The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


November 5, 2010

   Forty years ago in 1970, Fred DeSarro was officially crowned the NASCAR National Modified Champion. Driving cars owned by Sonny Koszela, DeSarro entered 76 events and recorded 25 wins. In addition to the wins DeSarro recorded 37 top tens. DeSarro beat out Jerry Cook by 776 points. Bernie Miller finished third and was followed by Eddie Flemke Sr and Dick Fowler. Ed Yerrington, who would eventually become the NASCAR Chief Steward and later promoter and general manager at Stafford, was the Stafford modified champion.

   Thirty five years ago in 1975, Jerry Cook who became an employee of NASCAR was the Modified Champion. Geoff Bodine was the track champion at Stafford while Fred DeSarro was the champ at Thompson. Other New England track champions were George Murray at Seekonk, Jerry Dostie at Monadnock, Dick Dunn at Waterford and Kenny Bouchard was the Yankee All Star League Champ. On Long Island, Charlie Jarzombek and George Wagner were tied for top honors and at Islip; Fred Harbach was the track champion. Up in New York State, Richie Evans was the track champion at Shangri-La (Tioga), Maynard Troyer at Lancaster and Sonney Seamon at Fulton.

   Thirty years ago in 1980, In addition to the national title, Richie Evans won a modern day record four track championships. Evans dominated at New Smyrna plus took all the glory in New England as he won the track titles at Stafford, Riverside and Thompson. Other New England track champions were Allen Whipple at Claremont, Bugsy Stevens at Westboro, Punky Caron at Monadnock, Bob Potter at Waterford, Art Davis at Danbury, Ralph Cusac at Beech Ridge, Larry Record at Star and George Murray at Seekonk. Pete Fiandaca was the late model champion at Westboro, Monadnock and Thompson and Jerry Marquis was the late model champion at Stafford. In New Jersey, John Blewett Jr was the champion at New Egypt and at Wall Stadium it was Tony Siscone. Islip was the only track running on Long Island and Charlie Jarzombek was the champ. In New York State, George Kent was the track champion at Shangri-La and Charlie Rudolph was the titleholder at Lancaster.

   Twenty five years ago in 1985, Modified racing was still suffering from the loss of Richie Evans. Before his untimely death, the popular driver had sewed up the National title plus the northeast regional title. In addition, he was the track champion at Spencer Speedway and at Thompson. Jim Spencer was the New Smyrna Modified champion. In New England, Charlie Jarzombek was the Stafford Speedway Modified champion, Jerry Pearl was the SK modified champ and Jim Ward was the Street Stock champ. At Riverside, John Rosati was the champ and at Thompson the SK modified champion was Wayne Dion. Rick Fuller was the modified champion at Waterford and in the Super Stocks it was Phil Rondeau. Dwight Jarvis was the modified champion at Claremont and taking the championship in the Busch North Series was Randy LaJoie. At New Egypt, John Blewett Jr was the champion and at Bowman Gray, Satch Worley took top honors. Fred Harbach was the Riverhead track champion and in upstate New York at Shangri-La George Kent won the title. Mike McLaughlin was the modified champion at Oswego and in the Supers, Steve Gioa was the champ. NASCAR also voted McLaughlin most popular for the modified division. Last but not least, Tom Druar was the Lancaster track champion.

   Twenty years ago in 1990, Jamie Tomaino reached a life long goal as he won the Featherlite Modified Tour Championship. Mike Christopher had a big year as he won the SK Modified championship at Stafford. Tom Tagg was the SK Modified Champion at Thompson. He was also awarded Rookie of the Year at Stafford and Thompson. Ricky Shawn was the Late Model Champion at Thompson. David Gada was the Waterford Modified champion and for the fifth time, Bob Polverari was the Modified Champion at Riverside. Reggie Ruggerio was the champ at New Smyrna.

   Fifteen years ago in 1995, Tony Hirschman, driving for Len Boehler was the Featherlite Modified Tour Champion. Overall, it was the fifth title for Boehler as a car owner. Tim Connolly was the Modified Champion at New Smyrna. At Stafford, Bob Potter won his fifth SK Modified championship. CJ Freye was the late model champ. Jim Broderick, who has all but dropped out of site lately, was the modified champion. Tom Fox was the late model champ and Jeff Karns was the main man in the Mini-stocks. Down on Long Island, Don Howe made it three track championships in a row at Riverhead. Jack Johnson won his tenth at Fonda and Mike Weeden won Pro Stock titles at Lee, Star and Thompson. Dan Avery was the titleholder at Riverside and Kelly Moore was the Busch North Series champion. Johnny Benson, with Steve Bird as his crew chief was the Busch South champion and Jeff Gordon was the Winston Cup champ.

   Ten years ago, in 2000, Ted Christopher had quite a year for himself as he won the NASCAR Northeast Regional Championship along with track championships at New Smyrna, Thompson and Stafford. Dwight Jarvis was the Claremont champion, Frank Vigliororlo was the Riverhead champion, Brad Leighton was the Busch North Series champion and Dennis Gada was the Waterford champion. Fred Astle Jr. was the Seekonk Speedway champion and Jerry Marquis was the NASCAR Modified Tour champion. Mario Fiore was the Championship car owner. Dave Michael was the Wall Stadium champion and Jeff Green was the NASCAR Busch Grand National champion. Bobby Labonte was the NASCAR Winston Cup champion and Matt Kenseth was the Rookie of the Year.

   Five years ago in 2005 Ted Christopher was the World Series Modified Champion at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Tony Hirschman was the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion. Andy Santerre took top honors in the Busch North Series. In Connecticut, Lloyd Agor was the Modified Track Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Rob Summers at Waterford and Jeff Malave at Thompson. Bill Park was the Modified Track Champion at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island while Patsy Catalano took top honors at the Spencer Speedway. Vinnie Annarummo annexed his 5th Pro Stock title at Seekonk as Dave Michael got his 8th title at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Tony Stewart ended up winning the Nextel Cup championship while Martin Truex Jr took the Busch Series title.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway held their 36th annual Champions Awards Ceremony at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor, CT. The Speedway honored its four 2005 track champions, Lloyd Agor, Ryan Posocco, Michael Bennett, and Joey Ferrigno. In addition to recognizing the 2005 track champions, SMS recognized the top-20 in points from the SK Modified, Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions, the top-10 finishers from the Limited Late Model division, as well as present the Most Popular and Most Improved Driver awards, and the Reliable Welding and Speed Rookie of the Year awards.

   The New England Antique Racers announced their inductees to the NEAR Hall of Fame, class of 2006. Gene Angellilo, Bob Bahre, Russ Conway & Ken Smith, Robbie Crouch, Fred 'Sharkey' Gaudiosi, Jim McGee, Phil & Bob Libby, Joe Rosenfield, “Boston Louie' Seymour; Dick Wolstenhume and the V-8 guys, Vic Bombacci & Bob Vitari.

   Word came from Ron Hedger that the New York Stock Car Association’s 2006 Hall of Fame induction ceremony would honor a broad spectrum of achievement in the sport, with the honorees including the Empire State’s most prominent NASCAR Winston Cup driver, a longtime modified owner, a top regional racer and a husband / wife team of officials. Geoff Bodine, Ed Cloce who has been a car owner for ages with his famous Hemi-Cuda No.69, Cloce remains active, fielding Modifieds for son Tommy in NASCAR and Race of Champions events. Dick Schoonover, Jim Frye was a racer in the early 50’s but found his true calling in 1955 when he began flagging with another Hall of Fame member, the late Chet Hames. The duo worked speedways from New Jersey to Canada. Freye’s wife Barb, a scorer is also among the inductees. Both Jim and Barb have also been active in NYSSCA, having served as Sergeant at Arms and Treasurer, respectively, for a number of years.

I   t was learned that there would be some new blood in the SK Modified division in 2006 as it looked like Jeffrey Paul would be moving up to the shoreline oval’s top division. Gary Paul, Jeff’s dad, has purchased the Ron Yuhas No.6. Paul, who was the 2005 Legends champion at the Speedbowl, was also a graduate of the Quarter Midget ranks and without too much practice would be a top contender. Gary Paul is no stranger as he already had one Modified Championship under his belt at the Waterford oval with Todd Ceravolo as his driver. Speaking of Waterford, the True Value Modified Series announced their 2006 schedule with Waterford added to their schedule NASCAR’s top divisions were in Phoenix, AZ. The big news of the weekend was that Roush Racing suspended Kurt Busch for the remainder of the NASCAR season after his run-in with police, who said he smelled of alcohol and was belligerent during a traffic stop Friday night. Kenny Wallace replaced Busch for Sunday's race. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch's younger brother, went on to win the Nextel Cup event then appeared upset as he lamented that a "true champion" had been taken out of the race. Busch was pulled over near Phoenix International Raceway for trying to avoid another car and running a stop sign. Officers said he smelled of alcohol and became belligerent. After all was said and done it was said that alcohol was not an issue as the Phoenix police over reacted when Busch gave them some crap after a traffic stop. Carl Edwards was the Busch Series race winner. One week later at Homestead Florida Tony Stewart would wrap up the Nextel Cup Championship. Greg Biffle was the race winner. Martin Truex Jr. sewed up the Busch Series championship. Carl Edwards held off Clint Bowyer in the final laps Saturday of the Arizona 200 at Phoenix International Raceway to win his fifth Busch Series race of the season.

   Last year, 2009, many race teams from New York, New England and New Jersey traveled south to Concord, NC for the annual North-South Shootout last weekend. Car counts included 42 Tour type Modifieds and 23 SK type Modifieds. Practice and qualifying took place on Friday. Taking the pole position with the fastest time for the SK types was Ryan Preece. Matt Hirschman was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were Ron Silk, Eric Beers and Rowan Pennink. In the Tour type Modifieds Chuck Hossfeld took the top spot over Hirschman, Preece, Burt Myers and Josh Nichols. Among the casualties was Keith Rocco who had the misfortune of crashing quite hard in the dogleg area of the track. Rocco stated that a tire came off the rim, which caused him to lose control. Eddie Partridge and his crew rolled out a back-up Modified that Rocco qualified 26th fastest. Other notables who were in the field included Ted Christopher who qualified the Joe Brady No. 00 in 19th spot and George Kent who qualified 39th. The top five in both divisions were locked in with the remaining forced to run heats and consolations. SK type heat winners were Steven Reed and Ted Christopher. Among those who had problems was Woody Pitkat who hit a ton on the front chute during the second heat. Tour type heat winners were James Civali, Eric Beers and Les Hinckley.

   The action was hot and heavy on Saturday with consi’s, non-qualifiers and main events. Two Tour type consis were run with the top two transferring to the feature. Earl Paules won the first one with Jamie Tomaino, second. Doug Coby won the second one with Keith Rocco, second. Danny Bohn was the tour type Modified non-qualifier winner.

   Matt Hirschman won the 50 lap SK type Modified race over Doug Coby, Ted Christopher, Steven Reed and Ron Silk. Sixth through tenth were Rowan Pennink, Rick Kluth, Keith Rocco, Ron Yuhas, Jr and Shaun Carrig. Ryan Preece, who had led since a lap 34 restart, spun on lap 43 while fighting to hold off Hirschman. Preece ended up 13th at the finish.

   Burt Myers won the 125 lap North-South Shootout which had to be classified as a wreck fest. Myers, who started fourth, took the lead after Matt Hirschman blew a tire while in the lead on lap 7. Hirschman’s blown tire was the apparent result of contact with Chuck Hossfeld. Hossfeld led the opening green and was moved up to the loose stuff by Hirschman. Hossfeld suffered enough damage to put him out for the day. He was credited with the 30th finishing position. The race, which took close to 1-3/4 hours to run, was slowed by nine caution periods and two red flag periods. Rowan Pennink continued his string of fine performances as he finished second. Doug Coby spun on lap 70 and came back to finish third. Hirschman ended up fourth. Rounding out the top five with one of his best runs in quite a while was Jamie Tomaino. Sixth through tenth were George Brunnhoelzl, III, Eric Goodale, Jimmy Zacharias, Pete Brittain and Anthony Sesely. Among the non-finishers
was Ted Christopher. Christopher finished 25th after a confrontation with JR Bertuccio. As the pair were facing nose-to-nose Bertuccio signaled the former National Champion with his middle finger. Christopher gave him a wave as he drove to the pits.

   As previously reported the event will air at noon on Saturday, November 28th on FOX Sports South. While cable systems in the southeast will carry the broadcast, it can also be viewed nationally on all Direct TV or Dish Network Satellite packages.

   Word came from Florida that the Daytona International Speedway and the New Smyrna Speedway will alter their schedules so as not to conflict with Super Bowl XLIV. The Daytona Int. Speedway announced that their annual Daytona 500 qualifying session, usually held the Sunday before the 500 will be moved up a day to Saturday, Feb 6. The Daytona 500 will be run on Sunday, Feb 14. The New Smyrna Speedway which will host the 44th annual World Series of Asphalt Racing from Feb 5 through Feb 13 will alter its starting time on Feb7 to 4:00pm and will host a giant Super Bowl Party for race fans and competitors later in the evening.

   In New England on Friday, November 6 was the US Marshall’s Public Auction of seized race cars, parts, engines, trailers and tractors that were part of the Mystique Motorsports Race Team that was owned by Jim Gallante who was convicted of Federal charges. The cars were built by Barry Kuhnell and driven by Ted Christopher. According to Jerry Pearl the sale drew a goodly amount of interested buyers including Mike Christopher who was acting in behalf of his brother Ted who was at the North-South Shootout. Pearl stated that Christopher bought three SK Modified cars and a Mod Tour type chassis. He also stated that Mike Smeriglio and Sly Szaban each bought Tour type cars.

   In some good news, Dick Ceravolo was sent home on Sunday to complete his recuperation from life threatening injuries incurred in August. It was a long hard road but the guy they call “Dickie Doo” made it back home and for the first time in close to three months was able to sleep in his own bed. It will be a while yet before he returns to doing his own wrecker calls but he is on the right track!

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup action Kurt Busch won at the Texas Motor Speedway after he passed brother Kyle with 2 1/2 laps to go. The younger Busch's quest to become the first driver to win all three of NASCAR's national series on the same weekend ended when his No. 18 Toyota ran out of fuel. Kyle Busch, who had already won the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races at Texas, had led 232 laps Sunday until he suddenly slowed on the backstretch on lap 332 of 334. Kurt Busch's 20th career victory came with an average speed of 147.137 mph and by a nearly 26-second margin over second-place Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth was third. Jimmie Johnson had hoped to clinch the series title but ended up in 38th spot. Coming out of Turn 2 on the third lap, Sam Hornish got loose after being tapped by David Reutimann. Hornish made contact with Johnson, who scraped the outside wall. It looked as if Johnson might save his car before he was hit again by Hornish, then slammed into the inside wall. Jeff Gordon, another Hendrick driver who is third in points, finished 13th after avoiding serious problems of his own. He cut his points deficit to Johnson from 192 to 112, though he lost ground on Mark Martin.

   Based on scans from television cameras there were numerous empty seats at the Texas Speedway.

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


Bobby Bard                                                 George Tet                                                    Ollie Silva


Pete Corey                                                 Pete Hamilton                                             Richie Evans

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 5, 2010

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