The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


October 22, 2010

   Forty 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 ended it.

   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 championship.

   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. It did!

   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 winds.

   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 runner-up finishes.

   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, 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 of 'Wild Bill' Slater,
courtesy of & Dave Dyke's Racing


Bobby Santos                                             Fred DeSarro                                              Gene Bergin


Geoff Bodine                                           George Janowski                                         Russ McLean

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: October 22, 2010

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