November 2, 2012
years ago in 1952 Dick Beauregard was declared Sportsmen Champion
at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl after driving several different cars
to the driver points title. The night Beauregard was honored at the track as
Champion he received a trophy, a television set, a watch and a cake in front
of the Speedbowl crowd. However, the night ended with Dick and Moe Gherzi
having a post-race scuffle on the backstretch. Gherzi spun out while racing
with Beauregard and Don Collins for position during the feature. As the cars
lined up to go back into the pits after the race, Gherzi hit Beauregard's
car with his own car from behind, the two then got out of their cars to
confront each other. The verbal confrontation gathered a crowd where reports
in the New London Day the following day claimed unidentified people were
struck by others, but little else was reported. Freddie Luchesi led the
division in wins with 9. Don Collins had 7 feature wins including a
50-lapper in June. Cy Yates (3), Ray Delisle (2), Mike Ward and Jim Holt won
the other regularly scheduled 50 lap Sportsmen events.
Thirty five years ago, in 1977,
rainouts split the modified fields of cars as some went to Martinsville for
the Cardinal 500 and some went to Thompson for the World Series.
Martinsville had the NASCAR sanction and drew most of the top stars. The
World Series, at that time was open competition. Bugsy Stevens took the win
in Virginia. Local favorite Billy Hensley finished second with Brian Ross,
Hank Thomas and Brett Bodine rounding out the top five. At Thompson, Fred
DeSarro took the win over Freddie Schulz, Leo Cleary, George Summers and
Thirty years ago, in 1982, the
NASCAR Modifieds were in Martinsville for the season ending Cardinal 500.
Fifty-seven cars were on hand. Best appearing awards went to Tony Siscone
and the Dick Barney No.14 modified and the No.32 Late Model Sportsman driven
by Dale Jarrett. The modified 250 lapper saw Jim Spencer jump out to an
early lead over Doug Hevron and George Kent. Greg Sacks, who had all but
dominated the modified ranks was on the move and by lap 27 had taken the
lead. Sacks led until lap 92 when he, along with Richie Evans, Tony Siscone
and Brett Bodine pitted for fuel. Spencer led the restart on lap 98 with
Jerry Cranmer, Sacks, Bodine, Evans and Siscone in tow. Spencer led until
lap 124 when he lost a driveshaft and Evans assumed the lead. A terrible
crash and a horrific fire occurred on lap166. Ray Everham hit the wall and
stopped on the backstretch. Tony Siscone, with nowhere to go, rear-ended
splitting the gas tank. Flames engulfed both cars. Everham escaped but
Siscone, who was pulled out by Brian Ross and Geoff Bodine, suffered serious
burns. Just before the crash, Siscone had removed his driving gloves, as
they had become sweaty. After a long red flag period the race was resumed
with Kent in the lead as Evans had pitted. Sacks, who was hoping to end his
season with a win, dropped out on lap 187 when his right front suspension
broke. Evans made a gallant charge in the closing laps but in the end had to
settle for second behind Kent. Satch Worley finished third with Jerry
Cranmer, fourth and Brett Bodine, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Paul
Radford, Bob Vee, Gail Barber, Jean Michaud and Tom Baldwin. It would take
over a year for Tony Siscone to heal and be able to race again, which he
did. In fact, Siscone came back to Martinsville to record a well-deserved
win. The Martinsville event was also the final race of Jerry Cooks driving
as he retired to accept a position as Technical Coordinator in the Northeast
Twenty five years ago, in 1987,
the Winston Modified Tour headed for Martinsville for what was supposed to
be the last event of the year but because of the fact that the Stafford Fall
Final had to be re-scheduled to the following week the Martinsville event
did not determine the series champion. George Kent took the win with Jamie
Tomaino finishing a strong second. Third thru fifth were Mike Mclaughlin,
Satch Worley and Brian Ross.
Twenty years ago, in 1992, the
Thompson World Series took center stage as the Winston Modified Tour season
came to a close. Reggie Ruggerio took the 125 lap win but had to settle for
the runner-up spot in the final standings to Jeff Fuller who finished tenth.
Satch Worley, in the Mystic Missile finished second with Mike Ewanitsko in
third spot. Doug Hevron and Ricky Fuller rounded out the top five. Ted
Christopher won the SK_Modified portion of the World Series as he beat out
Eddie StAngelo and Mike Christopher. The final Modified Tour standings
showed Jeff Fuller as taking the championship over Ruggerio, Tom Baldwin,
Steve Park and Satch Worley.
Fifteen years ago, in 1997, the
Richmond International Speedway closed out the 1997 Nascar Modified Tour
Series with a 150-lap event. Mike Stefanik ended his championship season in
fine style as he took the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 113 and never
looked back. Finishing second was pole sitter Tony Hirshman. Jan Leaty
finished third and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, Rick Fuller, Tom Cravenho,
Tom Baldwin and Christopher.
Ten years ago in 2002, The
NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series had closed out the year with Mike
Stefanik taking the driving title. The tour consisted of 19 events with a
total of 99 different competitors. Of those, 14 ran in all events. Their
participation percentage was 14%. Looking at other NASCAR divisions, the
Winston Cup has had, 84 different competitors in 28 events. Their
participation percentage is the highest, 33%. The Busch Grandnationals have
the highest car counts with 123 cars in competition. Nineteen ran all events
for a percentage of 15%. The Craftsman Trucks have drawn 107 vehicles for 20
events. Twenty competitors ran all events for a percentage participation of
19%. The Busch North Series had a total of 18 events with a total
participation of 64, which puts their percentage at 25%. The Goody’s Dash
Series, which would be dropped by NASCAR after 2003 ran only 14 events.
Eighty-seven cars ran with 12 running all events for a participation
percentage at 14%.
Competitors of the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series were
still waiting for their 2003 schedule. Waterford announced theirs a few
weeks back, May 10 and August 30. Word leaked from Riverhead that their
dates were June 7 and August 2. Chances are that Stafford would announce
their entire 2003 schedule at their banquet. From all indications the New
Hampshire International Speedway would have their Featherlite Modified Tour
Series events on Friday, July 18 and on Friday, September 12. Many
competitors of the Busch North Series and the Featherlite Modified tour were
hoping that NASCAR and the Speed Channel would announce their 2003 Touring
Series coverage schedule as now was the time for race teams to be out
beating the bushes for sponsorship dollars and it would be a big plus for a
competitor to give a potential sponsor the word that his product will be on
The Busch North Series Champion Andy Santerre won $95,185 in 18
events. Santerre scored three wins included with 10 top 5’s. Matt Kobyluck
finished second, 38 points behind the leader. Kobyluck recorded two wins and
11 top fives. Brad Leighton, Kelly Moore and Tracy Gordon rounded out the
top five. Featherlite Modified Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik won
$87,890 in 19 events. Stefanik won two events, which included seven top
fives. Ted Christopher was the leading winner with five victories to his
credit including ten top 5’s. He finished 50 points behind Stefanik with a
season total of $76,745. Chuck Hossfeld, Jerry Marquis and Rick Fuller
rounded out the top five. Schedules for both touring series are due out any
day. Overall, both New England based series provided good competition and
were good draws at the gate where ever they raced.
Auto racing in the northeast lost two staunch supporters. Ronald
Marquis, Jerry Marquis’ dad and Tony Vecchio Sr. Mr. Marquis was very
instrumental in his sons auto racing career and Mr. Vecchio played a vital
part as he supplied both Modifieds and Busch North Series cars for Tony
Hirschman, both would be missed.
Five years ago in 2007, the
post season North-South Shootout was supposed to be the big newsmaker of the
week but that all changed at high noon on Friday when it was announced that
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE:TRK) had agreed to purchase the New
Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre for $340 million in
cash. O. Bruton Smith, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of
Speedway Motorsports, Inc, announced the agreement. The acquisition was
expected to close in the first quarter of 2008. To align with other SMI-owned
speedway brands, the track would be renamed New Hampshire Motor Speedway
following completion of the acquisition. The speedway hosts the only Nextel
Cup Series, Busch Series, and Craftsman Truck Series events held in the
six-state New England region. Smith alluded that he had offered Bob Bahre
the opportunity to remain associated as a consultant with the track that he
Once the announcement went public the rumors of events leaving New
Hampshire for other venues were rampant. According to an announcement made
by NASCAR there would be no changes in scheduled Nextel Cup dates for 2008.
Since it’s beginning Loudon has included the Whelen Modified Tour and the
Busch East Series in their race weekends. It was sincerely hoped that the
Whelen Mods and the Busch East would be included in all future plans of the
speedway. Since the track opened in 1990, the 1.058-mile oval had hosted 48
Busch East Series events and 46 Whelen Modified Tour races.
In a somewhat related statement by Phil Kurze, Vice President-Motorsports,
Whelen Engineering Company, “2008 is NOT the last year that the Whelen
Modifieds are part of the NASCAR family of racing divisions. Whelen has many
years remaining on our contract for this division, the oldest NASCAR
division, and it is going to continue to be part of NASCAR in the coming
years and a very important part of Whelen Motorsports. Statements relative
to its demise are based on unsubstantiated opinions or attempts to promote
other series”. Kurze was a loyal and dedicated fan of the Modifieds plus is
a man of his word. Hot on the heels of the Kurze announcement came word from
John White of the Spencer Speedway in New York State that his track would
host a Whelen Modified Tour Series event in 2008.
Many of the top Modified competitors headed south to the Concord
Motorsports Park in Concord, NC for the 5th Annual John Blewett III Memorial
North-South Shootout. Twenty-eight SK type Modifieds and 46 Tour type
Modifieds were on hand. The top three SK type qualifiers were Woody Pitkat,
Doug Coby and Keith Rocco. Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett won the pole for the 5th
Annual John Blewett Memorial North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports
Park. Blewett clocked in a blistering lap of 15.161seconds to best the
46-car field. Blewett was flying the family colors and number with the
red-white-and blue #76 in honor of his brother, John Blewett III. John, a
two-time North-South Shootout winner, died in a crash at Thompson
International Speedway. Matt Hirschman was second fastest and was followed
by southerner Burt Meyers, Erik Rudolph and True Value Modified competitor
Jimmy Blewett took the SK type win over Ted Christopher, Tom
Farrell, Jeff Malave and Rob Janovic. After a late race tangle with Blewett,
Christopher knifed his way to the front after restarting at the rear,
catching Blewett on the final lap. Pole sitter Woody Pitkat was sent to the
rear of the field after making contact with Keith Rocco in the early going.
Pitkat, who led the early stages of the SK-type race, was later taken out
when he was collected in a restart jam-up. Sixth through tenth were Joe
Lemay, Steven Reed, Don Fowler, Glen Griswold and Rick Kluth.
Just prior to the start of the Modified portion of the North-South Shootout
John Blewett IV, the son of fallen driver John Blewett III gave the command
to start the engines. As the race was about to get underway C & C Racing
Promotions presented a check to the Blewett family for $10-thousand that
they raised for the family since John's death in August.
Matt Hirschman made it two in a row in N/S Shootout competition as
he out raced and out foxed some of the best in Modified racing. Hirschman
jumped out to an early lead with young Eric Rudolph on his tail. Hirschman
led until lap 32 when, under caution, he pitted for his mandatory pit stop.
Ryan Preece, of the True Value Series didn’t and assumed the lead. Preece
led until shortly after the ½ way mark of the 100 lap feature when he pitted
for his mandatory stop and handed the lead back to Hirschman. From there on
it was Hirschman all the way to the checker. Eric Beers finished second and
was followed by Bobby Santos III, southerner Burt Myers and Don Lia. Lia had
recovered from an early confrontation with James Civali. Sixth through tenth
were Eric Rudolph, Les Hinkley, Dale Quarterly, Woody Pitkat and Ryan Preece.
Pre race favorite Ted Christopher retired after 58 laps with an overheated
engine. Jimmy Blewett who was the sentimental favorite finished 15th on the
In Nextel Cup action at the Texas Motor Speedway Jimmie Johnson
came out on top after a dramatic side-by-side duel with Matt Kenseth,
grabbing his third straight victory and, more important, wresting the series
points lead from Jeff Gordon. The race with Kenseth was breathtaking at
times, with both cars wiggling dangerously as they came off the corners
nearly touching. The entire time Johnson was well aware a crash would have
taken him right out of the championship battle. Johnson, who began the day
nine points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon, moved out to a
30-point lead with two races remaining in the Chase for the championship.
Gordon, a four-time champion, led early in the race, but was no factor in
the late going, struggling with handling before managing to squeeze out a
hard-earned seventh-place finish that kept the points battle close heading
to Phoenix.It was Johnson's 32nd career victory and first on the
1.5-mile Texas oval. He led four times Sunday for a total of nine laps.
Pole-winner Martin Truex Jr. finished third, followed by Busch, who led a
race-high 143 laps but fell from first to seventh on the final pit stop.
Newman finished fifth and Burton held off Gordon for sixth.
In Busch Series action Kevin Harvick won another race and runaway
points leader Carl Edwards finally wrapped up his first NASCAR Busch Series
championship Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Edwards, who built a lead of
more than 800 points in the first half of the season, stumbled through the
second half of the year before putting away the title with an 11th-place run
in the O'Reilly Challenge. He leads runner-up David Reutimann by an
insurmountable 552 points with two races to go. For Harvick, running a
limited Busch schedule this season after his runaway title in 2006, it was
business as usual as he won for a series-high sixth time in 24 starts in
2007. It was his 32nd career victory, moving past Jack Ingram into second
place behind Mark Martin, who has 47 wins. He beat Kyle Busch to the finish
line by 3.486 seconds, most of the front straightaway on the 1.5-mile oval.
Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.
Sixth-place Brad Keselowki was the highest finishing Busch Series regular.
Last year, 2011, The NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour Series had wrapped up their 2011 season. The wheels
continued to turn as competitors continued to make their plans for 2012.
Among those who may not be running a full schedule is Mike Stefanik.
Stefanik vacated the seat in the Flamingo Motorsports No. 16 just prior to
the season ending World Series at the Thompson Speedway. Stefanik drove the
Ed Marceau Modified at Thompson but does not have a Tour ride secured at
this time. Marceau and Stefanik have been successful in running limited
Valenti Modified Racing Series events and in open competition Tour type
events at Thompson. Marceau felt that his car could compete with the best of
them but financially there is no way he could field a car for the Whelen
Modified Tour Series. Stefanik's wife Julie has had health issues and maybe
the multi-time series champion may take a step back in 2012. As a competitor
and fabricator Stefanik can be proud of his accomplishments and has nothing
to left to prove.
Bobby Santos III came up a little short in defending his Whelen
Modified Tour title but in the USAC Sprint Cars he excelled as he won the
first USAC Sprint Car Pavement Series championship. Santos won two of the
seven races held.
In Sprint Cup racing at Martinsville, Tony Stewart won this one by
passing Jimmie Johnson on a restart with three laps to go. The victory was
Stewart’s third in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and vaulted him into
second place in the standings, eight points behind leader Carl Edwards.
Stewart won for the 42nd time in his career.
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
SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dyke's
Click on Photo for Full Sized
Joseph 'Moe' Gherzi
Looking Back Archive
Smith / Looking Back A Bit