The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

October 16, 2015

  Sixty five years ago, in 1950, Ralph Moody won a scheduled modified race at Thompson.

  Fifty years ago in 1965 promoters Al Gerber and Irv Fried paved the legendary Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway, a dirt oval since 1926. Pete Zanardi, a close friend of Bill Slater, wrote the following: Jim McElreath won in a champ car on June 20 and again Aug. 8. The Modifieds got their chance in the $23,000 National Open Oct. 12. Gerber and Fried brought the National Open to Langhorne in 1951 and very soon it was seen as "the poor man’s Indianapolis." A few tons of asphalt wasn’t going to change that. Sixty-two Modifieds lined up behind pole sitter Dutch Hoag. Ron Lux set fast time, but Dutch Hoag’s guaranteed starter status put him on the pin. A number of tracks sent "guaranteed starters" to Langhorne, a key in the event’s stature.
  Bill Slater survived a multitude of crashes to carry away the gigantic trophy. The final 20 laps were especially crazy. Coming from 18th, Slater, in the legendary V8, led only the final two of what turned out to be 128 laps because of the reds and yellows. "Langhorne demanded a reliable car and it demanded patience. The race was 100 miles and I was determined to finish it," Slater told Zanardi. Unsure of where he was in the late stages, he recalled suddenly becoming aware of having to pass Herbie Tillman. "At that point, I didn’t remember him passing me, nor did I remember my passing him." He got it done in the backstretch.
  Slater and owners Bob Vitari and Vic Bombaci were enjoying a sensational season. NASCAR modified stalwarts; they had scored major wins at Norwood (Mass.), Thompson (Conn.), Malta (N.Y.) and Oxford Plains (Maine) and chased Ray Hendrick home at Trenton (N.J.). "Money was the reason we went to Langhorne," recalled Slater. "Those guys operated like a business and we went where the money was." Reliability and patience were factors. Fortune also played a part. Hoag, who had won three opens on the dirt, was heading for another when rain brought out the red flag with 80 laps complete. Hoag’s dominance was interrupted by another red flag seven laps later. Slater had to be getting weary at that point. He had left Langhorne late Saturday (after qualifying) and flown to Boston where he was battling for the championship at nearby Norwood Arena. After driving a borrowed car to second (and the championship), he drove back to Langhorne "in a ’59 Chevy with 300,000 miles on it" in time "to get a couple hours of sleep."
  Hoag got away again, but suddenly his engine soured. Freddy Adam inherited the lead, but his luck was equally bad. The advantage fell to Tillman. Slater sneaked past with two laps left and accepted what was a controversial and contested victory. Stan Ploski also got by Tillman to claim second. Dick Havens and Tommy McAndrew rounded out the top five. Bugsy Stevens, in his first ROC start, finished 33rd. The win capped off a $49,000 season for the V8.

  Forty years ago in 1975, the season came to an end at Martinsville. Geoff Bodine took the win with Bugsy Stevens, second. Satch Worley finished third and was followed by Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Ronnie Bouchard, Maynard Troyer and Fred DeSarro.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, Martinsville's season ender was a 250-lap event. Richie Evans ducked by Greg Sacks on lap 144 of the 250-lap contest as he finished out the year with a win, the 350th of his career. Ronnie Bouchard in the Dick Armstrong No.1 finished second and was followed by Geoff Bodine and Brian Ross.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, George Kent won the World Series at Thompson. Mike McLaughlin finished second with Jeff Fuller, third. Richie Evans finished fifth and wrapped up the 1985 National Championship. Little did anyone know but popular champion would be dead just four days later when his car would slam into the third turn wall at Martinsville. In Winston Cup action at Rockingham, Darrell Waltrip took the win. Brett Bodine was the Grandnational winner.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Jeff Fuller won the World Series 75 lapper at Thompson Mike Stefanik finished second and was followed by Ricky Fuller, Tom Bolles and Doug Hevron. Ed Ballenger was the Super Modified winner, Ted Christopher beat his brother Mikey in SK action and Ricky Shawn was the late model winner. David Gada won a season ending 60 lapper at Waterford

  Twenty years ago in 1995, the Race of Champions was run at Flemington. John Blewett III led the last 20 laps to take the win over Billy Paunch and Todd Gray. Rick Zacharis won the rain shortened AAA-TAR-SK race, which was checkered after State Police stopped the event, which was being run in the rain. Ken Wooly finished second. Steve Whitt won the Street Stock-Late Model race. Tom Fox and Dan Turbush were fighting for the win when they tangled on the last lap. Fox was put last for dumping Turbush. Brad Boisoneault stated later that Turbush hit just about everyone in the field including Fox, three times, and deserved to get dumped. Poor weather kept the crowds down which necessitated that competitors were paid by check. The checks were bad and bounced like balls. From then on, competitors have avoided the Race, which at one time was the most prestigious modified event run. In other weekend action, Tucker Reynolds Jr. won the modified portion of the Lee Octoberfest.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Official Bill Brice was severely injured after being hit by a car near his place of business. George Kent won the Race of Champions on Saturday at Oswego. Ted Christopher finished second. It was also World Series weekend at Thompson. Sixteen Thousand plus spectators were on hand for the two day event which featured the Featherlite Modifieds which would run 125 laps for a purse of $63,511.Jerry Marquis and Reggie Ruggiero were in contention for championship honors. Mike Ewanitsko led the first 63 laps until getting taken out when Tony Hirschman lost it on a restart. Ewanitsko hit the wall with such force that he suffered a broken elbow. The ensuing wreck also collected Marquis and Ruggiero. Marquis suffered body damage and Ruggiero received extensive suspension damage. When all was said and done, Tom Cravenho took the win over Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher and Hirschman. Marquis finished fifth and sewed up the series title. Ruggiero finished a distant 12th.Eric Berndt was the SK Modified winner. The Race of Champions was run the night before at Oswego with George Kent taking the win over Ted Christopher and Ken Wooley. On a sad note, NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver Tony Roper died from injuries received in an accident at the Texas Motor Speedway.

  Ten years ago in 2005, based on the fact that the forecast for the weekend was for more rain the World Series was cancelled again. The decision was made at noon on Friday which should have saved both competitors and fans wasting the time and fuel to travel to Thompson. In a combined statement from NASCAR Director Don Hawk and speedway owner Don Hoenig the World Series had been rescheduled to following weekend and would become a two day program. The Thompson Speedway also changed their admission prices for this event, considerably lower than previously advertised. For this event Adult General Admission is set at $35, Juniors 6-14, $10 and Pit Admission is only $45. The only downer is that the Whelen Modified Tour Series will lose the make up event that was originally scheduled to run on Saturday. If NASCAR has their Team Player of the Year award this year it should definitely go to Bill Roth of the Waterford Speedbowl who has once again changed the date of the Town Fair Tire Fall Finale so as to avoid a conflict with the World Series at Thompson. The Waterford Fall Finale was scheduled for November 4-5-6. There would be no conflict with the North-South Shootout and no conflict with the Thompson Flea Market. Waterford's admission for adults was $30, Youths $5 and pits with license is $40.
  Eddie Partridge and the gang at T/S Haulers in Riverhead, NY were in the process of restoring the 1982 Troyer Modified that was owned by Ernie Wilsberg and won every major race that year. With Greg Sacks behind the wheel, that car cleaned house wherever it went. Partridge also owned and maintained the Modifieds and SK Modifieds that were driven by Jimmy Blewett.
  Clint Bowyer won his second Busch Series race of the season, rallying from deep in the field to win the Sam's Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn., Saturday. Jeff Gordon held off Tony Stewart in a three-lap dash to win the Subway 500 on Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, his first victory since May 1. Stewart, meanwhile, dominated early and took a 15-point lead over third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson in the Chase. The yellow flag came out a track-record 19 times, and 113 laps were run under caution. The call came with the 13th caution on lap 343 after a spin by Casey Mears. Told to stay on the track, Gordon assumed the lead when he and five others didn't follow the other top contenders onto pit road. Also staying out were the Roush Racing trio of Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth. Stewart came off pit road seventh. Stewart had dominated to that point, leading 283 of 343 laps, and he made quick work of the first six cars and seemed content to wait for Gordon to fade. Gordon was racing on tires more than 50 laps older than Stewart's, but instead pulled away. Gordon held the lead through three more restarts to win by .235 of a second.

  Five years ago in 2010, In action on the Connecticut shoreline the Waterford Speedbowl the Fall Finale wrapped up the 2010 season with two days of qualifying and racing. Qualifying for the Budweiser Modified Nationals and ACT-150 events was completed. Ted Christopher took the Bud Pole Award for the $5,000 to win SK Modified® race setting a fast lap of 14.061 seconds in time trials. Five feature events were also completed on the day with Wayne Coury Jr. found the winner’s circle in the Outlaw Stock race while Allen Coates was the winner of the Trucks in competition for the race. Speedbowl Mini Stock champion Ken Cassidy Jr. took the checkered flag in the Outlaw Mini Stock feature. Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday champions Charles Beal and Dan D’addario took down wins in the Super X and X-Car features, while Nick Sweet from was the Allison Legacy Series race winner.
  In Budweiser Modified National time trials, Christopher tied the previous division record lap to take the $500.00 bonus. He bested Shawn Solomito, Jeff Rocco, 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion Keith Rocco and defending event winner Ron Yuhas Jr. The top-20 cars were qualified by time with 2004 track champion Ed Reed Jr. winning the consolation race. Reed was qualifying the car for fellow racer Justin Gaydosh who will start scratch in the event. Seven-time track champion Dennis Gada took a past champion’s provisional to enter the 150-lap race which would start all 27 cars that were on hand.
  ACT Tour Late Model qualifying was also complete, setting the stage for their 150-lap season ending event. Speedbowl regular Joe Curioso, series leader Brian Hoar, and veteran racer Jean-Paul Cyr were the qualifying event winners.
  Ron Yuhas Jr saved the best for last as scored a convincing victory in the Fall Finale on Sunday. Keith Rocco finished second with Diego Monahan, third and Jeff Pearl, fourth. Ted Christopher rounded out the top five.
  In other action at the shoreline oval Joey Polewarcyk Jr cleaned house as he lapped all but the top five finishers of the original 28 starters. Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt. finished second with Glen Luce of Turner, Me, third. Shawn Monahan was the apparent winner of the Street Stock feature but was disqualified when he refused tech inspection, handing victory to Al Stone III. Dana Dimatteo recorded his first career win at the Speedbowl in the 25-lap Legends Cars feature.
  The strategy for the Yuhas-piloted, Murphy owned #4 prevailed in the end. "I kind of sat back once we got back up to third. Keith and Teddy were going back and forth, so I just saved my stuff to put myself in contention for the end."
  Rocco had winning on his agenda headed into the event, so second was a little bittersweet for the national champion. "Yuhas came in for tires. If we were all on the same playing field, we would have been the car to beat. But that’s the risk you take when you’re up front and don’t come in." The second generation racer enjoyed his run with Christopher. "That was fun. I was just having fun there trying not to use up all my car battling, but it was a good show for the fans".
  There were 17 cautions that slowed the 150 lap event. The "Big Wreck" occurred with 60 laps to go when Todd Ceravolo made contact with the backstretch wall and collected a group of cars. The best move of the day for Yuhas, however, came with 60 laps remaining.
  While there was Thunder along the shore at Waterford the D.Anthony Venditti Classic was taking place at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. The Modified Racing Series was on hand, 35 cars strong. Qualifying heats were won by Jon McKennedy, Richard Savory and Lou Mechalides. Jon McKennedy won the 100 lap contest and was followed by Todd Annarummo, Steve Masse, Ken Barry and Dave Berghman. Les Hinckley, Ryan Preece, Max Zachem, Jack Bateman and Louie Mechalides rounded out the top ten.
  McKennedy held off the constant challenges of Savary for the first 70 laps. Annarummo, moved to second on a restart following a red flag situation due to a severe glare problem caused by bright sunshine that created a safety hazard for competitors. When the race resumed, Annarummo pressured McKennedy to the finish but was unable to get by the race leader.
  Dave Darling took the lead of the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial Pro Stock race coming off turn 4 of the eighth lap and held the lead position for the remainder of the hundred circuits of Seekonk Speedway’s one-third mile bullring. He had started third, behind polesitter Russ Hersey. Hersey nabbed the lead off the green flag from Ryan Vanasse (who started the outside pole) and led through the first eight laps. Hersey clung to Darling’s rear bumper for the remainder of the race, providing a difficult affair for the winner. Darling’s margin of victory was just a half-second over Hersey.
  The New York State based DIRT Modifieds had their big weekend at the one mile track at the Syracuse Fairgrounds. Billy Decker dominated the Salute to the Troops 150, the feature event Saturday. He won the race for 358-modifieds for the third year in a row and now has a total of 23 wins including qualifiers during Super DIRT Week. Decker started on the pole, led 87 of 150 laps.
  Stewart Friesen became the first Canadian driver to win the big-block feature during Super DIRT Week on Sunday as he held off hard-charging Jimmy Phelps for the victory in the SEF 200. Friesen, 27. of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, won the race on speed and fuel economy, managing to go 132 laps on a tank of gas, which is unprecedented at the Syracuse Mile. Phelps finished second followed by Jimmy Horton, Kenny Tremont Jr., Ryan Godown, Vic Coffey, J.R. Heffner, Danny Johnson, Rick Laubach and Keith Flach. The win was worth $50,000.
  Kyle Busch thanked his crew members after his record-extending 12th Nationwide Series victory of the year at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Kevin Harvick might be ready to fire all of his. Busch took advantage of two bumbling stops by Harvick's crew and rallied from a pit-road miscue of his own Saturday to win for the fourth time in his last five starts at the California track Tony Stewart was the Sprint Cup winner.

  Last year, 2014, All eyes were on the Lee USA Speedway as the New Hampshire track hosted Octoberfest 2014. Headlining the program was the Valenti Modified Racing Series which drew 27 cars for a 100 lap feature.
  Richard Savory was declared the winner after apparent winner Tommy Barrett was disqualified after ignoring the black flag for over aggressive driving. Race officials were told to stop scoring Barrett on lap 85. Race director John Spence Jr. said Barrett was warned "at least three or four times" for using the bumper before he was finally penalized. The decision did not go over big with the fans as Savory was booed in victory lane. Justin Bonsignore who started dead last as a provisional made a hard and clean charge to the front and came home second. Woody Pitkat recovered from a spin caused by a flat left rear and finished third. A great run was turned in by Dennis Perry who finished fourth. Perry started on the outside pole and took the lead from pole sitter Mike Willis on lap 20. Savory took the lead from Perry following a restart on lap 80. Willis rounded out the top five with Keith Rocco, sixth.
  Following the event Spence explained the reason for his ruling. "The decision was made because he was warned. We addressed it in the driver's meeting that we weren't going to tolerate any use of the bumper, or driving through anyone. The 9 (Barrett) used the bumper at least three or four times. He almost spun the no. 51 on the backstretch I guess trying to get a caution." Barrett proclaimed his innocence" "I didn't dump anybody. I don't really know," said Barrett when asked if he knows why he was penalized. "We won't be back."
  Todd Ceravolo scored a convincing win in the SK Lite feature.
  Internet racing news web site RaceDay Ct broke the news that there is a movement on to form a new Northeast based touring Modified series that would bring together NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Valenti Modified Racing Series. Organizers are looking to start the series in 2015.
There are some competitors who felt that the VMRS lacked consistency in enforcing their rules and race procedures. There were Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors who felt that NASCAR was running the Whelen Modified Tour series into the ground.
  In Modified racing in the Southland, Andy Seuss finished off his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship last Thursday night, as Burt Myers continued his mastery of the quarter-mile at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Myers pulled away from George Brunnhoelzl III on a green-white-checkered end to the Southern Slam 150. It was the third Charlotte win for the Walnut Cove, North Carolina, driver. Seuss finished fifth to put the final touches on his title run. JR Bertuccio got past Brunnhoelzl on the final lap to take second. Brunnhoelzl, who won the tour championship in four of the last five years, finished third in the race. Kyle Ebersole was fourth.
  Earlier in the day, NASCAR Next driver Ryan Preece won the Coors Light Pole Award. He led until Lap 64 when he had to pull off the track with brake issues. That handed the lead to Brunnhoelzl, who was on point until being overtaken by Myers on Lap 83 and the two swapped the lead over the next several laps. Myers took the top spot for good on Lap 86 and led a race-high 70 laps. A late caution gave Brunnhoelzl one more shot, but Myers was able to hold on for his 15th career win.
  Stewart Friesen shocked leader Matt Sheppard with a flat out, high side dive into turn three late in the Syracuse 200 Sunday and emerged from the corner with his third win in the DIRTcar classic at the New York State Fairgrounds mile.
  Kevin Harvick led a race-high 162 laps and held off Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray to win the NASCAR Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, his first Sprint Cup victory since April 12 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Brad Keselowski drove by teammate Ryan Blaney then held off Kyle Busch to win Friday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

  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 16, 2015

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