April 5, 2013
years ago in 1953, New London native Dom DeLaura won the season
opening 25 lap Sportsman feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Lou
Tetreault was the 20 lap non-Ford winner.
Forty five years ago in 1968,
SJ Evonsion scored his first win at the Riverside Park Speedway which was a
1/8 mile oval at the time. Bob Potter won the opening day 30 lap Modified
feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Forty years ago, rain prevailed
at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Thirty five years ago, in 1978,
the Modifieds ran a spring event at the 1-1/2 mile Trenton Speedway. Richie
Evans took the lead and the win when Bugsy Stevens ran out of gas with two
laps to go.
Thirty years ago, in 1983, all
Twenty five years ago, in 1988,
all was quiet
Twenty years ago in 1993, the
NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was in Richmond, VA. Mike Stefanik
took the lead from Jan Leaty with three laps to go as he went on to record
the victory. Jeff Fuller finished second with Leaty third over Mike
Ewanitsko and Doug Hevron rounding out the top five.
Fifteen years ago in 1998, the
Thompson Speedway took center stage with the running of the Ice Breaker.
Fifty-two Modifieds were on hand for the 125 lap event which saw Mike
Stefanik take the lead from Tony Ferrante with four laps to go. At the
finish, Ferrante faded to third as Tony Hirschman powered his way into the
second spot. Ed Flemke Jr. and Jan Leaty rounded out the top five. Jim
Broderick won the Sunoco-SK Modified event. Also running that weekend was a
40 lap Race of Champions event at Tioga which was won by George Kent. In
Winston Cup action in Texas, qualifying had to be put off for a day because
of water seeping up through the track. Jeremy Mayfield ended up with the
pole position but it was Mark Martin who would score the win. A big wreck on
lap two took out Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr. won the
Busch Series event.
Ten years ago in 2003 sleet and
ice forced NASCAR and the Thompson Speedway management to postpone the
season opening Icebreaker to April 14. During the weekend at Thompson,
George Pyne met with the Featherlite Modified Tour car owners and assured
them that their status within NASCAR was safe. Pyne also told the owners he
would look into improving the purse structures of the tour events. Looks
like good old George is still looking!
Five years ago in 2008, the
Thompson Speedway officially opened the 2008 racing season in the northeast
and began the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. In what was supposed
to be a fun filled and competitive weekend ended in tragedy and ultimately a
wet note. A racing accident claimed the life of race driver Shane Hammond of
Halifax, MA. The accident occurred on the fourth lap of a scheduled 25-lap
Northeast Midget Association (NEMA) feature event race. Hammond was
traveling down the backstretch of the 5/8 mile oval when he cart wheeled
over the third turn wall and hit an advertisement sign. The 27 year old
Hammond was transported to the Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, CT where he
was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
For a good part of the day it was misting and threatening rain.
Eddie Flemke Jr brought back fond remembrances of his father’s Thompson 300
win in 1978 as he elected not to pit when the leaders did and it paid off
handsomely, $7,920, to the second generation driver. Flemke, who started
eighth, was running third and he inherited the lead on lap 71 when leader
Todd Szegedy and second-place Reggie Ruggiero pitted. Flemke led until lap
92 when the race was finally red flagged because of extremely heavy mist
that coated the track and made it unsafe. It was also the first win for Gary
Teto, Flemke’s car owner.
A similar situation occurred years ago, 1978, and involved Flemke’s
father and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens was clearly the fastest car during the
running of the Thompson 300. When rain began falling Stevens was instructed
to pit and handed the lead to Flemke. Flemke gambled that the rain would
prevail and that it did!
Chuck Hossfeld, in Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile finished second
and was followed by Bob Grigas, Long Islander Joe Hartmann and rookie Tom
Abele. Sixth through tenth were James Civali who was the Coors Light Pole
sitter and clearly the fastest on the track, Todd Szegedy, Reggie Ruggiero,
Rowan Pennink and Ted Christopher. There were five caution periods for 53
laps. NASCAR Tour director Chad Little needed to get a better grip on this
situation as it took way too long to get restart lineups correct. There were
39 Tour Modifieds on hand and despite the cold weather close to 8,000 fans
turned out for the season opener.
Prior to the race, former champions Frankie Schneider (1952) and
Donny Lia (2007), and the late Richie Evans (nine-time champion) were
honored by NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering.
In other weekend racing at Thompson Bert Marvin was the Sunoco
Modified (SK type) winner on Saturday night in the first of two events
scheduled for the weekend. The Sunday event was rained out and will be
rescheduled at a later date. Jimmy Blewett finished second and was followed
by Doug Coby, Danny Cates and Josh Sylvester. Jeff Zuidema was the Late
Model winner, Mike O’Sullivan was the Pro Stock winner, Jessie Gleason, the
Limited Sportsman winner, Glenn Boss was victorious in the Thompson
Modifieds and Danny Fields was the Mini Stock winner. The NEMA Midget
feature was halted after the lap 4 accident and was not resumed. Erica
Santos was the leader at that time.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing Carl Edwards ran away with the Samsung
500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday for his series-best third win of the
season, holding off Jimmie Johnson on a two-lap overtime sprint to the
finish in Fort Worth. Kyle Busch, winner of the Nationwide Series race
Saturday, was strong early but had nothing for Edwards in the end and faded
Last year, 2012, The
northeastern hills of Connecticut came alive with the sound of ground
pounding NASCAR Modifieds as the Men that live by the Grace of God and 600
horsepower were off on the run back under the sun as the Whelen Modified
Tour Series began the 2012 season with the running of the annual Icebreaker
at the Thompson Speedway.
The speedway came alive on Friday with hundreds of camp trailers
and race car carriers entering the speedway grounds. With gasoline hovering
around the $4.15 mark many just decided to bite the bullet and went to enjoy
their favorite form of auto racing.
Summer-like weather greeted fans and competitors on Saturday
morning. Twenty nine Modifieds were on hand. In 2010 the IceBreaker drew 37
of the ground pounders. Maybe it is a sign of the times. The recent
announcement by NASCAR that only one Whelen Modified Tour would be televised
while 26 NASCAR K&N (Kids and Nephews) Development Series events would be
seen on television. Granted, the Whelen Modified Tour Series is regional but
their competition and fan appeal is far above many of The K&N events that
are run in front of almost empty grandstands. Whelen Industries pours
millions into the Modified series and the lack of television is a slap in
the face to the Connecticut sponsor. Even though the Whelen Modifieds are
primarily in the Northeast there are many potential sponsors out there and
if television coverage existed maybe there would be a few who would like to
see their company names on the sides of the cars. A race team can not exist
on race purses alone. Sponsorship dollars are desperately needed to keep the
division alive or more race teams will fall by the wayside.
Ryan Preece, who took over the seat formerly occupied by Mike
Stefanik, posted a lap of 18.387 seconds (122.369 mph) Justin Bonsignore
posted a fast lap of 18.402 (122.269). Bobby Santos III had the
third-fastest lap of Saturday qualifying at 18.545 (121.327). Keith Rocco
(18.560/121.228) and Rowan Pennink (18.594/121.007) rounded out the top-five
Ron Yuhas Jr., Mike Stefanik, defending Whelen Modified Tour
Champion Ron Silk, Todd Szegedy and Donny Lia rounded out the top 10
qualifiers for Sunday’s event. Don Lia who is in Santos' former ride was
11th and defending race winner Ted Christopher was 12th fastest.
Keith Rocco made a hasty retreat to the Waterford Speedbowl where he made it
two out of three in SK Modified competition. Rocco saved the best for last
as he passed Tom Abele Jr., who had led from the start of the 35-lap
feature, on the final turn on the 1/3 mile oval. Other winners at the
Connecticut shoreline oval were Ken Cassidy Jr. who won his third straight
Mini Stock feature. Tyler Jackson picked up his first career win in the SK
Light Modified race and Chris Meyer found Victory Lane in the Street Stock
feature. In Saturday Showdown Series action, Dan Butler won the Super X-Car
feature race and Scott Limkemann scored the win in the accompanying X-Car
event. The Late Models had the weekend off.
Ron Silk celebrated his eighth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
victory in an extended 159-lap Thompson Icebreaker after Rowan Pennink was
posted for not allowing Silk, who chose to take the inside groove for the
final restart, to set the pace. He officially jumped the restart. “I had a
better car than Rowan (Pennink),” said Silk after the race. “Before the last
restart, he had me up in the marbles. He didn’t even give me a chance to
have a line. You can’t beat the leader to the line. If you do, you have to
lift. I’m happy to win and we had a better car than he did. I ran him down
and passed him with 15 to go. The rule is in black and white. You can’t beat
the leader to the line.” Ted Christopher was sitting in the cat bird seat
and had the best view of what happened. Christopher stated that Pennink went
early and when Silk realized what was happening he jabbed the gas and spun
the wheels. As a penalty NASCAR placed Pennink at the tail of the lead lap
which gave him a tenth place finish. The official order of finish saw
Christopher finishing second with Mike Stefanik, third. Jimmy Blewett and
Don Lia rounded out the top five. Sixth through ninth were Jamie Tomaino,
Patrick Emerling, Doug Coby and Wade Cole. Fifteen of the original 29
starters were running at the finish.
Silk started the race in eighth and led just one time throughout
the race distance taking the lead at lap 138 when he dove underneath Pennink
in turn three. Ryan Preece took the lead at the start and led through lap 84
before giving way to Bobby Santos III. Santos led for only two laps when
Preece took the lead back, but only momentarily as Don Lia took his turn at
the point. Lia led from lap 89 to lap 129 when Pennink took control
following a restart on lap 130. Pennink and Silk slugged it out until lap
138 when Silk took the lead for the final time.
There were 12 caution periods that slowed the 157 lap event with
some of them taking out some of the pre-race favorites. The first caution
flew on lap 9 when Patrick Emerling , Doug Coby and John Jensen spun in turn
2. The second caution occurred on lap 39 when Todd Szegedy spun while
attempting to pass Mike Stefanik. It was during this caution that Jensen
dropped out with engine troubles. Caution no.3 came on lap 52 when Eric
Goodale spun in turn four. Eddie Flemke JR and Doug Coby got together for a
spin in turn two on lap 69 to bring out the fourth caution. One lap later
Long Islander Ken Heagy dropped out with engine woes. Coby spun with Keith
Rocco during a restart on lap 74 for caution No. 5. The field had no sooner
taken the green on lap 78 when Patrick Emerling got sideways coming out of
turn two. Szegedy and Silk went on the defensive. Silk survived but Szegedy
didn't as he went into the inside wall a ton, ending his day.
Caution no.7 on lap 85 had to be considered "The Big One" as it
involved 13 cars and caused NASCAR to throw the red in order to clean the
track of multiple wrecks. Rob Fuller and Bryon made the initial contact in
turn one that triggered the mess. Among those who were collected and
eliminated were Tony Ferrante Jr, Eric Berndt, Eric Goodale, Eric Beers, Ron
Yuhas Jr and Keith Rocco along with Fuller. Doug Coby spun in turn 2 on lap
113 for yellow No.8. Another multi car wreck on lap 122 brought out caution
no. 9. Mike Stefanik hit the rear of Ryan Preeces' car sending him into a
spin in turn three. Preece made contact with the wall and destroyed his
radiator, putting him out for the day. Also eliminated was Bobby Santos III.
On lap 142 Wade Cole spun, for caution No. 10, in turn two setting the stage
for the first green-white checker. When the field went back to green on lap
149 Lia and Justin Bonsignore tangled. Lia was able to continue but
had terminal suspension damage and was done for the day. On the restart,
Christopher wrested the lead from Silk only to lose it because Cole spun
again bringing out the 12th and final caution of the day.
In other Thompson Icebreaker action, Ryan Preece, Tommy O’Sullivan,
Derek Ramstrom, Glenn Boss, Scott Sundeen, and Tyler Poulin all took
victories in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions.
Preece jumped to the lead in the Sunoco Modified feature and held
off Woody Pitkat for the win in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. It was
Preece at the drop of the green with Woody Pitkat getting by Ted Christopher
for the second position. As Preece began pulling away, the first caution
flew at lap four when John Catania spun and hit the backstretch wall. The
green quickly went to yellow when on the restart Shawn Thibeault, Wayne
Arute, and Moose Douton got tangled up in turn four. The action continued
with Pitkat and Preece side-by-side through turn one and Pitkat pulling
ahead by a nose in turn two, however, it was Preece ahead at the line with
Pitkat in tow. Todd Ceravolo rounded out the top-three and the trio pulled
away to a significant lead over the rest of the field.
The torrid pace of Preece and Pitkat saw them lapping the field by
the 17th circuit, and as they maneuvered through lapped traffic, Ceravolo
dropped a half a straightaway in the rear view mirror. Preece took the
checkers in commanding style followed by Pitkat, Ceravolo, and Christopher,
who was later disqualified for an altered muffler. Christopher's finish was
reinstated after it was determined that his mufflers had not been altered.
There were 18 Sunoco (SK) Modifieds on hand.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour returned to action for the
South Boston (Va.) 150. While the Whelen Modified Tour Series in the north
had been losing some of it's competitors the southern series appears to be
gaining as 27 cars were on hand for the event. Brandon Ward won the South
Boston 150 on Saturday night in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action
at South Boston Speedway. Ward took the lead from defending tour champion
George Brunnhoelzl III, who led a race-high 130 laps, on Lap 131 and never
looked back over the 19 laps of the race. It was Ward’s first tour victory
in 17 starts. Andy Seuss rebounded from an early-race incident to finish
second followed by Danny Bohn in third. Kyle Ebersole and L.W. Miller
rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Thomas Stinson, Burt
Myers, Brunnhoelzl, Renee Dupuis and John Smith.
The Stafford Motor Speedway management announced that veteran car
owner Bob Garbarino would be the Grand Marshal of the upcoming Spring
Sizzler. Garbarino has been an avid supporter of Modified racing at Stafford
since the track was paved in 1967. His Mystic Missile has carried some of
NASCAR Modified's Greatest drivers including Dick Watson, Ted Stack, Hop
Harrington, Leo Cleary, Gene Bergin, Geoff Bodine, Tim Connelly, Satch
Worley, Brian Ross, Bugsy Stevens and SJ Evonsion. In recent years Bobby
Santos III and Don Lia have steered the Missile. Garbarino owns and operates
the Mystic River Marina in Mystic, CT.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Greg Biffle held on tight in the
fastest Sprint Cup race ever on the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked Texas Motor
Speedway, pulling away after charging below Jimmie Johnson for a winning
pass with 30 laps remaining on a windy and fast-paced Saturday night. In
Nationwide Series action, Ricky Stenhouse pushed his Ford out in front with
six laps left before Denny Hamlin came from behind to get side-by-side at
the start-finish line. Stenhouse was ahead by only .001 seconds after that
first lap before pulling away for his second victory of 2012. Kasey Kahne
celebrated NASCAR's return to Rockingham Speedway with a victory Sunday in
the Truck Series race. The track was purchased at auction by Andy
Hillenburg, and he successfully brought NASCAR back. The truck race was the
first NASCAR-sanctioned event at The Rock since 2004. In other Rockingham
action Corey LaJoie continued to bat a 1.000 at the speedway in the UARA
Late Model Series, winning his third event in three outings at the 1-mile
track, while Frank Kimmel II finally made it to victory lane after narrowly
missing it in November in the Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals.
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
SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dyke's
Click on Photo for Full Sized
Dave Monaco Dave
Looking Back Archive
Smith / Looking Back A Bit