Looking Back A Bit With Phil Smith – Third Week Of May

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1953, Red Foote made it two in a row in Sportsman competition at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bud Matter was the non-Ford winner.

Sixty years ago in 1958, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl went two for two in the rain.

Fifty five years ago in 1963 Mr. Rene Charland took the 25 lap NASCAR Sportsman win at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Lou Lazzaro finished second with Tom Kotary, third. Jim Luke and Jeep Herbert rounded out the top five. Racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was cancelled due to cold conditions.

Fifty years ago, in 1968, the action was hot and heavy at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway where Rene Charland held off charging Don MacTavish for the win. Bernie Miller finished third with Dave Kotary and Ed Pieniezek rounding out the top five. At Stafford, Bugsy Stevens took the top spot over Jack Malone, Bill Slater, Lou Toro and Joe Trudeau. Saturday night action at Lancaster, Norwood and Fonda rained out. At the Waterford Speedbowl, Newt Palm was the 30 lap Modified winner. Bugs Stevens made it two for two on the weekend as he won at Thompson on Sunday afternoon. Sunday night racing at Utica-Rome fell victim to rain.

Forty five years ago in 1973, weekend action began Friday night at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., where Fred DeSarro took the win over Eddie Flemke. On Saturday, at Stafford, Ronnie Bouchard came from deep in the field to make it three in a row. Don Flynn finished second. Dan McNamara won at Islip over Charlie Jarzombek and Jim Hendrickson. George Allum took his third Modified win at Waterford. In Sunday action at Lee, Bugsy Stevens led the way over Freddie Schulz, Moose Hewitt and Bob Santos. Utica-Rome and Tioga rained out.

Forty years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine made it two in a row in Friday night action at Stafford. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard and Leo Cleary. Bodine ended up going three for three as he also won at Seekonk on Saturday and at Thompson on Sunday. At Waterford, Dick Dunn beat out Blaine Belz and at Westboro, Joe Howard took the win. Other weekend winners were Maynard Troyer at Spencer and George Kent at Fulton.

Thirty five years ago in 1983, the weatherman won at Stafford as it rained. At Waterford on Saturday, Joe Tiezzi won out over Glynn Shafer and Ted Christopher. At Riverside, it was Mike Stefanik and at Islip, Fred Harbach was still winning. George Kent won out over Richie Evans at Spencer and at Tioga, Kent slipped to third behind Evans and Jim Spencer. In Winston Cup and Grandnational action at Dover Downs, Ricky Rudd took the GN win and Bobby Allison won the WC 500.

Thirty Years ago in 1988, the weatherman got another at Stafford. Richie Gallup got his third win at Waterford over Larry Lanphear and Bob Potter. At Riverside, Jerry Marquis took the win and in Modified Tour Series action at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Mike McLaughlin earned a victory over Jeff Fuller and Reggie Ruggiero. Fred Harbach won at Riverhead and at Monadnock, Kenny Bouchard took the win.

Twenty five years ago in 1993, Rick Donnelly got his first Stafford win. Bob Potter finished second and was followed by Mike and Ted Christopher. A.J.Foyt officially retired from Indy Car racing after making one final lap around the fabled Brickyard. Bob Potter scored his 89th career win at Waterford on Saturday night over Mark Lajunesse and Larry Lanphear. Ron Rocco was going for second spot until getting walled by Jim Dolan who never turned when they entered turn three. Cris Kopec got his first win at Riverside after rookie Jim Houghton was disqualified with illegal gears. Bob Park won at Riverhead and in BGNN action at Monadnock, Robbie Crouch took the win over Kelly Moore and Mike McLaughlin. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Geoff Bodine survived a vicious hammering from Ricky Rudd to take the win.

Twenty years ago in 1998, Curt Brainard scored his first ever win at Stafford. In his 112th try, Brainard took the lead on lap three and led to the checker at the 50-lap mark. Steve Chowanski finished second with Mike Christopher, Chris Jones and Frank Wainwright rounding out the top five. Matt Kobyluck was running a Pro Stock when he crashed hard and suffered a broken shoulder blade and numerous broken ribs. At Waterford on Saturday night, Rick Donnelly survived 13 cautions to win the 35-lap feature that took over an hour to run. Tucker Reynolds finished second and was followed by Bert Marvin, Dennis Gada and Mike Gada. Allen Coates was the late model winner. Coats’ win was the 198th for engine shop, Larry’s Automotive. Jim Broderick scored his first win at Riverside Park. Ed Spiers, Richie Gallup, Ted Riggot and Brad Hietella followed. Howie Brode scored his first ever win at Riverhead as he won out over George Brunnhoelzl. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Nazareth for a 100 lapper. Mike Stefanik took the win after a tough battle with Tom Baldwin and Ed Flemke Jr. Dan Avery finished fourth with Jamie Tomaino rounding out the top five. Tim Fedewa won the Busch Series event that was also run at the Pennsylvania oval. Dale Earnhardt Jr was a pre-race favorite but got wrecked after a pit stop. Randy Lajoie wasn’t too happy with Buckshot Jones after being dumped into the wall. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Mark Martin won the Winston after Jeff Gordon ran out of gas on the last lap. Jeremy Mayfield won the Winston Open.

Fifteen years ago in 2003 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series traveled to Nazareth, Pa. Ted Christopher was the class of the field as he won the 100-lap event that was extended to 107 laps because of a late race caution. Christopher and Busch Pole sitter John Blewett III were the only leaders in the event that was slowed by 8 caution periods for 47 laps. It was Christopher’s race to lose as he had the dominant car for just about the entire distance. Christopher led the first 94 laps before giving way to Blewett who led only laps 95 through 97 before Christopher took charge for good. It was Christopher’s second Modified tour victory of the year as he had previously won the Spring Sizzle at Stafford. Blewett finished second. Eddie Flemke, who has had a string of bad luck, got the monkey off his back with a strong run, which placed him third at the finish. Nevin George and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Thirty-eight cars were on hand, a little light considering the event. Not to insult anyone but there were at least eight cars that didn’t belong in the field. Based on his strong second place finish, John Blewett III took over the point lead from Chuck Hossfeld. Hossfeld crossed the finish line in 8th spot but was placed last, 19th, on the lead lap for jumping the final re-start. Hossfeld had now slipped to fourth in the standings. Trailing Blewett by one point was Todd Szegedy. Christopher moved up into third and Jerry Marquis sat in fourth. Ted Christopher had a busy weekend for himself. In addition to racing at Nazareth, he competed at Stafford on Friday night where he finished sixth after qualifying through the consolation and on Saturday night at Waterford he finished third in a rough night at the shoreline oval. At Stafford, Brad Hietala passed Jim Civali on a lap 30 re-start and went on to take the victory in the 50 lap main event. Hietala started in seventh position. Mike Holdredge finished second with defending track champion, Bo Gunning, finishing third. Civali finished fourth with Jay Miller rounding out the top five. Rookie Curt Lenahan started on the pole and captured his first ever win at Waterford on Saturday night. For the most part, many of the heavy hitters in the modified ranks were collected in wrecks, which were the norm at the shoreline oval. Jay Miller survived to finish second with Ted Christopher, third. Ron Yuhas Jr. and John Brouwer Jr. rounded out the top five. The Busch North Series was at the Lake Erie Speedway where Andy Santerre took the win over Mike Johnson and Mike Stefanik. Kelly Moore was the pole sitter and led the early going before losing two laps when he cut down two tires and had to pit. Moore ended up 16th. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson took the lead from Jeff Gordon on lap three of the final 20 lap leg of The Winston and went on to score the win. Kurt Busch finished second. In Busch Series action at Nazareth, Ron Hornady took the win after leading 148 of the 200-lap distance. Brian Vickers finished second with Mike Bliss, third.

Ten years ago in 2008, gas prices ranged from $3.75 to $4.00 per gallon. The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to rain for the second week in a row. The New England DODGE DEALERS LATE MODEL 100 was. The Arute family that owns and operates Stafford announced that NASCAR New England, the hour long Television production that covers the weekly racing would be back on NESN for ten episodes during the 2008 season. The tentative starting date would be in late June.

The Waterford Speedbowl.enjoyed another good night of competition with Keith Rocco making it two in a row in SK Modified competition. Rocco took the lead from Jay Miller with 13 laps remaining in the 35 lap feature. Miller faded shortly after as Jeff Pearl moved into the second spot. Pearl tried repeatedly to overtake Rocco but was forced to back out of it when it became obvious that Rocco would wreck anyone who attempted to pass. Rather than wrecking Pearl made a smart decision to settle for second spot. Rob Janovic finished third and was followed by Ron Yuhas Jr and Tyler Chadwick.

In Late Model action, it was Bruce Thomas Jr. recording his third feature of the season. Thomas battled with Ron Yuhas Jr. during the last half of the event before finally getting the advantage as the two approached lapped traffic and Thomas was able to sneak-by on the inside. Following Yuhas was Tim Jordan, Vin Esposito, and Ed Reed Jr. Other Feature winners were Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), Randy Churchill (Mini Stock), Jason Palmer (Legends), and Randy Cabral (NEMA Midgets).

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the True Value Modified Series were in the middle of their “Spring Break”. To date both series had enjoyed good counts despite the high costs of traveling. The Whelen Modifieds have had 41 Modifieds enter into competition while the TVMS has had 39. With the two major series on break the All Star Speedway in Epping, NH hosted a special 100 lap open competition event for Modifieds. Mike Stefanik took the win over Andy Seuss and Ron Silk. The event drew 31 cars.

Wayne Anderson won Saturday nights NASCAR Modified feature at the Riverhead Raceway just one week after a hard crash on opening night. Anderson started on the pole and led every lap.

Kyle Busch won the battle of attrition Saturday night as one of NASCAR’s least popular drivers overcame a pit-road penalty and several scrapes with the wall to win the Sprint Cup Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. Carl Edwards finished second, Jeff Gordon was third and Dale Earnhardt Jr finished fourth.. Tony Stewart had never won at Darlington before, but he was dominant Friday night in gliding to victory in the Nationwide Diamond Hill Plymouth 200, the first race on the track’s repaved surface.

Five years ago in 2013, The Valenti Modified Racing Series paid a visit to the Thompson on Sunday. Twenty eight Modifieds were on hand. Unfortunately rain prevailed.

The Stafford Motor Speedway Friday night series saw Rowan Pennink score his first ever win at the Connecticut oval. Pennink, who also races at Thompson on a weekly basis plus the Valenti Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, travels from Huntingon Valley, PA each and every week in order to race. Shortly after the drop of the green in the 40 lap feature Pennink went to the lead past Michael Gervais and never looked back. Sean Foster, who moved into the runner-up spot at the mid point of the event, tried everything he could to get by Pennink, but Pennink held him off at the checkered for his first career SK Modified® feature victory. Glen Reen finished third, with Ted Christopher and Doug Coby rounding out the top-5.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, it was a little chilly to say the least as summer has yet to kick in. Scoring victories were Kyle James of Ashaway, RI in the SK Modifieds® and Bruce Thomas Jr. of Groton in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models. A pair of defending champions earned their first 2013 wins, Ken Cassidy Jr. of Lisbon and Paul French of Andover in the Mini Stocks and SK Light Modifieds, respectively. Ryan Waterman of Danielson was a first-ever winner in the Street Stock feature. All five were first time winners in 2013.

James picked up his win surviving a wild 35-lap race in the SK Modified® division. James, who started in last position, dodged incidents which resulted in eight caution flags that plagued the race. He started the race in 23rd position after problems plagued him in practice and qualifying. The race began with rookie Tyler Jackson and Ed Puleo battling for the lead from their front row starting positions. Jackson bobbled exiting turn two on lap-2 creating a traffic jam behind him which resulted in a caution when Diego Monahan spun into turn-3. Puleo took the lead on the restart as Jeff Rocco and Tom Abele climbed to second and third on the track.

Nichole Morgillo and Justin Gaydosh spun in tandem out of turn two battling in a tight pack of cars just outside the top-five for the second caution flag on lap-10. The restart was not kind to Jeff Rocco as he made heavy contact with the retaining wall exiting turn two while running. Ted Christopher was collected and pitted for repairs, returning at the tail end of the field while Rocco’s night was over. Only one lap was completed before caution was back out on lap-11 as more mayhem broke out behind Puleo. Another bobble by Jackson out of turn two resulted in several cars making contact and Monahan again the victim, stopped on the track with a flat tire. Keith Rocco took the opportunity to head to the pits for adjustments during the yellow.

Craig Lutz took over at the front with a daring three-wide maneuver after racing went back to green. He looked inside of Puleo down the back chute coming to lap-14 as Puleo fended off a challenge to his outside by Abele. Lutz cleared both exiting turn four to streak into the lead, holding the top spot through lap-22 when Puleo fought back and found room to his inside. Behind Puleo Todd Ceravolo eventually came away with second position in a battle that saw three cars tangle on lap-24. Abele and Lutz both tried racing under Brett Gonyaw in turn two, coming together to bring out the next caution flag and sending each to the pit area for repair. The melee bumped James up to third position and into contention. James was able to get ahead of Ceravolo on the restart, trailing Puleo when Jeffrey Gallup and Christopher wrecked in turn four battling for fourth on lap-25. Once in second, James used the next restart to stay outside of Puleo and take command on lap-27 when Puleo got loose to his inside fighting to hang on to his lead. James survived a final restart on lap-33, besting Ceravolo to race to the checkered flag. Ceravolo wound up second while Puleo ran up front all night, leading much of the race, to place third. Keith Rocco and Lutz both rebounded from their hurdles to round out the top-five.

In NASCAR Modified Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Howie Brode of East Islip snapped a nearly three year winless spell when he swept the Twin 30 NASCAR Modified feature events at the east end oval under threatening skies which forced the features to be moved up in the track’s running order with unexpected rain showers all around the facility. For Brode it was his 12th career win at Riverhead and his first since he won on July 17th, 2010 when he was triumphant in the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 Memorial. Ryan Preece finished second, while defending champion Shawn Solomito was third place tally. Ron Silk and Tom Rogers Jr. rounded out the top five.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC Burt Myers scored his 52nd career win at the 1/4 mile flat oval that encircles a football field. Myers survived nine restarts and managed to hold the lead until the end of the 104 lap contest. Myers, who has won two of four Modified races this season, moved up from the second row to the outside of the front row after Robert Jeffreys, who drew the second position, wasn’t able to start.

Ed Carpenter, the local boy whose mother is married to former Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George, took the pole position for the Indianapolis 500. Carpenter, the owner/driver of Ed Carpenter Racing, was the proverbial “Little Guy” going up against the best teams in the sport owned by the legendary Michael Andretti and Roger Penske. And in the end, it was the “Little Guy” that would lead the field to the green flag to start the 97th Indianapolis 500 as Carpenter won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 pole with a four-lap average of 228.762 miles per hour in a Dallara/Chevrolet.

Jimmie Johnson, the five-time NASCAR champion became the first four-time winner of NASCAR’s annual All-Star race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, breaking a tie with the late Dale Earnhardt and teammate Jeff Gordon.

In some sad news, former short-track ace Dick Trickle died Thursday at age 71 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Lincoln County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Department. Trickle, who won well over 1,000 short-track features in his career, ran his last NASCAR race in 2002. Trickle’s body was found near his pickup truck in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City, N.C. The Lincoln County Communications Center received a call at around noon Wednesday, from a man, apparently Trickle, who said there would be a dead body, and it would be his.

Last year, 2017, at Thompson on Sunday, the second annual Limited Sportsman Long Distance event took center stage. The drivers of the Limited Sportsman series ran a 30-lap long distance race with 30 cars making up the field of competitors in the biggest race the series hold all season at the Big-T. The race was a popular new addition to the calendar in 2016, extending the normal 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature an extra ten laps. The 2017 event saw its share of drama as Ryan Waterman proved to be the car to beat, leading for much of the first half of the event. However, the extra distance paid off for Brent Gleason who took the lead around halfway and never looked back, surviving numerous cautions and a hard charge from Waterman to take the win but was later disqualified after post race inspection.

The Sunoco Modifieds held their second race of the season at Thompson and it was a pair of familiar names up front battling for the checkered flag as Keith Rocco out-dueled Ryan Preece for the win after Preece took the victory in the Icebreaker when Rocco settled for a runner-up finish. The duo had to survive numerous multi-car wrecks that resulted in two red flag periods before racing to the finish in the 30-lap feature. Despite Preece’s best efforts, Rocco claimed a dominant win in his hunt for a second consecutive title. Rocco now had 235 career wins at Thompson, Waterford and Stafford. Woody Pitkat, Nick Salva and John Studley rounded out the top five.

Other Sunday winners at Thompson were Roger Turbush in the Mr Rooter Trucks, Wayne Burroughs in the Minis and Rick Gentes in the Late Models.

The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted the Valenti Modified Racing Series in addition to their regular Friday night program. Taking the checkered flag in the 80 lapper was Anthony Nocella, for his first career Stafford VMRS victory. Taking down weekly feature wins on the night were Chase Dowling in the SK Modified® feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the Late Model feature, George Nocera, Jr. in the SK Light feature, Jeremy Lavoie in the Limited Late Model feature, and Zack Robinson in the DARE Stock feature.

A late race restart caused Rowan Pennink to lose sight of victory. Pennink’s car wouldn’t start back up after a red flag condition and Richard Savary came to pit road out of gas, handing the race lead over to Nocella with Woody Pitkat in second spot. It took 1-hour 18 minutes to complete the first race of the year. Three front running drivers were victims of fuel shortage. Rocco, Pennink, and Richard Savary were all sidelined for engines that quit while running at or near the front.

The Nocella Paving race team purchased a brand new Race Works Chassis for the new season and the end result had Nocella pleased post race. “Can’t thank Eddie Flemke (car builder) enough. Completely different than the other one. First race out with it so we really didn’t have a clue. We were horrible in practice and then it was awesome the whole race,” said Nocella.Nocella led Pitkat to the checkered flag to pick up his first win at Stafford. Mike Willis finished third with Chris Pasteryak and Ron Williams rounding out the top-5.

With five laps to go in the regular SK Modified 40 lapper Dowling, Ted Christopher, Keith Rocco, Pennink and Williams were lined up single file. Christopher was working over Dowling while Pennink was looking high and low for a way to get around Rocco. Dowling led Christopher to the checkered flag to pick up his second win in three races in 2017. Rocco finished third with Pennink and Williams rounding out the top-5.

In weekly action at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Tom Rogers of Riverhead turned in a double dip performance Saturday night when he scored the win in both the 40-lap NASCAR Modified feature event as well the 15-lap Figure Eight contest later in the program. The NASCAR Modified win was the 44th of Tom’s career while the Figure Eight victory was his 27th trip to victory lane. The Granite State Pro Stock Series made their first ever Long Island appearance with Mike Mitchell of Cumberland, RI collecting his first career victory in the Riverhead 100 earning $2,000. Prior to Saturday night Mitchell had never even scored a GSPSS podium finish.

Vinny Biondolillo of Farmingville was runner-up in the Kennedy L.I. Realty entry while early leader John Fortin Jr. of Holtsville had a solid race scoring a third place tally in the Suffolk Pro Cycles Chevy. Dave Brigati of Calverton and John Fortin Sr. of Holtsville completed the top five

Down in the south land, Michael Clifton has been racing for years at the Bowman Gray Stadium, but after plenty of success it took him a while to get back to the winner’s circle. On Saturday, he won his first race since June 2013 to pick up his 20th career victory at Bowman Gray Stadium, winning the second 25-lap race.

Clifton finished 11th in the first race after Tim Brown started on the pole and led from start to finish. Brown drew 14th after the Madhouse Scramble, which put Clifton on the front row for the second race. Clifton took the lead from Daniel Yates on the third lap and led the remaining 22 laps.

Brown won the first 25-lap race, giving him 82 for his career at Bowman Gray. He defeated Jason Myers, James Civali and Burt Myers.

Kyle Busch took home a $1 million paycheck for winning Saturday’s lackluster Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race featured the debut of a softer option tire, which was expected to create more passing opportunities but ended up being a non-factor in the final 10 lap stage that saw Busch take the lead at the start and lead to the checkered flag.

The victory for Busch comes a day after he scored his seventh NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Charlotte, but Saturday’s victory was his first of any kind at Charlotte in a NASCAR Cup Series car.

Scott Dixon earned the pole for the 101st Indianapolis 500. The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner delivered with speeds that had not been seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 21 years. He stunned the crowd, and the field with a four-lap average of 232.164 mph in his No. 9 Honda.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI.

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