The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


August 19, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 Steady Eddie Flemke Sr, who would become a Modified Legend in his own time, was the Wednesday night winner at what was then called the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Moneybags Moe Gherzi, who drove the Garutti Brothers No. 14 was the Saturday night winner at the shoreline oval.

   Fifty five years ago in 1956 Don Collins was a double winner as he annexed victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Wednesday and on Saturday. Non-Ford winners at the bowl were Arnie Harris and Charlie Webster.

   Fifty years ago in 1961, Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. He backed it up with by winning the mid-season championship at Norwood on Saturday night over Red Foote, Bill Slater, Leo Cleary and Joe McNulty. It was also in this night that young Dick Berggren won the Novice division consolation. Joe McNulty of Gales Ferry, CT became the fourth different driver from New England to win a feature at the Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey. McNulty, who just beat out Bill Slater, Red Foote, Ernie Gahan and Dennis Zimmerman, took the lead in the 25 lap event on lap one from Ron Narducci. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Newt Palm was the Wednesday night winner and Dick Beuregard took top honors on Saturday night.

   Forty five years ago in 1966, Bill Wimble went two for two as he won the Friday night 30 lapper at the Albany- Saratoga Speedway and followed it up with a 111 lap win at Fonda on Saturday night. Don MacTavish finished second on Friday night and was followed by Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton and Elton Hill. Pete Corey made it three in a row on the dirt at Stafford. Lee Millington finished second at Fonda with Charland, third. Don Collins was still at the top of his game as he won the 30 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Jerry Glaude was the Bomber winner and Howard "Jiggs" Beetham, who in later years would team up as a car owner with Bob Potter, was the Daredevil winner. The annual North-South battle at what was then a one mile speedway in Trenton, NJ was on tap for Sunday. The event started 60 cars and was won by Ray Hendrick driving the Tant/Mitchell No.11. Fellow Virginian Bill Dennis finished second with Runt Harris, third. Jerry Dostie and Mario “Fats” Caruso rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Al Tasnady, Jim Hays, Pete Hamilton, Tiny Lund and Bugsy Stevens. Sunday night racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway rained out.

   Forty years ago in 1971, Fred DeSarro and the Ole Blu of Len Boehler were on a tear as they did some serious traveling and some serious winning. The All Star League ran a 100 lapper at Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vt. DeSarro took the win over Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook, Bugsy Stevens and Andy Romano. All Star League regular, Ron Narducci took a wild end over end off turn three. Narducci sustained back injuries and his car was demolished. The All Star League moved to Stafford on Thursday where it was DeSarro again. Gene Bergin finished second and was followed by Hop Harrington and Leo Cleary. DeSarro continued his streak at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway where he took on the best of New York and New England. Running on a rail, DeSarro made it three for three. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Dick Clark and Guy Chartrand. Don MacClaren made it five in a row in NESMRA competition at Thompson on Friday night. Gene Bergin, in the all-new Bobby Judkins Pinto bodied No. 2x that had just been declared legal by NASCAR, was the spoiler as he had the car to beat at Stafford on Saturday night. DeSarro had to settle for second with Hop Harrington, Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Santos rounding out the top five. Don Steiner won at Waterford over Jerry Glaude and Terry Peabody. In other Saturday night action, Lou Lazzaro took the double point win at Fonda over Maynard Forette and Jerry Cook. DeSarro made it four out of five as he won the Utica-Rome 100 on Sunday night. The Bugman finished second and was followed by Lazzaro and Cook. Richie Evans was the Modified winner at the Fulton Raceway. Merv Treichler finished second. Ken Andrews made it two in a row in Supermodified action at Fulton. Nolan Swift finished second. Also on Sunday, Gene Bergin, in the Judkins Pinto, won a 100 lap open at Oxford Plains. Rene Charland finished second with Bobby Turner, third.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, the Yankee All Star League was at Waterford where Fred DeSarro took the win. Richie Evans won a 100-lap Trenton qualifier at New Egypt. Wayne Anderson finished second. Friday night at Riverhead saw Charlie Jarzombek make it three in a row at the Long Island east end speedway. Wayne Anderson finished second with Fred Harbach, third. At Monadnock, Punky Caron was again, the top dog. On Saturday night at Stafford, Geoff Bodine made it two in a row. DeSarro finished second and was followed by Flemke and Brian Ross. Other Saturday winners were Tom McCann at Islip, Mike Beebe at Waterford, Roland LaPierre at Westboro and Ed Hoyle at Seekonk. Ronnie Bouchard streaked home the winner at Thompson on Sunday as Geoff Bodine got a little on-track education from Ed Flemke. With both cars out because of a wreck and DeSarro in the pits with a blown engine. Bob Santos ended up second and was followed by Gene Bergin, Moose Hewitt and Keith Williams.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Modified Madness, an open competition event, was run at Stafford on Tuesday night. Fifty-seven Modifieds and almost 7000 spectators were on hand to watch as Ronnie Bouchard in the Len Boehler No.3 beat the best in the business in this 50 lap contest. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Corky Cookman and Jerry Cook. Back at Stafford on Friday, Brian Ross put the Mystic Missile in the top spot. Evans followed along with Reggie Ruggiero and Corky Cookman. Other Friday night winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, John Blewett Jr. and Punky Caron won his 46th at Monadnock. Joe Howard won the Thompson 300 qualifier at Westboro and it was Eddie StAngelo taking the top spot at Seekonk. Joe Tiezzi beat out Moose Hewitt at Waterford and at Riverside, Stan Gregger and Ray Miller each scored wins. Double features were also on tap at Islip where Charlie Jarzombek and Wayne Anderson each scored wins. Fred Drumm took the Sportsman main at Danbury while Rit Patchen was the Modified winner.

   Twenty-five years ago in 1986, Reggie Ruggiero, driving for Mike Greci, won the Manchester Oil Heat 100 at Stafford on Friday night. Jamie Tomaino finished second with Mike Stefanik, third. Waterford ran twin features with Bob Potter and Bob Gada jr taking the checkers. Kenny Bouchard beat out Stan Gregger at Riverside and at Riverhead; John Blewett jr took a 200 lap win over Mike Ewanitsko. Sunday racing at Thompson rained out.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Waterford ran a Wednesday night program with Ted Christopher in the North End Auto Parts No.54 taking the win. At Stafford on Friday night, Mike Christopher got a well-deserved win over Tom Tagg and Bob Potter. Seasoned veteran Moose Hewitt took the regular Saturday night win at Waterford and at Riverside Park; Reggie Ruggiero scored his seventh of the year over Rick Fuller. On the Island at Riverhead, Ed Brunnhoelzl won out over Tom Baldwin and Wayne Anderson. Thompson ran twin features on Sunday night which saw Richie Gallup and Mike Christopher. It was also on this weekend that Race of Champions promoter Joe Gerber announced that the ROC would be moving from Pocono Raceway to the Flemington Speedway after that year’s event. Little did many know that it was the beginning of the end of the historic event, the way it was! In Winston Cup action, Dale Jarrett, driving for the Wood Brothers scored his first Winston Cup win in a photo finish over Davey Allison at Michigan. On Monday, August 19, Hurricane Bob moved thru New England and did considerable damage to the main grandstand at the Thompson Speedway.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Todd Ceravolo took a Thursday night win at Waterford when Don Fowler spun with two laps to go. Jim Broderick finished second with Tucker Reynolds Jr, third. Bo Gunning beat out Ted Christopher at Stafford on Friday night but the big news was that the Arute Family announced that the season ending Fall Final would be telecast by ESPN-2. Dennis Gada went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night as he beat out Scott Spaulding, Don Fowler and Jeff Pearl. Fowler was later disqualified. Tom McCann won at Riverhead and Reggie Ruggiero got his sixth win at Riverside. At Fonda, Jack Johnson took the win over Dave Lape and wrapped up his eleventh track championship. The Featherlite Modifieds shared the billing with the IRL at Loudon and had their event cut from 75 laps to 61 laps because of a scheduled TV start time for the IRL event. Tony Hirschman took the lead from Jan Leaty and scored a big win for car owner Len Boehler. Leaty finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Steve Park and Jerry Marquis. The Loudon event drew 24,000, many of those being Modified fans. The speedway management knew this and announced that the IRL would not be back. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Dale Jarrett passed Mark Martin with two to go to take the win. Jeff Purvis was the Busch Grandnational winner. In Busch North Series action at the Star Speedway, Jerry Marquis took the win.

   Ten years ago in 2001 the Thompson Speedway ran their annual Thursday night NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series event. With over $65,000 on the line, a full pit of 40 Modifieds and over 8,000 spectators was on hand. John Blewett III seemed to have things under control as he took the lead on lap 101 and was headed for victory when Tom Cravenho went in too hard and got Blewett wiggly enough to allow Tony Hirschman to duck under and go on for the win. Blewett recovered to finish second. Ricky Miller, Rick Fuller and Chris Kopec rounded out the top five. Cravenho ended up 13th. In SK-Modified action at Thompson, Ted Christopher continued his domination of the division as he recorded his ninth win. Bert Marvin finished second with Kerry Malone, third. Christopher carried his winning ways over to Stafford on Friday night where he won a 40 lapper over Frank Wainwrite and Lloyd Agor. Ronnie Silk scored an upset at Waterford as he beat out Dennis Gada for a 100-lap win and at Riverhead, Eddie Brunnhoelzl JR picked up his 21st career win at the Long Island oval. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Sterling Marlin got the win in a Chrysler product. It was the first win for the auto giant since 1979. The long awaited NASCAR report on the death of Dale Earnhardt finally went public. NASCAR’s determination was that the broken seat belt was a factor as well as the angle of the collision and the force of impact with the turn four wall at the Daytona Speedway. Bill Simpson of Simpson Safety Products stated that the reason the belt broke was due to the fact that they were not properly installed.

   Five years ago in 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night for the New England Dodge Dealers/Budweiser 150. Ted Christopher, who started 20th ended up an unpopular winner as he was given the Bronx Cheer in victory lane. Christopher, who along with John Blewett III staged a torrid side by side duel for the lead from lap 131 to lap 140. Christopher had just exited turn two when he made contact with Blewett, sending him into the wall. Christopher said he didn’t mean for it to happen, Blewett and the almost capacity crowd felt different as they voiced their disapproval. NASCAR Tour director Ed Cox felt it was a racing accident and took no action. Blewett actually chased Christopher on foot to no avail. Had he caught him would have made for a different scenario. A few years back at Stafford, Blewett went after Carl Pasteryak and actually jumped aboard his car and began ripping at wires until the car shut off. Once the wrecked car of Blewett was removed Christopher ran the final three laps uncontested. Tony Hirschman, who was the Busch Pole sitter, ended up second with Zach Sylvester, third. Tom Bolles and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Mike Stefanik, Ed Flemke, Ron Yuhas, Don Lia and Jerry Marquis.

   There were 38 cars on hand. Among those who didn’t make the 33 car starting field was Reggie Ruggiero who was the victim of motor trouble as his crankshaft broke during practice. Alex Hoag also had motor trouble while Kevin Goodale hit the wall. Eric Berndt and Jake Marosz failed to make it on time. Pole sitter Hirschman led the opening laps which turned into a high speed freight train. Hirschman led for 45 laps before giving way to Mike Stefanik. A caution period on lap 30 saw John Blewett III pitting for a tire. Stefanik led until lap 82 when he pitted during a caution that came out when James Civali rode over Eric Beers’ wheel. Beers expressed his displeasure of Civali’s driving while Blewett pitted again for two more tires. A quick stop enabled Blewett to get a good spot for the restart as he was able to tale the lead from Steve Whitt on lap 98. From then until the Blewett wreck the racing was at a fever pitch.

   In regular weekly racing action Glen Boss took the win in the TIS Modifieds, Shelly Perry won her fifth Mini Stock feature, Jeff Zuidema took the Late Model main and Mike O’Sullivan won a squeaker in the Pro Stock feature. Larry Barnet was the Limited Sportsman winner and Jimmy Blewett gave a pay back body slam to Keith Rocco as he took the Sunoco Modified feature.

   The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway started their week on Tuesday night. Billed as CARQUEST Presents the Big One, drivers had a chance to make history with the largest Northeastern payout ever offered with the Valvoline $50,000 challenge. If a driver could win both the 30-lap Midget race and then start last and win the 100 lap PRA Big Car Series race, then that driver would leave Stafford Speedway with a $50,000 bonus provided by Valvoline, CARQUEST Auto Parts, and Stafford Motor Speedway. Bobby Santos, III first won the 30-lap midget feature event, and then went out and won the 100-lap PRA Big Car Series race after starting shotgun on the field to leave Stafford $50,000 richer. Santos, a third generation racer is home grown from Franklin, Mass.

   Stafford Speedway returned to action on Friday night with five NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series feature divisions all in action. In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Woody Pitkat collected his second SK Modified feature win of the 2006 season by holding off a determined challenge from Frank Ruocco. Lloyd Agor led the first lap with Kurt Lenahan taking the lead on lap-2. Lenahan held the lead until lap-5 when Pitkat moved out front. Ruocco took second from Lenahan on lap-7, and he spent the next 33 laps glued to Pitkat' s bumper, looking for a weak point to use to his advantage and overtake Pitkat for the race lead. But that weak point was never exhibited to Ruocco as Pitkat was able to fend him off for the victory. Chris Jones finished third, with Jeff Malave, and Eric Berndt rounding out the top-5. Jim Peterson continued his winning ways with his second consecutive Late Model feature win, Glen Reen was a first time winner in the SK Light Modified feature while Mike Sweeney was also a first time winner in the Limited Late Model feature, and Jeff Hubbell was the DARE Stock feature winner, his first feature win of the 2006 season.

   The NASCAR Busch East, formerly Busch North Series, was at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Matt Kobyluck treated the home folks with a victory after a paint swapping deal that saw Sean Caisse brush the wall. Bryan Chew ended up in second spot in a race that finished up in the rain. Earlier in the evening Jeff Pearl beat Chris Pasteryak on a green-white-checkered restart and held on to capture his third Waterford Speedbowl 35-lap SK-Modified feature of the season. Pasteryak, who stated he missed a shift fell to third as Shawn Monahan slipped into the second spot. Tommy Fox and Diego Monahan rounded out the top five. Jeff Miller won the 20-lap Mini Stock race. Rain ended the Late Model feature after nine laps.

   At the Michigan Int. Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to push his way past Carl Edwards on a restart with two laps to go en route to winning Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series CARFAX 250. The incident created a firestorm of controversy that included Edwards pulling in front of Earnhardt's pit area for a heated verbal exchange with Earnhardt's crew. Edwards then pulled back onto the track to ram into the side of Earnhardt's Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the cool-down lap. In Nextel Cup action, Matt Kenseth easily kept four-time NASCAR champion Gordon at bay in the final laps of the GFS Marketplace 400 by conscientiously taking care of his tires after his final pit stop.

   Last year, 2010 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night for the running of the Budweiser 150. Ted Christopher literally cleaned house as he totally dominated the 150 after winning the track's regular Modified feature. The big story of the night should have been Christopher's outstanding drive but that was overshadowed by the story in the Hartford Current that stated that speedway owner Don Hoenig would have to move his August Thursday night date to another week because the Whelen Modified Tour Series was going to be included in the 2011 schedule at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon. The IZOD IndyCar Series would return to Loudon after a 13-year absence on August 14 of 2011. It didn't sound like a big deal but it really was because of the fact that the Thompson Speedway had supported the NASCAR Modified Tour series since its inception in 1985. NASCAR, who's only loyalty is to the dollar, could care less about Hoenig's loyalty. Those who are employed by "The Company", as NASCAR is called by its employees, will tell you off the record that the organization is run like a mafia. Its there way or else! It would be interesting to see what would NASCAR's reaction be if Hoenig dropped the entire tour from his schedule in 2011.

   A somewhat slim field of 29 Modifieds were on hand for the event that carried a purse of $83,764. Christopher was the Busch Pole sitter as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.624seconds. Second fastest was Rowan Pennink. The redraw saw Justin Bonsignore on the pole for the start with Christopher, outside. At the drop of the green, in a hail of fireworks, Christopher had the lead by the time the field exited turn two. Setting a blistering pace, Christopher led the field from the start and only relinquished the lead twice during the Budweiser King of Beers 150 as he went on to record his 37th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Bobby Santos took the lead after Christopher pitted for three tires under caution on Lap 95, however, it only took Christopher 10 laps to get back in front after the restart on Lap 101. Santos finished the race in third place.

   Christopher was clearly the class of the field building leads by as much as four seconds before losing his advantage after the fourth and final caution flag of the race flew on Lap 149 after Erick Rudolph’s problems set up the final sprint to the finish. Ronnie Silk, who moved into the second spot in the closing moments, ended up in second spot with Santos, third. Following Santos across the line was Rowan Pennink and Mike Stefanik who rounded out the top five. Todd Szegedy, Chuck Hossfeld, Doug Coby, Eric Goodale and Glen Reen rounded out the top 10.

   It was Christopher’s 10th Whelen Modified Tour win at Thompson, and his fourth in the Tour’s last six races at the .625-mile oval. The Plainville, Conn., driver led 141 of the 156 laps. With the win, Christopher took the championship points lead from Santos, who had led through the first nine races. Christopher’s three wins and six top-fives have forged a 14-point lead over Santos with Mike Stefanik in third, 85 points back.

   The Thompson International Speedway also ran its regular six divisions. In addition to his Whelen Modified Tour Series victory Christopher scored a thrilling victory in the Sunoco Modified feature. Fellow Whelen Modified Tour double-duty driver Mike Stefanik turned in a dominating performance to earn the Super Late Model victory. In other NASCAR Whelen All-America Series action, Mark Oliveira was victorious in an eventful Late Model feature. Scott Sundeen took down his first Limited Sportsman win of the 2010 season. R.J. Marcotte continued to roll in the TIS Modifieds. Dwayne Dorr posted his second Mini Stock win.

   Christopher and Woody Pitkat slugged it out until the final lap when Christopher was able to forge ahead for the lead and ultimate victory, his 77th at the Northeastern Connecticut oval.

   Double SK Modified features at the Stafford Motor Speedway helped Keith Rocco get a little closer to his dream of becoming the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion. The championship is based on a driver's best 18 finishes. Rocco's win was the 17th that counted toward the title. Frank Ruocco and Keith Rocco were the winners of the twin 40-lap SK Modified® feature events, Corey Hutchings won the 30-lap Late Model feature, Matt Galko won the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Shawn Thibeault won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Andrew Hayes was the winner of the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   Ruocco led the field around to the white flag and he held off both Woody Pitkat and Ryan Preece to take the victory, his fourth win of the 2010 season. Rocco finished 7th in the first race. In the second 40 lapper, Rocco rode behind Ted Christopher until the final lap of the race when he made a move to the inside of Christopher in turn 1. The two cars ran wheel to wheel down the backstretch and when they hit turn 3, Rocco surged ahead of Christopher and came off turn 4 with the race lead and his 8th victory of the 2010 season. Christopher finished second, with Preece, Todd Owen, and Zach Sylvester rounding out the top-5.

   In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco lived out his dream as he became the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion as a result of his convincing win. Rocco started from the No. 12 position and had moved into the fourth position by lap 11. He took over the second spot by lap 26, then tracked down race leader Tom Abele, where he finally passed him down low on the backstretch of lap 29 to take the lead.

   The second generation racer survived one final restart to win the race as Kyle James snuck past Abele to finish second. Abele wound up third, Rob Janovic fourth and Tyler Chadwick fifth.

   In other Speedbowl action, Chris Deritis of Philadelphia, PA won the 25-lap NEMA Midget race and Rowley, MA native Chris Perley took the checkered flag in a 50-lap race for the visiting IMSA Supermodifieds. In the 100-lap Modified Racing Series event, Stephen Masse of Bellingham, MA dominated to take his third career win and first in the Series at Waterford. Ted Christopher finished second and was followed by Doug Coby,. Rowan Pennink and Jon McKennedy, Christopher told the Hartford Currant on Sunday that he had been disqualified.

   The Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem North Carolina ran twin 25's for their Modifieds. Recording wins were Tim Brown and Brad Robbins. Burt Myers recorded a 7th and a 6th.

   John Beatty Jr recorded his first ever Modified win at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

   Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Brad Keselowski managed to make it through pit stops despite mechanical problems, then grabbed the lead on a restart with eight laps to go and pulled away to win the NASCAR Nationwide race. .

   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.

This week are several vintage racing photos
Courtesy of & Dave Dyke's

Click on Photo for Full Sized

Joe McNulty                              Moe Gherzi, Richie & Ray Garuti                           Charlie Webster  

     Arnie Harris                                              Eddie Flemke Sr.                                    Denny Zimmerman

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: August 19, 2011

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