The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


September 2, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 Moe Gherzi made it three in a row at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won the 25 lap Modified feature on Wednesday night. Dick Dixon was the Claiming Car winner. Red Bolduc was the Saturday night Modified winner.

   Fifty five years ago in 1956, Wild Bill Slater in the Baldy Simonds No.11 scored the Wednesday night Modified win at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Don Collins was the Saturday night winner at the shoreline oval. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty years ago in 1961 Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. At Norwood, Red Foote beat out Rene Charland to win the Minuteman 400. Ernie Gahan finished third with Eddie Flemke, fourth. Ted Stack was the Modified winner at Waterford.

   Forty-five years ago in 1966 the Albany Saratoga Speedway ran a 200-lap event with Bill Wimble outlasting Eddie Flemke for the win. Bill Slater finished third with Robbie Kotary, fourth. Fonda was still closed for a Fair and at Utica-Rome; their annual 400 was washed out. Maynard Forette was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Bob Potter won a 30 lapper at Waterford. Glynn Shafer made it two in a row in the Bombers. On Labor Day Waterford ran a 45 lap Modified Special event that was won by Bill Scrivener. Also on Labor Day, Norwood ran the Bardhal 400 which were in reality twin 200s. Sharing the winners circle after they recorded wins were Johnny Thompson and Bugs Stevens.

   Forty years ago in 1971, Labor Day weekend meant big money, extra distance races. The action started at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY on Friday night with a 250 lapper for the Modifieds. Max Berrier, one of the hot dogs from North Carolina, made one of his infrequent trips north pay off as he stole the show from the regulars. Fifty-five Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the 30 starting spots. Guy Chartrand, in the Hemi-Cuda of Ed Cloce, was the pole sitter with Leo Cleary in the Mystic Missile on the outside. Berrier started seventh and wore the competition down to record the win. Eddie Flemke, in the Art Barry No.09, finished second and was followed by Bernie Miller, Andy Romano, Denis Giroux, Richie Evans, Hop Harrington and Fred DeSarro. Stafford ran a 30 lap, double point event on Saturday night. Leo Cleary, now on home turf, took the win over Jerry Cook, Bugsy Stevens, Bernie Miller and Bob Santos. At Waterford Bob Potter won a 50 lap Modified event on Saturday and Daring Dick Caso won a 75 lapper on Labor Day. The action shifted to Utica-Rome on Sunday night where Richie Evans won the New Yorker 400 over Fred DeSarro, Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Lou Lazzaro. Modified history was made on Monday at Stafford when Gene Bergin in the Bobby Judkins Pinto bodied 2x broke the track qualifying record and became the first Modified to turn the half-mile speedway in the 20.00 second bracket. Due to the efforts of Stafford owner Jack Arute, the Pinto body was made legal for Modified competition and would be the beginning of the end of pre-war coupes used as bodies for Modifieds. Bergin cruised to a convincing win over Fred DeSarro, Max Berrier, Bugs Stevens and Eddie Flemke. Fulton Raceway also ran on Saturday and Monday. Bob Sweeny won the Saturday 30 lapper over Neil Trusedale and Sonny Seamon. Monday’s Labor Day 100 saw Geoff Bodine take the win over Richie Evans, Lou Lazzaro and Merv Treichler.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1976, Ed Yerrington, the new promoter at Stafford, was looking for a way to boost attendance at the Stafford Speedway. He scheduled a mid week open competition event and named it Modified Madness. To make this event different, Yerrington allowed all females, accompanied by a male, free admission. The result was one of the biggest crowds ever seen for a mid-week event as the attendance was in excess of 10,000, at the Stafford oval. Richie Evans borrowed a wing off the Super of Nolan Swift and took home the win. Maynard Troyer finished second with Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens rounding out the top four. Riverhead ran a 200 lapper on Friday night with Charlie Jarzombek taking the win over Fred Harbach, Wayne Anderson and Jerry Cook. At Monadnock, Mike Weeden took the feature but it was Punky Caron who won the track championship. Saturday night saw the running of the annual Oswego Modified 200. Maynard Troyer took the big win over southern invader Paul Radford. Roger Treichler finished third. At Islip, Wayne Anderson was the big winner with Jerry Cook, second. Pete Fiandaca won at Riverside and it was Dave Dias at Seekonk. Geoff Bodine made it two in a row at Thompson on Sunday night as once again, Fred DeSarro had to settle for second. John Rosati, Ray Miller and Jerry Pearl rounded out the top five. Stafford ran their annual 200 on Monday. Bodine carried his winning ways over from Thompson to make it two for two. Jim Spencer finished second and was followed by Tom Baldwin, Richie Evans and Satch Worley.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Stafford ran the Labor Day weekend 200 on Friday night. Close to 7500 saw Richie Evans take the win over Reggie Ruggiero, Ray Miller, Corky Cookman and Bugsy Stevens. Waterford ran a 100 lapper, which saw Bob Potter start on the outside pole and lead all the way to take the win over Jerry Pearl, Moose Hewitt and Dave Webber. Geoff Bodine came north to drive the Taylor No.99 to a convincing win in the Oswego 200. Satch Worley finished second with Ray Miller, third. Randy LaJoie returned to victory lane in the Sportsman division at Danbury. Gino Spada was the Modifoed winner. At Thompson on Sunday night, Reggie Ruggiero took the win over Joe Howard and Corky Cookman. Other weekend winners were Punky Caron at Monadnock, Bugsy Stevens at Seekonk, George Wagner at Islip, Stan Gregger at Riverside and Jeff Fuller at Westboro. Doug Hevron won the Oswego Supermodified Classic.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, the Labor Day weekend started on Wednesday when the NASCAR Modified Tour visited the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island for a 200 lapper. Tiger Tom Baldwin took the win over Jim Spencer, Bill Park and Brian Ross. On Friday night, George Brunnhoelzl Jr was dialed in as he took the top spot at Stafford. Kenny Bouchard finished second. Waterford ran a 75 lapper on Saturday night with Rick Donnelly taking the win over Harry Rice and Mark LaJunesse. George Kent used a bit of cunning to win the Oswego Modified 200.Kent used an early pit stop to his advantage as he was able to pass most of the competition while they pitted later. For his efforts, he pocketed $17,535. Brian Ross finished second and was followed by Mike McLaughlin and Jan Leaty. Jerry Marquis won at Riverside while Steve Park and John Blewett Jr won twin features at Riverhead. Stafford closed out the weekend with their annual 200 on Labor Day. Proving his Friday night win was no fluke, George Brunnhoelzl Jr. took the win over Brian Ross, Kenny Bouchard and John Rosati. Bentley Warren won the Oswego Supermodified Classic and in Winston Cup action at Darlington, Tim Richmond took both the pole and the win.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Bob Potter won the SK modified feature at Stafford and wrapped up the track championship. Steve Chowanski had been a contender but found himself sitting on the sidelines after he was thrown out of the event after wrecking Bo Gunning. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Saturday night with Ted Christopher taking the win in the Ronnie Berndt No.54.Don Fowler finished second with Jim Broderick, third. Bob Potter's luck at the shoreline oval continued to be bad as he wrecked the Ceravolo family modified for the seventh time. Jeff Fuller took the $20,000 to win Oswego Modified 200 after his brother Rick, in the Fiore 44 lost an engine while leading with two laps to go. George Kent finished second and was followed by Steve Park and Richie Gallup. Dick McCabe won the wreck marred Busch North Series event at Riverside Park. McCabes average speed for 150 laps was 31mph. Harry Gant was the Winston Cup winner at Darlington and on a sad note, Winston Cup starter Harold Kinder passed away.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Bob Potter took the Friday night SK Modified win at Stafford after Ted Christopher and Jim Broderick wrecked each other on the last lap. Christopher still wrapped up the SK title despite being suspended from running the Fall Final. Broderick was fined for rough riding. The Featherlite Modifieds were also at Stafford for a 150-lap event. Mike Stefanik took the win over Charlie Pasteryak, Ed Flemke Jr and Bob Gegetskas. Scott Spaulding scored his third win of the year at Waterford on Saturday night. Mike Gada finished second with Jim Broderick, third. Riverside ran a 100 lapper with Reggie Ruggiero taking his seventh win of the season and Tom McCann got his sixth at Riverhead. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Terry Labonte took the win and in Craftsman Truck racing at Nashville it was former modified competitor Dave Reszendes taking the win. Doug Didero won the Supermodified classic at Oswego and Brad Leighton was the Busch North Series winner at Lee.

   Ten years ago in 2001, Thompson ran its final Thursday night event of the summer, which saw Ted Christopher make it four in a row. Christopher started 12th in the 30-car field and took the lead on lap 9 of the 30 lap feature. Bert Marvin, Kerry Malone, Scott Quinn and Jeff Malave rounded out the top five. Christopher carried his winning ways over to Stafford where he won twin 40’s on Friday night. The Waterford Speedbowl hosted the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour on Saturday night. Ed Flemke Jr. got shuffled from third to eighth on the start but drove a heads up race to take the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 123 and went on to take the win. Christopher finished second with Mike Stefanik holding on for third. Tom Cravenho and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five. There were ten yellows for 49 laps. Ed Reed Jr. scored his first ever SK Modified win in convincing fashion as he beat out Ron Yuhas and Dennis Gada. Gary Swanander won out over Chris Young at Riverhead. Thompson closed out the weekend with twin 20’s for the SK Modifieds. Ted Christopher made it six in a row as he won both of them. Kerry Malone finished second in both and Bert Marvin finished third, again in both events. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Ward Burton, with Tom Baldwin as his crew chief, won the event over Jeff Gordon. Steve Park suffered severe head injuries the day before when his car made a sharp left hand turn after his steering wheel came off. Larry Foyt, who had nowhere to go, broadsided Park. Jeff Burton won the Darlington Busch Grandnational event.

   Five years ago in 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour headed into the eye of Hurricane Ernesto as the competitors traveled to the Martinsville Speedway on Thursday and Friday. For the most part much of the storm headed north by late Friday allowing qualifying to take place. There were 49 Modifieds on hand and when all was said and done Mike Stefanik took the Busch Pole as he toured the .525 mile speedway in 18.833 seconds which was to the tune of 100.547 MPH. Todd Szegedy was second fastest with a speed of 99.974 MPH. Rounding out the top five were Donnie Lia, Jerry Marquis and Eric Beers. Twenty cars qualified with the balance of the field to be determined by a 50-lap consolation event. The top eight redrew for starting positions with Eddie Flemke Jr. drawing the pole position with Tony Hirschman drawing the second spot. Stefanik drew the fourth starting spot.

   The 50-lap consolation event was slated to start at 7:00p.m. but a heavy shower drenched the track shortly after 6:00p.m. The consi didn’t get the green until almost 9:00p.m. Kevin Goodale took the eventual win over Ron Silk.

   The main event, originally scheduled for 300 laps got the green flag at around 10:15p.m. Mike Stefanik had the dominant car but in the end, at 200 laps when the race was called, Jimmy Blewett had the Eddie Partridge No.12 in the top spot. Blewett and Partridge, who dedicated their win to the late Charlie Jarzombek, led only 20 laps. With 19 laps to go on lap 182 Blewett was following Stefanik into turn two. Stefanik drifted up slightly, which opened up a hole on the low side. Blewett went for the spot and in doing so nudged Stefanik. Ted Christopher, who ended up in second spot was also part of the controversy as he nudged Zach Sylvester out of the way. Stefanik and Sylvester finished 14th and 15th respectively. James Civali, Todd Szegedy and Doug Coby who drives the Curt Chase No.77 based in Mansfield, rounded out the top five. Coby and his crew were extremely happy as they recovered from qualifying problems, which forced them to take a provisional starting spot in the rear of the field. Just missing the top five but turning in a fine run was rookie Ron Yuhas Jr. who finished sixth. Matt Hirschman and Kevin Goodale finished seventh and eighth while southerners Tim Brown and Gene Pack rounded out the top ten. It was close to 1:00am when the checkered flag was displayed. Fifteen of the original 43 starters were running at the end. Early leader Jerry Marquis lost a lap in the late going and ended up 16th.

   Corey Hutchings had a good shot at becoming the 2006 Late Model Champion at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night until he came unglued on the 13th lap of his 25 lap feature. Hutchings, who has four victories to his credit, was battling with RJ Marcotte for fourth spot when contact was made on the backstretch, which resulted in Hutchings spinning around. Hutchings felt the contact and resulting spin was intentional. Chief Steward Richard Brooks also felt it was intentional and ordered Marcotte to restart in the rear. Marcotte refused to comply forcing Brooks to rule that even if he continued to race he would no longer be scored. Hutchings evidently didn’t get the word that the track had reacted to the situation and chose to retaliate on his own. After a pit stop Hutchings reentered the track and went after Marcotte, finally cutting him off in turn four. Hutchings then exited his car and went to Marcotte and started punching him. When all was said and done both Hutchings and Marcotte found themselves thrown out of the event and parked in the infield. Hutching is facing possibly a multi race suspension. Repeat winners were the other stories at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night. Tommy Cravenho of Raynham, MA took down his second win of the season in the Sunoco Modifieds. Fred Astle of N. Westport, MA scored his second Pro Stock win at the Connecticut oval while TIS Modified racer Leo Oliviera also of Raynham posted his second. Dave Trudeau of Mansfield, CT. proved that the third time is a charm with his Late Model victory. New faces in victory lane included Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI, who earned a career first in the Mini Stocks and Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, who claimed his first triumph of the season in the Limited Sportsman nightcapper.

   The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway beat the onslaught of the remains of Hurricane Ernesto as their September Series of Friday night racing went off as planned. Eric Berndt drove to his third SK Modified® feature win of the 2006 season, Scott Foster, Jr. won his first Late Model feature win of the 2006 season, Brit Andersen won his fourth SK Light Modified feature win of the 2006 season, Kevin Gambacorta scored his second Ltd. Late Model feature win of the 2006 season, and Jim Brice was a first time winner in the DARE Stock feature.

   Impending rain from what was Hurricane Ernesto prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The entire program was postponed until Saturday, October 7. Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island and at Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey was also rained out.

   Kasey Kahne scored a double at the California Speedway as he won both the Busch Series event and the Nextel Cup event.

   Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series continued on their late Summer break. Bobby Santos retook the point lead from Ted Christopher. Santos led by 32 points. Mike Stefanik, Todd Szegedy and Ron Silk rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ryan Preece, Erick Rudolph, Eric Goodale, Eric Beers and rookie Justin Bonsignore.

   With nine races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule two time Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Don Lia and SS Green Light Racing parted ways.

   The Thompson International Speedway announced that the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) had imposed an indefinite suspension from NASCAR competition on four drivers following an incident on Thursday, August 19, 2010 at the Thompson International Speedway. NASCAR is the sanctioning body for races at Thompson and NASCAR officials are in charge of the competition at the speedway. The official penalty notice from NASCAR cited the drivers for “Actions detrimental to stock car racing.”

   Race drivers Fred Michalski of Dayville, CT, Scott and Trevor Michalski of South Killingly, CT and Scott Jassaume of Danielson, CT all received the same penalty from NASCAR. In addition, the Speedway informed these drivers and Ruth Michalski of South Killingly, CT that they were no longer welcome on the property in and around the race track. This action is a result of an attack that the above made on Mini Stock driver Rick Blanchard following the feature held on August 19.

   In Thursday night action at the northeast Connecticut oval the Speedway played host to the Modified Racing Series for the second time in 2010. In the end it was “one of their” own standing in victory lane with Rowan Pennink scoring his third Modified Racing Series victory. In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Ted Christopher earned his ninth Sunoco Modified feature event of the season. Mike O’Sullivan bested a strong field to post the victory in the Super Late Models.

   Wayne Coury, Sr. celebrated with a win in the Late Models. Joe Arena earned a hard-fought victory in the Limited Sportsman division. John Studley streaked to consecutive victories in the TIS Modifieds. It was a night banner night for Mike Gorgieveski who scored his first career victory in the Mini Stocks.

   Ted Christopher ended a long dry spell scored his first victory of the 2010 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature. It was Christopher's first win at Stafford in over a year and overall his 92nd SK Modified win at the track he calls home. Woody Pitkat took advantage of a green white checkered restart to nail down his sixth victory of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Barrett, Jr. scored his eighth win of 2010 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Dave Yardley won his second feature of 2010 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cory Casagrande matched his brother Kyle as a three-time winner in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

   In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Teenager Anthony Flannery won the 50-lap Raceceiver Legends National Tour race, earning a guaranteed starting position to the Legends Cars Nationals event held at Langley, VA Speedway in October. Tyler Chadwick won his second consecutive SK Modified® race and third on the season. Bruce Thomas Jr. and Ken Cassidy Jr. won their third races of the year in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model and Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock divisions. Al Stone rounded out the winners by taking his third consecutive Street Stock win, his fifth overall on the year. For Thomas, it was his 50th career win

   Chadwick recieved a gift while running third in the closing laps when a heated battle between Doug Coby and Todd Ceravolo boiled over with Coby spinning in turn one. The pivotal moment of the race came on lap 28. Ceravolo was penalized to the rear for his involvement, handing the lead to Chadwick.

   Following Chadwick at the finish was Keith Rocco followed by Rob Janovick, Jeff Paul, and Joe Gada. Coby ended up seventh and Ceravolo was 11th.

   In some sad news, John Small, who manned the announcers booth at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl in the mid 50's to mid 60's passed-away at age 97. One of the most popular announcers in the early history of the shoreline oval, Small’s booming voice and talented delivery set the standard for calling the races at the Eastern Connecticut oval for many of the raceways formative seasons. He was extremely-popular with fans and competitors alike. In 1952, he began a long career in radio where he hosted many country music radio shows and was known as Cousin Johnny. Mr. Small, among many other things, was a past Mayor of the Town of Groton, CT

   The Modified Racing Series headed for the Thompson Speedway for their second visit of the year. Rowan Pennink who has called Thompson International Speedway home for the last few seasons competing in the NASCAR All American Series Weekly, claimed the victory in Modified Racing Series 75. Mike Stefanik showed the way in the early going before relinquishing the lead to Bobby Santos III. Stefanik would retire from the event two laps shy of halfway. Santos led through lap 56 before giving up the battle to Pennink. Three laps later, Ted Christopher moved by Santos and into second. In a repeat of the Sunoco Modified event earlier in the evening, Pennink and Christopher waged a heated battle for the lead. A late race restart with less than 15 laps to go gave Christopher his best shot at Pennink’s lead. After a quick bid, Christopher had to settle back in line in second. The lead duo stretched their advantage over third running Santos. An incident involving the previous week’s winner Todd Annarummo brought out the caution with seven laps remaining. Pennink was up for the challenge on the single-file restart. Pennink went on to claim his third MRS win of the season over Christopher, Santos and Eric Goodale. Les Hinckley recovered from a practice crash to finish fifth.

   NASCAR reinstated crew member Randy LaJoie upon his successful completion of a counseling program following his June 22 suspension for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy.

   Boris Said came back from an early spin and won the Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday, edging Max Papis by a nose on a green-white-checkered finish to win the crash-filled event. NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors enjoyed the weekend off.

   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: September 2, 2011

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