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

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1953, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl began its summer schedule which included holding races on Wednesday and on Saturday. Massachusetts invader Red Bolduc was the Wednesday night winner and Red Foote was victorious on Saturday night. Non-Ford winners were Bud Matter and Bob Tyson.

Sixty years ago in 1958, Don Collins was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner at the Ct shoreline oval.
Fifty five years ago in 1963 Rene Charland was well on his way to the NASCAR Sportsman Championship as he made it two in a row at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Cam Gaglairdi finished second with Ed Ortiz, third. The then dirt Stafford Springs Speedway began its second year under the NASCAR sanction with Ernie Gahan taking the win. Rain prevailed at Waterford.

Fifty years ago, in 1968, Bugsy Stevens made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. Eddie Flemke, the previous week’s winner, finished second. Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell finished third with Reno Tulonen and Leo Cleary rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Lou Lazzaro took the top spot over Don MacTavish, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland and Andy Romano. Bugs Stevens took his winning ways to Norwood on Saturday where he dusted the field. At Fonda, Ray Sitterly scored a surprise victory over Kenny Shoemaker and Ron Narducci and at Fulton, Dutch Hoag scored the first of 12 events he would win over the next three seasons. Eddie Flemke put the 2x of Bobby Judkins in victory lane at Thompson while at Utica-Rome twin features were on tap. Lou Lazzaro won the left over feature from the previous week. Sonny Seamon finished second with Ken Platt, Dick Fowler and Dick Clark rounding out the top five. Richie Evans who beat out Sonny Seamon, Andy Romano, Jerry Cook and Robbie Kotary for the top spot, won the regular evening’s feature. Rain prevailed at Waterford and at Lancaster.

Forty five years ago in 1973 Friday night racing at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. rained out. It cleared on Saturday and at Stafford Springs Eddie Flemke took the win over Fred DeSarro, Ron Bouchard and Don Flynn. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek again bested the 1/5-mile oval, beating out Jim Hendrickson for the win. At Tioga, Eddie Pieniezak took the win over Wayne Edwards, George Kent and Jerry Cook. Lingering showers at Waterford prevailed. Rain washed out events scheduled at Pocono and Utica-Rome.

Forty years ago in 1978,Geoff Bodine was on a tear as he won three out of four for the weekend. At Stafford, he beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Leo Cleary, at Seekonk he won over Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens and at Utica-Rome he beat Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. The only downer was a blown engine at Oswego on Sunday afternoon. Other weekend winners were Jerry Cook at Riverside, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Charlie Jarzombek at Islip, Ronnie Bouchard at Thompson and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. Maynard Troyer won the modified half of the Port City 150 at Oswego.

Thirty five years ago in 1983, rain soaked the northeast. Stafford ran on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Bobby Vee, Kenny Bouchard and Greg Sacks. Jerry Pearl was the SK Modified winner. Marty Radwick took the victory at Riverside Park over Ray Miller and Dennis Albro. At Tioga, Richie Evans beat out Wayne Edwards. Waterford, Wall Stadium, Islip, Spencer and a special modified event at Pocono, rained out.

Thirty Years ago in 1988, Stafford rained out. At Waterford on Saturday, Ed Flemke Jr. took the win over John Jensen. At Riverhead, it was Don Howe over John Blewett Jr. and at Tioga, Tony Hirschman made it three in a row with Lee Sherwood, second. Mike Stefanik was the winner at Monadnock on Sunday.

Twenty five years ago in 1993, Steve Chowanski took the Friday night win at Stafford after the Christopher brothers tangled on the last lap. Saturday saw rain at Waterford. Jerry Marquis got his third win at Riverside and Brian Miller scored a win at Riverhead. Twin SK events were run at Thompson on Sunday. John StAngelo and Ted Christopher were the winners. Marquis made it two for two on the weekend as he won on Sunday at Monadnock. The Modified Tour Series joined the Busch Grandnational North/South divisions at Nazareth. Tim Connolly won the modified event over Doug Hevron, Jamie Tomaino, Rick Fuller and Tom Baldwin. Bob Pressley won the Busch GN event after Mike Stefanik broke a motor mount while leading. Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin with two to go to win the Winston at Charlotte.

Twenty years ago in 1998 Memorial Day came a week early and the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik started second and led all 150 laps as he went non-stop. Chris Kopec finished second with John Blewett III, third. Carl Pasteryak and Ed Kennedy rounded out the top five. In SK Modified action at Stafford Bo Gunning scored his 34th career win as he out ran Chris Jones and Jim Broderick to the checker. Tucker Reynolds passed Jerry Pearl with 10 laps to go and went on to record the win at Waterford. Rick Donnelly finished second while Pearl faded to third. Eddie Flemke won a 125 lapper at Riverside Park over Bob Polverari and Todd Ceravolo and at the Riverhead Raceway it was Ken Heagy in victory lane. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Sunday. Ted Christopher led from lap 40 to the finish only to get disqualified with an illegal transmission. Bert Marvin was awarded the win with Dennis Gada moving up to second. Charlie Pasteryak, Todd Ceravolo and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five. Mark Martin took the lead from Jim Spencer with four laps to go and went on to win the Busch Series 300 at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon beat out Rusty Wallace to win the Winston Cup World 600 at Charlotte and Eddie Cheever won the Indy 500. Tom Carey was the Busch North Series winner at the Holland Speedway.

Fifteen years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was scheduled to be at the Stafford Speedway on Friday night but heavy rain forced the Arute family to pull the plug and reschedule to Friday, May 30. The decision to scrub the event was made around 9:00 am which saved countless competitors and fans needless travel. A very good and smart move! Waterford and Seekonk followed suit early on Saturday morning. Seekonk’s Busch North Series event at Seekonk was rescheduled to Saturday, May 31. Waterford’s holiday program would run in July. With four events in the 2003 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series record book John Blewett III sat atop the point standings. Winless, Blewett had four top tens including two top fives. The 2002 rookie sensation Todd Szegedy sat in the second spot, one point behind Blewett. Szegedy was also winless but had four top tens including three top fives to his credit. Ted Christopher finished 32nd at Thompson in the season opener but since then had come on like gangbusters and had clawed his way to third spot, thirty five points behind the leader. Christopher had two wins to his credit including the Spring Sizzler at Stafford and the recent Service Electric 100 at Nazareth. In addition to his two wins and a DNF, Christopher had one top five and was the series money leader with $21,400 in the win column. Chuck Hossfeld led the point standings through the first three events but ran into miss-fortune at Nazareth when officials said he jumped the final restart and placed him at the tail end of the lead lap in 19th spot. Hossfeld actually crossed the finish line in 8th spot. Although he did not actually pass the car in question he was along side as they crossed the start line and officials felt that it was his intent to make a pass. A questionable call to say the least. Hossfeld, who won the season opener at Thompson, had a total of three top tens including two top fives. Even with a slip to fourth spot, Hossfeld was only 36 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five was former series champion Jerry Marquis. Marquis had four top tens including one top five and was 41 points out of first spot. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, Eric Beers, Rick Fuller, Tony Ferrante Jr. and Dave Etheridge. NASCAR’s top divisions had better luck as the big weekend at Charlotte was completed. Jimmie Johnson was declared the winner of the Winston Cup World 600 after rain caused the race to be stopped at the 414-mile mark. Matt Kenseth was second. On a sad note, it was learned that former Stafford Motor Speedway pace car driver Peter Locke had passed away at the age of 66.

Ten years ago in 2008, the Stafford Motor Speedway suffered their third successive rain out. The Waterford Speedbowl continued to benefit from Stafford’s rain outs as their car counts in the SK Modified division had become quite healthy. Six-time champion Dennis Gada came from deep in the pack Saturday evening to win his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK feature of the season on Little League Night.

The 35 lap SK Modified feature got off to a rough start as a pile of cars got drop kicked into the first turn wall after outside pole sitter Frank Mucciacciaro Jr failed to come up to racing speed. Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr got the worst of it and were towed from the scene. On the restart, Wendell Dailey led momentarily before passed by Mucciacciaro and several others. Justin Gadosh then moved to the front pressed by Rob Janovic and a fast-moving Dennis Gada. Passing Gaydosh, Gada pulled alongside leader Janovic, executing an outside-pass to take the lead with only three circuits remaining when the caution waved for the final time. In one of the closest SK finishes of 2008, he was able to get the advantage on defending champion. Following was Gaydosh, Ronnie Silk, and Rocco. In the Late Models, Ed Reed took his second feature of the season. Moving into the lead following an altercation between leader Tim Jordon and defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr., Reed distanced himself from a furious battle between Vin Esposito and Ron Yuhas Jr. Having his best run of the season, a surprisingly-fast Esposito was able to nip Yuhas for second. After restarting from the back of the field, Jordan and Thomas Jr. recovered to complete the top-five. Both of these drivers deserved the “Meatball Flag” Jordan for blocking and Thomas for the lack of patience. Ed Lamb Jr. became the sixth different Sportsman feature winner of the season in scoring his first-ever main event. Lamb was dogged in the closing laps by veteran Jim Proccaccini, but managed to pull ahead by several car-lengths at the finish. Walt Hovey, Jr., Al Stone III, and Jonathon Avery followed.

In the caution-free Mini Stock feature, teenage rookie Raymond Christian III put on a dominating performance to win the first of his career. Christian is the son of defending “Women On Wheels” champion Kathy Civardi, and the step-son of popular Speedbowl veteran Jeff “Soup” Civardi. Lou Belisle finished second, and rounding-out the top-five was Randy Churchill Jr., Ken Cassidy Jr., and Bill Leonard.

According to the State of Connecticut Judicial website the Waterford Speedbowl was once again the center of foreclosure action. Rocco Arbitell, along with Peter Borelli, filed suit in state court in New London to foreclose on the Speedbowl property. The case was filed against 1080 Hartford Road, the group that owned the Speedbowl, and Terry Eames. In the mean time, the Speedbowl continued to run every week bacically drawing fans on a word of mouth situation.

Special congratulations were sent out to Howie and Mary Hodge, two very special people who celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss on Sunday, May 18. Thanks to the efforts of Howie and Mary the Whelen Modified Tour Series gets recorded in pictures.
Kasey Kahne picked up a $1 million payday Saturday by gambling on a late pit stop to steal a win in NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star race. Kahne didn’t take tires on the pit stop before the fourth and final 25-lap segment, a decision that helped him start second when the race resumed. He wasn’t challenged and easily held off Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth for the victory. Kahne wasn’t originally eligible for the race, needing to finish first or second in the preliminary Sprint Showdown. He finished fifth, but earned his spot through a fan vote. The 100-lap event was intermittently dominated by Kyle Busch, Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Biffle, who led the final 11 laps of the third segment, took two tires and was mired in traffic on the start of the final segment. Biffle, who finished second, never got a chance to run down Kahne, who slid past leader Jimmie Johnson to lead the final 17 laps. Kenseth was third. Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.

Five years ago in 2013, The Memorial Day weekend began on a wet note as the Stafford Motor Speedway management and NASCAR postponed the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series 23rd ANNUAL TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON 125 due to a forecast for inclement weather.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, rain prevailed. Riverhead Raceway on Long Island also fell victim to rain.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC the Myers brothers battled it out in the first of two 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division. Jason Myers held off older brother Burt and celebrated his first victory of the season. In the second race, John Smith held off fellow Mount Airy driver Chris Fleming for his first victory of the season.

NASCAR honored a pair of its most famous and successful families with inductions into the Hall of Fame. Past champion Dale Jarrett joined father Ned in the hall and master mechanic Maurice “Chief” Petty became the fourth member of one of NASCAR’s most royal families to be selected for enshrinement. Maurice joins older brother, “King” Richard Petty; their father, championship driver Lee Petty; and cousin Dale Inman, Richard’s longtime crew chief in the hall.

Tim Flock, a two-time premier series champion, also was selected along with Jack Ingram, who drove to success on what became NASCAR’s Nationwide Series; and Fireball Roberts, the flashy showman from the 1950s who raced to 33 victories before his death in 1964.

In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing at Charlotte, Kyle Busch dominated as he raced to his sixth Nationwide Series victory of the season and record seventh career win at the 1.5-mile track. He also was Truck Series winner at the track the previous week, his fifth victory in that circuit at Charlotte.

Tony Kanaan drove past Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart Sunday with three laps to go, then coasted across the finish line under yellow to win the Indianapolis 500 when defending race winner Dario Franchitti crashed far back in the field.

Kevin Harvick took the lead from Kasey Kahne during a restart with 11 laps left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and pulled away to his second victory in NASCAR’s longest race. Kasey Kahne appeared to have the race under control when the caution flag waved with 16 laps left for a large piece of debris on the front stretch. Kahne opted not to pit during the caution period, but Harvick and all the other lead lap cars did. Harvick got off pit road first, allowing him to restart second along Kahne.

The field returned to racing with 11 laps left and Harvick went right to work. Working the low line below Kahne, Harvick was able to take the lead at the exit of turn two. Once out front Harvick slowly pulled away, eventually beating Kahne to the checkers by 1.490 seconds. Kurt Busch, who was forced to change batteries in his car late in the race, recovered to finish third. Polesitter Denny Hamlin was fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was filled with chaos and strange happenings. The race was slowed by 12 caution flags and two red flags. One of those red flags came when a nylon cable from an overhead television camera snapped and fell onto the track on lap 121. The cable caused damage to several race cars, including severe damage to then race leader Kyle Busch’s Toyota, as well as 10 race fans. Seven race fans were treated and released at the track while three were transported to a local hospital for observation.
Last year, 2017 The Stafford Motor Speedway pulled the plug on their Friday night racing program. Due to a change in weather patterns and forecast for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, Stafford Speedway officials decided to postpone the Inaugural Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Modifiedz Night to Friday June 9th. All activities scheduled for Dunleavy Modifiedz Night will be held on Friday, June 9th including the 40-lap SK Light Modified $2,500 to win special event, 50-lap SK Modified event, Fireworks, as well as special pricing for members of the Armed Services.

In weekly action at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island it was Throw-Back weekend with the running of the Islip 300. Fifteen year old sophomore driver Dillon Steuer stood the Tour Type Modified world on it’s collective ear Saturday night at the eastern Long Island track when he scored an upset victory in the $32,650 Islip 300. Steuer took the lead from Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead with 37 laps remaining in the race and drove off to an extremely popular win worth $7,000.

Qualifying found Ryan Preece. setting fast time and winning the pole for the 300 with a lap of 11.845 in his East West Marine Chevy with Steuer second quick at 11.960 earning the outside pole. As the 20 car field came to the green Preece would move out front with Steuer giving chase for the first lap before he was passed to the inside off turn four on lap 2 by Dave Brigati. It was evident early on that Preece and his team’s game plan were to run as hard as they could early on with the hopes of putting the rest of the field a lap down. While Preece was on a tear at the front of the field Brigati would battle for second with Shawn Solomito who took the spot on lap 53 with an inside pass entering the first turn. With some extended green flag laps being clicked off Preece’s plan was working out just fine. A third of the way through the race Preece had lapped all but the second place car of Solomito.

Things would start to change however as some caution flags would wave prior to and just past the halfway mark with most contending drivers heading to the pits to utilize the two change tires teams were allowed for the 300 which changed the complexion of the race. By lap 200 most everyone pitted for tires with the exception of Preece and Howie Brode. Shawn Solomito with two fresh tires made his way Preece for the lead with an inside pass up the backstretch to take the race lead on lap 146 with Preece sitting second on the tires he started the race on. On a lap 192 restart John Fortin Sr. would make his way to second behind Solomito and would chase the leader until lap 209 when he made he way by Solomito with an inside pass heading into the third turn. Preece in the meantime hanging on with his old tires but soon found himself fighting to stay on the lead lap but to no avail. By the time Ryan pitted for tires he’d be a lap down.

Fortin, a 30 time career winner at Riverhead would lead the way until lap 212 when he was overtaken by Tom Rogers Jr. to the inside entering the third turn. Drivers also making their way into contention after pitting for fresh tires included Dave Schneider and Dillon Steuer with Steuer making his way to second after he passed Fortin on lap 246. Once to second Dillon quickly reeled in 44-time career winner Rogers but catching the leader would be one thing, passing him would be quite another story. Steuer attempted the crossover maneuver several time on Rogers exiting the second corner but to no avail as Roger slowed his car from the center off trying to break the challengers momentum.
Steuer’s big break would come on lap 262 as he and Rogers were working lapped traffic through the third and fourth turn. Exiting the turn Rogers went to the outside while Steuer chose to go to the inside of the lapped car and by the time they hit the first turn Dillon Steuer would be the new race leader. At first Rogers tried to make a crossover move of his own but as the laps clicked off Steuer was able to motor away. In fact in the final few laps Rogers would have a mirror full of third place driver Dave Schneider who was turning in a career performance of his own in the 300.

With the checker flag waving off turn four and the large crowd on their feet Dillon Steuer drove off turn four to score what will be the first of many Tour Type Modified victories as the crowd roared with approval. Dillon then proceeded to do several burnouts for the fans and by the time he arrived in victory lane his left rear tire was cooked right off the car. After track owners Eddie & Connie Partridge & Tom Gatz present Dillon with a five foot tall Islip 300 trophy Dillon was asked if he ever imagined his first career Modified win would come in such a big race the soft spoken Steuer admitted, “no not really but my team had a great game plan tonight. We pitted right around where we wanted to and the car was just perfect”. Steuer who’ll return to classes at Connetquot High School Tuesday morning added, “I can’t thank my owner Grant Williams and my Dad enough for all they do for me along with Northeastern Office Equipment, Sayville South Bay Auto Repair, Coram Materials, KAMO Motorsports and TJ’S Heros.”

Tom Rogers Jr would settle for runner-up money in his SGS Stone Works Chevy and afterwards pointed to his right rear tire noting, “my right rear is gone but hey good for Dillon and his family”. Dave Schneider of Northport was in the mix all race long and would come home third in his Schneider Racing entry, “this is pretty cool to run among the leaders and come away with a podium finish” Dave commented. Ryan Preece and Shawn Solomito of Center Moriches would complete the top five. By the time Preece did eventually get his lap back by passing Steuer it was too little, too late.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series traveled to the Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH last weekend. It took over 15 years to win his second race at what he calls his ‘home’ race track, but Auburn New Hampshire’s Mike Douglas Jr. finally put it all together Saturday afternoon May 27, and won his first Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Lee USA Speedway, Lee, NH. Douglas first trip to victory lane was in the tracks Hobby Stock division in 2003.

Saturdays race was a special holiday weekend presentation by the Lee track with qualifying heat race winners receiving $500 to win and $3,000 was awarded to the winner. Douglas was clearly the class of the field as he won his heat race and then the 50-lap main event. The second-generation driver started on the pole and led the entire race.
Donnie Lashua, of Canaan, NH, and Dana Smith, of Sunapee, NH, gave chase early on with Richard Savary, of Canton, MA, and Anthony Nocella, of Woburn, MA, providing some late race drama when Savary pulled alongside Douglas with Nocella on his heels.

While Savary was dealing with a tight car and Nocella, Douglas pulled away to notch his first VMRS victory. Douglas’ car was a nine year old Race Works Chassis.
Les Hinckley III finished fourth with Todd Annarummo, fifth. Sixth was Dana Smith. Mike Willis, Jeff Rocco, Carl Medieros and Dennis Perry rounded out the top ten.
Down in the south land, Tim Brown recorded his track-record 83rd career victory at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, winning the pole for the first 25-lap Modified race and leading the entire way.

Brown beat Chris Fleming, Lee Jeffreys, Jason Myers and Burt Myers to the line at the end of the first Modified race Saturday. Fleming made an attempt to get under Brown coming out of the fourth turn on lap 10 but slowed up to keep control of his car as it hit the infield grass. Brown sped away and led by a comfortable margin as he maneuvered around slower traffic for the final 15 laps.

Brown drew an “8” in the post-race “Madhouse Scramble,” meaning the order of the top eight finishers was inverted for the start of the second race, and he moved from eighth to sixth in that event. Randy Butner started third, survived an opening-lap wreck, passed Michael Clifton for the lead on lap 3 and held off Burt Myers for the win.

The New London Day reported that a spokesperson for the owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl is taking back an announcement that the racetrack would hold races in 2017.

After track management canceled the first spring weekend of racing, an anonymous post issued on the Speedbowl’s website declared plans to open to racers next month.
“There is currently a working agreement for the Speedbowl to be leased for the 2017 racing season,” the post read. That post has since been taken down, and Chuck Coursey, a spokesman for track owner Bruce Bemer who is working with a law firm that represents Bemer’s propane business in a separate case, said the announcement was “premature.”

“Although any announcement regarding a possible agreement to lease the New London-Waterford Speedbowl for the upcoming season is premature, management is working to preserve the upcoming season and jobs at the Speedbowl,” Coursey said in a statement. He did not comment further on the lease agreement referenced in the Sunday night announcement.

NASCAR released the 2018 schedules for all three national divisions, with substantial changes made to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar. The first change is moving the annual Daytona 500 back to President’s Day weekend. The race would now be held on Feb. 18, 2018. Once again many fans will take it on the chin as reservations for motel and time-shares will again have to be changed.

In an unrelated matter, Many in the northeast, especially the Whelen Modified Tour competitors and fans were disappointed that Mike Stefanik was not included when NASCAR announced the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018. The five-person group – the ninth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 – consists of Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ron Hornaday Jr., Ken Squier and Robert Yates. In addition, NASCAR announced that Jim France earned the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

Andrew Krause raced to victory Saturday night in the 40-lap main event for the Freehold Ford Modified stock cars at Wall Stadium Speedway. It was his first win of the year and broke a three race-win streak by Jimmy Blewett who finished second.

Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night when he stayed out instead of pitting and made it to the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch. Martin Truex Jr. was third after leading 233 of 400 laps.

It was Dillon’s first NASCAR Cup victory and returned the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet — owned by grandfather Richard Childress and driven to fame by Dale Earnhardt — to victory lane.

Ryan Blaney passed Harvick on a restart with three laps to go and held on to win the Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Blaney went from last to first for his fifth career Xfinity victory. He had qualified third, but was sent to the back of the field to start the race because of unapproved tire changes to his No. 12 Ford.

Takuma Sato, 40, won the 101st running of the Indy 500 on Sunday by holding off a charging Helio Castroneves in the final laps, becoming the first Japanese driver to capture the Memorial Day weekend classic.

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