RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit With Phil Smith – The First Week Of October

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1953, Fred Luchesi took the top spot in the final Saturday night Sportsman event that was run at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Tom VanEpps was the non-Ford winner.

Sixty years ago in 1958, rain washed out all racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Fifty five years ago in 1963, the Speedbowl was again awash.

Fifty years ago in 1968, Fred DeSarro won the season ender at the Norwood Arena. Leo Cleary, driving for Joe Brady sewed up the track championship. Little did anyone know there would only be one more year of open wheeled modified competition at the famed Massachusetts oval. Daring Dick Caso dazzled the troops at the New London Waterford Speedbowl where he won the 36 lap Modified feature. Matt Tinker was the Daredevil winner. At Thompson, on Sunday, Don MacTavish took the feature win. The Thompson win ended up being his last, as he would lose his life in Daytona during the Permatex 300.

Forty years ago, in 1973, the annual Race of Champions was run at Trenton on the mile and a half kidney shaped speedway. Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Eddie Flemke and Roger Treichler. It was also on this day that a then unknown driver by the name of Brian Ross got a big break. Dick Armstrong had brought two Modifieds to Trenton. Ray Hendrick drove one of them and Fred DeSarro convinced Armstrong to put Ross in the seat. Ross put on quite a show and was running in the top ten when he was called in for a driver change as Hendrick had lost an engine. Armstrong should have left well enough alone because shortly after, Hendrick blew up the engine in the other car too. Ross, none the less, got to show his stuff and went on to become one of the top drivers in the modified division. Waterford ran on Saturday night with Dick Dunn taking the Modified win. Big Mike Daignault was the Late Model Grand American winner. Dunn wrapped up his second of four in a row Modified Championships that he earned driving for Al Gaudreau.

Thirty five years ago this week, in 1978, At Monadnock on the same afternoon, Geoff Bodine took a 100-lap win over Reggie Ruggiero, Punky Caron, Bob Karvonen and Allen Whipple.

Thirty years ago in 1983, the Oswego Speedway ran their season ending 35 lap-modified event. Reggie Ruggiero took the win over George Kent, Richie Evans and Doug Hewitt. At Waterford, Bob Potter won the season finale. Glynn Shafer finished second with Don Bunnell, third. Brian McCarthy was the late model winner. Alan Johnson won the DIRT Syracuse 200.In Winston Cup action at Charlotte; Tim Richmond took the Busch Pole with Benny Parsons on the outside. Richard Petty took the win. A post race inspection revealed that Petty’s engine was illegal and his tires were also illegal. Petty was not stripped of the win but was fined $35,000.

Twenty five years ago in 1988, Ricky Fuller, driving the Bob Sterns U2 scored his first Modified Tour Series win as he won the modified portion of the annual World Series at Thompson. Fuller took the lead from Tom Bolles on a lap 26 restart and paced the field for the remainder of the 50-lap contest. Bolles finished second and was followed by Brian Ross, Mike Mclaughlin, Jeff Fuller and Doug Hevron. Bob Potter was the winner of the companion SK modified event.

Twenty years ago in 1993, Jeff Fuller was the Thompson World Series winner. Fuller took the lead from Jan Leaty on lap 45 and held it until pitting on lap 62 for tires and fuel. Fuller was first out of the pits and led the rest of the125 lap distance. Mike Stefanik started dead last in the 32-car field and finished second. Satch Worley finished third and was followed by Leaty, Jamie Tomaino, Ricky Fuller and Tony Ferrente. Lloyd Agor took the checker in the SK modified 30 lapper but was disqualified due to illegal heads. Tom Tagg got the win with Richie Gallup, second. Brett Hearne won the Syracuse 200 and in Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Ernie Irvan cleaned house.

Fifteen years ago, in 1998, the Thompson World Series and the D.Anthony Venditti Memorial at Seekonk were rained out. Despite rain, the DIRT organization got their Syracuse 300 in the record books. Billy Decker took the $50,000 win.

Ten years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series Fall Final was supposed to go off on Saturday afternoon but rain interrupted the event at the completion of the preliminary late model event, which forced NASCAR and the Speedway management to use Sunday as a rain date. This created a confliction with the Waterford Fall Finale but because of the coming weeks schedule, NASCAR had little choice. The PASS event scheduled for Thompson on Saturday was also rained out and re-scheduled for Sunday. Three tracks within 50 miles of each other held races on Sunday. All three had poor crowds. It wasn’t meant to be that way but the New England weather has a nasty habit of letting it rain at the wrong time. Plus the fact the tracks were competing against the Winston Cup on TV, NFL Football and the baseball playoffs.

Jerry Marquis won the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Fall Final 150 at Stafford. Marquis, who started deep in the field, passed Tony Hirschman when he went high following a restart on lap 134. Hirschman had attempted to go the distance non-stop without a change of tires. Marquis pitted and had fresher tires. Hirschman held on to finish second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Chris Kopec, Nevin George and John Blewett III. Mike Johnson was the Busch North Series winner. Jerry McCarthy finished second with Andy Santerre, third. Ed Flemke Jr., Ricky Fuller, Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top ten in the Modified 150. Todd Szegedy, despite having motor problems and finishing 17th, continued to lead the point standings by 36 points over Chuck Hossfeld. John Blewett III sat in third, ten points behind Hossfeld.

The Stafford Speedway was able to get in their Late Model portion of the Fall Final before the rains came on Saturday. Tom Butler won his first feature in four years as he beat out Woody Pitkat for the win. Ryan Posocco started 12th and finished fourth. Ted Christopher, who ran in all three events, took his sixth win of the year when he won the SK-Modified event. Todd Szegedy finished second. Second generation driver Kerry Malone finished seventh and wrapped up the 2003 SK Modified Championship.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Sunday Dennis Gada took the lead from Jeff Pearl following a restart and went on to record the win and the track championship, his fifth in a row. It all came down to a restart with two laps to go when Ron Yuhas and Gada made contact. Gada almost went into the fence but somehow held on. Ted Christopher, who arrived from Stafford just as the cars were called to post, finished third. It was Gada’s 42nd win in 120 starts over the last six years. Other Sunday winners at Waterford were Chris Burton in the Mini Stocks, Chuck Rogers in the Sportsman, Bob Santos III in the NEMA Midgets and Mark StHillaire in the Late Models.

The Elmira New York Savings and Loan started foreclosure action that could lead to the auction of the Chemung Speedrome as property owner and speedway promoter Bob Stapleton was two years behind in his payments. In Winston Cup action at Kansas City Ryan Newman scored his eighth win.

Five years ago in 2013, It appeared that the transition from the Thompson Speedway as we knew it to the Club at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park would create a playground primarily for the wealthy. It had already been said that the oval track would host the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at least three times in 2014, with events at the Icebreaker, the World Series and an event at some time during the summer.

In a somewhat related matter, Josh Vanada of Walpole, MA was been named General Manager of the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. His responsibilities would include the renovated 1.7 mile road course that will open along with the historic 5/8ths mile oval track. Vanada had been part of the Thompson Speedway operational staff for five years and served as the Director of Motorsports Operations. His new duties would include oversight of the day-to-day operations of both race tracks.

Two big season ending events were held in southern New England this past weekend, the D.Anthony Venditti Memorial at the Seekonk Speedway and the Fall Finale at the Waterford Speedbowl.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Seekonk oval for a 100 lapper. The event, which saw Anthony Nocella score his first ever VMRS win, drew 32 cars. Nocella, who started 13th, inherited the lead following an incident between Chris Pasteryak and Tommy Barrett on lap 71. Pasteryak was leading when Barrett made a move on him. Contact was made and Barrett spun with a flat left rear tire. Pasteryak was sent to the rear of the pack for contact with Barrett which officials felt that caused him to spin. Steve Masse ended up in second spot at the finish. Les Hinkley finished third. Rounding out the top five were Rowan Pennink and Dwight Jarvis.

Todd Annarummo led from the drop of the green until displaced by Pasteryak after a restart on lap 30. Annarummo attempted to retake the lead on lap 32 but ended up in the wall with a trashed car. Annarummo said he missed the shift on the restart and his left rear tire went up over Chris Pasteryak’s right front. The car was launched up in the air at a sharp 90 degree angle and he hit the right front very hard into the front stretch wall right near the started stand. Where he hit the car was right on the right front corner and the car was crushed . He was credited with 24th spot at the finish. Barrett ended up 19th and Chris Pasteryak, 14th.

Fourteen of the original 24 starters finished on the lead lap. The Valenti Modifieds head next to the Lee USA Speedway this coming weekend for another 100 lap modified race. In other Seekonk action a 100 lap Pro Stock event was won by Tom Scully Jr.

Over 200 race cars turned out for Waterford Speedbowl’s Finale Weekend, the annual close to the racing season at the shoreline oval.

In Saturday action at Waterford, Glenn Griswold captured the first Whelen All-American Series feature of Finale Weekend when he won the 25-lap SK Light Modified race. Other Saturday night winners were Kenny Johnson (NEMA Lights), Duane Noll (New England Truck Series), Waterford’s Dan Butler (Super X-Cars), Dave Gargaro Jr. (X-Cars), Oakdale’s Derek Debbis (Bandoleros) and Salem’s Corey Hutchings (Outlaw Stocks).

Keith Rocco would have to wait another week before making history at the Waterford Speedbowl as the Sunday feature race program was suspended on lap 34 of the 50 lap Late Model feature because of heavy mist. Rocco is attempting to make history in the category of season total for victories. He had his 11th victory of the season in the Late Model division Saturday, Sept 28 and has 22 wins overall at the track this year. Don Collins set the track’s record for wins in a season with 23 in 1960. In what turned out to be a long day, At 4:50pm the plug was pulled. Sunday winners included Mini Stock 50 – Ken Cassidy Jr., NEMA Midgets 25 – Winner: Bethany Stoehr and Legend Cars 25 –Dylan Izzo.

In NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action, Seuss won his third straight race, Andy Seuss scored his 15th career tour win at the Southern National Speedway in North Carolina. He previously picked up wins at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., on Sept. 8 and Sept. 28. The first victory broke a winless streak that extended almost a year. He hasn’t stopped winning since. George Brunnhoelzl III finished second to extend his lead to 32 points over Kyle Ebersole, who finished fourth, with one race remaining. The season finale is Thursday, Oct. 10 on the quarter-mile on the frontstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Burt Myers was third, followed by Ebersole and rookie Luke Fleming.

Matt Kenseth picked up his second NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season Saturday at Kansas Speedway during the Kansas Lottery 300. In Sprint Cup racing at Kansas, Kevin Harvick pulled away from Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon on a late restart to win a wreck-filled race over the recently repaved track,

Last year, 2017, In NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour action on the flat quarter mile track at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Doug Coby used lapped traffic in Turn 4 with 11 laps remaining in the 150-lap feature to get by Danny Bohn and win the Southern Slam 150. The Milford, Connecticut, native started from the front after winning the Coors Light Pole earlier in the day and jumped out to an early lead. The five time Tour champion held back a charging Ryan Preece, the defending race winner, and Corey LaJoie on many occasions within the first half of the race.

Bohn was able to pass Coby on a restart on Lap 81 on the outside and stayed out front until Coby made his bold move to get back in front and hold on for his 24th career win. Bohn ended up second while rookie Calvin Carroll finished third. Jamie Tomaino rebounded after being involved in the first caution of the race on the green flag lap to finish fourth and Bobby Measmer Jr. completed the top five.

NASCAR K&N Pro Series West rookie Derek Kraus finished sixth with CJ Lehmann, Lauren Edgerton, LaJoie and Preece rounding out the top 10. The race was slowed three times by caution for 13 laps. Preece and LaJoie both fell out of the race due to mechanical issues ending their pursuit for a win. There were 12 cars on hand.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl closed out it’s Saturday night season which saw Keith Rocco score a two-fer. Rocco scored his ninth win in 14 SK Modified events along with his fourth win in the Late Models. Rocco brought his track win total to 149 victories, 89 of those in an SK Modified. Rocco also has 49 career Late Model victories, four Limited Sportsman division wins, three Valenti Modified Racing Series victories, two Truck Series wins, one Pro Four Modified win and one NEMA Lite win during his career at Waterford. He now has a career overall total of 251 wins, which also include victories at Thompson, and 45 at Stafford Speedway.

Rocco will take the SK Modified points lead into the division’s final event of the season at the Speedbowl on Oct. 22. The Late Model victory clinched Rocco’s second consecutive Late Model championship at the shoreline oval. Following Rocco in the SK Modified event was Ronnie Williams and Kyle James.

In other action at the Speedbowl, Bryan Narducci recorded his third victory in six SK Light Modified division 25-lap feature, Jacob Perry of Pawcatuck got his second win of the season in the 25-lap Mini Stock feature and Chris Meyer got his sixth win of the season in the 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature.

Russ Hersey of Swanzey, NH, drove to his second win of the season Sunday afternoon when he captured the ‘Advanced Gas Distributors’ 75- lap modified race sanctioned by the Valenti Modified Racing Series. The race was part of the 34th annual Oktoberfest race program at Lee USA Speedway, Lee. NH. The win was also the second for long-time car owner Warren Mordenti.

Point leader Anthony Nocella, of Woburn, Massachusetts’s finished runner-up, and in doing so, locked in the 2017 VMRS championship. Westbrook, Maine, veteran Tony Ricci returned to the series this season after taking a break from modified racing and finished a strong third. Sammy Rameau, of Westminster, Massachusetts, at age 15, made a late race charge to finish in a respectable fourth place, followed my Grantham, New Hampshire’s Mike Willis Jr.

Early race leaders Les Hinckley III, and Jeffrey Gallup, finished sixth and seventh, 17-year old Ryan Doucette an impressive eighth, Mike Douglas ninth, and Jimmy Zacharias, rounded out the top-ten. Thirteen of the 18 cars that started the race finished on the lead lap. The race was slowed by three caution periods for minor spins.

Burt Myers picked up his fifth Southern Modified Racing Series victory of the season Saturday in the Fall Spectacular 75 at Hickory Motor Speedway. It was his series-high seventh career victory on the tour.

Point leader Jeremy Gerstner wheeled into the lead at the start and set the pace for the first 42 laps. On lap 43 Brandon Ward dove inside of Gerstner into turn three and took the lead off turn four.

As the lead duo and Danny Bohn battled for the top spot, Myers closed in again. On lap 59 Myers surged inside Ward off turn two and took the lead into the third and fourth corner. Bohn followed Myers into second and kept a close watch on the reigning series champ, but was never able to mount a challenge.

Myers rolled to the victory over Bohn. Ward held on for a third-place finish. Andy Seuss was fourth with Jason Myers in fifth.

Matt Sheppard stole $50,000 from Peter Britten Sunday, driving by the Australian in the last corner to win the Billy Whittaker Cars 200, the finale of Super DIRT Week at Oswego Speedway.
The victory was his 11th with the Super DIRTcar Series this year and catapulted him to the championship lead over Billy Decker despite missing two races earlier this year because of a suspension.

Martin Truex Jr. continued his march towards the championship round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a victory Sunday afternoon during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Alex Bowman made a statement on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway by storming to his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory during the Drive for the Cure 300.

The victory for Bowman, who has been tabbed by Hendrick Motorsports to take over for the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2018, is the first of his career across NASCAR’s three national divisions.

American Racer Tires out, Hoosier Tires in for 2018 for the Modified Touring Series (MTS). American Racer informed MTS that they were discontinuing support of the series, Before the ink even dried the MTS had hooked up with Hoosier for 2018.