The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

May 8, 2015

  Sixty years ago in 1955 Japanese-American drive George Tet was the opening night winner at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey. According to Earl Krause of Area Auto Racing News only nine of the original 20 starters finished the event. Rain was the winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

  Fifty five years ago in 1960 Joe McNulty, driving the Bounty Hunter of Robert “Slim” Ross was the Modified feature winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the Non-Ford winner and Ed Moody won in the Bombers. Bill Slater made it two in a row at the Norwood Arena. Fonda Speedway legend Pete Corey was severely injured in a grinding wreck at the historic track. Corey ended up cutting himself out with a torch. Corey lost his left leg below the knee a few days later. The injury didn't slow him down as he continued racing well into the 1970s.

  Fifty years ago in 1965 Jerry Dostie was the Modified winner at Waterford while Bill Scrivner won his third feature in the Bomber ranks. Kenny Shoemaker recorded his second win of the year at Fonda. Don Flynn took the win at Riverside Park and at Utica-Rome Rene Charland took the win over Frank Mathalia and Ken Meahl. Mr Leo Cleary beat out Eddie Flemke for a 30 lap Modified win as 5212 fans looked on. Cleary took the lead on lap 20. Hop Harrington and Mario "Fats" Caruso followed.

  Forty five years ago in 1970, Lou Lazzaro was the top dog at Malta on Friday night. Lazzaro, who ran the same car on asphalt as he did on dirt, beat Eddie Flemke to the stripe. Guy Chartrand finished third with Fred DeSarro, fourth. Lazzaro carried his winning ways over to Saturday as he won the first half of the twin 25-lap program at Fonda. Rene Charland, who finished second to Lazzaro in the opener, won the nitecap. At Airborne Park on Saturday night, Guy Chartrand in the Hemi-Cuda took the top spot over Gene Mangino and Dick Nephew. Racing at Stafford, Thompson and Utica-Rome was rained out. Donnie Bunnell beat the rain and the entire Modified field at Waterford. Ron Cote was the Late Model Daredevil winner.

  Forty years ago in 1975, Keilor was the Friday night winner on the flat quarter mile at Freeport. Charlie Jarzombek finished second with Art Tappen, third followed by Jerry Cook. Almost as soon as the checker had dropped, Cook was on the truck and headed for Winston-Salem, NC for a 200 lap extra point event. Cook finished third behind John Bryant and Billy Hensley. Meanwhile, back in the northeast, Geoff Bodine in the Armstrong No.1 took down the feature at Stafford. Ray Miller, Ron Bouchard, Bugsy Stevens and Eddie Flemke rounded out the top five. At Islip, Jim Hendrickson in the Tony Ferranti x3 beat out Fred Harbach and Charlie J. for the win and at Shangri-La, George Kent took the win. At the Waterford Speedbowl Mike Beebe took the Modified win. Taking top honors in the Grand American Late Models was Don Fowler. Cook made it back from Winston-Salem in time to race at Fulton where he finished third behind Maynard Troyer and Richie Evans. In open competition small block modified action at Thompson on Sunday night, Fred DeSarro took the win over Eddie Flemke, Moose Hewitt, Dick Caso and Dick Dunn.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, Stafford had thirty-five Modifieds in the pit area on Friday night. Richie Evans was the 35-lap feature winner. Bob Polverari finished second and was followed by John Rosati, Ray Miller and Jerry Cook. At Riverside on Saturday night, Evans had rear end gear problems and Rosati lost an engine. This opened the door for Polverari who beat Ray Miller to the stripe. Jerry Cook finished third with Mike Stefanik, fourth. Westboro ran a 100 lap open on Sunday which drew all the big guns. Greg Sacks took the win over Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens and Jerry Cook who had lapped the field. Charlie Jarzombek, down one lap, finished fifth and was followed by Ron Bouchard, John Rosati and Roland LaPierre Jr. Other weekend winners were Bob Potter over Rick Donnelly at Waterford, George Kent at Shangri-La, Roger Treichler over Billy Colton at Lancaster and Charlie Jarzombek over Fred Harbach at Islip.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, Stafford continued to showcase the best in the business on Friday nights with 30 modifieds on hand to do battle. Charlie Jarzombek took a hotly contested win over Brian Ross, Bob Fuller, Corky Cookman and Jamie Tomaino. At Waterford on Saturday night it was Bob Gada Jr. over Mark LaJunesse and at Riverside, Dan Avery held off John Rosati for the win and at Riverhead, Fred Harbach won out over Wayne Anderson and Eddie Brunnhoelzl. Rosati was all business at Monadnock on Sunday as he took down the win. Other weekend winners were Randy LaJoie at Thunder Road, John Blewett Jr. at Wall Stadium, George Kent at Shangri-La and Rit Patchen at Thompson.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Ronnie Rocco went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night. George Greco finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick and Bob Potter. Phil Rondeau was the late model winner. Reggie Ruggiero gave his peers a driving lesson at Riverside as he came from a 16th starting spot to win the 50-lap main at Riverside Park. Stan Greger finished second and was followed by Kenny Bouchard and Bob Polverari. At Riverhead, Chris Young went pole to pole with Dan Jivanelli and Wayne Anderson following. At Wall Stadium, the modified winner was Jamie Tomaino.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, Stafford extended their feature distance to 50 laps and started counting cautions because of numerous delays incurred because of rough riding and wrecks. Needless to say the feature went 40 laps before being rained out. The competitors didn't get the message as 28 of the 40 laps run were under caution. Tony Sylvester was the eventual winner. Ted Christopher finished second and was followed by Steve Park and John Anderson. Jim Broderick beat out Bert Marvin at Waterford. Rick Young finished third with Jeff Pearl, fourth. Todd Ceravolo lost an engine in his family owned modified. His crew went home to get a back up which he qualified through the consi and ended up fifth in the feature. At Riverhead it was Tom McCann over Don Howe. The Winston Cup cars of NASCAR had a week off and the Busch Grandnationals were at Loudon for the Chevy Dealers 250 which was won by Chad Little. The highest finishing BGNN competitor was Tom Bolles who finished ninth.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, the weekend started on a sad note as Adam Petty passed away after hitting the wall at Loudon during a Busch Grandnational practice session. Curt Brainard went pole to pole to win the 50 lap SK modified event at Stafford. Ted Christopher took a provisional as he missed qualifying and made the most of it as he finished second. Jerry Marquis finished third. At Waterford, Ron Yuhas Jr. took the win over Tucker Reynolds and Dennis Gada. Jerry Pearl flipped midway in the event and was able to restart and finished 10th.Frank Vigliarlo won at Riverhead and the recently deceased Lou Lazzaro's ashes were scattered at the Fonda Speedway.

  Ten years ago in 2005 The Stafford Motor Speedway beat the rain on Friday but the Waterford Speedbowl did not as they suffered their third rain out in a row.

  At Stafford Jeff Baral went pole to pole to win the 40-lap SK Modified feature. Ted Christopher started 12th and finished second with Eric Berndt, third. Keith Rocco recorded the best finish of his young rookie season with a fourth, and Frank Ruocco rounded out the top-5. Cold temperatures and a threat of rain kept the crowd down. During warm-ups, a stuck throttle caused the #25 SK of Billy Bolton to wreck and cause extensive damage that will not allow them to compete in tonight's event. Another practice crash involving the #2 SK of New Milford rookie and protégé of Jon Cote Jr., Jess Hilger, apparently forced the #47 of Donny Lia into the turn #1 wall. The rookie left the track unscathed, while the WMT driver Donny Lia's mount needed assistance to leave the track. Rookie Jess Hilger, although apparently undamaged from the practice wreck with Donny Lia chose not to start the night's event. In the 30-lap Late Model feature, Rick Lanagan, of Stafford Springs, took the lead on lap-9 and led the rest of the way to capture his first career Late Model feature win. Tom Fearn closed in on Lanagan in the final laps, but was unable to get close enough to make a bid for the lead. Jim Mavlouganes finished third, with Jim Peterson and Ryan Posocco rounding out the top-5. The 20-lap Limited Late Model feature event saw a race long battle between Eric Grant and Michael Bennett, with both drivers taking turns at the front of the pack. In the closing laps, it was all Bennett, as he took the checkered flag ahead of Grant. Bennett's rims were found to not meet the rules in post race inspection, and he was thus disqualified from his finishing position. Eric Grant was declared the feature winner, with Dan King, Ed Charette, Jr., Michael Nadeau, and Paul Varricchio, Jr. rounding out the top-5. In the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, Joey Ferrigno survived a wild green white checkered flag restart to take his first feature win of the 2005 season. George Nocera, Jr. came up to second behind Ferrigno on the white flag lap, with Stacey Botticello, David Gambacorta, and Neil Provost, Jr. rounding out the top-5

  Al Fini, President of the New England Antique Auto Racers since January of 1997 tended his resignation as President effective July 1, 2005. Fini, who had recently turned 66, cited increased pressure of his business and a lack of energy as the main reasons for stepping down.

  The once proud Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania, a regular stop for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Busch North Series would soon fade into oblivion as the International Speedway Corporation had sold the property for $19 million to a developer who intended to build a domed hockey rink. Originally a dirt track, the Nazareth Speedway had been in existence for 39 years.

  The Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire was also in danger of disappearing as the track had been denied the permits to open. The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that the reason for the denial was because of unsafe grandstands On Friday, May 6, The Exeter News Letter in New Hampshire reported that the Star Speedway would not open any time soon because of uncorrected safety issues. Town officials were trying to get to the bottom of conflicting reports by structural engineers hired by the owner to inspect the facility. One of those reports, detailing serious deficiencies, was purposely withheld from the town. The April 18 report, nearly three pages, noted that the six sections of the grandstand were in need of support repairs, and "there were a number of areas where the ground beneath the A-frame feet had settled or washed away, reducing its capacity to support the weight of the occupants." Seat planks and footrest planks were also a concern, as some showed signs of splitting, cracking, or excessive deflection.

  Five years ago in 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series descended upon the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. The main event, 200 laps/100 miles carried a race purse of $88,142. Thirty six Modifieds took time for the 33 available starting spots. Bobby Santos III continued the momentum from the Thompson Ice Breaker as he set a new track record with the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile. Santos toured the 1/2 mile oval in 17.965 seconds (100.195 mph) which surpassed Matt Hirschman’s three-year-old record of 18.009 (99.950). Second fastest was Rowan Pennink with a time of 18.009. Third through fifth were Erick Rudolph, George Brunnhoelzl, III and Ron Silk. Rounding out the top ten fastest were Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jamie Tomaino, Eric Berndt and Doug Coby. The top ten re-drew for starting spots. It was Santos again as he pulled the pill with the number one on it. Coby pulled the No. 2 pill.

  As forecasted, rain moved into the Connecticut area in the wee hours of Sunday morning causing NASCAR and the Stafford management to postpone the Sizzler to Saturday, May 1, with a rain date of Sunday, May 2.

  The weekend at Stafford wasn't a total loss. Three feature events for Stafford's support divisions were run on Saturday. Ted Cain went home a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta outlasted defending track champion Andrew Durand to take the first Limited Late Model victory of the season, and Tony Membrino, Jr. wired the field to take the checkered flag in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.

  The Waterford Speedbowl beat the weather as the completed their entire racing program on Saturday night. Keith Rocco continues to rule the roost as he now has three out of four victories in the SK Modified division at the shoreline oval. Norm Sears was a first time winner in the Street Stocks and Chris Williams won for the first time in nearly a year in the Mini Stocks. Howard Payne was the victor in the Trucks and it was Anthony Flannery taking the win for the Legends Cars.

  The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC had hoped to begin their 62nd season but like Connecticut on Sunday, it rained in North Carolina on Saturday night. Light rain began about an hour before race time in what was shaping up to be a packed house at the 17,000-seat stadium, judging from the number of early-arriving fans and overflowing parking lots. The Madhouse television series, which aired on the History Channel during the off season, created huge interest in the racing at the North Carolina oval. Qualifying for the season opening Tucson 200 was held on Friday night. Defending Track Champion Tim Brown was the top qualifier. Second fastest was Lee Jeffreys with Burt Myers, third.

  Rain hampered the NASCAR weekend in Talladega canceling qualifying for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series and the Saturday Nationwide Series event which was eventually run on Sunday. Kevin Harvick used a last-second pass of Jamie McMurray to snap a 115-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup event and Brad Keselowski was the Nationwide Series winner.

  Last year, 2014, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series continued on Spring Break until Friday, May 23 when the Stafford Motor Speedway would host the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

  Stafford Speedway was back on track under the lights for the first time in 2014 with the BFF Friday program on Friday night, May 2nd. Ryan Preece made it two for two in 2014 as he picked up the win in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Adam Gray was the winner in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Glenn Griswold was the winner of the 20-lap SK Light feature, Albert Saunders won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, David Comeau won the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, and Cory DiMatteo won the 20-lap Legend Cars feature.

  Ted Christopher was able to close to Preece’s bumper, but he couldn’t make a pass a Preece scored his second consecutive SK Modified® feature win to start the 2014 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Preece and Christopher was Doug Coby, Keith Rocco, and Eric Berndt.

  Rowan Pennink continues with bad luck. Pennink, who was disqualified from the SK event on Sizzler weekend found himself on his roof on Friday night

  The Waterford Speedbowl was again the scene of some hot competition on a cold night. Hottest of the hot was Keith Rocco who won the SK Modified and Late Model features. Rocco has the distinction of having a total family commitment and total dedication of his crew. During the early part of the evening Rocco was swept up in a crash that did considerable damage to his car which was considered un-repairable.

  Ron Rocco, Keith's dad, jumped into action and headed out to Wallingford, Ct to pick up the team's Thompson car which has been sitting idle since the Thompson Speedway Icebreaker. From Waterford to Wallingford its 48 miles one way and 57 minutes driving normal. Ron Rocco, a former distinguished racer himself, does not drive normal and made the round trip in record time. Once at the track, Rocco's crew prepared the car and sent him out to start the feature at the rear of the field in the nights 35 lap feature.

  It took Rocco 20 laps to weave his way through the field to get within striking distance of race leader Tim Jordan. Kyle James, who had recovered from an early race spin entered the picture to put some heat on Rocco.

  James quickly joined the battle at the front over the final seven laps. He took second position from Rocco on lap-29 after Rocco continued trying to work Jordan’s outside. A final caution flag on lap-30 set the stage for a final five lap shootout by the top three. Jordan got a good start and Rocco took second back from James. That set up his pivotal move on Jordan for the race lead on lap-32. With the laps winding down Rocco slid inside Jordan into turn one and came away with the lead. Jordan reached Rocco’s rear bumper the next two laps but Rocco hung on. Jordan finished second while James ended up placing third. Craig Lutz finished fourth and Diego Monahan rounded out the top-five.

  Rocco’s run in the Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature tied a 43-year old record. It marked his fourth straight win in the division to begin the season, equaling the benchmark set by Mike Daigneault in 1971. Rocco trailed an early battle for the lead between Jason Palmer and Jeff Smith. Those two cars came together which sent both spinning between turns three and four on lap-8. Rocco got tagged from behind in the incident, which drew the yellow flag, but was able to drive through it into the race lead. Once out front Rocco was never seriously challenged. Bruce Thomas Jr. finished second and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Tommy Barrett Jr. was third.

  In other action at the shoreline oval, Josh Galvin took top honors as he scored the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Street Stock Showdown race, an extra-distance event for the division. Ken Cassidy Jr. was back in Victory Lane following the Mini Stock race and Randy Churchill checkered the SK Light Modified feature. Jordan Hadley won his first career race in the X-Car division.

  The Valenti Modified Racing Series was part of the 69th season opener at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. Richard Savory beat the elements and the competition to take the win in the 100 lap Modified win. Savory and Todd Annarummo swapped the lead numerous times in the event that was run in 29 minutes. Savory took the lead for the final time on lap 46. Thirteen of the original 23 starters were in the lead lap at the end. Annarummo faded to fifth in the final run-down. Justin Bonsignore finished second with Anthony Nocella, Stephen Masse and Annarummo rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jeff Rocco, Rowan Pennink, Chris Pasteryak, Max Zachem and Todd Szegedy.

  The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island opened for the season on Saturday night. Shawn Solomito was the winner of Twin 30's for the NASCAR Modifieds. Tom Rogers Jr. and Shawn's brother Timmy Solomito followed in the first event. With the second 30-lap main event lined up by the finish of the first race Shawn Solomito broke out front while Rogers and Timmy Solomito began an intense battle for second. That race for position got too close on lap 3 when the duo made contact ending Timmy's race, with Rogers having to go to the rear after the contact and ensuing yellow flag. When the race resumes Solomito found yet another family member to contend with as his cousin Eric Goodale was lined-up second on the restart with defending NASCAR Modified champion Howie Brode third.

  Once again Shawn was a master of the restarts as he stayed out front with Goodale and Brode racing for second with Howie passing Eric for the position on lap 4. Once to second Brode was able to keep in step with the race leader and at times was able to pull up to his rear bumper but that would be as close as he got over the final half of the race. Once again at the checkers it was Shawn Solomito taking the victory over Howie Brode. Dave Sapienza of Riverhead was third after an intense battle with 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece who ended up fourth.

  In Modified racing in the southland, Burt Myers made it two for two, and Chris Fleming ended a two-year drought at Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina on Saturday night. Myers, Bowman Gray’s defending champion, followed up a victory in the season-opening race last weekend by leading pole to pole. And he sailed on to his 58th career victory at Bowman Gray. Jason Myers finished second in the first race, with Tim Brown third, Danny Bohn fourth and John Smith fifth.

  Fleming snatched the lead from Cale Gale, a veteran stock-car racer but Modified rookie, and went on to victory in the second race.

  Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career after out-dueling Greg Biffle and holding the lead when a last-lap caution froze the field. Elliott Sadler won the Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series event, also at Talladega Superspeedway.

  That’s 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 8, 2015

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