The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

May 1, 2015

  Sixty years ago in 1955 double features were the orders of the day at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as rain washed out the previous weeks features. Ray Moran won the left over Modified feature and Don Collins returned to his winning ways as he won the night cap Modified feature. Lou Tetreault made it three in a row as he won the left over non-Ford feature and it was local favorite Charlie Webster winning the night cap non-Ford feature.

  Fifty five years ago in 1960 the Waterford Speedbowl suffered their first rainout of the year. After dominating at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1959 Bill Slater and the Connecticut Valley Rocket No. V-8 went on the road to Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA. Norwood had just secured a NASCAR sanction and the word was out that the race purses were high. Slater took full advantage as he started a string of six features in a row on this weekend at the Route 1 oval.

  Fifty years ago in 1965 Ed Moody, who would eventually become the assistant to the chief technical inspector at Stafford in the late 70ís won the Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. His engine builder was Bruce Watt. Marvin Chase, who was an inspector for the Connecticut DMV made it two in a row in Late Model Daredevil action. Lou Lazzaro was the top dog on the dirt at Fonda on Saturday night and at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday Elton Hill took the win over Eddie Flemke SR and Mario ďFatsĒ Caruso.

  Forty five years ago in 1970, Dick Nephew was the Friday night winner at Malta. Leo Cleary who had been driving the Koszela Woodchopper became embroiled in a dispute with car owner Sonny Koszela that resulted in them going their separate ways. Fred DeSarro, who had started the season with Joe Brady, moved over to the Koszela car after Brady ran out of money. In their first outing, DeSarro finished fifth. In twin 25-lap action at Stafford on Saturday night, former National Champion Ernie Gahan scored double wins. Bernie Miller finished second in the first event and was followed by Ed Yerrington, Lou Toro and Daring Dick Caso. Caso finished second in the nightcap and was followed by Moose Hewitt, Jerry Dostie and Bugsy Stevens. At Fonda on Saturday night, Lou Lazzaro ruled the roost as he won the twin 25's on the race card. In the first event, Lee Millington finished second and was followed by Maynard Forette and Dave Lape. Kenny Shoemaker in the Bobby Judkins 2x, finished second in the second event with Don Wayman and Peppy Pepicelli following. DeSarro hit full stride on Sunday at Thompson where he dominated the twin 25's run there. Ed Yerrington in the Freddy's TV 23 finished second in the first feature and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Jerry Cook and Lou Toro. Sal Dee in the Mystic Missile finished second in the nightcap with Stevens, Cook and Ernie Gahan following. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to a shoreline rain storm.

  Forty years ago in 1975, events at Freeport scheduled for Friday and Sunday were cancelled because of poor crowds. Bugsy Stevens in the Koszela No.15 took down the win at Stafford on Saturday night. Brian Ross in the Mystic Missile finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary and Bob Santos. At Islip it was George Brunnhoelzl over Wayne Anderson and at Shangri-La, Richie Evans crossed the stripe ahead of Roger Treichler and Maynard Troyer. Jerry Pearl took the Modified win at Waterford.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, John Rosati in the Tuck Hoffman no.73 scored a popular win at Stafford on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Ray Miller, Ronnie Bouchard, Jerry Cook and Mike Stefanik. Cook left Stafford and drove all night to Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. where he won an added point event. From North Carolina Cook went to Thompson where he finished fourth behind winner, Richie Evans, George Kent and John Rosati. Earlier in the day, the members of the New England Drivers and owners club staged a boycott at Thompson because of excessive pit fees. The speedway management relented and gave $5.00 back to each car. In Late Model Sportsman (Busch Grandnational) competition in the south, Geoff Bodine scored a grand slam as he won events at Langley Field, Southside and at South Boston Speedways. Other weekend winners were George Kent at Shangri-La, Wayne Anderson at Islip and Mike Murphey at Star.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, heavy rain washed out Stafford on Friday night. At Waterford on Saturday, Charlie Savage took the win over Rick Fuller, Ted Christopher and Richie Gallup. Allen McClure won at Riverside and at Riverhead, Don Howe beat out Tom Baldwin and Fred Harbach. Richie Evans and Tony Siscone finished one-two in a championship event at New Egypt. At Thompson on Sunday Wayne Dion won out over Joe Tiezzi.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Waterford and Riverside rained out. Riverhead managed to avoid the rain as Bill Park held off Wayne Anderson and Don Howe for the win. Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko rounded out the top five. Sunday at Monadnock, Jerry Marquis was the winner over Tom Bolles and Mike Stefanik. No racing at Stafford as the Arutes opted for a late May opening. Based on all the rain during the month of May, maybe they made the right decision.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, New England racing personalities Gavin Couper and Bob Echo passed away. Stafford rained out on Friday but at Waterford on Saturday, Todd Ceravolo went pole to pole to win the 35-lap feature. Bob Potter finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick and Jerry Pearl. Jeff Karns was the mini stock winner, Larry Cote won the late model feature and Bud Kuhene was the Strictly Stock winner. Dan Avery won at Riverside and Chuck Steuer won at Riverhead. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin in the closing laps to take the win. Robbie Crouch was the Busch North winner at Jennerstown.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, the modifieds raced at Richmond on Thursday night. Reggie Ruggiero took the lead on lap 146 of the 150-lap event and went on to record his 40th Featherlite Modified Tour win. Tony Hirschman finished second and was followed by Mike Christopher, Jerry Marquis and Dan Avery. The event, although on an off night, drew 49 cars and 15,000 spectators. In the northeast, Ted Christopher went two for two as he won at both Stafford on Friday and at Waterford on Saturday. Willie Hardie finished second at Stafford and was followed by Jerry Marquis. At Waterford, Ed Reed Jr. was the runner-up. Jay Miller finished third and was followed by Mike Holdridge and Rob Janovic. Joe Hartmann went pole to pole at Riverhead. Back at Richmond, Jeff Green was the Busch GN winner and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Winston Cup winner.

  Ten years ago in 2005 the Stafford Motor Speedway got their Friday night program in the books while Waterford suffered its second rainout in a row. At Stafford Lloyd Agor passed Frank Ruocco on lap 31 of the 40 lap feature and went on to take the win in the SK Modified division. Ruocco finished second followed by Willie Hardie, Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. A slim field of only 20 SK Modifieds was on hand. Many have wondered as to why the fields of SK Modifieds have dwindled at Stafford. The SK Modifieds have gotten out of hand cost wise plus the fact that there was much destruction at Stafford last year. Some car owners have sold out while others have chosen to race elsewhere or just park their cars. Ryan Posocco and Jay Stuart finished one-two in Late Model action while Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Sportsman feature and John Hurley won the Dare Stock event. James Civali who won the SK Modified portion of the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker and finished fourth in the recent SK Modified portion of the Spring Sizzler before being disqualified for refusing tech inspection now finds himself in a select group of drivers at the Stafford Speedway that have been suspended from racing at Stafford indefinitely for actions detrimental to racing. In other words Civali was put on suspension because he drove through the pit area at high speed and almost ran an official down. In addition to Waterford being rained out the opening night festivities at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island were also cancelled due to rain.

  New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese who had been in the process of proposing a domed racetrack in Plainfield, Ct. won a crucial zoning approval after a close vote by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel voted 3-2 to rezone roughly 900 acres off Interstate 395 and include the land in a recently established "resort/recreational development zone." Opponents of New England Raceway LLC's 140,000-seat racetrack plan said they would appeal the commission's decision. Arganese said he planned to move forward with the project despite the prospect of legal challenges. Six appeals had already been filed against the commission's approval of the new resort/recreational development zone. He said the design process should take about five months, and he intended to bring the plans before the commission by January. Arganese's $343 million project would include the racetrack, a convention center, a 700-room hotel and 800,000-square-foot retail complex. He continued to say he hoped to attract NASCAR, Indy and CART events to the New England Raceway track, along with drag races, concerts and trade shows.

  Jeff Gordon won the wreck marred Aarons 499 at the Talladega Speedway. Martin Truex was the Busch Series winner. The Busch race was also a wreck fest.

  Five years ago in 2010, The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain and cold. The Bob Valenti Auto Mall Racing Series/Race of Champions Modified Series combination event scheduled for Sunday at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway was rained out and was rescheduled for Friday, May 21. The event drew 49 Modifieds and looked to be the rebirth of what used to be at the New York State oval.

  From 1965 to 1975 the Albany Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY attracted the best in the business of asphalt Modified Racing from New York and New England every Friday night. Legendary drivers like Bugs Stevens, Smokey Boutwell, Leo Cleary, Ernie Gahan, Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton, Don MacTavish, Bill Slater, Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook and the great Richie Evans, all competed at the 4/10 mile speedway. Hall of Famer Brian Ross, one of the most influential drivers and fabricators of his generation, was scheduled to be the grand marshal for Sundayís race. Ross began his racing career in the charger division at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in the late 1960s and progressed to have a distinguished career on the NASCAR asphalt modified series.

  The rains played havoc at the Texas Motor Speedway as both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events were postponed to Monday. Denny Hamlin led the final 12 laps of the Sprint Cup event, the only time he was up front after starting the 334-lap race 29th. The final shootout came after a spectacular nine-car wreck took out polesitter Tony Stewart and dominating Jeff Gordon, and Hamlin held off points leader Jimmie Johnson at the end for his 10th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory. Kyle Busch won his fifth consecutive Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday, joining two-time series champion Jack Ingram and Dale Earnhardt Sr., as the only drivers to win five consecutive races in NASCAR's second-tier series at the same track.

  Last year, 2014, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. Originally an open competition event and the brainchild of Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd, the Sizzler had become one of the premier events for the NASCAR Modifieds.

  Rain greeted competitors and fans at Stafford most of the day on Saturday. A little before 4:00pm the rain stopped and a weather window opened which allowed practice and qualifying for the Whelen Modifieds. The gray, wet day for the season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway will be a memorable one for Tommy Barrett, Jr. of Millis, MA who set fast time in qualifying to earn his first career NWMT 21 Means 21 pole award with a time of 18.221 second lap around the half mile oval. The 18 year old bested a field of 27 Modifieds including Woody Pitkat with a time of 18.262 who will line up on the outside bringing the field to green for the prestigious NWMT NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200. Rounding out the top five were Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece.

  Sunday morning dawned somewhat dismal at Stafford but it didn't hold back the fans as they jammed the parking lot and filled the stands. Bobby Santos defended his 2013 Spring Sizzler win as he made it two for two as he won the 200 lap race. Santos started eighth and was never out of the top five all day. Pitting for fuel on lap101, Santos' crew got him out in fourth spot. By lap 110 he was third and on lap 120 shot by Tommy Barrett for the lead which he maintained for the remaining 80 laps. Barrett slipped a bit but was still in contention until less than 15 laps to go when he and Ron Silk were sent to the rear on a restart as officials felt they had stopped to avoid a late race wreck.

  Doug Coby ended up in the runner up spot and was somewhat upset over a lapped car that was blocking his progress on the final lap and ultimately cost him a possible shot for the win. Rowan Pennink finished third with Justin Bonsignore and Woody Pitkat rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Timmy Solomito, Ted Christopher, Donnie Lia, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk. Barrett ended up 11th.

  There was quite a bit of merit to Coby's complaints about cars the were way off the pace and which should have been parked by NASCAR. T.J. Zacharias, the driver who stood in the way of Coby making a last ditch effort, was nine laps down at the end and should have used better sense. Melissa Fifield, who never sat in a Modified and was lapped for the first time at lap 13. NASCAR used poor judgment when they didn't signal her to park the car. Granted, she has a right to be there but should have used better judgment and started her racing in a SK Lite, not an all out Modified.

  With two events in the books Justin Bonsignore with 86 points, led Coby and Woody Pitkat by two points. Timmy Solomito was fourth with Santos, fifth. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour goes on Spring Break until Friday, May 23 when the Stafford Motor Speedway would host the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

  In other action at Stafford on Sizzler weekend, Ryan Preece won the 40 lap SK Modified feature over Danny Cates and Rowan Pennink. Preece started 14th in the 28 car field. He worked his way up to fourth by lap 13. On a lap 14 restart Pennink went past Joey Cipriano for the lead with Preece following to second. After another caution, on lap 15, Preece went by Pennink for the lead and never looked back. Pennink, driver of the No. 99 SK Modified feature at the track, was disqualified from his third place finish in Sundayís 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature.

  According to a release from the track, Pennink, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., was penalized for violating rule 20E-12.3 Coil Over Shocks of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified rulebook. Jay Stuart led every lap to win the 30-lap Late Model feature event, and Toby Wells was the winner of the 25-lap NorthEast Mini Stock Tour feature.

  A packed house on a perfect spring Saturday night welcomed another season of Bowman Gray Stadium stock-car racing. Burt Myers, the defending Bowman Gray champion, started from the pole position, momentarily lost the lead to Tim Brown, got it back and then held off a final charge by Brown on the final lap to win the season-opening Hayes Jewelers 200.

  Tim Brown jumped the lap 70 restart to get the lead but after about 30 hits on his rear bumper he let the faster Burt Myers back by on lap 88. Myers was sideways twice from Brown hits but he never spun or lost control. Brown settled for second with Jason Myers, third.

  The event drew 28 cars and a over-flow crowd which filled the 17,000-seat stadium. Among those in the field was 63 year old Junior Miller, now in his 40th season, who ended up ninth in the final run down.

  The Waterford Speedbowl cancelled its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program scheduled for Saturday, due to damp weather and light rain that was forecasted throughout the evening. In the SK Modified division only 35 points separated the top five. Defending champion Keith Rocco had a 16 point cushion over Ed Puleo. Craig Lutz sat in third spot with Tyler Chadwick, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Rob Janovic Jr. Rocco was also the point leader in the Late Model division as he held a 23 point edge over Bruce Thomas Jr. Crews had been working day and night in order to bring the conditions of the grandstands up to state standards.

  Joey Logano came out on top of a wild four car battle in the final nine laps to win Saturdayís NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Intíl Raceway. The final nine-lap dash saw Logano come from fourth on the restart to overtake Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski in an intense battle that left several drivers with hot tempers.

  Kevin Harvick didnít mind staying up late Friday night. Harvick dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Seriesí ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Intíl Raceway for his first Nationwide win of the year. Heavy rain throughout the evening caused the start of the 250-lap event to be postponed until after 10 p.m. It didnít end until early Saturday morning, but Harvick, who starts fifth in Saturday nightís Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race, made sure he left with the trophy. He led 202 laps in what was his seventh career Nationwide win at Richmond. Chase Elliott, Harvickís JR Motorsports teammate, finished second.

  Thatís about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

Looking Back Archive

Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: May 1, 2015

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