The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


November 23, 2012

   Thirty years ago, in 1982, in Winston Cup action at Riverside California, Darrell Waltrip took the pole and finished third behind winner Tim Richmond. Third was good enough as Waltrip wrapped up the 1982 Winston Cup division championship, his second in a row. Ronnie Bouchard finished sixth.

   Twenty five years ago, in 1987, the Oswego Speedway, the undisputed Super Modified Capitol of the World announced that they had signed a sanction with NASCAR for four Winston Modified Tour events in 1988. A year later, those in power at Oswego would express their feelings that they were not happy with the way NASCAR ran their programs and would not invite them back again.

   Twenty years ago, in 1992, NASCAR’s Winston Cup division saw the end of one era and the beginning of another. Richard Petty drove his last race at Atlanta and officially retired from driving. Rick Wilson was named as his replacement. It was also at Atlanta that Jeff Gordon made his Winston Cup debut.

   Fifteen years ago, in 1997, Joe Nemechek scored an emotional victory as he won the BGN 300 at Homestead, Fla., a track that claimed the life of his brother. Randy LaJoie finished second and sewed up his second divisional title. Ted Christopher ran strong in the early going but broke an axle and ended up 34th.

   Ten years ago in 2002 The Busch North Series competitors were somewhat in a dither after NASCAR announced that in 2003, their rules would be combined with those of NASCAR’s Winston West division. Busch North series competitors will have to replace their existing 9:1compression motors with 12:1 compression motors. The Winston West competitors will have to replace their existing Winston Cup type chassis with the design presently used by the Busch North Series. Each division will have its own separate race circuit with a grand finale combination event at season’s end. Called NASCAR’s Elite Division, it has been said that The Speed Channel is under contract for four years to present a total of up to 20 events a year of the new combined division. It’s going to involve a lot more travel and increased expense and hopefully NASCAR will increase the minimum purse requirements.

   Five years ago in 2007, it appeared that NASCAR was leaning toward using” Spec type” motors in the Whelen Modifieds. Spec motors are designed, built and sealed by a NASCAR approved engine builder. Their purpose was to lower the cost and increase the longevity of engines currently in use. A top running, professionally built Tour type engine ranges from $40-55,000. A top running team needs at least three of them. It was NASCAR’s intent to phase the new engines into the Modified series at some point and hopefully the sanctioning body would allow competitors time to use up or sell existing equipment. Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report reported that the No. 2 team of Todd Szegedy had a spec motor installed in one of their cars. Szegedy ran tests at the Concord Motorsports Park with the Spec motor car and a Ford powered car. Weather permitting, additional testing would take place at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday Nov 30 and Saturday, Dec 1. Mike Stefanik was slated to drive one of the cars at the Stafford test session.

   The Wall Township Speedway located on the New Jersey shore officially closed out the 2007 racing season with Turkey Derby XXXIV. Since 1974, the Thanksgiving classic had played out in just about every kind of weather including near blizzard conditions. This year those who jam packed the grandstands got to enjoy near 40 degree temperatures. Twenty six Modifieds were on hand. Southern invader Burt Myers was the top qualifier. A re-draw of the top qualifiers saw Reggie Ruggiero picking the pole starting position and Jimmy Blewett picking the outside pole. James Civali pulled third with Pete Brittain picking fourth. In what should have been an epic battle between the seasoned veteran and the young challenger never developed as Ruggerio and Blewett tangled before one lap was completed which handed the race to Civali. Ruggiero parked it for the day. Blewett was able to rejoin the fray and actually made it up to second spot when the checkered flag flew.
Attrition was high as only ten cars were running at the finish. Tony Ferrante finished third with Rowan Pennick and Earl Paules rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Tim Arre, Brian Cramner, Danny Sammons, Billy Pauch JR and Matt Hirschman. Ruggiero was credited with the 27th finishing position. Justin Gumley was the winner of the SKtype 100 lapper.

   In other weekend racing action Bobby Santos, III, won the USAC Sprint Car Grand Prix at the Irwindale Speedway in Calif.! Santos defeated a strong group of west coast and Canadian midget drivers in this annual classic. A Toyota engine similar to the one in NASCAR’s Busch and Craftsman Truck Series powered Bobby’s car. Other reports reveal that Santos' driver development deal with Bill Davis Racing had come to an end. However, the word is that another deep pocket team would sign the local driver to an even better contract in the near future.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway announced their 2008 schedule. The Nutmeg oval, under the management of the Arute family would again showcase the track's SK Modified and Late Model divisions in two extra distance events as well as four Whelen Modified Tour events. Stafford would host a total of 23 racing events, with the 2008 NASCAR season kicking off with the 37th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST April 25-27, and concluding with the 36th annual CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend on September 26-28.

   Last year, 2011, Tony Stewart used a powerful and relentless drive, some might suggest the best in NASCAR history, on Sunday in the season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway to seize his third NASCAR championship. He overcame a hole in the grill of his Chevrolet, a rain delay, used debatable fuel strategy and made 118 passes on the track to win. Edwards, who started the race with a three-point lead in the standings, did everything he could from the minute he arrived in Florida. His Roush-Fenway Racing team put his Ford on the pole, he led a race-high 119 of the 267 laps and still finished a helpless second.

   The two actually ended up tied in the final standings, a NASCAR first, but Stewart won the title based on his five victories, all in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship to Edwards’ one.

   Stewart became the first owner/driver to win the championship since the late Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and the driver to end Jimmie Johnson’s record five-year title run. His last title was in 2005, the year before Johnson’s began his reign.

   Ricky Stenhouse won the Nationwide Series title long before the checkered flag dropped at the season finale Saturday. He clinched his first championship about 30 laps into the 200-lap race, securing the title when six cars officially dropped out of the 300-mile event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Stenhouse was running fourth when NASCAR officials announced he had wrapped up the title. He finished second behind Brad Keselowski. Carl Edwards was third, followed by Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin and Elliott Sadler.

   With the 2011 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Racing season in the history books the Arute family and their staff hosted the 42nd Annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor this past Friday. In addition to crowning their division champions the speedway released their schedule for 2012.

   Guests of honor were Ryan Preece, Ryan Posocco, Matt Galko, Kevin Gambacorta, and Don Wood as the 2011 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions. Also honored were the top-20 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. Other awards that were presented during the evening's festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, Most Improved Driver Awards, Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards, and the Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award.

   Receiving awards for Most Improved Driver were Michael Gervais, Jr. in the SK Modified® division, Patrick Townsend in the Late Model division, Steve Greer in the SK Light division, and Duane Provost in the Limited Late Model division. The Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards were presented by Brad and Linda Hietala of Reliable Welding and Speed to Heather DesRochers from the SK Modified® division, Peter Thickett from the Late Model division, Cody Gneiting from the SK Light division, and D.J. Burnham from the Limited Late Model division. The awards will be worth a $700.00 bonus to DesRochers, and $500.00 bonuses to Thickett, Gneiting, and Burnham from Reliable Welding and Speed.

   The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® and Late Model divisions, Joey Cipriano from the SK Light division, Cory Casagrande from the Limited Late Model division, and David Arute from the DARE Stock division. The Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award was awarded to Rick Casagrande. Casagrande prepared and maintained cars for his two sons, Cory and Kyle Casagrande. Cory won three races and narrowly missed out on winning Rookie of the Year honors in the Limited Late Model division, while Kyle tied for the DARE Stock division lead with 5 feature wins.

   Congratulations were in order for Modified racing pioneers Moe Gherzi, Jerry Humiston and Roland Lapierre, Sr. who were selected by the Veterans Committee of the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. The trio would be inducted along with drivers Reggie Ruggiero and Joey Kourafas, owner/mechanics Mario Fiore and Jim Jorgensen and track operators/promoters Irene Venditti and Donald Hoenig at the 15th annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Sunday Jan. 29, 2012 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT.

   Racing scribe Lou Modestino reported that New England racing history would be featured in the new state-of-the-art Northeast Motorsports Museum at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Racing History Preservation Group and “The Magic Mile” announced the beginning of fund raising efforts to create a 20,000-square-foot motorsports museum on Rt. 106 in Loudon, N.H. The announcement was made by Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway, RHPG president Dick Berggren and New England fan favorite and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ricky Craven.

   The Board was filled with New England racing greats including Ricky Craven, Ron Bouchard, Lew Boyd, Russ Conway, Andy Cusack, Ken Smith, Ed Shea, Joe Lombardo, Ric Mariscal, Skip Matczak, R.A. Silvia, George Summers and Pete von Sneidern.

   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

George Summers                                           Ron Bouchard                                         Jerry Humiston       

           Moe Gherzi                                              Roland LaPierre Sr                                      Reggie Ruggiero     

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 23, 2012

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