Sixty five years ago the Buffalo Civic Stadium in western New
York closed out their season with a 100 lapper. The race was called after 67
laps because of curfew with Bob Minet declared the winner. Bill Rafter was
declared the track champion.
Sixty years ago in 1954, The New
London Waterford Speedbowl wrapped up their fourth season with a 50 lap
Cavalcade of Champions event for the Sportsman and 20 lapper for the
non-Fords. Moe Gherzi lived up to the name "Money Bags" as he took the
victory. It was Gherzi's 14th victory of the season but he lacked
consistency as Fred Luchesi, in the Sgambato #9 with five wins, took the
track title. Tom Van Epps, with his 14th victory in the Dennis Thornton
entry, wrapped up the non-Ford title. Sadly, Van Epps would never race again
as he lost his life in an automobile accident in March of 1955.
Fifty-five years ago in 1959, the 9th
Annual Race of Champions was 100-mile event on the dirt at the Langhorne
Speedway in Pennsylvania. Jim Delaney took the win over Ray Hendrick. Lionel
Arielwon the season finale on the dirt at Stafford. George Janoski was
declared the Modified Track Champion and Don Rounds was declared the
Sportsman Track Champion. Wild Bill Slater won the 50 lap Sportsman October
Championship on Sunday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Other winners
at the Speedbowl were Charlie Webster in the non-Fords and Newt Palm in the
Fifty years ago in 1964, the final
version of the dirt Race of Champions was run at the Langhorne Speedway.
Freddy Adam took the 100 Mile National Open over Ken Shoemaker and Bill
Forty five years ago in 1969, the big
event of the weekend was the annual Race of Champions at the Langhorne
Speedway in Langhorne, Pa. Ray Hendrick and Dutch Hoag were the pole
sitters. These two legends put on one of the greatest races ever seen as
they ran wheel to wheel for 90 laps until Hoag lost oil pressure and had to
drop out. From there on, Hendrick cruised to the 200-mile victory. Roger
Treichler finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Chuck Boos, Merv
Treichler, Guy Chartrand and Richie Evans.
Gary London, who was a scribe for National Speed Sport News made the
following observation when Hendrick pulled into victory lane. " One of his
crewman slashed one of his tires, The replacement was so heavy it took three
guys to lift it". A great way to "make weight", he added. Carl Miller backed
London up, "Yeah I saw that with my own eyes, was standing there with my
Dad. I think it was the left front. Freddy Harbach told me later that it was
filled with sand."
Forty years ago in 1974, the Race of
Champions had moved to Trenton and was stretched to 300 miles in the 1-1/2
mile kidney shaped oval. Fred DeSarro who had had a sub par season showed up
with a tri-colored creation owned by Len Boehler and preceded to put on one
of the best all time performances at the New Jersey oval. DeSarro was in the
hunt all day but it all came down to the last lap when he and long time
rival Bugsy Stevens came off of turn four wheel to wheel. With the crowd on
its feet, the two raced to the finish line with DeSarro winning by less than
six inches. Stevens finished second with Satch Worley, third.
Thirty five years ago in 1979, the
Thompson World Series was on tap. A 50 lapper was run for the modifieds.
Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Dave Thomas, Charlie
Jarzombek, Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie St Angelo. Denny Wheeler won the
Supermodified portion. Bentley Warren finished second with Doug Hevron,
third. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner.
Thirty years ago in 1984, the World
Series at Thompson saw Reggie Ruggiero beat the master, Richie Evans. Brian
Ross ended up third. At Wall Stadium, Doug Wolcott took the Saturday night
main event over Tony Siscone and Gil Hearne.
Twenty five years ago in 1989, the
World Series was scheduled at Thompson, qualifying was done on Saturday and
just before the Sunday features were to begin the main grandstand collapsed.
Luckily only a few spectators were in their seats and only a few minor
injuries incurred. Needless to say, the event was cancelled and was
rescheduled to November 12.The grandstand had been in place since the
speedway was built in 1939.What was left was bulldozed and carted away and a
new all steel grandstand which is in place today was erected.
Twenty years ago in 1994, the World
Series at Thompson drew a record of 467 cars for nine divisions and a near
record attendance of 14,000 fans. In the Modified Tour Series 125,Jan Leaty
pitted early for tires and drove his way to the front to take the lead on
lap 74 and the eventual win. Mike Ewanitsko finished second and was followed
by Reggie Ruggiero, Tim Connolly, Satch Worley and Mike Stefanik. John
Anderson was the SK winner over Tom Tagg and Bert Marvin and Tommy Fox was
victorious in the Late Models.
Fifteen years ago, in 1999, it was a
big weekend and a sad one to say the least. Riverside Park, a Saturday night
institution for many ran its last events before the speedway would be
destroyed to make way for more amusement park rides. Bob Polverari, a many
time Park champion, scored his 38th career victory after Ed Flemke Jr. and
Brad Hietella tangled with eight laps to go in the 100 lap modified feature.
Chris Wenzel finished second with Flemke, third and Rob Summers, fourth.
Todd Szegedy was the SK modified winner. Prior to the final event, Richie
Evans, Polverari, Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks were
inducted into the Riverside Park Hall of Fame. At Thompson, Rick Fuller won
the rained out World Series-Featherlite Modified Tour Series 125. Fuller
took the lead from Tim Connolly on lap 118.Conelly finished second and was
followed by Tony Hirschman, Ed Flemke Jr. and Tom Cravenho. Hirschman was
declared the 1999 series champion. Todd Szegedy carried his winning momentum
from Riverside to Thompson as he won the 30 SK World Series main. Szegedy
started last. Mike Christopher finished second with Chris Kopec, third.
Driving a Super Modified normally driven by Mike Ordway, Ted Christopher
started dead last and with the entire grandstand cheering, took the lead in
the event with two laps to go and went on to victory. Bryan Wall won the
Busch North Finale at Lime Rock. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Dale
Earnhardt Sr. took the win.
Ten years ago, in 2004, the NASCAR
Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway. It was
showdown time between Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke Jr. for the series
title. Fifty Modifieds were on hand for time trials. The Long Island gang
dominated the top spots as Mike Andrews, a regular competitor at the
Riverhead Raceway and Donnie Lia were the fastest. Andrews went 119.827 mph
and Lia, the Bud Pole Champion for 2004, clocked in at 118.997 mph. The top
six re-drew for starting spots with third fastest qualifier Tony Hirschman
drawing the pole starting spot. Todd Szegedy, the 2003 series champion, drew
the outside pole. Eddie Flemke was not so fortunate as he qualified in 24th
In what had to be one of the best events ever put on by the Modified Tour
Series, Mike Stefanik came from a dead last starting spot to ring down the
curtain on 2004 with a convincing win. Tony Hirschman, who led the first 33
laps ended up third in the final rundown and secured his fourth Modified
Tour Series Championship. Hirschman, who was in contention with Eddie Flemke
JR for the title, was able to breathe easier after an incident on a lap 58
restart that ultimately eliminated Flemke from the title chase. It appeared
that Ted Christopher checked up or brake checked Todd Szegedy as they exited
turn two which resulted in a scramble on the back chute which saw Flemke
suffer front end damage that would cause him to lose laps in the pits making
repairs. Prior to that, all eyes were on the Southington, Connecticut racer
as he put on a brilliant display of driving as he came from his 24th
starting spot to as high as fourth. Christopher continued to lead until he
hit the turn two wall on lap 82 and ended up spinning in turn four with a
flat right rear tire. Szegedy assumed the lead from that point. Mike
Stefanik, who pitted early in the event for a front-end adjustment, worked
his way to the front and on lap 92 took the lead. Stefanik and Szegedy
traded the lead back and forth until lap 97 when Stefanik was able to put a
little distance on the 2003 series champion. Szegedy ran second to Stefanik
until lap 123 when he brushed the wall in turn two. Chuck Hossfeld moved
into second with Hirschman moving up to third. Rookie’s Zach Sylvester and
Kenny Barry rounded out the top five. Barry and Sylvester ended up tied for
the Rookie of the Year title. Barry was given the nod, as he was higher in
the final point standings. An estimated crowd of 9,500 sat in the sun
Tony Hirschman, who was a guest on Gary Danko’s radio show during the
week, hinted that he might cut back his racing schedule in 2005. Hirschman
hoped to help his son, Matt, further his racing career and feels that if he
still races it could alter his focus. Because of the fact that Mike Stefanik
was committed to the Busch North Series at the Wall Township Speedway on
Saturday Todd Ceravolo was asked to qualify his Mod Tour ride at Thompson.
Congratulations to Modified Tour Series photographer Mary Hodge as she was
presented the Yvonne Durocher Woman in Racing Award at the recent New
England Antique Racers Awards Banquet. Mary and her husband Howie do an
excellent job of covering the Modified Series tour with their pictures,
which are seen in every major racing publication.
The Busch North Series traveled to the Wall Township Speedway in New
Jersey on Saturday to wrap up their season. On and off rain all day
Saturday, on the Jersey shore forced officials to cancel the event. It would
not be made up. Andy Santerre had already wrapped up the series
The Dodge Weekly Racing Series at Thompson on World Series weekend provided
some excellent racing. Jim Civali gave Ted Christopher some of his own
medicine as he took the win in the 30 lap Sunoco SK-type Modified event.
Christopher started on the pole and led just about all the event except for
a brief moment when Kerry Malone led before dropping out. Civali glued
himself to Christopher’s bumper and when the opportunity presented itself
when the pair exited the fourth turn on the final lap Civali made his move.
Christopher attempted to block but Civali held fast and the pair touched.
Christopher lifted long enough to allow Civali to forge ahead and take the
win. During the slow down lap Christopher vented his frustrations as he spun
Civali in turn two. Eric Berndt ended up third with Bert Marvin and Tom
Cravenho rounding out the top five. David Berghman capped off his
championship season in the Pro Stock division with a convincing win.
Starting 29th, Berghman made a superb charge to the front and took the lead
in the 30 lap feature on lap 18 to record his 9th victory of the season.
Other winners on Sunday were Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Chris
Perley in the Supermodifieds and Mark Buonomo in the NEMA Midgets.
The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted an automotive Flea Market over the
The final point standings for 2004 at the Waterford Speedbowl were made
official. Eddie Reed JR. was officially the SK Modified Champion. Reed had
three wins to his credit. Dennis Gada, who was a five-time champion,
finished second, 16 points back. Ron Yuhas JR, with two wins finished third
with Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five. Corey
Hutchings was by far the class of the Late Model field as he won six events
on his way to the title. Hutchings, also the Late Model champion at
Thompson, beat Allen Coates by 46 points. Coates had five feature wins to
his credit. Mark St.Hilaire, with two wins, ended up third. Former division
champion Phil Rondeau, three wins and Carl Erickson round out the top five.
Second generation driver Keith Rocco won the Sportsman division championship
on the final lap of the final feature. Rocco, the son of Ronnie Rocco, beat
Ed Gertsch by eight points. Rocco had three wins while Gertsch had six wins
to his credit. Dwayne Conant, Norm Root and Roger Perry rounded out the top
five. Glenn Colvin, with three wins, is the Mini Stock Champion. Colvin beat
Tim Jordan by 22 points. Richard Brooks was the top feature winner with five
victories and finished third in the final standings. Joe Bavalocco and Bill
Leonard rounded out the top five. Michael Pepe, with two wins, is the
Legends Champion. Pepe outdistanced Silas Hiscock JR by 50 points. Sixteen
year old Jeffrey Paul ran in only eight events but he won six of them which
placed him third in the final standings. Jim Ahern and Silas Hiscock Sr
rounded out the top five.
The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at
the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Mike Bliss made a dramatic three
wide pass in the closing stages to take the lead and eventual win on Friday
night’s Busch Series event and on Saturday night Hendrick Motorsports
teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished one-two. Casey Kahne had
them covered until a blown out tire forced him into the wall and out of the
Five years ago in 2009, the
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was supposed to wind up the 2009 season
but Mother Nature had different ideas as a “Noreaster” dumped a large amount
of rain and wet snow in the northeast corner of Connecticut forcing the
Thompson Speedway Management and NASCAR to postpone the World Series. As it
turned out the Thompson Speedway management and NASCAR made the right
decision as high winds and heavy rain mixed with snow pounded the entire New
England area on Sunday.
The scheduled foreclosure proceedings of the property in which the
Waterford Speedbowl is located was still on for Saturday, October 31.
Property owner Terry Eames had stated that he had “turned the corner” and
would stave off the impending sale of the property. Unlike Jerry Robinson
who never paid competitors who raced in the 2008 Fall Finale at the
shoreline oval, Eames had paid his competitors when they have raced.
Forbes magazine named ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy the
Most Powerful Woman in Sports. The article dated October 14, 2009, stated
France Kennedy's "26-year career at ISC spanned a period that expanded the
sport past its Southern base." The article added, "She rose to president in
2003 and to CEO in June 2009. Analysts say she's played a big role in most
all of the company's acquisitions and improvement projects dating back to
Kyle Busch, still dealing with a flu that developed into walking
pneumonia, dominated the Nationwide Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway on
Friday night, picking up his seventh victory of the year to move closer to
his first series title. In Sprint Cup action, Denny Hamlin was already at
home when Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line for his third victory in
five championship races.
Last year, 2013, the Thompson
Speedway released a comprehensive seven race schedule for 2014. Speedway
General Manager Josh Vanada made the announcement Sunday morning at the
drivers meeting. The schedule would consist of three NASCAR Whelen Modified
Tour Series dates, The Icebreaker on April 5-6, Bud King of Beers 150 on
Wednesday, August 15 and The World Series 150 on October 17-19. The Valenti
Modified Racing Series will have two dates, Thursday, May 29 and at the
World Series. The Granite State Pro Stocks will run as part of the
Icebreaker and the World Series. Vanada further stated that all regular
Thompson racing divisions would run at all races and NASCAR points will be
awarded. Something new to New England racing would be segment style races
will allow enough events to qualify for NASCAR Championships. This was done
at Riverhead raceway in 2013.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series closed out the 2013 season at the
Thompson Speedway. There were 29 cars on hand. Defending Sunoco World Series
150 presented by Xtra Mart winner Bobby Santos secured the Coors Light Pole
Award in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour qualifying Saturday at Thompson
Speedway. Santos had a fast lap of 18.712 seconds (120.244 mph) around the
.625-mile oval for his fifth Coors Light Pole of the season, and 13th of his
career overall. Mike Stefanik posted the second-fastest qualifying lap at
Fifteen divisions of race cars and trucks were in competition. There were
10 feature events Saturday evening after Bobby Santos posted the fastest
time in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour qualifying. Keith Rocco picked up the
win in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 75-lapper while NASCAR Whelen All
American Series victories went to Adam Norton, Corey Hutchings, Rick Gentes,
and Mike Viens. Duane Noll earned the New England Truck Series win while Dan
Meservey picked up a win in the Pro 4 Modified Series. Outlaw wins went to
George Rego, Mike Viens and Wayne Coury, Jr.
Keith Rocco ran a dominant race in the Valenti Modified Racing Series and
was followed to victory lane by 2013 series champion Rowan Pennink. Many
tried, but no one could knock Rocco from the point and he led wire-to-wire
in the caution-filled race. Following Rocco and Pennink at the finish was
Tommy Barrett, Jr., Richard Savary, Ted Christopher, Dave Etheridge, Jon
McKennedy, Ryan Preece, Louie Mechalides and Brad VanHouten. There were 33
VMRS Modifieds on hand. It was Rocco's 29th feature win of the season.
The Sunoco World Series of Auto Racing presented by Xtra Mart was
highlighted by an exciting NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour finish that saw Rowan
Pennink drive to victory lane and Ryan Preece earn a solid third place
finish to earn the series championship. Other feature winners on the final
day of the World Series were Kerry Malone in the Sunoco Modified Series,
John Zych, Jr. in NEMA midgets, Ben Seitz in ISMA action, and Larry Gelinas
in the Granite State Pro Stock Series.
Rowan Pennink used a late-race pass on lap 133 to take the lead and
eventual win in the Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart Sunday
afternoon. The victory was Pennink’s second win in the series. Ryan Preece’s
third place finish secured the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship
for the driver, who becomes the youngest champion in series history at 22
years, 11 months and 25 days old. The championship also marks the second
title for Flamingo Motorsports. The team previously won with driver Mike
Stefanik in 2006.
Bobby Santos led Justin Bonsignore and Mike Stefanik at the start of the
150-lap event. Doug Coby brought out the first caution on lap four after
spinning in the middle of turns one and two. Coby was then penalized a lap
for pulling up to pit too soon. Santos continued to lead on the restart with
Pennink moving up to second and Mike Stefanik in third. Santos showed no
signs of wavering and held strong out front until caution at lap 38 slowed
him down. The caution was brought out when Rob Fuller spun into the front
stretch inside retaining wall. Pennink made a bid for the lead on the
restart, but is challenge allowed Matt Hirschman and Mike Stefanik to go by
for second and third respectively. Santos pulled ahead to a comfortable lead
over Hirschman for several laps, but Hirschman reeled him back in and used
the bottom groove to go by for the lead on lap 66.
Caution came out on lap 70 for Woody Pitkat and saw Hirschman come down
pit road to pit. Santos assumed the lead for the restart, which quickly went
back to yellow. The top-three - Santos, Stefanik, and Ted Christopher -
elected to stay out rather than pit. Santos beat Christopher into turn one
for the lead on the restart as Christopher and Ryan Preece battled it out
for third. After a side-by-side battle with Christopher, Preece took the
position and set his sights on Stefanik. He looked to the high groove and
then shot down low to drive by for second on lap 83. Santos held off Preece
on the restart following a quick caution period, but Preece was persistent
and, on lap 92, drove to the bottom heading into turn three and took over
the lead. Two separate incidents on the track brought out a caution at lap
98, but Santos still opted not to pit. He finally came down during a caution
at lap 103.
Preece, Donny Lia, Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore, and Pennink made up the
top-five for the restart at lap 109. The field strung out single file with
Preece holding strong out front. Caution slowed the pace and put Preece and
Lia side-by-side for a restart at lap 123. Lia got the advantage and took
over the lead going into turn three. Preece and Lia continued to battle and
got door-to-door on lap 127, but Pennink wanted a piece of the action and
moved in to the mix. Lia retained the lead with Pennink taking over the
second spot after all the dust had settled. Lia drove to the front on a lap
133 restart with Pennink up to second. Pennink passed Lia for the lead on
the following circuit and pulled away to a three-car length advantage.
Pennink continued to pull away as Preece kept Lia busy with his challenges
for second. Pennink had a half a straightaway lead as he approached the
checkered flag for the coveted World Series victory. Lia settled for the
runner-up spot with Preece, third. Bobby Santos came back from a late pit
stop to finish fourth with Ron Silk, fifth. Max Zachem turned in a fantastic
performance as he finished sixth. Matt Hirschman, who challenged Santos in
the early going, came back from a late race spin and finished seventh. Doug
Coby, Todd Szegedy and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top ten.
It was a highly competitive event with six lead changes among five
Kerry Malone led every lap en route to the Sunoco Modified Series victory
on Sunoco World Series presented by Xtra Mart weekend. Malone’s win was no
easy feat, however, as he had to hold off a hard charging Preece through
countless restarts to make it to victory lane. Woody Pitkat finished third
with Dennis Perry a solid fourth. Kyle James, in his first time at Thompson,
finished fifth with Keith Rocco, sixth.
Malone and Preece were disqualified following post race tech inspection.
Malone had illegal fuel additives in his tank and Preece’s motor had illegal
valve train components in addition to illegal fuel. Pitkat was awarded the
win and Perry was moved up to the runner-up spot with James, third.
Other feature winners on the final day of the World Series were John Zych,
Jr. in NEMA midgets, Ben Seitz in ISMA action, and Larry Gelinas in the
Granite State Pro Stock Series.
Rumor had it that the New Smyrna Speedway may be the site of the "Battle
at The Beach" come next February 2014 as a new MUSCO Lighting system was
being installed for "TV quality lighting" . The 2013 "Battle" which was held
at the Daytona Speedway was a total fiasco and discredit to the teams that
make up NASCAR's touring divisions.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at Talladega, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth
swapped spots at the top, Johnson led Kenseth by a scant four points instead
of the other way around, but those two were still firmly in control of the
Chase with four races left. Jamie McMurray won Sunday's race at Talladega.
Johnson and Kenseth kept plenty of distance on the competition.
Johnson steered around a last-lap crash and finished 13th. Kenseth
dropped to second with a 20th-place showing, but it's another 22 points - a
daunting margin - to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick tied for third. Jeff
Gordon, who had hoped Talladega's unpredictable nature might help him make a
big push, made up only two points and is 34 behind the leader.
Richard Petty Motorsports fired Todd Parrott for violating NASCAR's
Parrott was crew chief for the No. 43 car driven by Aric Almirola for the
last year. NASCAR suspended him indefinitely for failing a random drug test.
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
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