The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


April 19, 2013

   Sixty years ago in 1953, it rained again at Waterford.

   Fifty five years ago in 1958, Ted Stack won the season opening 25 lap Modified event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Arnie Harris was the non-Ford winner. Rene Charland was the Modified winner at the Plainville Stadium.

   Fifty years ago in 1963, the Utica-Rome Speedway opened for the season. Tom Kotary won the 25-lap NASCAR Sportsman feature. Robbie Kotary finished second with Jim Luke, third. Rene Charland and Bill Wimble rounded out the top five. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, everybody's friend, George Pendergast, was the 25-lap Modified winner.

   Forty five years ago in 1968 there was no Spring Sizzler as most of the extra distance-added purse events were run in the fall after Labor Day. Ray Hendrick won a 100 lap modified event at Martinsville on Saturday afternoon. Norwood Arena in Massachusetts opened for the season with Eddie Flemke taking the win. Henri "Red" Barbeau won the season opener at Seekonk. At Fonda, Eddie Pieniezak took the win on the dirt over Jerry Cook and Ron Narducci. Flemke made it two for two on the weekend as he won the Sunday afternoon event at Thompson. Also running on Sunday was Fulton where Don Diffendorf took the win. Ed Yerrington, who in later years would become the General Manager of the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, won the 30 lap Modified feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bill Sweet was the Late Model Daredevil winner.

   Forty years ago in 1973, Ed Flemke got even for a disappointment suffered 12 months prior when he turned the tables on Fred DeSarro to win Sizzler II. DeSarro, who had won the original Sizzler when Flemke's water pump broke, finished second and was followed by Maynard Troyer, Paul Radford, Guy Chartrand and Richie Evans. At the Waterford Speedbowl it was George Allum taking the Modified feature win.

   Thirty years ago in 1983 Greg Sacks was unbeatable as he scored a hard fought win over Reggie Ruggerio, Brett Bodine and Brian Ross. Jim Spencer won the non-qualifiers race and finished seventh in the 80 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford
   Twenty five years ago in 1988, The modified series was not included in the Sizzler. The SK's took center stage with Ted Christopher taking the 80-lap win over Bib Potter, Bo Gunning and Tom Tagg. Phil Rondeau was the late model winner. The racing was good but the crowd that followed the Modifieds stayed away in droves.

   Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Sizzler had been expanded from 80 to 200 laps for the NASCAR Modified Series. Reggie Ruggerio took the lead on lap 153 and held off Doug Hevron and Tom Baldwin for the win. Mike Christopher was the SK modified winner over his brother Ted. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Ernie Irvan took the win over Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt. Rusty Wallace had been ahead of Earnhardt but unfortunately got tapped by the man in black and went end over end in a wreck.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, the Featherlite Modified Tour was in Martinsville for a 200 lap event that served as a preliminary to their spring Winston Cup event. Mike Ewanitsko, in the Art Barry No.21, came from a 24th starting spot to take a hard fought win over Mike Stefanik and Tim Connolly. Stefanik led the event from the start to lap 167. Ewanitsko and Stefanik ran wheel to wheel for many laps. Reggie Ruggiero and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. The Waterford Speedbowl had a 200 lap event scheduled for Sunday until rain intervened. Rain also washed out the Winston Cup event at Martinsville. NASCAR has a “Next clear day policy” which dictated that the event would run on Monday. Bobby Hamilton was the pole sitter and led 378 of the 500 laps to take the win. John Andretti was running second with six laps to go when he ran out of gas. Ted Musgrave, running third at the time, finished second.

   Ten years ago in 2003 Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke JR got real personal as the two made repeated contact for most of the last 50 laps of the 200 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford. With four laps to go it got ugly and the end result saw Flemke planted in the wall on the backstretch. Christopher continued on to take the win. Todd Szegedy ended up second with Tony Hirschman, third. Chuck Hossfeld and Ken Woolley rounded out the top five. Christopher also won the twin SK-Modified events that were run in conjunction with the Sizzler. The entire program was run on Sunday after rain-washed out Saturday qualifying. There were 40 Modifieds on hand. The Busch North Series showed with 27 cars for their series opener at Lee Raceway. Andy Santerre led pole to pole to win the 150-lap event. Kelly Moore finished second. In Winston Cup action at Fontana, California, Kurt Busch passed Jamie McMurray with 12 laps to go and went on to take the win. Pole sitter Steve Park wrecked on the first lap. Matt Kenseth won the companion Busch Series event. Racing at Wall Township, Riverhead and at the Waterford Speedbowl was rained out.

   Five years ago in 2008, The Waterford Speedbowl moved into its regular Saturday night schedule. The management created a new flag for the starter to display. It was called the “Meatball” flag and it was to be waved at an individual who refuses to comply with the officials in charge or someone who makes a dumb move or decision. The “Meatball Flag” should have been shown to the Late Model driver who started on the pole of the Late Model feature who triggered a wreck that eliminated the potential winning cars of Larry Goss and Eddie Reed Jr. Starting on the pole as a rookie makes no sense at all. The individual who made the line-ups was also deserving of the “Meat Ball”. Bruce Thomas Jr was the eventual winner and is now two for two in Late Model competition at the shoreline oval.

   Defending SK Modified champion Rob Janovic redeemed himself after a poor showing at the season opener as he scored a convincing win in the 35 SK Modified feature. Jeff Paul, who also had a poor showing on opening day, finished second. Tyler Chadwick, Justin Gaydosh and Diego Monahan rounded out the top five. Opening day Nationals winner Dennis Gada was eliminated after making contact with Dennis Charette who was the early leader after pole sitter Frank Mucciacciaro spun out on lap 11. The Gada-Charette confrontation occurred on lap 18 and also eliminated Jeff Pearl and Jeff Malave.

   Other feature winners were Jack Aquilina (Sportsman), and, Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stocks). Also making an appearance were the New England Antique Racers, presenting exhibition events featuring the cars of a past era. With over twenty restored racers taking to the track, fans were treated to a view of the true “racing roots” of New England short track history.

   The True Value Modified Series opened their 2008 season at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire on Sunday. Twenty eight Modifieds were on hand. Kirk Alexander took the win over David Pinkham, Dale Evonsion, Mike Holdridge, Jon McKennedy. Ted Christopher Rob Goodenough, Les Hinckley, Ed Dachenhausen and Chris Pasteryak finished sixth through tenth.

   Defending champion Alexander jumped into the lead on lap three and roared to victory in the” Governors Cup 100” Modified race. The win was Alexander’s 27th career victory with the touring series. The three-time champion survived a caution plagued race that was once stopped for an overheating racer that sprayed water on the racing surface resulting in six cars retired to the pit area. Sunday’s race was also the first of eight guaranteed starter races for the Sunoco Modified Mania 400 weekend at Thompson, CT. in September.

   The Nationwide Series of NASCAR was in Mexico City while the Sprint Cup drivers had the weekend off to celebrate Passover with their families. Kyle Busch won his third consecutive race on NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, taking the Corona Mexico 200 by less than a second. This latest win was the 27th of his career in NASCAR’s top three series, and first on a road course. Marcos Ambrose finished a career best second after a hectic day in which he collided with Boris Said, knocking Said out of the race. Ambrose’s finish was his first top-10 finish of the year. He had six as a rookie in 2007. Ambrose trailed by 1.139 seconds in his Ford with two laps to go, and Busch was able to hold on for a 0.737-second win.

   Last year, 2012, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. There were 34 cars on hand for Modified time trials on Saturday. Ryan Preece earned his second Coors Light Pole Award in as many attempts this season when he took the top qualifying spot. Preece blistered the half-mile with a record lap of 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph). Corey LaJoie, a full-time NASCAR Kids and Nephews (K&N Pro Series East) driver that made his Whelen Modified Tour debut was second-fastest with a qualifying lap of 17.936 (100.357). Rounding out the top five were Eric Berndt, Mike Stefanik and Justin Bonsignore. Donny Lia, Doug Coby, Ron Silk, Keith Rocco and Jimmy Blewett brought home the rest of the top 10 qualifiers.

   The track's SK Modified division enjoyed an extremely high car count that necessitated the running of four qualifying heats. The high car count didn't phase Ted Christopher as he went out and scored his 95th career win in the division at Stafford. Christopher took the lead from Ryan Preece on lap 11. Preece pressured Christopher until the final moments when he gave way to Eric Berndt who ended up in second at the checkered flag. Preece finished third with Danny Cates and Chris Jones rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Curt Brainard, Michael Gervais, Glen Reen, Woody Pitkat, Matt Galo and John Jensen. Pre-race favorite Keith Rocco suffered mechanical issues and fell out early finishing in 30th spot. Rocco got a little redemption as he won the Late Model feature.

   Doug Coby sailed to his third career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory in the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler. The Milford, Conn., driver led the final 89 laps of the 200-lap event en route to the victory over a pair of drivers who are well accustom to success on the historic half-mile . Pole sitter Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco finished second and third respectively. Preece was the 2011 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified Division champion at Stafford and Rocco was the 2008 and 2010 track champ. Rounding out the top five were Ron Silk and Jimmy Blewett. Justin Bonsignore was sixth, followed by Ron Yuhas Jr., Woody Pitkat, Mike Stefanik and Bryon Chew.

   There were three lead changes among three drivers. Preece led from the drop of the green until lap 98. Preece had roughly a quarter lap lead on Doug Coby when the caution came out for a spin by Rowan Pennink. Eric Berndt assumed the lead when most of the top ten pitted. Berndt led through lap 109 when he was passed by Preece and Coby. Two laps later Coby surged into the lead and never looked back. With the victory, Coby secured a locked-in starting position for the inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach during 2013 Speedweeks on a temporary short track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

   Six cautions slowed the field which kept Coby's average speed at 92.260 MPH. Caution No.1 came on lap 21 when Gary McDonald spun in turn two. John Jensen spun in turn four on lap 33 bringing out the second caution. The third caution was for Rowan Pennink who spun in turn two into the grass area on Lap 95. McDonald brought out the 4th caution as his engine expired on lap 123. Caution No.5 came on Lap 150 as car Donny Lia spun into the grass on the infield of the front stretch. The final caution of the day came on lap 160 for a spin that involved Richie Pallai. Fifteen of the original 28 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who failed to finish were Corey LaJoie and Ted Christopher. LaJoie retired with suspension damage after making contact with another car. Christopher had a loose spark plug wire and ultimately retired from competition on lap 187 with a severe vibration.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl, defending track champion Keith Rocco earned his third win of the season as he took the 35-lap SK Modified feature at the Connecticut shoreline oval. Rocco started eighth in but moved into second place following a restart on lap 4 and flew past Frank Mucciacciaro on lap 6. Never looking back, he held off Jeff Pearl following a pair of mid-race restarts and then Rob Janovic Jr. over the final 10 laps. Janovic ended up in the runner-up spot at the finish while Pearl finished third, Tom Abele and Mucciacciaro rounded out the top five.
In Late Model competition Dillon Moltz won his second race by capturing the 30-lap Late Model feature, Ken Cassidy won the 25-lap Mini Stock feature for his fourth victory of the year and Walt Hovey took the checkered flag in the 25-lap Street Stock feature. Other winners were Scott Limkemann (20-lap X-Cars feature) and Duane Noll (25-lap New England Truck Series feature).

   The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour went into an extended Spring Break and would not be back in action next until 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.
Burt Myers won the season opener at Bowman-Gray for the second straight year, on the heels of winning a second straight season championship. The race, a 200 lapper for the featured Modified Division, had a few interesting twists for a near-capacity crowd at the 17,000-seat stadium. Myers unseated Jeffreys, who was seeking his first season-opening victory since 2005, for the final time in the 161st lap. Myers tagged Jeffreys from behind coming out of the fourth turn, and that sent Jeffreys spinning to an eighth-place finish.

   Myers lost the lead once more, when he was passed on the outside, by brother Jason Myers. But Burt Myers made the final pass, from the outside, and took the lead for good with 21 laps left. Transplanted New Jersey racer Danny Bohn ended up second with Tim Brown, third.
Speedy pit work put Kyle Busch in the lead with 13 laps remaining and from there Busch took care of business, winning his fourth straight spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond Int’l Raceway in Saturday night’s Capital City 400. Dale Earnhardt Jr finished second despite fighting brake problems.

   Tony Stewart, who led 112 laps of the three-quarter-mile oval, came home third in the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet after losing the lead in the pits. In Richmond Nationwide Series racing Kurt Busch pulled away from Kevin Harvick and went into cruise control. There were less than 30 laps to go, and Busch thought he had the fastest car. Then Denny Hamlin "came out of nowhere and he had to hold him off in a stirring side-by-side, last-lap duel to win the Nationwide Series race at Richmond in a car owned by his younger brother, Kyle.

   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

George Pendergast                                            Bob Vivari                                                  Ed Flemke Jr    

Robbie Kotary                                               Don Diffendorf                                              Ted Stack     

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 19, 2013

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