The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

June 5, 2015

  Sixty years ago in 1955, rain and cold forced officials at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl to cancel the racing for the weekend.

  Fifty five years ago, in 1960, Wild Bill Slater, driving the Connecticut Valley Rocket, V-8, won a 100 mile modified event at the Trenton Fairgrounds in New Jersey. The night before, Slater made it six wins in a row at the Norwood Arena as 8000 spectators looked on. Slater took the lead on the last lap from Mario “Fats” Caruso. Wally Silva finished third. Ernie Gahan was the winner on the dirt at Stafford. Don Collins won three Modified features in one day at the Waterford Speedbowl as the shoreline oval presented triple Modified features. Newt Palm was the Bomber winner.

  Fifty years ago in 1965 New Yorker Bill Wimble won his first of eight season wins at Stafford on Friday night. Dick Dunn won a 50 lap Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Bunnell was the Bomber winner. Freddie Schultz took the Modified win at Norwood. Lou Lazzaro was the winner at the Fonda Speedway and Steady Eddie Flemke won a 100 lapper at the Utica-Rome Speedway over Rene Charland and Elton Hill.

  Forty five years ago in 1970, Eddie Pieniezak was the Friday night winner at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. Jerry Cook finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. Stafford rained out on Saturday. At Fonda, Kenny Shoemaker in the Bob Judkins 2x and Don Wayman each won 25 lap events and at Plattsburg, Dick Fowler took the win. Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster took the 30 lap Modified feature. Johnny Delong won the Late Model Daredevil feature. In twin 25's at Thompson on Sunday, Eddie Flemke and Bob Santos shared victory lane and at Utica-Rome, local favorite Dave Kotary beat out Jerry Cook for the win.

  Forty years ago in 1975, In Friday night action at Freeport, Art Tappen took the win over Charlie Jarzombek. At Utica-Rome, Sonny Seamon bested Lou Lazzaro and Dick Fowler. Jerry Pearl was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Don Fowler made it two in a row in Late Model Daredevil action. At Stafford on Saturday night, 53 Modifieds and 5000+ spectators were on hand as Leo Cleary beat Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens. The event went non stop after three restarts. At Islip, Jarzombek turned the tables on Tappen as he took the top spot and at Lancaster, Maynard Troyer went two for two. George Kent was the top dog at Shangri-La and at Fulton on Sunday it was Richie Evans over Jerry Cook. Sunday night racing at Thompson had to be postponed when the lights went out and couldn't be restored. Shortly there after Speedway owner Don Hoenig procured a diesel generator to make his own electricity.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, the New England Drivers and Owners Club (NEDOC) met with Don Hoenig for six hours to discuss problems and requests pertaining to pit fees. NEDOC wanted Hoenig to give owners, drivers and mechanics a break on their pit fees. Nothing was settled and a strike was called. In response to NEDOC's action, Hoenig announced that the Thompson Speedway would be closed indefinitely. At Stafford on Friday night, Ronnie Bouchard was the Modified winner as he beat out Satch Worley and Jerry Cook. At Monadnock, Kenny Bouchard took the win over Bob Karvonen and Ernie Hastings. Rain washed out action at Westboro, Spencer, Waterford and Lancaster. Richie Evans headed south to Winston Salem, NC where he scored a 200 lap win over Don Smith and Ralph Brinkley. It was the first time a northerner won at the North Carolina bull ring since Eddie Flemke Sr won back to back New Years Day Tobacco Bowl Classics in the early 60’s. At Islip it was Don Howe over Wayne Anderson and at New Egypt, Fred and Alan Harbach finished one-two.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, Reggie Ruggiero ruled the roost at Stafford on Friday night. Bugsy Stevens finished second with Bobby Fuller, third. Kenny Bouchard made it three in a row at Waterford on Saturday. Richie Gallup was second with Bob Potter, third. At Riverside Park it was Marty Radwick over Dan Avery and at Riverhead, on Long Island it rained. John Blewett Jr won at New Egypt over Bob Park and Tony Siscone and at Spencer, Tom Druar took the checker. Jim Spencer outran George Kent at Shangri-La and at Oswego on Sunday, Richie Evans and Brian Ross finished one-two. In Winston Cup action at Pocono Raceway, Bill Elliott was both pole sitter and winner.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Rain washed out just about everything except Riverhead and Monadnock. Steve Park took the win at Riverhead over Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. and Don Howe. At Monadnock a NASCAR Modified championship event was run. Jamie Tomaino took the win over George Kent and Bruce Del.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, Steve Park was the Friday night SK Modified winner at Stafford. Curt Brainard finished second with Bob Potter, third. In dirt track action at Malta, N.Y. Brett Hearne recorded his 400th career win. At Waterford on Saturday night, Jerry Pearl took the win after early leader Bert Marvin broke a crankshaft. Todd Ceravolo finished second with Jeff Pearl, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggiero scored yet another win and at Riverhead, Quinn Vollegraff scored his first win. It was also on this weekend that ageless veteran Pete Fiandaca scored his 300th career win, that coming in Sunday night action at Hudson, Speedway. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Terry Labonte had a win handed to him when Jeff Gordon missed a shift in a late restart and broke a rocker arm shaft. Last but not least, Kelly Moore won a Busch Grand National North event at Beech Ridge in Maine.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, Ted Christopher made it two in a row at Stafford as he won a 100 lapper there on Friday night. Christopher, who led the final 50 laps, was followed by Jim Williams, Todd Szegedy and Eric Berndt. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night. The event drew 48 cars and was won by Jerry Marquis who took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 158. Fuller ended up in second spot and was trailed by Tim Connolly, Howie Brode, Ted Christopher and John Blewett III. Early in the evening Blewett had just missed out in trying to qualify and was headed back to New Jersey when Rob Summers had his time disallowed because of having two different ignition boxes. Blewett carried a beeper and received the message to return to the track as he was traveling down the Long Island Expressway. At Waterford, Dennis Gada recorded his third win of the season. Ed Reed jr finished second and was followed by Bob Potter and Tucker Reynolds. The World of Outlaws ran on the dirt at Bristol with 50,000 spectators on hand. Tracy Gordon won the Busch North Series event at Beech Ridge and on a sad note, Larry Nuber, the original co-anchor of the ESPN Midget and Winston Cup broadcasts, passed away.

  Ten years ago in 2005 year The Whelen Modified Tour joined hands with the Busch North Series for twin 100 lap events at the Thompson Speedway on Sunday. With intense humidity and temperatures in the 90’s most of the day the twin bill turned into a test of man and machine. When it was all said and done the weatherman won another one as torrential rain hit the speedway causing yet another rain out. There were 41 Modifieds and 34 Busch North Series Late Models in the pits when the races were called.

  Frank Ruocco staged a spirited battle with Jeff Malave in the closing moments of the 40 lap SK-Modified feature at Stafford on Friday night. Ruocco won out in the end as he recorded his first victory of 2005. Malave ended up second with Doug Coby, third. Ted Christopher and Lloyd Agor rounded out the top five. The SK Modified field continued to hover around the 21 car count. This was good and bad. The good was that everyone that showed up went home with a paycheck. The bad was the qualifying heats which are no more than glorified practice sessions. Joe Rzeszutek took advantage of a confrontation that escalated between Tom Fearn and Mike Quintiliano as he won the Late Model feature. Fearn and Quintiliano were battling one-two until contact and a spin after a late restart took both out of contention. Tom Butler finished second. Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Late Model feature and Stacy Botticello was the DARE Stock winner.

  The Waterford Speedbowl had Rob Janovic taking the win in the SK Modified feature after taking the lead from Frank Mucciacco with two laps to go in the 35 lap feature. Mucciacco faded to third after being passed by Ron Silk on the final lap. Jay Miller and Tom Fox rounded out the top five. Joe Curioso is a security officer at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. by day and a racer by night. On Saturday night he garnered his first win in the Speedbowl’s tough Sportsman division. Bruce Thomas was the 30-lap Late Model feature winner and Nick Pappacoda took the win in the Mini-Stocks.

  Jeffrey Paul continued to showcase his ability as a racer in Wednesday night's (June 9) Wild n' Wacky action at the Waterford Speedbowl. The 17-year old captured both the 20-lap Legends and the 15-lap X-Modified features. Paul didn't lead the Legends' race until lap 18 and then held off Jason Palmer. He edged Bill Leonard and Dean Christensen, in the X-Modified event. Paul was looking to make it two in a row in the Legends on Saturday night when he became involved in a violent wreck that all but destroyed his mount. George Whitney ended up taking the win.

  Carl Edwards won the Nextel Cup event at the Pocono Int, Raceway and Clint Bowyer won the rain delayed Sportsman event at Nashville. On a sad note, Patrick Evans passed away at the age of 47 after a long bout with cancer.

  Five years ago in 2010, the Modified Racing Series returned to action at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. Rowan Pennink got a well deserved and long over-due win as he overcame a cut tire on lap three and came back to win the 100 lap East-West Showdown at Malta, NY Speedway New Jersey runner Pete Brittain led the first forty-seven-laps before yielding the top spot to Earl Paules, Paules set a torrid pace until lap seventy-six when Pennink claimed the top spot. Pennink went on to score his second Modified Racing Series win. The victory was the third for car owner, Gary Cassela. The race was marred by 15 caution periods including, a crash that saw 2009 Koszela Speed Rookie of the Year, Jacob Dore vault over the second place car, Brittain while battling for the position.

  Like Pennink, Sean Bodreau overcame an early race mishap to finish a strong third ahead of Les Hinckley, Rob Goodenough,, Daren Scherer, Norman Wrenn, Mike Holdridge, and Kenny Barry.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway celebrated NASCAR Day with a Whelen Event Night race program consisting of five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. Keith Rocco picked up his second win of 2010 in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Corey Hutchings took down his first victory of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Matt Galko was a first-time career winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera took down his first win of 2010 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Don Wood scored his first victory of the 2010 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

  Jeff Paul broke the strangle hold that Keith Rocco had held on victory lane at the Waterford Speedbowl as he claimed his first win of the year in the SK Modifieds®, snapping Keith Rocco’s three race winning streak in the division. Eighteen year old Brian Andronaco was a first time winner in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model event. Josh Galvin became the first repeat winner of the year in the Street Stocks and Louis Bellisle recorded his first Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock win of the season. Anthony Frissora won the visiting Allison Legacy Series tour race.

  The Thompson International Speedway began their Thursday night Thunder Series before a very healthy crowd and 100 cars in the pit area. Ted Christopher had the crowd on it's feet as he worked over Keith Rocco, finally taking the lead after the former slipped coming off turn four. Rocco, who started eighth, passed Woody Pitkat after a restart on lap 18. Christopher, who started seventh, closed in on Rocco's bumper on lap 20 and began his assault. Back and fourth, up and down, Christopher tried every trick. It appeared that Rocco's tires gave up as he drifted up just enough to give TC the opening he needed. Rocco held on for the runner-up spot. Ronnie Silk finished third and was followed by Woody Pitkat, Rowan Pennink, Tim Sullivan, Bert Marvin, Dave Salzarulo, Glenn Griswold and Ryan Preece.

  Derek Ramstrom made it three straight in Super Late Model competition. Tommy O’Sullivan was victorious in Late Models while an ailing Chris “Moose” Douton was tops in the Limited Sportsman division. R.J. Marcotte scored the TIS Modified feature win while it was a career first for Lloyd Anderson in the Mini Stocks.

  The Bowman-Gray Stadium, in Winston-Salem, NC ran a 50 lapper on Saturday night. Madhouse reality show star Burt Myers, who got his 41st victory in Bowman Gray's featured Modified Division, strengthened his early-season points lead in the standings by leading the event from pole to pole with the exception of one restart. Myers started on the outside of the front row and took the lead from his brother and pole-sitter Jason Myers on the first lap. From that point, there were only two stretches of more than six laps without a caution period, which necessitate a double-file restart. Tim Brown took a short-lived lead in the eighth lap after a restart, zipping past Myers, who said he was a victim of a too-sensitive computer chip that threatened to stall his engine. In true Madhouse fashion Myers recovered with a stiff shot to Brown's rear bumper. That loosened Brown, and Myers shot past to retake the lead by the ninth lap. Zach Brewer finished second, Brian Loftin was third and Alfred Hill finished fourth. Jason Myers rounded out the top five. Defending champion Tim Brown ended up 12th. Junior Miller was seventh.

  Riverhead Raceway Co-Chief Steward Mike Cappiello suffered two broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. One broken leg said to be of the "minor" variety, while the other was a compound fracture. This was a result of the Modified of Steve Booker being spun from behind during hot laps, and spinning out of control to the infield, where his car struck Capiello. Cappiello was transported first to Peconic Bay Medical Center, then later transferred to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he was to get surgery on his leg. Tom Rogers was the Modified winner.

  All eyes were focused on the NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. As teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch lined up side-by-side for the final segment of the All-Star race, one way or another, a Joe Gibbs Racing victory seemed a mere 10-lap shootout away. But with a cool $1 million prize on the line, neither driver had any intention of lifting off the gas in the no-points, dash-for-cash Saturday night showdown. Hamlin used defensive driving to protect his lead, Busch wrecked and his big brother, Kurt, sailed by both JGR drivers to grab his first career All-Star victory. One Busch was celebrating, while the other was so angry he threatened to kill Hamlin over his team radio.

  The inaugural five members of NASCAR's new Hall of Fame were inducted in a ceremony that both honored auto racing's pioneers and celebrated the entire industry.

  Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, was lauded for his vision of turning unregulated beach racing into America's premiere motorsports series. His son, Bill France Jr., was remembered as a tough taskmaster who poured his soul into NASCAR.

  Richard Petty, a seven-time champion, was credited as the sport's first superstar, while Junior Johnson was celebrated as the symbol of the sport's roots.

  And then there was Dale Earnhardt, the "champion's champion" who epitomized the blue-collar spirit at the heart of NASCAR.

  Last year, 2014, The Valenti Modified Racing Series, 34 cars strong, paid a visit to the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Thursday night. Tommy Barrett used an exciting last lap bonsai move under Todd Szegedy to take the win in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 75-lap feature. Winners in NASCAR Whelen All American Series action included a sweep by Ryan Preece in the Sunoco Modified division, Glenn Boss in the Late Models, Shawn Monahan in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division, and Chad Baxter in the Monster Mini Stocks. Scott Quinn checkered the Vintage Outlaw feature event.

  Barrett, who is getting a reputation as a villain, played his predictable game as he faded from his outside pole starting spot leaving Todd Szegedy and Ted Christopher to slug it out and wear out their tires. Szegedy and Christopher ran nose to tail and at one point had a half lap lead on the field. By lap 55, Keith Rocco was within a car length of Christopher.

  A caution flew at lap 66 after Eric Goodale hit the turn one wall set the stage for the fireworks to come. Szegedy held off Christopher on the restart as Rocco moved into second place and relegated Christopher back to the fourth spot. Barrett, with an unbelievable burst of power, came out of nowhere to move into the third position. On lap 68 Barrett appeared to have been shot out of a cannon as he blew Rocco away and set his sight on the leader. Shortly after being passed it appeared that Rocco checked up a bit and was tagged by Christopher, sending him into the backstretch wall
On the restart, Szegedy drove out front once again with Barrett on his bumper. Rowan Pennink passed Christopher for third. Szegedy began to pull away but Barrett glued himself to Szegedy’s rear bumper. Shortly after Szegedy was given the white flag Barrett, in a last ditch bonsai move, dove low and hard into turn one. In the flash of an eye Barrett rode Szegedy high and came close to being planted in the concrete wall. Barrett went on to take the win. Szegedy recovered to finish sixth. Rowan Pennink ended up second with Christopher, third. Richard Savary and Dave Etheridge rounded out the top five.

  Barrett is bringing life and excitement back into Modified racing similar to the way Geoff Bodine did it in the mid and late 70's. Barrett's style of racing brings fans to the races. Some come to see him win and some come to see him get wrecked. Hopefully no one will get hurt in the intrim.

  The Sunoco Modified division kicked off their night with the remaining 17 laps of a feature held over from May 15 with Ryan Preece in victory lane. Preece held off Keith Rocco on a late-race restart for the win. Danny Cates, Todd Ceravolo and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top five.

  In the regularly scheduled 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature, Preece once again proved to be the man to beat as he held off Pitkat on a late-race restart for his second straight win. Rocco finished third and was followed by Cates and Kerry Malone.

  Thompson's next event will be on Wednesday, July 30. The bill of fare includes Sunoco Modifieds (2-20 lap races; 1-10 lap sprint). Late Models, 20 Laps, Xtramart Ltd. Sportsman, 20 Laps and Mini Stocks 15 Laps.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to violent thunder storms for the fourth week in a row. The Whelen Modified Tour Series, rained out twice, will try again at Stafford this week.

  In a prepared statement the Waterford Speedbowl management announced the creation of a new position, penalties following Saturday, May 24th’s racing program, and the departure of one member of their staff. As a result of post race inspections following the May 24th race program, SK Modified® division competitors Craig Lutz and Keith Rocco were each fined $500.00 for failure to abide by rule 2.11.5 D of the Speedbowl rulebook. The rule requires the use of wheel tethers on the front wheels of SK Modified® cars. Also announced was the departure of long time SK Modified® division tech inspector Everett Marvin who failed to conduct a pre-race inspection of the cars that had had major work done following destructive wrecks at the shoreline oval. To give Rocco and Lutz the benefit of the doubt, chances are they honestly forgot to re-install the wheel tethers.

  As a result, a new position of Race Vehicle Safety Coordinator has been created. The sole responsibility of the newly created position will be overseeing that all cars participating in the Speedbowl’s track race divisions are compliant with track mandated safety regulations.

  Lutz and Rocco paid their fines and got somewhat of a redemption as they finished one-two in Saturday night's SK Modified feature. Lutz, who travels from Long Island every week, spent the opening half of the race trying to find a way around Diego Monahan. Lutz fell to third place for a lap when Ted Christopher inched ahead of him, however slight contact between Monahan and Christopher on lap-16 sent Monahan spinning out of turn two, drawing the yellow flag. Christopher was placed to the rear of the field during the caution period, handing the lead to Lutz.

  The toughest part of the race for Lutz was holding back Keith Rocco the rest of the way. Lutz held on during an initial assault by Rocco, then got a brief breather before Rocco raced to his outside over the final four laps. The two raced inches apart and even shared some contact during the final laps. Lutz put forth a determined effort to keep Rocco’s final charge at bay, able to pull ahead out of the final corner to claim the checkered flag. Rocco was forced to settle for second and Tyler Chadwick ran among the front runners all race to finish third. Rob Janovic Jr and Shawn Thibeault rounded out the top five. Christopher recovered from his penalty to finish sixth.

  Other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series wins went to Ken Cassidy Jr. who was back in the winner’s circle during an extra-distance Mini Stock feature and Jason Palmer recorded his first Valenti Auto Mall Late Model win of the season. The Northeast Mini Stock Tour race was won by Toby Wells and Robin Berghman picked up the victory in the visiting New England Pro Four Modified race. Jordan Hadley won the X-Car feature.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Howie Brode swept the Twin 30 feature events for his 2nd and 3rd wins of the young season leaving him just two points back of point leader Ryan Preece 135 to 133. The two wins put Brode at 18 career victories.

  In Modified racing in the Southland, two nights of racing at the Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina were on tap. Jason Myers won a race without leading a green-flag lap. Myers took the lead after front runners Lee Jeffreys and Tommy Neal wrecked. During the clean up the rains came and Myers was declared the winner when the race was called. Burt Myers was the winner on Saturday night after he dumped Junior Miller on the final lap. Miller became incensed and chased Myers with his car before being subdued by police. The win stood. Myers sent Junior Miller spinning in the final turn of the final lap of a wreck-filled 100-lap Modified race and went on to notch his 60th career victory at Bowman Gray. Myers, Bowman Gray’s defending champion and current points leader, completed a worst-to-first recovery. He started from the rear of the 23-car field as result of a draw. Miller, Bowman Gray’s all-time leader in feature-race victories, had ended a five-year winless drought just a week earlier. He was a turn away from winning again when he got a shot from behind from Myers and went spinning. Myers gathered his partially-sideways car and made it to the checkered flag. Lee Jeffreys wound up second and Kyle Ebersole third. An enraged Miller sped after Myers and rammed his car into Myers’ car.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Jimmie Johnson raced his way to another routine romp at Dover International Speedway. Johnson was the class of the field in a race red-flagged for 22 minutes because of a pothole in the concrete track. Johnson led 272 of 400 laps, and won consecutive races for the 13th time. The six-time Cup champion swept Dover in 2002 and 2009 and won races in 2005, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin.

  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: June 5, 2015

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