years ago in 1970, the Supers and the Modifieds ran together at
the Thompson World Series. Howard Brown in a Super took the win that saw the
race get the checkered flag before going the entire posted distance. Fred
DeSarro in the Sonny Koszela No.15 had a special Can-Am set up on the engine
and when NESMRA officials saw that an "outsider" might win the race, they
Twenty five years ago in 1985,
one of the saddest, darkest days of modified racing occurred a Martinsville
when champion and most popular driver Richie Evans lost his life in a
practice crash. For whatever reason, the orange No.61 hit the wall in turn
three and from then on, modified racing, as we knew it would never be the
same. In addition to being a fierce competitor, Evans had the best interest
of the division at heart and was consulted by promoters and the sanctioning
body on a regular basis. Evans had over 500 wins to his credit along with
nine national championships. With heavy hearts, the show at Martinsville
went on because he would have wanted it to. John Bryant took the win over
Bugsy Stevens, Tom Baldwin, George Kent, Doug Hevron, Brian Ross, Tony
Hirschman and Jamie Tomaino. It was also during this particular week that
NASCAR split with Tom Curley and his NASCAR-North late model touring series.
This series would turn into being the ACT tour and NASCAR would form the
Busch North Series.
Twenty years ago in 1990, the
Modifieds converged on Martinsville for the season ending event. Tony
Hirschman took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 128 of the 200-lap event
and went on to record his first win at Martinsville in ten years of trying.
Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by George Kent, Tom
Baldwin, Jamie Tomaino, George Brunnhoelzl, Mike Ewanitsko and Steve Park.
Fifteen years ago in 1995, one
of the best shows ever was a rain out, make up at Thompson that featured the
Busch North Series and the Featherlite Modified Tour plus the SK Modifieds.
It was the best of both worlds and the grandstand was packed to see the best
racing that the northeast had to offer. Steve Park took the lead in the mod
150 on lap130 from Wayne Anderson and went on to record the win. Anderson
finished second and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, Ricky Fuller and Bruce
Del. Tony Hirschman finished a distant seventh but still managed to win the
championship by 3 points over Park. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Martin
Truex on lap 130 and took the win in the Busch North 150.Andy Santarre
finished second. Bo Gunning started 33rd in the 40 car SK modified field and
took the lead with 16 laps to go in the 50 lap feature and recorded an
impressive win over Todd Ceravolo, Ted Christopher and Bob Potter. In
Winston Cup action at Phoenix, Ricky Rudd took the win.
Ten years ago in 2000, Chemung
Speedrome in New York and Lee Raceway in New Hampshire were the hot spots.
Chemung announced that they would be NASCAR sanctioned in 2001. J.R.Kent
took the win over Chris Ross and Pete Britain. At Lee, Rob Summers in the
Bear Motorsports entry started third in the 100 lap feature and took the
lead on lap six. From there on he was long gone. Dave Berghman finished
second and was followed by Carl Pasteryak, Charlie Pasteryak, Ted
Christopher and Tucker Reynolds. Dale Jarret was the Winston Cup winner at
Rockingham. Jeff Green was the BGN winner.
Five years ago in 2005 The
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was at the Thompson Speedway last weekend
for the previously postponed World Series. They were joined by the Busch
North Series. The big news on Saturday morning was that it wasn’t raining.
Temperatures were in the low 30’s but it didn’t seem to hold anyone back as
40 Whelen Modifieds, 40 Sunoco SK type Modifieds and 35 Busch North cars
helped jam the already bulging pit area.
In what was to be a long day of qualifying turned into another day
of waiting and frustration as rain and snow hit the speedway in mid
afternoon. At least the qualifying was completed for the Modifieds, Busch
North and Sunoco Mods. Jerry Marquis in the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino
captured his first Busch Pole of the year. Second generation driver Matt
Hirschman was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were Don Lia, Zach
Sylvester and Doug Coby. The top eight redrew for starting spots. Tony
Hirschman drew the pole with his son, Matt, drawing the outside pole.
Marquis drew eighth. Sean Caisse captured the Busch North pole. Sunoco
Modified heats were won by Jeff Malave and Kerry Malone.
All the rain and snow disappeared during the Saturday overnight.
Sunday was absolutely beautiful with temperatures in the high 60’s. Ted
Christopher was looking to wrap up his first Whelen Modified Tour
Championship; Tony Hirschman was looking to wrap up his fifth championship.
Christopher would have to wait another year while Hirschman celebrated.
Christopher’s efforts came to an end on lap 10 when he took a hard shot into
the wall between turns one and two after going up and over Donnie Lia.
Hirschman ran near the front for most of the 125 laps and in the end
finished a conservative 12th. Jerry Marquis was the eventual winner with
Chuck Hossfeld, second. Doug Coby finished third with Mike Christopher and
Charlie Pasteryak rounding out the top five.
It was a brutal weekend on racecars. Mike Christopher wrecked the
Hills Enterprises No.79 big time in practice. David Hills’ crew did yeoman’s
duty and the end result was a fourth. Chuck Hossfeld wrecked the No.50
wrecked in qualifying. Crew Chief Phil Moran and his crew did their work and
Hossfeld rewarded their efforts with a runner-up finish. The 90, 12 and 3
were cradled off of the track. The 75 (Carl Pasteryak), 59 (Matt Hirschman),
13 (Ted Christopher), 10 (Ed Flemke Jr.) and 99 (Jamie Tomaino) all received
major damage although the 99 and 10 teams did amazing jobs getting their
cars back on the track. Kenny Barry was under the 12 of Jimmy Blewett in the
second turn when he (21) wiggled and hit the 12 sending him into the wall.
Donnie Lia had a fast car and hit the 79 in the rear and spun him out. That
is when the Lia was held in the pits. Mike Christopher drove like a man
possessed and came on hard to finish a fine 4th.
In Busch North Series competition, Eddie MacDonald ended his
two-year drought to score the victory in the 100-lapper for the NASCAR Elite
division. MacDonald led early and was never far from the lead. He took over
the top spot from Mike Stefanik on a late race restart to claim the victory.
By virtue of his eighth place finish Andy Santerre claimed an unprecedented
fourth consecutive Busch North Series championship.
In Supermodified action, Chris Perley of Rowley, MA took home top honors in
the 50-lapper during the World Series activities. Perley won the battle but
not the war as Pat Abold came home second in the feature to claim the 2005
International Supermodified Association championship. Perley jumped out to
the early lead and would not be headed. Abold took chase in second followed
by Russ Wood, Mark Sammut, and Randy Ritskes inside the top-five.
In NEMA action Nokie Fornoro of Reeders, PA looked strong as he
powered away to an impressive win in the 25-lap main event for the Midgets.
Fornoro used the green-to-checker run to make his way to the head of the
pack over Joey Payne, Randy Cabral, Ben Seitz and Adam Cantor.
Jeff Malave of S. Windsor, CT capped off his championship run with
his fourth victory of the season. Malave took the lead from his front row
starting spot and would never be headed as he bested a 40-car field. With
Malave on the point, the best battle on the field was for second between
Ceravolo and Silk. The battling allowed Keith Rocco to join the fray as
well. Silk motored into second as Ceravolo began to fade. At the checkers it
was Malave over Silk, Rocco, Chuck Docherty and Tommy Cravenho.
Rick Gentes was the first to grace victory lane on the long-awaited
running of the World Series on Sunday. Gentes of Woonsocket, RI took the
lead from the drop of the green flag and went on to lead every lap of the
caution-free 25-lap event. The two point contenders, Charles Bailey, III and
Woody Pitkat ran nose to tail behind the leader. The two put on a heated
battle for the remainder of the event. Pitkat muscled his way by Bailey in
the closing laps taking Marc Palmisano along for the ride. Bailey came home
in the fourth position to earn the 2005 Late Model championship. Jeff
Hartwell rounded out the top-five.
In Pro Stock action, Freddy Astle took down his third victory of
the 2005. Astle scored the popular win over a field of competitors from a
number of New England tracks. For the locals, there was a lot riding on the
outcome of the main event on Sunday as four drivers were in contention for
the divisional title. Zuidema held a slim lead over Norm Wrenn, Jeff Connors
and Joe Lemay. Astle was able to hold off Wrenn and Zuidema for the win with
Seekonk ace Ray Parent and Lemay completing the top five. By keeping Wrenn
is his sites, Zuidema was able to grab the crown by a mere eight points.
Glenn Boss of Danielson, CT put an exclamation point on his fine
season at Thompson with his sixth Limited Sportsman win of 2005. The newly
crowned champion led every lap en route to the victory. Keith DeSanctis,
Kevin Riley, Danny Cates and Larry Barnett rounded out the top-five.
Shelly Perry of Ashaway, RI rallied late in the Mini Stock
20-lapper to take her second triumph of the 2005 season. Perry came out on
top of a heated five-car battle that also included championship chaser Scott
Michalski, his brother Steve and Brian Vincent. The Michalski brothers
pressured but had to settle for second and third over Brian Towle. On the
final lap Ron Rixham’s car went up in smoke but the veteran was able to
coast past the finish line to finish in the fifth position to secure the
In the T.I.S. Modified division, Kurt Vigeant of Oxford, MA claimed
his first victory of the season. Shane Michalski and Chad Gaudiosi earned
podium finishes over Leo Oliveira and Richie Ferreira. Roger Larson, Jr.
came home a disappointing seventh but could still celebrate as he won the
inaugural championship for the division.
Jim Dolan, Chris Wenzel, Andy Seuss and Peter Daniels were the top
four finishers in the True Value Modified Racing Series at Lee Raceway on
Sunday afternoon in the Storace Construction 100, the final race of 2005. It
was the best finish of the season for both Dolan and Wenzel. Dale Evonsion
and Jimmy Kuhn were battling for the lead when contact was made and both
were sent to the rear as a result. Kirk Alexander won his 2nd consecutive
championship beating out Peter Daniels for the title. Bob Polverari made his
final appearance and finished ninth. Polverari stated that he would retire
following this years edition of the North – Shootout.
The Arute family that operates the Stafford Motorspeedway announced
that Stafford would become the first weekly short track to install the SAFER
barrier wall protection. Steel and foam construction will reduce the impact
of crashes better than concrete. The speedway was looking to cover a 140
foot stretch of wall in turn 1 with the barrier. It's an area where a pit
entrance creates a stretch with a longer run than normal up to the wall and
has long been pointed to by drivers as needing some sort of redesign.
Upstate New York driver Tony Jankowiac lost his life there and Canadian
Denis Giroux suffered long term injuries after hitting the wall in that
area. The Safer Barrier project had been in the works at Stafford since
February and hopefully when the 2006 season begins it will become a reality.
Carl Edwards’ victory in the Nextel Cup Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at
Atlanta helped him make up some ground in the chase for the championship,
moving him from fifth place into a tie for fourth with Ryan Newman. Both
trail leader Tony Stewart by 107 points with three races left. Edwards, who
barely held off veteran Jimmie Johnson for his first Cup victory on the
Georgia track in March, had a dominating car through the second half of
Sunday's 325-lap race. Edwards lost a lead of more than 6 seconds when the
last of nine caution flags was waved for debris on lap 283. But he was able
to regain control and pulled away for his third victory of the season,
beating four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon by 2.713 seconds, half the front
straight-away on the 1.5-mile oval. The Busch Series had a weekend off.
Last year, 2009, The NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour Series finally completed its 2009 season with the
running of the 150 lap World Series. The series championship was Donny Lia’s
to lose. After a spirited race long battle with Ryan Preece and Ted
Christopher Lia settled into the fourth finishing position in the closing
laps as he wrapped up the title. Christopher took the lead for the final
time after a restart on lap 132 and held off Preece to take the win. Doug
Coby moved into third with less than five laps to go. Rowan Pennick rounded
out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Chris Pasteryak, Erick Rudolph,
Kevin Goodale, Ron Silk and Woody Pitkat. Christopher led twice for 93 laps,
while Lia led twice for 57 laps.
There were eight caution periods for 47 laps. The car counts was
ample but still down from previous years as only 29 Modifieds were on hand
for the event that carried a race purse of $85,971.
The Thompson Speedway did their best in less than ideal racing
conditions, thanks to the New England weather. In an effort to be proactive
with a less than stellar forecast, Speedway Management decided to run
feature events for the ARTS Truck Series, the SK Lights, TIS Modifieds, and
Mini Stocks on Friday as the forecast for Saturday was for rain and high
After post race technical inspection, John St. Germain of West Sand
Lake, NY, was scored as the winner of the ARTS Trucks. Brit Anderson of
Branford, CT, scored the victory in the SK Lights Modifieds. TIS Modified
champion Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT, put an exclamation point on his
2009 season with a victory at the World Series. Randy Churchill of Niantic,
CT, continued his prowess in the Mini Stocks with a win. Ryan Morgan of
Mystic made his driving debut in the TIS Modifieds.
On a sad note, Saturday marked the 24th anniversary of the death of
the great Richie Evans.
In the Sunoco (SK type) Modified feature at Thompson Ronnie Silk
slugged it out with Ted Christopher to win the caution-marred event.
Christopher, who led the early going, managed to finish second, after
rebounding from a spin. Bert Marvin, who was waiting for Silk and
Christopher to tangle, finished third. Tim Sullivan finished fourth. Among
the missing was Keith Rocco who was at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Rocco’s
Thompson ride, the Bannister No. 6 had been sold and the race team has
reportedly been dissolved.
In other feature events run as part of the World Series at Thompson
Mike O'Sullivan won the 30-lap Super Late Model feature. Over Norm Wrenn.
The 2009 division champion, Derek Ramstrom finished third. Tom O’Sullivan
wonthe Late Model feature over Woody Pitkat and Corey Hutchings. Rob
Richardi Jr. won the Pro Four Modified feature. Rick Gentes was the Outlaw
Late Model feature winner. In an exciting finish, Chris Perley latterly blew
away Dave Shullick Jr. on the final lap to win the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified
feature. Nokie Fornoro won the 30-lap NEMA Midget feature. Fornoro, a 34
year veteran, implied that it could be his last race as he is seriously
contemplating retirement. Beth Adams was the Outlaw Mini Stock feature
winner. Last but not least, Larry Barnett won the Limited Sportsman feature.
The True Value Modified Racing Series wound up their 2009 season at
the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Kenny Barry took the win over Dwight
Jarvis, Louie Mechalides, Jim Kuhn and Jack Bateman. Jon McKennedy won the
series title. Barry took over the lead on lap 66 and was never headed.
Wall Stadium in New Jersey was also running with the Tom Commerford
Memorial. Originally set for Saturday, the event featuring twin 66 lap
features was run on Sunday. Jimmy Blewett won the opener but was sidelined
in the second one after wrecking. Anthony Sessley won the night cap. Keith
Rocco recorded two third place finishes. Matt Hirschman recorded two
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Martinsville Speedway, Denny
Hamlin passed Jimmie Johnson and led the last 138 laps to take the win. Brad
Keselowski was the Nationwide Series winner at Memphis.
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly,
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail, email@example.com.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
week are several vintage racing photos of 'Wild Bill' Slater,
All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
Looking Back Archive