The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


May 17, 2013

   Sixty years ago in 1953, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl began its summer schedule which included holding races on Wednesday and on Saturday. Massachusetts invader Red Bolduc was the Wednesday night winner and Red Foote was victorious on Saturday night. Non-Ford winners were Bud Matter and Bob Tyson.

   Fifty five years ago in 1958, Don Collins was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner at the Ct shoreline oval.

   Fifty years ago in 1963 Rene Charland was well on his way to the NASCAR Sportsman Championship as he made it two in a row at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Cam Gaglairdi finished second with Ed Ortiz, third. The then dirt Stafford Springs Speedway began its second year under the NASCAR sanction with Ernie Gahan taking the win. Rain prevailed at Waterford.

   Forty five years ago, in 1968, Bugsy Stevens made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. Eddie Flemke, the previous week’s winner, finished second. Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell finished third with Reno Tulonen and Leo Cleary rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Lou Lazzaro took the top spot over Don MacTavish, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland and Andy Romano. Bugs Stevens took his winning ways to Norwood on Saturday where he dusted the field. At Fonda, Ray Sitterly scored a surprise victory over Kenny Shoemaker and Ron Narducci and at Fulton, Dutch Hoag scored the first of 12 events he would win over the next three seasons. Eddie Flemke put the 2x of Bobby Judkins in victory lane at Thompson while at Utica-Rome twin features were on tap. Lou Lazzaro won the left over feature from the previous week. Sonny Seamon finished second with Ken Platt, Dick Fowler and Dick Clark rounding out the top five. Richie Evans who beat out Sonny Seamon, Andy Romano, Jerry Cook and Robbie Kotary for the top spot, won the regular evening’s feature. Rain prevailed at Waterford.

   Forty years ago in 1973 Friday night racing at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. rained out. It cleared on Saturday and at Stafford Springs Eddie Flemke took the win over Fred DeSarro, Ron Bouchard and Don Flynn. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek again bested the 1/5-mile oval, beating out Jim Hendrickson for the win. At Tioga, Eddie Pieniezak took the win over Wayne Edwards, George Kent and Jerry Cook. Lingering showers at Waterford prevailed. Rain washed out events scheduled at Pocono and Utica-Rome.

   Thirty five years ago in 1978,Geoff Bodine was on a tear as he won three out of four for the weekend. At Stafford, he beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Leo Cleary, at Seekonk he won over Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens and at Utica-Rome he beat Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. The only downer was a blown engine at Oswego on Sunday afternoon. Other weekend winners were Jerry Cook at Riverside, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Charlie Jarzombek at Islip, Ronnie Bouchard at Thompson and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. Maynard Troyer won the modified half of the Port City 150 at Oswego.

   Thirty years ago in 1983, rain soaked the northeast. Stafford ran on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Bobby Vee, Kenny Bouchard and Greg Sacks. Jerry Pearl was the SK Modified winner. Marty Radwick took the victory at Riverside Park over Ray Miller and Dennis Albro. At Tioga, Richie Evans beat out Wayne Edwards. Waterford, Wall Stadium, Islip, Spencer and a special modified event at Pocono, rained out.

   Twenty five Years ago in 1988, Stafford rained out. At Waterford on Saturday, Ed Flemke Jr. took the win over John Jensen. At Riverhead, it was Don Howe over John Blewett Jr. and at Tioga, Tony Hirschman made it three in a row with Lee Sherwood, second. Mike Stefanik was the winner at Monadnock on Sunday.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, Steve Chowanski took the Friday night win at Stafford after the Christopher brothers tangled on the last lap. Saturday saw rain at Waterford. Jerry Marquis got his third win at Riverside and Brian Miller scored a win at Riverhead. Twin SK events were run at Thompson on Sunday. John StAngelo and Ted Christopher were the winners. Marquis made it two for two on the weekend as he won on Sunday at Monadnock. The Modified Tour Series joined the Busch Grandnational North/South divisions at Nazareth. Tim Connolly won the modified event over Doug Hevron, Jamie Tomaino, Rick Fuller and Tom Baldwin. Bob Pressley won the Busch GN event after Mike Stefanik broke a motor mount while leading. Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin with two to go to win the Winston at Charlotte.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998 Memorial Day came a week early and the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik started second and led all 150 laps as he went non-stop. Chris Kopec finished second with John Blewett III, third. Carl Pasteryak and Ed Kennedy rounded out the top five. In SK Modified action at Stafford Bo Gunning scored his 34th career win as he out ran Chris Jones and Jim Broderick to the checker. Tucker Reynolds passed Jerry Pearl with 10 laps to go and went on to record the win at Waterford. Rick Donnelly finished second while Pearl faded to third. Eddie Flemke won a 125 lapper at Riverside Park over Bob Polverari and Todd Ceravolo and at the Riverhead Raceway it was Ken Heagy in victory lane. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Sunday. Ted Christopher led from lap 40 to the finish only to get disqualified with an illegal transmission. Bert Marvin was awarded the win with Dennis Gada moving up to second. Charlie Pasteryak, Todd Ceravolo and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five. Mark Martin took the lead from Jim Spencer with four laps to go and went on to win the Busch Series 300 at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon beat out Rusty Wallace to win the Winston Cup World 600 at Charlotte and Eddie Cheever won the Indy 500. Tom Carey was the Busch North Series winner at the Holland Speedway.

   Ten years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was scheduled to be at the Stafford Speedway on Friday night but heavy rain forced the Arute family to pull the plug and reschedule to Friday, May 30. The decision to scrub the event was made around 9:00 am which saved countless competitors and fans needless travel. A very good and smart move! Waterford and Seekonk followed suit early on Saturday morning. Seekonk’s Busch North Series event at Seekonk was rescheduled to Saturday, May 31. Waterford’s holiday program would run in July. With four events in the 2003 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series record book John Blewett III sat atop the point standings. Winless, Blewett had four top tens including two top fives. The 2002 rookie sensation Todd Szegedy sat in the second spot, one point behind Blewett. Szegedy was also winless but had four top tens including three top fives to his credit. Ted Christopher finished 32nd at Thompson

   in the season opener but since then had come on like gangbusters and had clawed his way to third spot, thirty five points behind the leader. Christopher had two wins to his credit including the Spring Sizzler at Stafford and the recent Service Electric 100 at Nazareth. In addition to his two wins and a DNF, Christopher had one top five and was the series money leader with $21,400 in the win column. Chuck Hossfeld led the point standings through the first three events but ran into miss-fortune at Nazareth when officials said he jumped the final restart and placed him at the tail end of the lead lap in 19th spot. Hossfeld actually crossed the finish line in 8th spot. Although he did not actually pass the car in question he was along side as they crossed the start line and officials felt that it was his intent to make a pass. A questionable call to say the least. Hossfeld, who won the season opener at Thompson, had a total of three top tens including two top fives. Even with a slip to fourth spot, Hossfeld was only 36 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five was former series champion Jerry Marquis. Marquis had four top tens including one top five and was 41 points out of first spot. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, Eric Beers, Rick Fuller, Tony Ferrante Jr. and Dave Etheridge. NASCAR’s top divisions had better luck as the big weekend at Charlotte was completed. Jimmie Johnson was declared the winner of the Winston Cup World 600 after rain caused the race to be stopped at the 414-mile mark. Matt Kenseth was second. On a sad note, it was learned that former Stafford Motor Speedway pace car driver Peter Locke had passed away at the age of 66.

   Five years ago in 2008, the Stafford Motor Speedway suffered their third successive rain out. The Waterford Speedbowl continued to benefit from Stafford’s rain outs as their car counts in the SK Modified division had become quite healthy. Six-time champion Dennis Gada came from deep in the pack Saturday evening to win his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK feature of the season on Little League Night.

   The 35 lap SK Modified feature got off to a rough start as a pile of cars got drop kicked into the first turn wall after outside pole sitter Frank Mucciacciaro Jr failed to come up to racing speed. Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr got the worst of it and were towed from the scene. On the restart, Wendell Dailey led momentarily before passed by Mucciacciaro and several others. Justin Gadosh then moved to the front pressed by Rob Janovic and a fast-moving Dennis Gada. Passing Gaydosh, Gada pulled alongside leader Janovic, executing an outside-pass to take the lead with only three circuits remaining when the caution waved for the final time. In one of the closest SK finishes of 2008, he was able to get the advantage on defending champion. Following was Gaydosh, Ronnie Silk, and Rocco. In the Late Models, Ed Reed took his second feature of the season. Moving into the lead following an altercation between leader Tim Jordon and defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr.,

   Reed distanced himself from a furious battle between Vin Esposito and Ron Yuhas Jr. Having his best run of the season, a surprisingly-fast Esposito was able to nip Yuhas for second. After restarting from the back of the field, Jordan and Thomas Jr. recovered to complete the top-five. Both of these drivers deserved the “Meatball Flag” Jordan for blocking and Thomas for the lack of patience. Ed Lamb Jr. became the sixth different Sportsman feature winner of the season in scoring his first-ever main event. Lamb was dogged in the closing laps by veteran Jim Proccaccini, but managed to pull ahead by several car-lengths at the finish. Walt Hovey, Jr., Al Stone III, and Jonathon Avery followed.
In the caution-free Mini Stock feature, teenage rookie Raymond Christian III put on a dominating performance to win the first of his career. Christian is the son of defending "Women On Wheels" champion Kathy Civardi, and the step-son of popular Speedbowl veteran Jeff "Soup" Civardi. Lou Belisle finished second, and rounding-out the top-five was Randy Churchill Jr., Ken Cassidy Jr., and Bill Leonard.

   According to the State of Connecticut Judicial website the Waterford Speedbowl was once again the center of foreclosure action. Rocco Arbitell, along with Peter Borelli, filed suit in state court in New London to foreclose on the Speedbowl property. The case was filed against 1080 Hartford Road, the group that owned the Speedbowl, and Terry Eames. In the mean time, the Speedbowl continued to run every week bacically drawing fans on a word of mouth situation.

   Special congratulations were sent out to Howie and Mary Hodge, two very special people who celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss on Sunday, May 18. Thanks to the efforts of Howie and Mary the Whelen Modified Tour Series gets recorded in pictures.

   Kasey Kahne picked up a $1 million payday Saturday by gambling on a late pit stop to steal a win in NASCAR's Sprint All-Star race. Kahne didn't take tires on the pit stop before the fourth and final 25-lap segment, a decision that helped him start second when the race resumed. He wasn't challenged and easily held off Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth for the victory. Kahne wasn't originally eligible for the race, needing to finish first or second in the preliminary Sprint Showdown. He finished fifth, but earned his spot through a fan vote. The 100-lap event was intermittently dominated by Kyle Busch, Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Biffle, who led the final 11 laps of the third segment, took two tires and was mired in traffic on the start of the final segment. Biffle, who finished second, never got a chance to run down Kahne, who slid past leader Jimmie Johnson to lead the final 17 laps. Kenseth was third. Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.

   Last year, 2012, The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of some pre-Memorial Day fireworks as Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco slugged it out in SK Modified competition. In the end, Woody Pitkat was the winner of a wild and thrilling 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Mark St. Hilaire was the a first time winner in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tyler Hines was a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, and Josh Wood scored his third consecutive Limited Late Model feature victory of the 2012 season in the 20-lap feature. Albert Saunders drove to victory in the extra distance 20-lap DARE Stock feature to score his second consecutive feature victory.

   In the SK Modified 40 lapper first it was Preece and Frank Ruocco fighting for the lead then it was Preece and Rocco. The duel between Ruocco and Preece ended with 20 laps complete as the two cars made contact in turn 1 with Ruocco’s car hitting the turn 1 wall to bring the caution out. Preece was sent to the rear of the field by NASCAR Officials for the contact with Ruocco. Rocco took the lead on lap 29 and set the stage for round two of the night's battle. On a lap 36 restart, Rocco and Preece raced side by side for 2 laps with Preece the leader at the line before Rocco got cleared of Preece on lap-38. Preece made a last ditch effort coming to the checkered flag and he made contact with Rocco’s car, which resulted in Rocco spinning. Preece took the checkered flag first, but he was penalized to the last car on the lead lap by officials for the contact with Rocco, making Pitkat the winner. Dave Gervais came home in second, with Ted Christopher, Danny Cates, and Matt Galko rounding out the top-5.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco didn't miss a beat despite taking a week off to race in a Whelen Modified Tour event at the Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire as he went two for two scoring wins in the SK Modified and Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models at the shoreline oval. Dan Darnstaedt won the Street Stock feature race and Ken Cassidy Jr. continued his domination of the Mini Stock division, winning his seventh race on the season. The INEX Legends Cars and Bandoleros joined the NASCAR race program, with Dana Dimatteo and Derek Debbis winning the respective divisions.

   Rocco mastered the last restart attempt to pull ahead of Rob Janovic who got in line in second. Janovic got to the leader’s rear bumper in turns three and four on lap-32 however could not pull alongside. Rocco went on to the win, his fifth on the year. Janovic was second, while Keith’s twin brother Jeff ended a solid run in third place. Tom Abele and Tyler Chadwick each rebounded from spins to place fourth and fifth.
In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina, twin 25 lap Modified features were run. Tim Brown posted his 60th career victory as he won the opener. Burt Myers was second, and his brother, Jason Myers, was third. Newcomer Dean Ward won the nightcap. Austin Pack finished second, and Junior Miller was third.

   Ron Silk, the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion walked away the winner in the Richie Evans Hall Of Fame 100 for the NASCAR Modifieds at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

   A picture perfect day set the backdrop for a full slate of racing action at Thompson International Speedway that featured the Modified Racing Series and six divisions of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action on Sundat. A caution-filled main event saw Rowan Pennink as the survival of the fittest to post the victory.

   Ryan Preece led only the checkered flag lap in the Sunoco Modifieds to score the feature event win. Last year’s TIS Modified track champion, Cam McDermott made the step up to the Lite Modified division in winning style. Marc Palmisano came on strong in the waning laps of the Late Model event to claim the victory. Art Moran III was tops in Limited Sportsman division while Mike Gorgievski earned the victory in the Mini Stocks. John Lowinski-Loh, Jr. scored his first career TIS Modified feature victory.

   Pennink of Huntington Valley, PA, outlasted the competition in a Modified Racing event that was marred by 11 cautions. Ted Christopher and Pennink waged a great battle for the lead in the early stages of the main event that saw 35 cars take the green flag. Christopher held the point and held back advances of Pennink. Christopher held Pennink at bay on countless restarts as attrition built. Pennink made what turned out to be the winning move on lap 34 when he dove to the inside of Christopher to take the lead. Shortly after, Christopher retired from the event. In the late stages of the race, Pennink had to hold off the persistent challenges of Richard Savary. A bobble by Savary with 10 laps to go looked as if Pennink may find some comfort in the last dash to the checkers. Savary was quick to recover; however, running down Pennink again with five laps remaining. Pennink was solid over the final laps to post his victory. The win was his fifth with the Modified Racing Series. Savary came home in second. Geoff Gernhard had a career night to finish third. Point leader Jon McKennedy and Mike Holdridge completed the top five.

   A surprise ending in the Sunoco Modified main event found Ryan Preece in victory lane. Todd Ceravolo, who had led since the early stages of the event got loose exiting turn four on the final lap. With nowhere to go, Preece clipped the sliding #31 of Ceravolo. The resulting spin gave Preece the victory. Kerry Malone came home second followed by Keith Rocco. An eventful day ended with a fourth-place finish for Ted Christopher. Ceravolo had to settle for fifth.

   New Englander Bobby Santos had a successful weekend racing in the mid-West. An early-race restart gave Santos the opening he wanted to see and the Franklin, Massachusetts drivers never looked back en route to dominating Saturday night’s inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Traxxas Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

   In his first race aboard the RW/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports Rotondo Weirich – Curb Records No. 17 Beast/Wallace Toyota Silver Crown car, Santos pulled away as the 100 laps wore on, posting an eventual winning margin of 7.512 seconds.

   Jimmie Johnson had the fastest car and the perfect strategy Saturday night to win the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Johnson won the first of four 20-lap segments to secure a spot near the front of the field for the final 10-lap shootout, and then pulled away from Matt Kenseth and Brad Keslelowski to win the $1 million race. The new format this year set up the winners of the first four segments as the first four drivers down pit road for a mandatory stop before the 10-lap sprint to the finish. Johnson's win in the first segment meant he was guaranteed to be the first driver down pit road, and he had the first stall after his team's win in Thursday's Pit Crew Competition.

   Kenseth, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also won 20-lap segments. Although every driver had to pit, none had to take fuel or tires and was allowed to stop and go. Johnson came out just ahead of Kenseth, with Keselowski, Earnhardt, Marcos Ambrose and Kasey Kahne behind.

   Defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. dominated Sunday’s Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 for his third consecutive victory at Iowa Speedway.

   Roger Penske's strategy helped Ryan Briscoe to a victory by inches Saturday — 9.168 inches to be exact — in the closest pole duel in Indianapolis 500 history. Team Penske sent points leader Will Power onto the track with two minutes left in the Pole Day shootout — a move that prevented three of Michael Andretti's drivers from taking one last shot at the pole and preserving it for Briscoe, who won his first Indy pole with a four-lap average of 226.484 miles an hour. Briscoe completed the 10-mile qualification run .0023 seconds faster than James Hinchcliffe. The previous record was set in 1970 when Al Unser defeated Johnny Rutherford by .01 seconds. With only minutes left in qualifying, Power took one final shot at winning his first Indy pole. He wasn't quick enough, but he stayed on the track long enough to protect Briscoe's advantage.

   The Hartford Courant reported that the Waterford Speedbowl was informed by the bankruptcy court in Hartford, CT that they had emerged from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy the track had filed in Oct 2009 after facing a foreclosure on the Speedbowl property.

   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

Don Lajoie                                                     Ernie Gahan                                             Rene Charland

Jerry Cook                                                   Don Collins                                                Pete Hamilton          

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: May 17, 2013

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