The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


June 3, 2011

   Sixty five years ago in 1946 D. Anthony Venditti saw the fruits of his labor come to life as he opened his Seekonk Speedway on Route 6 in Seekonk, Mass.

   Sixty years ago in 1951 Ed “Spinner” Smith, who in later years would become a Pit Steward at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, won the 25 lap Modified feature at the shoreline oval.

   Fifty years ago in 1961, rain washed out the Modified programs planned for Saturday night and Memorial Day Monday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The Bombers and the non-Fords were able to get their events in on Monday. Ed Moody won what ended up being six in a row in the Bombers. Arnie Harris was the non-Ford winner.

   Forty five years ago in 1966 the Albany Saratoga Speedway ran a 30 lapper. Eddie Flemke, fresh off his Memorial Day win, made it two in a row at the 4/10 mile speedway. Elton Hill finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Dennis Zimmerman and Don MacTavish. MacTavish stayed close to home on Saturday night as he took the feature win at Norwood. Rain prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl. Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner at Stafford on the dirt. At the Fonda Speedway Bill Wimble recorded his second victory of the year. Kenny Shoemaker and Pete Corey rounded out the top three. At Utica-Rome on Sunday night Don MacTavish took a 100 lap win over Wimble, Flemke, Cook and Frank Mathalia.

   Forty years ago in 1971, Thompson switched over to Friday nights. In the twin 25 lap features Ray Hendrick made a surprise visit and walked off with the opener. Fred DeSarro, now in the Len Boehler Ole Blu, finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary, Bob Santos and Win Barrows. Cleary, in the Garbarino Mystic Missile, won the nightcap. DeSarro was again second and was followed by Santos, Billy Harman and Hop Harrington. Hendrick didn't finish as he went into the dirt bank after a tangle with Bugsy Stevens. At the Albany Saratoga Speedway, Eddie Flemke, in a Richie Evans team car, took the win over Robbie Kotary, Ken Canestrari and Eddie Pieniezak. Evans was under suspension from NASCAR for running non-sanctioned events. While Flemke was taking top honors at Malta, Evans was at the Fulton Raceway where he finished fourth behind Merv Treichler, Lou Lazzaro and Roger Treichler. Geoff Bodine rounded out the top five. Stafford ran a 50 lapper on Saturday, which saw Fred DeSarro take the win over Lou Austin, Bob Santos and Leo Cleary. Donnie Bunnell made it two in a row at the Waterford Speedbowl as he copped a 50 lap Modified win. Bill Sweet was the Sportsman Sedan winner. At Fonda, Harry Peek beat out Maynard Forette, Lou Lazzaro and Rene Charland. Mousie Kempster won at Islip and at Utica-Rome; Fred DeSarro made the long trip from Rhode Island pay off as he beat the best to take the win. Dave Lape finished second with Lou Lazzaro, third. Stafford planned a 100 lap event for Monday but it rained and the event was rescheduled.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1976, New Egypt ran on Thursday night with Fred Harbach taking the win. Friday night at Riverhead, Harbach played second fiddle to Charlie Jarzombek. Wayne Anderson finished third and was followed by Greg Sacks and Jerry Cook. Islip ran a 50 lap double point event on Saturday night and it was Anderson taking the win over Sacks, Jim Tyler and Bob Park. Bugsy Stevens added to his win total at Stafford on Saturday night as he beat out Ronnie Bouchard, John Rosati, Fred DeSarro and Jim Spencer and at Riverside, veteran Lou Tabone held off Bob Polverari and Pete Fiandacca. Dick Dunn, driving the Mighty No. 3 Budda’s Bullet of Al and Peg Gaudreau, scored a convincing 100 lap Modified win at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Rick “Sleepy” Knapp was the Grand American winner. Sunday night racing at Thompson rained out.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, despite suffering with a case of chicken pox, Richie Evans didn't let that slow him down as he won a 100 lapper at Stafford on Friday night. Ray Miller finished second and was followed by John Blewett Jr and Bob Fuller. Other Friday night winners were Tony Siscone at New Egypt and George Kent at Spencer. Saturday night at Riverside saw Evans carry his winning streak as he beat out Marty Radwick for the win. At Waterford, Rick Donnelly survived a heated battle with Don Bunnell to take the win. At Westboro, it was Ronnie Bouchard over Roland LaPierre Jr, George Savory and Leo Cleary. Seekonk had only nine Modifieds but it was a good show just the same as Bugsy Stevens came home the winner over George Summers and John Rosati. Bouchard made it two for two as he took Monadnock on Sunday. Punky Caron finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. On the Island at Islip, Charlie Jarzombek took the win over Bob Park and Fred Harbach. At Danbury Rit Patchen took the win over Bones Stevens in the Modifieds as Randy LaJoie ruled in the Sportsman.

   Twenty-five years ago in 1986, Mike Stefanik led the charge at Stafford where he beat out Reggie Ruggiero, Mike Mclaughlin and Corky Cookman. On Saturday night at Riverside it was a crash fest as only six of the original 22 starters survived to finish the 50 lap modified main event. Jack LeCuyer took the win over John Rosati and Bob Polverari. John Blewett Jr won a 75 lapper at Riverhead over Wayne Anderson and Fred Harbach and at Seekonk; Leo Cleary got his third Pro Stock win. Other weekend action saw Tom Baldwin victorious at New Egypt, Tony Jankowiac at Spencer and Jan Leaty at Tioga. The Winston Cup cars were in Riverside, Cal where Darrell Waltrip took the pole and the win. Bobby Rahal won the Indy 500.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, It was the Teddy and Mikey Christopher show at Stafford as the twin brothers finished one-two on Friday night. Ricky Young did the deed at Waterford on Saturday night and at Riverhead it was Tom Tillotson over Wayne Anderson and Bob Park. Ricky Fuller beat out Jerry Marquis at Riverside and on Sunday, the Modified Tour was at Thompson for a 150 lapper. Jeff Fuller took the win and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Steve Park and Doug Hevron. It was also on this weekend that Todd Bodine got his first Busch Grandnational win, that coming at Dover Downs.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Ted Christopher recorded his 36th career win at Stafford on Friday night as he beat Lloyd Agor and Ken Barry to the stripe. Jim Broderick got his second of the season at Waterford on Saturday night. Jerry Pearl finished second with Dennis Gada, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio fought long and hard as he avoided a big crash with five to go and passed Richard Savory on the last lap to take the 50 lap win. Riverhead saw Tom McCann in victory lane. The Featherlite Modifieds and the Busch North Series were at Loudon. Steve Park led the final 51 laps of the BNS event and beat Jerry Marquis by ½ second. Jan Leaty dominated the Modified event until getting a flat under green which opened the door for Tony Hirschman who ended up with the win. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Steve Park. Chris Aman and Jerry Marquis who rounded out the top five.

   Ten years ago, in 2001, the Thompson Speedway held a private race on Thursday night to entertain those in the area for a Harley Davidson event. HD bought 10,000 tickets to give away but only about 300 showed up. Todd Ceravolo started fourth and took the lead on lap five and survived numerous wrecks to record the win. Dennis Boticello finished second and was followed by Kerry Malone, Scott Quinn and Zach Sylvester. Jim Williams with his donut car took the 50 lap SK-Modified feature at Stafford on Friday night with Eric Berndt, second and Kerry Malone, third. Rain washed out action at Waterford for the second week in a row but at Riverhead, JR Bertuccio made it two in a row. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Jeff Gordon led 380 of the 400 lap distance as he took the win. Steve Park was closing at the end but had to settle for second. Jim Spencer was the Grandnational winner.

   Five years ago in 2006, rain blanketed the New England area wiping out action at the Stafford Speedway for the fourth week in a row. Rain also washed out racing at Waterford, Seekonk and at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. The Nextel Cup and Busch Series events got to run in Dover. Matt Kenseth passed teammate Jamie McMurray with four laps to go at the Dover International Speedway and went on to win the Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America for his second win of the season. This was Kenseth’s 12th career victory and #92 for Roush Racing. It was worth $323,591 from the over $5.6M in posted awards. Early rain washed out the afternoon qualifying session and forced Burton to start 36th in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. But the 38-year-old veteran battled his way to the front and held off Nextel Cup star Carl Edwards to register the best come-from-behind victory ever at Dover.

   Last year, 2010, the Modified Racing Series returned to action at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. Rowan Pennink got a well deserved and long over-due win as he overcame a cut tire on lap three and came back to win the 100 lap East-West Showdown at Malta, NY Speedway New Jersey runner Pete Brittain led the first forty-seven-laps before yielding the top spot to Earl Paules, Paules set a torrid pace until lap seventy-six when Pennink claimed the top spot. Pennink went on to score his second Modified Racing Series win. The victory was the third for car owner, Gary Cassela. The race was marred by 15 caution periods including, a crash that saw 2009 Koszela Speed Rookie of the Year, Jacob Dore vault over the second place car, Brittain while battling for the position.

   Like Pennink, Sean Bodreau overcame an early race mishap to finish a strong third ahead of Les Hinckley, Rob Goodenough,, Daren Scherer, Norman Wrenn, Mike Holdridge, and Kenny Barry.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway celebrated NASCAR Day with a Whelen Event Night race program consisting of five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. Keith Rocco picked up his second win of 2010 in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Corey Hutchings took down his first victory of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Matt Galko was a first-time career winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera took down his first win of 2010 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Don Wood scored his first victory of the 2010 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   Jeff Paul broke the strangle hold that Keith Rocco had held on victory lane at the Waterford Speedbowl as he claimed his first win of the year in the SK Modifieds®, snapping Keith Rocco’s three race winning streak in the division. Eighteen year old Brian Andronaco was a first time winner in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model event. Josh Galvin became the first repeat winner of the year in the Street Stocks and Louis Bellisle recorded his first Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock win of the season. Anthony Frissora won the visiting Allison Legacy Series tour race.
The Thompson International Speedway began their Thursday night Thunder Series before a very healthy crowd and 100 cars in the pit area. Ted Christopher had the crowd on it's feet as he worked over Keith Rocco, finally taking the lead after the former slipped coming off turn four. Rocco, who started eighth, passed Woody Pitkat after a restart on lap 18. Christopher, who started seventh, closed in on Rocco's bumper on lap 20 and began his assault. Back and fourth, up and down, Christopher tried every trick. It appeared that Rocco's tires gave up as he drifted up just enough to give TC the opening he needed. Rocco held on for the runner-up spot. Ronnie Silk finished third and was followed by Woody Pitkat, Rowan Pennink, Tim Sullivan, Bert Marvin, Dave Salzarulo, Glenn Griswold and Ryan Preece.

   Derek Ramstrom made it three straight in Super Late Model competition. Tommy O’Sullivan was victorious in Late Models while an ailing Chris “Moose” Douton was tops in the Limited Sportsman division. R.J. Marcotte scored the TIS Modified feature win while it was a career first for Lloyd Anderson in the Mini Stocks.

   The Bowman-Gray Stadium, in Winston-Salem, NC ran a 50 lapper on Saturday night. MadHouse reality show star Burt Myers, who got his 41st victory in Bowman Gray's featured Modified Division, strengthened his early-season points lead in the standings by leading the event from pole to pole with the exception of one restart. Myers started on the outside of the front row and took the lead from his brother and pole-sitter Jason Myers on the first lap. From that point, there were only two stretches of more than six laps without a caution period, which necessitate a double-file restart. Tim Brown took a short-lived lead in the eighth lap after a restart, zipping past Myers, who said he was a victim of a too-sensitive computer chip that threatened to stall his engine. In true MadHouse fashion Myers recovered with a stiff shot to Brown's rear bumper. That loosened Brown, and Myers shot past to retake the lead by the ninth lap. Zach Brewer finished second, Brian
Loftin was third and Alfred Hill finished fourth. Jason Myers rounded out the top five. Defending champion Tim Brown ended up 12th. Junior Miller was seventh.

   Riverhead Raceway Co-Chief Steward Mike Cappiello suffered two broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. One broken leg said to be of the "minor" variety, while the other was a compound fracture. This was a result of the Modified of Steve Booker being spun from behind during hot laps, and spinning out of control to the infield, where his car struck Cappiello. Cappiello was transported first to Peconic Bay Medical Center, then later transferred to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he was to get surgery on his leg.

   Tom Rogers was the Modified winner.

   All eyes were focused on the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. As teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch lined up side-by-side for the final segment of the All-Star race, one way or another, a Joe Gibbs Racing victory seemed a mere 10-lap shootout away. But with a cool $1 million prize on the line, neither driver had any intention of lifting off the gas in the no-points, dash-for-cash Saturday night showdown. Hamlin used defensive driving to protect his lead, Busch wrecked and his big brother, Kurt, sailed by both JGR drivers to grab his first career All-Star victory. One Busch was celebrating, while the other was so angry he threatened to kill Hamlin over his team radio.

   The inaugural five members of NASCAR's new Hall of Fame were inducted in a ceremony that both honored auto racing's pioneers and celebrated the entire industry.

   Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, was lauded for his vision of turning unregulated beach racing into America's premiere motorsports series. His son, Bill France Jr., was remembered as a tough taskmaster who poured his soul into NASCAR.

   Richard Petty, a seven-time champion, was credited as the sport's first superstar, while Junior Johnson was celebrated as the symbol of the sport's roots.

   And then there was Dale Earnhardt, the "champion's champion" who epitomized the blue-collar spirit at the heart of NASCAR.

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

Click on Photo for Full Sized

Sparky Belnont                                             Bill Wimble                                             Denny Zimmerman

Elton Hill                                                  Billy Harman                                                    Ollie Silva

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: June 3, 2011

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