The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


March 29, 2013

   Thirty years ago, in 1983, Greg Sacks rebounded from a blown engine at Martinsville as he won the New England season opening IceBreaker at Thompson. Sacks took the lead from Richie Evans with three laps to go in the 83-lap contest. George Kent finished second as Evans faded to third at the checker. Ray Miller and John Rosati rounded out the top five. Evans, who started on the pole, was forced to pit after suffering a flat left rear tire on the second lap. Sacks, who started on the outside pole, led until lap 46 when Evans re-took the lead. Evans clearly had the fastest car but his hard charge to the front took its toll on his tires. Cale Yarborough was the Winston Cup winner in Atlanta.

   Twenty five years ago, in 1988, Riverside Park opened their season with a 100 lapper, which was won by Reggie Ruggerio. Mike Stefanik in the Jack Koszela 15 finished second with Stan Greger, third. Rounding out the top five were Long Island invader Tom Baldwin and Marty Radwick.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, Riverside Park opened the season to a packed house of 8675 spectators. Famed car owner Bob Judkins suffered a heart attack and was unable to watch as Jerry Marquis took the win over Bruce D'Alessandro, Chris Kopec and Mike Stefanik. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt won out over Mark Martin. Robert Pressley won the Busch Grandnational event. The racing world was saddened when news spread that defending Winston Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash on April 1 while heading to Bristol Tennessee.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, Riverside Park had the traditional New England opener. Reggie Ruggiero started 25th as a provisional. Working the Park like only Reggie could, Ruggerio marched his way to the front and took the lead from Chris Kopec on lap 108 and never looked back as he romped to victory. Pole sitter Mike Stefanik led the first 40 laps before giving way to Kopec. Stefanik, who ended up third behind Ruggerio and Tony Hirschman, was running in second spot on lap 187 of the 200-lap contest when Ted Christopher slid up, causing both to spin. Christopher lost a drive shaft and was done for the day. Dan Avery and Ed Flemke Jr. rounded out the top five. In Winston Cup action at Bristol Rusty Wallace dominated until running over debris and hitting the wall. Jeff Gordon inherited the lead and eventual win. Elliott Sadler was the Busch Grandnational winner. On a sad note, Tim Flock who was a pioneer in the sport back in the 50’s died after a long battle with cancer.

   Ten years ago in 2003 In Busch Grandnational action at the Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR pulled one of its biggest officiating blunders when they penalized Brian Vickers for passing before the starting line on a re-start. Joe Nemechek took the win. Videotape clearly showed that Vickers did not pass before the line. NASCAR held their ground, as the word from the Big Red Trailer was that he “Intended to Pass”. In SMART action at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina, Jay Hedgecock took the win. Ryan Newman won the Winston Cup event that was run at the Texas track.

   Five years ago in 2008, the Thompson Speedway held their second of two practice sessions on Saturday in somewhat blustery conditions. According to Howie Hodge the following Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers were on hand to shakedown their cars: 0 - Danny Sammons, 3 - Ryan Preece, 10 - Ed Flemke, 11 - Anthony Sesely, 17 - Glen Reen, 21 - Richard Savory, 28 - James Civali, 32 - Tom Abele. Jr., 46 - Eric Beers, 58 - Kevin Goodale, 90 - Renee Dupuis, 93 - Rowan Pennink and 99 - Jamie Tomaino.

   Kenny Barry, pinch hitting for Todd Ceravolo, in got in some decent runs in the Dick Ceravolo owned Sunoco Modified. The Ceravolos' suffered engine problems the week previous and had installed a new power plant.

   Denny Hamlin overtook Jeff Burton on the 427th lap and went on to win the Goody's 500 Nextel Cup event at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. For 389 laps, the race looked like it would be another victory for Hendrick Motorsports at the track it has dominated, winning eight of the previous 10 races. Hendrick drivers led 371 laps, but Hamlin and fellow Virginia native Jeff Burton made decisions under the next-to-last caution that allowed them to move up front. And Hamlin ruined Burton's decision to stay out while the rest of the leaders pitted. Jeff Gordon rallied to finish second, followed by Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Johnson had won three straight at Martinsville heading into the race.

   Dennis Setzer assumed the lead when Kyle Busch had to brake to avoid a crash in front of him Saturday, then held on through numerous restarts to win the Kroger 250 Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was the first for Dodge since the late Bobby Hamilton won at Mansfield in 2005, and the truck Setzer won in is co-owned by Hamilton's widow, Lori. Don Lia scored his first top ten as he finished ninth.

   Last year, 2012, the Waterford Speedbowl endured some bone chilling weather and a smashed retaining wall but managed to get their first Saturday night racing program in the record books. Claiming the opening Saturday night feature wins included Justin Gaydosh who wired the SK Modified® race, leading from start to finish and Dillon Moltz, who won his first career victory in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division at his hometown track. Corey Hutchings took the win in the night’s Street Stock feature while Ken Cassidy Jr. won his second consecutive Mini Stock feature to begin the year. Thirteen-year old Kaz Grala of Westboro, MA won the night’s Legends Cars feature and Ken Morin Jr. of Old Saybrook reached Victory Lane in the Bandolero feature.

   The 35-lap SK Modified® feature saw Gaydosh jump to the race lead ahead of Harry Rheaume at the drop of the green flag. While Gaydosh moved out to a brief early lead, Kyle James and Nichole Morgillo also snuck past Rheaume’s inside before he was able to get in line in fourth position. The field clicked away the early laps with James slicing into Gaydosh’s lead and Morgillo alone in third place. Behind Morgillo, Rheaume led a train of cars that included Tom Abele, Diego Monahan and Rob Janovic Jr. Monahan was the first to jump out of line on lap-4, moving by both Abele and then Rheaume to sweep into fourth position.

   As James began to pressure Gaydosh for the lead, the running order remained the same through lap-9 when trouble broke out in the pack of cars battling for fifth position. Rheaume, Abele, Tyler Chadwick and Ed Puleo all made contact exiting turn two, sending Rheaume and Chadwick hard into the retaining wall. The violent impact sent Rheaume’s car airborne as the field continued to scatter behind the wreck. The incident drew the red flag, resulting in a 35-minute delay for repairs to the wall necessitated by the severe impact. All the drivers walked away from the incident, however only Puleo was able to resume after pitting for repairs.

   Keith Rocco was looking to make it two in a row at the shoreline oval before his luck ran out. Following a restart, Gaydosh and Rocco made slight contacting entering turn one battling for the lead. Rocco got momentarily crossed up, coming together with Janovic who tried to race by Rocco’s inside into second. The two did a masterful job of keeping their cars pointed straight ahead down the backchute, but the contact damaged both cars suspension. Janovic slowed dramatically in turn four, drawing another caution flag. Both Janovic and Rocco pitted but were unable to resume before racing went back to green. The new running order for the final restart saw James line up to Gaydosh’s outside, with Jeff Rocco, Monahan and Pearl rounding out the top-five.

   The final laps were run without caution after Gaydosh got another good jump on the restart. James was again able to close the gap back to the leader as the race reached the final laps. James was in striking position, valiantly trying to put a crossover move on Gaydosh who defended each attempt. James’ best run came on lap-33 as he drove off Gaydosh’s right rear as the exited turn two. Gaydosh again defended the run and pulled back ahead to set up the final two laps. James tried a last ditch effort on the final lap but settled for second. Jeff Rocco, Monahan and Pearl held their positions to round out the top-five.

   One of the promising young rookies in the Waterford Late Model division put his future as a driver on hold for a while. Ryan Morgan, who is a graduate of the Quarter Midget, Legend Cars and the Thompson Modifieds, made the move up this year and on opening day finished a solid fourth. During his qualifying heat this past Saturday night he had the misfortune of having his throttle stick wide open while going down the backstretch. The Ledyard High School student hit the wall a ton and all but destroyed the car that was owned by his dad, John. Ryan was transported to the L&M Hospital in New London and later sent for observation at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. The end result was no broken bones but a lot of soreness.

   The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour returned to the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina last Saturday night where Brian Loftin took the lead early and paced the field to the finish to win the Farm Bureau Insurance 150.

   It was an emotional Victory Lane, marking Loftin's first win since the passing of his wife a year ago. The win gives the Lexington, N.C., driver a tour-leading eight victories at Caraway and marked his 12th career tour win overall. Loftin, who started third on the field, took the lead from Frank Fleming a third of the way through the 150-lap event and then held on through four restarts in the second half of the race to score the win. L.W. Miller followed Loftin across the finish line in second to collect a second podium finish at Caraway for a second consecutive week. Rookie Daniel Hemric finished third, with Tim Brown rebounding from a flat tire to finish fourth and Danny Bohn taking fifth.

   Sixth thru tenth were Patrick Emerling, defending champion George Brunnhoelzl III, Jason Myers, Burt Myers and Andy Seuss. There were 22 cars on hand.

   With his victory in the Farm Bureau Insurance 150, Loftin locked up a spot in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series race at the UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway next February during Speedweeks.

   Get well wishes went out to George Summers, one of the all-time great Modified drivers in the northeast, who had been hospitalized in a Mass. hospital with pneumonia.

   NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series had the weekend off to observe Easter.

   That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-mail:

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

Rene Charland                                           Andy Anderson                                              Deke Astle   

Johnny Lobo                                             Mike Loescher                                               Tony Mordino   

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 29, 2013

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