RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; First Week Of May

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1949, Jim Holt was the Stock car division winner at Seekonk.

Sixty five years ago in 1954, Red Foote recorded his second win of the season as he won the 25 lap Sportsman feature at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Tom VanEpps, driving a non-Ford owned and built by Dennis Thornton, formerly of Martinsville, Va, won the non-Ford feature. VanEpps, who would lose his live in an off season accident would record a total of 12 wins for the season. At Seekonk, Dave Humphrey was the A division Stock Car winner.

Sixty years ago in 1959, Wild Bill Slater, in his first full season in the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8 owned by Bob Vitali and Vic Bombaci, took his first of 15 feature wins in the Sportsman division at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner and John Arrigoni was the Bomber winner at the shoreline oval.

Fifty five years ago in 1964 Gene Bergin was the Saturday night winner at the Norwood Arena in Mass. Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster was the 25 lap Modified winner and Ed Gladue was the Bomber winner. At Seekonk, Billy Clark was the A division Stock Car winner. Mike Lawrence was the Cadet division winner.

Fifty years ago in 1969, action in the northeast shifted into high gear. At Stafford on Friday night, Fred DeSarro in his own No.11 took the opening night win. Eddie Flemke in the Garutti-Arute No.14 was second. Gene Bergin, in the Garbarino Bros.V-4 was third with Bugsy Stevens in the Len Boehler No.3 and Ed Yerrington in the Freddies TV No.23 rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., Jerry Cook took the win and was followed by Richie Evans and Lou Lazzaro. Saturday night at Norwood, Johnny Thompson in his Ford powered No.122 took the victory over DeSarro, Stevens and Jack Malone. At Fonda, Lou Lazzaro beat out Rene Charland for the win. Daring Dick Caso was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. On Sunday at Thompson, the Bugman took the main event despite stiff competition from Flemke, DeSarro, Bergin and Ed Yerrington. At the Utica-Rome Speedway it was again, Cook and Evans finishing one-two over Lazzaro and Dave Lape. Tioga Motorsports Park was called the Shangri-La Speedway. Jim Shampine was the winner there. At Seekonk, Tinker Progin was the A division winner. Frank Souza was the B division winner.

Forty five years ago in 1974, rain-washed out a scheduled 100 lapper at Utica-Rome on Friday night. Racing at Shangri-La on Saturday was also cancelled, as it was way to cold for night racing. Charlie Jarzombek went two for two as he won at both Freeport and Islip. At Stafford on Friday, Bugsy Stevens held off Don Flynn and Cook for the win. Sunday was busy in New York State as Oswego and Fulton ran afternoon and evening programs. At Oswego, Gary Reichart won the 75 lap Port City event over Maynard Troyer, Richie Evans and Geoff Bodine. At Fulton it was Bodine over Cook and Evans. Waterford ran an open show on Sunday with Dynamite Ollie Silva taking the top spot over Bugsy Stevens, Bob Santos and Glynn Shafer.

Forty years ago in 1979, a full plate of Modified racing was on the table. The weekend started on Friday night at Stafford where Richie Evans took the win over Bugsy Stevens, Ronnie Bouchard and Brian Ross. On Saturday night, Tom Dunn fired Freddie Schulz and put Bentley Warren in his T-5. Warren turned the trick and took the win at Westboro over Joe Howard and John Falconi. At Seekonk, Bugsy Stevens beat out Ronnie Bouchard, Fred Astle and George Summers. At Waterford, Rick Donneley took the win over Dick Ceravolo, Roland LaPierre Jr. and Billy Greco. At Plainville, Ron Wycoff held of Ronnie Rocco for the win and at Islip, Tom McCann, Wayne Anderson, Greg Sacks and Fred Harbach were the top four. Shangri-La action saw George Kent over Richie Evans and Dave Nichols. On Sunday at Thompson, Joe Howard got a well-earned win over SJ Evonsion and at Monadnock it was Dunk Rudolph over Reggie Ruggerio and John Rosati. The mods also ran at Montreal in Canada where Evans beat out Satch Worley, Jerry Cook and Ronnie Bouchard.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, Lou Figari,the owner of the Islip Speedway passed away. After Lou died, his widow Flora took over. She had many problems with the locals over the noise. She had been offered to sell the land to the owner of a cookie factory but she didn’t because Lou would want the track to stay. After much frustration, she told them she’d sell and then the area would be over run with tractor trailers and rats. She finally put in her will that her son was to sell to the cookie people. That was the reason for Islip’s demise., which meant the track would close forever at the end of the 1984 season. The lawsuit between M & H tires and Hoosier, Stafford and Seekonk was settled in appeals court after many months of bitter fighting. M & H lost and the door was open for tracks to implement track tire rules without fear of being sued. Stafford rained out on Friday night. It cleared on Saturday. Richie Evans won at Riverside over Stan Gregger and Bob Polverari. George Moose Hewitt took a 30 lapper at Waterford over Bob Gada and at Islip, Chris Young outran Bill Park for the win. Down on the Jersey shore at Wall Stadium, Tony Siscone added another victory. At Thompson on Sunday, Mike Mclaughlin in the Len Boehler No.3 took the 30-lap win over Richie Evans and Ray Miller. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Cale Yarborough was the pole sitter and the winner.

Thirty years ago in 1989, the Modified tour was at Stafford for a 100 lapper on Sunday. Mike Stefanik took the win over Brett Bodine. Ted Christopher beat out Bob Potter for the SK mod win. In other weekend action, Christopher beat out Moose Hewitt at Waterford, John Blewett Jr. beat Bill Park at Riverhead and Reggie Ruggerio ruled over Dan Avery at Riverside Park. It was also the seventh week in a row that Seekonk rained out.

Twenty five years ago, in 1994, rain washed out Stafford, Waterford and Riverhead. At Riverside, Steve Park in the Joe Brady No.00 started 16th and went on to win the 50 lap modified event over Stan Gregger and Reggie Ruggerio. At Seekonk, Eddie StAngelo beat out Vinnie Annarummo for the Pro Stock main event. The Winston Cup Teams were off and the Busch cars were at Loudon for the Chevy Dealers 250. Derek Cope, driving for Red Farmer, won the event after Hermie Sadler ran out of gas in the closing laps.

Twenty years ago, in 1999, Jeff Malave beat out Willie Hardie to win the Friday night SK modified event at Stafford. Waterford and Riverside rained out as the action shifted to Loudon for the twin BGN-BGNN events. Elton Sawyer was the BGN winner and Brad Leighton, the Busch North. Nascar’s Winston Cup had an off weekend, as it was Mothers Day. In other news from the weekend, Steve Bird who led Bace Motorsports to multiple Championships was released (fired). Steve Hmiel was named as crew chief for Steve Park and The International Speedway Corporation and Penske Motorsports announced that they were merging. ISCA stock shot up and closed out the week at 43-1/8.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, gas prices soared near or past the $2.00 per gallon mark. Lloyd Agor won his first SK-Modified win at Stafford on Friday night but it wasn’t pretty. Agor started on the outside pole of the 40 lap event and proceeded to block or ride up anyone who attempted to pass, even Ted Christopher who is known to put the bumper to a competitor when they block his progress. Christopher did more than his share of the bump and grind but in the end, finished the night in sixth spot. George Bessette finished second with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Kerry Malone and Shawn Tryon rounded out the top five. After a weeks absence Eric Berndt returned to the Friday night wars with a heavy heart, still suffering from the loss of his mom. Berndt managed to survive to finish seventh. Maybe getting back in that racecar was good therapy. It seemed that everybody blamed everybody but Bo Gunning for all the wrecks on Friday night. Gunning and car owner Eddie Partridge felt almost like they had three wins in a row by not being there. No bent cars, no tire bills and nobody was mad. Gunning was tossed out of Stafford in 2003. It was not totally his fault but that’s history now. Gunning was told he could return to Stafford if he took anger management classes. Gunning chose not to and was backed by his car owner. Mike Quintiliano made it three in a row in Late Model competition at Stafford. On Friday night he and Joe Rzeszutek swapped spots and traded paint right to the final second when Quintiliano won by a whisker. Aaron Goff was the Dare Stock winner. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night rain put a damper on the SK-Modified and Late Model features. A partial program was completed before the rains came with Dwayne Conant taking the win in the Sportsman division, Dave Silvia in the Mini Stocks and Silas Hiscock in the Legends. John III and Jimmie Blewett finished one –two at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday night The Nextel Cup division had a weekend off in celebration of Mother’s Day. The Busch Racing Series was at the Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. on Saturday night. Martin Truex Jr. continued to make a name for himself as he led 123 of the 200-lap distance. Tom Rogers was the winner at Riverhead. Bill Park finished second with John Fortin, third.

Ten years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, was on “Spring Break” Ted Christopher, who was two for two after winning the Ice Breaker at the Thompson Speedway and the Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway led Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece by 35 points. Szegedy finished fifth at Thompson and second at Stafford. Preece was fourth at Thompson and third at Stafford. Donny Lia was 10 points behind Szegedy and Preece. Rounding out the top five is Jimmy Blewett, seven points behind Lia. Sixth through tenth are Mike Stefanik, Ron Silk, Woody Pitkat, Bobby Grigas, III and Jamie Tomaino.

Despite the fact that the first two events were successful at drawing very good crowds at both tracks and good car counts the competitors and those who follow the Modified Tour Series were upset with the goings on, especially from NASCAR. First off, in a completely gutless move, the sanctioning body announced through the media and the mail that the season ending awards banquet would be moving to the Charlotte, NC area and competitors would be required to attend if they wanted to receive their point money. NASCAR had made this decision before the Thompson event. Why didn’t they announce it then? A very sneaky move to say the least! The main object was to avoid confrontations between the competitors and the NASCAR officials at the race. NASCAR fails to realize that most Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers, owners and pit crews are not full time racers like those in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Most of them have full time jobs. NASCAR says they care about their competitors, in reality that’s a lot of crap!

The next sneaky tactic by NASCAR was the announcement by mail after the running of the Stafford event that the May 22 TSI Harley-Davidson Classic at Stafford would have a reduced distance of 100 laps instead of the previously posted 150 laps. They also announced that the purse had been reduced by 20%! NASCAR and the management of the Stafford Speedway knew this before the running of the Sizzler but used the mail again in order to avoid confrontations. Another gutless move!

It was estimated that the recent Spring Sizzler at Stafford drew 8,000 fans. General admission was $35. Run the numbers, that’s $280,000 taken in at the front gate. A conservative guess would have at least another $20,000 coming through the back gate. In the current economy it’s good to see that Stafford had a good day. Instead of crying poverty they should give some back to those who put on the show.

NASCAR continued to discourage competitors from running rival series including the New England based True Value Series and the New York based Race of Champions Modified Series. Slowly but surely NASCAR was pushing the Modified competitors away to alternate series’ and they can’t understand why. Competitors do have another alternative, they can just stay home!

The Friday night racing season opener at the Stafford Motor Speedway was cancelled last week. It could have been because of the economy or quite possibly a threat of Swine Flu. Needless to say, it rained on and off most of the day.

After three straight rainouts the Waterford Speedbowl looked to be on the upswing. Car counts had been a little light but the spectator count had been on the rise. Much of the credit had to go to the competitors and loyal fans who had beat the bushes and got the word out that there is in fact racing, good racing at the shoreline oval. Track management had not advertised but it seems that word of mouth has done the job. Front gate attendance at the shoreline oval took a step backwards Saturday. The SK Modifieds, the big draw, had the night off. Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to Victory Lane as he won the Late Model feature in strong fashion. Other winners from the night included Allen Coates in the NEATV Truck Series, Al Stone III in the Street Stocks, Phil Evans in the Mini Stocks, and Jason Palmer repeating in the Legends Cars feature. The stands were almost empty without the SK’s. Despite the fact that the SKs were off, the admission was still $14 for the grandstand. There were only 12 Late Models, 24 Legend’s,(light for that division), not a bad field of stockers and 4 cylinders and only 7 trucks.

In some sad news it was learned that former Modified driver Billy Schulz had passed away at the age of 73. Schulz, along with his brother Fred were competitors at the Norwood Arena for many years.

Kyle Busch passed Carl Edwards on the first lap of a restart with 22 laps to go and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Richmond International Raceway. Busch, who led four times in the Lipton Tea 250, made the move that counted in the third and fourth turns on the 229th trip around the 0.75-mile oval. Edwards led the previous 71 laps, with Busch seemingly the only other driver with a car to contend.

Tony Stewart was second, followed by Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin. Burton and Martin both recovered from earlier accidents – Burton spun after contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin was involved in an accident with Martin Truex Jr. – for their strong finishes.

Five years ago in 2014, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. Originally an open competition event and the brainchild of Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd, the Sizzler had become one of the premier events for the NASCAR Modifieds.

Rain greeted competitors and fans at Stafford most of the day on Saturday. A little before 4:00pm the rain stopped and a weather window opened which allowed practice and qualifying for the Whelen Modifieds. The gray, wet day for the season opener at Stafford Motor Speedway will be a memorable one for Tommy Barrett, Jr. of Millis, MA who set fast time in qualifying to earn his first career NWMT 21 Means 21 pole award with a time of 18.221 second lap around the half mile oval. The 18 year old bested a field of 27 Modifieds including Woody Pitkat with a time of 18.262 who will line up on the outside bringing the field to green for the prestigious NWMT NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200. Rounding out the top five were Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece.

Sunday morning dawned somewhat drismal at Stafford but it didn’t hold back the fans as they jammed the parking lot and filled the stands. Bobby Santos defended his 2013 Spring Sizzler win as he made it two for two as he won the 200 lap race. Santos started eighth and was never out of the top five all day. Pitting for fuel on lap101, Santos’ crew got him out in fourth spot. By lap 110 he was third and on lap 120 shot by Tommy Barrett for the lead which he maintained for the remaining 80 laps. Barrett slipped a bit but was still in contention until less than 15 laps to go when he and Ron Silk were sent to the rear on a restart as officials felt they had stopped to avoid a late race wreck.

Doug Coby ended up in the runner up spot and was somewhat upset over a lapped car that was blocking his progress on the final lap and ultimately cost him a possible shot for the win. Rowan Pennink finished third with Justin Bonsignore and Woody Pitkatrounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Timmy Solomito, Ted Christopher, Donnie Lia, Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk. Barrett ended up 11th.

There was quite a bit of merit to Coby’s complaints about cars the were way off the pace and which should have been parked by NASCAR. T.J. Zacharias, the driver who stood in the way of Coby making a last ditch effort, was nine laps down at the end and should have used better sense. Melissa Fifield, who never sat in a Modified and was lapped for the first time at lap 13. NASCAR used poor judgment when they didn’t signal her to park the car. Granted, she has a right to be there but should have used better judgment and started her racing in a SK Lite, not an all out Modified. Five years have passed and she is still a turtle!

With two events in the books Justin Bonsignore with 86 points, led Coby and Woody Pitkat by two points. Timmy Solomito was fourth with Santos, fifth. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour goes on Spring Break until Friday, May 23 when the Stafford Motor Speedway would host the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

In other action at Stafford on Sizzler weekend, Ryan Preece won the 40 lap SK Modified feature over Danny Cates and Rowan Pennink. Preece started 14th in the 28 car field. He worked his way up to fourth by lap 13. On a lap 14 restart Pennink went past Joey Cipriano for the lead with Preece following to second. After another caution, on lap 15, Preece went by Pennink for the lead and never looked back. Pennink, driver of the No. 99 SK Modified feature at the track, was disqualified from his third place finish in Sunday’s 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature.

According to a release from the track, Pennink, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., was penalized for violating rule 20E-12.3 Coil Over Shocks of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified rulebook. Jay Stuart led every lap to win the 30-lap Late Model feature event, and Toby Wells was the winner of the 25-lap NorthEast Mini Stock Tour feature.

A packed house on a perfect spring Saturday night welcomed another season of Bowman Gray Stadium stock-car racing. Burt Myers, the defending Bowman Gray champion, started from the pole position, momentarily lost the lead to Tim Brown, got it back and then held off a final charge by Brown on the final lap to win the season-opening Hayes Jewelers 200.

Tim Brown jumped the lap 70 restart to get the lead but after about 30 hits on his rear bumper he let the faster Burt Myers back by on lap 88. Myers was sideways twice from Brown hits but he never spun or lost control. Brown settled for second with Jason Myers, third.

The event drew 28 cars and a over-flow crowd which filled the 17,000-seat stadium. Among those in the field was 63 year old Junior Miller, now in his 40th season, who ended up ninth in the final run down.

The Waterford Speedbowl cancelled its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program scheduled for Saturday, due to damp weather and light rain that was forecasted throughout the evening. In the SK Modified division only 35 points separated the top five. Defending champion Keith Rocco had a 16 point cushion over Ed Puleo. Craig Lutz sat in third spot with Tyler Chadwick, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Rob Janovic Jr. Rocco was also the point leader in the Late Model division as he held a 23 point edge over Bruce Thomas Jr.

Crews had been working day and night in order to bring the conditions of the grandstands up to state standards.

Joey Logano came out on top of a wild four car battle in the final nine laps to win Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Int’l Raceway. The final nine-lap dash saw Logano come from fourth on the restart to overtake Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski in an intense battle that left several drivers with hot tempers.

Kevin Harvick didn’t mind staying up late Friday night. Harvick dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Int’l Raceway for his first Nationwide win of the year. Heavy rain throughout the evening caused the start of the 250-lap event to be postponed until after 10 p.m. It didn’t end until early Saturday morning, but Harvick, who starts fifth in Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 Sprint Cup race, made sure he left with the trophy. He led 202 laps in what was his seventh career Nationwide win at Richmond. Chase Elliott, Harvick’s JR Motorsports teammate, finished second

Last year, 2018, the Stafford Motor Speedway began their 2018 season with healthy fields of SK Modifieds and SK Lites and a hearty group of fans. There were 24 SK Modifieds nd 23 SK Lites. Defending SK Modified champion Keith Rocco scored his second win in a row this season and his fourth consecutive SK Modified® victory at Stafford dating back to last season, Michael Wray won the 30-lap Late Model feature, George Nocera, Jr. won the 20-lap SK Light feature with Bryan Narducci a strong second, Jeremy Lavoie won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Meg Fuller, the daughter of former Whelen Modified Tour Champion Rick Fuller, scored her first career win in the 20-lap Street Stock feature.

The SK Modified win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 253 wins which also include 149 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 58 at Thompson and 46 at Stafford Speedway.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl began its 68th season Rowan Pennink, of New Egypt, New Jersey, grabbed the win in Saturday’s Valenti Modified Racing Series 100-lap race at the shoreline oval. Pennink started outside front row in a field of 27-cars but did not lead the event until lap-74 when he went by Woody Pitkat, of Stafford Springs, CT. to nail down the win.

There was no adjustment period for climbing into an SK Light as far as Jonathan Puleo of North Branford was concerned on Sunday. In his first SK Light start, the 14-year-old Puleo led every lap to win Sunday’s 25-lap SK Light Modified Race during the rain-shortened Speedbowl Blastoff, presented by Levine Distributors, at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Also grabbing wins Sunday were Nathan Taylor in the 25-lap Mini-Stock feature, Mike Blaskey in the 25-lap Legends feature and Jim Boyle in the 25-lap Speedbowl Truck feature.

Rain, however, short-circuited the rest of the program. The Sportsman feature was suspended after nine of 30 laps were run, with Phil Evans in the lead. The race will be finished Saturday as part of the regular-scheduled race program.

The 30-lap Late Model and 80-lap SK Modified feature, however, were completely wiped out by rain. The SK 80-lapper will be run Saturday in place of the originally scheduled 40-lap feature. The Late Model race will be added to the race program for May 19.

Across the big pond on Long Island, Kyle Soper of Manorville could not have dreamed of a better way to get his 2018 Riverhead Raceway season underway as the rising driving talent won both the 40-lap NASCAR Modified and 25-lap Late Model feature events during the Cinco de Mayo opening night NASCAR Whelen All American Series program Saturday evening. For Kyle his NASCAR Modified triumph was his 6th career triumph, second for current car owner Wayne Anderson while the Late Model win was the 7th of his career with all those wins coming for car owner Rob Pelis who he combined with to win the 2017 championship. A healthy 22 cars signed in for opening night in the NASCAR Modifieds.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tim Brown’s dry spell ended. Brown slipped past Burt Myers on lap 91 of what was scheduled for 100 laps and held on for the win in what turned out to be 103 laps Saturday night at historic oval. In just the third week of the season and fourth race, Brown started second behind George Brunnhoezl and survived through nine cautions to win his 85th race of his career

Myers, who had won two of the first three races, took the lead on lap 51. However, after a restart on lap 91, Myers, Brown and Brandon Ward went three wide. Ward and Myers bumped a little and Brown slipped past both to take the lead. After cautions on laps 92 and 96 there were only nine of the 18 cars that started on the track. The race restarted on lap 101 and after two green laps Brown cruised to the win.

In NASCAR cup racing at Dover, De. Kevin Harvick took the win. Justin Alligier was the Xfinity Series winner