Pocono. Close to 100 cars were on hand and when all was said and done, Richie Evans took the win over Geoff Bodine, Ronnie Bouchard, Greg Sacks and Bugsy Stevens. Evans passed Bouchard for the lead on lap 286 of the 300-lap event. The night before Pocono, Evans flew to Riverside where he won a 50 lapper over Bob Polverari. While Evans was in the north, Bodine was in the south where he won a 300-lap Late Model Sportsman (Busch Grandnational) event at South Boston. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Bobby Allison took the win.

   Twenty-five years ago in 1985, Stan Gregger was the Saturday night winner at Riverside while at Waterford; Dickie Doo Ceravolo scored a win for the hometown crowd. Ceravolo beat out Bob Potter and Mark LaJunesse for the win. Art Moran Jr. was the Super Stock winner. The NASCAR modifieds were busy. They ran a 150 lapper at Shangri-La on Saturday night where George Kent took the win over Jan Leaty and Richie Evans. After an all night ride to Maine, they did it all over at Oxford Plains where Evans took the win over Brian Ross and Doug Hevron. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt took the win.

   Twenty years ago in 1990, Bill Zacharis won a 150 lapper at Shangri-La and sewed up the track championship. Andy Romano finished second with Lee Sherwood, third. At Lancaster, Doug Hevron won the season ending 200 over Mike McLaughlin and Siege Fidenza. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Sunday, which saw Bob Potter take the win. David Gada finished second and sewed up the track championship.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995, Jim Broderick won the Race of Champions qualifier at Waterford as he out ran Tucker Reynolds Jr., Scott Spaulding and Mike Gada. The NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at Loudon. Steve Park took the win as a mad scramble occurred behind him. Satch Worley attempted to go under Mike Stefanik on the last lap when they touched and triggered a pileup. Jan Leaty, who was running eighth, moved into second spot at the finish. Ed Kennedy finished third and was followed by Tom Cravenho and was followed by Mike Ewanitsko. Joe Bessey was the Busch North Series winner over Robbie Crouch and Jeff Barry and Steve Kinser won his 400th main event in World of Outlaws competition. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt took the win.

   Ten years ago, in 1990, it was Winston Cup weekend at Loudon. Included were the Modifieds who again put on the best show of the weekend. Mike Ewanitsko took the 100 lap win with six laps to go when Ted Christopher's motor went to skipping and losing power. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by John Blewett III, Rick Fuller and Dan Avery. Christopher sputtered home in sixth spot. Andy Santarre won the Busch North Series event and in Winston Cup action, Jeff Burton led all 300 laps in one of the most boring Winston Cup events ever run as NASCAR really blew it when they mandated restrictor plates in hopes of making the race safer in the wake of two deaths, those of Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty. Rob Janovic won at Waterford on Saturday night. Ron Silk finished second with Tom Fox, third. During the evenings events it was announced that track operator Terry Eames had purchased the property where the Speedbowl was located for $1.85 million. It was also this week that Wally Saleeba passed away. Wally had been a close friend and confidant of D. Anthony Venditti for many years.

   Five years ago in 2005 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series took the weekend off before the beginning its final three race stretch drive which would see the Fall Final at Stafford on October 2, the rescheduled twin bill Busch North-Whelen Modified event at the Thompson Speedway on Saturday, October 8 and the season ending World Series at the Thompson Speedway on October 16. Ted Christopher, who was riding a three win in a row streak, began the stretch drive with a 31 point lead over Tony Hirschman. Both had done extremely well at both Thompson and Stafford. Jerry Marquis, 143 points back, and Chuck Hossfeld, 157 points back, had an outside shot. Despite having a poor finish at the season opener at Thompson when he wrecked and got injured, plus missing the Spring Sizzler, Eric Beers had clawed his way into fifth spot, 225 points in arrears. Beers’ determination plus the bullet proof reliability of Mike Boehler’s Ole Blu has put Beers in contention.
Don Lia, Doug Coby, Rick Fuller, Zack Sylvester and Mike Christopher rounded out the top ten. With 15 events in the record book a total of 78 different drivers had entered into Whelen Modified Tour Series competition.

   Kerry Malone finally got the monkey off his back as he took the win in the Sunoco Modified division at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night. Bert Marvin put the pressure on during the closing moments of the 30 lap feature but Malone never wavered. Keith Rocco turned in another strong run as he finished third ahead of Jimmy Blewett and Jeff Malave. Marc Palmisano took the Late Model feature and Mike O’Sullivan took top honors in the Pro Stocks. Larry Barnett won his sixth of the year in the Limited Sportsman and Chad Gaudiosi was the Thompson Modified winner. Randy Jurcik took the Mini Stocks.

   Although the nights were getting cooler the action at the Waterford Speedbowl continued to be hot and heavy. Ron Yuhas jr. had more than his share of the bump and grind at the shoreline oval. In spite of it all he remained in the point race and last week moved into the lead by a scant four points over Rob Summers as he on the feature for the SK Modifieds. Ron Silk finished second with Dennis Gada, third. Rob Summers who previously led the points finished fourth with Tommy Fox rounding out the top five. Other Saturday night winners at Waterford were Allen Coates took his eighth win in the Late Models, Dan Darnstaedt in the Sportsman, Ken Cassidy in the Mini-Stocks and Curtis D’Addario in the X-Cars. Speaking of the X-Cars, the Speedbowl ran a mechanics race on Wednesday night that was won by former Modified Champion Dickie Doo Ceravolo.

   Ryan Newman tied a NASCAR Busch Series record by winning in his fourth consecutive start of the season, a dominant performance in a wreck-filled race Saturday at Dover International Speedway. Newman was far ahead of the cars involved in two multicar accidents in the opening laps. The Dover 200 was a rout, with Newman leading all but seven laps, setting a record on The Monster Mile. Darrell Waltrip led 167 laps in 1985. Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's MBNA RacePoints 400 at Dover International Speedway, holding onto his lead during a two-lap overtime period despite heavy pressure on his back bumper from Busch, his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.

   Last year, 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New Hampshire 100, which carried a purse of $166,917. Forty Modifieds were on hand for qualifying.

   The Penthouse, the Firehouse and the Jailhouse all had their separate stories at Loudon. In the Penthouse was Ryan Preece who earned the 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Light with a lap of 127.692mph. Also in the penthouse was car owner Eddie Partridge who watched with pleasure as his two drivers, Ronnie Silk and Keith Rocco qualified their cars in second and third place. It was Rocco’s first time at the New Hampshire mile. Rounding out the top five was Eric Beers and Doug Coby. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Glen Reen, Erick Rudolph, Bobby Grigas III and Mike Stefanik. Current points leader Ted Christopher qualified 14th.

   In the Firehouse was Donny Lia, the June New Hampshire winner. Lia’s car, the Mystic Missile, caught fire during practice and suffered severe damage that prompted to an emergency run back to the Mystic River Marina where an all night session was put in to make the necessary repairs. According to car owner Bob Garbarino a loose fuel line was the culprit. Unable to qualify, Lia was forced to take a provisional, which would place him in 34th starting spot in the 40 car-starting grid.

   In the Jailhouse was part time Whelen Modified Tour Series driver Frank M. Ruocco, The Hartford Courant reported that Ruocco, who is also a weekly competitor at the Stafford Motor Speedway, was charged in a federal indictment on Wednesday, September 16, with obstruction of justice for trying to hide records of a scheme to illegally double the cost of removing contaminated soil from a New York construction site. Ruocco, Jr; his company, Earth Technology; and employee Boris A. Tomicic, 37, of West Hartford, also were charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering for billing the unidentified New York developer at inflated rates. Tomicic was not accused of obstruction.

   Ruocco, who is 96 points behind Ted Christopher in the SK Modified point standings, was out on bail and finished sixth at Stafford on Friday night.

   Ron Silk passed Reggie Ruggiero on the backstretch of the last lap and held on through Turns 3 and 4 to earn the victory in the New Hampshire 100. Silk, swapped the lead with Ruggiero three times and ran bumper-to-bumper in the last 10 laps, with Silk surviving the battle. Ruggiero settled for a fourth-place finish after getting shuffled three spots on the last lap. Donny Lia crossed the line second followed by pole winner Ryan Preece and Mike Stefanik finished fifth. Lia entered the race third in points but his car caught fire during practice on Thursday and he was not able to qualify. After starting at the rear on Saturday with a provisional, Lia was involved in an early accident and went down three laps. He was the “Lucky Dog” beneficiary during three subsequent cautions, and rocketed toward the front for a runner-up finish. Keith Rocco, who was making his first start at New Hampshire finished 33rd after dropping out with mechanical problems.

   The race featured 17 lead changes among eight drivers, and was slowed by 11 cautions. It was Silk’s fourth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win and his first at New Hampshire. According to NASCAR, The New Hampshire Modified race on SPEED did a 0.5 TV rating. The show aired Saturday, September 19th, 1:00-2:31pm, total households- 349,000; total viewers- 442,000.

   In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson, Ted Christopher made a mad dash from Loudon, NH, after qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event to win his sixth Sunoco Modified feature event of the season at Thompson and his second in a row. Christopher edged out fellow Modified Tour competitors Rowan Pennink, Keith Rocco, and Woody Pitkat to take down the victory. Mike O’Sullivan scored his third Super Late Model victory of the season to bring the chase to the championship to single digits. Cam McDermott had a good point night as he scored his second win of the season in TIS Modified competition. Rick Gentes returned to his winning ways in the Late Models while Sean Monahan scored the victory in the Limited Sportsman division. Steve Michalski earned his second Mini Stock victory of the season.

   Christopher drove by pole sitter Dave LaCroix in the first turn of the first lap and never looked back. At the finish, Christopher took down the win over Pennink. Rocco had to settle for third over Pitkat and Bert Marvin. With the finish, Rocco gained two points over his nearest competition, Pitkat. Rocco has a four-point advantage over Pitkat going into the final point race.

   The sparks flew between Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher at Stafford on Friday night. Keith Rocco took his fifth victory of the season in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Dillon Moltz took his fifth win of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Membrino, Jr. took down his second win of the season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Norm Sears took down win number two of 2009 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature event, and Stephanie Berardi scored her first career win in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with two caution periods in the first two laps of the event. On the lap-3 restart, Keith Rocco moved by Matt Gallo to take the race lead. Richie Pallai, Jr. was third, Ted Christopher was fourth, and Todd Owen was in fifth. Christopher quickly moved into second behind Rocco, with Gallo, Pallai, and Woody Pitkat making up the top-5. Rocco held the lead until lap-10 when Christopher moved by. The next lap saw the caution come out for a spin by Sean Foster that collected several cars including Gallo, Joe Allegro, Jr., Kirk Zervas, and Wade Mattesen.

   Christopher continued to lead back under green with Rocco, Curt Brainard, Pallai, and Chris Matthews making up the top-5. The top-5 ran in line for three laps before Pallai moved into third and Pitkat moved into fifth on lap-15. Christopher would continue to hold the lead until lap-20 when Rocco went back by to retake the lead. Rocco's lead was short lived as Christopher was able to move back by Rocco on lap-23 to take the lead back. The caution came out with 24 laps complete for a spin by Christopher Jones and slowed the action at the front of the pack. Christopher took the lead on the restart, but Rocco would move back out front several laps later on lap-30.

   Rocco's move for the lead opened the door for Pitkat to also get by Christopher, dropping him back to third place. But Christopher took the spot back from Pitkat on the next lap and set his sights on getting the lead back from Rocco. Christopher got the lead on lap-35 and looked like he had a car to hold off Rocco for the win. On the final lap, contact between Rocco and Christopher, a bump and run, moved Christopher up the hill in turn 3, which gave Rocco enough room to take the lead and the race victory coming off turn 4. After the checkered flag, Christopher slammed Rocco in turn 1, sending Rocco around and himself into the turn 1 wall. Pitkat finished third behind Rocco and Christopher, with Pallai and Owen rounding out the top-5. Christopher, who was the point leader and Rocco were suspended for one race because of their actions.

   The weather was cool but the action was hot at the Waterford Speedbowl as the track hosted Cystic Fibrosis Night and completed its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race program with a first time winner and great battles in all the divisions taking center stage. Dennis Gada returned to victory lane in the SK Modifieds and Dennis Botticello ended a lengthy hiatus to Speedbowl Victory Lane in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models. Walt Hovey Jr. won his fourth Street Stock event of the year, Allen Coates checkered his seventh NEATV Truck Series race, and Ian Brew won his first ever Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock race.

   After the pre-race Cystic Fibrosis festivities, seven-time Speedbowl champion Dennis Gada of Salem used his pole starting spot to move to the SK Modified race lead when the green flag came out. Jeff Pearl moved to second with Rob Janovic Jr. in third. Tyler Chadwick moved inside Jeffrey Paul for fourth on lap six. Contact in turn one of lap 15 left Glenn Pressell III slowing to bring out the first caution flag.

   On the restart Gada jumped out over Pearl. Janovic moved in to challenge Pearl for second on the inside. Out of turn two on lap 16, Pearl and Janovic got crossed up triggering a chain reaction behind. Pearl and Janovic were able to continue through, however several cars made contact behind drawing the second caution when they stacked up into turn three. Gada again got out front over Pearl on the restart. Pearl began to look for a way around Gada. Janovic raced third and Chadwick in fourth. Keith Rocco was a man on the move, pressuring Tom Abele Jr. for fifth after starting from last after a qualifying race wreck. Ron Yuhas Jr., contending for the championship with Rocco, sat in seventh. Rocco made the move inside Abele on lap 23, advancing his way to the top five.

   Up front Gada opened up a one car length lead over Pearl when Joey Gada spun in turn two with seven laps remaining. The restart was more of the same. Gada, Pearl and Janovic occupied the top three spots. Rocco moved up past Chadwick and immediately set his sights on Janovic, racing outside for third when caution came out with three laps remaining for Jeff Gallup and Rich Hammann who came together.  Gada survived the final restart to go on to his second win of the year. The win is his 64th career at the shoreline oval. Pearl took second and Janovic held off the challenges of Rocco for third. Chadwick completed the top five. Rocco was able to sustain his points lead over Yuhas with his finish.

   Dick Ceravolo continued to show a slight improvement in his condition. A slight infection continued to put reconstructive surgery on hold. He continued to be in an induced coma, now in its fifth week.

   The Charlotte Business Journal reported that Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. filed suit against the city of Concord and Cabarrus County in North Carolina claiming they have failed to follow through on incentive agreements related to improvements at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and a nearby drag strip.

   In Sprint Cup racing at New Hampshire International Mark Martin took the win over Juan Pablo Montoya.

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 Caso                                           Dick Ceravola                                            Dick Ceravola               
       Shaney Photo                                             Shaney Photo                                         Mike Adaskaveg Photo


     Bob Potter                                             Stan Greger                                              Sonny Seaman
        Shaney Photo                                           Phil Hoyt Photo                                               John Grady Photo     

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: September 17, 2010

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