The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



April 4, 2014

  Fifty years ago in 1964 Ray Delisle was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Daring Dick Caso was the Bomber winner.

  Forty five years ago in 1969 Ed Yerrington Sr won the season opening 30 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Jim Mazzella was the 20 lap Daredevil winner.

  Forty years ago in 1974 Don Bunnell won the season opener at the Waterford Speedbowl. Rick Elnicki was the Grand American winner.

  Thirty five years ago this week in 1979, Thompson opened for the season. Ronnie Bouchard won the small block Modified feature over John Rosati and Dunk Rudolph. Rudolph was subsequently disqualified when it was found that his car's engine had illegal heads. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner. The speedway sported a new look as the Connecticut DMV mandated that the Speedway eliminate all light poles from the infield. Track owner Don Hoenig had purchased high intensity lighting that had been used at the Lincoln Downs Horse Track in Rhode Island. In other news, Dale Earnhardt won the Winston Cup event at Bristol as a rookie and Geoff Bodine was fired from the Jack Beebe Winston Cup Car.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, it was night No.2 at Riverside Park. Stan Gregger wasted little time and took down the win. Jim Spencer finished second and was followed by Ray Miller, Richie Evans and Corky Cookman.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989, Reggie Ruggiero was the top dog at Riverside in the Mario Fiore No.44. There were only 21 cars on hand but they were all good ones. Stan Gregger finished second and was followed by Dan Avery, Brad Hietella and John Zavisa.

  Twenty years ago, in 1994, the roles were reversed at Riverside as Gregger took the win with Ruggiero, second. Avery finished third and was followed by Eddie Spiers, Wade Cole and Tom Jensen. In SMART action at Caraway in North Carolina, Tim Arre won a 150 lap event over Frank Fleming, and in Hickory, N.C. Ricky Craven took the lead with 32 laps to go and went on to win the Sundrop 300 over Randy LaJoie.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, David Green won the Busch Series 320 at Nashville. Casey Atwood finished second. Sterling Marlin provided the only competition but his day ended after his car spun and was wrecked by a wrecker in the pit area.

  Ten years ago in 2004, in a joint announcement from NASCAR and the Thompson Speedway last Thursday; the Thompson Speedway Icebreaker was postponed until April 17-18. The early cancellation was made in order to prevent fans and competitors from making a needless trip. The Thompson Connecticut area was pounded by over two inches of rain and with more forecast for the weekend, it was a wise move to pull the plug on the event. The Waterford Speedbowl also fell victim to rain as Saturday night’s races were canceled. In Nextel Cup action at the Texas Speedway Elliott Sadler won by inches over Kasey Kahne. Jeff Gordon recorded his best finish in quite a while as he finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth. In Busch Racing Series action in Texas, Matt Kenseth took the win over Kyle Busch. The Caruso family sold the Oswego Speedway to Steve Gioia and Pat Furlong. In operation since 1951, Oswego is considered the next best thing to going to Indianapolis.

  Five years ago in 2009, The Waterford Speedbowl opened for the season with the SK Modified Nationals. The track opened for practice on Friday with quite a few race teams on hand to shake down their cars in preparation for the coming season. A beautiful Spring day greeted competitors on Saturday for qualifying at the shoreline oval. A somewhat meager field of SK Modifieds was on hand, 21, for time trials for the 150 lap-$5,000 to win feature. Conspicuous by there absences were the “Outsiders”, non-Waterford regulars. The only outsiders on hand were Jimmy Blewett from New Jersey and Eric Goodale from Long Island. Defending Connecticut State Champion Keith Rocco was the top time setter as he toured the 1/3 mile oval in 14.138 seconds. Frank Ruocco was second fastest with Diego Monahan, third. Jeff Paul and Ron Yuhas Jr rounded out the top five. Defending track champion Dennis Gada was tenth fastest. The top ten redrew for starting positions. Ruocco drew the pole and Paul, the outside pole. Yuhas drew third with Monahan and Gada filling out the top five. Rocco drew the seventh starting spot. In Late Model qualifying Bruce Thomas Jr put a new track record in place for the division as he toured the shoreline oval in 15.240 seconds. Tim Jordon was second with Jeff Smith, third. There was no redraw as the Late Models would start straight up from time. There were only 15 Late Models on hand.

  Jason Palmer was the last Legends Car competitor in Speedbowl Victory Lane in the 2008 season, and picked up where he left off on Saturday capturing the 20-lap Legends Car race during the Budweiser Modified Nationals opening weekend. Saturday marked the 59th consecutive season of operation for the ‘Bowl. Palmer, the 2007 and 2008 Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday Legends points champion, topped a full field of talented Legends competitors. He out dueled Shaun Buffington and Flyin Ryan Morgan in an entertaining 20-lap event. An extended red flag situation was necessitated after a scary incident in turn 4 involving Tom Gray. Gray’s car became airborne and slammed the wall. He was transported to L & M Hospital for observation, but did get out of the car under his own power and acknowledged the crowd.
Other winners from Saturday’s action include Allen Coates (Speedbowl Truck Series), Paul Tuthill (Allison Legacy North Racing Series), Curt D’addario Sr. (X Car) and Jon Porter (Super X Car).

  Coates picked up his 65th career Speedbowl victory leading the 25-lap Truck Series event from start to finish. A late race caution regrouped the field and Coates was able to hold back the challenges of Keith Chapman. The four-time Speedbowl track champion (Late Models, Street Stocks) has won two consecutive starts in a Truck, also winning last July’s 100-lap ARTS event at the shoreline oval.
Opening day at the Waterford Speedbowl was not meant to be as heavy rain pounded the Connecticut shoreline during the early morning hours on Sunday. Shortly before 8:00am the Speedbowl Management announced the postponement of the 13th Annual Budweiser Modified Nationals due to the weather

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Jimmie Johnson nudged Denny Hamlin aside in the third and fourth turns with 15 laps to go at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and gave team owner Rick Hendrick a perfect place to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first victory in NASCAR's premier series. Johnson won for the fifth time in the last six races in Martinsville, and for the sixth time overall, second among active drivers to Jeff Gordon's seven. And he did it by biding his time, falling back in the pack early in the race to get his car right, and then using the improved car and some slick work in the pits to make it pay.

  The victory was the 18th for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville, where a victory by Geoff Bodine in 1979 gave the fledgling company a needed boost, and the 10th in the last 13 races. Johnson has won six of those, and Gordon has won the other four. Johnson's 41st career victory came after Gordon, who led 147 laps, and then Hamlin, who led 296, dominated for most of the race. Hamlin was second, followed by Tony Stewart, Gordon and Clint Bowyer. Ryan Newman was sixth. Still looking for success, Joey Logano was 32nd.

  The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that Sun Oil Chairman and CEO Lynn Elsenhans said that the federal government should increase the gasoline tax to provide money for infrastructure repairs. Elsenhans suggested the idea in a speech to the annual meeting of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association in San Antonio, Texas. “We should support a sizable increase in the federal gasoline tax for the expressed purpose of funding much-needed infrastructure investment,” she was slated to say in the speech, according to Thomas Golembeski, a Sunoco spokesman.

  With all the problems with the economy going on, this woman needed to have her head examined! Granted, fuel prices have come down and stabilized. The big oil companies need to dig into their own pockets to repair their own equipment. The consumer should not be responsible for this.

  The Associated Press reported that Brazilian race car driver and "Dancing With The Stars" winner Helio Castroneves owes more than $2.3 million in U.S. taxes because of unreported income and improper deductions over a five-year period, an Internal Revenue Service agent testified Friday at his tax evasion trial in Miami. The testimony, by the final prosecution witness, capped the fourth week of the trial. Castroneves, 33, his 35-year-old sister and business manager Katiucia, and Michigan lawyer Alan Miller, 71, each face more than six years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion involving about $5.5 million in income.

  Last year, 2013, The 2013 northeast racing season got its official start as the Waterford Speedbowl hosted Budweiser Blastoff. Budweiser Blastoff Weekend marked the beginning of the 63rd consecutive season of racing at the shoreline oval.

  After drawing 128 cars for practice on the week previous the Speedbowl drew 197 cars, including 30 Valenti Modified Racing Series cars and 26 SK Modifieds. It was cold and blustery but dry none the less.

  Sunday’s winners included Steve Masse of Bellingham, MA in the 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series event, the popular northeastern tour’s 10th anniversary season opener. In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action Keith Rocco of Meriden scored wins in both the SK Modified® and Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division races, the second consecutive season he has opened the year with wins in each division. Corey Hutchings of Salem was the Street Stock winner and Garrett Denton of Hope Valley, RI won the Mini Stock feature. Todd Bertrand of Suffield took down a popular win in the Northeastern Midget Association race.

  Keith Rocco scored a convincing win in the SK Modified portion of Blastoff 2013. Rocco started third in the 26 car starting field. By lap seven he was in the lead. One of the few that didn't pit for fresh rubber, Rocco held off Ron Yuhas Jr who finished second. Rob Janovic finished third with Craig Lutz and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Eleven of the 26 original starters completed the 63 lap distance. The win was Rocco’s fourth consecutive Budweiser Blastoff weekend win and 45th career victory in the division.

  Ten cars were collected in a massive wreck with less than ten laps to go. During a restart with nine laps remaining Nicole Morgillo took over second spot after roughing up Rob Janovic in a dive under-elbow job which moved him up and out of the racing groove. Janovic maintained motion as Ted Christopher went by and subsequently made contact after trying to pass the young lady on the low side. The two made contact and Boom!, Morgillo hit the wall. Morgillo was credited with 12th finishing position. A post race video clearly showed that Teddy had the line and Nicole came down to block.

  In Valenti Modified Racing Series action Steve Masse took the lead with four laps to go and went on to take the series opening 100 lap win. Todd Annarummo finished second with Anthony Nocella, third. Rowan Pennink and Mike Holdredge rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Louis Mechalides Mike Willis, Jr., Norm Wrenn, Dana Smith and Keith Rocco. Of note was the fact that Tom Barrett Jr was displaced out of a top ten finish after he was put to the rear for spinning Chris Pasteryak on the 98th lap.

  There was a total of 33 cars on hand. The Valenti Modified Racing Series next visits New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway on Saturday evening, April 20th.

  Saturday’s main events at the Speedbowl saw Randy Churchill of Oakdale winning the evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified race, Keith Rocco of Meriden scoring the honors in the NEMA Lite touring series race, and Chris Turbush of Riverhead, NY won in the visiting New England Truck Series. In INEX racing, Dana Dimatteo of Farmington claimed the win in the opening day Legend Cars feature and New Jersey driver Alex McCollum won the Bandolero feature.

  Other winners included Jon Porter of Canterbury in Super X-Cars and Wayne Shifflett of Preston in the X-Cars. Rocco's NEMA Lite win was later dis-allowed as it was determined that the car in which he drove was under weight and had illegal fuel. Mike and Ted Christopher must have felt a little bit older after the running of the legends feature. Mike Christopher Jr, son of Mike and nephew of Ted finished 15th in his debut race.

  Waterford native Tom "Sid" DiMaggio, a long-time track enthusiast, will receive one of the John Wentworth Good Sport Awards from the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance during its annual Gold Key Dinner on April 28. DiMaggio has devoted countless hours compiling statistical data at the Speedbowl, which culminated in the launch of a website - - as well as a documentary film project that will be released in 2014.

  Racedayct reported that a group of creditors still owed money from a debt reorganization plan arranged through state bankruptcy court have moved to have foreclosure action taken against the owner of the Waterford Speedbowl. Speedbowl owner Terry Eames confirmed following the conclusion of BlastOff that a foreclosure action was filed on March 27. The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch lists the plaintiffs in the action as Rocco Arbitell, Peter Borelli and the Committee of Sale.

  Eames said the action will not effect in any way the current day-to-day operations of the Speedbowl.

  “It doesn’t really change anything in the near term,” Eames said. “It’s going to take some time to play out. At that track it’s business as usual. We’ll get through it.”

  The action adds to a long list of legal financial issues faced by ownership at the Speedbowl over the last seven years. In July 2007, Arbitell, a Southbury businessman and local racing supporter, along with his business associate Borrelli, stepped in to offer Eames and his ownership group, 1080 Hartford Road LLC, financing to avoid a foreclosure action being taken then by former mortgage holder Washington Mutual Bank. The deal with Arbitell was announced a day before the track’s auction date for a foreclosure in 2007.

  In May 2008 Arbitell brought his own foreclosure action against the ownership group after former track operator Jerry Robinson failed to pay the Speedbowl’s property taxes. Facing another pending foreclosure auction, Eames and 1080 Hartford Road LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2009.

  A debt reorganization plan was accepted by bankruptcy court in January 2012 and the ownership cleared bankruptcy not long after that. “They found some technical default with how we had performed under the [debut reorganization] plan,” Eames said. “… At the end of the day these people haven’t been paid and they need to get paid and they will get paid. It’s just taking longer than any of us had wanted to deal with this, but they’ll get taken care of and we’ll keep going.”

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson led a career-best 346 laps Sunday and pulled away on a restart with eight laps to go for his eighth career victory on the shortest track in the Sprint Cup Series, taking over third place on the career victories list on NASCAR's oldest track.

   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.

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 4, 2014

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