The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



April 11, 2014

  Fifty years ago in 1964 Ray Delisle made it two in a row in Modified action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Krashen was the winner in the Bombers.

  Forty five years ago in 1969 the Stafford Speedway opened for the season with an open competition program featuring the Supermodifieds. Nolan Swift, the undisputed king of the Oswego Speedway took the win. Don Kibbe was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Wayne “Mr. Mysterious” Smith was the Daredevil winner. In NASCAR Grandnational (Cup) action at Richmond David Pearson took the win.

  Forty years ago in 1974 the Spring Sizzler at Stafford was on. Taking the win was Carl "Bugsy" Stevens. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and was followed by Merv Treichler in the Garbarino Bros. Mystic Missile, Dynamite Ollie Silva and Jerry Cook. Bill Scrivener was the Modified winner at Waterford and Ron Cote scored his first of three in a row at the shoreline oval.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979 the action was at the Seekonk Speedway where Richie Evans showed that no matter where he went, he could adapt to and master a never before seen track. The event drew 44 cars and when all was said and done, Evans pulled into victory lane. Jerry Cook finished second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard, Leo Cleary, Fred Astle and Ray Miller. Leo Cleary drove a car that Len Boehler pulled out of the bushes and in fact had to heat the springs to make the chassis handle. Cleary led the first 42 laps before worn tires forced him to back off. Bugsy Stevens was also an early contender until he lost a fan blade, which ultimately broke his water pump and put him out. Evans by the way had been on the road all night as he had raced and won at Hickory, N.C. the day before.

  Thirty years ago in 1984 Riverside Park ran on Saturday night and it was Stan Gregger taking the win over Jim Spencer, Ray Miller and Richie Evans. At the Thompson Speedway on Sunday, Charlie Jarzombek ruled the roost as he beat out Mike McLaughlin and Evans for the win.

  Twenty Five Years ago in 1989, the only action was at Riverside Park where Reggie Ruggiero won the 50 lap main over Stan Gregger, Jerry Marquis and Bruce Dell.

  Twenty years ago in 1994, Reggie Ruggiero took the top spot at the Riverside Park Speedway. Richard Savory finished second and was followed by Stan Gregger and Dan Avery. During the overnight hours storm clouds moved in and washed out the Thompson Icebreaker that had been scheduled for Sunday. The event was rescheduled for May 1 which created a direct conflict with Waterford. At Bristol in the Saturday Busch Grandnational event, Mark Martin was leading under caution and mistook the white flag for the checkered flag and pitted, giving the race win to David Green. When Martin realized his mistake he returned to the racing surface and ended up eleventh. It had to be one of his most embarrassing moments as a racer. Dale Earnhardt was the Winston Cup winner over Ken Schrader and Lake Speed.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, the Icebreaker at Thompson played under warm skies and a full house plus a full pit of 51 Tour Modifieds. Mike Ewanitsko took the lead just past the half way mark and held off Rick Fuller for the win. Chris Kopec finished third with Jamie Tomaino and Carl Pasteryak rounding out the top five. In the 30 lapper for the SK's, Todd Ceravolo took the lead from Billy Sharp with four to go in the 30 lapper and went on to record his first win of the season. Sharp held on to finish second with Mike Christopher, third. At Bristol, Tenn., Jason Keller was the Grand National winner.

  Ten years ago in 2004, the Stafford Motor Speedway got their Friday night program in the books while Waterford suffered its second rainout in a row. At Stafford Lloyd Agor passed Frank Ruocco on lap 31 of the 40 lap feature and went on to take the win in the SK Modified division. Ruocco finished second followed by Willie Hardie, Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. A slim field of only 20 SK Modifieds was on hand. Many have wondered as to why the fields of SK Modifieds have dwindled at Stafford. The SK Modifieds had gotten out of hand cost wise plus the fact that there was much destruction at Stafford in 2003. Some car owners have sold out while others have chosen to race elsewhere or just park their cars. Ryan Posocco and Jay Stuart finished one-two in Late Model action while Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Sportsman feature and John Hurley won the Dare Stock event. James Civali who won the SK Modified portion of the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker and finished fourth in the recent SK Modified portion of the Spring Sizzler before being disqualified for refusing tech inspection now finds himself in a select group of drivers at the Stafford Speedway that have been suspended from racing at Stafford indefinitely for actions detrimental to racing. In other words Civali was put on suspension because he drove through the pit area at high speed and almost ran an official down. In addition to Waterford being rained out the opening night festivities at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island were also cancelled due to rain.

  New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese who had been in the process of proposing a domed racetrack in Plainfield, Ct. won a crucial zoning approval after a close vote by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel voted 3-2 to rezone roughly 900 acres off Interstate 395 and include the land in a recently established "resort/recreational development zone." Opponents of New England Raceway LLC's 140,000-seat racetrack plan said they would appeal the commission's decision. Arganese said he planned to move forward with the project despite the prospect of legal challenges. Six appeals had already been filed against the commission's approval last month of the new resort/recreational development zone. Consultants were slated to begin design work in the near future. He said the design process should take about five months, and he intended to bring the plans before the commission by January. Arganese's $343 million project would include the racetrack, a convention center, a 700-room hotel and 800,000-square-foot retail complex. He continued to say he hoped to attract NASCAR, Indy and CART events to the New England Raceway track, along with drag races, concerts and trade shows.

  Jeff Gordon won the wreck marred Aarons 499 at the Talledega Speedway. Martin Truex was the Busch Series winner. The Busch race was also a wreck fest.

  Five years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour began its 25th anniversary year at the Thompson Speedway ICEBREAKER last weekend. This year’s event marked the 107th time that the WMT has raced at Thompson since the formation of the Tour in 1985. An outstanding field of competitors attempted to qualify on Saturday afternoon for a starting spot in the 150-lap main event which was run on Sunday. The WMT was joined by Thompson’s “Super 6” NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions in this two-day racing spectacle that has ushered in the beginning of the auto racing season in New England for well over 40 years.

  Thirty five NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for practice and qualifying at Thompson. Jimmy Blewett made himself the pre-race favorite as he was the fastest in pre-time trial practice. Blewett toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.612 seconds, 120.890 mph. Also up to speed and in contention were Doug Coby, Jamie Tomaino, Todd Szegedy and Reggie Ruggiero.

  Blewett might have been the fastest one in practice but Ted Christopher was the fastest when it counted. Christopher won the Coors Light Pole in qualifying for Icebreaker 2009 With a lap of 18.642 seconds (120.890 MPH), Christopher earned his 19th career WMT pole and his eighth career pole at Thompson. Doug Coby qualified second. There were a few surprises in qualifying including Glenn Reen, Jamie Tomaino and Rowan Pennink who rounded out the top-five. After the redraw, Coby and Pennink ended up on the front row while Tomaino, who would make his record-setting 500th career start would go third. Christopher picked the fourth position followed by Mike Stefanik and Reen.

  Christopher began his title defense the way he ended it, with a win at Thompson. Once the green flag was displayed to start the 150 lapper Christopher wasted little time in showing what he had as he took the lead from Doug Coby on lap 10. Jamie Tomaino, who was making his 500th start, was quite stout in the early going as he wrestled the lead from Christopher on lap 41 and held it until a restart on lap 58 when he gave way to Mike Stefanik. A caution on lap 48 when John Busch spun out in turn two opened the door for pit stops by Christopher along with Don Lia, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett and Rowan Pennink. Stefanik and Tomaino had elected to remain on the track. By lap 62 Lia had worked his way back to 4th spot and had Christopher and Silk in tow. Four laps later Lia was third. Tomaino retook the lead on lap 67. Stefanik began to fade with obvious worn tires. Tomaino was able to hold on until lap 74 when his tires went south as Christopher stormed by Lia to take the lead. By lap 120 Christopher continued to lead as Ronnie Silk had moved him into the second spot. For all intents and purposes Silks run for the front ended a few laps later when Jimmy Blewett roughed him up and almost planted him in the first turn wall. Blewett also roughed up Lia before he passed him for the second spot. A caution on lap 133 for a Reggie Ruggeri spin set the stage for some late race excitement. With Blewett on the outside and Christopher on the inside they led the field to a restart on lap137. As Christopher entered turn three Blewett made a bottom shot and in the process moved him up to take the lead. Christopher returned the favor in turn four as he retook the lead. A Woody Pitkat spin on lap 148 precipitated a Green – White – Checkered finish. The field restarted for the final time on lap 152, single file. Despite the fact that Blewett beat and banged on the back of Christopher the defending champion never gave the aggressor the opportunity for another bottom shot as he scored an impressive win. Blewett, reluctantly settled for the runner-up spot with Lia, third. Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Silk, Stefanik, Coby, Pennink and Bob Grigas.

  For his efforts Christopher pocketed $8,800. He also received the first commemorative Tissot wrist watch, which will be presented by NASCAR and tour sponsor Whelen Engineering to each of the 14 race winners throughout the 25th anniversary season. The win was Christopher’s eighth at Thompson and his third in the track’s Icebreaker. He also won the traditional season-opener, which hosted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s first race in 1985, in 2004 and 2005. Christopher also moved into sole possession of fourth-place on the tour’s all-time win list with his 32nd victory. He trails only Mike Stefanik (69), Reggie Ruggiero (44) and Tony Hirschman (35).
In Saturday night Sunoco Modified action at Thompson Keith Rocco scored his first win of the 2009 season in a fiercely competitive opener. As Rocco crossed the line to take down the victory, contact between Tom Cravenho and Ted Christopher sent Christopher head-on into the turn four wall. Christopher took a hard hit but walked away from the incident. Todd Ceravolo finished a strong second over Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink, and Zach Sylvester. After post-race technical inspection, Goodale was stripped of his third-place finish; moving Pennink and Sylvester up a position and Jimmy Blewett inside the top five.

  Defending division champion Jeff Zuidema of North Brookfield, CT, led wire-to-wire to win the first of two Late Model main events scheduled for the weekend.

  Todd Ceravolo earned a hard-fought victory among a strong field of Sunoco Modifieds on Sunday afternoon. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, kicked- off a new era in full-fendered racing at Thompson Speedway with the first-ever Super Late Model victory. Jeff Zuidema of N. Brookfield, CT, went two-for-two in Late Model competition on Icebreaker weekend winning both ends of the double-header. Joe Arena of Bristol, CT, turned in a dominating performance to score the victory in the season-opener for the Limited Sportsman division. Chuck Rogers of Quaker Hill, CT, scored his first-ever winner at the Thompson Speedway in the Mini Stocks. Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT picked up where he left off winning TIS Modified features.

  Ceravolo jumped out to the early lead of the main event followed by Keith Rocco. On the final lap, Bert Marvin got up alongside Ceravolo but could not muster up enough momentum to make the pass. Ceravolo rolled into victory lane for his first win of the season. Marvin had to settle for second followed by Rocco. Woody Pitkat had a strong run to finish fourth. Cravenho completed the top five.

  The Waterford Speedbowl tried to open for the season but a forecast of rain and possible snow put a damper on action at the shoreline oval.
The True Value Modified Racing Series reports that a record 53 teams had secured numbers and paid fee’s to compete in 2009. Series founder Jack Bateman structured a 16 race schedule in response and additional prize money would be paid.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Jeff Gordon ended a 47-race winless drought, the longest of his career as he beat Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to win the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It was the 17th Cup race at Texas, the track where Gordon has his only two last-place finishes in his 552 career starts. One of the 43rd-place finishes came last spring before he was runner-up to Carl Edwards in the fall race after winning the pole. Gordon won by 0.542 of a second over Johnson with an average speed of 146.372 mph. Middletown CT native Joey Logano, who started 10th, finished 30th. A strong rumor had his ride in jeopardy.

  Kyle Busch won his third consecutive Nationwide race in Texas with another dominating performance, leading a race-record 178 of 200 laps to win the O'Reilly 300 even though he insisted it wasn't as easy as it looked. Busch finished 1.447 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart, who made a late charge from seventh with four new tires after a caution on lap 188. Brad Keselowski, forced to start 42nd in a backup car, finished third.

  Last year, 2013, The Thompson Speedway opened for the season with Icebreaker 2013. The Ice Breaker officially began the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. Mike Stefanik, still disappointed the way NASCAR handled the bump and run incident in which he was intentionally spun out of the lead in the February Battle at the Beach, eased the pain a bit during qualifying for the Icebreaker. The last car out in qualifying, Stefanik took the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole Award on the second of his two laps in advance of Sunday’s season-opening Icebreaker. Has fast lap was recorded at 18.668 seconds (120.527 mph). The pole was the 48th of Stefanik’s career and the 10th at Thompson. From Coventry, R.I., Stefanik has a pair of wins in the Icebreaker, the last coming in 2006. He also holds the Whelen Modified Tour record for overall wins at Thompson with 14.

  Prior to Stefanik’s last-lap run, Ryan Preece was in position for the Coors Light Pole. He would instead join Stefanik in the front row on Sunday thanks to a fast qualifying lap of 18.707 (120.276). Rowan Pennink qualified third at 18.745 (120.032) while Chuck Hossfeld was fourth-fastest at 18.781 (119.802). Ron Silk rounded out the top five. There were 29 cars on hand for the qualifying session. Hossfeld’s qualifying run was later disallowed after his No. 72 failed post-qualifying technical inspection. The fuel in his car failed to meet NASCAR's specs. He was placed at the rear of the starting field.

  Stefanik is not an overly religious person but he got redemption following his bitter defeat at the hands of Steve Park in Daytona. After an almost fatal flub in the opening moments of the Icebreaker 150 the former NASCAR Champion regained his rhythm to come back to take the lead on a restart with ten laps to go and went on to score the victory, his 73rd, in Whelen Modified Tour Series action. Rowan Pennink finished second followed by Ryan Preece, Ron Silk and Ted Christopher. Jimmy Blewett, Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore, Chuck Hossfeld and Timmy Solomito rounded out the top ten the top 10.

  Pennink, who led a race-high 79 laps, first took the lead from Preece on Lap 7. The pair swapped it two more times based on their pit strategy. Preece led 61 total laps. The race was slowed by seven cautions for 33 laps with two red flags. Three of those caution periods were caused by Gary McDonald who spun in turn 2 on lap 25, turn 4 on lap 43 and the front chute on lap 53.

  There were 17 cars on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who didn't was Eric Berndt who parked it after 28 laps with an oil leak, Ron Yuhas Jr and Rob Fuller who got collected in a turn 1 wreck and Bryon Chew who was involved in a four car tangle in turn 2 on lap 135.
The Whelen Modified Tour Series takes a week off to prepare for the April 28 Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Whelen All American Series wins went to Keith Rocco, Glenn Boss, Cam McDermott, Larry Barnett, and Scott Michalski. The Granite State Pro Stocks showcased a 50-lap event that was won by George Bessette.

  The Sunoco Modified feature started with a bang when a wreck on the front stretch brought the field under caution, and ended with a dominating performance by Keith Rocco, who registered his first Thompson win of the season. On the restart, Rocco got a run on the outside groove to take the lead from Ryan Preece. Kerry Malone and Woody Pitkat also passed Preece to take over second and third respectively. The top four pulled away with a car length between each spot as they set a torrid pace that fifth place driver Todd Ceravolo could not close up.
Pitkat turned up the heat on lap 13 when he dove to the bottom groove in a challenge against Malone. Malone held him off, but Pitkat was determined and continued to keep the pressure on. Meanwhile, Rocco was solid in the lead as he maneuvered through lapped traffic. On lap 19, Pitkat dove to the bottom again in turn four and drove into second place. Pitkat was on the move and closed in on Rocco. On lap 24, Pitkat used the bottom groove to his advantage again and got alongside Rocco, where he battled for an entire circuit before taking the lead at lap 26. Rocco returned the favor and challenged Pitkat from the inside. The two were side-by-side on lap 27 heading into turn two when Pitkat’s No. 00 turned around and spun into the infield grass. Rocco and Malone brought the field back to green after the caution with Rocco jumping out into the lead. Malone, Preece, Ceravolo, and Pitkat rounded out the top-five as they came around to complete the 28th circuit. Pitkat moved up to third with Rocco dominating up front as they came to the checkered flag. The official finish showed Keith Rocco taking the win over Kerry Malone, Woody Pitkat, Ryan Preece and Todd Ceravolo. Sixth through tenth were Dennis Perry, John Catania, Paul Newcomb, Nick Boivin and Joe Williams.

  It appeared that car counts at Thompson were headed in the right direction. There were 19 SK Modifieds that took the green. There were 24 Limited Sportsman, 22 Mini Stocks, 14 Late Models and 10 SK Lites. The speedway management expects these numbers to improve as the season progresses.

On a sad note, SK Modified division driver Jimmy Smith of Woodstock. CT passed away Saturday after suffering a medical issue in his race   car at the track following a qualifying event. Smith was 62-years old. He had just finished racing in an SK Modified division heat race when he came off the track and parked his car behind his hauler in the Thompson pits.

  The Waterford Speedbowl switched to its regular Saturday night venue. Once the sun went down the temperature dropped but it didn't seem to slow Tyler Chadwick who took the victory in the SK Modified feature. Chadwick took the lead from Todd Ceravolo with an inside move on lap 10, survived a challenge from Kyle James following a restart one lap later and pulled away over the final six laps to win by 10 car lengths. James finished second and Norwich's Tom Abele Jr. was third. Also claiming feature wins were Keith Rocco (Late Models), Salem's Corey Hutchings (Street Stocks), Groton's Ray Christian III (Mini Stocks), Dylan Izzo (Legends) and Jon Porter (X-Cars).

  The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour was at the South Boston (Va.) Speedway this past Saturday, April 13. George Brunnhoelzl III led wire-to-wire to score his 18th career victory. Brian Loftin finished second with Kyle Ebersole, third. John Smith and Tim Brown rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Burt Myers, Jason Myers, Gary Putnam, Jeremy Gerstner and Renee Dupuis.

  Kyle Busch got a NASCAR weekend sweep at Texas as he won the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup races. It was the second time this season, and a NASCAR-record seventh time in his career, that Busch won Cup and Nationwide races in the same weekend. He was the polesitter Saturday night, and won the Nationwide race Friday night on the 1½-mile, high-banked track.

  Busch, who also won both races at Fontana in March, led eight times for 171 of 334 laps. He is the first driver to win in all three series at Texas, with six Nationwide wins and two in trucks.

   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 11, 2014

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