The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



April 1, 2011

   Forty years ago in 1971, Thompson opened their season with Modifieds and Supers running together. Bobby Santos in the Joe Brady No.41 took the 50-lap win. Lou Austin finished second. Howie Brown, in a Supermodified, finished third. The Supers were very unreliable as most failed to finish. Rene Charland finished fourth and was followed by Bob Karvonen, Ernie Gahan and Billy Schulz. Jerry Glaude won the open competition opener at the Waterford Speedbowl. George Summers finished second and was followed by Joe Trudeau and Walt Dombrowski.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, it was all-quiet.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, The Thompson Speedway opened the season with Dick Williams as the promoter, under warm 70-degree skies. With over 12,000 fans on hand, Richie Evans followed up his Martinsville win with another win. George Kent finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Kenny Bouchard. Because of the huge crowd, Williams added $3,000 to the race purse and paid every non-qualifier $50.00. Jeff Fuller was the late model winner and was followed by Ron Cote and Pete Fiandaca. In the south at the Winston Cup event at Bristol, Ronnie Bouchard qualified third behind Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. Bouchard ran in the top five until losing an engine at the half way mark. In Busch Grand National action, Geoff Bodine went two for two as he won at Langley Field on Saturday and at South Boston, on Sunday. Both were 200 lap events.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, Riverside Park opened for the season. Mike Stefanik took the 100-lap win as 10,280 race hungry fans looked on. Stan Gregger finished second with Bob Polverari, third.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Riverside began their season with a 100 lapper that went non-stop with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win. Charlie Pasteryak finished second and was followed by Jerry Marquis, Stan Gregger and Rick Fuller.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Chris Kopec made it two for two at Riverside as he beat out Dave Berube and Reggie Ruggiero for the win. Thompson saw the Modified Tour on hand for a 125-lap event. Steve Park took the win after coming back from a pit stop for tires on lap 59. Park took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 98.Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Bruce Del. Todd Ceravolo went pole to pole to win the 35 lapper for the SK's. On a sad note, Fred DeSarro Sr. passed away after suffering congestive heart failure.

   Ten years ago in 2001, the Featherlite Modifieds were off. Kevin Harvick led 114 laps of the Texas Grand National 200 to take the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr was the Winston Cup pole sitter but it was Dale Jarrett and Steve Park who finished one-two.

   Five years ago in 2006, The Waterford Speedbowl opened for the season with The Nationals. The two-day event hosted feature events for SK Modifieds (150 laps), Late Models (50 laps), Sportsman (30 laps), Mini-Stocks (30 laps), and NEMA Midgets (25 laps) plus Allison Legacy and American Race Trucks. All features were run on Sunday. “Don’t believe what you read in the papers” is what track owner Terry Eames alluded to at a drivers meeting on Saturday. He said the entire 2006 season would be run as scheduled. The Nationals, a big event that should have bolstered the Speedbowl’s checkbook, was disappointing at the box office, but a resounding success on the track. Good fields of cars and good racing didn’t disappoint those who came. Too bad the grandstands were less than half full. Lack of advertising was key. The race fans knew the Speedbowl was opening for the season but much of the general public didn’t. Frank Ruocco made a guest appearance at the Speedbowl, as did Jimmy Blewett and Ken Horton. They stole the SK Modified show from the regulars. Blewett started on the pole and led the event until he got loose and passed by Ruocco with about 12 laps to go. Blewett went non-stop without a tire change while Ruocco pitted for a fresh set shortly after the half way mark. Ruocco took the top spot while Blewett ended up fourth. Kenny Horton came from dead last to finish second while Chris Pasteryak was the top finishing Speedbowl regular in third spot. Dennis Gada rounded out the top five. Other winners were Joey Payne in the NEMA Midgets, Mark Esposito in the Legends, Dave Silvia in the Mini Stocks, Tayla Orleans in the Allison Legacy Cars, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Jason Heroux in the Pro Fours, Seth Duval in the Trucks and Dwayne Door in the Sportsman.

   The proposed domed speedway in Plainfield Ct. had been out of the news in recent months. Now came word that the First Selectman, Kevin Cunningham, had asked the town planning commission to repeal the controversial zoning regulations that would have allowed a domed speedway to be built in a new commercial district near the existing greyhound track. Cunningham had allies in the Planning and Zoning Commission, which could work in his favor. If Cunningham ended up being successful and the zoning regulations were repealed, the roughly 820 acres that were designated as the Resort/Recreational Development District, known as the C5 District would revert back to their previous zoning designations, the possibility of building a domed speedway in Plainfield would be dead. It had been almost a year since the C5 District regulations were approved and the district was established in the southeastern section of the town. During this time town officials waited for an application to build a multimillion-dollar domed speedway, which would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and attract NASCAR-caliber events to the area. In the mean time, Eugene Arganese, and his New England Raceway LLC, had not submitted an application despite saying several times that one was in the works.

   Last year, 2010, The only short track Modified racing the second annual Frostbite Winter Nationals at the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC. A sparse field of only 15 Modifieds were on hand for the 125 lap event. Matt Hirschman was the top qualifier. Burt Myers was second fastest. The draw for starting positions saw Burt Myers draw the pole and Brian King the outside pole. Drawing starting positions three through five were Jason Myers, Hirschman and James Civali. King got the best of Burt Myers and went on to take the win. Myers tried his best but in the end had to settle for the second spot. Finishing third was Ted Christopher driving the Joe Brady #00. Zach Brewer finished fourth with Josh Nichols, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Jason Myers, James Civali, Jimmy Zacharias, Scott Rigney and Gary Young. Among those eliminated in the early going were Hirschman and George Brunnhoelzl III who finished 14th and 15th respectively.

   It was learned that Burt Myers, one of the stars of the History Channel reality series "Mad House" has made his intentions known that he will head north to race in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series opener, IceBreaker 2010 at the Thompson Speedway. Myers has never run at Thompson but has competed against many of the top runners of the series at Martinsville.

   The Hartford Courant has stated that Bobby Santos III had been hired by Bob Garbarino to drive the Mystic Missile on the Whelen Modified Tour Series this year. Its a great opportunity for the third generation driver who has won in just about every division he has ever raced in including the Modified Tour. Driving the Mighty No. 3 of Mike and Janice Boehler, Santos won the season ending World Series at Thompson in 2007.

   Hot on the heels of the announcement that the Whelen Modified Tours Series would visit the road course at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut came word that dogs, the four legged variety, would not be allowed on the property. Evidently track management got sick and tired of picking up the land mines that had been left behind!

   In some sad news, Richard "Moon" Burgess passed-away on Wednesday, March 17 after suffering a serious stroke earlier in the month. Burgess started his career in the midgets during the 1940’s, switching to stock cars later in the decade. He competed with success at virtually every track in the region including Thompson, Waterford, Plainville, Riverside Park, Kingston, Candlelight Stadium, Cherry Park, West Haven, and others. Burgess experienced his greatest degree of success while behind the controls of the potent “Flying Eagle” #1 coupe. He retired from the sport in 1953 after a relatively brief but spectacular career in which he won over 200 races including 63 feature events.

   Justin Allgaier passed Brad Keselowski on a restart with 27 laps remaining in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Bristol, then held him off over the closing laps to give Penske Racing its first 1-2 finish in the Nationwide Series. It was Dodge's first win at Bristol since August 2007.

   In Sprint Cup action at Bristol, Jimmie Johnson finally knocked Bristol off his to-do list, plowing from sixth to first in just three laps to grab his first career victory at the revered Tennessee track.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 1, 2011

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