The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

November 6, 2015

  Forty five years ago in 1970, Fred DeSarro was officially crowned the NASCAR National Modified Champion. Driving cars owned by Sonny Koszela, DeSarro entered 76 events and recorded 25 wins. In addition to the wins DeSarro recorded 37 top tens. DeSarro beat out Jerry Cook by 776 points. Bernie Miller finished third and was followed by Eddie Flemke Sr and Dick Fowler. Ed Yerrington, who would eventually become the NASCAR Chief Steward and later promoter and general manager at Stafford, was the Stafford modified champion.

  Forty years ago in 1975, Jerry Cook who would end up becoming an employee of NASCAR was the Modified Champion. Geoff Bodine was the track champion at Stafford while Fred DeSarro was the champ at Thompson. Other New England track champions were George Murray at Seekonk, Jerry Dostie at Monadnock, Dick Dunn at Waterford and Kenny Bouchard was the Yankee All Star League Champ. On Long Island, Charlie Jarzombek and George Wagner were tied for top honors and at Islip; Fred Harbach was the track champion. Up in New York State, Richie Evans was the track champion at Shangri-La (Tioga), Maynard Troyer at Lancaster and Sonny Seamon at Fulton.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, In addition to the national title, Richie Evans won a modern day record four track championships. Evans dominated at New Smyrna plus took all the glory in New England as he won the track titles at Stafford, Riverside and Thompson. Other New England track champions were Allen Whipple at Claremont, Bugsy Stevens at Westboro, Punky Caron at Monadnock, Bob Potter at Waterford, Art Davis at Danbury, Ralph Cusac at Beech Ridge, Larry Record at Star and George Murray at Seekonk. Pete Fiandaca was the late model champion at Westboro, Monadnock and Thompson and Jerry Marquis was the late model champion at Stafford. In New Jersey, John Blewett jr was the champion at New Egypt and at Wall Stadium it was Tony Siscone. Islip was the only track running on Long Island and Charlie Jarzombek was the champ. In New York State, George Kent was the track champion at Shangri-La and Charlie Rudolph was the titleholder at Lancaster.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, Modified racing was still suffering from the loss of Richie Evans. Before his untimely death, the popular driver had sewed up the National title plus the northeast regional title. In addition, he was the track champion at Spencer Speedway and at Thompson. Jim Spencer was the New Smyrna Modified champion. In New England, Charlie Jarzombek was the Stafford Speedway Modified champion, Jerry Pearl was the SK modified champ and Jim Ward was the Street Stock champ. At Riverside, John Rosati was the champ and at Thompson the SK modified champion was Wayne Dion. Rick Fuller was the modified champion at Waterford and in the Super Stocks it was Phil Rondeau. Dwight Jarvis was the modified champion at Claremont and taking the championship in the Busch North Series was Randy LaJoie. At New Egypt, John Blewett jr was the champion and at Bowman Gray, Satch Worley took top honors. Fred Harbach was the Riverhead track champion and in upstate New York at Shangri-La George Kent won the title. Mike McLaughlin was the modified champion at Oswego and in the Supers, Steve Gioa was the champ. NASCAR also voted McLaughlin most popular for the modified division. Last but not least, Tom Druar was the Lancaster track champion.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Jamie Tomaino reached a life long goal as he won the Featherlite Modified Tour Championship. Mike Christopher had a big year as he won the SK Modified championship at Stafford. Tom Tagg was the SK Modified Champion at Thompson. He was also awarded Rookie of the Year at Stafford and Thompson. Ricky Shawn was the Late Model Champion at Thompson. David Gada was the Waterford Modified champion and for the fifth time, Bob Polverari was the Modified Champion at Riverside. Reggie Ruggerio was the champ at New Smyrna.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, Tony Hirschman, driving for Len Boehler was the Featherlite Modified Tour Champion. Overall, it was the fifth title for Boehler as a car owner. Tim Connolly was the Modified Champion at New Smyrna. At Stafford, Bob Potter won his fifth SK Modified championship. CJ Freye was the late model champ. Jim Broderick, who has all but dropped out of site lately, was the modified champion. Tom Fox was the late model champ and Jeff Karns was the main man in the Mini-stocks. Down on Long Island, Don Howe made it three track championships in a row at Riverhead. Jack Johnson won his tenth at Fonda and Mike Weeden won Pro Stock titles at Lee, Star and Thompson. Dan Avery was the titleholder at Riverside and Kelly Moore was the Busch North Series champion. Johnny Benson, with Steve Bird as his crew chief was the Busch South champion and Jeff Gordon was the Winston Cup champ.

  Fifteen years ago, in 2000, Ted Christopher had quite a year for himself as he won the NASCAR Northeast Regional Championship along with track championships at New Smyrna, Thompson and Stafford. Dwight Jarvis was the Claremont champion, Frank Vigliororlo was the Riverhead champion, Brad Leighton was the Busch North Series champion and Dennis Gada was the Waterford champion. Fred Astle Jr. was the Seekonk Speedway champion and Jerry Marquis was the NASCAR Modified Tour champion. Mario Fiore was the Championship car owner. Dave Michael was the Wall Stadium champion and Jeff Green was the NASCAR Busch Grandnational champion. Bobby Labonte was the NASCAR Winston Cup champion and Matt Kenseth was the Rookie of the Year.

  Ten years ago in 2005 Ted Christopher was the World Series Modified Champion at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Tony Hirschman was the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion. Andy Santerre took top honors in the Busch North Series. In Connecticut, Lloyd Agor was the Modified Track Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Rob Summers at Waterford and Jeff Malave at Thompson. Bill Park was the Modified Track Champion at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island while Patsy Catalano took top honors at the Spencer Speedway. Vinnie Annarummo annexed his 5th Pro Stock title at Seekonk as Dave Michael got his 8th title at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Tony Stewart ended up winning the Nextel Cup championship while Martin Truex Jr took the Busch Series title.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway held their 36th annual Champions Awards Ceremony at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor, CT. The Speedway honored its four 2005 track champions, Lloyd Agor, Ryan Posocco, Michael Bennett, and Joey Ferrigno. In addition to recognizing the 2005 track champions, SMS recognized the top-20 in points from the SK Modified, Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions, the top-10 finishers from the Limited Late Model division, as well as present the Most Popular and Most Improved Driver awards, and the Reliable Welding and Speed Rookie of the Year awards.
  The New England Antique Racers announced their inductees to the NEAR Hall of Fame, class of 2006. Gene Angellilo, Bob Bahre, Russ Conway & Ken Smith, Robbie Crouch, Fred 'Sharkey' Gaudiosi, Jim McGee, Phil & Bob Libby, Joe Rosenfield, “Boston Louie' Seymour; Dick Wolstenhume and the V-8 guys, Vic Bombacci & Bob Vitari.
  Word came from Ron Hedger that the New York Stock Car Association’s 2006 Hall of Fame induction ceremony would honor a broad spectrum of achievement in the sport, with the honorees including the Empire State’s most prominent NASCAR Winston Cup driver, a longtime modified owner, a top regional racer and a husband / wife team of officials. Geoff Bodine, Ed Cloce who has been a car owner for ages with his famous Hemi-Cuda No.69, Cloce remains active, fielding Modifieds for son Tommy in NASCAR and Race of Champions events. Dick Schoonover, Jim Frye was a racer in the early 50’s but found his true calling in 1955 when he began flagging with another Hall of Fame member, the late Chet Hames. The duo worked speedways from New Jersey to Canada. Freye’s wife Barb, a scorer is also among the inductees. Both Jim and Barb have also been active in NYSSCA, having served as Sergeant at Arms and Treasurer, respectively, for a number of years.
  It was learned that there would be some new blood in the SK Modified division in 2006 as it looked like Jeffrey Paul would be moving up to the shoreline oval’s top division. Gary Paul, Jeff’s dad, has purchased the Ron Yuhas No.6. Paul, who was the 2005 Legends champion at the Speedbowl, was also a graduate of the Quarter Midget ranks and without too much practice would be a top contender. Gary Paul is no stranger as he already had one Modified Championship under his belt at the Waterford oval with Todd Ceravolo as his driver. Speaking of Waterford, the True Value Modified Series announced their 2006 schedule with Waterford added to their schedule
  NASCAR’s top divisions were in Phoenix, AZ. The big news of the weekend was that Roush Racing suspended Kurt Busch for the remainder of the NASCAR season after his run-in with police, who said he smelled of alcohol and was belligerent during a traffic stop Friday night. Kenny Wallace replaced Busch for Sunday's race. Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch's younger brother, went on to win the Nextel Cup event then appeared upset as he lamented that a "true champion" had been taken out of the race. Busch was pulled over near Phoenix International Raceway for trying to avoid another car and running a stop sign. Officers said he smelled of alcohol and became belligerent. After all was said and done it was said that alcohol was not an issue as the Phoenix police over reacted when Busch gave them some crap after a traffic stop. Carl Edwards was the Busch Series race winner. One week later at Homestead Florida Tony Stewart would wrap up the Nextel Cup Championship. Greg Biffle was the race winner. Martin Truex Jr. sewed up the Busch Series championship. Carl Edwards held off Clint Bowyer in the final laps Saturday of the Arizona 200 at Phoenix International Raceway to win his fifth Busch Series race of the season.

  Five years ago in 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for 2011 was starting to come together. The Stafford Motor Speedway announced that the 2011 Spring Sizzler would be held on May 1. Their traditional August Friday night date would be August 5 with a rain date the following day, Saturday, Aug 6. The third and final visit of the tour would be on Sunday, October 2 for the Fall Final. Lime Rock Park had also announced that they would be hosting the tour again, on September 17. The Thompson Speedway had previously announced that they would have three tour dates, to be announced plus the three at Loudon and one at Riverhead. Other dates in the wind were June 24 at Monadnock, July 16 at Loudon, August 13 or 14 at Loudon on Indy car weekend, August 24 at Bristol and September 24 at Loudon.
  The Modified Racing Series had just completed its most successful season to date. The series picked up the slack that competitors experienced as dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had shrunk in recent years. The MRS staged 19 events at speedways in New England and New York. John McKennedy garnered the season championship as he beat out Dwight Jarvis by 63 points. Les Hinkley finished the year in third spot with Steve Masse and Ken Barry rounding out the top five. Finishing sixth through tenth are Rowan Pennink, Todd Annarummo, Max Zachem, Rob Goodenough and Jacob Dore. All tolled 72 different drivers entered into competition.
  The outlook for 2012 was extremely bright as more top drivers were looking for an alternative venue in which to race. The MRS would be running at just about every track in New England in 2012. Most tracks would host multiple visits.
The Stafford Motor Speedway announced their 2012 schedule. As previously mentioned their season would begin on May 1 with the Spring Sizzler. Friday night weekly racing would start on May 6 and will continue through September 16. The Modified Racing Series would return for two events, May 12 and September 9, in 2012. Both MRS events would have the following day, Saturday, as rain dates. Also on the schedule again was Extreme Tuesday which would be held on June 28 and would feature the ISMA Supers, NEMA Midgets and Pro Four Modifieds.
NEAR Hall of Famer Billy Harman entered the hospital for knee replacment surgery and was on the mend.
  In some sad news, Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president of corporate communications, whose career in motorsports spanned portions of six decades as both a journalist and public relations professional, passed away in Daytona Beach, Fla., following a 12-month battle with cancer. He was 71.
  The NASCAR Sprint Cup stars were at the Talledega Speedway. The race was marked by 87 lead changes, second most in NASCAR history, and a multicar accident that sent AJ Allmendinger's car flipping across the track as the leaders roared toward the white flag. NASCAR threw the caution for Allmendinger's accident, and nobody had any idea who was out front when the yellow waved.
  Sponsorship of Jeff Gordon's car was filled when longtime partner DuPont announced a three-year extension with the four-time NASCAR champion. DuPont had been with Gordon since his Cup debut in 1992, but the company was scaling back its commitment starting in 2011. It would be Gordon's primary sponsor in 14 races.
  It took several minutes of reviews for NASCAR to declare Clint Bowyer the victor. He jumped the gun with celebratory burnouts, then stuck his hand out his window for a congratulatory high-five with Kevin Harvick, who waited in his parked Chevrolet for the NASCAR call.
  In truck series racing, Kyle Busch made a last-ditch slide past Aric Almirola at the finish line, then brushed aside Almirola's suggestion that he should be stripped of the victory.
  With his truck on the verge of spinning out, Busch appeared to put two wheels below the yellow out-of-bounds line at the bottom of the track just as he made his wild move to win Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Trucks series race at Talladega Superspeedway by 0.002 seconds. He wasn't penalized.

  Last year, 2014, Bruce Beamer, a petroleum company owner from Glastonbury, Ct was the high bidder in the foreclosure sale of the Waterford Speedbowl. The 60 year old gentleman bid $1.75 Million and once all the papers are signed will be the new owner of the property. Until then, the present ownership remains in place. Beamer told Area Auto Racing News that the sale still has to be approved by the court. He said, "before the court can consider the sale it must schedule a date on its docket. No date has been scheduled as yet". He added as he spoke to AARN reporter Steve Barrick, the court come back and say the offer was not high enough or that other possible bidders were not included" He also told AARN that because of the uncertainty on many fronts he is making no commitments to potential hires.
  If and when the deal is consummated Beamer feels that some safety issues need to be addressed. He also feels that some "fence mending" will be needed with aggrieved competitors and creditors.
  Internet racing news site RaceDayCt broke the news that approval of the foreclosure sale of the Waterford Speedbowl to Glastonbury businessman Bruce Bemer was delayed on Monday, Nov 3 by New London Superior Court judge Emmet Cosgrove.
  An objection to the sale was filed with the court by creditor Edward DeMuzzio and his company CCI Inc. De Muzzio sells computers and has a pizza parlor in New London. In the objection, DeMuzzio alleges that there was collusion between creditors Rocco Arbitell, Peter Borelli, Theodore Parker and Shawn Parker to keep the bidding price low for the auction. They also argued that the property should have been better marketed to attract a higher bid in favor of creditors to realize returns on their debts.
  DeMuzzio’s attorney, Michael Bonnano argued Monday to Cosgrove that the property could have been advertised better and targeted more toward commercial developers and that the property’s value would be higher as an industrially developed parcel rather than as a racetrack.
  What actually happened was that Terry Eames failed to honor the bankruptcy agreement by not allowing an auditor or receiver handle funds and records for the trustee of the court. Not only that, But Eames didn’t pay the Attorney he hired for the bankruptcy, And the attorney promptly filed a lien against the speedbowl property. Eames bankruptcy was dismissed due to those issues. Its important to know the truth as most reading this assume Eames followed thru on the bankruptcy, When in fact he did not. If he had followed thru or at least attempted to do so, The sale would not have taken place as the creditors would all be getting steady payments from the courts trustee. Also Eames could have had the option of filing bankruptcy again to stave off a sale but was not allowed to do so as an option without a large cash bond, plus paying the committee of sale fees prior to the most recent auction. All these facts are on the Ct Judicial and Federal websites.
  NASCAR has announced that Keith Rocco is officially the Connecticut state NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion. Rocco now has 10 career track championships between the three Connecticut ovals. Rocco’s seventh state title was earned with 16 wins, 35 top fives and an additional five top 10s in 46 starts between the Connecticut short-track triangle of Waterford Speedbowl, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Stafford Motor Speedway.
  En route to the latest Connecticut crown, Rocco also took home a fourth career track championship at the .375-mile oval in Waterford out of the SK Modified division. He went back-to-back there for the second time, having won his first two titles there in 2010-11.
  Rocco registered 11 wins in 23 SK Modified starts at Waterford and breezed to the title by a whopping 250 points behind the wheel of his No. 88 Mr. Rooter/FMR/D&G Paving Chevrolet co-owned by Vin Beedle. He also earned Waterford’s Whelen All-American Series Division II late model division crown for the second year in a row with 11 victories in 21 races.
  The accomplishments have accumulated enough that Rocco’s 65 career SK Modified wins are now a division record. He’s also on the verge of breaking the all-time feature wins record at Waterford, which has been in operation since 1951. Phil Rondeau holds the mark at 106 and Rocco will enter 2015 with 103.
  Despite the fact that the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was over much is happening behind the scenes. Prior to the season ending Thompson Speedway World Series Ron Silk and car owner Eddie Partridge announced that they were parting ways. Ryan Preece, who replaced Mike Stefanik in the Flamingo Motorsports car, won the Fall Final at Stafford and the World Series at Thompson. Before the dust had settled at Thompson Preece announced that he was leaving the Flamingo car and was moving over to the Partridge car. Long Islander Timmy Solomito who had won Rookie of the Year in the Whelen Modifieds announced that he was leaving the Wayne Anderson entry and heading to the Flamingo car. Added to the mix was the announcement by Donny Lia that he was leaving the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile to "Explore other Options". It had been rumored but not confirmed that Garbarino is retiring from the sport that he has supported since the early 60's.
  While it was quiet in New England with the exception of the Flea Market at the Thompson Motorsports there was plenty of racing action in the south land at the North-South Shootout that was held at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Originally there had been over 30 Modified entries but because a last minute change eliminated engines with steel cylinder heads the field consisted of 15 Modifieds.
  Ryan Preece started off on the right foot with new car owner Eddie Partridge as he scored a second John Blewett III North-South Shootout Modified victory, Preece, who also won the 2012 edition of the North-South Shootout, made his debut in the No. 6 Modified that he will pilot in 2015 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in strong fashion, pulling away from five-time Shootout winner Matt Hirschman for the 125-lap victory in Sophia, North Carolina.
  Preece started on the outside pole, only being bested in Friday’s qualifying by Hirschman. Preece didn't waste to much time as he took the lead on the fifth lap of the 125 lap event. Preece led until lap 65 when Andy Seuss got underneath him entering turn three. Seuss set up Preece off turn two and completed the pass by diving to the bottom of the Caraway banking in the following corner. Seuss remained in the lead until Hirschman got by on a restart on lap 83.
  Preece took the lead back from Hirschman on a restart with 27 laps to go. He started to pull away from Hirschman, but with seven laps to go Hirschman started to close back in. Hirschman gave the bumper to Preece on a couple of occasions, but Preece was able to hold him off to score the win. Ron Silk finished third with Jason Myers and Derek Ramstrom rounding out the top five.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson was the last man standing after a chaotic AAA Texas 500 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway that left tempers flaring on pit road after the race. While Johnson was celebrating in victory lane, a fight broke out on pit road between Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski and their crews that left both drivers sporting bumps and bruises.
  Johnson and Gordon spent most of the race fighting for the lead, with Johnson doing most of the leading. The intensity level got turned up during the final 35 laps when a number of caution flags continued to bunch the field up.
  Gordon looked like he had the race won, but with four laps left the caution flag waved yet again after Clint Bowyer bounced his Toyota off the front stretch wall. That set up a green-white-checkered restart with Gordon leading Johnson, Keselowski and Harvick.
  During the restart Keselowski got a big run as the field entered turn one and he tried to fill a hole between Gordon and Johnson. That move resulted in Keselowski making contact with Gordon, sending Gordon up the track and out of contention as Johnson and Keselowski fought for the lead.
  Johnson and Keselowski stayed side-by-side in a fight for the lead, but behind them Gordon spun as a result of a cut tire from his contact with Keselowski. That brought out the caution flag again, setting up a second green-white-checkered restart.
  The second green-white-checkered restart was much calmer as Johnson and Keselowski raced side-by-side for the lead. Coming out of turn four as they raced to the white flag Johnson was able to clear Keselowski, allowing him to pull away and pick up his fourth victory of the season.

  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: November 6, 2015

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