The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


June 10, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 the New London-Waterford adopted a summer schedule which would see racing at the shoreline oval twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The first Wednesday event was a 50 lap Memorial Day special that was won by Chauncey “Jocco” Maggiacomo. The scheduled Saturday night event fell victim to rain.

   Fifty years ago in 1961 Mario “Fats” Caruso was the Saturday night winner at the Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Ted Stack made it five in a row in Modified competition. Ed Moody made it two in a row in the Bombers and Arnie Harris made it two in a row in the non-Fords.

   Forty five years ago in 1966 rain washed out the Friday night racing program at the Albany Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. It stayed dry in Connecticut as Bill Wimble was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Jerry Dostie, driving Art Barry’s #909 was the Saturday night Modified feature winner at Norwood. Charlie Webster annexed his second Modified win at the Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Bunnell made it six in a row in the Bombers and Butch Reed took the Daredevil win. Pete Corey edged Bill Wimble at Fonda. Ernie Gahan finished third. Kenny Shoemaker ventured to the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday night where he held of an up and coming Richie Evans. Pete Hamilton finished third with Eddie Flemke and Bill Wimble rounding out the top five.

   Forty years ago in 1971, Thompson ran twin 25's on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens took the opener over Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary and Bobby Santos. Leo Cleary took the nightcap over Hop Harrington and Ernie Gahan. During the running of the second event DeSarro got airborne on the front chute and hit an infield light pole. DeSarro suffered bruised ribs and the Len Boehler No. 3 was severely damaged. Joe Thomas was the Friday night winner at Malta. Dick Clark finished second and was followed by Lou Lazzaro and Rene Charland who drove the Bob Johnson No.17.Stafford ran a 100 lapper on Saturday night which saw Bugsy Stevens clean house. Gahan finished second with Bob Santos, third. Jerry Dostie put his Crown 7 in Modified victory lane at the Waterford Speedbowl. Big Mike Daignault was the Sportsman Sedan winner. At Fonda, it was Harry Peek over Dave Lape and at Islip, Gene Sudziak took the win. In Open Competition action at the Fulton Raceway, Richie Evans took the 60 lap main event over Geoff Bodine, Bryan Osgood, Ronnie Wallace and Don Diffendorf. Jerry Dostie took the win at the Waterford Speedbowl. Dick Dunn finished second with Seabury Tripler, third. The New England Supermodified Racing Association ran a special event on Sunday. Eddie West and Jim Landry, in Supers, finished one-two. Bugsy Stevens, in the Koszela Modified, finished third. Utica-Rome on Sunday night rounded out the weekend. Dick Fowler took the win over Sonny Seamon and Lou Lazzaro.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1976, New Egypt started off the weekend on Thursday night. Bob Park took the win over Fred Harbach. Friday night at Riverhead, Charlie Jarzombek beat out Tom Baldwin and at Islip; Don Howe took the win over Harbach, Jerry Cook and Greg Sacks. Geoff Bodine ruled at Stafford on Saturday night while the fans at Riverside saw Bob Polverari take the top spot. Bob Potter won the Waterford 200 at the shoreline oval. Gary Hartson was the Grand American winner. At Thompson on Sunday, Geoff Bodine won his first of what was to be four in a row.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, with over 6000 fans looking on, Richie Evans slugged it out with Bugsy Stevens to take the win at Stafford on Friday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished third and was followed by Bob Polverari and Ronnie Bouchard. Rain washed out the action at Waterford on Saturday night. Westboro saw Ronnie Bouchard take the win over John Smith and George Savory. Evans made it two for two as he won at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished second. John Rosati was the class of the field at Seekonk as he outdistanced Bugsy Stevens and George Summers Sunday action at Monadnock saw Marty Radwick take the win over Brian Ross and SJ Evonsion. Other weekend winners were Maynard Troyer at Spencer and at Lancaster, George Kent at Shangri-la and Charlie Jarzombek, at Islip. Lou Funk Jr was the Modified winner and Randy LaJoie was the Sportsman winner at Danbury. In Winston Cup action, Benny Parsons won at College Station, Texas.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, rain washed out Stafford, Waterford, Riverside and Riverhead. At New Egypt, Tim Arre took the win over Bob Park and John Blewett jr and at Spencer it was Tony Hirschman over Ken Troyer and Jan Leaty. George Kent beat out Jim Spencer and Leaty at Shangri-La and at Monadnock it was Jerry Marquis.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Steve Chowanski was the Friday night SK Modified winner at Stafford as he was able to hold off Bob Potter and John Sneed. Jerry Pearl won at Waterford on Saturday and Eddie Brunnhoelzl won the Richie Evans Memorial 76 lap event at Riverhead. Ron Shepherd and John Preston finished one-two at Owego and at Riverside it was Stan Greger over Bobby Gee. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Ricky Rudd spun Davey Allison on the last lap and took the lead for the win. NASCAR reacted and black-flagged Rudd, taking the win and restoring Allison to the top spot.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Ted Christopher won his 37th main event at Stafford. Lloyd Agor finished second with Bo Gunning, third. Tucker Reynolds, knocking at the door for quite some time, got his first win at Waterford on Saturday night. Jim Broderick finished second and was followed by Scott Spaulding and David Gada. Tommy Fox was the late model winner and popular Eric Webster was the Strictly Stock winner. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Jennerstown for a 150 lapper. Steve Park took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 130 and went on to record the win. Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Mike Ewanitsko and Tim Connolly. Al Ermmarino was victorious at Riverhead and at Riverside Park Eddie Spiers bea t out Richard Savory. John Blewett III won at Flemington and Bob Dragon led 102 of 145 laps at Tioga to record his 12th career Busch North Series win. In Busch South action, Todd Bodine recorded his ninth career BGN win as he won the South Boston 300 over Mike McLaughlin. In other action, Rick Martin went two for two as he won Pro Stock events at both Seekonk and Thompson.

   Ten years ago in 2001 Eric Berndt went two for two as he won a 100 lapper at Stafford on Friday night and backed it up with a win at Waterford on Saturday night. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Riverhead on Saturday night. Mike Stefanik, who was second fastest to pole sitter Jerry Marquis, started ninth and took the lead on lap 106 on his way to recording his 60th Modified Tour win. Marquis finished second with local favorite John Fortin recording a third. Bill Park and Tom Cravenho rounded out the top five. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Jeff Gordon was the Busch Pole sitter and he went on to record the 100th Winston Cup win for Hendrick Motorsports.

   Five years ago in 2006 it looked like the proposed domed speedway in Plainfield, CT was a dead issue as town zoning commissioners voted 4-1 to eliminate a controversial one-year-old development district that incorporated 822 acres east of Interstate 395 near exits 87 and 88. The commission voted unanimously to also repeal the supporting zoning regulations that enabled the district to be established.. New England Raceway LLC, a Trumbull, CT-based firm, originally proposed the development district, which was commonly referred to as the C5 zone. Developer Eugene Arganese, who had previously all been run out of North Stonington, spent the better part of the summer of 2004 garnering support for the zoning concept and his proposal to build a nearly $400 million domed auto racetrack. After a first failed attempt in November 2004, Arganese was successful in getting the regulations passed and the zoning map amended to establish the district with the Plainfield Greyhound Park on Lathrop Road at its anchor. He secured options on hundreds of acres in the area with promises to purchase the properties for prices much higher than market value once he received all necessary approvals for his project. Arganese, who did not attend the previous week’s meeting, had never filed an application for his proposed 140,000-seat racetrack. In May, the LeBlanc family on 226 Lathrop Road filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Arganese. Family members allege he failed to purchase their property for the $894,700 he promised by Dec. 31, 2005.

   The Thompson Speedway was scheduled to start it’s Thursday night Thunder Series but after close to five inches of rain fell on the speedway track owner Don Hoenig had no choice but to cancel the event.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of Summer Blast-Off Night on Friday as the weatherman finally gave the speedway a break. In the consecutive win category, Jeff Baral racked up his second consecutive SK Modified feature win while Woody Pitkat took home his third consecutive Late Model feature win. Shelly Perry was the winner of the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature event, George Nocera, Jr. was the winner of the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, Steve Berardi was the 15-lap DARE Stock feature winner, and Woody Pitkat was the winner of the Late Model 16 feature.

   Conspicuous by his absence from the SK Modified feature was Ted Christopher. Christopher had planned on competing at Stafford until federal and state marshals raided his race shop in Plainville, CT on Friday morning taking six cars plus truckloads of racing related equipment and parts. The racecars that he drove belonged to Danbury Connecticut businessman Jim Galante. Galante was arrested Friday with others as part of a federal investigation into organized crime's influence over the trash hauling business. Galante also owns the Danbury Trashers hockey team. Christopher is Stafford’s all time feature winner plus a top contender on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night, Shawn Monahan survived seven restarts after starting on the pole and became the seventh different SK-Modified feature winner of the season. Monahan, who battled defending champion Rob Summers most of the way, secured one of two guaranteed spots for the upcoming True Value Modified Series 100. Summers had a Whelen Modified Tour commitment in Jennerstown, PA giving the second True Value spot to Monahan’s brother Diego, a winner earlier in the season. Diego, who finished third, fought off Rob Janovic and Dennis Gada over the final seven laps. Other winners included Tim Jordan (30-lap Late Model), Dwayne Dorr (20-lap Sportsman) and Ken Cassidy (20-lap Mini Stock).

   The Busch East, formerly Busch North Series, got its new beginning on Saturday night at the Greenville- Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Live HD Net TV coverage and a purse of $118,911 served as another slap in the face to the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Sean Caisse, the 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, won his first career NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race. Caisse, driving for four-time champion Andy Santerre, took the lead for the final time on lap 142 of An American Revolution 150 presented by Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet. A near-capacity crowd at NASCAR’s second–oldest speedway, including racing legends David Pearson and Jack Ingram, enthusiastically enjoyed the classic short track bumping, grinding, and three-wide racing on the nearly flat half mile track where the first live NASCAR telecast on a major network took place 35 years ago. Brian Hoar, Mike Olsen, Matt Kobyluck, and Bryon Chew completed the top five.

   Denny Hamlin did a NASCAR version of a spin and win and captured his first ever NEXTEL Cup victory at Pocono Raceway in the Pocono 500. Hamlin led all but one lap of the first 51 when he lost a left rear tire going into the tunnel turn. After managing to keep it off both walls, his crew did yeoman's work both keeping that car on the lead lap and keeping it fast and that was all he needed as he went on to register a dominant victory. Denny led 6 times for 83 laps and posted a 1.328 margin of victory. Kurt Busch finished second with Tony Stewart, third. Carl Edwards drove to a dominating win in the Federated Auto Parts 300 in Nashville, TN. He unofficially led 70 of the last 85 laps, and beat Clint Bowyer to the finish by .920 seconds. It was Edwards' second win in the last three Busch races.

   Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ended its "Spring Break" last Friday when they returned to action at the Stafford Motor Speedway for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125. The event carried a purse of $76,476. There were 33 Modifieds on hand for the 31 starting spots.

   Bobby Santos edged Jimmy Blewett in a dramatic two-lap dash to the finish to win the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. Santos and Blewett battled back-and-forth throughout the late stages of the event, which was extended with two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish due to late-race cautions.

   After Santos jumped the final restart on lap 135, he was ordered to let Blewett pull even at the line. Blewett nipped Santos as they took the white flag, but Santos was able to battle back to capture his second win of the season and the third of his career. Todd Szegedy, Ryan Preece and Rob Summers rounded out the top five. Completing the top 10 were Eric Berndt, Mike Stefanik, Erick Rudolph, George Brunnhoelzl III and Andy Seuss.

   Santos won his third pole in three attempts during qualifying earlier in the day and following the redraw started the race on the outside of the front row. Eric Berndt was successful in battling Santos for the early lead and paced the field for the majority of the race. Berndt had extended his lead to 2.5 seconds by lap 90, but he lost the top spot when he faltered on a lap 108 restart, giving the lead to Chuck Hossfeld. When Hossfeld was spun by Blewett a few laps later, however, Santos took advantage to gain the lead. Santos then had to contend with Blewett through the final stages of the race.

   There were seven cautions for 35 laps. Seventeen of the 31 starters finished on the lead lap. For his efforts Santos received $6600. Blewett earned $2900 while Szegedy received $2500.

   The Modified Racing Series ran a double header last week as they held events at the Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY and Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT.

   In a wild last lap finish, Les Hinckley unofficially won the 100 lap Modified Racing Series feature at the Airborne Speedway on Saturday night. Hinckley, from his pole starting position led the first 74 laps, setting a torrid pace holding off the constant threats of Todd Annarummo, and defending series champion, Jon McKennedy. Unofficially the win by Hinckley is his 12th MRS victory. Rowan Pennink, who started 15th in the 25-car field, passed Hinckley on lap 75 and held the top spot, resulting in Hinckley chasing the new leader. Hinckley and Dwight Jarvis pursued Pennink until lap 99, when Hinckley and Pennink made contact racing to the checkered flag resulting in a violent crash at the start-finish line. Both cars came to a halt against the first turn safety barrier, neither driver was injured. Jarvis settled for third followed by Carl Pasteryak and Kenny Barry. The race in front of a near capacity crowd saw the top 11 drivers finish on the lead lap.

   The second Modified Series event of the weekend saw 20 year old Stephen Masse captured his second consecutive Memorial Day Classic 100 at the famed Thunder Road International Speedbowl Sunday, May 30th Starting fifth in a 24-car field, Masse moved to second by lap nine and then took over the lead from early race leader Todd Annarummo, on lap 19. Despite 11-caution periods that slowed the race, Masse opened up sizable leads, several times by large margins, but was never headed. Rob Goodenough, who started the race in seventh position, finished in the runner up spot followed by Ken Barry, Kirk Alexander, and 17 year old Norwich (CT) Free Academy student, Max Zachem. At one point in the race Zachem was joined in the top five by fellow high schooler Joey Jarvis. Both drivers will graduate from high school in June. Sixth through tenth was Les Hinckley, Joey Jarvis, Charlie Pasteryak, Dwight Jarvis and Eddie Spiers. Hinckley was also the recipient of a $400 bonus posted by motorsports columnist, Kevin Rice of Area Auto Racing News for the best average between finish the two races.

   In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series division racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway Keith Rocco continued his winning ways by taking his second consecutive and third overall victory of the 2010 season in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Woody Pitkat picked up his second win of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Ted Cain picked up his second win of 2010 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Michael Wray was a first time career winner in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande became the first DARE Stock feature repeat winner of the 2010 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature with a last lap pass for the win.

   The Waterford Speedbowl took on a new face last week as several truck loads of ground up asphalt was dumped and leveled on the parking area and access road to the shoreline oval. Once the summer heat beats on it a bit the stuff will harden up and will keep some of the dust down.

   Keith Rocco, who won at Thompson and at Stafford was looking to score a grand-slam last weekend, ended up settling for a sixth as Justin Gaydosh pick up his first victory of the year in the 35-lap SK Modified event. Vin Esposito won the 30-lap Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, securing his first win of the year. Al Stone III took his second win of the season in the 25-lap Street Stock feature, while Sean Caron also became a two-time winner after taking the 25-lap Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock checkered flag.

   Mike Lichty held off Chris Perley to win the wreck-marred 50-lap ISMA SuperModified feature.

   The Thompson International Speedway Thursday night Thunder Series saw Keith Rocco return to victory lane in the Sunoco Modifieds. Rocco, who has his sights set on the NASCAR National Title, ran a determined race after a last lap defeat on opening night at the hands of Ted Christopher. Shawn Monahan took a convincing win in the annual 50-lap extra distance event for the Limited Sportsman division. Jim Banfield broke Derik Randstroms stranglehold on victory lane as he wired the field to score a hard-fought victory in the Super Late Models. Rick Gentes took top honors in a wild Late Model event while Cam “Keith” McDermott was victorious in the TIS Modifieds. Randy Churchill, Jr was awarded the victory in the Mini Stocks following post-race technical inspection.

   The Bowman-Gray Stadium, in Winston-Salem, NC ran a 100 lapper in front of an absolutely huge crowd. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series driver James Civali was a surprise entry in the Roger Hill No. 79. Civali got to see first hand why they call the North Carolina oval "The MadHouse". Civali survived to finish fourth while Burt Myers took his 43rd career win. Myers, who drew the pole position, endured nine restarts before taking the win. Defending Champion Tim Brown was the fastest in qualifying for the third time this season. He recorded a lap of 13.432 seconds (67 mph) on the flat quarter-mile track. But he drew the 14th starting spot. Brown finished 13th. Lee Jeffreys finished second and Jonathan Brown was third. Civali's intention was to get a "Heads-Up" on racing at the track as the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series will be racing there on Aug. 7.

   At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Tom Rogers Jr. won his second consecutive NASCAR Modified feature event in a 35-lap event Saturday night after coming from a 14th starting position to do so. Rogers earned $1,450 for his 11th career NASCAR Whelen All-American Series triumph.

   It was all in the family at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 while brother Kyle won the Nationwide Series event and the Camping World Truck event.
Dario Franchitti drove 199 nearly flawless laps, then survived the last one with a huge break from a spectacular crash to climb back on top of the open-wheel world Sunday with his second win at the Indianapolis 500.

   Two years after a failed try in NASCAR, Franchitti held on with a scant 1.6 gallons of fuel left in the tank, a victory made possible by a crash that sent Mike Conway airborne and into the wall, and left the final lap to be run under a caution flag.

   The victory made Franchitti's boss, Chip Ganassi, the first owner to win Indy and NASCAR's Daytona 500 in the same year. It also validated the Scottish driver's return to the IndyCar circuit two years after celebrating his 2007 Indy victory by making an unsuccessful move with Ganassi to NASCAR. England's Dan Wheldon, the 2005 winner who closed furiously as Franchitti slowed to save fuel in the final laps, was second, and fellow Brit Alex Lloyd was third, followed by Scott Dixon in fourth.

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

Charlie Webster                                             Geoff Bodine                                             Don Diffendorf

Eddie Flemke Sr                                            Fats Caruso                                                 Jerry Dostie

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: June 10, 2011

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