The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



May 2, 2014

  Sixty years ago in 1954 the New London Waterford Speedbowl ran it's first extra distance event of the season and Moe Gherzi was up for the occasion as he put the Garutti Brothers Special in victory lane for the 50 lapper. Gherzi would earn the nickname "Money Bags" after he went on to record a total of 14 wins for the season at the shoreline oval. Irwin Fox made it two in a row as he won the non-Ford feature.

  Fifty five years ago in 1959, Melvin "Red" Foote was the 25 lap Sportsman winner at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Also in competition at the shoreline oval was Billy Greco who took top honors in the non-Fords and Dick Dunn who won in the Bombers.

  Fifty years ago in 1964 racing trade paper Area Auto Racing News reported that Gene Bergin won the Modified feature at Old Bridge Stadium in New Jersey. Billy Harman, driving the famous L&M won the Modified feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bill Scrivener made it two in a row in Bomber action.

  Forty five years ago in 1969, the Norwood Arena began what was to be its last season of being the Saturday night stop for the NASCAR Modifieds. Jack Malone, Kerry's dad took the win over Eddie Flemke, Bobby Santos, Johnny Thompson, George Savory and Don McCullah. Martinsville ran their spring 100 lap modified event and it was Mr. Modified, Ray Hendrick, taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Jimmy Hensley, Jerry Cook and Lenny Pond. Fonda also opened their NASCAR modified season with Lou Lazzaro taking the win over Rene Charland, Ron Narducci and Jerry Cook. Richard Petty was the Grandnational (Cup) winner at Martinsville and Bugsy Stevens was the Sunday afternoon winner at the Thompson Speedway.

  Forty years ago in 1974, Richie Evans took the 150 lap Martinsville win over Harry Gant, Cook, Bob Santos and Brian Ross. Evans went to Ashboro, N.C. on Saturday night where he finished second to Paul Radford. Jerry Cook finished third and was followed by Ray Hendrick and Brian Ross. Ted Wesnoski went two for two as he won Saturday night at Islip and on Sunday at Freeport. Shangri-La opened on Saturday with Geoff Bodine beating out Maynard Troyer and Dave Nichols. At Fulton on Sunday Troyer held off Cook and Sonny Seamon for the win. Bodine and Evans rounded out the top five.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, Richie Evans went two for two in the Southland as he won a 100lap modified event at Franklin County in Virginia on Saturday and a 200 lap event at Bowman-Grey in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Sunday. In the northeast, Waterford rained out but events at Westboro and Monadnock were run. Ronnie Bouchard won a 50-lap event at Westboro over Joe Howard, Deke Astle and Freddie Schulz. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner. At Monadnock, Brian Ross in the Mystic Missile won a 100 lapper over Allen Whipple, Jack Bateman and Eddie Flemke Sr.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, the Modifieds ran a 200 lapper at Martinsville and it was Mike McLaughlin taking the win over Tony Hirschman, Charlie Jarzombek and Richie Evans. Wayne Anderson took the opening night win at Islip over Bob Park and Fred Harbach and at Shangri-La it rained. Reggie Ruggiero won one at Riverside over Ray Miller and Bob Polverari. Barbara and Jim Cromarty purchased the Riverhead Raceway from the Hawkins family. Waterford opened on Sunday with Rick Donnelly winning out over Dickie Doo Ceravolo and Marty Radwick. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Geoff Bodine realized a life long dream as he won his first Winston Cup event. New England rival, Ronnie Bouchard, finished second.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989,Jim Spencer won at Shangri-La over Jan Leaty. Seekonk suffered their sixth rain out and Riverhead also got washed out. Reggie Ruggiero won a mod tour at Jennerstown on Sunday and at Waterford, Bob Potter won the opener in the Ceravolo car. Monadnock also ran with Jerry Marquis taking the win over Marty Radwick.

  Twenty years ago in 1994, Tom Jensen scored his first ever win, that coming at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Doug Meservey finished second. At Riverhead, Don Howe scored his 23rd career win at the Long Island oval. Bill Park was second. Sunday was a wet and dreary day. Thompson's IceBreaker and Waterford’s opener were scheduled to go head to head. Thompson cancelled their show but Waterford tried to give it a go. Their scheduled 94 lapper was held up for five hours before getting the green. Ted Christopher lapped the entire field with the exception of Dennis Gada who finished second. Jerry Pearl finished third and was followed by Scott Spaulding and Bert Marvin. It was also Todd Ceravolos' modified debut. His efforts ended when a water hose blew and he ended his day in the turn three fence. John Steiner was the late model winner. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Dale Earnhardt took the win over Ernie Irvan and Michael Waltrip.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Jerry Marquis won the Friday night opener at Stafford over Mike Christopher and Frank Wainwrite and Larry Ross. At Waterford on Saturday, Dennis Gada went pole to pole to take the win over Billy Sharp and Mark LaJunesse. The Busch North Series invaded Riverside with Tom Carey winning out over Brad Leighton and Tracy Gordon. Fifty-two of the 150-lap distance was run under caution which kept the average speed down to 36.0627 mph. At Riverhead it was Al Amarillo. Auto Racing suffered a black eye at Charlotte when suspension parts flew off a wrecked IRL car and went into the grandstand, killing three spectators and injuring 12. In Winston Cup action at Fontana, California it was a run-a-way for Jeff Gordon. Matt Kenseth was the BGN winner.

  Ten years ago in 2004, the Stafford Motor Speedway began their regular Dodge Weekly Racing Series on Friday night. Jeff Malave went pole to pole to win the opening night 40 lap feature. Chuck Hossfeld, in his third time out in an SK-Modified finished second. Hossfeld applied a lot of pressure to Malave in the closing laps but in the end settled for second. Jeff Baral finished third. Rounding out the top five were defending champion Kerry Malone and Chris Jones. Among the missing was Eric Berndt who lost his mom on the previous Friday. Mike Quintiliano made it two for two in Late Model competition, taking the lead with two to go. Andrew Durand was the DARE Stock feature winner. Ted Christopher, who has scored wins at Stafford and at Thompson already, added the Waterford Speedbowl to his 2004 win list on Saturday night. Christopher, who started 11th in the SK-Modified feature, took the lead when Doug Coby spun while leading with 15 laps to go. Christopher admittedly gave him a love tap, which helped him along. Actually Christopher hit Coby before he spun and in reality intimidated Coby to enter the turn a little too hot which caused him to lose control. Ronnie Silk finished second and was followed by Ron Yuhas Jr., Dennis Gada and Tom Fox. The Late Model feature went non-stop with Mark St Hilaire taking the win over Corey Hutchings. Ed Gertsch Jr. was the Limited Sportsman winner and Jeff Miller was the Mini-Stock winner. The NEMA Midgets paid a visit to the shoreline oval with Ben Seitz taking the win. In Nextel Cup action at the California Speedway Jeff Gordon made it two in a row. There was no shower of beer cans or chicken bones this week as Gordon’s win was clear-cut. He had the best car. Bobby Labonte may have had something for Gordon at the end but an empty fuel tank forced him to slow on the final lap. Jimmie Johnson finished second. The California event was a test of man and machine as the race was run in 100-degree heat. Greg Biffle was the Busch Racing Series winner on Saturday. Tony Stewart finished second.

  Five years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stopped at the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. The weekend had picture perfect weather with temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s. A near full house of fans were on hand for the event.
Ted Christopher made it two-for-two in 2009 as he earned his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole Award of the season Saturday afternoon. Christopher, turned a fast lap of 18.150 seconds (99.174 mph) in the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet Saturday for his 20th career Coors Light Pole Award, and his third at Stafford . The reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and defending winner of the Spring Sizzler also captured the pole for the season opener at Thompson ( Conn. ) International Speedway, and wound up in Victory Lane the following day. Mike Stefanik was the second-fastest qualifier as he toured the Stafford oval in 18.368 seconds (99.997 mph). Ryan Preece, Eric Berndt and Donny Lia rounded out the top five fastest cars in time trials. The top 10 qualifiers redrew following time trials. Preece and Stefanik ended up starting on the front row for Sunday’s 200-lap feature followed in the second row by Christopher and Berndt. There were 33 cars on hand.

  Ted Christopher, the dominant car for the first half of Sunday’s 200-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, survived a cut tire and an accident in the second 100 to earn his second trip in a row to Victory Lane in the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher, of Plainville, Conn., piloted the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet from mid-pack with 70 laps to go to earn his 33rd career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. The Coors Light Pole Award winner on Saturday, Christopher led 82 of the first 100 laps and appeared early to be the dominant car for the second week in a row. While under caution, Christopher had to come to pit road on Lap 121 with a cut tire and surrendered the lead on to Mike Stefanik. After rejoining the field, seven laps later he was skidding through the grass on the backstretch after getting caught up in an accident and a second-consecutive victory seemed unlikely.

  All that didn’t deter the defending series champion from returning to Victory Lane, however, as he quickly moved up through the field and finally got by Todd Szegedy on Lap 182. The result was his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler win and his ninth career tour triumph at the Connecticut half mile. Szegedy finished as the runner-up and led three-different times for 33 laps in the race. Ryan Preece posted a third-place finish while Stefanik and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Donny Lia, Woody Pitkat, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett and Ed Flemke Jr.

  In other weekend action at Stafford, the 38th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST kicked off the 2009 SK Modified® and Late Model seasons with Richie Pallai, Jr. taking the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and Dillon Moltz taking the 30-lap Late Model feature.
Keith Rocco made it two in a row in SK Modified action at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The 35-lap SK event began with Jeffrey Paul leading the first ten laps from his pole starting position. The action immediately heated up behind Paul as Corey Hutchings, Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr., and Keith Rocco were jockeying for track position. Rocco, who came from the ninth starting spot, worked his M&M Motorsports #57 SK Mod in the low groove in the opening laps, and then moved to the ‘Bowl’s very capable outside groove. He moved outside Janovic for fourth on lap 6, then outside Chadwick for third a lap later. Still in the high line, he pressured Hutchings for second before completing the pass just 2 laps later. He immediately went to work on the leader Paul, again using the high groove to gain the lead on lap 10. Hutchings and Chadwick followed Rocco around Paul, and the lead pack began to open up some space under green flag conditions.

  At halfway, Rocco continued to lead Hutchings, Chadwick and Janovic. Jeff Pearl was making forward progress, moving into the top five by lap 19. The event’s first caution waved with 10 laps remaining for a spin by Wayne Arute. Rocco would get the jump on three ensuing restarts after more single car spins from the rear of the field. With just three laps remaining, contact in the lead pack sent cars scattering with Jeff Pearl and Dennis Gada taking direct hits, while Justin Gaydosh and Ron Yuhas Jr. also received damage. Only Yuhas was able to continue after a visit to the pits. Rocco resumed control on the restart and went on to the victory by a car length over Chadwick. Janovic, Shawn Solomito - making just his second career Speedbowl start, and Wendell Dailey completed the top-five. Hutchings, who ran second nearly the entire event, saw his strong run end in the turn 4 wall on the last lap as a victim of a cut tire.

  Other winners from Saturday night action included Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, while Chris Williams took the checkered in the Mini Stocks and Jason Palmer in Legends Cars action.

  The True Value Modified Racing Series opened their season at the lightning fast ¼ mile Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night. It was one of the wildest nights in recent memory as the TVMS kicked off it’s sixth season in front of a large crowd. When the dust settled after nine caution periods, Rob Goodenough, Swanzey, NH; notched his second career win capturing the “Bond Auto Parts 100 Spring Dash” for open-wheel modified race cars. Goodenough started fifth in a 24 car field and was in the hunt for the lead throughout the race. Cross town rival Kirk Alexander took the top spot at the drop of the green flag and fought off all that was thrown at him from Peter Jarvis, Ascutney, VT; Ed Dachenhausen, Danbury CT; and Goodenough. Through eight caution periods, Alexander set a torrid pace until lap 90 when while trying to pass a slower car, the three-time champion made contact with a safety barrier knocking himself out of the race and wiping out a chance at an unprecedented 15th career win at his “home” track..

  When the race resumed, Goodenough paced the field to the finish with 2006 series champion Dwight Jarvis chasing him to the checkered flag finishing a half car length behind the winner. Jon McKennedy, Chelmsford, MA; Dachenhausen, Sean Bodreau, Claremont, NH; Rowan Pennink, Huntington Valley, PA; Mike Douglas, Auburn, NH; Joe Doucette, Framingham, MA; Jack Bateman, Canaan, N H; and Bill Park, Long Island, NY rounded out the top ten. Qualifying heat races were won by P. Jarvis, Alexander, and Dachenhausen, with Pennink winning the 15 lap consolation race.

  In some sad news, Gordon Reinig, retired Buffalo, NY fireman and Lancaster (NY) Speedway photographer (1967-1974) passed away Monday night (April 20) in Buffalo. He was responsible for the photos used in the book "Lancaster Heroes”.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Carl Edwards' battered car soared 15-feet off the ground, scraping along the safety fence, then bouncing back onto the track in flames. Wreckage from the last-lap accident spewed into the stands, sending two fans to the hospital in the aftermath of yet another "Big One" at Talladega. It was a frightening finish to another crash-marred restrictor plate race, which won't be remembered for unheralded Brad Keselowski's last-lap pass for his first Sprint Cup Series victory. Instead, the lasting images will be Edwards airborne, his upside-down car coming eerily close to flying into the grandstands. The frontstretch safety fence bowed upon impact, but held, and seven fans were injured from the flying debris. An eighth seated in that section of the grandstands was treated for an undisclosed medical condition. Edwards, who climbed from the fiery wreckage and crossed the finish line on foot, was thankful it wasn't worse. Dr. Bobby Lewis, Talladega's onsite physician, said two people in the crowd were airlifted from the track to avoid the heavy traffic. One woman had a possible broken jaw, and none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

  The dangerous but dramatic restrictor-plate racing came under fire after Edwards' attempt to block Keselowski's winning pass triggered the last of several frightening accidents at one of the sport's most exciting tracks. Keselowski pushed Edwards past Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. into the lead on the final lap, and the 25-year-old Earnhardt protege peeked around Edwards as they closed on the finish line. Edwards ducked low to block the pass, but Keselowski was too close and couldn't avoid contact that sent Edwards into a spin up the track and into Newman's path. Edwards' car flew over the top of Newman's hood, then shot into the frontstretch fence. There were three bad wrecks
In Nationwide Series racing at Talladega, David Ragan won the Aaron's 312 for his first career NASCAR win in 196 races: 85 in Nationwide, 82 in Sprint Cup and 29 in truck. He made the pass for the lead coming to the start finish line after Ryan Newman & Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made contact coming through the tri-oval on a green-white-checker finish. Newman held on to second, while Joey Logano snuck into third place at the finish and Tony Raines finished fourth Earnhardt, Jr. fell to 5th place at the checkered flag.

  As he was about to be sentenced for federal income tax fraud, those in the courtroom stood up for Larry McClure [owner of the #4 Chevy in Sprint Cup Series, three Daytona 500 wins]. Supporters of the motorsports icon filled the courtroom, which was too small to hold them. Family members, friends, giants of the stock car racing world – around 50 people– spilled into the hallway, stood on benches and stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with McClure and his family. Junior Johnson, the fabled moonshiner - turned - dirt track racer and NASCAR team owner, turned out. Joy Stata, a Florida native, was there to support the man who put her hometown of Bartow on the racing map. Jeff Byrd, president of Bristol Motor Speedway, stood outside, having arrived too late to get a seat.

  Inside the courtroom of Judge James P. Jones, McClure made his last public statement. “I’d like to apologize to you, the court,” he told Jones, chief judge for the Western District of Virginia. “To the opposing counsel, to my family, my God. His will be done, whatever you decide.” Jones’ decision ushered in a stunned silence, punctuated by sniffles: McClure would serve 18 months in prison, the low end of the sentencing range. For McClure’s supporters, it was a crushing end to a three-year criminal investigation that had taken a toll on him personally and financially. McClure pleaded guilty in January to five counts of filing a false income tax return, obstructing the federal investigation and lying to Internal Revenue Service investigators.

  In addition to the prison time, McClure was fined $40,000, ordered to reimburse the IRS $25,000 for its investigation, and to pay nearly $60,000 in restitution to Eastman-Kodak for filing a false invoice. He was also ordered to re-file his personal income tax returns for 2002, 2003 and 2004. During those years, McClure admitted to accepting $269,000 in cash payments from a friend in exchange for services provided by Morgan-McClure Motorsports, of which McClure is a part owner. He did not report the income to the corporation or on his personal tax returns, and owed the government just over $100,000

  Last year, 2013, in Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco, who suffered a broken left wrist during a heat race on April 27, won the 35-lap SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Other winners in the weekly Saturday night NASCAR Whelen All-American series were Cam McDermott in the SK Light Modified race, Garrett Denton in the Mini Stock feature - his third win in five races - Dylan Izzo in the Legends Cars and Chris Meyers in a special 50-lap Street Stock feature.

  In the SK Modified feature, Rocco took the lead on lap-12 from Jeff Gallup and survived numerous restarts. On lap 23, an incident collected over half of the field in a pileup in turn one. Once the race resumed, Rocco had to hold off serious bid from Craig Lutz. The two made contact and swapped the lead twice over the final five laps, but Rocco held off Lutz to earn a trip to victory lane. Todd Ceravolo finished third. Diego Monahan and Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five.

  The 35-lap race took more than an hour because of a red flag with 12 laps to go. Lutz and Diego Monahan made came together at the front of the field and set off a chain-reaction that collected 12 cars behind them.

  A touching opening ceremony kicked off the night. Steve Barrett of Preston was surprised with a brand new Street Stock racecar in a heartfelt presentation by several members of the racing community. Barrett, a member of the US Army National Guard’s 1109th TASMG unit based in Groton,CT had just returned from ten months active duty overseas. During his deployment a group around the track organized a cause, “Racers for a Soldier”, taking donations to help build Barrett the car presented on Saturday. The effort was spearheaded by Jeff Winsor of Moosup. Barrett destroyed his racecar beyond repair in early 2012 prior to his deployment. He has competed at the track for the past several seasons.

  The Riverhead Raceway, the last remaining speedway on Long Island, opened for the season last Saturday night. The NASCAR Modifieds ran twin 30 lap features. The Modifieds took to the track next for their twin 30-lap features. Timmy Solomito set fast time during time trails posting a fast lap of 11.761 seconds. The Modifieds did a re-draw of the top eight and Solomito re-drew seventh. His brother, and defending track champion Shawn Solomito won the draw and started the race on the pole Solomito was able to hold off John Beatty for the victory in the first 30 laps. The second 30-lap race started the same way the previous race finished, but this time all restarts were single-file. The first caution came out 17 laps in when McGuire spun out in turn one. Solomito restarted with Beatty right behind him, followed by Dave Brigati, Eric Goodale, and Timmy Solomito. Three laps after the restart Ryan Preece got by Timmy Solomito for fifth place. One lap later Timmy Solomito was in the wall. Tom Rogers Jr. dove underneath Solomito entering turn one. Solomito hopped the right-front tire of Rogers and both went up and into the outside wall. Rogers was able to drive back to the pits, but Solomito was taken off by a Brigandi Brothers Tow Vehicle. On the next restart, Shawn Solomito held onto the lead and maintained it all the way to the finish, keeping the Solomito Opening Night Win Streak. He led all 60 laps over the course of both 30-lap races. Going into the final lap, exiting turn two, John Beatty’s No. 14 lost power on the back straight causing everyone behind him to scatter in order to avoid him. Resulting in a top five which include: Shawn Solomito, Dave Brigati, Eric Goodale, Ryan Preece and Howie Brode.

  In open wheeled Modified action south of the Mason-Dixon line at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC Burt Myers found the right combination and won the first of two 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division. Randy Butner picked up a victory in the second.

  Dirt track Modified racer Kenny Tremont recorded his 300th career win when he won the main event at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY.

  On a sad note it was reported by Pete Zanardi that Jerry Wheeler had passed away. Wheeler was the first to use a Chevy V-8 for power in a Modified.

  In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, Regan Smith finally got his victory at Talladega Superspeedway. With the field crashing in the tri-oval on the white flag lap of NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312, NASCAR was forced to wave the caution flag just before the leaders got to the start-finish line. With the field frozen at the time of the caution flag, it was determined that Smith was the race leader at the time of the caution.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Front Row Motorsports teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland teamed up on the final lap of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 to pull off a massive upset at Talladega Superspeedway. Ragan, using a massive push from Gilliland down the backstretch on the final lap, dove below Carl Edwards entering turn three to take the lead. Ragan stayed side-by-side with Edwards until he got out of turn four until Gilliland gave him one final push to the front.

  Once clear of Edwards Ragan quickly went high to break the momentum of the No. 99 Ford before returning to the low side to pick up his teammate Gilliland once again. By then the battle was for second as Ragan crossed the finish line .213 of a second ahead of Gilliland to score his second NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and the first for team owner Bob Jenkins.

   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: May 2, 2014

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