The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


April 12, 2013

   Sixty years ago in 1953, rain washed out Sunday racing action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

   Fifty years ago in 1963, Wild Bill Slater won the Easter Sunday Opening Day 25 lap Modified feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Daring Dick Caso was the Bomber feature winner.

   Forty years ago, in 1973, rain washed out the racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

   Thirty five years ago, in 1978, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford drew 111 Modifieds. Maynard Troyer scored the win and led a top three sweep of New York drivers. Richie Evans finished second with Geoff Bodine, third. Bugsy Stevens and Fred DeSarro rounded out the top five. Kenny Bouchard led the early going until being passed by Geoff Bodine on lap 8. Bodine led until lap 44 when Troyer brought the crowd of 13,000 to their feet as he took the lead John Rosati won the non-qualifiers event over Eddie St Angelo, Jim Tyler and Jerry Bartlet.

   Thirty years ago, in 1983, Gil Hearne won his 69th career victory at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Tony Hirschman finished second with Jerry Cranmer, third. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Harry Gant took the lead after Darrell Waltrip was forced to back off because of ignition problems. Geoff Bodine finished ninth after leading most of the laps run.

   Twenty five years ago, in 1988, Reggie Ruggerio took the 50 lap win at Riverside on Saturday night. Jerry Marquis finished second with Bruce D’Assandro, third. Al Hill was the modified winner at North Wilkesboro. The Winston Modifieds (Featherlites) were at Thompson for the Ice Breaker. Mike Ewanitsko took the win in the 75 lapper after Tom Baldwin was parked by George Kent with two laps to go in the 75 lap contest. Mike McLaughlin finished second with Doug Hevron, third. Rounding out the top five were Kerry Malone and Jeff Fuller. Baldwin ended his day in tenth spot and was ultimately fined $200 for fighting with Kent after the event was completed. It was also opening day at Seekonk where Johnny Tripp took the win over Bugsy Stevens.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, it was all quiet for the Easter weekend with the exception of the Busch Grandnationals who were at Hickory for a Saturday afternoon event which saw Steve Grissom take the win over Ricky Craven and Joe Nemechek. It was also on this weekend that NASCAR announced that they had entered into an agreement to run a 400 mile event at the Indianapolis, Speedway.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, Richie Gallup won the Saturday night 50 lapper at Riverside Park over Ted Riggott, Rob Summers, Eddie Spiers and Dan Avery. The Winston Cup was off for the Easter weekend. The Busch Grandnationals ran at Hickory, N.C. where Ed Berrier took the win.

   Ten years ago in 2003, rain threatened to put a damper on the IceBreaker for the second week in a row but as it turned out the sun came out on Sunday and the entire two-day event was run in one day. With 43 Modifieds on hand, Zach Sylvester took the pole. Tony Hirschman drew the pole for the start and led the first four laps of the 150-lap contest. John Blewett III led from lap 5 until lap 35 when he gave way to Nevin George. George led from lap 36 until lap 60 as Chuck Hossfeld turned up the wick and powered his way into the lead. Hossfeld and George swapped the lead until lap 99 when Hossfeld took it for good and led the rest of the way to the checker. Blewett ended up second and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak, Mike Stefanik and Sylvester. Twin SK-Modified events were run with Jeff Malave and Eric Berndt taking the wins. In Busch Racing Series racing at Nashville David Green took the win over John Sauter and Ashton Lewiss. In Winston Cup action at
Martinsville, pole sitter Jeff Gordon gave Bobby Labonte the bumper, with 36 laps to go, to take the lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took second spot.

   Five years ago in 2008, Dennis Gada, gunning for his seventh SK Modified Championship at the Waterford Speedbowl was the master of the re-start as he won the $5,000-to-win Waterford SK Modified “150”, the centerpiece of the 10-division Modified Nationals which including extra-distance events for the Speedbowl’s Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stock divisions. The Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Race Trucks, Allison Legacy Cars and NEMA Lites were also on tap. A huge field of SK Modifieds, 34, were on hand for the event that began the 58th consecutive season of auto racing at the shoreline oval. In Saturday time trials Gada was fourth fastest behind Doug Coby, Kenny Horton and Matt Hirschman. Based on a draw among the top qualifiers Coby started on the pole with Horton, outside. Hirschman started third. Gada started eighth.

   At the drop of the green Coby jumped out into the lead. His time on the point was short as Gada bolted into the top spot on lap eight and survived numerous re-starts to take the win, his 58th. The top prize of $5,000 was well earned. Kenny Horton ran second for most of the event until 19 laps to go when his tires gave out, forcing him to spin. Coby moved into second spot but lost it to Frank Ruocco on a lap 148 restart. Ruocco ended up second with Coby, third. Jimmy Blewett, who pitted for tires on lap 51 was the odds on favorite to make a run for the win but his efforts fell short as he had to settle for fourth spot at the checker. Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five.

   In other weekend racing action at the shoreline oval, it was defending champion Bruce Thomas picking up right where he left off in 2007, winning the 50-lap Late Model feature. Thomas passed early leader Ron Yuhas Jr. with 29-laps remaining and seemed to be cruising to an easy victory until SK Modified regular Keith Rocco closed. His first time-ever behind the wheel of a Late Model, Rocco dogged Thomas to the finish, executing a last-ditch effort at the stripe to overtake the winner. Rounding-out the top-5 was Ron Yuhas Jr., Marc Curtis, and Ed Reed Jr. Al Stone III held off defending Sportsman champion Dwayne Dorr for the win in the 30-lap Sportsman feature. A close finish, Dorr was right on the winner’s bumper during the final circuits. Dave Trudeau, Chris Douton, and Joe Curioso completed the top-5.

   Defending champion Ken Cassidy Jr. led the majority of the 30-lap Mini Stock feature, only to be passed by Randy Churchill with three circuits remaining. A restart closed the field for the final time on lap twenty-seven. Churchill nipped Cassidy at the finish by less than a fender. Chris Williams finished a close third followed by Phil Evans and Lou Bellisle. In the 25-lap Northeastern Midget Association feature, Randy Cabral got out in the lead early and cruised to a commanding victory over Joey Payne, Greg Stoehr, Adam Cantor, and, Erica Santos.

   In some other news, Ron Mentus who pens a column in the auto racing trade paper Area Auto Racing News, reported that Jerry Robinson and his Waterford Speedbowl partners were nearing completion of financial and legal details to purchase the track and once and for all get it out of the hands of Terry Eames. Mentus alluded to the fact that the deadline to close the deal was April 26. He stated that Robinson felt confident that no further snags would develop. This move would put racing at the shoreline oval on solid ground. Robinson also told Mentus that the track had purchased 6,000 aluminum grandstand seats which hopefully would be erected in time for the 2009 season. The announcement was just another lie and false promise that Robinson made.

   The season opening Nationals, which was not advertised in any of the local papers within a 25 mile radius, drew less than half a grandstand of fans. What a shame as the racing was great.

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, winning a fuel gamble at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Ariz. As leader after leader dived for the pits to take on gas in the waning laps, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet stayed on the track and the two-time reigning Cup champion made it to the finish, beating Clint Bowyer, another fuel gambler, by 7.002 seconds. Mark Martin, 49, a part-time driver in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 8, battled at the front with its former driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for much of the 312-lap race on the mile oval. It appeared Martin had his first win since 2005 locked up after he passed Earnhardt on lap 272 and began to pull away, building leads of more than a second. With the end in sight, Martin was called into the pits on lap 301, giving up the top spot to Johnson. Denny Hamlin, who did pit, finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Martin, Jeff Burton and Earnhardt.

   FOX and NASCAR postponed the start of the race for 15 minutes waiting for the Red Sox – Yankees baseball game to end, only to have fans miss both the final out of the game and the first lap of the race. That’s like two errors on one play.

   NASCAR announced that they won't change their drug stance: The call for regular random drug testing by some of NASCAR's biggest stars apparently will not change the organization's current policy of testing only for "reasonable suspicion.” .But NASCAR president Mike Helton said the reaction by drivers to the ESPN The Magazine report that former truck and Nationwide driver Aaron Fike used heroin the same day he drove in some races was positive and showed drivers were policing themselves.

   Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race: Kyle Busch beat Carl Edwards out of the pits on their final stop, then held off the defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion for his second straight victory in Phoenix. Denny Hamlin finished third. Series leader Clint Bowyer, who fell from fifth to 13th when he was penalized late in the race for speeding on pit road, was eighth.

   Last year, 2012, the Valenti Modified Racing Series traveled up-country to the high-banked Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH. Jon McKennedy, driving the Art Barry No.2, made it two wins in a row as he won the Bond Auto Parts Spring Dash 100, at Granite State oval. McKennedy started 18th in the 24-car starting field. McKennedy slowly worked his way through traffic, used good tire management, a McKennedy trademark, passed race leader Les Hinckley on lap 78 to go on to victory. The win was McKennedy’s 14th career VMRS victory.
Norm Wrenn topped his career best third place finish with a solid second. Early race leader Hinckley fought power steering issues and finished third, Dwight Jarvis was fourth, and Jim Boniface rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Doug Coby, Rowan Pennink, Joey Jarvis, Max Zachem, and Louie Mechalides.

   Six caution flags for minor incidents slowed the race which was completed in 48 minutes. There were 29 Modifieds on hand.

   The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour made another stop at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. George Brunnhoelzl III withstood three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish and hung on to win the Parking Lot Maintenance Headquarters 150.

   Brunnhoelzl, the two-time Tour champion out of West Babylon, N.Y., dominated the day. He posted the fastest time in practice and set a new track record in qualifying before going out and leading a race-high 140 laps en route to his second victory of the season. It was his seventh career win at Caraway, but more importantly it was his 13th career Tour win which places him in a tie atop the all-time list with L.W. Miller.

   In that final restart, Brunnhoelzl held off Miller and a hard-charging Jason Myers at the line. Rookies Kyle Ebersole and Michael Speeney crossed the line in fourth and fifth, respectively. Daniel Hemric, Thomas Stinson, Bryan Dauzat, Frank Fleming and Burt Myers rounded out the top-10 finishers on the evening.

   Burt Myers was running third heading into the last restart, but was penalized for aggressive driving and was scored as the last car on the lead lap. The race was slowed due to caution 11 times for 45 laps and the race lead changed hands just two times between two drivers.

   In the point standings, Brunnhoelzl opened up a six-point lead on Miller with rookie Danny Bohn sitting in third, 26 points in back of the leader.

   The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour goes into an extended Spring Break and would be back in action next on July 6 for the Firecracker 150 at Caraway Speedway. In the mean time the Modifieds would be racing at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. Ernie Saxton reported in the Area Auto Racing News that the race promoters at Bowman-Gray recently signed a lease with Stadium owners, the Winston-Salem NC City Council for the City of Winston-Salem, which would expire in August, 2031. The contract stated that $4,260 would be paid to the city per race night. Saturday night racing events at Bowman-Gray draw consistently 10,000 fans who pay $10.00 each.

   A huge rain storm was bearing down on New England but the Waterford Speedbowl was able to dodge the bullet and get their entire racing program in the books. The outside groove was the hot setup as more than one race leader went that route to record their respective wins.

   Tyler Chadwick went up top to take a popular victory in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified® feature. Other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature winners included Bruce Thomas Jr. taking the win in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, Ray Downing Jr., who was impressive in taking the Street Stock race and Ian Brew who bested a highly competitive Mini Stock field for his first win of the year. In INEX racing, Matt Pappa won the 20-lap Legends Cars race and Joey Ternullo took over halfway through the 20-lap Bandolero feature to come out on top.

   Diego Monahan took second easily, while Jeff Pearl worked over Kyle James over the final laps but could not muster a challenge for third. Pearl finished fourth, holding back a final charge by Morgillo to his outside. Abele got by Morgillo’s inside on the final lap to finish fifth.
An honest mistake was made during the Ice Breaker weekend at Thompson. The NASCAR press release stated that Ryan Preece had broken the track record, previously set by Bobby Santos in the Mystic Missile. Preece’s qualifying time was 18.387, but Bobby Santos’ lap in the previous year’s Icebreaker was 18.237.

   In some sad news, Donna M. Harman, 68, of Niantic, CT and Port Orange, Fla., passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., after a courageous battle with cancer. Her husband of 28 years, NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Harman, was by her side throughout every stage of her illness.

   In Billy's own words, "In addition to being my wife she was my best friend". Donna wrote most of the bios and stats that got Billy inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame.

   Denny Hamlin held off Martin Truex Jr. in a battle of Toyotas to post his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season Sunday at Kansas Speedway. While Truex dominated the STP 400, leading 173 of the 267 laps of the 1.5-mile superspeedway, Hamlin grabbed the lead late and held off two last-ditch runs by Truex, taking the checkered flag .7 seconds ahead of Truex. The Nationwide Series had the weekend off. James Buescher was the Truck Series race winner at the Kansas Speedway.

   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

Charlie Webster                                           Tony Mordino                                               Billy Harman     

Charlie Brayton                                            Hank Stevens                                                   Bill Slater        

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 12, 2013

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