The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


October 4, 2013

    Sixty years ago in 1953, Dave Roghoff won the 100 lap Fall Championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Schreiber was the non-Ford winner.

   Fifty five years ago in 1958 Wild Bill Slater won the 25 lap Modified feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford race winner and Turk Hewitt was the master in the Bombers.

   Fifty years ago in 1963 everybody's friend George Pendergast was the 50 lap Modified race winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. During his racing career George would wear many hats including that of STP representative, Thompson Speedway promoter and Advertising Manager for Speedway Scene, a regional Racing Trade paper. Pendergast was quite a character, to say the least. Dick Caso was the Bomber division winner at the Speedbowl.

   Forty five years ago in 1968 Bob Potter won the 30 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Wayne Smith was the Daredevil winner.

   Forty years ago in 1973, it was all quiet with no racing.

   Thirty five Years ago in 1978,Thompson ran a 50 lapper which was won by Ray Miller. Kenny Bouchard finished second and was followed by George Summers, Bobby Clarke, Dick Dunn and Freddie Schulz. At Hickory, N.C., Geoff Bodine took the win over Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Wayne Anderson.

   Thirty years ago in 1983, the Thompson World Series modified event was a 40-lap affair. George Summers, in the Art Barry No.21 led the entire distance and took the win over Bob Polverari, Richie Evans and Brian Ross. In victory lane Summers announced that he had taken his last ride and was hanging up his helmet, thus ending a brilliant and successful career that saw hundreds of wins and many track championships in New England. Charlie Savage was the SK winner with Mario "Fats" Caruso, second. Doug Hevron was the Supermodified winner.

   Twenty five years ago in 1988, it was all-quiet as no races were scheduled.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, the only show in town was the Busch Grand National North Series at Lime Rock and Ken Schrader was the winner.

   Fifteen years ago, in 1998, Mike Stefanik sewed up the Modified Tour Series Championship when he won the Thompson World Series. Stefanik also became the first driver in the 50-year history of NASCAR to win back-to-back championships in two separate divisions. Rick Fuller finished second and was followed by Chris Kopec, Mike Ewanitsko and Tim Connolly. Connolly led the first 47 laps of the 125-lap event before Chris Kopec punted him. Ted Christopher won the 30-lap SK event over Jim Broderick, Bert Marvin, Scott Quinn and Todd Ceravolo. The Busch North Series finished out their season at Lime Rock. In true championship style, Stefanik won that one too. In Winston Cup action at Daytona Beach, Jeff Gordon won the forest fire delayed event and in Busch Grandnational action at Gateway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the win after late race leader Buckshot Jones broke an oil line.

   Ten years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Modified Tour Series was supposed to be at the Seekonk Speedway on Sunday but Mother Nature had different ideas as showers fell on the track just about all day. Because of the fact that Sunday was the last day listed on the permit that the Speedway has with the town the entire D. Anthony Venditti Memorial program has been canceled. This was the second event that the NASCAR Modified Tour Series has lost in 2003. A June event at Riverhead on Long Island was also canceled after rain-washed out the intended date. The Stafford Speedway held their first annual Invitational on Saturday. The event drew a fair crowd but considering all the football and baseball, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. With the exception of the winner, Doug Meservey, Stafford regulars took the first six spots as Waterford Speedbowl regular Rick Young finished seventh. Following Meservey was Ted Christopher, George Bessette, Bob Santos III and John Sandberg. Attrition was high as only eleven of the 25 starters were running at the finish including five cars on the lead lap. Woody Pitkat was the Late Model winner and Mike Como was the DARE Stock winner. Alan Johnson won the DIRT Eckered 200 at Syracuse. Johnson started sixth and took the lead on lap 173 after a pit stop on lap 94. Ken Tremont finished second with Frank Cozze, third. Johnson walked out of Syracuse with $50,000 plus $30,000 in contingency awards. Sam Sessions won the PASS Big Dawg Pro Stock event at Wiscasset Speedway in Maine and walked away with $100,000. Twin features were run at Wall Township with Ken Woolley and Kevin Flockart taking the wins. The annual Lancaster Open was also run on this weekend. Zane Zeiner took the win over Siege Fidenza. Attrition was high as only 12 of the original 33 starters finished. The Winston Cup and Busch Racing Series were at Charlotte. The Busch Series event was scheduled for Friday night but fell victim to rain and was run on Saturday afternoon. Greg Biffle took the win after leading the final 38 laps. Michael Waltrip finished second. The Winston Cup event was run on Saturday night. Tony Stewart passed Ryan Newman with 15 laps to go and went on to take the win. Newman finished second and was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon.

   Five years ago in 2008, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ventured to the Chemung Speedway in western New York. The 3/8 mile track, originally built by the Bodine family drew a sparse field of only 25 cars. The Chemung event with a somewhat reduced purse consisted of time trials, two 25-lap heats and a 120 lap feature that ended up finishing under caution. Matt Hirschman, who was the fastest on the clock, won his qualifying heat and after starting on the pole led wire to wire to win his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season. Hirschman entered the event 89 points behind Ted Christopher in the championship chase. With Christopher’s seventh place finish, Hirschman narrowed the gap to just 55 points with only the Stafford Fall Final and Thompson World Series weekends remaining.

   Todd Szegedy dogged Hirschman for most of the event but settled for a runner-up finish and held up his spot in third in the season standings. Mike Stefanik finished third. Chuck Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Erick Rudolph, Christopher, Bobby Grigas III, Rowan Pennink and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10 finishers.

   At the Waterford Speedbowl it was good news and bad news. The good news was that competitors received their checks that had been held back. The bad news was that they were told not to cash them until Monday. One competitor thought he would pull a fast one and attempted to cash his check at the bank where the check was issued. He was told there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check.

   The shoreline oval ran their season ending Fall Finale, a two day event, last weekend On Saturday three SK Modified qualifying heats were run. Taking the wins were Shawn Monahan, Dennis Gada and Jeff Paul. In other Saturday action Jason Palmer won the 25-lap Legends Town Fair Tire Finale feature while it was Shaun Buffington scoring the 2008 Saturday Night Legends championship. Other feature winners were Norm Wrenn (Pro-4 Modifieds), Todd Bertrand (NEMA Lites), Glenn Boss (N.E Sport Modifieds), Corey Hutchings (Outlaw Stocks), David Flammia Jr. (X-Modified), Steve Barrett (Super-X Cars), Buddy Strede (X-Cars), Kathy Civardi (Women On Wheels Super-X), and Stephanie Bennett (Women On Wheels X-Car).

   Sunday dawned in typical Waterford fashion. It was raining cats and dogs. Shortly before noon a strange thing happened, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was too late; the cards of the fans had been dealt. Apparently many of them had made other plans as the vintage grandstand at the shoreline oval was all but empty when racing finally started. Because of the adverse weather the scheduled pit party was cancelled. The actual racing started about two hours late with Ken Cassidy coming from a dead last start to win the Mini Stock event. Randy Cabral won the NEMA Midget event and Brandon Plemmonds won the 50 lap Sportsman event. Things were looking up, the SK Modifieds were on the track for a tire heating session when the red flag was displayed bringing everything to a screeching halt. Evidently a bad accident on nearby Route 85 deemed it necessary for the Speedbowl’s ambulance to leave. Per state law, once the ambulance leaves the property all racing stops. After a little over a half hour an ambulance appeared and racing resumed. The 100 lap Modified event was a typical Waterford slam-bang event with survival of the fittest the order of the day. Diego Monahan led a large portion of the race untilbe dislodged by Keith Rocco and Rob Janovic. Both had a war of their own when on a late race restart Rocco didn’t go which resulted in Tyler Chadwick and Monahan hitting the front stretch wall. To make matters worse, at ten after nine, the fog started rolling in. At 9:20pm fans and competitors breathed a sigh of relief when the checkered flag was dropped on the event. Keith Rocco took the win and was followed by Rob Janovic, Ron Yuhas JR and Dennis Gada. For Gada it was monumental as he was now in a league of his own as he is the only seven time champion in Speedbowl history.

   In True Value Modified Series action at the Lee USA Speedway Jon Mckennedy took the win over Jimmy Kuhn, Les Hinkley, Ed Dachenhausen and Mike Holdredge.

   In Sprint Cup action, Tony Stewart ended his winless season at Talladega Superspeedway when NASCAR ruled Regan Smith's last-lap pass was illegal. Smith was in second and trailed Stewart for the final three laps around Talladega. The rookie made one desperate attempt for his first career victory by ducking inside the two-time champion to attempt a pass. Stewart blocked him, and Smith went below the yellow out-of-bounds line. After he beat Stewart to the finish, NASCAR reviewed the move, a driver is allowed to pass if officials believe he was forced under the line, and declared it illegal. The ruling gave Stewart his first win of the season and snapped a 43-race winless streak dating to Watkins Glen last year. It also was his first career Cup win at Talladega, which has taunted him for 10 years as he finished second a maddening six times. Paul Menard was a career-high second and was followed by rookie David Ragan and Chase drivers Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Smith was dropped all the way to 18th. The race had a NASCAR-record 31 lead changes.

   Last year, 2012, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour enjoyed a weekend off as competitors prepare for the season ending World Series of Speedway Racing at the Thompson Speedway.

   With one race remaining Doug Coby held a 17-point lead over Ryan Preece and 18 over defending tour champion Ronnie Silk. Donny Lia and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five but had been mathematically eliminated from championship contention.

   The big event for the weekend was the annual D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at the Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, MA. Venditti, along with his wife Irene built the quarter mile with their bare hands. The speedway has been operated continuously by the Venditti family since opening day in 1946.

   The highlight of the weekend was the Valenti Modified Racing Series 100. The event drew 33 Modifieds. Rowan Pennink started on the pole and led the entire race receiving pressure early on from Geoff Gernhard, Steven Masse, Todd Annarummo and again from Masse on laps 50-53 when the fifth caution flag was displayed then followed by a red flag when the skies opened to end the event. With 53 laps completed the race by rule was officially completed. Pennink’s win, his sixth VMRS victory, is his first Seekonk victory, his second victory this season, and he clipped 20 points off Jon McKennedy’s point lead as the two battle it out for the series championship with two races remaining. Pennink entered the day 57-points behind McKennedy. The points now show McKennedy with 530 and Pennink with 493.

   The rains ended what was shaping up to be another classic finish at the famed oval. Masse and Annarummo were strong with a hard charging Les Hinckley who started 13th and running fourth at lap 53, methodically working his way to the front. Rounding out the top five was Geoff Gernhard. Sixth through tenth were Mark Bakaj, Max Zachem, Norm Wrenn, Tim Jordan and Jon McKennedy.
In other Seekonk action Derek Ramstrom captured the 50 lap Pro Stock feature.

   In weekend action at the Waterford Speedbowl Mother Nature interfered with WaterfordSpeedbowl’s Finale Weekend on Sunday afternoon after just two of the scheduled six races were completed. The visiting Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) and INEX Legend Cars races were finished before the rain began to fall. Scoring the two race victories were Russ Stoehr of Bridgewater, MA in the 25-lap NEMA feature and Dave Garbo Jr. of Stonington in the Legend Cars.

   The scheduled 50-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Mini Stock feature was halted after 22 laps due to wet weather. The remainder of that race, along with the rest of the scheduled races, were postponed until Saturday, October 27. Sunday’s event was rain-checked by management, meaning ticket stubs and wristbands from Finale Weekend will be honored on October 27. The October 27 date will include racing by the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modifieds, Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Street Stocks and the remaining 28-laps of the Mini Stock feature. There were 29 SK Modifieds on hand.

   The Speedbowl Management's cash drawer at the pit gate was bulging as over 200 race cars jammed Waterford Speedbowl’s pit area on Saturday for its Finale Weekend of racing. Qualifying racing for thirteen divisions along with eight main events took place over the day, with six more races being set for Sunday at the track.

   Taking NASCAR Whelen All-American Series victories Saturday were Corey Hutchings in the Street Stocks and David Webb in the SK Light Modifieds. Duane Noll won an entertaining Outlaw Stock feature, Dylan Duhaime was the winner of the NEMA Lite series feature and Ivoryton racer Mark Panaroni won the visiting Northeast Mini Stock Tour race. Rounding out feature winners included Eric Finkbein Jr. in the Super X-Cars, Scott Limkemann in the X-Cars and Rene Morgillo in the Bandoleros. Keith Rocco passed Dylan Duhaime with three laps to go to win the 25-lap NEMA Lites feature but was disqualified after NEMA officials stated the wing on his Midget was not approved.

   Brett Hearn, the all-time victor in Super DIRT Week’s granddaddy race collected his sixth title in the Big Block Modified VP Small Engine Fuels 200 on Sunday in a rain-shortened affair at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. After starting third, the Sussex, N.J., driver took the lead on the sixth lap from pole-sitter Billy Decker and never trailed again. His biggest challenge was hedging a bet that he wouldn’t run out of gas before the race was called off because of a storm approaching slowly from the west.

   Running 113 laps on his only tank of fuel, he won the gamble, he estimated, with about 10 laps to spare. The victory was worth $50,000. Placing second was Waterloo’s Matt Sheppard, followed by Baldwinsville’s Jimmy Phelps. Justin Haers, of Phelps, and Pat Ward, of Genoa, rounded out the top five.

   None of them pitted during the race, opting to follow Hearn’s lead.

   In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Tony Stewart tried to block his way to victory at Talladega Superspeedway. The strategy backfired badly. Stewart triggered one of the biggest wrecks ever seen in NASCAR racing. The "big one" came on the last lap, when Stewart's attempt to hold on for the win ended with his car sailing through the field and triggering a 25-car accident. Matt Kenseth won the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 under caution, and everyone else was left wondering what happened to cause so much damage. Stewart took full responsibility for causing the accident. He had charged to the lead on the first lap of a two-lap sprint to the finish but got too far ahead of the pack to keep any drafting partners.

   Matt Kenseth was charging on the outside, and Michael Waltrip was leading a line of traffic on the inside. Stewart was blocking all over the track, and said he mistakenly chopped across the front of Waltrip's car, triggering the accident. Jeff Gordon was scored in second place, and Kyle Busch in third.

   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

Johnny Cambino                                         Tony Mordino                                            Ed Flemke Sr

    George Pendergast                               Jacko Maggiacamo                                       Buddy Krebs         

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: October 4, 2013

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