The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


October 8, 2010

   Fifty years ago in 1960 Dutch Hoag, a Modified legend in his own time, won the Race of Champions on the one mile dirt track in Langhorne, PA. Dick Tobias finished second with Wally Dallenbach, third. Bob Malzahn and Carl Van Horn rounded out the top five. George Pendergast won the season ending 25 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Dick Beauregard was the non-Ford winner and Dick Dunn was victorious in the Bombers. Don Collins was crowned the track’s Modified Champion. Ted Stack was the non-Ford Champion and Newt Palm was the Bomber Champion.

    Forty five years ago in 1965, the Langhorne Speedway, formerly a one-mile circle dirt track, was paved. Langhorne was the site of the annual Race of Champions, which attracted close to 200 modifieds; the best there was east of the Mississippi River. Taking the win was New England top dog Wild Bill Slater. Slater, who had won just about everything there was to win became a New England legend that day as he drove his famous Connecticut Valley Rocket, the V-8, to an undisputed win. Dirt tracker Stan Ploski finished second with Herbie Tillman, Dick Havens and Tommy McAndrew rounding out the top five. Bugsy Stevens, in his first ROC start, finished 33rd. Dick Watson won the season ending 100 lap Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Savage was the Bomber winner. Modified Championship honors at the shoreline oval went to Sal Dee. Bill Scrivner was the Bomber champion. Scrivner drove for Roger Bonnville who, in later years, would provide Bob Potter with Modified championship rides. Ralph “Hop” Harrington was the Saturday night winner at Norwood.

    Forty years ago in 1970, the NASCAR Modifieds were at Beltsville, Maryland for a 200-lap event. Jerry Cook took the win over Eddie Flemke and Billy Hensley. At Thompson, Jerry Dostie, in the Ted Marsh 55, held off Leo Cleary and Lou Austin for that win. Dick Armstrong bought the famous Tant/Mitchell No.11 that was formerly driven by Ray Hendrick. With Hop Harrington at the wheel, a solid fourth place finish was recorded. Rounding out the top eight were Lou Toro, Joey Kay, Bob Vee and George Moose Hewitt.

    Thirty five years ago in 1975, it was all quiet with the modifieds as they were getting ready for the annual Cardinal 500 in Martinsville.

    Thirty years ago in 1980, the World Series at Thompson drew 53 modifieds. It was on this date that the late Richie Evans gave Mike Stefanik his big break as he put him in the seat of his back-up experimental-straight axle modified known as the grey ghost. After starting in the rear, the then young driver worked his way to the front and was running second behind Ronnie Bouchard when he was forced out with broken valve springs three quarters of the way through the 50 lap event. Evans had taken the lead at the start but also had bad luck as he was forced to pit with a flat tire on lap 33, giving way to Bouchard. Bouchard led until lap 44 when he was passed by Greg Sacks in the Cal Smalles No.41.Sacks went on to take the win and was followed by Bouchard, John Rosati, Bob Vee, Evans, Ray Miller, Moose Hewitt and Kenny Bouchard. Mike Benevides who today is a successful CPA was the late model winner and Warren Coniam won the Supermodified portion. Ronnie Bouchard won a special 15-lap match race.

    Twenty five years ago in 1985, Oswego closed out their season on Saturday night with a 30 lap modified feature. Richie Evans took the win and little did anyone know that this would be the last, as the popular champion would lose his life in two weeks at Martinsville. Mike McLaughlin finished second.

    Twenty years ago in 1990, the Modifieds had the week off as they were getting ready for the World Series at Thompson.

    Fifteen years ago in 1995, Mike Stefanik scored his 32nd Modified tour win at the World Series at Thompson. Stefanik took the lead from Ed Flemke JR on lap 94 of the 125-lap event. Flemke finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero, Steve Park, Tony Hirschman and Jamie Tomaino. Bo Gunning won the SK 30 lapper over Bob Potter. The weekend was darkened when Harry Kourafas JR lost his life after being hit broadside during the running of the mini-stock feature. In DIRT action at Syracuse, Brett Hearne won his 5th classic at the historic mile. Mark Martin made a clean sweep at Charlotte as he won the Busch Grandnational and Winston Cup events. Dale Earnhardt did not qualify for the Winston Cup event but took a provisional and ended up in second spot.

    Ten years ago, in 2000, the Race of Champions, scheduled for the weekend at the Oswego Speedway, was cancelled on Thursday because of a forecast of rain and snow. It never rained! Seekonk ran the D.Anthony Venditti Memorial and added the SK Modifieds as an after thought. Only 11 SK's showed and the race distance was reduced from 50 laps to 25 laps. Ted Christopher started on the outside pole and went on to take the win over Ron Yuhas JR, Roger Godin and Dan Dailey. Vinnie Annarummo beat out Rick Martin and Wayne Dion to win the DAV main event. In victory lane he announced his retirement from racing. At the DIRT Classic at Syracuse, Billy Decker took the lead at the mid point and went on to take the win over Steve Paine, Ken Brightbill and Bud Christian. Deckers winning check was worth $50,000.00.In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Bob Labonte passed Jerremy Mayfield with ten laps to go to take the win. In Busch Grandnational action, Matt Kenseth took the lead and eventual win when Joe Nemechek ran out of gas with two laps to go. Ed Flemke JR made a surprise visit to the New River Speedway in Virginia and walked off with the victory in the Hills Enterprises No.79.

    Five years ago in 2005 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was at the Thompson Speedway for the annual World Series. The track opened on Friday in order to allow competitors entrance to the pit area. There was also supposed to be a practice session to the non-touring divisions but rain put a damper on that. It looked promising until last Friday night when a knock out punch in the form of five more inches of rain was delivered. With the speedway under water, the Thompson Speedway management and NASCAR had no choice but to postpone the event to the following weekend, October 21-23. The rescheduling created a conflict with the Waterford Speedbowl who had already rescheduled their season ending Fall Finale. Chances were, Waterford would not change again and the two speedways would go head to head. Thanks to the efforts of the Speedbowl Management team of Bill Roth and Pete Zanardi a plan was worked out with NASCAR’s Ed Cox and the Fall Finale was once again scheduled for the weekend of October 28-29-30. Plans included coordination of race day schedules and a unique gas incentive supported by Xtra Mart convenience stores. Competitors who are intended on racing at both the Speedbowl’s Town Fair Tire Finale and Thompson would be able to do so. On the 29th, qualifying heats for the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions were slated to be completed at Waterford in time for racers to make the 50-mile trek to Thompson for their features. Also, racers who run the Speedbowl heats, compete at Thompson later that day and return to the Speedbowl to race on Sunday the 30th will be given fuel coupons redeemable at any Xtra Mart store. In some sad news, Anthony "Beebe" Zalinski passed away early Tuesday morning, October 11. He was 89 years old Mr. Zalenski worked for many years as a diesel mechanic at Palmer Motor Coach in Palmer, Mass. Later he owned his own speed shop. His real passion was auto racing, first with sports cars and then with stock cars. His famous M-6 coupe driven by many of the top drivers of the day was a frequent winner at tracks throughout the Northeast. In 1967, with Gene Bergin driving, they combined for 17 victories and reigned as modified champions at the Stafford Motor Speedway. In recent years, Mr. Zalenski was associated with the Flamingo Motor Sports Race Team. At the age of 78, Beebe built the engines that propelled Chris Kopec to the Riverside Park Track Championship.

   Ryan Newman set a NASCAR record by winning his fifth consecutive Busch Series race, avoiding a track-record 14 cautions Friday in the Dollar General 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Elliott Sadler was second, followed by Paul Menard, Carl Edwards and Jason Leffler. Jimmie Johnson overcame every problem thrown his way - including tire troubles that turned Saturday night's event into a laughingstock - to win his fourth consecutive race at Lowe's Motor Speedway and move into a tie with Tony Stewart in the Chase for the Championship. Johnson started 41st, then battled a failing alternator, a cut right rear tire and overtime to prove no one can beat him on the track his Lowe's-sponsored team considers its own private playground. Johnson has won five of the past six events in Concord, N.C.

   Speedway Motorsports Inc. declared a cash dividend of $0.32 per share of common stock. The annual dividend will be payable on Nov. 21, 2005 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 8, 2005. This is the fourth consecutive year that Speedway Motorsports has paid a cash dividend to its stockholders and the fourth year the dividend increased over the prior year. The Board of Directors of the motorsports entertainment company unanimously decided to declare the dividend after reviewing the market for the Company's stock, current business conditions and future prospects of the Company.

   Last year, 2009, At the Waterford Speedbowl the Fall Finale wound up the racing season at the shoreline oval. Ryan Morgan overcame adversity to checker the 20-lap Legends Car race, leading Saturday afternoon action. Bill Leonard won the NEATV Truck Series race and Wayne Coury Jr. won the Outlaw Stock race. Keith Rocco would have to wait another year before he could say he had won Modified championships at all three Connecticut NASCAR sanctioned ovals. Rocco and Ron Yuhas Jr were locked in a battle for the SK Modified Championship as the shoreline oval closed out its season. It all came to an end for Rocco when he pitted with 52 laps remaining in the close-out 100 lapper. Rocco missed the restart and virtually handed Yuhas the title. Rocco had been leading the 100 lapper when he chose to pit during a caution when something didn’t feel right in the front end of his car. Rocco ended up losing numerous laps and ended up finishing in 17th spot. Yuhas finished second behind Jeff Paul.

   As is usual, Modified racing at the Speedbowl is rough and tumble and survival of the fittest or luckiest. Joe Perry and Dennis Charette led the 27-car SK Modified field and championship chase to green for their 100-lap event. The fireworks started off turn four of lap one when Tom Abele Jr., who started third, and Charette made contact. That crossed the pair up in front of a stacked field behind, resulting in an 11-car pig pile entering turn one.

   All eyes were on point’s contenders Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco. Heads up driving helped them from getting collected in the incident, as cars literally scattered in every direction around them. Dennis Gada, Jeff Pearl, Allen Coates and Matt Gallo were among those headed pit side in need of repair but able to continue on the lead lap of the race.

   The restart proved no better, as Abele and Janovic came together off turn four coming to the green flag, ending with Abele’s car at rest against the turn one wall after making race ending contact with the wall. Once green, Jeff Paul moved inside of Perry to take over at the front. Racing only went a few laps before something broke on Pearl’s car, sending the Salem driver hard into the turn one wall on lap seven. When the green returned, only one more lap was able to be completed before caution flew again for a single car spin. That lap proved key however, as Rocco used a bump and run move on Paul to take over the lead off turn two on lap 10.

   Rocco ran at the front with Paul and Janovic giving chase. Yuhas moved around the outside of Perry for fourth and closed in on the top three. Caution on lap 26 for a spin by Charette slowed what was the first look at how the race for the win and championship would shape up. Rocco had pressed early to get out front, with Yuhas in tow looking all over Janovic for third. Rocco lead through lap 38 when Paul, challenging outside, capitalized on a slip by Rocco to reclaim the top spot. Paul stretched out his lead as Rocco began backing up, something appearing to go away on his machine. Caution came out on lap 47 when Shawn Solomito spun off the backstretch. Rocco used that opportunity to duck in to the pits for service on what turned out to be a broken panhard bar. The championship hunt turned when the race returned green with Rocco still in the pits as his team made the repairs.

   Paul reclaimed the lead when the action returned with Yuhas in second, Dennis Gada moving to third, and Janovic battling Mark Bakaj for fourth. Yuhas pressed Paul at the front. Gada sat three cars back in third. Further back, Bakaj took fourth but Janovic looked to take it back. Those two came together in turn four with 20 laps remaining to bring out caution.  That was the final restart Paul needed to master. He did, going on to his third victory of the season. Yuhas settled for second, good enough to clinch his first track title in his 10th season competing at the track.

   Dennis Gada, finished third and was followed by Allen Coates and Matt Gallo.
Other winners in the Fall Finale were Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Lou Bellisle III in the Mini Stocks.

   Next up at the Waterford Speedbowl was the never ending saga between track owner Terry Eames and his creditors who had a foreclosure slated for October 31.

   The True Value Modified Racing Series converged on the Seekonk Speedway for the annual D. Anthony Venditti Classic. Mike Stefanik scored his first ever win at what is known as the Cement Palace. Starting 22nd, the former NASCAR Modified Champion didn’t break into the top ten until lap 60 of the 100 lap event. Hooked up, Stefanik broke into the top five by lap 70 and set his sights on the victory. By lap 85 Stefanik had zeroed in on the bumper of leader Dwight Jarvis after passing Rowan Pennink for the second spot. Also on lap 85 Jim Dolan spun, setting the stage for a restart, which would see Stefanik, vault into the lead for the eventual win. Jarvis held on to finish second and was followed by Pennick, Steve Masse, Ryan Preece, Richard Savory and Mike Douglas.

   Matt Sheppard came into Super DIRT Week in Syracuse, NY with two big goals. One was his own to achieve, while the other required help from a competitor. Sheppard did his part by winning Sunday’s Rite Aid 200. The second goal, winning the Mr. DIRT points championship, eluded him by two points when New Jersey’s Brett Hearn finished 20th to win the season title. Had Hearn finished 21st, Sheppard would have reached both goals. With 20 laps to go, the goal of winning the race looked unreachable. But then race leader Jimmy Phelps ran into the first of three problems he would have on the day. His car began to sound as if something major was wrong under the hood. Sheppard, who was in second place, said he could see that Phelps was having trouble.

   Even with the car not running well, Phelps led until just 10 laps remained. That’s when Sheppard passed him on the backstretch. On the next lap, Phelps shredded his right rear tire. Once he lost the tire, he came to pit road and encountered problem number three. The team was planning to get him back out to finish the race, but as Phelps tried to leave he realized he no longer had high gear. And that ended his day. Tim McCreadie, finished second despite trouble on his final pit stop. Before the race, teams had expressed concern about the congestion that would be on pit road with most teams taking a mandatory pit stop soon after the halfway point of the race. That was exactly what happened, and McCreadie got caught behind another car in his pit stall. As he tried to exit, he made contact with the other car twice. Fortunately for him, it only cost him track position, and the damage to his car was minimal. Late in the race with only five laps to go, he was
able to get around fellow North Country driver Tim Fuller to take second. He would not have time to catch the race winner and was left to wonder what might have been.

   In NASCAR action at Fontana, CA, Joey Logano simply got mad after Greg Biffle put him in the wall Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway. His father, Tom, tried to get even, and lost his NASCAR credentials in the process. Logano recovered to win the 300-mile race, pulling away from Brian Vickers over the final two laps to pick up his fifth series win of the year, and second in a row. The elder Logano approached Biffle's car in pit lane after the race and made at least one hand gesture in Biffle's direction before a NASCAR official intervened.

   Tom Logano was apparently upset about the scrape Biffle and his son on lap 50. The veteran was challenging for the lead when he hinted over the radio that he was going to put the young driver in the fence. Moments later Biffle slid up the track while passing Logano on the inside, a move that slightly damaged Logano's No. 20 Toyota.

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at Fontana, Jimmie Johnson surged past Juan Pablo Montoya and easily survived a late challenge from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon to take the win.

   Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report radio show reported on Monday, Nov. 6 that US Marshalls will be auctioning off the racing equipment from Jim Galante's Mystique Motorsports operation, which includes six fully built or partially built Whelen Modified Tour and SK Modifieds, a Freightliner tractor trailer and race car hauler. Various racing equipment will also be included in the auction, which will take place at Metro Auto Body and Towing at 722 Wethersfield Ave. in Hartford. Included in the inventory are two complete NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars with Ford motors, two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car chassis under construction, one complete SK Modified car with a Chevrolet engine, one SK Modified under construction and tons of various racing parts plus a 53 foot Featherlite Race Car trailer with Tractor.

   Dick Ceravolo continued to show a slight improvement in his condition. After first opening his eyes the popular former Waterford Speedbowl Modified Champion progressed to the point that he began to speak. He was fully aware what happened to put him in the hospital as he remembered most of what transpired. A slight infection continued to put reconstructive surgery on hold. He continued to be in Intensive Care, now in its eighth week, at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. Ceravolo, 70, suffered serious injuries on Aug 21 while attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor.

   The Charlotte Business Journal reported that Motorsports Authentics needed extensions to pay off royalties and to renegotiate contracts with various teams or it could end up in bankruptcy, according to a Speedway Motorsports Inc. filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission .

   Owned 50-50 by track operating rivals Speedway Motorsports (TRK) and International Speedway Corp., Motorsports Authentics held the rights to sell clothing, diecasts and other merchandise for many of the top drivers and teams in the sport, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. Motorsports Authentics stopped paying certain guaranteed royalties under several license agreements during the summer of 2009 when royalties on the projected sales were less than the guaranteed minimum royalties, according to the SEC filing. The company had received notice from licensors alleging default if Motorsports Authentics didn’t pay the unearned royalties by certain deadlines.

   The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Grand-Am Series driver J.C. France, the son of Grand-Am founder Jim France and the grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France was arrested on Oct.8 in Daytona on drug charges. Also arrested was Russell Van Richmond, the son of one of Jim France's former wives. The 43-year old J.C. France and the 40-year old Richmond were both charged with DUI and possession of crack cocaine.

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


             Dutch Hoag                                                 Dick Dunn                                              Dick Watson               


George Savory                                          Moose Hewitt                                              Bill Slater     

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: October 8, 2010

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