March 28, 2014
Fifty years ago in 1964 Don Collins won the Easter Sunday opening
25 lap Modified event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Collins drove
the Billy Simons #9 Excavator Special. Bob Tetreault was the Bomber winner.
Thirty five years ago in 1979, a late
winter snowstorm cancelled a scheduled modified event at the Franklin County
Speedway in Callaway, VA. The event was not rescheduled. Despite the success
of the 1978 season at the Waterford Speedbowl under the Dick Williams'
Coastal Racing League, Harvey Tattersall Jr did not renew their lease and
once again took over the day-to-day operations of the Speedbowl under his
United Stock Car Championship banner. Race Director Bill Slater & Chief
Starter Dick Brooks left with Williams.
Thirty years ago, in 1984, Eddie
Flemke, a modified legend in his own time, passed away. Flemke had put in a
long day plowing snow and had come home to rest. When he failed to come into
his house his wife went to check on him, as he had not exited his vehicle.
Mrs. Flemke sadly discovered that he husband had suffered a heart attack and
had passed away at the age of 53. During his career Flemke won over 600
features and played a vital part in the development of the racing careers of
Pete Hamilton, Richie Evans and Ronnie Bouchard. Flemke was one of the great
thinkers of the sport. He would study his competition and then figure out
what their weaknesses were and beat them. He was also an accomplished
racecar designer and fabricator. Two days later, Riverside Park opened for
the season with Richie Evans taking the win and promptly dedicated it to his
deceased friend and mentor. Eddie Flemke was one of the greatest drivers of
all time. At Riverside, Marty Radwick finished second and George Kent was
third. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Ricky Rudd was the pole sitter.
Darrell Waltrip took the win. Ronnie Bouchard qualified 13th and finished
Twenty five years ago in 1989,
the Riverside Park season opener was a test of man and machine as only six
cars were left running at the finish of the 100 lap grind. Taking the win
was John Zavisa, who started on the pole. Pre race favorite Reggie Ruggiero
wrecked during warm-ups and was unable to start the feature.
Twenty years ago in 1994, Chris Kopec
benefited from Reggie Ruggiero's misfortune and went on to win the season
opener at Riverside Park in front of a packed house. Ruggiero had been
leading until his brakes went away in the late stages of the event. Jamie
Tomaino finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Dan Avery and
Ruggiero. In Busch Grandnational action at Darlington, Mark Martin started
on the pole and won the no contest event over Larry Pearson and Randy
LaJoie. In Winston Cup action, Bill Elliott was the pole sitter but the day
belonged to Dale Earnhardt.
Fifteen years ago, in 1999, the
Featherlite Modified Tour Series started on a wet note as the season opener
at Riverside Park rained out. Qualifying was done on Saturday. Bob Polverari
was the Busch Pole sitter and David Berghman was second fastest. The rained
out event was rescheduled for April 18, which would put it head to head with
Ten years ago in 2004 after many
months of waiting the Northeast-racing season finally began under less than
ideal weather conditions at the Waterford Speedbowl. Thirty-one SK Modifieds
were on hand at the shoreline oval on Saturday for qualifying. Outsiders
Ronnie Silk and Doug Coby were the top time trialers. Silk toured the
1/3-mile oval in 14.482 seconds and Coby turned a lap in 14.503 seconds.
James Civale was the top regular with a time of 14.598 seconds. Defending
track champion Dennis Gada was 11th fastest with a time of 14.796 seconds.
In what had to be one of the most wreck strewn events ever seen, James
Civale turned a pre race misfortune into a victory as he won the 150 lap
SK-Modified portion of the Waterford Nationals. As the cars circled the
1/3-mile oval in a warm-up prior to the start of the event it was discovered
that his scoring transponder wasn’t working. Civale stopped at the pit gate
where his pit crew got it operating. Speedway officials treated the incident
as if he had pitted and forced him to start at the rear of the 31
car-starting field. Upset at the time, starting at the rear proved to be an
omen as most of the wrecks and spins involved those who started at or near
the front. Civale managed to avoid trouble and took the lead on the 57th lap
and went on to hold off Ted Christopher for the win. Christopher, who was
considered one of the pre-race favorites, made numerous pit stops, as he was
involved in many of the 11 caution periods that consumed 66 laps.
Christopher moved into second spot with 11 laps to go but couldn’t muster
the needed steam to make the pass for the win. Pole sitter Ron Silk got
collected in the first caution on lap three and suffered sufficient damage
to keep him out of contention. The blustery cold weather was a definite
factor, as the hard compound track tires could not generate enough heat to
provide the needed traction. The wrecks and spins got so bad that single
file restarts were mandated shortly after the half way mark of the event.
With the exception of Civale and third place finisher Jay Miller the entire
field showed scars of battle. Defending division champion Dennis Gada and
previous years runner-up Ed Reed Jr. were taken out of contention because of
wrecks as were Rick Young, Tom Fox and Jeff Pearl. Rob Janovic finished
fourth with Chris Pasteryak, fifth. Dennis Gada finished sixth, one lap
down. Corey Hutchins won the Late Model 50 lapper in an all but no contest
event. Mark StHillaire finished second with Jay Stuart, third. Second
generation driver Keith Rocco was the Limited Sportsman winner and Tim
Jordan won in the MiniStocks.
NASCAR announced that they had a new weapon to use to detect cheaters,
especially those who use tire softeners. The Irwindale Speedway in
California engaged the use of a retired bomb-sniffing dog to detect tires
that have been altered with chemicals. It seems that when the animal is
walked up and down pit road it will stop and sit next to tires that have
been treated. Tire soaking has taken place at all levels of racing, in fact
it got so bad in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series a year ago that
NASCAR mandated that all competitors buy their tires on the day of the race.
It had also been announced that the NASCAR TV ratings took a dive after
recent boring events at Las Vegas and Atlanta. FOX’s season ratings after
three Nextel Cup events have fallen 9%.
In Nextel Cup action at Bristol, Tennessee, Ryan Newman captured his
third Busch Pole of the year on Friday. The Busch Racing Series ran on
Saturday with New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. getting his first ever
Busch Series win. Truex is a former competitor in the Busch North Series and
a former weekly competitor at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey. Kurt
Busch gambled when he chose not to pit for fresh tires late in the Bristol
500 and beat a frustrated Rusty Wallace to the finish line. It was Busch’s
third victory in a row at the ultra fast high-banked half-mile oval.
It appeared that the anti-trust suit filed by Speedway Motorsports
stockholders Francis Ferko and Rusty Vaughn against NASCAR may be headed for
an out of court settlement. It had been strongly rumored that the
International Speedway Corporation, which is owned by the France family that
also owns NASCAR, would sell speedways in Darlington, South Carolina and
Rockingham, North Carolina to Speedway Motorsports who in turn could move
two of the three Nextel Cup dates that go with those speedways to Texas and
Las Vegas. The remaining date would alternate between Darlington and
Rockingham. In a non-related matter, the International Speedway Corporation
and its subsidiary, Southeastern Hay and Nursery bought 168 acres of land
for $5.5 million.
On a sad note, Nolan Swift, eight time Oswego Speedway track champion,
died at the age of 81. Swift was considered the father of the Supermodifieds.
Five years ago in 2009,, In the never
ending soap opera at the Waterford Speedbowl there was some good news and
some stability for the shoreline oval. Track owner Terry Eames announced on
Thursday, March 19 that its affiliation with NASCAR will continue in 2009.
The Speedbowl’s SK Modified®, Late Model, Street Stock, and Mini Stock
divisions would all participate in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and
be eligible to earn NASCAR points
In regards to money being owed to competitors from the 2008 season, Jason
Christley who works in the public relations department at NASCAR told the
Hartford Courant that NASCAR did guarantee the NASCAR point fund to the
Waterford Speedbowl. That guarantee stands regardless of things that might
occur like the track closing or the promoter failing to meet obligations. In
reality, that money came from Whelen Engineering which sponsors the Weekly
Racing Series. Evidently NASCAR had changed its way of thinking as far as
protecting drivers from unscrupulous promoters and track operators. In other
words, even though a racer has a NASCAR license and races at a NASCAR
sanctioned track there is no guarantee that he will be paid unless NASCAR
has a sponsor who will supply the money. Bill France Sr founded NASCAR to
protect drivers from shady promoters and track operators who ran off with
purse money without paying drivers. He must be rolling over in his grave!
Ted Christopher made the trip down south to the Concord Speedway worth
his while. Christopher, driving for Joe Brady, passed Burt Myers on the
opening lap and led wire-to-wire to win the Capital Bank 150 in the NASCAR
Whelen Southern Modified Tour season opener. It was his third career NASCAR
Whelen Southern Modified Tour race and the first Tour event held at the
half-mile, tri-oval. Rowan Pennink followed in second. George Brunnhoelzl
III came through the field to finish third after starting last because of
engine problems. Myers, who won his series record 18th Coors Light Pole
Award earlier in the day, finished fourth and Erick Rudolph completed the
Among the Whelen Modified Tour cars and competitors on hand for shakedown
runs at the Thompson Speedway were Eric Beers, Mike Stefanik, Chris
Pasteryak, Rob Summers, Carl Pasteryak, Richard Savory, a new Ole Blu with
Ryan Preece, Jimmy Blewett and Glen Reen. There were quite a few SK types
too. Participants included Tom Cravenho, Bert Marvin, Tim Sullivan, Keith
Rocco, Todd Ceravolo, Ricky Shawn, Woody Pitkat, Kerry Malone and Josh
Sylvester. Sylvester hit the wall a ton and did a lot of damage to his
Congratulations went out to Keith Rocco who was recognized by Connecticut
Governor Jodi Rell at the state capitol in Hartford. In winning the
Connecticut State Championship Rocco had 11 wins, 32 top fives and 38 top
10s racing at three Connecticut short tracks: Stafford Motor Speedway,
Thompson International Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl.
In Sprint Cup racing, Kyle Busch was furious when his pit crew cost him a
win at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he angrily ditched his car on the race
track and walked to his motor home. The following day, he drove to Victory
Lane, averaging 92.139 mph. Busch bounced back from one of his many Bristol
heartbreaks with a win Sunday, leading 378 of 503 laps for his second Sprint
Cup Series victory of the season. Teammate Denny Hamlin was second, 0.391 of
a second back, and Jimmie Johnson third.
Kevin Harvick proved just how strong his organization is Saturday by
winning the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway in his own race
car. Harvick led 44 laps in his Kevin Harvick Inc.-owned Chevrolet, his
first victory in a car fielded by the race team he built with his wife. Carl
Edwards finished second and Clint Bowyer was third.
Last year, 2013 The northeastern
hills and the eastern shoreline of Connecticut came alive with the sound of
racing engines. The Thompson Speedway which doesn't officially open for the
season until April 14 held their first of two open practice dates.. The
Waterford Speedbowl, which opens for the season this coming weekend, also
was open for practice. Both tracks appeared to have respectable car counts
but overall Waterford had the edge. What put Waterford over the top were the
25 Valenti Modified Racing Series cars.
Among the casualties at Waterford were Tom Barrett and Jeff Rocco who did
considerable damage to their cars after hitting the wall. Keith Rocco has
indicated that he will seek the NASCAR National Championship as he intends
on racing at Thompson, Stafford and at Waterford on a weekly basis. In
addition to his SK Modified ride at Waterford Rocco has a Late Model and a
Legend ride lined up.NASCAR's top divisions had the week off to celebrate
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.
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