The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


May 31, 2013

   Sixty years ago in 1953, Freddy Luchesi made it three in a row in Sportsman action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won the Wednesday night feature. Bud Matter was the non-Ford winner. Red Foote broke the Luchesi streak as he won a 50 lap Sportsman feature on Saturday night. Ted Dean was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty-five years ago in 1958, Dick Beauregard, the guy they loved to hate, won the 25 lap Modified event on Thursday night. Hank Stevens was the non-Ford winner. Red Foote was the Saturday night Modified winner and Beauregard was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty years ago in 1963, Steady Eddie Flemke Sr. won the 25 lap NASCAR Sportsman feature at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Bill Wimble finished second with Lou Lazzaro, third. Lee Millington and Bob Zeiglar rounded out the top five. Ernie Gahan made it three in a row on the dirt at Stafford. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Ted Stack was the Thursday night 50 lap Modified feature winner. Maine transplant Jerry Dostie was the Bomber feature winner. Don Bachand was the 25 lap Modified feature winner on Saturday night at the shoreline oval. Bachand drove what was to be a long line of Modifieds that were called the Mystic Missile that were owned and built by Bob Garbarino at the Mystic River Marina. Dick Caso was the Saturday night Bomber winner.

   Forty five years ago in 1968, Bob Bruno was the Friday night winner at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Robbie Kotary finished second and was followed by Hop Harrington, Ed Pieniezek and Dave Kotary. At Stafford, Eddie Flemke got the best of Bugsy Stevens in traffic and came out the winner. Stevens finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary, Dick Watson and Tommy Borget. Fred DeSarro, driving his own 327 Chevy powered Sportsman took down the Saturday night feature at Norwood. Ronnie Mayer took the win at Riverside Park and on the dirt at Fonda, Eddie Pieniezek took the win over Lou Lazzaro and Don Wayman. Dick Dunn was the 30 lap Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Lou Caso was the Late Model Daredevil winner. Thompson was idle on Sunday. At the Utica-Rome Speedway Bernie Miller scored a popular win over Jerry Cook, Richie Evans, Lou Lazzaro and Eddie Flemke.

   Forty years ago in 1973 the Friday night races at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. rained out. Stafford Speedway ran a 100 lapper on Saturday night. Young sensation Ronnie Bouchard took the win over Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens and Eddie Flemke. Bouchard backed up his Stafford win with a win in the Parodi Cigar Modified 150 at Pocono on Sunday. Jerry Cook finished second. Other Saturday night winners were Mike Loescher at Tioga, George Allum at Waterford and Artie Tappen at Islip. On Sunday evening, Utica-Rome ran twin features with Eddie Pieniezak and Richie Evans taking the wins. At Lee Raceway, Lou Austin won a close one over Ernie Gahan and Jim Landry.

   Thirty five years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine made it five in a row at Stafford plus went three for three on the weekend as he also won at Riverside on Saturday and at Monadnock on Sunday. Because of previous rainouts, Waterford and Seekonk ran twin features. At Waterford, Dick Dunn and Moose Hewitt took the checkers and at Seekonk, Ronnie Bouchard and George Summers sat in victory lane. Fred DeSarro made it two in a row at Thompson on Sunday over Bouchard and Leo Cleary. Other weekend winners were Maynard Troyer, who won at Lancaster and Fulton, Tim Mislin at Spencer, George Kent at Tioga and Richie Evans at Utica-Rome.

   Thirty years ago in 1983, Reggie Ruggerio was the top banana at Stafford as he beat out Bob Polverari and Kenny Bouchard for the win. Tom Bolles was the SK modified winner. Rain washed out Waterford and Seekonk. Brian Ross won at Riverside and the first of two features at Thompson. Richie Evans was the other Thompson winner. Other weekend winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, Evans at Tioga and John Blewett at Islip. In Winston Cup action at Riverside in California, Ricky Rudd was the winner.

   Twenty five years ago in 1988, rain washed out Stafford but at Monadnock it stayed clear and Reggie Ruggerio put another notch in his gun as he won the modified main event. Jerry Marquis finished second with Punky Caron, third. On Saturday night at Waterford, Don Fowler was the winner with Dennis Gada second. Ruggerio carried his winning ways over to Riverside on Saturday where he beat out Mike Stefanik and Stan Gregger for the win. At Riverhead it was Tom Baldwin holding off Wayne Anderson and Don Howe. Randy Hedger won at Tioga and Jamie Tomaino won at Wall Stadium.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, At Stafford on Friday night, Mike Christopher was given back his spot after getting spun by Bo Gunning on the last lap and went on to take the win. Gunning was put to the rear but came back in one lap to finish fourth behind Christopher, Dennis Gada and Frank Cardile. Jerry Marquis won at Monadnock. In Busch Grandnational North action at Watkins Glen, Bob Dragon took the win over Dick McCabe, Curtis Markham, Dave Reszendes and Ted Christopher. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Dale Earnhardt took the win and in Grandnational action Todd Bodine took the win. It was also announced that Randy LaJoie had secured the ride in the Moroso car. Riverside Park, Riverhead and the Thompson Speedway rained out.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, Ted Christopher failed to qualify for a Busch Grandnational event at Richmond and made a hasty flight to Stafford where he finished third behind brother Mike and Bo Gunning. Christopher made up for it on Saturday as he won the SK Type event at Thompson over Ed Flemke Jr. and Bert Marvin. Twin features were run at Waterford on Saturday. Bert Marvin arrived from Thompson in time to win the first one with Rick Donnelly and Jon Bunnell following. The Pearls, Jerry and Jeff ran one-two in the nightcap with Donnelly coming home third. At Riverside, Eddie Spiers held off Rob Summers and Billy Bolton. In BGN action at Richmond, Jeff Burton took the win over Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Winston Cup event was a slam bang-exciting event. Rusty Wallace gave Jeff Gordon an attitude adjustment on lap 372 when he returned a bumping favor and turned Gordon into the wall. Terry Labonte took the win after bumping Dale Jarrett out of the way with two laps to go.

   Ten years ago in 2003, the weekend started on a wet note as all-day rain on Thursday forced the Thompson Speedway management to cancel opening night for Thursday night Thunder. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series had a scheduled 200-lap event at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island rained out. At that time there is no rain date. The Busch North Series was slated to run at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine suffered the same fate. This event would run the following Saturday night. Mike Stefanik had hopes of racing at the Lake Erie Speedway in the Art Barry modified but because of his commitment to the Busch North Series, his plans changed and he was at Beech Ridge. For the third week in a row rain-washed out racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. At the Stafford Speedway on Friday night, Eric Berndt started on the outside pole and ended up leading 97 of the 100 laps scheduled SK Modified feature. Ted Christopher presented the only challenge and at one point, Lap 63 to 66, had the lead. Christopher faded in the closing laps as he experienced engine trouble. He ended up 27th in the final rundown. Chris Jones finished second with Frank Ruocco, third. Defending track champion Bo Gunning who had been a victim of some early season bad luck, finished fourth and Jim Williams rounded out the top five. In addition to wreaking havoc in New England, the never-ending rain hampered other parts of the country. Among the tracks that had been dumped on is the South Boston Speedway in Virginia that had lost six out of nine events scheduled so far.

   Five years ago in 2008, After a one week delay because of rain the Thompson Speedway began their series of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) racing programs. Under warm, sunny skies, 132 cars including 25 Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds were on hand. As they are noted for, the Thompson management ran true to form as the entire program was run in an efficient manner with fans in their cars and on the way home by 9:30pm. Despite soaring fuel prices the Thursday night crowd was fairly good. The new Musco Lighting System was very impressive making for a daylight type atmosphere.

   In the Sunoco Modifieds, Woody Pitkat wasted little time as he jumped from his third starting position in the 30-lap feature and took the lead shortly after completing the opening lap. Pitkat had a lot of heat on his rear bumper from Keith Rocco but held fast as he took the opening night win. Rocco settled for second and was followed by Kerry Malone, Bert Marvin and Bob Grigas III. Tommy Cravenho. Josh Sylvester, Todd Ceravolo, Harry Rheaume and Josh Steeves, rounded out the top ten. Among the missing was Jimmy Blewett who is on the sidelines with a broken wrist

   For the second year in a row, Larry Barnett took the win in the Limited Sportsman divisionís marquee 50-lapper. Veteran Fred Astle, Jr cleaned house in the Pro Stocks while Jeff Zuidema made it two in a row in Late Model action. Rick Blanchard was the Mini Stock winner with R.J. Marcotte taking the victory in the TIS Modifieds.

   The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of an epic battle for SK Modified supremacy between Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning. Christopher, who was hoping to annex his 100th career win was forced to settle for second as Gunning won his 47th feature at the Connecticut oval. Richie Pallai, Jr. led the first lap before giving way to Eric Berndt, who held the lead until lap-7 when Todd Owen took over the top spot. Owen held the lead until lap-16 when he and Berndt made contact on a restart that saw both cars spin, which handed the race lead over to Gunning. Once the race went back to green after several lap-16 restart situations, Gunning and Kenny Horton began to pull away from the field. Christopher, who had earlier been black flagged for rough riding, was back into the top-5 and was running the top-2 cars down lap by lap. Christopher took second from Horton on lap-30 and set his sights on Gunning for the final 10-laps. Several times Christopher nearly had a pass made, but couldn't complete a pass. The two cars made contact in turn 2 on lap-37, but heady driving by both competitors kept the action going. Christopher reeled Gunning in for one last try at victory, but Gunning was too strong to be overtaken. Horton finished third behind Gunning and Christopher, with Woody Pitkat and Keith Rocco rounding out the top-5. Ryan Posocco extended his record for career Late Model victories with his 29th career feature win in the Late Model feature event, Mark Bakaj took down his first career victory in the SK Light Modified feature, Rob Dow was the winner of the first of two Limited Late Model feature events, while Andrew Durand took the victory in the regularly scheduled Limited Late Model feature event, and Dan Flannery took down the DARE Stock feature event victory.

   The Waterford Speedbowl ended up a victim of thunderstorms that hammered southeastern Connecticut late Saturday evening. Defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr. won the rain-shortened Late Model main event. Other feature winners were Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stock) and Kevin Iannarelli (Pro-4 Modifieds). Starting from the pole, Thomas drove into the lead immediately and was never seriously challenged. Behind him, the trio of Ed Reed Jr., Tim Jordan, and Ron Yuhas Jr. battled, with Reed claiming the runner-up spot. The event was red-checkered at lap-19 due to severe weather conditions entering the area. Completing the top-5 was Jordan, Yuhas, and Joe Curioso III. Thomasí win put him in the point lead by a mere four points.

   In the Mini Stock 20-lap feature, pole sitter Chris Williams led until passed by Phil Evans with twelve laps remaining. Ken Cassidy Jr. slipped by Evans on a restart at the halfway point, going on to win by several lengths. Randy Churchill, Williams, and Mark Panaroni completed the top-5. The first win of 2008 for the defending champion, the event was a qualifier for the Four Cylinder Nationals to be held at Maine ís Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on June 27.

   Taking the 25-lap Pro-4 Modified feature was Kevin Iannarelli of Maynard , Mass. Starting mid-pack he quickly worked his way to the front, winning by a wide margin. Following was 2008 Bud Nationals winner Norm Wrenn, Bob Richard Jr., Brian Vincent, and George Sherman. Sixth through tenth were Cory Cleary, Phil Laujier,. Tyler Andersen,. Dan Merservey and Robin Berghman, Berghman is the wife of chassis builder and Modified driver David Berghman as well as the daughter-in-law of three time NASCAR National Modified Champion and Mrs Carl Bugsy Stevens. Cory Cleary is the grandson of Modified great Leo Cleary. Daniel Bisignano notched the Legends Young Lions Event.

   The True Value Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series were enjoying their second Spring Break of the season.

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the Dover Downs Speedway Kyle Busch led the way again, dominating the second half of the 400-mile race Sunday at the Deleware and charging to his Sprint Cup series-best fourth win of the season and 10th overall. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were second and third in the Best Buy 400. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five. Denny Hamlin made it nine victories for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, leading all but 69 laps to win Saturday night at Dover Rookie Joey Logano, from Middletown, CT, finished sixth in his NASCAR national-level debut, running near the front of the 200-mile race with veterans such as Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and JGR teammate Hamlin. The 18-year-old Logano drove the No. 20 Toyota that entered leading the Nationwide Series in owner points and has won six races in 14 starts this season with Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Tony Stewart behind the wheel. Edwards, who started on the pole, was second. David Stremme was third and David Reutimann fourth.

   It was also announced that Marcus Smith, son of billionaire track owner Bruton Smith, was selected as Humpy Wheeler's successor at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc.

   Last year, 2012,Thursday night Thunder began at the Thompson Speedway. Ted Christopher- Sunoco Modifieds, Tommy OíSullivan-Late Models, and Jay Sundeen-Thompson Modifieds, dominated their divisions in Thompson International Speedwayís Thursday Night Thunder by leading every lap of their features to claim the first TNTT victory of the season. Ed Puleo-Limited Sportsman and Jim Helger-Mini Stocks were also feature winners.

   Ted Christopher held off a hard-charging Keith Rocco in the 30-lap SK Modified feature. John Catania and Shawn Thibeault brought the field back to green after an accident that collected Woody Pitkat and Andrew Charron stopped the action before the first lap was complete. Thibeault claimed the lead on the outside on the restart after running-side-by-side almost the entire first circuit, but it was Ted Christopher who officially led the lap after a turn four bid. Ryan Preece was coming up quick and moved into the second spot coming off turn two of lap three and used the inside lane to get alongside Christopher on lap four. Keith Rocco and Todd Ceravolo got in line behind Christopher and relegated Preece to the fourth spot. The four cars ran bumper to bumper until lap 10 when Preece took the outside groove to challenge Ceravolo for third. Preece fell back into line by lap 11 as Rocco looked for a way around Christopher. The action remained tight at the
halfway mark with Christopher, Rocco, Ceravolo, and Preece still hooked at the bumpers. Rocco looked high and low for a way around Christopher, but the 13 machine held steady. The four cars began to lap the field by the 25th circuit as they set a torrid pace that could not be matched. At lap 28 Rocco slammed Christopher in turn one and almost lost control of his mount, Ceravolo shook things up by going low under Rocco for a battle that allowed Christopher to get some breathing room and take the checkered flag unchallenged. Ryan Preece did a sneaky on Ceravolo and stole the third spot at the finish. Ceravolo, and Kerry Malone rounded out the top five. John Catania finished sixth with Dennis Perry, seventh. Perry drove one of the fleet of cars owned by Butch Perry and did a masterful job of running with the top dogs.

   Christopher drove a car that hadn't run at Thompson in eight years. It was probably one of the cars built by Barry Kuhnel for Christopher when he raced for Jim Galante. Despite the fact that Christopher would end up second at Riverhead on Saturday night he said his racing at the Long Island Speedway has not been enjoyable. Too much slam-bang, bump and run plus too many delays in the racing program in general. As far as his victory at Thompson was concerned, Christopher commented "You got to know who you are racing with". Obviously alluding to the fact of the hard slam by Rocco in the closing moments.

   The tale of the tape showed 17 Sunoco Modifieds including three SK Lites, 26 Limited Sportsman, 24 Mini Stocks, 7 Thompson Modifieds and 7 Late Models. The SK Lites ran with the Sunoco Modifieds and were paid $300-$200 and $100 respectively plus their finishing position. Ben Dodge stated that the format was similar to the "340" bonus program that ran in conjunction with the Modifieds at Riverside Park years ago. Back in action after a year off is Kerry Malone, one of the original SK Modified competitors when the division was started. Also it was good to see Ryan Morgan back in action after a devastating wreck earlier in the year in a Late Model at the Waterford Speedbowl. The Ledyard High School senior finished fourth in the Thompson Modifieds and has not lost his touch or desire to compete. The wrecked Late Model has been completely rebuilt and is expected to return to Waterford in the not so distant future.

   The final checkered flag at Thompson on Thursday was dropped at 8:45pm.

   Regular Friday night racing at Stafford saw Ryan Preece score his first SK Modifiedģ feature victory of the season, Keith Rocco picked up his second Late Model feature win, Dylan Kopec picked up his second consecutive and fourth SK Light feature win, D.J. Burnham picked up his second consecutive Limited Late Model feature victory, and Kyle Casagrande won his second consecutive and third DARE Stock feature event of the 2012 season.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl rain prevailed for the second week in a row.

   In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina, the Modifieds were scheduled to run on Friday night but fell victim to rain. The NASCAR Kids and Nephews (K&N) Development series played to a full house of fans on Saturday night. Third-generation racer Corey LaJoie captured his much-anticipated first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 at historic track.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Shawn Solomito took the win with Ted Christopher, second.

   Supermodified racing fan favorite Chris Perley officially announced his retirement as he approached the start of what would have been his 25th year in racing, and 20th with the winged supermodifieds. Perley retired from competition as the all-time ISMA victories leader with 69 wins to go along with six ISMA titles.

   The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway marked the end of an era for Dr. Dick Berggren, who celebrated his 70th birthday on May 27. After 12 years patrolling pit road for NASCAR on FOX, Berggren filed his final report at Dover, the same track where he made his NASCAR broadcasting debut in 1981 alongside his current NASCAR on FOX colleague, Mike Joy.

   Berggren took a hobby and turned it into a career, something we should all be proud of. The most important thing, despite being a national sports reporter Berggren never forgot where he came from.

   Joey Logano took advantage of a pair of lapped cars to catch and pass Ryan Truex to win Saturdayís NASCAR Nationwide Series 5-hour Energy 200 at Dover Intíl Speedway.

   NASCAR has suspended 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch until June 13 after Busch threatened a reporter at Dover Intíl Speedway Saturday.

   Jimmie Johnson continued his dominance at Dover Intíl Speedway, leading 289 laps en route to victory in the FedEx 400. It was Johnsonís seventh victory at Dover, moving him into a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for the most victories ever at the one-mile concrete oval. It was his 57th career Sprint Cup victory and second of the season.

   In some sad news, Former driver and car owner Cotton Owens passed away age 88 only weeks after being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Owens would officially enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the enshrinement ceremonies happen on Friday, February 8, 2013. Owens was more than successful behind the wheel, winning nine times in NASCAR's premier series competition, including the 1957 Daytona Beach road course which marked Pontiac's first NASCAR victory. He nearly won the 1959 championship, finishing second to NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Lee Petty. Concurrently Owens raced NASCAR modified stock cars and won the 1953-54 championships as an owner, Owens stood out as one of the greats of NASCAR's early eras. His eye for talent was unmatched. He hired Junior Johnson in 1962, the same season in which he began a future championship relationship with another NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, David Pearson.

   Thatís 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

Dutch Hoag                                               Don MacTavish                                      Mike McLaughlin

Pete Fiandaca                                         Ronnie Wyckoff                                           Sonny Seamon          

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: May 31, 2013

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