The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


November 4, 2011

   Fifty years ago in 1961 Wild Bill Slater won the season ending 35 lap Modified feature at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Ed Moody was the Bomber feature winner.

   Forty five years ago in 1966, Ernie Gahan won the Nascar National Modified Championship. Finishing second in his first year of NASCAR Modified competition was Carl Bugsy Stevens. Ray Hendrick finished third. Don MacTavish was the Sportsman Champion. Following MacTavish in the standings were Wild Bill Slater, Rene Charland, Ralph Earnhardt, Bill Wimble, Tiny Lund, Joe Thurman, Pete Hamilton and Andre Manny. David Pearson was the Grand National (Nextel) Cup Champion

   Forty years ago in 1971, NASCAR declared Jerry Cook the National Modified Champion. For the year, Cook entered 74 sanctioned events. Of those, he recorded four wins and 44 top tens, including 28 top fives. Cooks win percentage was 5%. Fred DeSarro finished second. DeSarro entered 66 events and recorded 19 wins and 31 top tens including 28 top fives. DeSarro's win percentage was 29%.Bugsy Stevens finished third in points. Stevens entered 58 events and recorded 25 wins and 33 top tens including 25 top fives. Stevens' win percentage was 43%. Richard Petty was the Grand National (Nextel) Cup Champion.

   Thirty five years ago in 1976, Jerry Cook was still chasing points and was again the Nascar Modified National Champion. Among the track champions in the northeast were Fred DeSarro at Stafford and Thompson, Bobby Santos at Westboro, Geoff Bodine in the Yankee All Star League, George Murray at Seekonk, Bob Potter at Waterford, Punky Caron at Monadnock and Claremont, Fred Harbach at Islip and New Egypt, Charlie Jarzombek at Freeport and Riverhead, Richie Evans at Spencer, Maynard Troyer at Lancaster, Sonney Seamon at Shangri-La, George Kent at Fulton, Bob Polverari at Riverside, Jim Shampine at Oswego, Will Cagle on the DIRT Circuit and Jim Hendrickson at Wall Stadium. Cale Yarborough was the Winston Cup Champion.

   Thirty years ago in 1981, Richie Evans was the Nascar National Modified Champion. Evans also recorded track championships at Stafford and Thompson in addition to the World Series title at New Smyrna. Other champions of note included George "Moose" Hewitt in the Modifieds at Waterford, Harry Rice in the Superstocks, also at Waterford, Rit Patchen at Danbury, Wayne Anderson at Islip, Jerry Marquis was the Limited Sportsman Champ at Stafford, Punky Caron at Monadnock, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, George Kent at Spencer and Shangri-La, Bugsy Stevens at Seekonk, Roger Treichler at Lancaster, Stash Gregger at Riverside, John Blewett Jr at New Egypt, Doug Hevron in the Supers at Oswego, Mike Weeden at Lee and Darrell Waltrip was the Winston Cup Champion. Last but not least, Ronnie Bouchard was named NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.

   Twenty five years ago in 1986, the following champions were announced. Dale Earnhardt, Winston Cup, Larry Pearson, Busch Grand National, NASCAR Modified-Jim Spencer, NASCAR Northeast Region-George Kent. Kent also won the Shangri-La track championship. Wayne Anderson at New Egypt, Reggie Ruggiero at New Smyrna, Bob Potter at Waterford plus Perfect Circle-Waterford, Stafford and Thompson combined, Bentley Warren in the Supers and Brian Ross in the Modifieds at Oswego, Mike Stefanik at Stafford, Wayne Dion in the SK's at both Stafford and Thompson, Jan Leaty at Spencer, Ken Troyer at Lancaster, John Rosati-Modified and Tom Rosati-Pro Stock at Riverside, John Blewett Jr at Riverhead and Tom Mauser at Wall Stadium.

   Twenty years ago in 1991, Dale Earnhardt was the Winston Cup Champion and Bob Labonte was the Busch Grand National champ. Ricky Craven was the GN North (Busch North Series) champion and Mike Stefanik was the Modified Tour Champion. Jerry Marquis was the NASCAR Northeast Regional champ plus was the track champion at Riverside Park and Monadnock. Other track champions were Mike Ewanitsko at New Smyrna, Wayne Anderson at Riverhead, Lee Sherwood at Shangri-La, Mike Christopher in the SK's at Thompson, Bob Potter in the SK's at Stafford and Ricky Young in the SK's at Waterford.

   Fifteen years ago in 1996, Tony Hirschman was crowned the Featherlite Modified Champion. Following Hirschman were Steve Park, Ricky Fuller, Jan Leaty, Mike Stefanik, Tim Connolly, Jerry Marquis and Ed Flemke Jr. Taking track championships were Tom Baldwin at New Smyrna, Doug Diderio at Oswego, Ted Christopher at Stafford, Dave Berube at Riverside, Jim Broderick at Waterford, Chuck Steuer at Riverhead, Siege Fidenza at Lancaster, Dave Dion in the Busch North Series and Randy Lajoie made it two in a row in the Busch South Series.

   Ten years ago in 1991, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series held their awards banquet where Mike Stefanik and Art Barry were officially crowned series champions. During the evening, a 19-race schedule for 2002 was announced as well as a general increase in race purses. NASCAR stated that there was a TV package in the works. The First Annual Len Boehler Dedication to Modified Racing Award was presented to Bob Garbarino who has built and owned Modifieds since the mid-60s. Ted Christopher received the Gatorade Front Runner Award, Ricky Miller, the Rookie of the Year Award and David Berghman, most improved.

   Five years ago in 2006 The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their racing season with an event they called Double Down. Dennis Gada, who earlier in the season won his sixth championship, added to his resume on Saturday by winning both ends of the Modified segment of the season-ending Double Down Shoot Out. The two 25-lap victories brought Gadaís SK Modified career win total to 50. Dwayne Dorr, the 2006 Sportsman champ, set a record with his 11th victory in the first 15 lap Sportsman feature. Dorr, who finished fourth behind second feature winner Richard Staskowski in the second feature was also the overall winner. Corey Hutchings, Jeff Miller, Joe Godbout, Ken Cassidy Jr. were also winners as the concept proved a success. The second feature lined up with lead lap finishers from the first in reverse order. Jason Palmer passed Chris Bakaj with eight laps left to win the Legends race and Joey Payne Jr. dominated the 25-lap Northeastern Midget Association race.

   In other Speedbowl news, according to a report on Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report Radio Show Monday night, the Speedbowl would be in operation for the 2007 season. Reportedly it should be announced within a week that the Speedbowl is being leased. It's reported that General Manager Bill Roth will remain at the Speedbowl in his current position. It is probably a majority of opinions the Speedbowl would not have survived 2006 without the efforts of Bill Roth and now retired PR Director Pete Zanardi. It remained to be seen, if true, how this would effect foreclosure proceedings on the property which have been put on hold by the court until June 2007. It was also rumored that current Speedbowl owner Terry Eames would not have any further connection with the operation of the track.

   In other racing action, the Concord Motorsports Park in Concord, NC was the site of the North-South Shootout featuring the Hoosier 100 for the Modifieds along with a 50-lap main event for the SK-Type Modifieds.

   Practice and qualifying were the orders of the day on Friday. There were 36 Modifieds and 31 SK Modifieds on the track for practice. By the time qualifying began the cars counts changed to 46 Modifieds and 34 SKís. Time trials showed that Matt Hirschman was the fastest with southerner Burt Meyers, second fastest. Bob Grigas was third with Brian Pack, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Bobby Santos III in the Whelen No. 36 that was formerly driven by Ted Christopher. Christopher was 12th fastest in the Joe Brady No. 00. Long Islander Tom Rogers was the fastest of the SKís. Wall Township Speedway regular Tom Farrell was second fastest. Ronnie Silk was the only New Englander to break the top five. For most of those on hand it was like being at home in New England as temperatures dropped to the high 20ís once the sun went down.

   The cold weather carried over to Saturday but the racers used their heads for the most part and dealt with it. Tom Rogers won the SK Modified 50 lapper. Bobby Santos III came from 14th spot to finish second. Woody Pitkat, who started 15th, finished third. Earl Paules and Tom Cravenho rounded out the top five. Matt Hirschman won the 100 lap Modified Shootout. Ted Christopher finished second. Eric Beers came from 31st position to finished third with Earl Paules, fourth. Defending race winner John Blewett III rounded out the top five. It was a shame that Bobby Santos III never got to show his stuff in the Whelen 36 as he was collected in a grinding crash on lap 17.

   Hirschman brought the field to green to start the 100 laps of green flag racing in the Hoosier Modified 100 with Burt Myers and Bobby Grigas taking chase. Defending race champion John Blewett was already on the move going three wide on lap three to grab two spots. The potential of a good night ended for Grigas when he received the black flag for a fluid leak. Still under race conditions, Chuck Hossfeld was hounding Myers for the second spot with Blewett in hot pursuit. Blewett marched into third over Hossfeld on lap 13 and immediately set his sites on Myers. A single lap later Blewett was second. Christopher was working his way into contention. The first caution of the event flew on lap 17 for contact between Santos, Andy Seuss, and Ronnie Silk. Several competitors took advantage of the yellow to make their mandatory pit stop.

   On the restart Hirschman led Jo. Blewett, Myers, Ted Christopher and Hossfeld inside the top five. Hirschman and Blewett began to pull away from third-running Myers. George Brunnhoelzl, Jr., making his first Modified start of the season, brought out the yellow on lap two for an incident that also involved Daren Scherer. During the caution period, the leader headed down pit road, taking southern competitors Brian Loftin and Jason Myers along for the ride. John Blewett was the new leader when the green flag few again. B. Myers, Hossfeld, Christopher and now Todd Szegedy occupied the top five positions. B. Myers tried mounting a challenge on Blewett but had to settle back in line. This provided the opportunity for Hossfeld to make it a three-car battle for the top spot. On lap 26, Hossfeld grabbed the second position from B. Myers. Szegedy and NSS newcomer Les Hinckley teamed up to work their way to the front. On lap 31 they each gained a position by passing Christopher. Three laps later they made their way past B. Myers. Recently crowned Northern Modified Tour Rookie-of-the-Year James Civalli spun in turn four to bring out the events third caution on lap 36. A host of front-running cars ducked down pit road including John Blewett, B. Myers, Christopher, Beers and Brian Pack. Hossfeld inherited the lead on the restart but looked strong at the head of the pack. Hossfeld held the top spot over Hinckley, Hirschman, Paulus, and Loftin. A heated battle between Paulus and Loftin was slowed by a caution for a spinning Anthony Sesely on lap 36. Back under green, the Paulus-Loftin battle continued with Loftin coming out on top. Loftin, now fourth, immediately began to pressure Hirschman for third. Hossfeld began to pull away from Hinckley. The Southern ace was able to get third from Hirschman; but not for long. On lap 44, Hirschman rocketed back by through the dogleg. Earlier front-runner, B. Myers spun in turn four to bring out the caution on lap 46. The caution was trouble for Szegedy, who headed down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop. The lap counter hit halfway with Chuck Hossfeld leading. The Hillbilly Racing team pocketed $500 for leading lap 50 courtesy of DMC Auto Exchange. Hirschman was back into the second position and looking for more. Paulus sat in the third spot with a new face of Rick Kluth in fourth. A single lap later, incidental contact between John Blewett and Lia ended with Lia in the outside wall. Sesely, Seuss, and Hinckley spun during the incident as well. B. Myers received heavy damage to his car when Lia tried to drive away from the scene, collecting Myers. Hossfeld, the only car yet to make the mandatory stop, headed to pit road for service. Hirschman was the new leader when racing resumed. Paulus, Kluth, Blewett and Christopher rounded out the top-five. With Hirschman and Paulus pulling away slightly, the best battle on the track was for fifth position between Blewett and Beers. Christopher began to show his muscle as well. On lap 53, Christopher took third from Kluth and began to reel in the leaders. Kluth fell into the clutches of Beers. There was a scary moment for Hirschman on lap 70 when Gene Pack and Ryan Preece spun in the leaders path to bring out the caution. Unfazed, Hirschman jumped out to a comfortable lead on the restart. Paulus continued to run in second over Christopher, Blewett and Beers. The action at the back of the pack was heated with several rows of side-by-side racing. A spin by Billy Pauch, Jr. brought out the seventh yellow on lap 76. Christopher took advantage of the restart to make a bid on Paulus while Beers made a run on Blewett. Neither was able to make the pass stick. On lap 80, Paulus had reached the back bumper of Hirschman. He, too, had to settle back into line. The final caution of the event flew on lap 85 for a spin by Hinckley. With a collective groan from the grandstand area, the Southís favorite son, Junior Miller was forced down pit road under the caution with an oil leak. The final 15-laps found Hirschman getting some breathing room as Paulus, Christopher and Beers went nose to tail. On lap 94, Christopher was able to muscle his way by Paulus for second. Beers, who lost a cylinder during the event, was still able to follow through to move his ailing #9 into the third position.

   Hirschman cruised to the victory in the prestigious North-South Shootout. Hirschman was greeted in victory lane by his legendary father Tony and his teary eyed mother, Brenda. It was a big win for the young and rising star. In addition to his $9,000 plus bounty, Hirschman was also presented with a custom-painted helmet to commemorate his victory and a shotgun-a fitting trophy for Hirschman who symbolically gunned down the competition.

   One of the Whelen Modified Tour Series top crew chiefs and fabricators packed his bags and headed south. Phil Moran had taken a position with Bill Davis Racing in North Carolina which fields NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series cars. Moran had been behind the efforts of Todd Szegedy and at one time was a fabricator at Spearpoint Auto. Moran also spent considerable time at the Carl and Charlie Pasteryak racing garage. Tom Baldwin, Jr. apparently had hired Phil to be in charge of the chassis shop. Baldwin had also hired Steve Aspinwall from the Mystic Missile team for a position at Bill Davis racing.

   At the Texas Motor Speedway Tony Stewart, a two-time Nextel Cup champion made it two in a row as he earned his 29th career win. He also won in September at Kansas by gambling on gas and coasted under the checkered flag. But Stewart was dominating a week previous at Atlanta, leading 146 of 325 laps, and even stronger this week. Jimmie Johnson finished second. An unidentified crewman for Scott Riggs' team knocked driver Kevin Harvick, his wife and a NASCAR official to the ground on pit road Sunday, minutes after the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. It was apparently in retaliation for an incident late in the race. Harvick was close behind Riggs when the latter crashed while running third on lap 332 of the 339-race event. It appeared Harvick's car took the air off the rear deck of Riggs' car and Riggs was unable to maintain control. Harvick won the preliminary Busch 300 that was run on Saturday.

   Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for 2011 was starting to come together. The Stafford Motor Speedway announced that the 2011 Spring Sizzler would be held on May 1. Their traditional August Friday night date would be August 5 with a rain date the following day, Saturday, Aug 6. The third and final visit of the tour would be on Sunday, October 2 for the Fall Final. Lime Rock Park had also announced that they would be hosting the tour again, on September 17. The Thompson Speedway had previously announced that they would have three tour dates, to be announced plus the three at Loudon and one at Riverhead. Other dates in the wind were June 24 at Monadnock, July 16 at Loudon, August 13 or 14 at Loudon on Indy car weekend, August 24 at Bristol and September 24 at Loudon.

   The Modified Racing Series had just completed its most successful season to date. The series picked up the slack that competitors experienced as dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had shrunk in recent years. The MRS staged 19 events at speedways in New England and New York. John McKennedy garnered the season championship as he beat out Dwight Jarvis by 63 points. Les Hinkley finished the year in third spot with Steve Masse and Ken Barry rounding out the top five. Finishing sixth through tenth are Rowan Pennink, Todd Annarummo, Max Zachem, Rob Goodenough and Jacob Dore. All tolled 72 different drivers entered into competition.

   The outlook for 2012 was extremely bright as more top drivers were looking for an alternative venue in which to race. The MRS would be running at just about every track in New England in 2012. Most tracks would host multiple visits.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway announced their 2012 schedule. As previously mentioned their season would begin on May 1 with the Spring Sizzler. Friday night weekly racing would start on May 6 and will continue through September 16. The Modified Racing Series would return for two events, May 12 and September 9, in 2012. Both MRS events would have the following day, Saturday, as rain dates. Also on the schedule again was Extreme Tuesday which would be held on June 28 and would feature the ISMA Supers, NEMA Midgets and Pro Four Modifieds.
NEAR Hall of Famer Billy Harman entered the hospital for knee replacement surgery and was on the mend.

   In some sad news, Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president of corporate communications, whose career in motorsports spanned portions of six decades as both a journalist and public relations professional, passed away in Daytona Beach, Fla., following a 12-month battle with cancer. He was 71.

   The NASCAR Sprint Cup stars were at the Talledega Speedway. The race was marked by 87 lead changes, second most in NASCAR history, and a multicar accident that sent AJ Allmendinger's car flipping across the track as the leaders roared toward the white flag. NASCAR threw the caution for Allmendinger's accident, and nobody had any idea who was out front when the yellow waved.
Sponsorship of Jeff Gordon's car was filled when longtime partner DuPont announced a three-year extension with the four-time NASCAR champion. DuPont had been with Gordon since his Cup debut in 1992, but the company was scaling back its commitment starting in 2011. It would be Gordon's primary sponsor in 14 races.

   It took several minutes of reviews for NASCAR to declare Clint Bowyer the victor. He jumped the gun with celebratory burnouts, then stuck his hand out his window for a congratulatory high-five with Kevin Harvick, who waited in his parked Chevrolet for the NASCAR call.

   In truck series racing, Kyle Busch made a last-ditch slide past Aric Almirola at the finish line, then brushed aside Almirola's suggestion that he should be stripped of the victory.

   With his truck on the verge of spinning out, Busch appeared to put two wheels below the yellow out-of-bounds line at the bottom of the track just as he made his wild move to win Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Trucks series race at Talladega Superspeedway by 0.002 seconds. He wasn't penalized.

   Thatís 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

Bob Polverari                                                   Jerry Cook                                                   Bill Slater  

Don MacTavish                                            Freddie Harbach                                           Billy Harman

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 4, 2011

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