The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


June 24, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 the Wednesday night racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was cancelled due to rain. New Britain CT native “Money Bags” Moe Gherzi won the 25 lap Modified main at the shoreline oval on Saturday night.

   Fifty years ago in 1961 Emanuel Zervakas won the Yankee 500 NASCAR Grand National event at the Norwood Arena. Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Ted Stack returned to his winning ways at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won his sixth Modified feature of the year. Stack also won the non-Ford feature while Ed Moody made it four in a row in the Bombers.

   Forty five years ago in 1966 Rene Charland was at the top of his game as he won the Friday night feature at the Albany Saratoga Speedway. Frank Mathalia finished second with Pete Hamilton, third. Dennis Zimmerman and Gene Bergin rounded out the top five. Pete Corey mastered the dirt at Stafford. At the Fonda Speedway on Saturday night Jerry Cook took the win over Kenny Shoemaker and Bill Wimble. Charlie Webster won a 50 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. A young George “Moose” Hewitt was the Bomber feature winner and Rick Taylor took top honors in the Daredevils. Ernie Gahan, who was well on his way to becoming the 1966 NASCAR Modified Champion took the Sunday night win at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Shoemaker and Charland followed with Mathalia fourth and Hamilton, fifth.

   Forty years ago in 1971, still sore from hitting a light pole two weeks previously, Fred DeSarro returned to the racing wars with a vengeance as he went on a tear going four for four. Len Boehler had Ole Blu tuned to perfection as DeSarro cleaned house at Thompson winning twin 25's at Thompson on Friday night, a thirty lapper at Stafford on Saturday and an open competition event at Stafford the following Wednesday. Following DeSarro in the first event at Thompson was Leo Cleary, Ernie Gahan and Bob Santos. Santos finished second in the nightcap and was followed by Gahan. Albany-Saratoga ran a 100 lap double point event, also on Friday. Taking the win was Steady Eddie Flemke in the Richie Evans 61x. Still on the outs with NASCAR, Evans and his crew pitted the car in the parking lot. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Denis Giroux, Andy Romano and Jerry Cook. Following DeSarro at Stafford on Saturday night was Rene Charland in the Bob Johnson No.17.Bugsy Stevens finished third with Ernie Gahan, fourth. At the Fulton Raceway Bob Sweeney won a 60-lap feature over Don Diffendorf and Mike Loescher. Lou Lazzaro, well on his way to legend status copped wins at Fonda on Saturday night and at Utica-Rome on Sunday. The amazing thing is that he won both events with the same car. Maynard Forette finished second at Fonda and was followed by Dave Lape and Harry Peek. At Utica-Rome, Dave Kotary finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro and Denis Giroux. Oxford Plains ran an open comp modified event on Sunday. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by Charland and Homer Drew. Bob Potter won the 36 lap June Championship Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Larry Gada was the Sportsman Sedan winner. Last but not least it was Charlie Jarzombek over Fred Harbach at Islip.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, Geoff Bodine, fresh off a Sunday afternoon 150 lap win at Stafford made it three in a row at Thompson on Sunday night. Bodine, driving for Richard Armstrong, used a Jack Tant small block Chevy for power. While the Sunday night small block series at Thompson was intended for the low buck racer, the intent was lost as Armstrong shelled out the bucks for a professional motor builder. This was the beginning of the end of the so-called golden era. To compete with Bodine and Armstrong other teams would have to follow suit or just be content to follow the leader. Fred DeSarro, driving for Len Boehler, finished second to Bodine three weeks running. Boehler, a mechanical genius, built his own engines. Despite Boehler's efforts, DeSarro couldn't keep up. Many saw this as the beginning of the end of the backyard racer. At the Stafford 150, Bodine took the lead from DeSarro on lap 14 and never looked back. SJ Evonsion finished second and was followed by Satch Worley, Ed Flemke Sr and Richie Evans. It was also on this weekend that Stafford owner Jack Arute announced that as of July 14 all owners and drivers would be admitted free. In other weekend action, Fred Harbach won at New Egypt, Charlie Jarzombek at Riverhead, Fred Sipalla at Islip, John Anderson at Riverside, Ronnie Bouchard at Westboro and Punky Caron got his fifth win of the season at Monadnock. At Waterford, it rained.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, a huge crowd of 7100 fans was on hand to watch George Summers take the Friday night modified feature at Stafford. Following Summers at the line were Ray Miller, Kenny Bouchard and Brian Ross. Richie Evans, who won at Holland on Wednesday night, blew an engine. Rain blanketed the east coast on Saturday washing just about everything out. Maynard Troyer won at Spencer, Allen Whipple at Monadnock, Billy Griffin at Shangri-La and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. At Thompson on Sunday, Evans lost his second engine of the weekend. Kenny Bouchard in the Len Boehler No.3 took the win over Reggie Ruggiero and George Summers. It was father-son night at Danbury as Don LaJoie won a 50 lap Modified feature and Randy LaJoie was the Sportsman winner. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Darrell Waltrip took the pole and Bobby Allison, the win. Ronnie Bouchard finished tenth.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, New Egypt ran a circle of Champions (Mod Tour)150 at New Egypt on Wednesday night. George Kent came away the surprise winner after Jeff Fuller crashed with a lap car while coming down for the checker in the lead. Jim Spencer finished second with Mike McLaughlin, third. George Brunnhoelzl jr took the Friday night win at Stafford. Reggie Ruggiero was running second on the final lap when he tangled with Gilda Berti and crashed. Bugsy Stevens ended up in second spot with Brian Ross, third. Richie Gallup was declared the SK Modified winner after the top three finishers, Bo Gunning, Ted Christopher and John Anderson were disqualified after a post race inspection determined that their carburetors were illegal. Rick Donnelly won twin features at Waterford and Mike Stefanik took top honors at Riverside. Other weekend winners were Don Pratt at Spencer, Dan Jivenelli at Riverhead and Tony Hirschman at Shangri-La.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Mike Christopher beat out Bob Potter and Bob Georgiades in SK action at Stafford on Friday night. Rain washed out Waterford but at Riverside and Riverhead it stayed dry. Charlie Pasteryak won out over Reggie Ruggiero at Riverside and at Riverhead; Dan Jivenelli was followed across the stripe by Wayne Anderson. The Modified Tour was at Oxford Plains on Sunday. Jeff Fuller in the Sheba No.8 took the win over Doug Hevron and Mike Stefanik .In SK Modified action at Thompson, Ted Christopher took the win over Richie Gallup and Mike Christopher.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Mike Christopher was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Steve Park finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick, Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning. At Waterford on Saturday night, Bob Potter scored his 95th career win at the shoreline oval. Potter,who had been racing since 1964,started in 11th spot and took the lead with 26 laps to go in the 35 lap feature. Potters win broke the all time record previously held by Don Collins. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Riverhead for a 200 lap event. Because of a late race caution, the event went 207 laps with Rick Fuller taking the win over Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Chuck Steuer. Eleven cautions for 54 laps slowed the average speed of the event to 45.39 mph. Richie Gallup was the winner at Riverside Park. The Busch North Series was at Thompson on Sunday. Robbie Crouch led the 150 lap event until lap 81 when he went too hot into turn three, spun and took out Rick Fuller and Andy Santarre who were third and fourth. Jerry Marquis took the lead at that point and went on to take the win. Mike Stefanik finished second with Brad Leighton, third. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Rusty Wallace took the win and in Busch Grandnational series action at Myrtle Beach, David Green took the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr made his debut and finished 14th, down one.

   Ten years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher recorded his third win at Thompson on Thursday night and made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. At Thompson, Kerry Malone finished second with Bill Anderson, third. At Stafford, Christopher was chased by Eric Brendt and Lloyd Agor. In Busch North Series action at Stafford, Kelly Moore took the win over Brad Leighton and Dennis Doyle. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Seekonk under threatening skies but it didn't seem to bother Chris Kopec who took the win after taking the lead on lap 44 of the 150 lap event. Mike Stefanik had led from lap 15 to lap 43, pitted with handling problems and was never able to re-gain the lead. Charlie Pasteryak finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Mike Ewanitsko and John Blewett III. Based on a forecast of rainy weather, the Waterford management decided to pull the plug on the night’s races. Needless to say it never rained and many unhappy fans were on hand to express their opinions! At Riverhead, Wayne Anderson got his first win in ten years as he took the checker over Don Lia. In Winston Cup action at Sonoma, Tony Stewart took the win.

   Five years ago in 2006, the Thompson Speedway managed to beat the weather as they put round two of Thursday night Thunder in the history books. Jimmy Blewett put the Eddie Partridge No. 12 at the top of the heap as he took the win in the Sunoco (SK) Modified division. Bert Marvin showed a lot of strength and actually led during the mid portion of the event before he was sidelined with a broken wheel hub. Marvin indicated that the broken hub was a result of Blewett driving into him. Jeff Malave finished second with Tom Cravenho, third. Opening night winner Keith Rocco was taken out after a grinding crash with Ted Christopher. Christopher was driving for John Jensen. Todd Ceravolo also had a good run going until rubbing wheels with Tom Cravenho forced him to have a tire go down in the late stages. Ceravolo ended up 10th. For the second week in a row the defending champ Malave finished second ahead of Cravenho. Woody Pitkat finished fourth over Buddy Charette. Corey Hutchings won a close one over Steve Landry in the Late Models, which went the 50-lap distance. Other winners were Jeff Zuidema in the Pro Stocks, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman, Rick Blanchard in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larsen in the Thompson Modifieds.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to rain again. Because of an extremely wet spring only four events, including the Spring Sizzler had been run. Eric Berndt, with four top tens including one win sat in the SK Modified point lead. Berndt held a four-point lead over Woody Pitkat. Although winless Pitkat also had four top tens. Jeff Malave sat in a distant third spot, some 26 points behind Pitkat. Todd Owen and Bo Gunning rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jeff Baral, Lloyd Agor, Chris Jones, Frank Ruocco and Kenny Horton. Woody Pitkat, with three Late Model victories led the division. Jim Peterson and Ryan Posocco make up the top three. Bill Davis, with one win, was the Limited Late Model point leader and Shelly Perry was the SK Light point leader.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl the rain gods continued their wrath as an all day monsoon all but swamped the Speedbowl grounds. Dennis Gada had gone seven for seven in top 10 finishes. Despite the fact that victory lane had eluded him he sat in the lead of the SK Modified point standings. Gada held a 12 point lead over Chris Pasteryak Veteran Tommy Fox sat in third spot, 10 points behind Pasteryak. Rounding out the top five were the Monahan brothers, Diego and Shawn. Sixth through tenth were Jeffrey Paul, John Brouwer Jr., Rob Janovic, Rob Summers and Jeff Pearl. In the Late Model division, Jay Stuart with two wins held a 28 point edge over Tim Jordan. Danny Field, with four wins led David Silvia in the Mini Stock division by 30 points. In the Sportsman division, Dwane Dorr had six wins and held a commanding 50 point lead over Bill Gertch. Mark Bakaj was the Legends leader.

   It was announced that Whelen Modified Tour Series points leader Ted Christopher would be driving for the Al-Lee Installations team for balance of the 2006 season. Ed Whelan would field 2 cars for the balance of the year. Ted Christopher would run all the remaining races. Mike Andrews would drive a limited schedule consisting of the remaining short track races to gain experience at the tour level.

   Saturday night at the Holland International Speedway Bryon Chew scored his first NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series victory after six years of trying. Chew led only three laps of the Fuccillo Auto Park HUGE 150. Dueling side-by-side with leader Mike Johnson on a restart at lap 145, the Long Island driver finally claimed the lead for good on the white flag lap, winning by 0.221 seconds. Mike Olsen edged Tracy Gordon for third and closed to within 22 points of leader Sean Caisse, who placed eighth.

   In Nextel Cup action at Sonoma, CA Jeff Gordon ended a dry spell as he took his first win since October 2005 at Martinsville. Ryan Newman finished second with Terry Labonte, third. Paul Menard was the Busch Series winner at Milwaukee.

   Last year, 2010, The Thompson International Speedway Thursday night Thunder Series was cancelled because of rain and tornado warnings in the northeastern Connecticut area.

   The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was idle as teams made preparations for the first of two trips to Loudon, NH. Bobby Santos who had won an a record setting three out of four races led Mike Stefanik by 89 points. Although winless, Stefanik had been the model of consistency with four top fives. Todd Szegedy sits third, six points behind Stefanik. Ted Christopher the only other winner on the tour is 49 points out of third spot and 95 points in arrears of Santos. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Preece. Rookie Justin Bonsignore along with Jimmy Blewett, rookie Richie Pallai, Jr., Erick Rudolph and Ron Silk made up the top ten. Forty six different drivers had entered into tour competition so far.

   The Modified Racing Series was scheduled to appear at the Seekonk Speedway on Saturday June, 12. Rain forced cancellation with no rain date.

   In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series division racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway the 37th Annual Coors Light SK Modified® 100 was on tap. Keith Rocco defended his 100-lap victory from one year ago and scored his fourth win of the 2010 season, Ryan Posocco picked up his first win of the 2010 season and the 40th win of his Late Model career at Stafford in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Frank Cardile scored his second victory of 2010 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Dan Flannery scored his third win of 2010 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cory Casagrande picked up his second win of 2010 in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain.

   The Bowman-Gray Stadium, in Winston-Salem, NC avoided the rain that played havoc in the northeast. Lee Jeffreys started the first of twin 25's race in second place behind pole-sitter Terry Gaither, but quickly took the lead to pick up his second win of the season and 16th of his career. Jeffreys survived two late cautions and a hard-charging Gaither, and then drew No. 10 for the inverted-start second race. He was able to battle his way to the runner-up spot but couldn't muster a charge to pass leader and eventual winner Jonathan Brown. Burt Myers qualified 19th out of 20 cars in the first race and finished 14th. Myers finished fourth in the second 25 lapper.

   At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island it remained dry as four-time Modified champion Bill Park out dueled three-time and defending Modified champion John Fortin for the Modified feature win. Park took home his 31st career victory landing him in a five way tie for third on the track's all-time win list. Park is now tied with Wayne Anderson, Chris Young, Jack Reinhard and Tommy Washburn in career wins.
Denny Hamlin, his No. 11 Toyota becoming a distant spec on the horizon to the rest of the field late in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Michigan International Speedway, heard the caution call come over the radio and tried not to roll his eyes. He knows nobody wants to watch a driver lead by 10 seconds, as he was doing at the time. It makes for bad TV. And even though Hamlin didn't see any debris on the track when the yellow flag flew, he didn't exactly panic when his massive advantage was wiped out.

   "I understand this is show business," Hamlin said. Hamlin easily pulled away from Kasey Kahne on the restart with 14 laps remaining and rolled to his fifth victory of the season, dominating the 400-mile race.

   Joey Logano became the first Nationwide Series driver to win three consecutive races at the same track when starting from the pole as he held off Carl Edwards to win the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night.

   Les Richter, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection for the Los Angeles Rams who became a top NASCAR executive after retiring from the NFL, died. He was 79.

   His second career started as president of Riverside International Raceway in 1961. He joined NASCAR in 1983 and grew into an adviser to then-chairman Bill France Jr. Richter was named NASCAR's executive vice president of competition in 1986, and the senior vice president of operations in 1992.

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

Eddie Flemke                                          George Summers                                   Kenny Shoemaker   

Moe Gherzi                                                    Ray Miller                                               Rene Charland

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: June 24, 2011

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