The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


August 5, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 “Money Bags Moe” Gherzi was the Wednesday night winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The Speedbowl also ran on Saturday night where Dave Humphrey would take the 25 Lap Modified win. Ed McAvoy was the Claiming Car winner on both nights.

   Fifty five years ago in 1956 Gene White, who in later years reburnished fiberglass yachts at the Mystic River Marina, was the Wednesday night 25 lap Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. On Saturday night, Wild Bill Slater was the 50 lap Mid-Summer Championship. Tony Mordino and Ray LeGary were the Claiming Car winners.

   Fifty years ago in 1961, Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. At Old Bridge, NJ, Bill Slater took a 100 lap win. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Dick Beuregard was the Wednesday night Modified winner. Hank Stevens was the winner at the shoreline oval on Saturday night. Bomber winners at the Speedbowl were Fred Latham and Daring Dick Caso.

   Forty five years ago in 1966 Andy Romano scored a popular win at the Albany Saratoga Speedway on Friday night. Jerry Cook finished second with Bill Wimble, third. Wild Bill Slater and Pete Hamilton rounded out the top five. Pete Corey, who lived close to the Malta, NY oval, chose the dirt over the asphalt as he traveled to Stafford Springs where he won his third of the year on the dirt at the nutmeg oval.. Romano finished third to Irv Taylor and Lee Millington at Fonda on Saturday night. Doug McCarthy was the winner at Norwood on Saturday night. Charlie Webster was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Bunnell was the Bomber winner and Lou Caso was the Daredevil winner.Utica Rome ran a 100 lapper on Sunday night. Bill Wimble took the win over Rene Charland, Elton Hill, Jerry Cook and Eddie Flemke.

   Forty years ago in 1971, rain washed out racing at Malta and Thompson on Friday night, Stafford on Saturday night and the big open competition event scheduled for Pocono on Sunday. Fonda got their show in with Maynard Forette taking the win over Jack Johnson. Waterford also ran with Jerry Glaude taking the win over Walt Dombrowski. Fulton Raceway got their double program in with Richie Evans taking the 30-lap Modified win and Norm Mackereth winning in the Supermodifieds. At Utica-Rome on Sunday, Jerry Cook took the win over Fred DeSarro.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, Plainville ran an open show on Wednesday. Eddie Flemke, who lived close by and had not raced there in years, took the event. New Egypt ran on Thursday night with Jerry Cook taking the win over Wayne Anderson and Fred Harbach. Rain wiped out everything else with the exception of Islip and Waterford the rest of the weekend. Fred Harbach was the winner at the tight 1/5 mile Long Island oval as Bob Potter won a 100 lapper at the shoreline oval. Big Mike Daignault made it three in a row in the Grand American Late Models.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Thompson ran a 40 lap-300 qualifier on Wednesday night. Geoff Bodine in the Taylor No.99 led from pole to pole to win the non stop event. Ray Miller finished second with Ronnie Bouchard, Bugsy Stevens and George Summers rounding out the top five. Stafford ran a 100 lapper on Friday night with a crowd announced to be 10,200.Richie Evans didn't disappoint his many fans as he beat back all of his competition to take the win. Ray Miller, Ronnie Bouchard, an overheating Geoff Bodine and Greg Sacks rounded out the top five. Allen Whipple won at Monadnock and Jerry Cook beat out Doug Hewitt at Spencer. Rain washed out Waterford, Seekonk and Riverside. At Westboro, Joe Howard held off Gomer Taylor for the win and at Danbury, Don LaJoie took the Modified checkers and Randy LaJoie, the Sportsman checkers. Richie Evans closed out the weekend with a win at Thompson on Sunday night. Bob Polverari finished second with Leo Cleary, third. Jeff Fuller was the late model winner.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, Ray Miller, driving for Billy Simons, won the Thompson 300 qualifier at Stafford on Friday night. George Brunnhoelzl finished second and was followed by Mike McLaughlin. George Kent won at Spencer over Tony Jankowiac. Rain washed out Waterford and Riverside. Mike Ewanitsko beat out Chris Young and Wayne Anderson to win the Thompson 300 qualifier at Riverhead. Tony Jankowiac won the Race of Champions qualifier at Lancaster. Richie Gallup won twin features at Thompson on Sunday night. Jerry Pearl suffered serious injuries including a punctured lung when he spun and hit the infield wall.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, the Long Island Gang ruled at the Featherlite Modified Tour 201 at Riverhead on Wednesday night as Tiger Tom Baldwin and George Brunnhoelzl finished one-two. Mike Stefanik finished third with Jamie Tomaino, fourth. Racing at Stafford on Friday night was cancelled because of a tractor pull. The Mod Tour was at Richmond on Saturday night for a 200 lapper that saw Reggie Ruggiero take the top spot and the $18,000 first prize. Doug Hevron finished second with Tom Baldwin, third on the lead lap. Rounding out the top five were Mike Stefanik and Jan Leaty, one lap down. Jerry Marquis won at Riverside and Fred Harbach won at Riverhead while rain prevailed at Waterford.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Mike Christopher took the Friday night win at Stafford after giving leader Lloyd Agor a nudge out of the way, with two laps to go. Agor retaliated and gave Mikey a shot on the cool down lap and was fined $100 for his actions. Steve Chowanski finished second with Jim Broderick, third. Jeff Pearl beat out David Gada and Jerry Pearl at Waterford and it was Richie Gallup over Dan Avery at Riverside. Mike Ewanitsko went pole to pole to win the Charlie Jarzombek Memorial 76 lapper at Riverhead. Chuck Steuer finished second. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Thompson on Sunday. Steve Park, who finished 12th on Friday night in a Craftsman truck at Indianapolis Raceway Park, took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 82 of the 150 lap event and went on to record the win. Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Fuller, Tim Connolly and Tom Baldwin. Park also beat out Ted Christopher to win the SK type race. NASCAR's Winston Cup division had its first ever event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a record race purse of $4.7 million. Dale Jarrett passed Ernie Irvan with seven laps to go to take the win. It was also announced on this weekend that the all but bankrupt Race of Champions promoter Joe Gerber had sold the rights to the event to New York promoters Andrew Harpell and Alex Friesan.

   Ten years ago in 2001 Jim Broderick survived a wreck fest at Thompson on Thursday night and took the win over Bert Marvin and Chris Jones. Of the 27 cars that started the 30 lapper, only nine were running at the finish. Stafford rained out on Friday night. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series went to Riverhead on Saturday night for a 200 lapper. Mike Stefanik took the lead with four laps to go and held off Jerry Marquis for the win. Fred Vordermeir finished third with Mike Ewanitsko and John Blewett III rounding out the top five. A scheduled 100 lapper at Waterford was rained out. Kevin Harvick won the Grandnational 200 at the Indianapolis Raceway Park. Jeff Gordon won the Winston Cup Brickyard 400.

   Five years ago in 2006 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night. Forty-one Modifieds including 11 Riverhead regulars were on hand to try and grab one of the 28 starting spots that were available for the 200-lap contest. Ted Christopher was the top qualifier as he toured the ¼ mile oval in 12.027 seconds. Second fastest was Riverhead regular Ken Heagy.

   Tom Rogers, another local runner, qualified fifth and won the re-draw, which gave him the pole starting position. Rogers took the lead at the opening green and held it until lap 52 when Chuck Steuer, another Riverhead regular took the point. Meanwhile Christopher was methodically working his way to the front. Starting in eighth spot, the former Weekly Racing Champion broke into the top five on lap 20 and was in the top three by lap 53. Twelve laps later he was in the lead and never looked back. Chuck Hossfeld broke out of a season long slump as he finished second after starting seventh. Jerry Marquis started deep in the field in 18th spot and went on a determined march to the front, which rewarded him with a fourth place finish. Rounding out the top five was Mike Stefanik who came from provisional land, 24th starting spot. Sixth thru tenth were Mike Andrews, Chuck Steuer, Howie Brode, Todd Szegedy and Ed Flemke. Twelve caution periods for 85 laps kept
the average speed at 41.929 MPH. Most of the cautions were for minor spins, which come with the territory of a short track. Fifteen of the original 28 starters were in the lead lap at the finish. The next stop for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series is this Friday night at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

   The Thompson Speedway fought off temperatures nearing 100 degrees and threats of rain on Thursday night. The sultry night produced four first time winners. Tommy Cravenho thrilled the crowd with a last lap pass to score his first of ‘06 in the Sunoco Modifieds. Marc Palmisano dominated in the Late Model division to win his first of the year. Former Pro Stock champion Jeff Connors also made his first visit to Pro Stock victory lane on Thursday night. It was a career first for TIS Mod man Chad Hancock. Repeat winners included Larry Barnett of Ledyard, CT in the Limited Sportsman division while Shelly Perry made it two in a row in Mini Stock competition.

   In the Sunoco Modifieds Cravenho made a last lap pass to the inside of Jeff Malave to ice the victory. The excitement got started even before the drop of the green flag and did not stop until the checkered flag flew. A flat tire at the start for Keith Rocco sent the pack scattering and the caution flying. Back under green the duo on the move were Marvin and Malave. Marvin moved around polesitter Buddy Charette to take the lead on lap two while Malave motored into the second spot. Ricky Shawn held the third spot but quickly had the company of Todd Ceravolo and Tommy Cravenho. A bid for the lead by Malave was halted when a spin by Geoff Gernhard brought out the event’s second caution on lap five. On the restart, Malave jumped into the lead while second-place runner Marvin was sent spinning after contact with Todd Ceravolo. Malave looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the ensuing single file restart. Cravenho took over the second position when
Ceravolo got a touch out of shape in turn two. Cravenho quickly reeled in the leader Malave. Cravenho dove underneath Malave in a challenge for the lead on lap nine. Unable to make the pass stick he settled back in line. The lead duo began to get away form third place Ceravolo and a heated battle for the fourth spot between Woody Pitkat and Jimmy Blewett. The action cooled down when the caution flew for a spin by Earl Paulus. Malave was able to resume his place at the head of the pack with racing back under green. It only took a few laps for Cravenho to begin his chase for the lead. The battling inside the top-five between Ceravolo, Blewett, Piktat and Rocco was equally as exciting as that for the lead. A scary incident on lap 22 that involved Ricky Shawn, Gernhard and other slowed the action again. Back under green it was much of the same with Cravenho dogging Malave for the lead. Blewett had freed himself from Ceravolo, who now had his hands
full with Piktat. Up front, Cravenho tried countless moves on leader Malave to no avail.until the final lap. Cravenho put his Falmouth Ready Mix #31 to the bottom-side of the track entering turn four, motored down the front stretch with the lead and under the checkers with the win. Malave had to settle for the second position. Blewett, Ceravolo and Piktat rounded out the top five.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway returned to action on Friday night, with a NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series program consisting of its five weekly divisions. Stafford competitors followed the trend set at Thompson the previous night as there were three first time winners as John Blewett, III won the SK Modified feature, Ed Ricard won the Late Model feature, and Dan Flannery was the DARE Stock feature winner, while Chris Matthews and George Nocera were both repeat winners in the SK Light and Limited Late Model feature events.

   In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, John Blewett, III, driving the Eddie Partridge No. 12, picked up his first SK Modified feature win of the 2006 season. Kenny Horton took the lead from the pole and he led the first 23-laps of the race. But contact between Horton and Frank Ruocco while battling for the race lead sent both cars spinning and brought out the caution flag. This put Jeff Baral out front, but he was overtaken by Blewett on lap-29. Once into the lead, Blewett was never headed as he held off a hard charging Ted Christopher over the final laps to capture his first SK Modified feature win of the 2006 season. Christopher finished second, with Baral, Curt Brainard, and Woody Pitkat rounding out the top-5. Unofficial SK Modified® second place finisher Ted Christopher was disqualified from the official order of finish. Christopher's car was found to have an illegal flywheel, and thus he was disqualified from the official August 4, 2006 SK Modified®
finishing order. Unofficial SK Light Modified feature winner Chris Matthews was disqualified from the official order of finish. Matthews' car did not meet the minimum frame height requirements, and thus he was disqualified from the official August 4, 2006 SK Light Modified finishing order. Unofficial DARE Stock feature winner Dan Flannery and second place finisher Vince Gambacorta were disqualified from the official order of finish. Both Flannery's and Gambacorta's cars were found to have illegal rear suspension parts, and thus both drivers were disqualified from the official August 4, 2006 DARE Stock finishing order.

   Jeffrey Paul was all but born in the grandstand of the Waterford Speedbowl. His dad, Gary and his grandfather, Arthur have been sponsors there for years. Gary Paul worked on cars driven by Todd Ceravolo and at one point owned one of his championship cars. Jeff spent many a Saturday night watching his dad’s cars before moving up to a legend car after many successful years in a quarter midget. Last Saturday night Jeffrey Paul made a dream come true for himself along with his father and grandfather as he won his first SK Modified feature. Paul grabbed the lead at the start and then held off Tom Fox for 30 laps en route to his first-ever 35-lap SK-Modified feature Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. Only a restart with four laps to go in interrupted the 18-year olds ride. Fox moved into second on the green and stayed right there until the checkered flag. Tim Jordan won for the fifth time in the Late Models. Other winners included Joe Curioso III (Sportsman), Richard Brooks (Mini Stocks) and Mike Keeler (Midgets) Kevin Harvick led the final 117 laps Saturday night en route to his fifth Busch Series win of the season in the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Harvick overtook pole-sitter Denny Hamlin on lap 83 and never looked back. On the final restart on lap 188, he sped away from Reed Sorenson and cruised to the checkered flag. Jimmie Johnson ended a career of frustration at Indy on Sunday by winning a race, the Brickyard 400, that had derailed his championship hopes the past two seasons.

   Last year, 2010, Seekonk Speedway's 6th Annual Open Wheel Wednesday finally made it into the history books with Todd Annarummo taking the win and the $10,000 first place money that went with it. Annarummo started third in the 25-car starting field and took the lead from Steve Masse on lap 86. Good weather and an excellent crowd descended on the Seekonk Mass oval that is known as the Cement Palace. Masse ended up second with early leader Jon McKennedy, third. Jimmy Kuhn and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Ryan Preece, Rowan Pennink, Max Zachem and Louie Mechalides.

   In other Wednesday night racing action, Rick Ceravolo was the winner of the X-Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl.

   The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series made their annual trek to the 1/4 mile Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Considered a "Flash type race" the event carried a purse of $53,631. In addition, $11,500 was donated to be used as bonus money to the event. There were 32 cars on hand. George Brunnhoelzl III was the pole sitter as he toured the quarter mile oval in 11.81 sec. Second fastest was Justin Bonsignore with an 11.86. Ryan Preece, Howie Brode and Kevin Goodale rounded out the top five. James Civali won the 25 lap qualifying race. He was followed across the line by Tony Ferrante Jr., Frank Vigliarolo Jr., Jamie Tomaino, Chuck Hossfeld, Dave Brigati and Glenn Tyler. Those seven rounded out the 28 car starting positions.

   It was a long time coming as Rowan Pennink held off Ryan Preece in a late-race duel to claim the checkered flag in the Riverhead 200 and his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory Saturday night. The 24-year-old Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver was making his 51st career start. He took the lead from Riverhead resident Kevin Goodale with 40 laps to go and weathered restarts on two ensuing cautions to bring home the win.

   Preece, who suffered a mid-race spin, came back through the field to finish second. He was followed in the top five by Ron Silk, Mike Stefanik and George Brunnhoelzl III. Eric Beers, Eric Goodale, Jamie Tomaino, points leader Bobby Santos and Erick Rudolph rounded out the top 10. Brunnhoelzl led a race-high 57 laps. Kevin Goodale led 51 circuits, his first laps led since June 2008, but suffered a late-race spin and finished one lap down in 15th.

   With another top-10 finish, Santos was able to grow his lead in the season standings to 67 points on Ted Christopher, who finished the race 12th.

   There were 14 of the original 28 starters on the lead lap at the finish. Nine caution periods slowed the event, which took 58 minutes to run.
It had not been confirmed but word from the Southland indicated that the Whelen Modified Tour Series would not return to the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia in 2011.

   The Thompson International Speedway continued to provide intense competition. Ted Christopher continued to be the King Fish as he made it seven out of 11 in the Sunoco (SK type) racing. Keith Rocco, who has been shutout since his last win on May 27, did not compete as he has a difference of opinion with track officials over tire rules.

   A special night for the Mini Stocks found Chris McKinstry victorious in the Mini Stock Northern Challenge. McKinstry also scored the top honors in the Northeastern Mini Stock Touring season portion of the Challenge. Thomspon’s own Jeff Moffat also shared the limelight. A mid-season drought ended for Derek Ramstrom with a Super Late Model victory on Thursday night. Tommy O’Sullivan returned to his winning ways in the Late Models scoring his third win of the 2010 season. It is a handful of wins for Shawn Monahan who posted his fifth in the Limited Sportsman division win at Thompson. In open-wheel action, R.J. Marcotte streaked to his second straight TIS Modified victory.

   For the record, of the 220 victories that Christopher had recorded in Connecticut, 76 of them were at the Thompson Speedway.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway played host to the 7th Annual CARQUEST SK 150. Frank Ruocco had two early spins, but came storming back through the field to take his second consecutive victory in the extra distance classic. Woody Pitkat took his fifth victory of the 2010 season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Barrett, Jr. picked up his third consecutive and fifth win of the 2010 season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Rob Dow scored his second consecutive victory in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature event, and Jeff Jolly and Josh Wood were the winners of the 15-lap DARE Stock feature events.

   The SK Modified 150 wasn't settled until the final moments. With 10 laps to go it was Ruocco out front with Ryan Preece giving Ruocco all he could handle in a duel for the lead. Ruocco and Preece's duel allowed Keith Rocco and Jeff Bararl to close in and make it a four-car fight to the finish. Preece lined up one final charge to the outside of Ruocco on the final lap, but he couldn't muster enough momentum to get by and Ruocco scored his second consecutive CARQUEST SK 150 feature victory. Rounding out the top-5 behind Ruocco and Preece was Rocco, Baral, and Pitkat. Early contenders Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher finished 15th and 16th respectively.

   Among the missing was Dillon Moltz who made his debut in the ARCA cars at the Pocono Raceway. Moltz, a resident of Waterford and a front runner in the Stafford Late Model division, earned his chance to compete in the event after winning the inaugural Richard Petty's Driver Search in April.

   Moltz started 16th and finished 20th in the event, which was won by Robb Brent of Shelby Township, Mich.

   In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco ended a long dry spell as he outdueled Todd Ceravolo in a thrilling SK Modified® finish while Jeff Paul captured his first career Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model checkered flag. Walt Hovey was a winner in the Street Stocks, with Louis Bellisle taking the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock race. James Logan was the winner of the visiting Allison Legacy Series event.

   Ceravolo slipped in turn one of the final lap to the outside of Rocco, enabling Rocco to go on to the checkered flag. Doug Coby steered through all the action over the final laps to score second, with Ron Yuhas coming back for third. Ceravolo ended up fourth with Tyler Chadwick fifth.

   The Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem North Carolina was quiet as rain put a damper on the scheduled night of racing at the track known as the MadHouse. Burt Myers who is seeking his fourth stadium championship, registered his fifth victory of the season two weeks ago, will carry a substantial 61-point lead in season standings into next Saturday night's two 25-lap races for the featured Modified.

   Tommy Ellis, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion (1981 and 1988) was sentenced to 18 months in prison for tax evasion and money laundering. The 63-year-old Richmond, Va., native pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson of Richmond. The judge also sentenced Ellis’s wife, Brenda, to 12 months for her role.

   According to reports and court documents, the Ellises kept two sets of books for their car-wash business. They paid taxes on part of their income and were caught when they brought out a second set of books while trying to sell the business to an undercover Internal Revenue Service agent.

   The government charged them with understating their income by $386,397 between 2003 and 2007 and with underpaying their taxes by $133,163 over those years. In addition to prison time, the couple was ordered to repay $133,000 in back taxes and interest.

   With Jack Roush recovering from injuries received in a plane crash, Greg Biffle raced to victory in an often-delayed Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday to snap a 64-race winless streak and take the checkered flag for his injured team owner. Kyle Busch raced to his sixth victory in his last seven Nationwide starts and ninth in 17 events this season Saturday night, leading 209 of 250 laps in a dominating run at Iowa Speedway.

   That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

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

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: August 5, 2011

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