The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


October 7, 2011

   Sixty years ago in 1951 the New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran its final Wednesday night race meet. Charlie Busiere took the 25 lap Modified win and Jim Tourjee winning in the Claimers. At the Speedbowl on Sunday, George Lombardo took the Modified win and Charlie Webster in the Claiming Cars

   Fifty five years ago in 1956 Don Collins took all the money as he won a 75 lap Modified event on Sunday afternoon at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty years ago in 1961 Don Hall closed out the season at the Stafford Speedway with a win. Red Foote was the Saturday night winner at Norwood. At Waterford, Ted Stack won the 25 lap Modified feature. Ed Moody was the winner in the Bombers.

   Forty-five years ago in 1966, an era came to an end in Stafford Springs Connecticut as Pete Corey would win the last ever dirt track feature. The track would be paved over the winter months and would open in 1967 with an all-new look and all new competitors with the exception of a few. Corey would never again race in Connecticut, as he would do his entire racing in New York from then on. Mario “Fats” Caruso was the Saturday night winner at Norwood. The New London -Waterford Speedbowl wrapped up their season with a 100 lapper for the Modifieds on Sunday afternoon which was won by Newt Palm. Jiggs Beetham was the Daredevil winner.

   Forty years ago in 1971, the annual Race of Champions was scheduled to be run at the Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa. It rained all weekend and competitors were dismayed and split over the fact that the event would go head to head with the season ending NASCAR modified event at Martinsville. Thompson also had an event scheduled but that too, was rained out.

   Thirty-five years ago in 1976, Fred DeSarro in the Len Boehler Ole Blu made up three laps and was closing on leader Maynard Troyer when Troyer took the win in the annual Race of Champions at Trenton. DeSarro settled for second and was followed by Charlie Jarzombek, Geoff Bodine, Bugsy Stevens, Paul Radford, Merv Treichler, Jerry Cook and Bob Potter. Thompson Speedway ran a 30 lap program which saw Freddie Schulz take the win over Jim Landry, Ron Cote, Dick Dunn and Nick Gardinia.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Oswego ran their season ending Modified 30 lapper which saw Richie Evans take the win over George Kent and Jerry Cook. Merv Treichler was the big winner of the Super Dirt Week events at Syracuse. Treichler pocketed $25,085 for his efforts. Seekonk ran a 100 lapper on Sunday with Bugsy Stevens taking the win over Jim Landry and Leo Cleary.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, Stafford ran the Fall Final which was 100 laps. Jamie Tomaino scored a big win over Jim Spencer, Brian Ross and Mike Mclaughlin but the big news was to come two days later when Stafford along with the Spencer Speedway announced that they were dropping the Modifieds from their weekly racing venue. Stafford said they would upgrade their SK Modifieds to lead division status in 1987 and Spencer would lead with their late models.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, the only action for the weekend was at Charlotte, NC. where Harry Gant won the Busch Grandnational event and Geoff Bodine was the Winston Cup winner.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Flemington ran two events on the weekend. Their Challenge of Champions event, run on Saturday was won by John Blewett III. Billy Pauch finished second with Lee Sherwood, Ted Christopher and Pete Britain following. The Featherlite Modifieds ran on Sunday. Mike Stefanik had the field covered and was headed for victory when he wrecked while leading. Stefanik had gotten into oil dropped by a blown engine. Jan Leaty avoided the wreck and drove to victory. Steve Park finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Charlie Pasteryak and Tim Arre. Waterford also ran a 100 lapper on Sunday with Jim Broderick taking the win over Steve Chowanski, Tom Fox, Tucker Reynolds JR and Scott Spaulding. In Winston Cup and Busch Grandnational action at Charlotte, Mark Martin was the BGN winner and it was Terry Labonte taking the Winston Cup event .It was also on this weekend that dirt driver AJ Romano received serious injuries after being thrown from a car near his home in Syracuse, NY.

   Ten years ago in 2001 the northeast tracks were quiet with the exception of the DIRT 200 at Syracuse. Billy Decker won the event, his third in four years at the Moody Mile. For his efforts, he pocketed $50,000. Kenny Tremont finished second and walked of with $25,000. Second generation driver Tim McCready was by far the fastest and would have been a factor had he not lost an engine, while leading by a half lap, on lap 89. On the local scene, the racing world was saddened when news of Jimmy Waterman’s passing was made public. Waterman was a vital part of the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour as he served as tech inspector. He was also a former official at Stafford and Seekonk. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Sterling Marlin took the win. The big news was off the track where speedway promoter Humpy Wheeler went head to head with NBC over the fact that they would not mention the Speedway as ”Lowes Motor Speedway” unless they were paid to do it. Wheeler threatened to take an ax to all their cables and have their equipment towed off the property. Needless to say, Wheeler won his case and the TV production went on as planned. On a sad note, Blaise Alexander was killed during the running of the ARCA race, also on the same weekend. Alexander had just taken the lead in the event from Kerry Earnhardt and as he appeared to cut down, made contact with Earnhardt and went head on into the wall and died instantly. Earnhardt ended up flipping and was declared the race winner when the event was halted. In other action at Charlotte, Greg Biffle won the Busch Grandnational 300 after Matt Kenseth spun out while leading, with two laps to go.

   Five years ago in 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Waterford Speedbowl. There were 32 cars on hand for the 30 available starting spots. Jerry Marquis was the Busch Pole sitter as he turned the 1/3-mile oval in 13.618 seconds. Marquis drew fifth after the re-draw. The event was run on a very cold track due to the fact that the backstretch track lighting failed to come on due to the fact that an underground cable had broken. Engines were started at 8:15 following a 90-minute delay when the tracks lighting refused to come on. Eddie Flemke started on the pole and jumped out to an early lead. Mike Stefanik started on the outside but faded almost immediately. Ron Yuhas Jr. was an early contender as he ran side by side with Flemke for many laps. Donny Lia, who took the lead from Flemke on lap 128, also ran side by side with Flemke before he was able to execute the winning pass. Once in the lead Lia was able to open up a sizable cushion which ended up being over ten car lengths at the finish. Flemke ended up second with Ted Christopher, third. Stefanik toughed it out to finish fourth. Zach Sylvester rounded out the top five. His day went from bad to worse when he lost an engine during practice. His crew had to run home to Hebron, CT to retrieve a replacement. Chris Pasteryak finished sixth with Yuhas seventh and Eric Berndt, eighth.

   Defending Series champion Tony Hirschman had a day he would like to forget. During time trials Hirschman hit the front stretch wall and after making repairs ended up crashing again on lap 22 of the feature. Marquis was involved in his share of wrecks also.

   The Waterford Speedbowl ended its regular season. Dennis Gada finished second in the 100 lap SK Modified feature to Rob Janovic after numerous laps of wheel banging. Gada did, however solidify his SK Modified Championship, his sixth which tied Bob Potter. Jimmy Blewett finished third with Don Fowler, fourth. Dwayne Dorr went into the Limited Sportsman feature a scant four points behind Joe Curioso and came out the winner and division champion. Curioso’s day went sour right from the start as he suffered a flat tire on the parade lap. Once in the feature his car was like a ping-pong ball as it was hit numerous times in multi-accidents. In the end Curioso finished thirteenth. In the Late Model feature Corey Hutchins and Allen Coates slugged it out for close to 100 laps with Coates coming out the winner by inches.

   In what had to be an ideal day for racing the Speedbowl had a marginal crowd, mainly because of the total lack of advertising.

   In other weekend racing Danny Johnson figured there was no way he was winning the DIRT Motorsports Eckerd 200, the main event of Super DIRT Week at the Syracuse, NY Fairgrounds. To win he needed to run the final 114 laps on one tank of fuel. He didn't think it could be done. Later, while clinging to the lead with just nine laps remaining, two-time winner Jimmy Horton whizzed past a surprised Johnson. At that point, Johnson figured the race was over, that there was no passing Horton in the final nine laps. Yet when you're on a hot streak like Johnson, you somehow find a way to win. The Rochester native passed Horton on lap 191 and squeezed enough fuel out of his No. 27J car to earn the victory and a $100,000 pay day.

   In Nextel Cup action at Talladega Brian Vickers stole his first career Nextel Cup victory Sunday by spinning Jimmie Johnson into leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap of the Talladega 500.

   At the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at the Seekonk Speedway, With New England Hall of Fame racers on hand, including his legendary father Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, Seekonk, MA, veteran Dave Berghman scored the win Sunday afternoon in the “DAV 100” for the True Value Modified Racing Series. It was Berghman’s first with the series and the first for car owner Bill Eaton on the third year tour. Berghman becomes the 11th different winner in 2006. On lap 28,Mechalides drew the attention of tour officials when a fluid leak was seen coming from his racer prompting officials to display the black flag for the hard charging veteran driver for 3 laps. The fluid leak seemed to subside during a caution period on lap 34 and Mechalides was allowed to continue to race. It was at the end of the race that the driver and his crew were informed that, “as a result of not adhering to the black flag displayed for 3 consecutive laps, as well as several radio transmissions to the team’s spotter advising him of the same, the # 40 car would be placed back one position in the official finish”. As a result, Mechalides and Berghman swapped the first two positions, the result of the tour official’s decision.

   Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed for the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Fall Final which carried a purse of $83,609. The event drew 31 cars. Justin Bonsignore bounced back from his recent disappointment at Thompson to capture his second Coors Lite pole of the year with a sizzling run of 18.355 seconds around the half mile oval. The young Long Island racer had recently won an open competition event at Thompson only to have the victory stripped away because he didn't use the proper gasoline. Eric Beers was second fastest with Mike Stefanik, third, Eric Berndt and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ed Flemke Jr, Rowan Pennink, Ron Silk, Eric Rudolph and Bobby Santos III. In the re-draw for the start Beers drew the pole with Flemke drawing the outside pole spot. Bonsignore drew the seventh starting spot.

   Bobby Santos, who was celebrating his 25th birthday, took the eventual victory with the Garbarino Mystic Missile. Santos took the lead after a massive pile-up forced a long red flag period as the speedway fencing was destroyed and needed to be fixed. The wreck was triggered when Richie Pallai hit Dale Quarterly sending him sideways. It was a "Pig Pile" from then on. Also involved were Ed Flemke, Todd Szegedy, Eric Berndt and Eric Goodale. With seven laps remaining Santos jumped out and sprinted to the finish. Ron Silk finished second and was followed by Erick Rudolph, Rowan Pennink, Mike Stefanik, Ryan Preece, Glen Reen, Ted Christopher, Eric Beers and Ken Heagy. Polesitter Bonsignore took a shot in the turn two wall after getting sideways on lap 108. Also collected in the wreck was Jamie Tomaino and Woody Pitkat. Bonsignore finished 29th while Pitkat finished 30th and Tomaino, 28th.

   All tolled, there were 8 caution periods for 45 laps. In addition to those previously mentioned Jimmy Blewett and Eric Berndt also ended their day in wrecks.

   With one race remaining on the schedule, Santos carrys a 37-point lead on Stefanik in the season standings to Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway for the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racin.

   In regular weekly division racing at Stafford Keith Rocco, the 2010 Whelen All-American Series Champion, closed out the Stafford SK Modified season with his 10th win of the year to set a single-season track record. He clinched the track title earlier this year. Woody Pitkat won Stafford's Whelen All-American Series Late Model finale and Ryan Posocco clinched the division title.

   Following Rocco in the 40 lap SK contest was Frank Ruocco with Chris Matthews, Jeff Baral, and Zach Sylvester rounding out the top-5. Ted Christopher, Stafford's winningist driver, finished 26th after being eliminated in a wreck.

   In action on the Connecticut shoreline the Waterford Speedbowl completed its final Saturday night points race of 2010 with six feature events including all five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions in action. It was also Cystic Fibrosis Night at the track, raising awareness and funds for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Jeff Pearl dominated the SK Modifieds® to roll to his third win on the year. Bruce Thomas Jr. won the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, with Tim Jordan taking the championship. In the Street Stocks Ed Puleo won his sixth race of 2010. Al Stone III claimed the Street Stock championship after a wild race for the points contenders. Ken Cassidy Jr. clinched the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock title in style, picking up his fifth win of the year. Allen Coates did the same in the A.B. CDL Driver Training Center Truck division, winning the race and title. Anthony Flannery finished the Saturday night season on a high note by taking yet another Legends Cars win.

   In the SK Modifieds, Tyler Chadwick was second over Rob Janovic, Keith Rocco and Glenn Pressell. The win was the 34th of Pearl’s career, good for second all-time in the division ahead of Ted Christopher. Rocco already secured the championship.

   Jason Myers won a special Modified event at the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina. Junior Miller was second with Burt Myers, third.

   Joey Logano got aggressive on a late restart to get past Kyle Busch, then used a push from Brad Keselowski to hold on at Kansas Speedway for his second Nationwide Series win of the season. Greg Biffle was the Sprint Cup winner. Busch had early contact with David Reutimann that caused Reutimann to spin, and when they crossed paths later on the track, Reutimann appeared to intentionally knock him into the wall. Busch was running seventh at the time of the accident, fell to 22nd and demanded over his radio that NASCAR take action against Reutimann. Crew chief Dave Rogers heightened the drama by telling Busch that Reutimann's team demanded he retaliate against Busch.

   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

Johnny Cambino                                          George Rettew                                            John Anderson 

Maynard Troyer                                            Paul Radford                                             Reggie Ruggiero

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: October 7, 2011

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