The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


June 13, 2014

  Sixty five years ago in 1949, Ed Otto promoted races with a NASCAR sanction at the Buffalo Civic Center in Buffalo, NY. It was the official start of stock car racing in western, New York. Bobby Sund won the inaugural 10 lap feature.

  Sixty years ago in 1954, Joe McNulty and Moe Gherzi were the Wednesday and Saturday night Sportsman winners at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Tom VanEpps went two for two as he won non-Ford features on both nights.

  Fifty five years ago in 1959 Don Rounds, who at one time raced on the dirt at the Kingston Fairgrounds in Rhode Island, was the Friday night winner on the dirt at the Stafford Springs Speedway. Rain washed out the New London Waterford Speedbowl for the second week in a row. Up in New York State Bill Rafter scored his third win of the year at the Buffalo Civic Stadium. Bud Johnson won a 50 lapper at Lancaster over Cam Gagliardi.

  Fifty years ago in 1964 Rene Charland ended Bill Wimble's win streak on the dirt at Stafford as he took the Friday night victory over Don Wayman and George Janoski. Ted Stack made it two in a row at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl but had to wait a week to complete the feature because of a curfew.

  Forty five years ago in 1969, Charlie Jarzombek returned to Stafford but this time Bugsy Stevens was ready for him as the defending National Champion was not about to let an outsider get the best of him. When the checker dropped at 30 laps, Stevens had defended his home turf and Jarzombek had to settle for second. Bobby Santos finished third and was followed by Holly Wilder and Tom Sutcliff. At Albany-Saratoga, Lou Lazzaro made it two in a row and three out of four at the upstate N.Y. oval. Guy Chartrand finished second and was followed by Rene Charland and Bernie Miller. Lazzaro repeated at Fonda on Saturday running his string to four in a row at the place they called the track of champions. Kenny Shoemaker, in the Bobby Judkins 2x finished second with Ken Platt, third. At Norwood, Eddie Flemke in the Dave Welch-Greg Mills 79 took the win over Johnny Thompson, Billy Schulz and Pete Hamilton. Bob Potter was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl.

  Les Fletcher was the Daredevil winner. Thompson ran their 200 on Sunday. Ray Hendrick was scheduled to drive the Tant/Mitchell 11 but became fogbound at the Newark Airport. Ralph "Hop" Harrington was given the ride and ride he did as he won the event going away. Bugsy Stevens finished second with Fred DeSarro, third. Racing at Utica-Rome on Sunday night was rained out.

  Forty years ago in 1974, Charlie Jarzombek went three for three as he won twin events at Freeport on Friday night and a 100 lapper on Saturday night at Islip. Jarzombek had his work cut out for him as invaders Richie Evans and Jerry Cook were on hand. Evans could do no better than second and Cook ended up fourth behind Fred Harbach. It was still a good weekend for Evans as he won at Utica-Rome on Friday over Rene Charland and Ed Pieniezak and won again on Sunday at Fulton over Mike Loescher and Geoff Bodine. At Stafford on Saturday night, Ronnie Bouchard made it two in a row as he beat out Bugsy Stevens and Don Flynn. Also on Saturday, George Kent and Gramme Bolia shared victory lane at Shangri-La and at Waterford Lou Herman took his only Modified win. At Thompson on Sunday, Eddie Flemke in the John Steiger 7 took the win over Bob Santos, Ollie Silva and Mario "Fats" Caruso. In other weekend action, Punky Caron and Ronnie Bouchard shared victories at Monadnock on Friday.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, Richie Evans started the weekend at New Egypt on Wednesday with a win over Charlie Jarzombek and Jerry Cook. Evans recorded his 198th career win by taking the Friday night 30 lapper at Stafford. Ronnie Bouchard was testing tires during the day and lost the engine in the Bob Johnson 17.Don Flynn offered him his no.25 and was not disappointed as he finished second. Finishing third was Steady Eddie Flemke. Saturday at Riverside Evans made it 199 as he beat out Jerry Cook and Ron Wycoff. At Seekonk, Brian Ross took the win over Ray Lee and Joe Arcana. Islip ran a 75 lapper and it was Wayne Anderson in for the win over Don Howe and George Brunnhoelzl Jr. Evans made it a hat trick as he went four for four and recorded his 200th win as he won at Monadnock on Sunday. Reggie Ruggerio finished second with Jerry Cook, third. Other weekend winners were George Kent at Shangri-La, John Falconi Jr. at Westboro, Rick Donnelly at Waterford, George Savory at Thompson, Punky Caron at Claremont and Maynard Troyer at Lancaster.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, Mike McLaughlin won at Stafford over Charlie Jarzombek. Corky Cookman, who had been driving for Art Barry, finished last and was fired from the ride. Jerry Pearl was the SK Modified winner. At Riverside, Kenny Bouchard beat out Reggie Ruggerio and in twin events at Waterford, veterans Bob Potter and Glynn Shafer took victories. George Kent had a two-fer as he won both at Spencer and at Shangri-La. At Riverhead it was Tom Baldwin over Fred Harbach and at Islip, races were cancelled due to curfew. John Blewett Jr. won at New Egypt and Tony Siscone was victorious at Wall. In Winston Cup action at Pocono Raceway, David Pearson took the pole but it was Cale Yarborough taking the win.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989, rain washed out Stafford. At Waterford John Anderson beat Harry Rice and at Riverside it was Tom Bolles over Rick Summers. The racing community was saddened to learn that Tom Druar passed away after suffering injuries at Lancaster. At Riverhead, Bob Park won out over Dan Jivanelli and at Monadnock on Sunday in a mod tour event Reggie Ruggerio won out over Jeff Fuller and Jamie Tomaino.

  Twenty years ago this week, Mike Christopher was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Mike Paquette finished a strong second and was followed by Steve Chowanski and Bob Potter. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Lee N.H. Reggie Ruggiero was the early leader until losing an engine on lap 31.From there on it was the Fuller brothers fighting for the lead when they came together and wrecked. Jamie Tomaino was the eventual winner and was followed by Jan Leaty, Charlie Pasteryak, Steve Park and Tony Ferrenti. At Waterford, Bob Potter driving for the Bunnell Bros. took the win over Chris Jones and Mike Gada. Chris Kopec held off Reggie Ruggiero and Steve Park at Riverside and at Riverhead, Chris Young beat out Tom Tillotson for the win. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Rusty Wallace was both the pole sitter and the winner while at Myrtle Beach; Elton Sawyer was the Busch GN winner.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Lloyd Agor was declared the Friday night winner at Stafford after apparent winner Mike Christopher was disqualified for having illegal mufflers, Jeff Malave ended up second. The Featherlite modifieds were at Riverhead for a 200 lapper, John Blewett III took the win after unwittingly parking Tony Hirschman who had checked up to avoid a wreck. Tim Connolly finished second with Dan Avery, Rick Fuller and Tony Ferrenti following. Billy Sharp beat out Dennis Gada at Waterford and Bob Polverari scored his 36th career win at Riverside. Kenny Tremont made it eight in a row at Lebanon Valley. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Dale Jarrett dominated the event, which went pole to pole, caution free. Jarrett lapped 38 of the 43 starters. Dale Earnhardt was the Busch South winner at South Boston and Brad Leighton won the Busch North event at Beech Ridge.

  Ten years ago in 2004 the Stafford management called a mid-week meeting with its SK Modified competitors with the hope of eliminating some of the destruction of equipment on Friday nights. Less than 25 competitors showed up as the Stafford management announced that they were eliminating the use of mirrors, radios and changing tire compounds. They would also paint a yellow line on the aprons in the turns. Anyone going below the line would receive a severe penalty. In Thursday night action at the Thompson Speedway Ted Christopher scored the Sunoco SK Modified win over Jeff Malave and Bert Marvin. Christopher carried his winning ways over to Stafford on Friday night as he beat out Chuck Docherty and James Civali for the win. Tommy Fox took the SK Modified win at Waterford on Saturday night over Glen Billings and Don Fowler while at Riverhead it was Mike Andrews over John Fortin. Steven Reed got the best of John Blewett III at Wall Stadium. The NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at the Lake Erie Speedway. The event carried a purse of $77,753 and drew 33 cars. Tony Hirschman, who started in second spot, passed pole sitter Rob Summers on lap 14 and went on to score a victory in the 150 lap event. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Jerry Marquis, Rick Fuller, Ed Flemke Jr and Summers. In other weekend action Jason Lefler won a Busch Series event at Nashville and Andy Santerre was the Busch North Series winner at Seekonk.

  Five years ago in 2009, The Bristol Motor Speedway hosted another Modified Test session on Monday, June 8th. The session wasn't without a few dramatic moments, but nothing major transpired. Teams got adjusted to the super-fast high banks and got their cars more comfortable as the day went on. Ryan Preece, cut a right rear tire and spun off of turn-four. The young driver made a nice save and kept it off the wall. Also keeping it off the wall after a spin was Woody Pitkat who went on a long slide down nearly the entire length of the backstretch. Mike Stefanik was also a slider but suffered no damage. Chris Pasteryak wasn’t quite so lucky as he suffered slight rear body damage when he slid into the wall. Among the fastest was Jimmy Blewett in the Eddie Partridge TS Haulers entry.

  Among the missing were Ted Christopher, Don Lia and LW Miller. Miller is currently on the mend from a serious accident that occurred in his race shop. Miller had a spring loaded shock absorber explode as he was removing it from his car that had been wrecked at the recent Franklin County event. According to reports Miller receive a glancing blow from the shock spring that shot up 18 feet, hitting and denting the roof of his race shop. The facial impact loosened up eight teeth. He ended up losing two after having dental and plastic surgery. Had it been a direct hit, Miller could have suffered devastating or even fatal injuries.

  In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Norm Wrenn brought home the checkers in the Super Late Model race. Leadfoot Larry Barnett made it two in a row as he won the Limited Sportsman feature just days after undergoing arthroscopy surgery. Ten laps into the 50-Lap Late Model race, Mother Nature took over, the rain started and the race program was brought to a halt.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of an epic battle for supremacy between Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher. The duo put on a duel for the ages in the extra distance 100 lap SK Modified event, with Rocco coming out as the winner for the second time this year. Ryan Posocco took his second victory of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Brit Andersen won his second race of 2009 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta took his second consecutive victory of the year in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cliff Saunders picked up his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

  The 36th Annual Coors Light SK Modified® 100 took the green with Brad Hietala, Tom Bolles, and Richie Pallai, Jr. at the front of the field. Hietala and Bolles ran side by side for several laps before Hietala got clear to the lead. Pallai made a power move by Bolles on a lap-5 restart and they dueled for the race lead. A caution with 26 laps complete slowed the action and set up a restart. On the restart, Hietala and Pallai made contact, sending Pallai towards the wall where he collected Bolles and brought the caution back out. This put Matt Gallo and Jeff Malave on the front row with Matt Gallo and Doug Coby behind them. Rocco quickly took the race lead from Gallo, but Pallai hit head on into the turn 1 wall to bring the caution back out one lap after the restart.

  Rocco held the lead on the restart, with Ted Christopher, who was involved in an early race spin with Woody Pitkat on lap-4, moving into second. Coby held third, with Gallo and Eric Berndt making up the top-5. Rocco held the lead until lap-38, when Christopher moved to the front. Coby continued to run in third place, with Berndt and Malave making up the remainder of the top-5.

  With the exception of a caution period with 52 laps complete for a spin by Woody Pitkat, the top-5 cars ran in line until lap-65, which is when the race turned into a great duel between Christopher and Rocco. On lap-65 Rocco moved by Christopher to take the lead only to have Christopher go with a crossover move to get back to the front. But the caution came out before lap-66 could be completed, which put Rocco on the point for the restart.

  From lap-66 to lap-80, Christopher and Rocco exchanged the race lead five times with spectacular, breathtaking passing. On lap-80, Rocco moved by Christopher for the lead, but Christopher again used the crossover move to his advantage to retake the lead. Christopher was able to stay out front until lap-85, when Rocco went back by. Rocco pulled Christopher by several car lengths and he maintained that lead over the final 15 laps to take his second feature victory of the 2009 season. Christopher finished second, with Coby, Malave, and Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top-5.

  The Waterford Speedbowl completed three feature events before the rain came, halting the remainder of the race program just 28 laps into the Nutmeg State 100 lap ACT Late Model Tour event. Jason Palmer won his ninth consecutive Legends Car event, Al Stone III checkered the Street Stock feature and Danny Field was the winner of the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock race. The scheduled 35-lap SK Modified feature event and remainder of the Nutmeg State 100 were postponed.

  The True Value Modified Series beat the impending rain on Saturday night at the Seekonk Speedway. The 100 lapper, which drew 28 Modifieds, saw Jon McKennedy come from an 18th starting spot to take the lead from Vinnie Annarummo on lap 85 and go on to score the win. Dwight Jarvis, who started 19th, finished second with former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series driver Jimmy Kuhn, third. Annarummo and David Berghman rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Bob Grigass, Ed Dachenhausen, Todd Annarummo, Chris Pasteryak and Steve Masse.

  In some sad news George Kent's brother and J.R.'s uncle Ron passed away on June 8 from cancer. He was crew chief on many of George's Modified victories with many remembering the Plaza Mobil sponsorship on the rides when it was a yellow #26 Modified.

  The Associated Press reported that General Motors was planning to cut back on its support of NASCAR teams in all of the sanctioning body's professional series. Chevy spokesman Terry Rhadigan says GM, which is reorganizing through bankruptcy, is discussing what he described as incremental cutbacks in support. He said cuts will be made soon and that the discussions are "indeed NASCAR-wide." Rhadigan would not say if one series would be affected more than others, nor would he say the size of the cuts or how much GM spends on NASCAR. The automaker, through its Chevy brand, provides cash and other support to teams including engines and parts.

  In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, Joey Logano was flawless after the restart, passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch with 10 laps to go and holding on to win the Meijer 300 at the Kentucky Speedway for the second consecutive year. In Sprint Cup racing at Michigan, Mark Martin saved just enough gas to hang on for his third victory of the season and the 38th of his Cup career.

  Last year, 2013, It had been in the making since Memorial Day weekend as the Stafford Motor Speedway finally got to run their TSI Harley-Davidson 125 presented by G-Oil NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event. There were 27 cars on hand. Bobby Santos scored his 10th career pole award and started in the front row along side Ryan Preece

  On the initial start, Preece had the misfortune of getting a flat tire which caused him to spin. Preece and Santos made contact shortly after taking the green with a cut tire resulting. Preece restarted in the rear and after a determined march to the front took the lead from Ron Silk who led the first 106 laps.

  Preece, second fasted in qualifying, began the race in the rear after cutting a tire prior to the official start of the race. He watched Ron Silk dominate the field for the first 106 laps before moving past the leader and holding on through the final 18 laps. Silk finished in the runner-up spot - followed by Rowan Pennink, Donny Lia and pole winner Bobby Santos. Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore, Mike Stefanik, Jimmy Blewett and Woody Pitkat completed the top 10.

  It was Preece’s second come-from-behind win of the evening. In a Whelen All-American Series SK Modified event earlier in the evening, Preece found himself behind the rest of the field after spinning out in lap two. In similar fashion, he worked his way back up to the front, capturing the lead in the final laps.

  Todd Szegedy was a pre race favorite but ended up 13th as his bad luck continues. Szegedy got up into second spot when the right rear went flat. He then spun out and got hit in the left front. That ended his chance for a good finish. Ted Christopher, another pre race favorite, had worked his way to sixth when he was sent to the rear for over aggressive driving. In the end he was 14th.

  The Thompson Speedway didn't carry their luck over from June 6 when they just barely beat the rain as the Sunoco Modified feature ended. With a heavy downpour forecast by meteorologists throughout New England, Thompson Speedway pulled the plug just before noon on Wednesday for the Thursday Night Thompson Thunder race program.

  With three events in the books Keith Rocco led the Sunoco Modified (SK type) standings with a two point edge over Woody Pitkat. Two points behind Pitkat was Ryan Preece. Rocco had two wins and Preece, one. Kerry Malone and Dennis Perry rounded out the top five. Other division leaders included Rick Gentes, Late Model, Keith McDermott, Lite Modifieds, Larry Barnett, Limited Sportsman and Louis Belisle, Mini Stock.

  The highly touted open competition SBM 125 at the Star Speedway was run under cool and clear skies last Saturday night. With an excess of $45,000 on purse money the event drew 32 modifieds. Matt Hirschman was the quickest in time trials as he toured the 1/4 mile speedway in 12.347 seconds. Qualifying heat winners were Hirschman, Jon McKennedy, Les Hinckley and Ron Silk. Josh Cantara was the consolation winner. Non-qualifiers were Ken Barry, Lou Mechalides, Chris Ross, George Sherman, Jim Boniface, Chris Bolton and Russ Wood. The top 8 redrew for the feature start. Max Zachem drew the pole and Hirschman drew the outside pole.

  Hirschman jumped out from his starting spot and led the entire 125 lap distance and collected $9,595.64 in winnings. It was no cake-walk as Hirschman survived numerous cautions and a lot of pressure from numerous second place runners to take the win. Les Hinckley ended up second with Ryan Preece, third. Steve Masse and Richard Savory rounded out the top five. Among those who were in contention was Tommy Barrett who had worked his way into the second spot by lap 96 only to experience radiator problems which caused him not to finish. Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher also had their problems and finished out of the top ten.

  Sixth through tenth were Todd Patnode, Andy Seuss, Jacob Dore, Zane Zeiner and Austin Kochenash.

  The event was deemed a rousing success as the grandstand was full and the draw of cars was ample.

  Defending champion Tyler Chadwick won the slam-bang 35-lap SK Modified feature on Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. Jeff Smith won the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race. Each notched their second wins of the year. New faces visiting Victory Lane included Corey Barry and Al Stone, winning the SK Light Modified and Street Stock races respectively to each pick up their first wins of 2013. Ken Cassidy Jr. continued his hot streak and took his third win in the past four Mini Stock events, while Corey Hutchings was a surprise winner in the visiting New England Truck Series race.

  In the SK Modified feature, Chadwick took the lead from Nichole Morgillo following a lap 15 restart, passing her on the outside of turns one and two. But he had to survive five more caution flags, including three on lap 29. After the final yellow flag, Chadwick held off Todd Ceravolo over the final six laps. It was Ceravolo's fourth straight second-place finish while Morgillo wound up third.

  At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Tom Rogers took the win.

  Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC five-time Modified champion Burt Myers, already enjoying a healthy lead in the season standings, racked up a division-leading fourth victory in a 100-lap main event. He battled past up-and-comer Tony Black for the lead and held it against younger brother Jason Myers for his 54th career victory.

  Tommy Baldwin Racing announced that NASCAR Next driver Ryan Preece will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series stock car debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (F.W. Webb 200) in July.

  Preece, the grandson of NEAR Hall of Fame Car Owner Bobby Judkins, was selected as one of the 2013 NASCAR Next drivers. The NASCAR Next program began in 2011, and is a way to help spotlight up-and-coming drivers from around the world. This year's elite drivers range from ages 15-24 and represent three different countries. Preece was chosen, by a voting panel for the great achievements in his young racing career thus far.

  It appeared that someone was trying to put the screws to the Lee, New Hampshire Speedway and its owner Red MacDonald. Town officials and the owners of the Lee USA Speedway were working diligently to resolve issues that caused the town administrator to revoke the operations license for the business.

  “There were some issues of concern at the Lee USA Speedway that the town felt were important to address,” Julie Glover, town administrator, said. During a May 28 selectmen's meeting, Fire Chief Peter Hoyt, had said there were no violations at the Speedway. Despite that, the state fire marshal and electrical inspector had been called and the speedway has been shut down since. MacDonald and his staff were optimistic that the dispute with the town would be resolved.

  In some sad news, Jason Leffler was driving a sprint car at the Bridgeport Speedway dirt track in New Jersey last Wednesday night when it flipped on the track's front stretch and hit a wall, according to USA Today. He was extracted from the wreck by rescue personnel and airlifted from the track in a helicopter.

  Leffler, 37, drove in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events.

  Greg Biffle raced to his second consecutive Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway, easily holding off Kevin Harvick in the Quicken Loans 400 after points leader Jimmie Johnson smacked the wall in the final laps. It was the 1,000th victory for Ford Motor Company across NASCAR's three national series — Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.

  In Nationwide Series racing at Michigan, Regan Smith, the Nationwide series leader, held off Kyle Larson in the final 10 laps after taking the lead with 13 laps left when Parker Kligerman had to pit. Kligerman led for 13 laps toward the end, but the rain that might have helped him didn't start in time.

   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: June 13, 2014

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