The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


May 30, 2014

  Sixty years ago in 1954, Freddie Luchesi in the Sgambato N0.9 was the Wednesday night Sportsman winner at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Joe McNulty was the Saturday night winner. Non-Ford winners at the shoreline oval were Bob Karns and Charlie Schreiber.

  Fifty five years ago in 1959 Bob Vaughn was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Joe McNulty won the 50 lap Memorial Day weekend Special Sportsman event at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Rene Charland made it two in a row in non-Ford action and John Arigoni made it two in a row in Bomber action at the shoreline oval. The Lancaster Speedway in upstate New York held their grand opening which was to feature a 50 lap URC Sprint Car event. The feature was halted after four laps as the track was deemed unsafe. Lancaster was dirt at the time. At the Buffalo Civic Stadium Roy Campbell took top honors over Bill Rafter.

  Fifty years ago in 1964 the New York invasion was evident at Stafford Springs as Bill Wimble was the top dog on dirt. Don Wayman finished second with George Janoski, third. Wild Bill Slater was the Saturday night feature winner at the Norwood Arena in Norwood, Mass. Other weekend winners were Al DeAngelo at Islip, Lou Lazzaro at Fonda and Victoria and Elton Hildreth at Old Bridge. Hank Stevens won a 50 lap Memorial Day weekend Special Modified event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

On a sad note, NASCAR Grandnational Star Glen "Fireball" Roberts was severely burned after a fuel tank explosion at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tickets went on sale for the Annual Trenton 200 for Modifieds which was to be held in August. General admission was $4.00!

  Forty five years ago in 1969, the Stafford Motor Speedway started the Memorial Day weekend off with a 100 lap event. Charlie Jarzombek, in one of his first off-island trips made the one to Stafford a successful one as he won the 100 lapper in his radical off-set coupe. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos, Jerry Cook, Bob Karvonen, Ed Yerrington Frank Faria, Moe Gherzi and Wild Bill Slater. Lou Lazzaro won at Malta and repeated at Fonda and also in the first of twin features at Utica-Rome. Rene Charland finished second to Lazzaro at both Malta and at Fonda. Thompson ran on Sunday afternoon and it was Bugsy Stevens taking the win over DeSarro Lou Austin, Fred Harbach, Smokey Boutwell and Slater. Stevens hot footed it up the Mass Pike and made it to Utica in time to run the consi. Stevens finished third in the first feature behind Lazzaro and Jerry Cook. Bernie Miller won the Utica night cap and Stevens ended up seventh. Dick Dunn was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl.

  Forty years ago in 1974, Stafford ran twice on the holiday weekend. On Friday night, Bugsy Stevens put the Koszela Woodchopper in victory lane ahead of Dick Caso, Ron Bouchard and Gene Bergin. Stevens made it a two-fer as he returned on Monday to win the Holiday 100 lapper. Freddie Schulz finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine and Lou Austin. At Utica-Rome on Friday, local favorite Dick Fowler took the 30 lap win over Cook, Andy Romano and Richie Evans. Jim Tyler beat out Artie Tappen at Islip on Saturday and at Shangri-La it was Maynard Troyer over Bodine and Evans. Evans got the jump on Troyer at Fulton on Sunday night as he took the win there. Dick Dunn was the winner at Waterford..

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, a 100 lapper scheduled for Stafford, rained out. Spencer also rained out. Saturday night at Seekonk, Mr.Leo Cleary was not to be denied as he took the top spot despite constant pressure from Bugsy Stevens who finished second. George Summers ended up third with Brian Ross, fourth. At Waterford, Joe Tiezzi won out over Dale Holdredge and Moose Hewitt. At Islip, Greg Sacks beat Tom McCann and George Wagner. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at Shangri-La Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Stan Gregger at Riverside, Ron Bouchard at Thompson and Bugsy Stevens at Monadnock.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, Stafford started the weekend off with a 100 lapper. Brian Ross was on a tear as his home built No. 73 handled to perfection as he sprinted to victory over George Brunnhoelzl, George Kent, Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek. Waterford had a 100 lapper scheduled for Saturday night but it rained after twenty laps. At Riverside twin events were on tap with John Rosati and Reggie Ruggiero taking the wins. Oswego ran their Port City 150 on Sunday Mike McLaughlin won the modified 75 lapper over Brian Ross and Bentley Warren won the Supermodified portion. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Harry Gant was the polesitter and Bobby Allison the winner. Ron Bouchard qualified 18th and finished third. Other weekend winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, George Kent at Shangri-La, Wayne Anderson at New Egypt and Tony Siscone, also at New Egypt.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989, Stafford’s holiday program rained out as did Waterford. For the ninth time, Seekonk also fell victim to rain. At Riverside Park, Bob Polverari took the victory and at Riverhead, Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko finished one-two. In SK modified action at Thompson on Sunday, the Christopher's, Ted and Mike ran one-two to beat out Bob Potter and at Oswego; the Modified Tour series winner was Tony Hirschman. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Tony Jankowiac, third.

  Twenty years ago in 1994 the Modified Tour Series was at Stafford for a 150 lap event. On the start, the sparks flew as pole sitter Ted Christopher found himself in the fence after being hit by Ed Flemke Jr. It didn't end there as Flemke later tangled with Tom Baldwin. Baldwin felt that it was deliberate and retaliated by ramming Flemke. The end result was that Baldwin was fined $2,000 and suspended for three events. Ricky Fuller was the eventual winner over brother Jeff, Wayne Anderson and Jan Leaty. At Waterford, Ricky Young took the top spot over Todd Ceravolo and Moose Hewitt. Chuck Steuer scored his first win at Riverhead and Stan Gregger beat out Doug Meservey and Steve Park at Riverside. Ed Kennedy made a surprise visit to Flemington on Sunday and walked off with the main event there over John Blewett.

  Fifteen years ago in 1999 Fifty-one NASCAR Modifieds were on hand at Stafford for the Memorial Day weekend 150. Tim Connolly, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino took the lead from Ed Flemke Jr on lap 127 when he suffered a flat tire and was forced to pit. Connolly led the rest of the 150 lap distance as he went on to record the win. Carl Pasteryak finished second with Mike Ewanitsko, third. Rick Fuller and Charlie Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Reggie Ruggiero, Jack Bateman, Tony Hirschman and George Kent. Jerry Marquis was the SK Modified winner. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Dennis Gada made it four in a row in Modified competition as he beat out Mike Gada and Tucker Reynolds for the win. Jeff Karns was the Late Model winner. At Riverside Park Chris Wenzel beat out Ed Spiers and Eddie Flemke Jr for the win and at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Dan Jivenelli took the win. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kenny Brack, driving for AJ Foyt, took the win in the Indy 500 after Robbie Gordon ran out of gas while leading the last lap. Tony Stewart finished ninth, flew to Charlotte and finished fourth in the Cup event behind Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin. Steve Park led twice for 84 laps before crashing while trying to avoid a slowing Kyle Petty.

  Ten years ago in 2004 the Thompson Speedway began their regular Thursday night Thunder Series. Second generation driver Kerry Malone staged a heated battle with Bo Gunning and came out the winner. Todd Ceravolo finished third. Ted Christopher was also in the mix until his engine began belching smoke, forcing him to drop out. Christopher was credited with 19th place. Defending Sunoco Modified champion Eric Berndt finished fourth with Richard Savory rounding out the top five. Other Thursday night Thunder winners were Chuck Docherty in the Pro Stocks, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Keith DeSantis in the Limited Sportsman and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks.

  The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night for the Haynes 150. The event drew 43 Modifieds and produced a surprise finish with a lot of excitement. Ted Christopher, who was the Busch Pole sitter once again, saw his hopes of a win disappear in the closing moments. Christopher, who led the first 67 laps, took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 123. Shortly after taking the two to go signal Todd Szegedy attempted a move made famous by Christopher, the bonsai bottom shot in turn one. With his left side tires in the grass and dirt Szegedy slid up into Christopher as he moved down to block. The contact caused Christopher to spin. Tony Hirschman was in the catbird seat as he jumped at the opportunity to take the lead. Szegedy managed to keep going and fell in behind Hirschman when the field returned to green on lap 161. Szegedy had the misfortune of breaking an axle on the restart, which allowed Reggie Ruggiero to move into second spot. Hirschman romped his way to the checkered flag and the win. Ruggiero finished second. Tom Cravenho ended up third. Tom Cloce and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. Current point leader Eddie Flemke ended up 11th after brushing the wall. Sixth through tenth were Jerry Marquis, Jeff Malave, Dick Houlihan, Ted Christopher and Tony Papale. Szegedy was last on the lead lap in 15th spot. A total of 11 caution periods for 58 laps kept the average speed at 59.389 mph. Once the dust settled the fingers were pointing. Christopher felt that Szegedy over drove and intended in taking him out. Szegedy claimed that Hirschman hit him, forcing him into Christopher. Hirschman stated that he did hit Szegedy but it was under the starters stand and not in the first turn where he made contact with Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series continues to provide the best in competition and excitement of any NASCAR division. The Stafford Motor Speedway management announced that the Haynes 150 would be televised as part of their NASCAR New England weekly production. NASCAR had been unable to secure TV coverage for the Featherlite Modifieds so far for this year. Thanks to the Stafford management, competitors were getting some exposure on the tube. In SK Modified competition at Stafford on Friday night it was high-speed carnage and destruction of equipment. It was survival of the fittest and the lucky. Jim Civale, who won the Nationals at Waterford survived to take the win in the 40-lap feature. It took 63 minutes to run 40 laps. Steve Chowanski finished a distant second.

  The Waterford Speedbowl gave its SK-Modified division the week off. Double features for the Late Models were run with Corey Hutchings and Phil Rondeau recording wins. John Puglisi won the 20 lap Sportsman feature and Glen Colvin was the Mini-Stock winner. Vin Esposito topped the Legend field and Jeff Walsh captured the X Car feature.

  It looked like the proposed speedway in North Stonington, CT. was a dead issue. Connecticut developer Gene Arganese shifted his intentions at land in Plainfield, CT. for his $400 million domed ¾ mile speedway. The proposed site was next to the Plainfield Greyhound track. Located mid-way between the Waterford Speedbowl to the south and the Thompson Speedway to the north, the proposed speedway would host various touring series events, NASCAR and non- NASCAR events. In addition to the dog track the town is also hosts a Lowes distribution center. The Lowes building is equivalent to four football fields in area. Since the very beginning NASCAR had stated that there are no additional Nextel Cup dates available and even went so far as to send Arganese a letter from their legal department telling him that he should not suggest that there are available dates that could be had. In a somewhat related development New York City news radio station WINS reported that NASCAR would be coming to a Naval-Military base on Staten Island. While the Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford the Busch North Series was at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Brad Leighton took the win over Dale Quarterly.

  Five years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, had been on “Spring Break” since the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 26. Friday it was back to Stafford for the TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON CONNECTICUT CLASSIC 100. Thirty-three Modifieds were on hand for the event. During a somewhat heated drivers meeting NASCAR did its best to alienate two of its top drivers when they questioned a restart policy. They, Mike Stefanik and Ed Flemke, were told to take it “off line”. George Silbermann, managing director of NASCAR’s racing series was at Stafford for all of the action and one must wonder why he wasn’t at the driver’s meeting to get the first hand knowledge of what dialog is missing between the officials and competitors A year or two from now NASCAR will wonder where the cars and loyalty went. In other words the Whelen Modified Tours outspoken drivers were told in so many words if you don’t like the way the races are run that’s just tough!

  Jimmy Blewett was able to slow down Ted Christopher’s dominant start to the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season when he took home the checkered flag in the TSI Harley-Davidson Classic Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. Blewett went pole to pole.

  Christopher had won the first two races of the season, and earned his third-consecutive Coors Light Pole Award earlier on Friday, but Blewett started on the front row on the redraw and led flag-to-flag for his fifth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Blewett survived six restarts during the race, including a green-white-checker finish, but would not be denied his second career win at the Connecticut half-mile. Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford) ran up front the majority of the race with Blewett, and tried once to go around on the outside late in the race, but Blewett never relinquished the lead. Szegedy settled for a third place finish when Christopher got past him on the white flag lap.

  Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero rounded out the top five finishers in the 100-lap event. Chris Pasteryak, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece brought home the top 10.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway weekly feature winners were Ted Christopher in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Michael Bennett in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Membrino, Jr. in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Tony Membrino, Jr. in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

  The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag with Curt Brainard taking the early lead. Brainard had Matt Gallo all over his back bumper looking to move to the front. After several laps of trying both the high and low grooves, Gallo was able to make a move into the lead on lap-6. Gallo's pass brought Frank Ruocco past Brainard and Ruocco moved by Gallo on lap-9 to move to the front.

  Ted Christopher was behind Ruocco and the middle stages of the race saw some great racing between the top-2 as Christopher was searching for a way around Ruocco. Christopher was finally able to make a move to the inside of Ruocco on lap-28 and take the lead for the first time. The field was slowed by the caution with 30 laps complete.

  On the lap-30 restart, the cars of Chris Jones and Ruocco came together in turn 1 while battling for second place, with Ruocco spinning and collecting the cars of Brad Hietala and Dave Salzarulo. Jones was sent to the rear of the field for rough riding by NASCAR officials. This put Brainard back alongside Christopher for the restart. Several late cautions kept the field in close contact, but Christopher was up to the task on each restart and he held off Brainard at the checkered flag for his first SK Modified® feature victory of the 2009 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Christopher and Brainard was Gallo, Wade Mattesen, and Mark Bakaj.

  After being penalized the previous week for allegedly jumping a restart Christopher swore up and down that he would not return to Stafford. Evidently someone gave him an attitude adjustment as he knuckled under and was back in the SK Modified lineup like nothing ever happened.

  From the way it sounded the Race of Champions Series event run at the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York was far better than the Whelen Modified Tour Series at Stafford. Ted Christopher took advantage of Bill Putney’s locked up wheel with only three laps remaining of the 75 lap Richie Evans Memorial Port City 150. Christopher driving a car prepared and owned by Terry Zacharias of Candor, NY knew the last three laps were going to be tough. As defending RoC Champion Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa. was now in second and Matt who was undefeated at Oswego in 2008 was looking to keep his streak intact. Following another yellow on lap 72 a three-lap shootout was set and everyone in attendance knew it was going to be an exciting finish. Christopher, a multi time NASCAR National Modified Champion used plenty of different driving strategies to keep Hirschman at bay. However entering turn three on the final lap Hirschman got on the outside of Christopher and the two exited turn four side by side with the crowd standing on their feet. Christopher moved up the track just a hair but left Hirschman enough room to stay alongside of him. As the two drivers drag raced to the start finish line Christopher in his Ron Hutter powered Troyer chassis car had just enough to hold off Hirschman by inches for the $2,800 win. Jan Leaty of Williamson, NY who started 11th ended up in third with Eric Beers of Northampton, Pa. in fourth after starting 21st and Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, NY finishing fifth after starting 16th.

  The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid the numerous showers that hit Connecticut on Saturday night. Groton native Ron Yuhas Jr. nearly won the Waterford Speedbowl’s opening Saturday night event in April before Keith Rocco stole the win by mere inches, but on Saturday night Yuhas would not be denied going on to win the 35-lap SK Modified main event. Ohio native Dave Shullick Jr. won the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified special in a caution filled event, Bruce Thomas Jr. the Late Model event, Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks, and Bill Leonard was the Mini Stock winner.

  The SK Modifieds were first up with their 35-lap main event. Corey Hutchings jumped to the lead over Jeff Pearl on the initial green, and the field would stretch out over an extended period of green flag racing. Hutchings would pull a straightaway lead over the competition as laps clicked away. By halfway, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco were asserting themselves working through traffic. Yuhas jumped to the outside lane to move his way through the top five and into the top three. The event’s first caution flew on lap 28 when Jeff Paul, running second, went up in smoke in turn three ending his strong run to that point. Paul turned in the event’s fastest lap. On the restart the action heated up with Yuhas looking outside Hutchings. Meanwhile, Rocco applied pressure to both Hutchings and Yuhas from third place. The entertaining action would be interrupted by caution when Justin Gaydosh spun on the backstretch with four laps to go. Yuhas battled his way into the lead in the outside lane on the restart, overcoming Hutchings with three laps remaining. The event’s final caution waved with two laps remaining setting up a green-white-checkered finish and a restart rematch with Hutchings outside Yuhas. Hutchings could not muster the steam from the outside, and would tuck into second behind Yuhas who would go on to win by a car length. Rocco took an impressive third, Tyler Chadwick ran a good race for fourth, and Rob Janovic Jr. rallied to finish fifth at the stripe.

  There were 20 Modifieds on hand. Tough luck reared its ugly head when Todd Ceravolo and Keith Rocco made contact which ended up with Ceravolo’s car sustaining severe damage. Car owner Dickie Doo Ceravolo said it will be a few weeks before the car returns to action.
The True Value Modified Series was at the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, Vermont. Steve Masse won his first ever True Value event. Rowan Pennick finished second with Kirk Alexander, third. Ed Dachenhausen and Jack Bateman rounded out the top five. Chris Pasteryak led from the start until lap 87 when he had issues and began to fade. The race, plagued by 12 caution periods and one red flag to clear the track from damaged cars, slowed the pace of the feature race, the third event of a 15 race schedule. Nine of those caution periods came between laps 70 and 80.

  The Thompson Speedway came alive on Thursday night with what had to be some of the best open wheeled Modified racing seen in quite a while. Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, scored the feature win in a dramatic finish for the Speedway’s premier division. It was the second win for Rocco at Thompson after his victory back in April on Icebreaker Saturday. In the early going Kerry Malone got the edge on pole sitter Ted Christopher before the caution flew for a pile-up exiting turn two. Danny Cates was sent spinning from the fifth position and several drivers took evasive action. Only the #36 of Tim Sullivan headed down pit road for service. He was able to rejoin the field. On the restart it was Malone moving out to a five-car length advantage over Jimmy Blewett. It was action-packed for the third spot as Josh Sylvester had his hands full with Christopher and Woody Pitkat. Keith Rocco, who was involved in the lap three caution, had worked his way back inside the top-ten by lap eight. With 10-laps down, Blewett and company had caught Malone. Blewett made a power move exiting turn two to take over the lead. Sylvester and Christopher followed through. Christopher made quick work of Sylvester to move into second. A single-lap later the caution flew for a spin by Dana Young. Under the caution, Malone gave up the fourth spot to head to pit road for adjustments. An incident that involved Harry Rheaume, Tim Sullivan, Dave LaCroix and Andy Gasper brought out the caution again on lap 16. The cars of Rheaume and Sullivan sustained heavy damage.

  Back under green, Christopher was all but pushing leader Blewett while Sylvester, Pitkat and Rocco where locked in a heavy battle for third. Sparks flew when Christopher made a bid for the lead. Contact between the lead duo ended with Christopher stopped on the front stretch with a flat tire; necessitating the caution. Todd Ceravolo pitted from the fifth position under the caution. Ceravolo parked his car after it was determined that his mount had sustained suspension damage that could not be repaired. Pitkat looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart giving Blewett a run for the lead. Sylvester stood his ground. Pitkat slipped back to third behind Sylvester. Rocco was now fourth followed by Marvin, who had worked his way back into contention after being involved in the first caution. On lap 23, Rocco muscled his way passed both Pitkat and Sylvester and into the second spot. The young gun had five laps to chase down Blewett. It didn’t even take one as Rocco caught Blewett. In turn three, Rocco made a dive bomb move under Blewett. The car drifted up allowing Blewett to maintain his lead. The cat-and-mouse continued over the final two laps.

  On the white flag lap, Rocco ran Blewett up toward the wall in turn one. Coming to the checkers, Rocco drifted high pushing Blewett toward the wall once again in turn three. Sylvester saw a glimmer of light in the middle while Pitkat looked low. All four cars had a shot at the victory. Slight contact with Sylvester slowed Rocco but not enough to derail the run to the victory. Blewett barely edged out Pitkat for second. Sylvester settled for fourth. Marvin completed the top-five.

  Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, a winner during the Icebreaker in April, continued his winning ways in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI edged out fan favorite Jeff Zuidema to earn the Late Model checkers. Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, in Limited Sportsman; Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT in the TIS Modifieds; and Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT in the Mini Stocks also visited victory lane on the opening Thursday night.

  Mike Bliss raced to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory since 2004, catching a break to claim the rain-shortened event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Bliss, who started from the back of the field, took the lead because he was in the right position when the caution flag came out with 39 laps to go. The caution put Bliss ahead of series points leader Kyle Busch, who clearly had the car to beat most of the night. It looked as if Busch would get lucky when rain halted the race a few laps later and got him back near Bliss' bumper. But more showers came, and NASCAR officials called the Carquest Auto Parts 300 with 30 laps to go and Bliss still out front. Brendan Gaughan was second, followed by Busch, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano.

  Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500. The winner pulled away over the final laps to beat Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick, who eclipsed her historic fourth-place finish as a rookie in 2005 by crossing the strip of bricks in third - the highest finish ever for a female driver.
NASCAR's longest race of the season spilled into a second day Sunday night when the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC was postponed by rain for the first time in 50 years. Bruton Smith, the outspoken, multimillionaire chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., ripped NASCAR for choosing not to disclose the banned substance involved in driver Jeremy Mayfield's suspension, for dropping record penalties on underfunded driver Carl Long and for the kind of racing created with the Car of Tomorrow. Smith also criticized two former Kentucky Speedway owners who refused to drop an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR. Their decision has delayed the track from getting a Sprint Cup race.

  NASCAR declared David Reutimann the winner when an ominous weather forecast indicated it would be impossible to run the Coca Cola 600 to its conclusion. The drivers had figured that out a day earlier, when the race was postponed and carried over to Memorial Day for the first time in its 50-year history. With intermittent showers spraying the track all day Monday, the race was one of strategy, as every driver simply tried to be in front when the event was finally washed out. Reutimann gave it his best shot when, running 14th, he and crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to join the parade of cars following leader Kyle Busch down pit road during a caution for rain 22 laps past the halfway point.

  The race had reached the point where if it was stopped again for rain, it was official, and the Michael Waltrip Racing team prayed the end was soon. Reutimann claimed the lead, with pole-sitter Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon following him to the front as the rest of the field went to pit road for fuel and fresh tires. He didn't lead a single lap under green-flag racing, but was out front for five laps under caution before NASCAR called the cars back to pit road for the third rain stoppage. Most drivers headed to their motorhomes to wait out the rain. Not Reutimann. He was joined at his car by his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, a racer with one career NASCAR start who still tears it up in dirt track events at East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Fla. The two didn't bother with an umbrella as they stood in a steady drizzle for just over 2 hours. Newman finished second and Gordon was third. Gordon might have a problem, though. NASCAR confiscated his real axle housing following post-race inspection for further evaluation. Carl Edwards, who had changed into street clothes by the time the race was called, finished fourth, followed by Brian Vickers and Busch.

  Last year, 2013, The hills of northeastern Connecticut came alive on Thursday night as the Thompson Speedway began their Thursday Night Thunder weekly racing series. Ryan Preece in the Sunoco SK Modifieds, John Studleyin the SK Lites, Rick Gentes in the Late Models, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks earned NASCAR Whelen All-American Series victories under warm and humid skies.

  In the Sunoco Modified feature Preece started fifth and after a spirited battle with Todd Ceravolo, took the lead on a lap 8 restart. Ceravolo made numerous attempts to retake the lead but in the end, finished third after giving way to Woody Pitkat who moved into the second spot on the last lap. Keith Rocco and Kerry Malone rounded out the top five. A tip of the hat to Dennis Perry who scored a solid sixth place finish and to Paul Newcomb who led the early going and recovered from a spin to finish seventh. Third generation driver Joe Gada made his debut at Thompson a successful one as he crossed the finish line in 8th spot. There were 15 SK type Modifieds on hand

  The Limited Sportsman division is 31 cars strong and is highly competitive. Scott Sundeen was the eventual winner but the real battle was watching Larry Barnett march to the front. In the end Barnett ran out of time and was forced to settle for second. Jessie Gleason finished a strong third.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway saw a new face in victory lane following the SK Modified feature. Danny Cates scored his first ever win in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature while Woody Pitkat took the 30-lap Late Model feature, Chase Dowling won the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Austin Bessette won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Johnny Walker won the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

  In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Zach Aszklar took the lead at the green. Danny Cates and Michael Gervais, Jr. dueled side by side for second before Cates took the spot. Cates then moved by Aszklar on lap-4 to take over the race lead which he never relented. Ryan Preece, fresh off his win at Thompson on Thursday night, closed in on Cates’ bumper for the white flag lap with Woody Pitkat hot on his tail in third. Cates was able to keep the lead to the checkered flag to pick up his first SK Modified® victory at Stafford. Preece, Pitkat, Frank Ruocco, and Ted Christopher rounded out the top-5. Twenty one SK Modifieds took the green.

  Jeff and Keith Rocco scored a one-two punch at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The Rocco brothers, each paid a visit to victory lane at the shoreline oval.

  Jeff Rocco led from start-to-finish in capturing the 35-lap SK Modified feature while Keith out dueled Waterford's Dillon Moltz to win the 30-lap Late Model feature.

  In other feature races run during the Speedbowl's annual Four Cylinder Fury event, Ken Cassidy Jr. won his second straight Mini Stock event, this one going 50 laps, Brad Voglesong won the 20-lap X-Car race and Andy Major checkered the visiting 25-lap Pro Four Modified race.

  Jeff Rocco took the lead at the initial green flag of the SK Modified race and was in charge until the first caution came out on lap 27. Over the final 8 laps he overcame one jumped restart and late challenges by Nichole Morgillo and Diego Monahan. Todd Ceravolo of Gales Ferry eventually took second and Monahan wound up third. Jeffrey Gallup and Kyle James rounded out the top five in the 24 car starting field.
A major milestone was met at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC on Saturday night. Sixty four years ago, Bill France Sr. and Alvin Hawkins introduced stock-car racing at Bowman Gray Stadium. Saturday night, France’s great-grandson Ben Kennedy became a winner there. Kennedy charged to the lead with 26 laps left and stayed there for a memorable victory in front of a nearly packed house in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 150 for the touring K&N Pro Series East.

  Burt Myers also was a winner, in a 100-lap race for Bowman Gray’s featured Modified Division. He added to the total of victories for the stadium’s most successful family, taking it to 140. Myers won for the third time this season and 53rd time in his career. He took the lead from pole-sitter Lee Jeffreys on the 15th lap after a side-by-side battle for two laps and hung on through five double-file restarts. Jeffreys wound up second, John Smith was third, and Tim Brown, the fastest qualifier who had charged from the 16th starting spot, finished fourth.

  Timmy Solomito was the overall Modified winner at Riverhead on Long Island and at Seekonk's Sunday SK Open show Matt Hirschman took top honors over Keith Rocco and Kyle James.

  At Seekonk, Hirschman's luck almost ran out in the closing stages when his engine developed a major malfunction. Hirschman had inherited the lead on lap 57 when second place running Eric Berndt spun leader Woody Pitkat. Berndt was penalized for the move, handing the lead to Hirschman. Matt Galko, and Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth was Doug Coby, Joey Gada, Ryan Preece, Eric Berndt and Tommy Barrett Jr.

  Ryan Preece had started on the pole and quickly took over the lead, holding through lap 17, when Doug Coby closed in as lapped traffic slowed the leader. Coby moved ahead and Woody Pitkat closed in on Preece. The trio would duel through lapped traffic until Coby dislodged Preece from the lead. Pitkat began looking under Preece to take the runnerup slot. Eric Berndt was antagonizing Pitkat from behind as well.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Dover International Speedway, Tony Stewart drove by Juan Pablo Montoya with three laps left and pulled away to his first victory of the season. The victory didn’t come without a little bit of controversy. Jimmie Johnson, who dominated the second half of Sunday, was the leader when the caution flag waved on lap 376 when polesitter Denny Hamlin crashed in turns one and two.
All of the lead lap cars pitted, with Montoya leading Johnson and Stewart off pit road. The green flag waved for the final restart with 19 laps left and Johnson jumped the restart by a wide margin, forcing NASCAR to penalize him with a drive-thru penalty. The penalty against Johnson handed the lead back to Montoya, who was seeking his first Sprint Cup victory on an oval. He looked like he was well on his way to that victory when Stewart suddenly began closing on him with less than 10 laps left.

  With five laps left Stewart caught Montoya and began looking for a way around. He first tried going low, but Montoya blocked the low lane. Stewart regrouped and with three laps left took to the high side, getting alongside Montoya in turns one and two and completing the pass for the lead in turn three.

In Nationwide Series racing at Dover, Joey Logano raced to his first Nationwide victory of the season

   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 30, 2014

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