October 27, 2017
Seventy years ago in 1947, racing history was made in Rhode
Island. Noted writer Pete Zanardi tells it best: Lonsdale Arena, a
relatively short-lived high-banked third-mile oval just outside Providence,
Rhode Island, hosted one of the of the most important events in stock-car
racing history on Oct. 26, 1947.
The late Bill Tuthill, the man who organized it, believed “it was the
most significant stock-car race ever run.” The race, Tuthill said some 35
years later, “opened the way into the sport for everybody, and without it a
lot of tracks that were built for midgets would have gone out of business.”
Tuthill was a “midget guy,” part of the huge success the sport enjoyed.
Still, he saw signs of trouble ahead. “Big money,” was taking over. He
decided to see if stock cars, running with some success on the dirt in the
South, could run on small asphalt midget tracks. Lonsdale, with its high
banks and 34,000 seats, was the place to do it. Tuthill paid a young radio
guy in Pawtucket, R.I., named Chris Schenkel (who went to national fame) $25
a week to help out and the Providence Journal didn’t hurt, especially when
Rhode Island native Sammy Packard became the first entry.
When it became apparent Packard was the only entry, Tuthill called Bill
France. France got involved and made the race part of his National
Championship Stock Car circuit.
Buddy Shuman, the so-called “King of the Asphalt” signed on first and
soon others followed. Race-day fans (an announced crowd of 9,000 paid $1.20
each) saw the likes of Fonty Flock, Red Byron and Junior Samples, all from
the deep South, and Tommy Bradshaw, Tommy Coates and Pepper Cunningham, the
latter New Jersey racers. Johnny Brunner, who went on to a long relationship
with NASCAR, was the flagman. Byron won the pole with an 18.5 second run on
Saturday with Samples and Shuman posting identical 19.1 runs for second
fastest. Shuman beat Byron in the first heat, with Samples and Cunningham
also winning heats. “Pickles” Bicklehaupt won the consi and Long Islander
Bill Frick won the “New England Championship” race. Flock jumped to an early
lead and never gave it up in the 30-lap headliner, claiming $625 from the
$3,500 purse. He also gained momentum toward the 1947 NCSCC championship.
Shuman, Samples, Byron and Bradshaw followed at the checkered flag.
“I remember being very surprised [learning the] crowd figure. I suspected
it then and I still suspect that figure. I believe we had more people,”
Tuthill told this reporter in 1980.
France and Tuthill split the $1,100 profit.
Lonsdale Sports Arena was a high-banked 1/3 mile high-banked paved oval
located two miles north of Pawtucket, Rhode Island on Mendon Road in
Cumberland, Rhode Island, on the banks of the Blackstone River. The track
operated from 1947 to 1956. Ironically, its location near the river would
prove a key factor in its ultimate demise. The Stop & Shop plaza now
occupies where Lonsdale was.
The Lonsdale Arena hosted racing until 1956 when the nearby Blackstone
River overflowed its banks and carried away much of the backstretch and
third turn. The track was never rebuilt. The Wall Stadium, in New Jersey, is
patterned after now gone Lonsdale Arena.
Sixty five years ago in 1952 Jim Holt
won the season ending 50 lap Sportsman feature at the New London-Waterford
Speedbowl. Big Butch Caswell was the Claiming Car winner.
Forty years ago, in 1977, the
Monadnock Speedway hosted a 100 lap, open-competition event. Dynamite Ollie
Silva was the class of the field as he cleaned house on this cool fall day.
Ray Miller finished second with Reggie Ruggiero, Bugsy Stevens and John
Rosati rounding out the top five. Little did anyone know, Silva’s racing
career would come to an end the following year at the Winchester, New
Hampshire track when his car flew off the back stretch and hit a tree. The
NASCAR Modifieds ran a special event at Kingsport, Tenn. Ronnie Bouchard
took the win over Jerry Cook, Paul Radford, Wayne Anderson, Roger Hill and
Thirty five years ago, in 1982,
It was all-quiet on the racing front. The Winston Cup division of NASCAR had
a scheduled event at Rockingham, North Carolina but because of rain, had to
be postponed to the end of the month which would conflict with the season
ending Cardinal 500 at Martinsville.
Thirty years ago, in 1987, the NASCAR
Modifieds were in Rougemont, North Carolina. Jeff Fuller, driving the Art
Barry No.21 took the win over Bugsy Stevens, Jim Spencer, Mike Mclaughlin,
Dave Reszendes, Jay Hedgecock and Tom Baldwin. The Waterford Speedbowl ran
their season ender with Bob Potter taking a 100 lap win over Dickie Doo
Ceravolo, Ronnie Rocco, John Anderson, Dale Holdredge and Jerry Pearl. C.J.
Freye was the Late Model winner.
Twenty five Years ago, in 1992, it
was all quiet as teams were making preparations for the season ending World
Twenty years ago, in 1997,
Waterford's final program was rained out. Todd Ceravolo was declared the
Modified track champion. At the Lee Octoberfest, Tucker Reynolds won the
modified portion. Ted Christopher finished second and was followed by
Charlie Pasteryak, David Berghman and Jeff Pearl. At Rockingham, N.C., Mark
Martin scored his 32nd Grand National win and broke the record that had
previously been held by Jack Ingram. Martin took the lead from Ricky Craven
on lap 184 of the 197-lap grind. Dick Trickle finished second with Craven,
third. Randy LaJoie finished 20th on the lead lap and sewed up the division
championship. It was also on this weekend last year that Bob O'Rourke, long
time Nascar Track Steward on Long Island, died after a long bout with
Fifteen years ago in 2002, The NASCAR
Featherlite Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway last weekend for the
season ending World Series. Heavy rain washed out qualifying which had to be
re-scheduled to Sunday. Ted Christopher was the fastest of the fifty-two
Modifieds on hand. The top ten re-drew for starting spots with Jerry Marquis
picking the pole and Charlie Pasteryak, the outside pole. Marquis led the
start. The first of only two yellows occurred on lap four when Bo Gunning
became the first casualty when he wrecked in turn four. Marqius led the
re-start. Christopher, who started third, moved into second spot with John
Blewett III in third spot. The second yellow occurred on lap seven when a
mass tangle unfolded in turn four, which collected nine cars. Martinsville
winner L.W Miller ended up in the wall with heavy front-end damage. Also in
the mix was Ricky Fuller who sustained front end and nerf bar damage. Fuller
had been second in points behind Mike Stefanik and had been the center of
attention as many thought that a confrontation with Ted Christopher was in
the making. Marquis again led the restart but held on for only one lap
before being overtaken by Ted Christopher. Christopher’s time on the point
was short as Blewett powered by one lap later and never looked back. Running
at a torrid pace, Blewett lapped all but the top six when he took the
checkered flag. Chuck Hossfeld, who got within striking distance a few
times, has to settle for second. Christopher ended up third and was followed
by Charlie Pasteryak, Nevin George and Marquis, in the lead lap. Rounding
out the top ten were Ed Flemke Jr, Chris Kopec, Mike Stefanik and Zach
Sylvester. Stefanik, who complained about a bouncing tire, garnered enough
points to secure his sixth Featherlite Modified Tour Series Title.
The Busch North Series finally dodged the raindrops enough to finish
their season at Lime Rock where Dennis Doyle got his first win. Andy
Santerre garnered enough points to take the title by nine points over Matt
Kobyluck. The event, which had been delayed and shortened by rain, was
stopped 10 minutes before the track’s noise curfew took effect.
The World Series at Thompson drew a total of 653 racecars. It was a
marathon session on Sunday that started at noon and lasted 11-1/2 hours when
the final event was run. All things considered with the amounts of cars and
divisions the speedway management did an outstanding job of keeping the show
rolling. High attrition for the supers was evident as 13 of the original 30
starters completed the 50-lap contest. Russ Wood took the win and recorded
his sixth ISMA championship. Bo Gunning won the SK/Sunoco Modified 25 lapper
that saw 40 cars start. Pre-race favorite Ted Christopher lost an engine.
Ten years ago in 2007, NASCAR finally
got around to updating the Whelen Modified Tour Series point standings.
Donnie Lia ended the season in the top spot despite the fact that he dropped
out of the season ending World Series at Thompson with a blown engine. Lia
had sewed up the title after the Stafford event. In 16 events Lia scored 13
top tens, which included six wins. His season winning total is $83,800. Todd
Szegedy ended up in second spot, 180 points behind. Szegedy, in 16 events,
scored 11 top tens, which included two wins which brought his season totals
to $60,225. Although winless Matt Hirschman used consistency in order to
finish up third in the final standings. In 16 events the second-generation
racer recorded 11 top tens which included five top fives. Ronnie Silk with
one win and Ted Christopher with one win rounded out the top five. Sixth
through tenth were James Civali with three wins, Mike Stefanik with one win,
Jimmy Blewett with one win, Jamie Tomaino and Eddie Flemke JR.
Jimmie Johnson won the wreck marred Nextel Cup event at the Atlanta Motor
Speedway. Carl Edwards, who had not been a factor most of the race, wound up
second He was followed by Reed Sorenson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Clint
Bowyer. David Reutimann dominated a crash-filled race and survived a
green-white-checker finish at Memphis to win the Sam's Town 250 for his
first career Busch Series win. Mike Bliss finished second followed by David
Ragan Marcos Ambrose, Jason Leffler, Scott Wimmer, Jamie McMurray, Jason
Keller, Brad Keselowski, and Brian Keselowski. Points leader Carl Edwards
was caught in a spin on the last lap and finished 25th.
Five years ago in 2012, The Waterford
Speedbowl closed out their season and championships were decided in both the
SK Modified and Street Stock events. Jeff Rocco, twin brother to Keith
Rocco, took his first career victory in the 50-lap SK Modified race while
Tyler Chadwick of Ledyard secured his first ever Speedbowl title in the
division. Walt Hovey left no doubt in the Street Stocks, winning both the
race and the track championship. Also winning races Saturday were Bruce
Thomas Jr in the Late Models and Ken Cassidy Jr. in the Mini Stocks.
Rocco was the man to beat once he made his way into the race lead. Craig
Lutz started in the pole position and led through a lap 3 restart. Lutz gave
way to Kyle James while Rocco moved into second position. Another caution on
lap 5 enabled Rocco to line up alongside James for the ensuing restart.
Rocco powered past James when racing resumed, leading lap 6. Rocco survived
four more restarts the rest of the way.
Todd Ceravolo finished out the year on a high note, finished second to
Rocco in the SK Modified race while Shawn Monahan came from the rear to
finish third. Jeff Rocco is the twin brother of two-time track champion
Keith Rocco. Chadwick began the event with a 21-point lead over Jeff Pearl.
He finished the race ninth, running a cautious race to stay out of trouble
and claim the crown.
Thomas led throughout the Late Model race, with Jeff Smith finishing
second and Dillon Moltz the champion in the division, finishing third.
Hovey rose to the lead on lap 24 in the Street Stocks race then survived
multiple caution flags over the remainder of the race. Corey Hutchings was
second and Chris Meyer came in third. Cassidy resumed the final 28 laps of
the Mini Stock race from a lead he held back on October 7th when rain halted
the race. Ray Christian III of Norwich was second and Jeff Cembruch finished
third. Cassidy's victory was his 12th of the year in the division, good for
the all-time single season record in division wins.
On a sad note Auto Racing lost a true friend with the passing of Charlie
Mitchell. Charlie was well known and highly respected by his peers for his
writing in the Norwalk (CT) Hour. Charlie was the dean of New England racing
writers. The respect he had from competitors, from promoters, from fans and,
especially from other media members, remains unparalleled. Having Charlie in
the press box signified that it was indeed an event worthy of coverage. He
brought the skills he used covering other sports to auto racing. He was one
of a tiny group that was instrumental in making our sport part of the
general media scene. In that regard, he was a revolutionary figure in New
England auto racing history.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Martinsville Speedway, Jimmie Johnson
started from the pole and dominated the race, leading 191 of the 500 laps en
route to his seventh victory at the historic .526-mile asphalt oval.
However, the victory didn’t come easy.
Jeff Gordon was attempting to work his way around Johnson when the
caution flag waved on lap 474 when Kevin Harvick’s engine expired. All of
the lead-lap cars pitted under caution except championship leader Brad
Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Johnson restarted third behind Keselowski
and Earnhardt and quickly drove his way around both drivers, retaking the
lead on lap 485. On lap 491 the final caution flag of the day waved when
Carl Edwards and Earnhardt spun in turn two, giving second-place Kyle Busch
one final shot at Johnson.
The field returned to green-flag racing with five laps left and Johnson
quickly pulled into the lead with Busch in hot pursuit. Busch gave it
everything he could, but Johnson was able to hold on for the victory.
The Nationwide Series was off for the weekend.
Last year, 2016, It took two long
days but the season ending Bemers Big Show at the New London-Waterford
Speedbowl was not completed but it wasn't because track management and
competitors didn't try. Heavy rain and wind all but washed out the scheduled
racing for Saturday. Late in the day the Granite State Pro Stock 75 lapper
was run but that was it as rain again fell on the shoreline oval shutting
activity down. The other 14 features that we were scheduled to run on
Saturday will be run on Saturday, Oct. 29.In the Pro Stock event, Dave
Farrington took the win after DJ Shaw, who had led from the start, pitted
with tire problems with seven laps remaining.
Forty one cars were in the pit for the Tri-Track Modified Series Finale.
It was windy and cool and a good day for racing. Ron Silk took the lead
following a restart on lap 15 and won the first of two 35 lap qualifying
heats which carried a $3,000 payday. Justin Bonsignore finished second with
Woody Pitkat, third. John Keivman, Dennis Perry and Ted Christopher
followed. Tommy Barrett Jr has been all but invisible since his arrest for
driving under the influence came back in a big way as he won the second 35
lap qualifying heat. Barrett passed pole sitter Keith Rocco following a
restart on lap 15 and never looked back. Rocco finished second and was
followed by Les Hinkley, Ryan Preece and Eric Berndt. Barrett started ninth.
Steve Masse won the 25 lap consolation event.
The entire starting field redrew for starting spots in the 65 lap main
event. Jeff Gallup drew the pole with Mike Holdredge on the outside.
Holdredge led the early going. The first yellow was displayed on lap 41 when
Gallup spun on the home stretch. Shortly after, Woody Pitkat and Dwight
Jarvis made contact in turn three with Pitkat taking a hard into the wall.
Another quick caution slowed the race for a spin by Dennis Perry in turn two
on lap 43 and then a final caution came out when Keith Rocco spun in turn
two. Matt Hirschman, who started fifth was waiting in the wings took over
from there and was never headed. Les Hinkley moved into the second spot just
past the 40 lap mark but was unable to mount a challenge and at the checker
was the runner-up. Hirschman received $5,000 for his efforts. Silk was able
to come home in third spot after starting back in 22nd. Holdridge was able
to hang on for a fourth place finish, while Richard Savary captured a fifth
place finish. Rowan Pennink, Steve Masse, Ryan Preece, Andy Jankowiak and
Rob Summers completed the top 10.
The Waterford SK Modifieds were also part of the program. Internet web
site RaceDayct reported that their feature, called the Nationals was
scheduled for 75 laps but was cut short when Diego Monahan clobbered the pit
gate to the extent that it was impossible to repair. Ted Christopher had
just taken the lead from Ryan Preece after a bump and run and was declared
the winner. The win was worth five grand but Christopher never got to spend
it as he was disqualified when track officials found illegal fuel in his
tank. Paul Kusheba IV, who finished fourth, was also disqualified for using
illegal fuel. Both claimed they bought the fuel at the track. Maybe they
should take legal action against the fuel company who sold them the illegal
fuel. John Holland, president of New England Racing Fuels told internet site
Speed51 that there was nothing wrong with his fuel.
In the end, Preece got the big check. Ronnie Williams was moved from
third to second and Keith Rocco from sixth to third. Todd Owen finished
fourth. Steve Masse, who finished fifth in the original finish, was
penalized two positions as he had a weight issue, but he still finished
fifth because of the disqualifications. Rowan Pennink ended up sixth with
Matt Hirschman seventh and Dennis Perry, eighth.
Keith Rocco won the division championship with Dennis Perry finishing
second. As a result of Christopher's disqualification Joey Gada ended up
third behind Perry in the standings and Tyler Chadwick moved to fourth. It
was Rocco's fourth consecutive SK Modified championship and sixth title in
the division overall. Rocco's father-in-law former track champion Todd
Ceravolo who is fighting cancer was the Grand Marshal of the event.
In action below the Mason-Dixon line Burt Myers won at Caraway in North
Carolina as he took the final feature and the season championship for the
Southern Modified Racing Series. Brian Loftin finished second with Jason
Myers, third. Tim Brown and LW Miller rounded out the top five in the 13-car
field. It was sort of a triple crown achievement for Burt Myers as he also
won the track championship at Bowman Gray Stadium and the NASCAR Whelen
Southerm Modified championship.
The Modified Touring Series organized by principal Gary Knight of
Charlestown, NH has announced three races for 2017 at the Monadnock Speedway
in Winchester, NH. The MTS held one race this year at that same track during
the summer which paid $15,000 to the winner. Teams will be racing the 2017
season for a $40,000.00 point fund and a per race event of $3000.00 to win.
MTS will also be introducing an exciting points chase that will ensure that
each race will keep competitors and fans on the edge of their seats every
time the drivers hit the track. Knight is currently in talks with other
tracks for more dates for the upcoming season. Meanwhile the Tri Track
Modified Series has issued the following: TTOMS wishes to thank all
sponsors, teams, media, fans and competitors for their hard work and
dedication to the racing for the 2016 season. It was announced that Wayne
Darling and Mark Pennink would be taking over operation of the Tri-Track
Open Modified Series.
In NASCAR Sprint cup action Joey Logano punched his ticket to the third
round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a victory Sunday afternoon
in the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and
R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
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