The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

October 30, 2015

  Forty five years ago in 1970, the season came to an end with the running of the Cardinal 500 for the NASCAR Modifieds and Late Model Sportsman (Busch Grandnationals). Ray Hendrick was at the top of his game as he cleaned house as he won both 250-lap events. In the modified event, Jerry Cook finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary, Bugsy Stevens and Bernie Miller.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, the Stafford Speedway held their annual banquet. Honored were Richie Evans, the Modified champ, Jerry Marquis, the Sportsman champ and Jim Ward, the Strictly Stock champ. Mike Stefanik was awarded Rookie of the Year in the modifieds and Dan Avery was the Rookie in the Sportsman. Most improved modified competitor was Corky Cookman. Seymour the Clown presented his own version of year end awards including a do it my way award which depicted a plaster a hand giving an obscene gesture which was presented to NASCAR representative Bob Smith. When Seymour made the presentation he remarked, "That’s what the Modifieds think of NASCAR". Needless to say, Smith didn't see the humor in it!

  Twenty years ago in 1995, Flemington promoter Paul Kuhl announced that the Race of Champions would not be welcome back at the New Jersey oval. Many of those who raced in that final event were paid with checks that bounced. The ROC has since been reborn at the Oswego Speedway but has yet to achieve the status that the previous event held.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, the Thompson Speedway announced that the long awaited paving of the speedway surface would begin within a week if the weather was decent. Jeff Burton won the NASCAR Grandnational event at Phoenix. Steve Park finished 42nd as a result of a broken axle. Burton also won the Winston Cup event after taking the lead from Mark Martin with four laps to go.

  Ten years ago in 2005, the Third Annual North – South Shootout in Concord, NC got top billing. In addition to the Modifieds the SK Modifieds were added to the program this year. Competitors and fans arriving on Thursday were greeted with temperatures in the low 70’s. Among the early casualties was Bob Polverari who crashed hard and tore his car apart during practice. He hit the wall so hard he snapped the chassis up near the a-arm. His crew had to replace the whole right side. Donnie Lia led a field of 41 Modifieds to take the pole position. Zach Sylvester was second fastest with Matt Hirschman, third. Rounding out the top five who locked in their spots were Todd Szegedy and Jimmy Blewett. Four 20 – lap Modified qualifying heats were won by Chuck Hossfeld, Doug Coby, Eric Beers and Ted Christopher. A field of 41 SK type Modifieds was on hand. Chuck Docherty was the fastest in time trials. Jimmy Blewett was second fastest with Ronnie Silk, third. Tom Fox, Frank Ruocco and Tom Rogers were the SK type Modified heat winners.
  John Blewett III didn’t qualify all that well but he more than made up for it in the 100 lap Shootout that he won. Blewett slugged it out with Doug Coby and Zach Sylvester in the late stages of the event. Sylvester ended up third while Coby faded to fifth at the finish. Southern Modified competitor Brian Loftin finished third while pole sitter and bad boy Donny Lia finished fourth. Lia led the early going but was never a factor after making a mandatory pitstop. Lia did pit when the pits were closed and did receive a penalty and had to restart the race at the end of the longest line. Sixth through tenth included Jimmy Blewett, Todd Szegedy, Chuck Hossfeld, Ted Christopher and Eric Beers.
  Woody Pitkat took the win in the SK Type Modified event that was run in conjunction with the Shootout. Jimmy Blewett finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Rowan Pennink, Ronnie Silk, Todd Ceravolo, Richard Savary, Tom Fox, Rob Janovic and Earl Paules.
  It had taken many weeks to run because of foul weather and conflicting race dates but the Town Fair Tire Fall Finale at the Waterford Speedbowl was finally in the record books. Second generation driver Chris Pasteryak took the win in the SK Modified portion. Rob Summers finished second and wrapped up the division championship. Dennis Gada, Dennis Charette and Ron Yuhas Jr. rounded out the top five. Other winners were, Late Model – Charles Bailey, Mark St. Hilaire won the Championship. Mini Stocks – Ken Cassidy, Danny Field won the Championship and Sportsman – Joe Curioso . Mark Bakaj of Farmington inherited the lead and then held off brother Chris over the final five laps to win Saturday's 30-lap Legends feature in the first day of the Town Fair Tire Finale at Waterford Speedbowl. Jeffrey Paul, forced to pit while leading with eight laps left, clinched the 2005 championship with a fifth.
  Billy Decker dominated the final 148 laps of the rain-delayed Eckerd 200 DIRT Modified race at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Decker had started the originally scheduled Oct. 9 Super DIRT Week race from the pole position and led the first 52 laps easily before rain stopped the event. Following the scheduled 12:15 p.m. restart with an estimated 10,000 grandstand fans looking on, Decker marched smartly into the lead with Danny Johnson and Todd Burley following him as they moved away from the rest of the field. During the final 10 circuits of the mile-long track, Burley wound up in the same place where he'd restarted the race, behind leader Decker. Ronnie Johnson, who restarted in third place, also ended up in that spot winning $15,000 with coaching from his dad, two-time Syracuse 200 winner, Jack Johnson. Kenny Tremont Jr., the 1999 race winner, finished fourth and Bobby Varin, finished fifth.
  A fast pit stop helped Kevin Harvick grab an emotional victory Saturday in the NASCAR Busch Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Harvick, whose father-in-law died during the week week after a long illness, took the lead with a pit stop of just over 17 seconds on lap 168 of the 200-lap O'Reilly Challenge. He then ran off to his fourth victory of the season and 17th career win in the Busch series. The part-time Busch Series driver beat fellow Nextel Cup star Greg Biffle. Carl Edwards kept on charging Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, and his persistence was rewarded. Edwards, surged back from a late pit stop that dropped him to sixth place and passed Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin for the lead two laps from the end of the Dickies 500 in Fort Worth. It was his second straight Nextel Cup victory, thrusting the surprising Edwards into the battle for the series championship with two races left.

  Five years ago in 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour officially crowned its 2010 Champion Bobby Santos III following the season ending World Series 150 at the Thompson Speedway. In 14 events Santos, in the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile, recorded 11 top tens which included four victories. Santos amassed 2180 points and in the end beat out Mike Stefanik by 27 points. Although winless, Stefanik recorded 12 top tens. Ted Christopher, with four wins, finished third. Christopher's consistency rate was a little off as he recorded nine top tens. Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ryan Preece, Eric Goodale, Erick Rudolph, Eric Beers and Chuck Hossfeld. Fifty nine different drivers entered into competition. Eighteen drivers ran the entire series.
  Bob Garbarino was the Championship car owner for 2010. Eric Sanderson was the runnerup with Eddie Whelan, third. Eddie Partridge and Mike Sermiglio rounded out the top five. As a result of yet another championship season, Garbarino joined the late Len Boehler as the only car owners to collect three Whelen Modified Tour titles. He also became the sixth team owner to earn back-to-back crowns, but just the second to do it with two different drivers. Boehler’s three-year run started with Wayne Anderson in 1994 and continued with Tony Hirschman in 1995-96. During the old format that was used to determine the NASCAR National Modified Champion prior to 1985 Boehler won three Modified Championships, 1967-1968-1969, with Bugsy Stevens as his driver.
  Competitors were told at Thompson that Sunoco would be the exclusive fuel for the Whelen Modified Tour Series in 2011.
  Justin Bonsignore earned 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Bonsignore, who hails from Holtsville on New York’s Long Island, registered four top 10s and was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race in eight of the season’s 14 events. His rookie campaign was highlighted by a runner-up finish in the Made In America Whelen 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and laps led at his home track, Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, in the Riverhead 200. He finished 13th in the season standings.
  Bonsignore's Truck and Trailer were broken into, as well as his 24 foot kart trailer. They completely cleaned out everything! Most importantly 2 complete race karts, in M3 Designs, along with all karting tools. In the race trailer they stole everything from 12 radios, to all pit equipment including jacks, guns, suits and helmets as well as geometry gauges, hardware, and spare parts off the crash carts.
  The Modified Racing Series closed out their 2010 season at the Lee USA Speedway. There were 30 cars on hand. Qualifying heat race winners were Kirk Alexander, Max Zachem and Steve Masse. Among the missing were Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher. All tolled, there are 315 race cars at Lee USA Speedway. The cars are from 11 different divisions ran in 40 heat races, making for a long day. Jacob Dore was the winner of the consolation.
  Race day started out nice but the weather went downhill fast as the forecast for the Lee area called for rain and possible snow. During hot laps for the Modifieds pole sitter Kirk Alexander was black flagged, forcing him to pit. Officials deemed that he had a problem and placed him in the scratch position for the start. Max Zachem and Steve Masse made up the front row for the start. After completing two laps running side by side Masse took the lead on lap 6. By lap 18 Andy Seuss had come alive as he moved into the second spot as Zachem faded to third. The first caution flew on lap 68 when Jimmy Kuhn spun on the backstretch. During the caution period rain began to fall. At around a quarter to three the race was red flagged. Support divisions were run in order to keep the track relatively dry. Shortly after 6:00pm the 100 lapper was restarted. Masse led the remaining laps and recorded the win. In the closing laps Ken Barry came on like gangbusters and finished second. Seuss faded to fifth as he was passed also by Zachem and Louie Mechalides. Jon McKennedy is the series Champion.
  Don Hoenig stated in an article in the Norwich (CT) Bulletin that the Thompson Speedway's race night would still be Thursday with Sunday a possible rain day for certain shows. Upwards of four tour type non-sanctioned shows and a few SK Light type events would also be planned. It was also in the wind that the Modified Racing Series would make three stops at the northeastern Connecticut oval in 2011. Hoenig also planned on bringing the Whelen Modified Tour back for three events. He was still unhappy over the fact that NASCAR told him he would have to move his traditionally scheduled August Thursday date because of fact that the Whelen Tour would be running with the Indy Cars at Loudon the following weekend.
  A hot rumor in the wind was the possibility of Ben Dodge vacating his position as Special Assistant to Don Hoenig. Dodge and Russ Dowd had become a formable team in the organization and operation of the Thompson Speedway. Thanks to their efforts, Thursday Night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway provided great competition and an efficiently run program.
  Lou Modestino reported that the Seekonk Speedway may be planning to host multiple Modified events every other week in 2011. He speculated that Dodge, who has close connections to the Modifieds, would be the logical choice to put it all together for the Venditti family, proprietors of the Route 6 oval. Dodge refused to tell confidants where he might be going, other than saying he was leaving Thompson. Needless to say, this didn't happen until later years.
  Len Sammons, editor and publisher of trade publication Area Auto Racing News announced that indoor Three Quarter Midget racing would be returning to the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI in 2011.
  Denny Hamlin passed Kevin Harvick for the lead with 29 laps to go Sunday and earned his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup win at the smallest circuit in the series, Martinsville. Keselowski captured the NASCAR Nationwide 5-Hour Energy 250 on Saturday, using a well-timed pit stop to roll past Reed Sorenson with two laps remaining at Gateway International Raceway. The Nationwide stop likely was the final race at Gateway. Dover Motorsports, owner of the track, put the property up for sale and had not requested any racing dates for 2011. Mike Bliss finished second, followed by pole-sitter Justin Allgaier, who led 70 laps in the 200-lap event. Jason Leffler finished fourth followed by Edwards in fifth. Sorenson placed sixth. NASCAR rookie Danica Patrick finished 22nd, one position behind her career-best effort the previous weekend in Charlotte.

  Last year, 2014, NASCAR released the final point standings for the Whelen Modified Tour Series for the 2014 season. Thirteen events were run. Doug Coby with 511 points took the series championship over Ryan Preece by 22 points. Justin Bonsignore finished in third spot with 484 points, five points behind Preece. Ron Silk and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Eric Goodale, Timmy Solomito, Woody Pitkat and Patrick Emerling. Fifty one different drivers were in competition. Justin Bonsignore and Bobby Santos were the big winners with three victories each to their credit. Other winners were Preece and Pitkat, two each along with Coby, Goodale and Tommy Barrett who had one each.
  Eleventh through 20th include Don Lia, Barrett, Matt Hirschman, Glen Reen, Jamie Tomaino, Rowan Pennink, Wade Cole, Gary McDonald, Ron Yuhas Jr and Dave Salzarulo. Fifteen of the top 20 competitors ran the entire series.
While the speedways in the north are quiet there was action south of the Mason-Dixon line where Burt Myers scored another win. After winning four of the final seven NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races of the 2014 season, Myers earned his second KOMA Unwind Modified Madness   Series feature win of the year Saturday night at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. The win gave Myers five wins in his last nine touring Modified series starts and cemented his place as the current top dog for Southern Modified racing.
  Fifteen-year-old Modified rookie Spencer Davis, driving the Hillbilly 79, took the lead on lap four and led through the leaders’ pit stops at lap 66. Although Bobby Sheffield beat Davis off pit road, Davis led the restart lap and continued to show the way until a right-front tire went down on lap 88. Zach Brewer finished second with Jason Myers, third.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his fourth race of the season on Sunday at the Martinsville Speedway in an emotional victory a week after he was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Jeff Gordon finished second, giving Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2 finish on the 10-year anniversary weekend of the fatal plane crash that killed 10 people on their way to the speedway.
  Dirt tracker Brett Hearne picked up his 11th career Eastern States 200 big-block modified victory at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY, his third in a row. Hearn made a clean sweep during Eastern States Weekend, fast timing Friday with a lap time of 20.763 and winning Saturday’s 358-Modified feature race. He started Sunday’s Super DIRTcar Series event on the pole, with Tim Hindley on the outside pole. At the green flag, Hearn took the lead, but it was Stewart Friesen who cruised to second over Hindley. 

  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 30, 2015

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