The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



April 18, 2014

  Sixty years ago in 1954 the New London Waterford Speedbowl on the shoreline of Connecticut opened for their fourth season on Easter Sunday afternoon with a 25 lap Sportsman feature which was won by Joe McNulty. Charlie Schreiber was the non-Ford winner.

  Fifty five years ago in 1959, Johnny Sandberg won the season opening 25 lap Sportsman feature at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Benny Desrosier was the non-Ford winner and Ed Priest was first in the Bombers.

  Fifty years ago in 1964 Dick Watson was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

  Forty five years ago in 1969 the scheduled season Saturday night opener at the Norwood Arena was rained out. The skies cleared the following day as Fred DeSarro took the win at the Thompson Speedway. At the Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster took the Modified win and Bill Sweet won his first of four in a row at the shoreline oval. In Grandnational (Cup) racing at the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, Bobby Allison took the win.

  Forty years ago in 1974 there was plenty of action both in the north and the south. Three nights of Modified racing in North Carolina saw Richie Evans score a victory at Metrolina on Friday night over Harry Gant, Jerry Cook and Paul Radford. Radford turned the tables on Saturday night at Hickory as he won a 100 lapper over Gant, John Bryant, Cook and Evans. Action shifted to Ashboro on Sunday where Gant was the top gun over Radford, Cook and Evans. In New England, Thompson began their open competition small block modified series and it was Fred DeSarro taking the win over Daring Dick Caso, Deke Astle, Kenny Bouchard and Charlie Savage. Dick Watson was the Modified winner at Waterford. Ron Cote made it two in a row in Grand American action.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford was rained out.

  Thirty years ago in 1984 it rained again, washing the Sizzler out.

  Twenty five Years ago in 1989 the cycle of rainy weekends continued.

  Twenty years ago in 1994, the rain cycle was finally broken. Riverside Park just beat the rain as Dan Avery took the checkered flag on Saturday night. Brian Miller finished second and was followed by Stan Gregger and Chris Kopec. Loudon scheduled a double header for the Modifieds and Busch North Series. Qualifying for both divisions was rained out but it cleared on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero blasted by a trapped Rick Fuller on the last lap and won the modified portion. Fuller finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty, Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko. Kelly Moore was the BGNN winner over Mike Stefanik, Stub Fadden and Tom Bolles. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Terry Labonte took the win over Rusty Wallace. Jim Spencer was penalized ten laps for spinning out Ken Schrader.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Rick Miller made it four in a row at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Rob Summers finished second and was followed by Dave Berube and Ted Christopher. On Sunday, Riverside ran their rained out Modified Tour Series event against Waterford's opener. Ed Flemke Jr. took advantage of Reggie Ruggerio's worn tires and took the lead on lap 182 and went on to take the win. Bob Polverari finished second with Tom Cravenho, third. Despite fading, Ruggiero was able to finish fourth. Ted Christopher finished tenth and made a fast trip to Waterford. Christopher started ninth and took the lead from Todd Ceravolo just before the half way mark. Christopher, who lost a power steering belt in the second half, was able to maintain enough of a lead to take the win. Ceravolo finished second and was followed by Bert Marvin, Ed Dachenhausen and Jerry Pearl. It was a big weekend for the Petty family at Martinsville as Jimmy Hensley won the Craftsman Truck event on Saturday and John Andretti won the Winston Cup event on Sunday.

  Ten years ago in 2004, the Thompson Speedway opened the 2004 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series on Sunday. The event drew 9000 fans. The outcome was a shocker. Defending series champion Todd Szegedy was the fastest time trialer and the apparent winner until a post race inspection revealed an illegal rear end gear ratio. Szegedy was disqualified and placed last in the final rundown. Ted Christopher, who crossed the finish line behind Szegedy was awarded the win. This was the third time in the history of the Tour series that began in 1985 that a winner has been disqualified. The 150 lap Icebreaker was one of the most competitive ever seen. With 47 Modifieds on hand for time trials it was difficult just to qualify as 21 cars were in the 18-second bracket. Todd Szegedy was the fastest with Tony Hirschman, second fastest. Szegedy, who had pitted on lap 71, charged his way to the front and took the lead from Jerry Marquis on lap 125. Running second, Marquis found himself in the wall on lap 126 after contact by a spinning Ed Flemke Jr. Flemke had been hit by Chuck Hossfeld. Flemke recovered, losing only one spot. Ted Christopher, who also pitted on lap 71, conserved his tires and was able to move into the second spot with two to go. Flemke got by Hossfeld on the final lap to cross the finish line behind Christopher. Zach Sylvester, who crossed the finish line in fifth spot, was moved up to fourth. Tony Hirschman was moved up to fifth. There were ten cautions for 52 laps. Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher shared victory lane in the Sunoco Modifieds as they each won separate twin 25 lap features. Twin features were also run for the Late Models with Corey Hutchings and Rick Gentes taking wins. Other weekend winners at Thompson were Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman and Andy Publicover in the Mini-Stocks.

  Dennis Gada returned to his winning ways Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Reed Jr, Tom Fox, Ted Christopher and Dennis Cherette rounded out the top five. Allen Coates was the Late Model winner with Dave Zemke taking the top spot in the Sportsman division. Tim Jordan was the Mini Stock winner and Justin Dougherty won the Legends feature.

  In Nextel Cup action at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, Jeff Gordon was the Busch Pole sitter with Jamie McMurray on the outside. Rusty Wallace ended a long dry spell as he held off Bobby Labonte for the win.

  NASCAR announced that Jim Hunter, former Vice President of Corporate Communications had been given the new title as Vice President of Corporate Communications / Regional Touring/NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. Hunter would work with Don Hawk who had been hired as Director of Regional Racing Development. Chris Boals the Director of Regional Touring/NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series would remain in his present position. NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France said, ďThis revamped approach illustrates our commitment to grassroots racing which is the bedrock in our sports foundationĒ. The American Speed Association, which has been primarily in the mid-west, had recently hired former NASCAR executives Dennis Huth and Tom Deery. The ASA had begun branching out and had taken the southern-based Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour (SMART) under their wing and was making an attempt to move into the northeast. NASCAR also announced that Brett Bodine had joined the sanctioning bodyís Research and Development team as a Special Project Engineer at the R & D center in Concord, North Carolina. Bodine holds a degree as a Mechanical Engineer from the State University of New York. Bodine evidently had retired as a competitor on the Nextel Cup circuit. He is also a former Modified competitor in the Northeast. Before moving south Bodine raced at Stafford and Thompson. It was at Stafford in 1984 that he finished second to Brian Ross in the trackís final point standings. Bodine is also a former Race of Champions winner.

  NASCAR also announced that the local track point funds for weekly racing series tracks had increased to $3,500 which would be paid out to the top ten at seasons end. In 2003, $2,000 was distributed to the top five.

  Mike Joy, FOX anchorman for Nextel Cup and Busch Series telecasts spent some time in Washington, DC speaking to Senators and Representatives about a bill that was making its way through congress that could severely restrict speedway owners ability to improve their facilities. The IRS allowed motorsports facilities to fully depreciate capital improvements over a seven-year span. The IRS then wanted these improvements to be amortized as real estate improvements, stretching the recapture period to 30 years. Bill HR-2900, The Motorsports Facilities Fairness Act would preserve the seven-year benefit. All speedway owners and operators were urged to contact their congressmen to support this bill.

  Five years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was on a two week break before heading to Stafford Springs Connecticut for the annual Spring Sizzler.

  Congratulations to the Arute family as the Stafford Motor Speedway was recently inducted into the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame. Stafford joined Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Alcoa Howmet, Gloria McAdam, president & CEO, Foodshare, and Jim Barnes, president & CEO, OAKLEAF Waste & Recycling in the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame Class of 2008 at a ceremony held on April 3, 2009. Stafford Motor Speedway was presented with an Official Citation from the General Assembly as well as an Official Statement from Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, an Official Citation from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a congratulatory letter from Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, and a Public Service Award from Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. . The 2009 season would mark the 40th consecutive year that the track has operated under Arute family ownership.

  While it was quiet in the Northeast the Whelen Southern Modified Tour had two events scheduled. The first, at the Ace Speedway in North Carolina was rained out after practice. Ron Silk topped the speed charts in practice at Ace Speedway, but rains right before qualifying have put everything on hold. Ronnie Silk in the No. 79 Hill Enterprises/Coors Light/Sunoco Pontiac put up a fast lap of 14.472 seconds (99.502 mph) around the .400-mile oval. Teenager Erick Rudolph who drove the No. 59 Ed Bennett Properties, Inc. Chevrolet, was second at 14.606 (98.590), just ahead of defending race winner L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) at 14.660 (98.226). Ted Christopher and Burt Myers rounded out the top five in practice.

  On the Saturday night the Southern Modified Tour was at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. Ted Christopher and car owner Joe Brady made their trip south a worth while effort. Christopher didnít think he had enough car left at the end but he was able to hold off a hard-charging Andy Seuss Saturday in the Caraway Speedway 150 to get his second win of the year in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Christopher's No. 00 Shermís Towing Ė Brady Bunch Chevrolet was able to pass leader George Brunnhoelzl III on lap 106 after Brunnhoelzl spun his tires on the restart after a caution enabling Christopher to get out front in the lead. Christopher was able to keep Seuss' No. 47 Advance AutoParts/Q Racing Oil/Stuart Automotive Dodge behind him to remain perfect at 3-for-3 in Modified Tour races in 2009. The Plainville, Conn., driver won the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour opener at Concord (N.C.) Speedway March 21, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway last week.

  Defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Brian Loftin following in third at Caraway, with Ron Silk and Frank Fleming completing the top five. Brunnhoelzl was racing Christopher for the lead when he spun coming out of Turn 2 on lap 136 to bring out the sixth and final caution flag of the race. Brunnhoelzl finished 11th but retained his points lead by six over Burt Myers. Brunnhoelzl won his second consecutive Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying and started second after the post-qualifying redraw.

  For his efforts, Christopher received $2,000. Sixteen of the original 25 starters completed the 150 lap distance.

  For the past few years NASCAR held their awards banquets for the Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Camping World East (formerly Busch North Series) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. Word came that competitors and fans would be forced to travel to the Charlotte, NC area as NASCAR announced that they would host a special week of activities culminating in the 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) Awards Banquet on Friday, November 13, and the new NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Saturday, November 14. The Whelen All American Series Banquet was previously held in Las Vegas. The NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Gala would feature the champions and top drivers from all of NASCARís North American regional touring series including invitees from the NASCAR Camping World Series East, the NASCAR Camping World Series West, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Because of the fact that all the touring divisionís banquets would be grouped together it would be more like the town dump of banquets. Itís just another lame move by NASCAR to save them some money and increase the costs of the fan and competitor.

  For the third week in a row, racing was rained out at the Waterford Speedbowl.

  Connecticut native Joey Logano who had been a big disappointment on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, won his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in the Pepsi 300 on Saturday at the Nashville Superspeedway. The 18-year-old Logano and Busch ran in the top two and traded the lead for most of the race, with Logano leading the final 10 laps and finishing 0.487 seconds in front. Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kelly Bires and series leader Carl Edwards who rounded out the top five.

  Despite the fact that the track promoted pre-race access to the garage, front stretch and driver's meeting, the crowd was thin. The promotion also aggravated many of the competitors as fans brought diecast models by the suitcase for them to sign.

  The Associated Press reported that Jurors began deliberating on Friday, April 10, on tax evasion charges against race car driver Helio Castroneves and two advisers after prosecutors said in closing arguments that the driver enjoyed ample wealth but defrauded the government to get more. Prosecutors allege that Castroneves and the others tried to conceal his control of a Panamanian shell company, called Seven Promotions, and lied to tax lawyers and accountants about his true income. They say documents and witnesses back up claims that Castroneves knowingly dodged millions in U.S. taxes over a five-year period.

  Last year, 2013, The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH this past Saturday night. The series second event of the year felt more like a winter-fest as 40-degree temperatures and blustery winds chilled a good crowd on hand. Monadnock is a high banked-1/4 mile asphalt oval. Rowan Pennink took the 100 lap win over Tom Barrett and Louie Mechalides. Todd Patnode and Max Zachem rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Richard Savory, Tim Jordan, Mike Holdridge, Jim Boniface and Norm Wrenn. Pennink, who started 13th, took the lead on lap 94.

  Outside front row starter Mike Holdridge led the first 50 laps when pole-sitter Max Zachem moved by. Todd Patnode wrestled the lead from Zachem on lap 72 and led until giving way to Pennink.

  In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, the temperature took a dive when the sun went down but the wind chill factor didn't seem to bother Keith Rocco who scored his second SK Modified victory of the year at the Connecticut shoreline oval. Rocco, who took the lead from Frank Mucciacciaro on lap 27 of the 35 lap feature, survived a final restart on lap-33 to beat out Ted Christopher. Mucciacciaro held on for third. Diego Monahan and Kyle James rounded out the top five. Other winners at the speedbowl were Jeff Smith in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Randy Churchill won his second SK Light Modified race of the year in as many tries and Allen Coates returned to the winner's circle in the Street Stock division.

  Garrett Denton won his second Mini Stock feature race of 2013 and Brad Voglesong rounded out the night's winners in the X-Car division.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour was in action at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Third generation driver George Brunnhoelzl started from the pole position after winning his 20th career pole award earlier in the day, but lost the lead to Tim Brown on the raceís first lap. Brunnhoelzl behind the wheel of his No. 28 Epox-Z/Oval Speed Chevrolet spent the rest of the race looking at the rear bumper of Brown. An opportunity presented itself, though, on Lap 146 when the caution flag flew for a multi-car incident in Turn 1 of the .455-mile oval which set up a green-white-checkered finish. After Brown took the white flag Brunnhoelzl tapped the leaderís rear bumper in Turns 3 and 4 opening a window for Brunnhoelzl to slip through to victory. Brown hung on to finish second. Shortly after taking the checkered flag Brown tapped and spun Brunnhoelzl in turn 1. Kyle Ebersole finished third for the third straight race. Last yearís Sunoco Rookie of the Year Danny Bohn scored a season-best finish of fourth followed by Brian Loftin in fifth. Rookie Luke Fleming, Burt Myers, Andy Seuss, Jason Myers and Gary Putnam rounded out the top-10 finishers on the night.

  Seventeen cars took the green. NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver Tim Brown was penalized by NASCAR following his involvement in the post race incident at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, N.C. Brown, driver of the No. 02 car was found to have violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing. Altercation with another competitor on the race track after the race had concluded.) of the 2013 rule book.

  As a result of this violation, Brown was fined $500, suspended from NASCAR until the fine was paid and placed on NASCAR probation until Aug. 28.

  Matt Kenseth completed a dominating performance at Kansas Speedway Sunday by holding off Kasey Kahne to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400. Kenseth started from the pole and led a race-high 163 laps during the 267-lap event, becoming the third-straight driver to win from the pole in Sprint Cup competition. It is the first time since 1985 pole winners have won three-straight Sprint Cup races.

   Thatís 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 18, 2014

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