The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

October 2, 2015

  Fifty five years ago in 1960 George Pendergast scored a 50 lap win at the Waterford Speedbowl. Ray Moran won in the non-Fords and Ed Moody in the Bombers.

  Fifty years ago in 1965 Don Collins won a 50 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Sunday. Jerry Glaude was the Bomber winner. Johnny Thompson was the winner at the Norwood Arena.

  Forty five years ago in 1970, cousin’s Merv and Roger Treichler finished one-two in the Race of Champions at Langhorne. Finishing third was an outlaw driver from Rome, N.Y. by the name of Richie Evans. Dick Watson won the season ending 36 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Bob Gada SR was the Late Model Daredevil winner. Walt Dombrowski was crowned the Modified Champion at the Speedbowl. Ron Cote was the Late Model Daredevil Champion.

  Forty years ago in 1975, the Race of Champions moved to Trenton in 1972 and it was still the race to win. Ray Hendrick, driving a Dick Armstrong owned Mustang took the win over Merv Treichler, Bugsy Stevens, Charlie Jarzombek and Richie Evans.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, the Race of Champions was no longer a Columbus Day classic as its date was changed to September and the race itself was moved again, this time to Pocono. On this weekend, Oswego ran a season ending 30 lapper. Richie Evans took the win over Brett Bodine, Greg Sacks, Maynard Troyer and Doug Hewitt. The big event of the weekend was the DIRT 200 at Syracuse, which drew 154 cars and was broadcast by ESPN. Gary Balough, driving a car, which was a cross between a sprinter and a Supermodified with side panels and a roof off a Lincoln Continental, made the event a no contest affair. Balough, who was booed in victory lane, received $26,507 for his efforts. Balough's win prompted DIRT officials to change the race rules, which in the future would allow only conventional dirt type modifieds to participate. Finishing second was Buzzie Reutiman with Frank Cozze, third. Geoff Bodine made a rare dirt track appearance and didn't disappoint his fans as he came home in fourth spot. Westboro ran a 50 lapper on Sunday, which drew 39 modifieds. Ronnie Bouchard took the win over John Rosati, Joe Howard, Leo Cleary and Corky Cookman.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, the only action was an SK Modified event at Thompson which saw Wayne Dion take the win in front of a sparse crowd.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, it was all quiet.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, Jerry Pearl won the season ending Modified event at Waterford. Pearl passed Todd Ceravolo with three laps to go when Ceravolo blistered a tire. Ceravolo hung on for second and was followed by Jim Broderick, Chris Jones, Tucker Reynolds Jr. and George Moose Hewitt.

  Fifteen years ago, in 2000, the Featherlite Modified Tour was at Martinsville. Reggie Ruggiero took the win after a controversial confrontation with Ted Christopher with eight laps to go in the 200-lap event. Christopher had taken the lead on lap 158 from Tom Baldwin and was looking to put the Gary Cretty mount in victory lane when it all came to an end on lap 192.Ruggiero dove under Christopher in turn one. The two made contact and Christopher spun and hit the wall. Jerry Marquis ended up in second spot and was followed by Tom Baldwin and Rick Fuller. Mike Ewanitsko was involved in a bad crash on lap 78.Ewanitsko had slowed to avoid a spinning car and was just about stopped when southern competitor Junior Miller came flying in full bore, rode over a wheel and all but went through the rear window of the Ewanitsko mount. The Art Barry No.21 was destroyed but the cage and bracing did its job allowing Ewanitsko to walk away from the crash. Waterford ran their season ending 100 lapper with Ron Yuhas Jr. taking the win over Tucker Reynolds and Dennis Gada. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Tony Stewart took both the win and the pole.

  Ten years ago in 2005, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was supposed to be at the Thompson Speedway on Saturday for the Twin 100's that was rescheduled from June 12. Heavy rains moved into Connecticut during early afternoon on Friday and along with a forecast of rain all day Saturday, postponed the event to Sunday. By mid day on Saturday it became a moot point as over four inches of rain dumped on the Thompson area and the forecast was extended to have continuing rain through mid week. The decision was made to postpone the entire program to Saturday, October 29. Prior to all this taking place the Waterford Speedbowl also had to postpone their season ending Town Fair Tire Fall Finale. The Speedbowl selected the same weekend with their main events to be run on Sunday, October 30. In the interest of being fair to competitors and after consulting with NASCAR the Waterford Speedbowl changed its rain date to October 22-23. It’s not so much that it would create conflicts for competitors but it did create a conflict for the paying fan as there were only so many entertainment dollars to be spent by families per week. One of the tracks would have taken it on the chin.
  The winds of change were beginning to blow for 2006. Word had it that the Don Barker-Bob Cuneau No.50 Whelan Modified team would be disbanded at season's end. One of Chuck Hossfeld's Lancaster Speedway cronies let it slip as he alluded to the fact that a Modified had been bought from Sege Fidanza for him to drive at the western New York Lancaster Speedway for the 2006 season.
  It had also been heard that Kirk Alexander, one of the top guns of the northern New England based True Value Modified Series, had been approached by two Whelen Modified Series teams who were interested in securing his services as a driver in 2006. It had also been said that the True Value Modified Tour Series competitors had voted to look into racing at Thompson in 2006. The TVMS raced at Seekonk in 2005 and was expected back in 2006. Speaking of Seekonk, Whelen Modified Tour competitors were glad to hear that a fully operational scoreboard and lap counter was now in place and was operational at the Massachusetts oval.
  A devastating fire struck the Troyer Engineering and Race Car Fabrication facility in Rochester, NY late Friday, October 7. A power surge in an electrical riser outside of the building sent sparks into the second floor of the building. Materials in the storage area ignited, spreading the fire throughout the facility ultimately engulfing the majority of the building. The whole left half of the shop was gone along with much of the inventory. All that was left were the outside walls. The office area and the bays were gone with the roof either burned out or collapsed plus smoke and water damage to the remainder of the shop. Troyer Engineering designed and fabricated asphalt and dirt track chassis. Company founder Maynard Troyer had begun searching for a temporary location so that chassis building would continue on schedule. A remote office had already been set up with computers and telephones.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway had completed another year of racing. The next order of business would be the annual banquet and awards dinner which would be held on Friday, November 11 at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. In the tracks SK Modified division Lloyd Agor wrapped up his first ever track title by 30 points over Todd Owen. Agor had 14 top ten finishes including two wins in 21 starts. Owen also had two wins in 21 starts. Willie Hardie Jr, with one win, finished third. Ted Christopher and Frank Ruocco, each with three wins finished fourth and fifth. Sixth through tenth are Jeff Baral with two wins, Keith Rocco with one win, Woody Pitkat with two wins followed by Chuck Docherty and Jeff Malave who were winless. Ryan Posocco, with two wins, won the Late Model Championship by 46 points over Tom Butler. Butler had four wins but failed to display the consistency required to be the champion. Jim Peterson, Ed Ricard and Scott Foster rounded out the top five.
  For the second time in 34 years, Super DIRT Week's premier event - the Eckerd modified championship - was postponed indefinitely by inclement weather, probably until next year. The 200-lap race, which began under caution because of wet and slick track conditions, was halted by rain after 52 laps. After race teams and a dwindling group of fans waited through four hours of on-and-off drizzle, DIRT Motorsports officials pulled the plug on their richest race of the season. The announcement, DIRT's first postponement of the 200-lap race since the 1977 event was pushed back to the following spring, was met with anger and frustration by many race teams.
  In Nextel Cup action, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle led a team sweep of the top three spots and another Roush driver, Matt Kenseth, finished fifth. But the last laugh might belong to Tony Stewart, who finished fourth to extend his Chase lead from four points to 75. It was Stewart's 15th top-10 finish in 16 races and, more important, his third in the first four events of the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup championship. Biffle elected not to nudge Casey Kahne out of contention during their side-by-side duel in the Busch Racing Series event on Saturday, as Kahne edged ahead yards from the finish for the victory at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

  Five years ago in 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour made its first visit to Tri-County Motor Speedway in North Carolina . MadHouse star Burt Myers passed John Smith with five laps to go to record his first win of the season in the Tri-County 150. It was Myers' seventh career win and first since he was credited with a victory as the highest finishing NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver in the combination race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in Sept. of 2009. Smith wound up second, followed by Andy Seuss in third. Brandon Hire finished fourth and James Civali fifth.
  There were 12 lead changes among six drivers with Civali using his bonus points for leading a lap to hold on to the points lead by just three points over Seuss (1,460-1,457). Myers started fifth. There were five caution periods for 21 laps. Twelve of the 19 starters finished on the lead lap.
In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Kyle James of Ashaway, RI drove a great race to claim his first career SK Modified® win. Keith Rocco of Wallingford used a third place finish to clinch the division track championship and finish off his sensational season. Tim Jordan of Plainfield won his fourth Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature. Brandon Plemons of Uncasville was the Street Stock winner, his second checkered flag of the year. Waterford native Chris Williams won the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock feature, another second time winner in 2010. Allen Coates of Ledyard and Howard Payne of Shelton split the A.B. CDL Driver Training Center Truck races.
  Ron Yuhas closed in to James’ bumper for the final two laps as Rocco made it a three-car race for the win. James held the bottom lane and did a masterful job as he went on to take his first career win in the division in his first season behind the wheel of a Modified. Yuhas was second ahead of Rocco in third. Diego Monahan and Tucker Reynolds rounded out the top-five.
  Ace Photographer Howie Hodge reported that Ted Christopher won the ISMA Supermodified race on Saturday night (9/25) in Berlin, Michigan driving the Clyde Booth 61. In 1999, Christopher climbed aboard a Paul Dunigan –owned supermodified for the first time ever. It was at Thompson Speedway. He started dead last. He won. Saturday at Berlin Raceway in Michigan, Ted climbed into the Clyde Booth 61 for the first time, at a track he’d never seen before, started dead last and won!
  The Thompson Speedway ran a make-up event on Sunday which closed out their regular racing season. In a somewhat surprising announcement Special Consultant Ben Dodge hinted that the speedway management was thinking of possibly dropping Thursdays off their weekly schedule and going back to Sundays. Dodge asked the competitors what they thought of the change. This writer's opinion was to leave well enough alone. The attendance on Thursdays has been good. The shows are good and they get over early. Moving to Sundays will not improve attendance, chances are during the summer months it will hurt. With racing on Thursdays the race fan can have his cake and eat it too! Fans get their weekly racing fix without interfering with family activities on Sundays. Chances are moving to Sundays won improve car counts. The only thins that will improve car counts are higher purses and a better economy. Just my opinion!
  On a blustery Sunday, the 2010 champions were crowned in all six NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at Thompson International Speedway. The evening also featured what would ultimately be the fourth leg of the Tour-Type Modified Shootout originally scheduled for August 5, 2010. Mike Stefanik of Coventry, RI, who crossed the stripe in second, was declared the winner of the event after post race technical inspection. At the checkers, it appeared as if Long Islander Justin Bonsignore had posted his first Modified victory at Thompson. Officials deemed the fuel in Bonsignore’s #51 to be in violation of the rules. Stefanik was awarded the victory. Charlie Pasteryak had a great run to come home second. Erix Goodale, Shelly Perry and Keith Rocco completed the top-five.
  In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action Ronnie Silk turned in a dominating performance to score his first victory of the season in the Sunoco Modifieds. Ted Christopher, who finished fourth, had sewn up the championship prior to the start of the night’s events. made it a run to the end in the chase for the Super Late Model championship by winning the event. His rival Derek Ramstrom chased him to the checkers to secure the 2010 divisional title-his second straight.
  In the Late Models, Tom O’Sullivan of made winning a family affair as he posted the feature victory. Rick Gentes wore the 2010 Late Model crown. Scott Sundeen bested the field in the Limited Sportsman division in an attempt to dethrone Larry Barnett. He won the battle but it was Barnett winning the war with his second straight divisional title. Keith McDermott ran to the victory in the TIS Modifieds taking the victory from the 2010 champion R.J. Marcotte. In the Mini Stocks it was Dwayne Dorr posting the feature victory while Chuck Rogers earned the championship.
  The 60th Annual Sunoco Race of Champions was held at the Oswego Speedway in Oswego, NY. Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Tony Hirschman came out of retirement to win the event. Chuck Hossfeld finished second with Matt Hirschman, third.
  Kyle Busch took a dominating romp on the concrete and rolled into the NASCAR record book. Busch set a single-season record for wins in the Nationwide Series, taking the checkered flag for the 11th time in only 23 races on Saturday at Dover International Speedway. Busch was tied with Sam Ard for the previous record with 10 wins. Busch also won 10 races in 2008, matching the record Ard set in NASCAR's second-tier series in 1983.
  In Sprint Cup action, Jimmie Johnson had a perfect weekend on the track. He won the pole, dominated again in another victory at Dover International Speedway, and even held his baby daughter in his arms in Victory Lane for the first time.

  Last year, 2014, NASCAR has closed out their 2014 Whelen All-American Series championship Series. Anthony Anders has been declared the series champion. The 43-year-old Anders, who competes at the Greenville Pickins Speedway in South Carolina, accomplished the feat by leading the national points standings every week of the season and finishing with 30 wins, ninth most in a single season in the history of the series.
  Two-time national champion Lee Pulliam of North Carolina finished second, while Connecticut’s Keith Rocco finished third. It is the fourth straight year Pulliam had been among the top three, while Rocco stretched his run to eight seasons, every year under the current format, of being in the top four.
  Anders had 30 wins, 44 top fives and 48 top 10s in 51 races at Greenville, South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway and Myrtle Beach Speedway, as well as North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway. Pulliam continued his incredible four-year run, adding 25 wins, 41 top fives and 42 top 10s in 46 starts to his resume. The 26-year-old from Semora, North Carolina, has 92 Late Model wins since 2011. He won his first North Carolina championship to go with the Virginia titles he has won in 2012-14. Rocco also added to his own legacy. The 29-year-old from Wallingford, Connecticut, won his seventh straight Connecticut championship. He has already clinched the SK Modified Division title at Waterford Speedbowl, and is third at Stafford Motor Speedway and second at Thompson Speedway heading into each track’s final weekends. Rocco, who had 16 wins, 35 top fives and 40 top 10s in 46 starts, will be on the big stage in Charlotte for the awards as one of the top three drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for the sixth straight year.
  When Mike Stefanik took his helmet off at Loudon it was his last time as the multi-time NASCAR Modified Champion has decided to retire from driving, once and for all. Stefanik has nothing to prove and a career to be proud of. Stefanik began his racing career at Stafford in 1976, driving a back up six cylinder All American car belonging to Bob Witcop. Believe it or not, the night before he was to make his debut, he was hit by a car outside an auto dealership where he worked. When Stefanik made his start a week later, he realized that being on the track in competition was serious business. Stefanik picked up his first LTD Sportsman win in 1978, but it was in 1979 when he dominated the division with eleven wins. He moved up to the modifieds in 1980 and garnered his first open wheel win at Riverside Park on July 12. Stefanik ran at both Stafford and Riverside, gaining confidence and experience plus, he caught the eye of Richie Evans. Evans talked Sonny Koszela into giving the young hot shoe a ride in the famous Woodchopper Special that had been formerly driven by Ernie Gahan, Leo Cleary, Kenny Bouchard, Fred DeSarro, and Bugsy Stevens.
The combination worked so well that Stefanik literally became part of the family as he married Koszela’s daughter Julie. The alliance and marriage into the Koszela family enabled Stefanik to become a full time race car fabricator as well as a driver.
  Stefanik began racing on the NASCAR Feather Lite Modified tour and has been extremely successful. When the opportunity to race on the Busch Grand National North (BGNN) series presented itself in 1991, Stefanik jumped at the chance and has been equally successful there. In seven years he entered 102 BGNN events with six wins and 56 top 10’s. In 1997, Stefanik became the second driver in the 50 year history of NASCAR to win two division titles, the Feather Lite Modified and BGNN, in the same year.
  By the time the dust had settled from the Richie Evans-Jerry Cook rivalry that fueled NASCAR Modified racing in the 1970s, Massachusetts native Mike Stefanik was beginning a career that would redefine success in NASCAR racing. Stefanik's career accomplishments include four track championships, four Most Popular Driver awards, 74 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victories (through 2013) and nine NASCAR championships. Stefanik's seven Whelen Modified Tour titles (1989, '91, '97, '98 '01 '02 and '06) are accompanied by two K&N Pro Series East championships, which he earned in 1997-98. Incredibly, Stefanik won the dual championships in two consecutive seasons, making him the first driver since Lee Petty to win two NASCAR division titles in a single season, and the only driver to do it twice.
  Jack Arute Sr had to be be rolling over in his grave as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hit a new low at the Stafford Motor Speedway as only 22 entries showed for the annual Fall Final. Stafford had run Modifieds every year since 1959. Their future at the track could be in jeopardy. During the 1988 season the Modifieds were not part of the season schedule as track owner Jack Arute felt his SK's deserved top billing. The SK's ran all the big shows. The competition was good but the big names of the day chose to ignore the track. Attendance suffered and Arute brought the Modifieds back. In recent years NASCAR had changed rules and hiked up fees in order to compete. One by one, teams had fallen by the wayside. Of the 22 cars on hand maybe 14 had a chance of a top finish. The rest were field fillers.
  Bobby Santos, from Franklin, Massachusetts, posted a fast lap of 18.506 seconds (97.266 mph) Saturday to capture the Coors Light Pole Award for the sixth time in the last eight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at the Nutmeg oval. Second fastest was secured by rookie Tommy Barrett Jr., who laid down a fast lap of 18.529 (97.145). Season points leader Doug Coby qualified third at 18.548 (97.046). Defending NAPA Fall Final 150 winner Donny Lia qualified fourth and Eric Goodale was fifth.
  Ryan Preece scored a one-two punch at the Fall Final at Stafford on Sunday as he won the Whelen Modified Tour 150 and the SK Modified 40 lapper. While Preece won both battles it was Ted Christopher who won the war for Track Championship honors. In the SK 40 lapper, Christopher finished third after overcoming an early race penalty for contact on the track to clinch his record 9th career Track title.
  In the Mod Tour event Preece broke out of his winnless slump after a season-long absence from Victory Lane, and collected his 10th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory by holding off Christopher. Immediately following the checkered flag things go a little testy. After the finish Preece and Christopher spun in turn two after they made contact. Both drove away unharmed.
  Preece, the defending tour champion, had to weather a final challenge by Christopher after a late caution set up a final restart with two laps remaining. Christopher had an early advantage but Preece was able to power back by for the victory. Preece led a race-high 79 laps in recording his first win since Sept. 14 last year at New York's Riverhead Raceway.
  Ron Silk rallied back to finish third, followed by rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. and Patrick Emerling. Woody Pitkat was sixth and Eric Goodale seventh. Championship points leader Doug Coby finished eighth and took advantage of second straight rough outing by Justin Bonsignore (21st) to extend his points lead. Coby leads Christopher, who moved into second, by 28 points and Bonsignore by 39 heading into the season finale coming up at the Thompson Speedway on Oct 19. Donny Lia and Rowan Pennink rounded out the top 10. Bobby Santos, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying Saturday, finished 12th.
  In other Stafford action, Tom Butler scored a wire to wire victory in the 30-lap Late Model feature event while Adam Gray celebrated his second consecutive Late Model championship.
  In the SK 40 lapper, Dan Avery took to the outside of Preece on the final lap but Preece was able to hold him off to the checkered flag to pick up his sixth win of the season. Christopher finished third. Keith Rocco came home fourth with Todd Owen rounding out the top-5.
In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco won the SK Modified® feature while Jason Palmer won the Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race. Ed Gertsch Jr. returned to Victory Lane after a long hiatus in the Street Stocks, Ken Cassidy Jr. took the night’s Mini Stock race and Paul Buzel continued a hot streak in the SK Light Modifieds. Mike Christopher Jr. won another INEX Legend Cars feature and set a track record, while Taylor Bowser won in the visiting Mini Cup series event.
  Rocco found the winner’s circle for the eleventh time of the year in SK Modified® racing. He checkered a non-stop 35-lap race that took under nine minutes to complete from start to finish. Rocco started in ninth position and quickly moved into contention, taking second on lap-10. He ran down leader Rob Janovic Jr. of Waterford by lap-16 and applied heavy pressure until making an inside move stick as they raced to turn one on lap-21. Once clear of Janovic, Rocco had smooth sailing through the finish. Janovic wound up second and Joe Gada of Salem was third. Rocco already secured the division’s 2014 championship, his second in a row and fourth overall.
  Rocco's win placed him second on the all-time winners list with 102 victories at the shoreline oval.
  The final event of the year takes place this coming Saturday and Sunday when the track hosts Finale Weekend.
  On the horizon, later in October, the track may be up for a foreclosure auction. Many rumors persist as to whom will be bidding on the property and what it future holds. The Waterford Speedbowl has been in existence since 1951. Racing at the shoreline oval has been highly competitive and it would be a shame to see it go away.
  In Modified racing in the Southland, George Brunnhoelzl held off Burt Myers Saturday night in a green-white-checkered finish and in the process kept alive his hopes for a fifth NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship with his win in the Zooland 150 at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina.
  JR Bertuccio finished third, followed by Danny Bohn and championship points leader Andy Seuss. Brunnhoelzl cut Seuss' championship points lead from 18 to nine with two races remaining. Myers, who entered the night winning three of the last four races, remains in third place 22 points out of the lead. Jason Myers, Luke Fleming, Brian Loftin, and rookies Bobby Measmer Jr. and Joe Ryan Osborne completed the top 10.
Jeff Gordon drove away from Brad Keselowski in the final 100 laps of Sunday’s AAA 400 at the Dover International Speedway to score his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season, locking himself into a spot in the second round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kyle Busch was the Nationwide Series winner.
  The Associated Press reported that a grand jury has decided against charging NASCAR star Tony Stewart in the August death of another driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York. The decision was announced Wednesday, Sept 24, nearly seven weeks after Stewart's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9 in Canandaigua (can-uhn-DAY'-gwah).
  Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the three-time NASCAR champion.
  Toxicology reports revealed Kevin Ward Jr., was under the influence of marijuana on the night he was struck and killed by a sprint car driven by Tony Stewart, Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo said Wednesday. Tantillo said the level of marijuana in Ward's system was high enough to impair judgment. 

  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: October 2, 2015

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