The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith



May 9, 2014

  Sixty years ago in 1954, Red Foote recorded his second win of the season as he won the 25 lap Sportsman feature at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Tom VanEpps, driving a non-Ford owned and built by Dennis Thornton, formerly of Martinsville, Va, won the non-Ford feature. VanEpps, who would lose his live in an off season accident would record a total of 12 wins for the season.

  Fifty five years ago in 1959, Wild Bill Slater, in his first full season in the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8 owned by Bob Vitali and Vic Bombaci, took his first of 15 feature wins in the Sportsman division at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner and John Arrigoni was the Bomber winner at the shoreline oval.

  Fifty years ago in 1964 Gene Bergin was the Saturday night winner at the Norwood Arena in Mass. Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster was the 25 lap Modified winner and Ed Gladue was the Bomber winner.

  Forty five years ago in 1969, action in the northeast shifted into high gear. At Stafford on Friday night, Fred DeSarro in his own No.11 took the opening night win. Eddie Flemke in the Garutti-Arute No.14 was second. Gene Bergin, in the Garbarino Bros.V-4 was third with Bugsy Stevens in the Len Boehler No.3 and Ed Yerrington in the Freddies TV No.23 rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., Jerry Cook took the win and was followed by Richie Evans and Lou Lazzaro. Saturday night at Norwood, Johnny Thompson in his Ford powered No.122 took the victory over DeSarro, Stevens and Jack Malone. At Fonda, Lou Lazzaro beat out Rene Charland for the win. Daring Dick Caso was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. On Sunday at Thompson, the Bugman took the main event despite stiff competition from Flemke, DeSarro, Bergin and Ed Yerrington. At the Utica-Rome Speedway it was again, Cook and Evans finishing one-two over Lazzaro and Dave Lape. Tioga Motorsports Park was called the Shangri-La Speedway. Jim Shampine was the winner there.

  Forty years ago in 1974, rain-washed out a scheduled 100 lapper at Utica-Rome on Friday night. Racing at Shangri-La on Saturday was also cancelled, as it was way to cold for night racing. Charlie Jarzombek went two for two as he won at both Freeport and Islip. At Stafford on Friday, Bugsy Stevens held off Don Flynn and Cook for the win. Sunday was busy in New York State as Oswego and Fulton ran afternoon and evening programs. At Oswego, Gary Reichart won the 75 lap Port City event over Maynard Troyer, Richie Evans and Geoff Bodine. At Fulton it was Bodine over Cook and Evans. Waterford ran an open show on Sunday with Dynamite Ollie Silva taking the top spot over Bugsy Stevens, Bob Santos and Glynn Shafer.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, a full plate of Modified racing was on the table. The weekend started on Friday night at Stafford where Richie Evans took the win over Bugsy Stevens, Ronnie Bouchard and Brian Ross. On Saturday night, Tom Dunn fired Freddie Schulz and put Bentley Warren in his T-5. Warren turned the trick and took the win at Westboro over Joe Howard and John Falconi. At Seekonk, Bugsy Stevens beat out Ronnie Bouchard, Fred Astle and George Summers. At Waterford, Rick Donneley took the win over Dick Ceravolo, Roland LaPierre Jr. and Billy Greco. At Plainville, Ron Wycoff held of Ronnie Rocco for the win and at Islip, Tom McCann, Wayne Anderson, Greg Sacks and Fred Harbach were the top four. Shangri-La action saw George Kent over Richie Evans and Dave Nichols. On Sunday at Thompson, Joe Howard got a well-earned win over SJ Evonsion and at Monadnock it was Dunk Rudolph over Reggie Ruggiero and John Rosati. The mods also ran at Montreal in Canada where Evans beat out Satch Worley, Jerry Cook and Ronnie Bouchard.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, the family of the late Larry Mendolsohn sold the Islip Speedway, which meant the track would close forever at the end of the 1984 season. The lawsuit between M & H tires and Hoosier, Stafford and Seekonk was settled in appeals court after many months of bitter fighting. M & H lost and the door was open for tracks to implement track tire rules without fear of being sued. Stafford rained out on Friday night. It cleared on Saturday. Richie Evans won at Riverside over Stan Gregor and Bob Polverari. George Moose Hewitt took a 30 lapper at Waterford over Bob Gada and at Islip, Chris Young outran Bill Park for the win. Down on the Jersey shore at Wall Stadium, Tony Siscone added another victory. At Thompson on Sunday, Mike Mclaughlin in the Len Boehler No.3 took the 30-lap win over Richie Evans and Ray Miller. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Cale Yarborough was the pole sitter and the winner.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989, the Modified tour was at Stafford for a 100 lapper on Sunday. Mike Stefanik took the win over Mike Mclaughlin. Ted Christopher beat out Bob Potter for the SK mod win. In other weekend action, Christopher beat out Moose Hewitt at Waterford, John Blewett Jr. beat Bill Park at Riverhead and Reggie Ruggiero ruled over Dan Avery at Riverside Park. It was also the seventh week in a row that Seekonk rained out.

  Twenty years ago, in 1994, rain washed out Stafford, Waterford and Riverhead. At Riverside, Steve Park in the Joe Brady No.00 started 16th and went on to win the 50 lap modified event over Stan Gregor and Reggie Ruggiero. At Seekonk, Eddie St Angelo beat out Vinnie Annarummo for the Pro Stock main event. The Winston Cup Teams were off and the Busch cars were at Loudon for the Chevy Dealers 250. Derek Cope, driving for Red Farmer, won the event after Hermie Sadler ran out of gas in the closing laps.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Jeff Malave beat out Willie Hardie to win the Friday night SK modified event at Stafford. Waterford and Riverside rained out as the action shifted to Loudon for the twin BGN-BGNN events. Elton Sawyer was the BGN winner and Brad Leighton, the Busch North. NASCAR's Winston Cup had an off weekend, as it was Mothers Day. In other news from the weekend, Steve Bird who led Bace Motorsports to multiple Championships was released (fired). Steve Hmiel was named as crew chief for Steve Park and The International Speedway Corporation and Penske Motorsports announced that they were merging. ISCA stock shot up and closed out the week at 43-1/8.

  Ten years ago in 2004, gas prices soared near or past the $2.00 per gallon mark. Lloyd Agor won his first SK-Modified win at Stafford on Friday night but it wasnít pretty. Agor started on the outside pole of the 40 lap event and proceeded to block or ride up anyone who attempted to pass, even Ted Christopher who is known to put the bumper to a competitor when they block his progress. Christopher did more than his share of the bump and grind but in the end, finished the night in sixth spot. George Bessette finished second with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Kerry Malone and Shawn Tryon rounded out the top five. After a weeks absence Eric Berndt returned to the Friday night wars with a heavy heart, still suffering from the loss of his mom. Berndt managed to survive to finish seventh. Maybe getting back in that racecar was good therapy. It seemed that everybody blamed everybody but Bo Gunning for all the wrecks on Friday night. Gunning and car owner Eddie Partridge felt almost like they had three wins in a row by not being there. No bent cars, no tire bills and nobody was mad. Gunning was tossed out of Stafford in 2003. It was not totally his fault but thatís history now. Gunning was told he could return to Stafford if he took anger management classes. Gunning chose not to and was backed by his car owner. Mike Quintiliano made it three in a row in Late Model competition at Stafford. On Friday night he and Joe Rzeszutek swapped spots and traded paint right to the final second when Quintiliano won by a whisker. Aaron Goff was the Dare Stock winner. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night rain put a damper on the SK-Modified and Late Model features. A partial program was completed before the rains came with Dwayne Conant taking the win in the Sportsman division, Dave Silvia in the Mini Stocks and Silas Hiscock in the Legends. John III and Jimmie Blewett finished one Ėtwo at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday night The Nextel Cup division had a weekend off in celebration of Motherís Day. The Busch Racing Series was at the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. on Saturday night. Martin Truex Jr. continued to make a name for himself as he led 123 of the 200-lap distance. Tom Rogers was the winner at Riverhead. Bill Park finished second with John Fortin, third.

  Five years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, was on ďSpring BreakĒ Ted Christopher, who was two for two after winning the Ice Breaker at the Thompson Speedway and the Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway led Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece by 35 points. Szegedy finished fifth at Thompson and second at Stafford. Preece was fourth at Thompson and third at Stafford. Donny Lia was 10 points behind Szegedy and Preece. Rounding out the top five is Jimmy Blewett, seven points behind Lia. Sixth through tenth are Mike Stefanik, Ron Silk, Woody Pitkat, Bobby Grigas, III and Jamie Tomaino.

  Despite the fact that the first two events were successful at drawing very good crowds at both tracks and good car counts the competitors and those who follow the Modified Tour Series were upset with the goings on, especially from NASCAR. First off, in a completely gutless move, the sanctioning body announced through the media and the mail that the season ending awards banquet would be moving to the Charlotte, NC area and competitors would be required to attend if they wanted to receive their point money. NASCAR had made this decision before the Thompson event. Why didnít they announce it then? A very sneaky move to say the least! The main object was to avoid confrontations between the competitors and the NASCAR officials at the race. NASCAR fails to realize that most Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers, owners and pit crews are not full time racers like those in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Most of them have full time jobs. NASCAR says they care about their competitors, in reality thatís a lot of crap!

  The next sneaky tactic by NASCAR was the announcement by mail after the running of the Stafford event that the May 22 TSI Harley-Davidson Classic at Stafford would have a reduced distance of 100 laps instead of the previously posted 150 laps. They also announced that the purse had been reduced by 20%! NASCAR and the management of the Stafford Speedway knew this before the running of the Sizzler but used the mail again in order to avoid confrontations. Another gutless move!

  It was estimated that the recent Spring Sizzler at Stafford drew 8,000 fans. General admission was $35. Run the numbers, thatís $280,000 taken in at the front gate. A conservative guess would have at least another $20,000 coming through the back gate. In the current economy itís good to see that Stafford had a good day. Instead of crying poverty they should give some back to those who put on the show.

  NASCAR continued to discourage competitors from running rival series including the New England based True Value Series and the New York based Race of Champions Modified Series. Slowly but surely NASCAR was pushing the Modified competitors away to alternate seriesí and they canít understand why. Competitors do have another alternative, they can just stay home!

  The Friday night racing season opener at the Stafford Motor Speedway was cancelled last week. It could have been because of the economy or quite possibly a threat of Swine Flu. Needless to say, it rained on and off most of the day.

  After three straight rainouts the Waterford Speedbowl looked to be on the upswing. Car counts had been a little light but the spectator count had been on the rise. Much of the credit had to go to the competitors and loyal fans who had beat the bushes and got the word out that there is in fact racing, good racing at the shoreline oval. Track management had not advertised but it seems that word of mouth has done the job. Front gate attendance at the shoreline oval took a step backwards Saturday. The SK Modifieds, the big draw, had the night off. Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to Victory Lane as he won the Late Model feature in strong fashion. Other winners from the night included Allen Coates in the NEATS Truck Series, Al Stone III in the Street Stocks, Phil Evans in the Mini Stocks, and Jason Palmer repeating in the Legends Cars feature. The stands were almost empty without the SK's. Despite the fact that the SK's were off, the admission was still $14 for the grandstand. There were only 12 Late Models, 24 Legend's, (light for that division), not a bad field of stockers and 4 cylinders and only 7 trucks.

  In some sad news it was learned that former Modified driver Billy Schulz had passed away at the age of 73. Schulz, along with his brother Fred were competitors at the Norwood Arena for many years.

  Kyle Busch passed Carl Edwards on the first lap of a restart with 22 laps to go and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Richmond International Raceway. Busch, who led four times in the Lipton Tea 250, made the move that counted in the third and fourth turns on the 229th trip around the 0.75-mile oval. Edwards led the previous 71 laps, with Busch seemingly the only other driver with a car to contend.

  Tony Stewart was second, followed by Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin. Burton and Martin both recovered from earlier accidents - Burton spun after contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin was involved in an accident with Martin Truex Jr. - for their strong finishes.

  Last year, 2013, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had been on Spring Break since the running of the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 28. Modified Tour racing was slated to return with the running of an event at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH on Saturday but an impending forecast for heavy rain forced Speedway officials and NASCAR to postpone the event until July 27. The next event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series would be the 23rd ANNUAL TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON 125 PRESENTED BY G-OIL at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, May 24.

  After two events Rowan Pennink and Ryan Preece were tied for the point lead. One point behind was Mike Stefanik. Rounding out the top five were Ted Christopher and Justin Bonsignore.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway began it's regular Friday night under the lights for the first time in 2013 with the Xtra Mart Late Model Xtra D program. Ryan Preece scored his second consecutive victory in the 40-lap SK Modifiedģ feature, Adam Gray was the winner of the extra distance 35-lap Late Model feature, Troy Talman was the second consecutive rookie winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, D.J. Burnham was the winner in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Jeremy Lavoie drove to victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
Preece, who had settled into third spot behind Doug Coby and Rowan Pennink with ten laps to go in the 40 lap feature was handed a gift of the lead on a restart when Pennink was sent to the rear for dumping Coby. Behind Preece at the finish was Keith Rocco, Sean Foster, Todd Owen, and Frank Ruocco.

  In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, rain prevailed. Keith Rocco held a 17 point edge on Ted Christopher in the track's SK Modified standings. Tyler Chadwick sat in the third spot. Long Island invader Craig Lutz continued to impress as his high finishes placed him in fourth. Rounding out the top five was Todd Ceravolo. In Late Model competition at the shoreline oval Dillon Moltz led Keith Rocco by one point. Jeff Smith was a distant third, 14 points out of the lead.

  Rain also washed out racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island and action south of the Mason-Dixon line at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC.

  Matt Kenseth passed JGR teammate Kyle Busch with 13 laps left Saturday night to win for the first time at Darlington and third time in 2013. The latest win came with replacement crew chief Wally Brown, pressed into service because of the suspension of Jason Ratcliff. Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race at Darlington.

   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: May 9, 2014

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