The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


July 26, 2013

   Sixty years ago in 1953, Red Foote was the Wednesday night Sportsman winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Ray Legary was the non-Ford winner. Saturday night winners at the Speedbowl were Ray Delisle in the Sportsman and Bud Matter in the non-Fords.

   Fifty five years ago in 1958, Red Foote was the Wednesday night Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Sam Mazzella was the non-Ford winner. Wild Bill Slater, who had recently taken over the driving chores of the Bombacci - Vitarri Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8 recorded his first win, a 50 lapper. Ted Stack was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty years ago in 1963 Area Auto Racing News reported that Eddie Flemke recorded another win at Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey. Dick Watson was the 25 lap Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Jerry Dostie was the Bomber winner. Ernie Gahan won on the dirt at the Stafford Springs Speedway.

   Forty five years ago in 1968, the Lee Raceway ran an open competition modified event. Leo Cleary, one of the top guns at the Norwood Arena took the win driving the Joe Brady No.41. Stafford cancelled because of rain, early on Friday, allowing competitors ample time to get to the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Cleary made the trip worth while as he took the 30-lap win over Bugsy Stevens, Eddie Flemke, Jerry Cook and Dave Kotary. Cleary tried to carry his winning ways over to Norwood but his efforts fell short as Johnny Thompson in his Ford powered No.122 took the win. Fonda ran a 50 lapper with Lou Lazzaro taking the win over Jerry Cook and Eddie Pieniezek. Walt Dombrowski was the Modified feature winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Ron Gilbert was the Daredevil winner. Don MacTavish, in the Wright-Zauntner No.24 that had been vacated by Kenny Shoemaker took the win at Thompson on Sunday night. At Utica-Rome, Richie Evans ruled the roost as he beat out Dave Lape for the win. Sonny Seamon, Robbie Kotary and Rene Charland rounded out the top five. Leo Cleary used his time at Malta to good advantage as he came back on the following Tuesday to win the All Star League 100. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Don MacTavish and Bugsy Stevens.

   Forty years ago in 1973, Albany-Saratoga started the weekend off with a 30 lapper. Jerry Cook took the win. Denis Giroux finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. Double points were up for grabs at Stafford on Saturday and Bugsy Stevens was there to take the top spot. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro and Bobby Santos. Maynard Troyer went two for two as he won at Tioga on Saturday and Utica-Rome on Sunday. Charlie Jarzombek cleaned house at Islip as he beat out Jim Hendrickson, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook. Dick Dunn in the Al and Peg Gaudreau No.3 scored a one-two punch at the Waterford Speedbowl as he won a 100 lap Open Competition event on Wednesday and backed it up with a 30 lap Modified win on Saturday night. Big Mike Daignault was the Grand American Late Model winner on Saturday at the Connecticut shoreline oval. Monadnock ran a 100 lapper on Sunday with Bobby Santos taking the win over Brian Ross and Ray Miller.

   Thirty five years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine continued his domination of the Yankee All Star League as he won the Wednesday night 100 lapper at Seekonk. George Summers finished second with Fred DeSarro, third. Maynard Troyer had a grand slam as he went four for four as he won at Lancaster on Wednesday, Spencer on Friday, Lancaster again on Saturday and Utica-Rome on Sunday. A 100 lapper scheduled for Stafford on Friday was rained out but the skies stayed clear at Monadnock where Punky Caron took the win. Rain washed out Waterford and Riverhead on Saturday but at Seekonk, Traveling Man, Pete Fiandaca held off Geoff Bodine and Ron Bouchard for the win. At Riverside it was Stan Greger and on Sunday at Thompson, it rained.

   Thirty years ago in 1983,Thompson ran a Thompson 300 qualifier on Wednesday. Greg Sacks blew away the competition. Richie Evans and Bugsy Stevens followed. Friday at Stafford, Brett Bodine beat out Greg Sacks and Jeff Fuller. Spencer ran a 100 lapper with Richie Evans taking the win over George Kent and Mike McLaughlin. Saturday at Oswego it was Evans again with Brian Ross, a close second. Stan Greger got his sixth win of the season at Riverside and Eddie StAngelo won a 100 lapper at Seekonk. Jan Leaty won twin events at Tioga. At Thompson, on Sunday, it rained. Other weekend winners included Fred Harbach at Riverhead, John Blewett jr. at New Egypt and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Cale Yarborough set a new pole qualifying record of 201.774mph but Dale Earnhardt took the win.

   Twenty five years ago in 1988, Riverhead hosted the mod tour series on Wednesday for a 201-lap event. Bob Park took the win over Reggie Ruggiero and Wayne Anderson. Ruggiero got his sixth of the season at Monadnock on Friday and at Stafford, Ted Christopher and Jerry Pearl finished one-two. Waterford ran twin features on Saturday night with Ricky Young and John Anderson sharing victory lane. Jerry Marquis won at Riverside and Dan Jivanelli won at Riverhead. Oswego hosted the Modifieds and it was Mike McLaughlin taking the win.

   Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Mod Tour Series visited Holland on Thursday. The event, with a lean $39,325 purse only drew 23 cars. Jeff Fuller took the win with his brother Rick, second. On Friday, Stafford canceled after 20 laps because of fog. At Waterford on Saturday, David Gada beat out Jim Broderick and Bob Potter for the win and at Riverhead; Dan Jivanelli scored a victory over Ed Brunnhoelzl. During the running of the tracks figure eight division feature, driver Bill Batsche lost control of his car and smashed into the fourth turn wall. Several officials, who perhaps were standing where they shouldn't have been, were injured. Track co-promoter, Barbara Cromarty suffered eight broken ribs and two broken legs. At Riverside, Jerry Marquis held off Chris Kopec for the win.

   Fifteen years ago, in 1998, the Modified Tour Series ran at Thompson on Wednesday night. Mike Stefanik scored his 9th win of the season after taking the lead from Ed Flemke Jr. on lap 67 of the 150-lap event. Tim Connolly finished second and was followed by Chris Kopec and Tony Ferrante Jr. Scott Quinn was the SK modified winner. Mike Christopher scored his third win of the season at Stafford on Friday night. At Waterford on Saturday, Dennis Gada scored his fourth win and in the late Models, Alan Coates got his eighth win of the season. At Riverside, Ed Spiers held off Bob Polverari for the win. The mods and Busch North divisions were at Loudon on Sunday. Stefanik made it ten for the season, taking the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on the final lap. Jan Leaty suffered a fractured skull in a crash during warm-ups when his left rear tire went down and he hit the wall, very hard. Dale Shaw was the BGNN winner. At the Winston Cup Brickyard 400, Jeff Gordon won the event plus the No-Bull $1million bonus. Dale Jarrett was by far the fastest before running out of gas and losing four laps. Jarrett made them up but ran out of time. Mark Martin finished second.

   Ten years ago in 2003 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Riverhead raceway on Long Island on Saturday night. Donnie Lia, a native Long Islander and rookie contender on the tour scored his first tour series win on home turf. Lia started on the pole and with the exception of laps 43 through 46 led every lap of the 200-lap contest. Frank Vigliarolo caught Lia on a re-start but his position at the point didn’t last as Lia powered by in short order. Riverhead regular Chuck Steuer was the Busch Pole sitter and drew a seventh starting spot. Steuer ended his night in 19th spot as a result of a defective tire. Ted Christopher finished second, over two seconds behind the leader. Howie Brode, another Riverhead regular, finished third. Attrition was extremely high as only six finished on the lead lap. Vigliarolo finished fourth and was followed by Jamie Tomaino and Chuck Hossfeld. Rounding out the top ten were Jerry Marquis, John Blewett III and Jimmie Broderick, one lap down, and Wayne Anderson, three laps down. Eight caution periods for 61 laps kept the average speed of the race at 36.526 mph. Series point leader Todd Szegedy lost a little ground in his quest for the series title as he finished 15th, 20 laps down. Lia's share of the $64,175 purse was $5,700. In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson, Kerry Malone went pole to pole to record his first win in quite a while. Bert Marvin finished second and was followed by Bob Santos III, Bo Gunning, Ron Yuhas Jr., Eric Berndt, Jeff Malave and Todd Ceravolo. Jim Broderick relieved Malave mid-race Malave was recuperating from broken bones in his hand. David Berghman was the Pro Stock winner. Other winners included Charles Bailey in the Late Models, Shawn Monahan in the Limited Sportsman and Rod Rixham in the Mini-Stocks. Rain played havoc at the Stafford Speedway. Heavy showers in the Connecticut area forced speedway officials to pull the plug on the night’s activities. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night, Dennis Gada made up for lost ground as he out-ran Ed Reed Jr. to take the win in the 35 lap SK-Modified main event. Jeff Pearl finished third. The NEMA Midgets were on hand for the annual Boston Louie Memorial event. Joey Paine Jr. was awarded the win after apparent winner Randy Cabral was found to have been too wide, about an inch in wheelbase. This is the third time this has happened during the year in the NEMA ranks. Bruce Thomas Jr. was the Late Model winner. Charlie Pasteryak was the Legends Car winner and Jim Procaccini was the limited Sportsman winner. Kelly Moore took the win in the Busch North Series event at Seekonk In Winston Cup action in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Kevin Harvick took the win over Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray. Brian Vickers was the winner of the Busch Racing Series event at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

   Five years ago in 2008, The third event of the four race WaterSnoGo Modified Showdown took place on Saturday, July 26 at the All-Star Speedway in Epping, NH. With no other major Modified event scheduled for the weekend, a large number of entries were received for the prestigious event. The race was 125 green flag laps in length, paying $5,000 to the winner. Matt Hirschman won his fourth race in a row after he led the race from start to finish. Jon McKennedy finished second and was followed by Chris Pasteryak, Jimmy Kuhn, Jr and Ryan Preece. Sixth through tenth were Ken Barry, Mike Ordway Jr., Jimmy Blewett, Ronnie Silk and Mike Stefanik.

   The Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program was cancelled as heavy rains and severe thunderstorms caused the management of the Thompson International Speedway to pull the plug as the speedway complex was all but flooded out.

   The Whelen All-American Series NASCAR race event at Stafford Motor Speedway featured the 5th Annual CARQUEST SK 150. Woody Pitkat scored the $4,000 winner's check by coming back from a flat tire, which put him two laps down at one point with a late race pass for the win. Joe Rzeszutek wired the field in the 30-lap Late Model feature for his first win of the 2008 season, Harry Wheeler became a first-time career winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Andrew Durand nailed down his second feature victory of the 2008 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Jeff Jolly scored his first win of the 2008 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.

   In the 150-lap SK Modified feature event, Todd Owen took the lead from the pole and led the first 9 laps before giving way to Chris Jones on lap-16. Jones led to lap-27 when Frank Ruocco took over the lead. Ruocco then led to lap-54 when Keith Rocco took the lead on a restart, but Ruocco would retake the lead on lap-56. Ruocco remained out front until lap-93 when Ronnie Silk moved to the point. Silk then held the lead up to lap-102 when Ruocco went back out front. Ruocco held the race lead until Silk beat Ruocco back to the start/finish line on lap-124 with the caution coming out one lap later.

   Silk held the point through lap-138. On a restart on lap-139, Rocco charged into the lead with a great move in turn 3, but a determined Silk moved back to the point several laps later on lap-141. Woody Pitkat, who had earlier spun with a flat tire and lost two laps, gained his two laps back with lucky dog awards and was now in the thick of the mix for the race lead and the battle for the win. Pitkat moved to second on lap-142 and he took the race lead for the first time on lap-143. Ruocco got back to second, but it was too late for him to catch Pitkat, who took down his third feature victory of the 2008 season. Ruocco came home second, with Rocco, Kenny Horton, and Jeff Malave rounding out the top-5. Pre-race favorite Ted Christopher, who was celebrating his fiftieth birthday, finished 23rd.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl Doug Coby and Tyler Chadwick won the Town Fair Tire Night twin 35-lap SK Modified features. Other feature winners were Tim Jordan (Late Model), Al Stone III (Sportsman), Ben Bargnesi (Mini Stock), and Max Zachem (Legends).

   In the first of two 35-lap SK Modified features, pole-sitter Doug Coby battled with Jeff Paul during the opening stages. Upon a restart with fifteen circuits remaining the leader faltered, causing a chain-reaction that damaged several top cars, most able to return after going pitside. Entering the midway point, it was again Coby and Paul, with Rob Janovic Jr. closing quickly. During the final laps, Coby took total command. Rounding-out the top-5 was Paul, Janovic, Jeff Pearl, and Shawn Monahan. Starting from the pole, young Tyler Chadwick led the entire measure of the caution-filled SK Modified nightcap to snare his first-ever victory. Not an easy feat, he held-off the advances of some of the Speedbowl’s best including Doug Coby, Jeff Paul, and defending champion Dennis Gada during several tense late-race restarts. Following the winner was Paul, Coby, Gada, and Jeff Pearl.

   The foreclosure issues at the shoreline oval were once again in the news. Somewhere in the neighborhood of around $22,000 in property taxes had not been paid. Rocco Arbitell who holds the mortgage on the Speedbowl property said it’s the responsibility of Terry Eames. Eames claims it’s the responsibility of track operator Jerry Robinson The issue had become a war of words between the two. The outcome would be decided in court at a future date.

   Kyle Busch led all but three laps Saturday night to win the Kroger 200, his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season. Busch's win was Toyota's 15th in 22 Nationwide races, but the first event since NASCAR's mandate Wednesday to cut down the horsepower in Series engines knocked 15 horsepower out of Toyota's engines. NASCAR changed the parameters after rival teams complained, even though Toyota was within the rules. Busch also won the event at O'Reilly Raceway Park in 2004. Polesitter Colin Braun finished second Saturday, and Mike Bliss moved up from 17th to finish third.

   Jimmie Johnson celebrated his second Sprint Cup victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a burnout. Appropriately, one of his tires exploded. He was lucky he made it that long Sunday. Tire troubles derailed the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard when Goodyear's product wasn't durable enough to withstand more than 10 or so laps at a time. It created a chaotic and confusing caution-filled race that ended when Johnson outran Carl Edwards in a seven-lap sprint to the finish. Goodyear and NASCAR were left to explain why the 400-mile race became a debacle. The tire issue cropped up Saturday, when drivers learned during the first practice they could only last three to 10 laps before the rubber wore down to the cords. NASCAR and Goodyear hoped the conditions would improve as it has in years past, once enough rubber was laid on the track. But the first-time use of the Car of Tomorrow prevented any improvement. The lack of downforce on the car, combined with a higher center of gravity, created conditions that made it very hard on the right side tires. There were 11 yellow flags, and NASCAR had to throw six competition cautions to force teams to pit and change tires. It meant the longest green-flag run was an embarrassing 12 laps, causing teams to fear both tire failures and a possible supply shortage. Johnson fretted the final two stops, unsure what the right strategy would be. He took two tires on his final stop to emerge from pit road as the leader, then held off Edwards and Denny Hamlin over a final seven-lap green flag run to the finish line. Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch finished 15th. Busch was coming off a win Saturday night in the Nationwide Series Kroger 200 in Clermont, Ind. The win gave Toyota its 15th victory in 22 Nationwide races this season. It was Busch's 15th win of the season spanning NASCAR's three series, breaking the record of 14 set by Kevin Harvick in 2006.

   Last year, 2011, The Riverhead 200, which would have been the seventh of 14 events on the 2012 Whelen Modified Tour schedule, will now be contested on Saturday, Sept. 15.

   The recent firestorm created by the use of the "Spec" engine at Loudon has prompted NASCAR to state their case. That main point of concern centered mostly on the SPEC engine as a means to an end for the Tour. Chief among competitors' complaints with the engine was that it is not as durable as traditional “built” or “open” motors, that cars that opted to use the NASCAR-approved engine would be given performance breaks, and perhaps at the top of the list, NASCAR would make built motors obsolete by quickly mandating the spec engine's use.

   According to NASCAR Competition Administrator Jerry Cook, that couldn't be further from the truth. In an official statement Cook said "We will NOT mandate the SPEC engine". He added, “Teams could still build their own engine, that's never been an issue. The SPEC engine is an option, but they don't have to do it. They don't have to do this and that's the big thing here. No one's telling them they have to do this.”

   Cook took exception to any notion that the sanctioning body cares little about the Whelen Modified Tour or its tradition. He doesn't view the introduction of the SPEC engine as anything other than a chance to improve the series' overall health. As far as the car counts go, Cook sees car counts not what they were even a few years ago and wonders how many teams might have stayed in the series had they not been priced out by both technology and the economy. “Like everything these days, it's about cost, what it costs you to race,” he said. “What it cost when I raced to what it's come to today, it's become very expensive. It's like any other form of racing. It's not cheap. Anything we can do at NASCAR to keep it affordable for people and keep it alive, to hold on to what we have, that's what we're going to do so people's equipment doesn't become obsolete.” He went on to add that the Tour is healthy, despite recent accusations in the media that NASCAR is turning a blind eye to existing problems. “I'd say it's healthy just because it's still in business, and there's a lot of others that have come and gone along the way, from the Hooters ProCup Series to our own Dash and All-Pro Series, while the Modifieds are still there. It's 27 years and counting. "Yes, car counts are down from what they were, but the quality of the cars is the best its ever been".

   Thursday night Thunder at Thompson saw literally thunder and lightning along with numerous bands of showers. The speedway has postponed its Thursday Night Thompson Thunder race event to Sunday, July 29th. “The threat of severe weather being forecast for the entire state made the decision to postpone this race an easy one,” said track owner, Don Hoenig. “However, the best alternative date to run this event proved to be Sunday, July 29th. The Valenti Modified Racing Series has a very busy schedule for the balance of the summer and we did not want to have to cancel the VMRS 75-lap feature event race,” Hoenig concluded.

   Despite threatening weather the Thompson Speedway got it done on Sunday. The day started on a sour note as Keith Rocco cut a tire during practice and hit the outside wall between turn one and two. He hit the wall on the driver's side in the #4SK mod. He was brought by ambulance to the hospital and suffered a broken left wrist.

   Ted Christopher earned his 97th career victory at Thompson International Speedway when he scored the checkers in the 75-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series event. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series wins were captured by Ryan Preece in the Sunoco Modifieds, John Falconi in the Late Models, Cam McDermott in the Lite Modifieds, John Lowinski-Loh in the Thompson Modifieds, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman, and Steve Violette in the Mini-Stocks.

   Christopher survived a caution-filled 75-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series event to take the victory behind the wheel of the No. 00 Joe Brady-owned machine. It was his second win of the season in the division. Christopher came from deep in the field to earn the win. Christopher inherited the lead after Rowan Pennink was black flagged for spraying water as his engine overheated.

   Officials threw the black flag to Pennink on the 64th lap handing the lead to Christopher. Tim Jordan finished second with Tom Barrett, third. Jon McKennedy and Doug Coby rounded out the top five.

   Ryan Preece earned the victory in the caution-filled Sunoco Modified feature event after initially taking the lead from Kerry Malone on lap two. Preece had to reclaim the lead on a lap 12 restart, and from that point on dominated the event despite a late-race caution. Woody Pitkat finished second with Dennis Perry, third. Ted Christopher and Richie Gallup rounded out the top five.

   At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night the 9th Annual CARQUEST SK 150 Twin 75 program went in the books after a one week delay because of a rain out. Taking home the big wins of the night were Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco in the twin 75-lap SK Modified® feature events, Tom Fearn was the winner of the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joey Ferrigno was a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Dennis Botticello picked up his second consecutive win in the 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande picked up his fifth win of the season in a photo finish with Cliff Saunders.

   Christopher got a good run on a late race re-start, but Woody Pitakt came back strong on the outside and he was keeping pace. Ryan Preece was an early race leader before being spun to the infield. Preece, who fought his way back to the front was right behind both cars in third with Danny Cates fourth and Keith Rocco in fifth. Christopher was able to stay out front and he took the checkered flag to pick up his 98th career SK Modified® victory. Pitkat edged out Preece at the line for second, with Cates and Rocco rounding out the top-5.

   Rocco and Cates slugged it out on the second 75 lapper but in the end Rocco prevailed and led the field around to the checkered flag to pick up his third win of the 2012 season. Cates finished second, with Frank Ruocco, Sean Foster, and Pitkat rounding out the top-5. Christopher and Preece ended up 18th and 19th respectively. Ruocco was later disqualified for refusing tech inspection.

   In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl rain washed out all the action at the shoreline oval.

   In NASCAR Southern Modified action at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC Tim Brown was a winner for the seventh time this season leading all the way in the first of two 50-lap races for Bowman Gray's featured Modified Division. He continued what has been quite a hot streak. Brown had finished in the top three seven times in the past 10 races entering Saturday's second race, and he even had a shot at winning that one before getting caught in a tangle after moving up to third place. His seventh victory matched his most ever in a single season. He won seven in 2008; five Modified races remain this season.

   Danny Bohn was the winner of the second race, one that was marked by seven caution periods and a run-in between two sets of brothers, Burt and Jason Myers with Jonathan and Joseph Brown.

   Brown's victory was the 65th of his career at Bowman Gray, which moved him past Ralph Brinkley and into second place on the stadium's list of feature-division winners. Junior Miller is the all-time leader with 71 wins.

   Brown had no problem enduring three double-file restarts after caution periods in the first race. Jonathan Brown made a late charge to take second place. Michael Clifton was third. In the second race, John Smith, who had finished 16th in the first race after contact and a spin with Chris Fleming, started from the pole when Brown drew No. 16 for the inverted start. He survived four restarts in a caution-filled race, but was loosened after contact with Bohn with 10 laps left. Bohn took the lead, nearly lost it a lap later before getting the best of Jonathan Brown after more contact, and hung on from there. Michael Clifton finished second and Tommy Neal was third.

   In Nationwide Series racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Brad Keselowski took the lead when Elliott Sadler was penalized for jumping a late restart, then held on to win a disputed finish to the inaugural Nationwide race at the historic 2˝-mile track. Sadler passed Keselowski on a restart with 18 laps to go, but officials ruled that Sadler went too early and black-flagged him. Sadler stayed on the track for several laps, apparently hoping officials would reconsider the penalty, before finally coming in with 12 laps to go and giving up the lead to Keselowski.

   In Sprint Cup racing at Indy nobody had a car capable of challenging Jimmie Johnson, who led 99 of 160 laps. Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon. Pole sitter Denny Hamlin was sixth.

   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

      Dick Dixon                                                  Bill Slater                                               Jim Hurtibise

   Jerry Wheeler                                           Buddy Krebs                                               Leo Cleary

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: July 26, 2013

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