The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


September 30, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 Wes Kingsley was the Wednesday night Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Dick Dixon was the Claiming Car winner. Bobby Sprague was the Saturday night Modified winner at the shoreline oval. Bob Barbari was the Claiming Car winner.

   Fifty five years ago rain prevailed at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

   Fifty years ago in 1961 local favorite George Janoski took the Friday night win on the dirt at Stafford.

   Forty five years ago in 1966, Ernie Gahan broke Pete Corey’s stranglehold on victory lane at Stafford on the dirt. Waterford shifted to Sundays. Dick Dunn was the 30 lap Modified winner. Glynn Shafer was the Bomber winner and Red Barton was the Late Model Daredevil winner.

   Forty years ago in 1971, the season ender at Islip was rained out and not rescheduled. Stafford ran their season ender on Sunday with Gene Bergin taking the win over Fred DeSarro, Jerry Cook, Dave Lape and Bugsy Stevens. Thompson ran an open competition event the same day with Bob Santos taking the win over Dick Caso, Tony Russo and Hank Stevens. The Waterford Speedbowl wrapped up their season with Bob Potter taking the win over Ronnie Wycoff.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, the NASCAR Modifieds were silent as race teams made ready for the upcoming Race of Champions at Trenton. The Waterford Speedbowl wrapped up their season with twin 25's which were won by Dick Dunn and Bob Potter. Andy Guimond was the late Model Grand American winner.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Stafford ran the Fall Final for the Modifieds and NASCAR North (Busch North Series) The modified 100 lapper carried a purse of $6,300 and drew 59 cars. Richie Evans was the Modified winner as he beat out Corky Cookman, George Kent, Reggie Ruggiero and Bob Polverari. Jean Paul Cabana was the Late Model winner. It was also on this weekend that the New England Drivers and Owners Club (NEDOC) conducted tire tests which would hopefully lead to a more affordable-longer lasting tire for the Modifieds. Brands tested were Hoosier, M&H, McCreary and Goodyear.

   Twenty-five years ago in 1986, the modified tour headed for Oxford Plains in Maine. Forty-eight Modifieds and 10,000 fans were on hand as Jim Spencer took the win over Jamie Tomaino, Corky Cookman, Mike Mclaughlin and Brian Ross. Track owner Bob Bahre announced that in 1987,an 18 race NASCAR North-Late Model Series would replace the former Late Model Series that had been headed by Tom Curley. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Tim Richmond took the pole but it was Darrell Waltrip taking the win. Geoff Bodine finished second.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Don Fowler was the Saturday night winner at Waterford. Bob Potter finished second with Jerry Pearl, third. The Fall Final at Stafford ended up being a race that many would talk about for many months. Tom Baldwin, who qualified second and was running in the front all day was caught sleeping on a late race restart and got spun out. Baldwin was given his spot back as NASCAR stated the leader must start the race. Baldwin bulled his way to the front and eventual win. Jamie Tomaino ended up second with Reggie Ruggiero, third. The SK 35 lapper was red checkered after 30 laps when leader Ted Christopher blew his engine and collected Richie Gallup. Bob Potter was awarded the win. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Harry Gant was eight laps short of making it five in a row when he lost his brakes and had to give way to Dale Earnhardt who went on to record the win. Gant held on to finish second.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, it was Tom Baldwin again in victory lane at Stafford. As was his previous Fall Final victory, this one wasn't too popular with the fans as he was greeted by the Bronx Cheer in victory lane. With two laps to go in the 300-lap contest, the outspoken Long Island driver spun Reggie Ruggiero out, causing a caution. Going over the 300-lap mark, Baldwin slammed into Tim Connolly, knocking him out of the way, and went on to take the win. Connelly finished second and was followed by Ruggiero and Steve Park. All on the lead lap. Rounding out the top five was Mike Ewanitsko, one lap down. Jim Broderick was the SK Modified winner, giving him two for two on the weekend as he won at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night over Steve Chowanski and Bob Potter. In Winston Cup action it was the final event to be run at North Wilkesboro. Ted Musgrave was the pole sitter but it was Jeff Gordon taking the win with Dale Earnhardt finishing second. Dirt driver Billy Pauch scored his 500th career win at the Bridgeport, N.J. Speedway. On a sad note, former driver and car builder Banjo Mathews passed away as did former New York driver Dick Nephew.

   Ten years ago in 2001, John Brouwer Jr. won the final Saturday night modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Mark LaJunesse finished second. Dennis Gada finished third and sewed up his third modified driving title in a row. It was the fifth championship title for car owner Harry Wyant. Wynatt’s other track titles at Waterford came with Jim Broderick driving. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Stafford for the Fall Final. Mike Ewanitsko was the Busch Pole sitter but the day belonged to Ted Christopher who all but dominated the event. Starting from the outside pole, Christopher jumped out to the lead at the start and held the point until pitting for tires and fuel on lap 90. Jerry Marquis inherited the lead at that point and held it thru lap 104 when Christopher blasted his way into the lead. From then on it was a no contest event. During the late stages, Marquis faded to third with Rick Fuller moving into the runner-up spot but Fuller had all he could hold on to because of blistering tires. Fuller hung on for second and was followed by Marquis, Ed Flemke Jr. and Mike Ewanitsko. Kerry Malone was the SK-Modified winner over Lloyd Agor and Jeff Baral. In Winston Cup action at Kansas City, Jeff Gordon took the win in an event that saw many crashes caused by flat tires. Jeff Green won the Grandnational event.

   Five years ago in 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Thirty-eight cars were on hand hoping to qualify for the 150 lap Fall Final. Todd Szegedy took the Busch Pole with a time of 18.091-second lap around the half mile oval. Donny Lia was second fastest with a time of 18.190 seconds. Rounding out the top five were Tony Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Chuck Hossfeld. In the redraw for starting positions Szegedy drew the pole with Hirschman drawing the outside pole. Heavy monsoon type rain forced NASCAR and the Arute family to postpone the Fall Final to Saturday, October 28.

   The Thompson Speedway closed out their Thursday Night Thunder Series. Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT. turned his rookie Sunoco Modified season into a track championship and ultimately the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Region Four Championship. Along with the glory will come a check for $25,000. Mini Stocker Shelly Perry of Ashaway, RI wrote quite a story of her own on Thursday night. Perry became the first female champion in the 66-year history of the Thompson International Speedway. Both the Sunoco Modified and Late Model divisional championships were decided with a pair of 20-lappers. Marc Palmisano of Hadley, MA swept Late Model twins to erase a thirty-two-point deficit in a single night to steal the championship. Joe Lemay of Millville, MA and Tommy Cravenho of Raynham, MA shared Sunoco Modified victories. Pro Stock checkers flew for Fred Astle, Jr. of N. Westport, MA. Jeff Zuidema had already secured the 2006 Pro Stock championship. In support division action, Ed Puleo of Branford was the Limited Sportsman feature winner, Brad Caddick ran to the Mini Stock checkers and Kurt Vigeant won back-to-back TIS Modified honors. Titles went to Larry Barnett in the Limited Sportsman division and Roger Larson, Jr. in the TIS Modifieds.

   Joe Lemay of Millville, MA saved the best for last in the opening twin event for the Sunoco Modifieds. He ran strong throughout the 20-lap feature but poured it on in the closing lap. Lemay hounded early leader Jeff Malave and made the winning move on the final lap. The first SK Modified feature was led to green by Buddy Charette followed by Keith Rocco. Malave quickly moved into the third position on the start. Malave drove into the lead to complete lap two. Rocco followed Malave into the runner-up spot as Charette faded. Pitkat ran comfortably just outside the top-five. Lemay got around Rocco to take over the runner-up spot. Jimmy Blewett and Tommy Cravenho followed through as well. With Malave handily up front and Joe Lemay solidly in second the battling was for the third spot between Blewett, Cravenho, and Bert Marvin. Blewett was able to maintain his position as the trio ran under a blanket. Lemay, who had been slowing reeling in Malave, came on strong as the laps began to wind down. With only five laps remaining Lemay caught Malave. He made a bid on the lead briefly on lap 16 but settled back in line. There was a scary moment for point-leader Pitkat when third-running Blewett dropped off the pace nearly collecting Pitkat and Cravenho. Pitkat was able to maneuver his way through and into third place. Cravenho avoided any major contact as well. On lap 17, the first caution of event flew when Stephen Masse stalled in turn two-saving Blewett. On the restart, Malave was able to maintain his lead over Lemay. Pitkat sat in third followed closely by Cravenho while a fully recovered Blewett pressured Marvin for the fifth spot. On the final lap Lemay dove to the underneath entering turn three to steal the lead away from Malave and ultimately the win. It was the second win of the season for Lemay. Malave chopped a mere two points of Pitkat’s point lead as the two ran under the checkers second and third respectively. Cravenho and Marvin rounded out the top five.

   The Sunoco Modified divisional championship was decided with second 20 lap feature that went non-stop. The drivers went heads-up to start the nightcap. Malave led the opening lap from his second –place-starting position. Lemay dropped back on the initial start; leaving Malave to battle Cravenho and Blewett. Cravenho grabbed the top-spot from Malave on lap four. Blewett started to pressure Malave for second on lap five. Rocco ran third followed by Pitkat inside the top-five. The top three of Cravenho, Malave and Blewett ran nose to tail. Malave peeked out of line in turn two on lap eight looking for the lead but settled back into second. He made the same move on Cravenho in turn four and made the pass stick. At the halfway marker, Malave led Cravenho, Blewett, Rocco and Pitkat. Blewett got along-side Cravenho to complete lap 11 but could not make the pass stick. On the same lap Cravenho got a good run on Malave. With Malave out front it was a three-car battle for the top spot. Double-file lapped traffic changed the complexion of the race for Malave, who got caught on the outside, losing positions to both Cravenho and Blewett. Rocco dogged Malave for the third spot. At the end of 20-laps, Cravenho had run to his third feature win of the season in the green-to-checker finale. Blewett came home second followed by Malave and Keith Rocco. Pitkat cashed in on his fifth-place finish to become the champ.

   The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway was supposed to close out their season with the Fall Final but Mother Nature ruled the roost, putting the season ender on hold until October 28. The sun shone bright on Saturday, which allowed a full day of preliminary action. The 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature took the green flag with Corky Hinze taking the lead ahead of Mike Sweeney, Ed Charette, Michael Chaves, and Joey Ferrigno. Back in the pack, the race for the championship was on between George Nocera, Jr. and Kevin Gambacorta. With 7 laps complete, Nocera's championship bid looked to take a disastrous turn as he spun in turn 2 to bring out a caution. On the restart, Nocera drove through the frontstretch grass, but was able to keep going. Up front, Hinze continued to hold the lead, with Andrew Durand moving into second. A caution for a multi-car spin with 10-laps complete slowed the action. Durand powered around Hinze for the lead on the restart, with Bill Davis moving into third. A spin by Pete Cayer brought the caution out with 13 laps complete. Under the caution, Durand had a flat right front tire, which brought him to pit road and ended his race. Hinze was back out front as the race resumed, with Davis on his heels. Joey Ferrigno moved into third, but a near spin on lap-17 sent him back through the field as Nocera took over the third position after his early race troubles. With Nocera third, Kevin Gambacorta was 10th, one position short of where he needed to be for the championship. But on the last lap of the race, Gambacorta picked up the position that he needed, and he clinched the championship by 2 points as Hinze scored his first career feature win. Davis finished second, with Nocera, Charlie Newman, and Rob Dow rounding out the top-5. When the green flag flew on the final DARE Stock feature event of the 2006 season, Norm Sears, of Manchester, became the 2006 DARE Stock track champion. Duane Provost took the early race lead ahead of Jeff Hubbell, with Rob Lawrence, Vince Gambacorta, and Tom Stirk in tow.

   The SK Modified 21 Means 21 feature took the green with Lloyd Agor taking the lead ahead of Kirk Zervas and Bo Gunning. Gunning quickly worked his way around Zervas for second, and set his sights on Agor and the lead of the race. Gunning made a pass for the lead on lap-8, but as he took the lead, the caution came out, putting Agor back out front. Gunning made the pass for the lead on lap-9 in the same fashion that he took the lead from Agor previously. Gunning had to hold off the field on two separate restart situations, but he went unchallenged to the checkered flag. Shawn Monahan finished second, with Rowan Pennink, Agor, and Tom Rogers, Jr. rounding out the top-5. The Late Model 16 feature took the green flag with Jay Stuart sertting the early pace ahead of Scott Foster, Jr., Chuck Docherty, and Mike O'Sullivan. The race ran green to checkered and Stuart went unchallenged as he pulled away from the field to cruise to victory. Foster finished second, with Docherty, O'Sullivan, and Patrick Townsend rounding out the top-5.

   In other weekend action Ruckersville, Va’s Phillip Morris sewed up the 2006 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series National Championship after winning the 100 lap NASCAR Late Model Stock feature at Caraway Speedway. Kevin Harvick's victory in a caution-filled Yellow Transportation 300 at the Kansas City Speedway also made him the first Busch driver to win seven races in a season since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it en route to the 1998 title. Harvick had five victories when he won the title in 2001. Tony Stewart ran out of gas on the last lap of the Nextel Cup event but still managed to coast to victory at the Kansas City Speedway. Ruben Pardo won the season ending Busch East event at Lime Rock. Mike Olsen took the series championship.

   Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour made its first visit to Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina . MadHouse star Burt Myers passed John Smith with five laps to go to record his first win of the season in the Tri-County 150. It was Myers' seventh career win and first since he was credited with a victory as the highest finishing NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver in the combination race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in Sept. of 2009. Smith wound up second, followed by Andy Seuss in third. Brandon Hire finished fourth and James Civali fifth.

   There were 12 lead changes among six drivers with Civali using his bonus points for leading a lap to hold on to the points lead by just three points over Seuss (1,460-1,457). Myers started fifth. There were five caution periods for 21 laps. Twelve of the 19 starters finished on the lead lap.

   In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Kyle James of Ashaway, RI drove a great race to claim his first career SK Modified® win. Keith Rocco of Wallingford used a third place finish to clinch the division track championship and finish off his sensational season. Tim Jordan of Plainfield won his fourth Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature. Brandon Plemons of Uncasville was the Street Stock winner, his second checkered flag of the year. Waterford native Chris Williams won the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock feature, another second time winner in 2010. Allen Coates of Ledyard and Howard Payne of Shelton split the A.B. CDL Driver Training Center Truck races.

   Ron Yuhas closed in to James’ bumper for the final two laps as Rocco made it a three-car race for the win. James held the bottom lane and did a masterful job as he went on to take his first career win in the division in his first season behind the wheel of a Modified. Yuhas was second ahead of Rocco in third. Diego Monahan and Tucker Reynolds rounded out the top-five.

   Ace Photographer Howie Hodge reported that Ted Christopher won the ISMA Supermodified race on Saturday night (9/25) in Berlin, Michigan driving the Clyde Booth 61. In 1999, Christopher climbed aboard a Paul Dunigan –owned supermodified for the first time ever. It was at Thompson Speedway. He started dead last. He won. Saturday at Berlin Raceway in Michigan, Ted climbed into the Clyde Booth 61 for the first time, at a track he’d never seen before, started dead last and won!

   The Thompson Speedway ran a make-up event on Sunday which closed out their regular racing season. In a somewhat surprising announcement Special Consultant Ben Dodge hinted that the speedway management was thinking of possibly dropping Thursdays off their weekly schedule and going back to Sundays. Dodge asked the competitors what they thought of the change. This writer's opinion was to leave well enough alone. The attendance on Thursdays has been good. The shows are good and they get over early. Moving to Sundays will not improve attendance, chances are during the summer months it will hurt. With racing on Thursdays the race fan can have his cake and eat it too! Fans get their weekly racing fix without interfering with family activities on Sundays. Chances are moving to Sundays won improve car counts. The only thins that will improve car counts are higher purses and a better economy. Just my opinion!

   On a blustery Sunday, the 2010 champions were crowned in all six NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at Thompson International Speedway. The evening also featured what would ultimately be the fourth leg of the Tour-Type Modified Shootout originally scheduled for August 5, 2010. Mike Stefanik of Coventry, RI, who crossed the stripe in second, was declared the winner of the event after post race technical inspection. At the checkers, it appeared as if Long Islander Justin Bonsignore had posted his first Modified victory at Thompson. Officials deemed the fuel in Bonsignore’s #51 to be in violation of the rules. Stefanik was awarded the victory. Charlie Pasteryak had a great run to come home second. Erix Goodale, Shelly Perry and Keith Rocco completed the top-five.

   In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action Ronnie Silk turned in a dominating performance to score his first victory of the season in the Sunoco Modifieds. Ted Christopher, who finished fourth, had sewn up the championship prior to the start of the night’s events. made it a run to the end in the chase for the Super Late Model championship by winning the event. His rival Derek Ramstrom chased him to the checkers to secure the 2010 divisional title-his second straight.

   In the Late Models, Tom O’Sullivan of made winning a family affair as he posted the feature victory. Rick Gentes wore the 2010 Late Model crown. Scott Sundeen bested the field in the Limited Sportsman division in an attempt to dethrone Larry Barnett. He won the battle but it was Barnett winning the war with his second straight divisional title. Keith McDermott ran to the victory in the TIS Modifieds taking the victory from the 2010 champion R.J. Marcotte. In the Mini Stocks it was Dwayne Dorr posting the feature victory while Chuck Rogers earned the championship.

   Next on the schedule for the Thompson International Speedway is the World Series of Speedway racing scheduled for October 15-17, 2010. The season ending event which plays host to 15 divisions will feature the Whelen Modified Tour and the International Supermodified Association.

   The 60th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions was held at the Oswego Speedway in Oswego, NY. Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Tony Hirschman came out of retirement to win the event. Chuck Hossfeld finished second with Matt Hirshman, third.

   Kyle Busch took a dominating romp on the concrete and rolled into the NASCAR record book. Busch set a single-season record for wins in the Nationwide Series, taking the checkered flag for the 11th time in only 23 races on Saturday at Dover International Speedway. Busch was tied with Sam Ard for the previous record with 10 wins. Busch also won 10 races in 2008, matching the record Ard set in NASCAR's second-tier series in 1983.

   In Sprint Cup action, Jimmie Johnson had a perfect weekend on the track. He won the pole, dominated again in another victory at Dover International Speedway, and even held his baby daughter in his arms in Victory Lane for the first time. .

   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

Dick Caso                                                   Dick Dixon                                                 Gene Bergin 

Bobby Sprague                                          Bentley Warren                                             Wes Kingsley

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: September 30, 2011

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