Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1949, Rain soaked the Seekonk Speedway.
Sixty five years ago in 1954, Freddie Luchesi in the Sgambato N0.9 was the Wednesday night Sportsman winner at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Joe McNulty was the Saturday night winner. Non-Ford winners at the shoreline oval were Bob Karns and Charlie Schreiber. Rain again at Seekonk.
Sixty years ago in 1959 Bob Vaughn was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Joe McNulty won the 50 lap Memorial Day weekend Special Sportsman event at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Rene Charland made it two in a row in non-Ford action and John Arigoni made it two in a row in Bomber action at the shoreline oval. The Lancaster Speedway in upstate New York held their grand opening which was to feature a 50 lap URC Sprint Car event. The feature was halted after four laps as the track was deemed unsafe. Lancaster was dirt at the time. At the Buffalo Civic Stadium Roy Campbell took top honors over Bill Rafter. At the Seekonk Speedway, Dave Humphrey took the A division Main event.
Fifty five years ago in 1964 the New York invasion was evident at Stafford Springs as Bill Wimble was the top dog on dirt. Don Wayman finished second with George Janoski, third. Wild Bill Slater was the Saturday night feature winner at the Norwood Arena in Norwood, Mass. Other weekend winners were Al DeAngelo at Islip, Joe Rosenfield at Seekonk, Lou Lazzaro at Fonda and Victoria and Elton Hildreth at Old Bridge. Hank Stevens won a 50 lap Memorial Day weekend Special Modified event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
On a sad note, NASCAR Grandnational Star Glen “Fireball” Roberts was severely burned after a fuel tank explosion at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tickets went on sale for the Annual Trenton 200 for Modifieds which was to be held in August. General admission was $4.00!
Fifty years ago in 1969, the Stafford Motor Speedway started the Memorial Day weekend off with a 100 lap event. Charlie Jarzombek, in one of his first off-island trips made the one to Stafford a successful one as he won the 100 lapper in his radical off-set coupe. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos, Jerry Cook, Bob Karvonen, Ed Yerrington Frank Faria, Moe Gherzi and Wild Bill Slater. Lou Lazzaro won at Malta and repeated at Fonda and also in the first of twin features at Utica-Rome. Rene Charland finished second to Lazzaro at both Malta and at Fonda. George Summers was the big winner at Seekonk. Thompson ran on Sunday afternoon and it was Bugsy Stevens taking the win over DeSarro Lou Austin, Fred Harbach, Smokey Boutwell and Slater. Stevens hot footed it up the Mass Pike and made it to Utica in time to run the consi. Stevens finished third in the first feature behind Lazzaro and Jerry Cook. Bernie Miller won the Utica nite cap and Stevens ended up seventh. Dick Dunn was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl.
Forty five years ago in 1974, Stafford ran twice on the holiday weekend. On Friday night, Bugsy Stevens put
the Koszela Woodchopper in victory lane ahead of Dick Caso, Ron Bouchard and Gene Bergin. Stevens made it a two-fer as
he returned on Monday to win the Holiday 100 lapper. Freddie Schulz finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook,
Geoff Bodine and Lou Austin. At Utica-Rome on Friday, local favorite Dick Fowler took the 30 lap win over Cook, Andy
Romano and Richie Evans. Jim Tyler beat out Artie Tappen at Islip on Saturday and at Shangri-La it was Maynard Troyer
over Bodine and Evans. Evans got the jump on Troyer at Fulton on Sunday night as he took the win there. Dick Dunn was the
winner at Waterford and Tex Barry was the winner at Seekonk.
Forty years ago in 1979, a 100 lapper scheduled for Stafford, rained out. Spencer also rained out. Saturday night at Seekonk, Mr.Leo Cleary was not to be denied as he took the top spot despite constant pressure from Bugsy Stevens who finished second. George Summers ended up third with Brian Ross, fourth. At Waterford, Joe Tiezzi won out over Dale Holdredge and Moose Hewitt. At Islip,Greg Sacks beat Tom McCann and George Wagner. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at Shangri-La Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Stan Gregger at Riverside, Ron Bouchard at Thompson and Bugsy Stevens at Monadnock.
Thirty five years ago in 1984, Stafford started the weekend off with a 100 lapper. Brian Ross was on a tear as
his home built No. 73 handled to perfection as he sprinted to victory over George Brunnhoelzl, George Kent, Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek. Waterford had a 100 lapper scheduled for Saturday night but it rained after twenty laps. At Riverside twin events were on tap with John Rosati and Reggie Ruggiero taking the wins. Oswego ran their Port City 150 on Sunday Brett Bodine won the modified 75 lapper over Brian Ross and Bentley Warren won the Supermodified portion. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Harry Gant was the polesitter and Bobby Allison the winner. Ron Bouchard qualified 18th and finished third. Other weekend winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, George Kent at Shangri-La, Wayne Anderson at New Egypt and Tony Siscone, also at New Egypt.
Thirty years ago in 1989, Stafford’s holiday program rained out as did Waterford. For the ninth time, Seekonk also fell victim to rain. At Riverside Park, Bob Polverari took the victory and at Riverhead, Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko finished one-two. In SK modified action at Thompson on Sunday, the Christopher’s, Ted and Mike ran one-two to beat out Bob Potter and at Oswego; the Modified Tour series winner was Tony Hirschman. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Tony Jankowiac, third.
Twenty five years ago in 1994 the Modified Tour Series was at Stafford for a 150 lap event. On the start, the sparks flew as pole sitter Ted Christopher found himself in the fence after being hit by Ed Flemke Jr. It didn’t end there as Flemke later tangled with Tom Baldwin. Baldwin felt that it was deliberate and retaliated by ramming Flemke. The end result was that Baldwin was fined $2,000 and suspended for three events. Ricky Fuller was the eventual winner over brother Jeff, Wayne Anderson and Jan Leaty. At Waterford, Ricky Young took the top spot over Todd Ceravolo and Moose Hewitt. Chuck Stuer scored his first win at Riverhead and Stan Gregger beat out Doug Meservy and Steve Park at Riverside. Ed Kennedy made a surprise visit to Flemington on Sunday and walked off with the main event there over John Blewett.
Twenty years ago in 1999 Fifty-one NASCAR Modifieds were on hand at Stafford for the Memorial Day weekend 150. Tim Connolly, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino took the lead from Ed Flemke Jr on lap 127 when he suffered a flat tire and was forced to pit. Connolly led the rest of the 150 lap distance as he went on to record the win. Carl Pasteryak finished second with Mike Ewanitsko, third. Rick Fuller and Charlie Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Reggie Ruggiero, Jack Bateman, Tony Hirschman and George Kent. Jerry Marquis was the SK Modified winner. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Dennis Gada made it four in a row in Modified competition as he beat out Mike Gada and Tucker Reynolds for the win. Jeff Karns was the Late Model winner. At Riverside Park Chris Wenzel beat out Ed Spiers and Eddie Flemke Jr for the win and at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Dan Jivenelli took the win. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kenny Brack, driving for AJ Foyt, took the win in the Indy 500 after Robbie Gordon ran out of gas while leading the last lap. Tony Stewart finished ninth, flew to Charlotte and finished fourth in the Cup event behind Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin. Steve Park led twice for 84 laps before crashing while trying to avoid a slowing Kyle Petty.
Fifteen years ago in 2004 the Thompson Speedway began their regular Thursday night Thunder Series. Second generation driver Kerry Malone staged a heated battle with Bo Gunning and came out the winner. Todd Ceravolo finished third. Ted Christopher was also in the mix until his engine began belching smoke, forcing him to drop out. Christopher was credited with 19th place. Defending Sunoco Modified champion Eric Berndt finished fourth with Richard Savory rounding out the top five. Other Thursday night Thunder winners were Chuck Docherty in the Pro Stocks, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Keith DeSantis in the Limited Sportsman and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks.
The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night for the Haynes 150. The event drew 43 Modifieds and produced a surprise finish with a lot of excitement. Ted Christopher, who was the Busch Pole sitter once again, saw his hopes of a win disappear in the closing moments. Christopher, who led the first 67 laps, took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 123. Shortly after taking the two to go signal Todd Szegedy attempted a move made famous by Christopher, the bonsai bottom shot in turn one. With his left side tires in the grass and dirt Szegedy slid up into Christopher as he moved down to block. The contact caused Christopher to spin. Tony Hirschman was in the catbird seat as he jumped at the opportunity to take the lead. Szegedy managed to keep going and fell in behind Hirschman when the field returned to green on lap 161. Szegedy had the misfortune of breaking an axle on the restart, which allowed Reggie Ruggiero to move into second spot. Hirschman romped his way to the checkered flag and the win. Ruggiero finished second. Tom Cravenho ended up third. Tom Cloce and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. Current point leader Eddie Flemke ended up 11th after brushing the wall. Sixth through tenth were Jerry Marquis, Jeff Malave, Dick Houlihan, Ted Christopher and Tony Papale. Szegedy was last on the lead lap in 15th spot. A total of 11 caution periods for 58 laps kept the average speed at 59.389 mph. Once the dust settled the fingers were pointing. Christopher felt that Szegedy over drove and intended in taking him out. Szegedy claimed that Hirschman hit him, forcing him into Christopher. Hirschman stated that he did hit Szegedy but it was under the starters stand and not in the first turn where he made contact with Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series continues to provide the best in competition and excitement of any NASCAR division. The Stafford Motor Speedway management announced that the Haynes 150 would be televised as part of their NASCAR New England weekly production. NASCAR had been unable to secure TV coverage for the Featherlite Modifieds so far for this year. Thanks to the Stafford management, competitors were getting some exposure on the tube. In SK Modified competition at Stafford on Friday night it was high-speed carnage and destruction of equipment. It was survival of the fittest and the lucky. Jim Civale, who won the Nationals at Waterford survived to take the win in the 40-lap feature. It took 63 minutes to run 40 laps. Steve Chowanski finished a distant second.
The Waterford Speedbowl gave its SK-Modified division the week off. Double features for the Late Models were run with Corey Hutchings and Phil Rondeau recording wins. John Puglisi won the 20 lap Sportsman feature and Glen Colvin was the Mini-Stock winner. Vin Esposito topped the Legend field and Jeff Walsh captured the X Car feature.
It looked like the proposed speedway in North Stonington, CT. was a dead issue. Connecticut developer Gene Arganese shifted his intentions at land in Plainfield, CT. for his $400 million domed ¾ mile speedway. The proposed site was next to the Plainfield Greyhound track. Located mid-way between the Waterford Speedbowl to the south and the Thompson Speedway to the north, the proposed speedway would host various touring series events, NASCAR and non- NASCAR events. In addition to the dog track the town is also hosts a Lowes distribution center. The Lowes building is equivalent to four football fields in area. Since the very beginning NASCAR had stated that there are no additional Nextel Cup dates available and even went so far as to send Arganese a letter from their legal department telling him that he should not suggest that there are available dates that could be had. In a somewhat related development New York City news radio station WINS reported that NASCAR would be coming to a Naval-Military base on Staten Island. While the Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford the Busch North Series was at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Brad Leighton took the win over Dale Quarterly.
Ten years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, had been on “Spring Break” since the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 26. Friday it was back to Stafford for the TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON CONNECTICUT CLASSIC 100. Thirty-three Modifieds were on hand for the event. During a somewhat heated drivers meeting NASCAR did its best to alienate two of its top drivers when they questioned a restart policy. They, Mike Stefanik and Ed Flemke, were told to take it “off line”. George Silbermann, managing director of NASCAR’s racing series was at Stafford for all of the action and one must wonder why he wasn’t at the driver’s meeting to get the first hand knowledge of what dialog is missing between the officials and competitors A year or two from now NASCAR will wonder where the cars and loyalty went. In other words the Whelen Modified Tours outspoken drivers were told in so many words if you don’t like the way the races are run that’s just tough!
Jimmy Blewett was able to slow down Ted Christopher’s dominant start to the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season when he took home the checkered flag in the TSI Harley-Davidson Classic Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. Blewett went pole to pole.
Christopher had won the first two races of the season, and earned his third-consecutive Coors Light Pole Award earlier on Friday, but Blewett started on the front row on the redraw and led flag-to-flag for his fifth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Blewett survived six restarts during the race, including a green-white-checker finish, but would not be denied his second career win at the Connecticut half-mile. Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford) ran up front the majority of the race with Blewett, and tried once to go around on the outside late in the race, but Blewett never relinquished the lead. Szegedy settled for a third place finish when Christopher got past him on the white flag lap.
Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero rounded out the top five finishers in the 100-lap event. Chris Pasteryak, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece brought home the top 10.
The Stafford Motor Speedway weekly feature winners were Ted Christopher in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Michael Bennett in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Membrino, Jr. in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Tony Membrino, Jr. in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag with Curt Brainard taking the early lead. Brainard had Matt Gallo all over his back bumper looking to move to the front. After several laps of trying both the high and low grooves, Gallo was able to make a move into the lead on lap-6. Gallo’s pass brought Frank Ruocco past Brainard and Ruocco moved by Gallo on lap-9 to move to the front.
Ted Christopher was behind Ruocco and the middle stages of the race saw some great racing between the top-2 as Christopher was searching for a way around Ruocco. Christopher was finally able to make a move to the inside of Ruocco on lap-28 and take the lead for the first time. The field was slowed by the caution with 30 laps complete.
On the lap-30 restart, the cars of Chris Jones and Ruocco came together in turn 1 while battling for second place, with Ruocco spinning and collecting the cars of Brad Hietala and Dave Salzarulo. Jones was sent to the rear of the field for rough riding by NASCAR officials. This put Brainard back alongside Christopher for the restart. Several late cautions kept the field in close contact, but Christopher was up to the task on each restart and he held off Brainard at the checkered flag for his first SK Modified® feature victory of the 2009 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Christopher and Brainard was Gallo, Wade Mattesen, and Mark Bakaj.
After being penalized the previous week for allegedly jumping a restart Christopher swore up and down that he would not return to Stafford. Evidently someone gave him an attitude adjustment as he knuckled under and was back in the SK Modified lineup like nothing ever happened.
From the way it sounded the Race of Champions Series event run at the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York was far better than the Whelen Modified Tour Series at Stafford. Ted Christopher took advantage of Bill Putney’s locked up wheel with only three laps remaining of the 75 lap Richie Evans Memorial Port City 150. Christopher driving a car prepared and owned by Terry Zacharias of Candor, NY knew the last three laps were going to be tough. As defending RoC Champion Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa. was now in second and Matt who was undefeated at Oswego in 2008 was looking to keep his streak intact. Following another yellow on lap 72 a three-lap shootout was set and everyone in attendance knew it was going to be an exciting finish. Christopher, a multi time NASCAR National Modified Champion used plenty of different driving strategies to keep Hirschman at bay. However entering turn three on the final lap Hirschman got on the outside of Christopher and the two exited turn four side by side with the crowd standing on their feet. Christopher moved up the track just a hair but left Hirschman enough room to stay alongside of him. As the two drivers drag raced to the start finish line Christopher in his Ron Hutter powered Troyer chassis car had just enough to hold off Hirschman by inches for the $2,800 win. Jan Leaty of Williamson, NY who started 11th ended up in third with Eric Beers of Northampton, Pa. in fourth after starting 21st and Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, NY finishing fifth after starting 16th.
The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid the numerous showers that hit Connecticut on Saturday night. Groton native Ron Yuhas Jr. nearly won the Waterford Speedbowl’s opening Saturday night event in April before Keith Rocco stole the win by mere inches, but on Saturday night Yuhas would not be denied going on to win the 35-lap SK Modified main event. Ohio native Dave Shullick Jr. won the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified special in a caution filled event, Bruce Thomas Jr. the Late Model event, Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks, and Bill Leonard was the Mini Stock winner.
The SK Modifieds were first up with their 35-lap main event. Corey Hutchings jumped to the lead over Jeff Pearl on the initial green, and the field would stretch out over an extended period of green flag racing. Hutchings would pull a straightaway lead over the competition as laps clicked away. By halfway, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco were asserting themselves working through traffic. Yuhas jumped to the outside lane to move his way through the top five and into the top three. The event’s first caution flew on lap 28 when Jeff Paul, running second, went up in smoke in turn three ending his strong run to that point. Paul turned in the event’s fastest lap. On the restart the action heated up with Yuhas looking outside Hutchings. Meanwhile, Rocco applied pressure to both Hutchings and Yuhas from third place. The entertaining action would be interrupted by caution when Justin Gaydosh spun on the backstretch with four laps to go. Yuhas battled his way into the lead in the outside lane on the restart, overcoming Hutchings with three laps remaining. The event’s final caution waved with two laps remaining setting up a green-white-checkered finish and a restart rematch with Hutchings outside Yuhas. Hutchings could not muster the steam from the outside, and would tuck into second behind Yuhas who would go on to win by a car length. Rocco took an impressive third, Tyler Chadwick ran a good race for fourth, and Rob Janovic Jr. rallied to finish fifth at the stripe.
There were 20 Modifieds on hand. Tough luck reared its ugly head when Todd Ceravolo and Keith Rocco made contact which ended up with Ceravolo’s car sustaining severe damage. Car owner Dickie Doo Ceravolo said it will be a few weeks before the car returns to action.
The True Value Modified Series was at the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, Vermont. Steve Masse won his first ever True Value event. Rowan Pennick finished second with Kirk Alexander, third. Ed Dachenhausen and Jack Bateman rounded out the top five. Chris Pasteryak led from the start until lap 87 when he had issues and began to fade. The race, plagued by 12 caution periods and one red flag to clear the track from damaged cars, slowed the pace of the feature race, the third event of a 15 race schedule. Nine of those caution periods came between laps 70 and 80.
The Thompson Speedway came alive on Thursday night with what had to be some of the best open wheeled Modified racing seen in quite a while. Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, scored the feature win in a dramatic finish for the Speedway’s premier division. It was the second win for Rocco at Thompson after his victory back in April on Icebreaker Saturday. In the early going Kerry Malone got the edge on pole sitter Ted Christopher before the caution flew for a pile-up exiting turn two. Danny Cates was sent spinning from the fifth position and several drivers took evasive action. Only the #36 of Tim Sullivan headed down pit road for service. He was able to rejoin the field. On the restart it was Malone moving out to a five-car length advantage over Jimmy Blewett. It was action-packed for the third spot as Josh Sylvester had his hands full with Christopher and Woody Pitkat. Keith Rocco, who was involved in the lap three caution, had worked his way back inside the top-ten by lap eight. With 10-laps down, Blewett and company had caught Malone. Blewett made a power move exiting turn two to take over the lead. Sylvester and Christopher followed through. Christopher made quick work of Sylvester to move into second. A single-lap later the caution flew for a spin by Dana Young. Under the caution, Malone gave up the fourth spot to head to pit road for adjustments. An incident that involved Harry Rheaume, Tim Sullivan, Dave LaCroix and Andy Gasper brought out the caution again on lap 16. The cars of Rheaume and Sullivan sustained heavy damage.
Back under green, Christopher was all but pushing leader Blewett while Sylvester, Pitkat and Rocco where locked in a heavy battle for third. Sparks flew when Christopher made a bid for the lead. Contact between the lead duo ended with Christopher stopped on the front stretch with a flat tire; necessitating the caution. Todd Ceravolo pitted from the fifth position under the caution. Ceravolo parked his car after it was determined that his mount had sustained suspension damage that could not be repaired. Pitkat looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart giving Blewett a run for the lead. Sylvester stood his ground. Pitkat slipped back to third behind Sylvester. Rocco was now fourth followed by Marvin, who had worked his way back into contention after being involved in the first caution. On lap 23, Rocco muscled his way passed both Pitkat and Sylvester and into the second spot. The young gun had five laps to chase down Blewett. It didn’t even take one as Rocco caught Blewett. In turn three, Rocco made a dive bomb move under Blewett. The car drifted up allowing Blewett to maintain his lead. The cat-and-mouse continued over the final two laps.
On the white flag lap, Rocco ran Blewett up toward the wall in turn one. Coming to the checkers, Rocco drifted high pushing Blewett toward the wall once again in turn three. Sylvester saw a glimmer of light in the middle while Pitkat looked low. All four cars had a shot at the victory. Slight contact with Sylvester slowed Rocco but not enough to derail the run to the victory. Blewett barely edged out Pitkat for second. Sylvester settled for fourth. Marvin completed the top-five.
Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, a winner during the Icebreaker in April, continued his winning ways in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI edged out fan favorite Jeff Zuidema to earn the Late Model checkers. Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, in Limited Sportsman; Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT in the TIS Modifieds; and Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT in the Mini Stocks also visited victory lane on the opening Thursday night.
Mike Bliss raced to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory since 2004, catching a break to claim the rain-shortened event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Bliss, who started from the back of the field, took the lead because he was in the right position when the caution flag came out with 39 laps to go. The caution put Bliss ahead of series points leader Kyle Busch, who clearly had the car to beat most of the night. It looked as if Busch would get lucky when rain halted the race a few laps later and got him back near Bliss’ bumper. But more showers came, and NASCAR officials called the Carquest Auto Parts 300 with 30 laps to go and Bliss still out front. Brendan Gaughan was second, followed by Busch, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano.
Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500. The winner pulled away over the final laps to beat Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick, who eclipsed her historic fourth-place finish as a rookie in 2005 by crossing the strip of bricks in third – the highest finish ever for a female driver.
NASCAR’s longest race of the season spilled into a second day Sunday night when the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC was postponed by rain for the first time in 50 years. Bruton Smith, the outspoken, multimillionaire chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., ripped NASCAR for choosing not to disclose the banned substance involved in driver Jeremy Mayfield’s suspension, for dropping record penalties on underfunded driver Carl Long and for the kind of racing created with the Car of Tomorrow. Smith also criticized two former Kentucky Speedway owners who refused to drop an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR. Their decision has delayed the track from getting a Sprint Cup race.
NASCAR declared David Reutimann the winner when an ominous weather forecast indicated it would be impossible to run the Coca Cola 600 to its conclusion. The drivers had figured that out a day earlier, when the race was postponed and carried over to Memorial Day for the first time in its 50-year history. With intermittent showers spraying the track all day Monday, the race was one of strategy, as every driver simply tried to be in front when the event was finally washed out. Reutimann gave it his best shot when, running 14th, he and crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to join the parade of cars following leader Kyle Busch down pit road during a caution for rain 22 laps past the halfway point.
The race had reached the point where if it was stopped again for rain, it was official, and the Michael Waltrip Racing team prayed the end was soon. Reutimann claimed the lead, with pole-sitter Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon following him to the front as the rest of the field went to pit road for fuel and fresh tires. He didn’t lead a single lap under green-flag racing, but was out front for five laps under caution before NASCAR called the cars back to pit road for the third rain stoppage. Most drivers headed to their motorhomes to wait out the rain. Not Reutimann. He was joined at his car by his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, a racer with one career NASCAR start who still tears it up in dirt track events at East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Fla. The two didn’t bother with an umbrella as they stood in a steady drizzle for just over 2 hours. Newman finished second and Gordon was third. Gordon might have a problem, though. NASCAR confiscated his real axle housing following post-race inspection for further evaluation. Carl Edwards, who had changed into street clothes by the time the race was called, finished fourth, followed by Brian Vickers and Busch.
Five years ago in 2014 The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park fought through scattered rain showers to get in an almost full schedule of racing for the Food Bank Night & Late Model 20/20 Sprint. In Late Model action, Rick Gentes fought back in the third of three segments to derail a clean sweep by Keith Rocco, who won two 20-lap Late Model segments. Gentes’ third segment win was not enough to stop Rocco from winning the overall finish, however.
In other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Robert Palmer earned his first career win in the Lite Modified division while Corey Hutchings checkered the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division and Chad Baxter won the Monster Mini Stock feature.
The Sunoco Modified division ran 13 laps of their 30-lap feature before rain forced them to reschedule the remainder of the event until May 29. Woody Pitkat, Keith Rocco, and Ryan Preece made up the top-three when it was postponed.
All in all, the racing at Thompson provided a high level of competition. In the Limited Sportsman event Corey Hutchings and Larry Barnett put on a brilliant display of driving as they ran lap after lap, side by side, for the lead. Hutchings prevailed to take the win as Barnett settled for second. Chris Moose Douton finished third. The Late Model 20/20 Sprint was also highly competitive. The first 20 lapper for the Late Models saw Rick Gentes coming off the fourth turn on the final lap with the checkered flag in sight when a slight nudge from Rocco caused him to lose just a bit of momentum to allow Rocco by and take the win. In the second 20 for the Late Models the lead lap cars were inverted for the start. Rocco got the break as Gentes brushed the wall, losing valuable distance he would never make up. Rocco took the lead in the second 20 on lap 11 and never looked back. Rocco started on the pole for the final 10 laps but his worn tires were not up to the task. Gentes took the lead on lap 7. A strong performance was turned in by Glen Boss who turned in a third, second and a third for the night.
The re-configure of the Thompson Speedway is just about complete. Great pains were taken to make it a fully functional oval and road course facility. With the road course looping through the parking lot which is now fenced off it will be interesting to see where spectators cars are parked. The only major complaint from competitors is the way the divisions are spread out from what used to be the old pit. Some of the older mechanics and car owners feel there is way too much walking involved especially to the gas pumps and parts truck. Hopefully the Thompson management will address these issues which would make the facility more competitor friendly.
The Stafford Speedway fell victim to rain on Friday.
Racing action at the Waterford Speedbowl saw Joe Gada take his first win of the year in the SK Modifieds. Joining Gada as new faces in Victory Lane for 2014 were Bruce Thomas Jr., picking up the checkered flag in Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race, and Ray Christian III, winner in the Mini Stocks. Josh Galvin of Franklin won his third Street Stock feature in a row and Corey Barry won his second SK Light Modified race on the year. Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott claimed another INEX Legend Cars feature to round out the Saturday night winners. The SK Modified and Late Model features went non-stop.
Gada started the race from the pole position and left Nichole Morgillo behind exiting turn two. Excitement picked up on the opening lap when several cars made contact down the back chute, sending Shawn Thibeault through the infield but continuing on without a caution flag. Gada was out to a blistering pace while Ed Puleo quickly moved to second position. Ted Christopher was already up to third and Keith Rocco was charging through the top-ten and was hot on Christopher’s tail in fourth just four laps in. Rocco was not content and immediately looked for racing room on Christopher, making an inside move to jump to third on lap-5. Ahead, Gada stretched his lead on Puleo as Rocco closed in. The battle for second picked up on lap-10 with Rocco all over Puleo. After several laps trying, Rocco could not unseat Puleo for the spot. Christopher was all alone in fourth with Tim Jordan rounding out the top five as the race reached halfway all under the green flag.
Over the second half of the race, Puleo began to slowly reel in Gada as Rocco started to fade in third. Christopher was closing the gap back to Rocco and Jordan continued in fifth. By lap-25 Puleo was two car lengths back of Gada and three laps later he was on his rear bumper. Puleo looked to the inside of Gada more than once, but Gada was quick off the corners running his groove. Puleo tested Gada’s rear bumper on a couple occasions, including lap-32 when both cars briefly got sideways entering turn one.
Gada withstood Puleo’s efforts to win by a car length at the checkered flag in a clean but well contested event. The win marked Gada’s second in the division. His first victory came in 2013. Gada’s father Dennis is one of the all-time best open-wheeled drivers in track history, claiming seven division titles. The caution free race took 9 minutes and 33 seconds from start to finish. Puleo rebounded from a hard wreck last Saturday to finish second and Rocco held back Ted Christopher for third. Tim Jordan rounded out the top five.
In the Late Models, Thomas won for the first time on the year to halt Rocco’s stranglehold in the Valenti Auto Mall sponsored division. Rocco won the final five races in 2013 and the first five features to begin 2014. Thomas, one of the division’s all-time best, finally found the answer to best Rocco in the 30-lap race. Rocco finished second. Christopher won for the fourth consecutive time in the INEX Legend Cars.
Howie Brode held off Ryan Preece and Timmy Solomito to take the Modified win at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Tom Rogers and Ron Silk rounded out the top five.
In Modified racing in the southland, Chris Fleming was the 100 lap NASCAR Modified feature winner at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. Burt Myers finished second with Kyle Ebersole, third.
Jamie McMurray, a 40-1 long shot, had a $1 million payday with an upset victory in the Sprint All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. McMurray was second on the restart for the 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Lined up outside of pole-sitter Carl Edwards, McMurray waged a door-to-door battle with the leader for a lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway, with McMurray surging slightly ahead several times. The two cars appeared to touch more than once, and McMurray finally cleared Edwards for the lead two laps into the fifth segment.
Sam Hornish Jr. beat Ryan Blaney off a restart with 21 laps to go and hung on to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Sunday at Iowa Speedway. Pole-sitter Ryan Blaney was second, followed by Regan Smith, Chase Elliott and Elliott Sadler in the first stand-alone event of the season. Hornish, in the No. 54 car usually driven by Kyle Busch, led 167 of 250 laps
In Pole position qualifying for the Indy 500, Ed Carpenter took back-to-back pole victories, posting a four-lap average of 231.067 mph to take the top spot in the 500 for the second straight year.
On a sad note, former Waterford Speedbowl announcer Dave Shippee passed away last week. Dave had a lifelong love of auto racing and was at one time, during the early 70’s, the track announcer at Waterford Speedbowl. No one who was there will forget the night the recording of the National Anthem broke and he gave a stirring solo rendition. David was a gifted writer. He had his own column in several now defunct publications including, “Dave’s Stockpile” and “Tiques and Fleas”, an ode to antiquing.
Last year, 2018, NASCAR Hall of Fame’s tenth induction class was announced late last week at the Hall in Charlotte, NC. Congratulations to the five individuals that make up the Class of 2019 are Davey Allison, Jeff Gordon, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske and Jack Roush and the Landmark Award recipient Jim Hunter.
It’s a travesty that nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik was again left out.
The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair Modifiedz night, the biggest SK Light Modified race of the season, on Friday, May 25th. The SK Light Modifieds ran their longest race of the season with a 40-lap feature, doubling their weekly distance. Matching 2017, Doug Dunleavy of Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair partnered with Stafford Speedway to put up a posted purse of $9,940 including a $2,000 payday for the winner.If a $9,940 SK Light Modified purse wasn’t enough, Dunleavy posted an additional $2,950 for the 2018 Modifiedz night, doubling the winners’ purse for all Stafford divisions. With the increase, the SK Modified 40-lap feature paid a potential $3,600 to win, the Late Model 30-lap feature $1,750 to win, Limited Late Model feature $850 to win, and $400 to win for the Street Stocks.
In the 40 lap SK Modified feature Rowan Pennink ended Keith Rocco’s win streak by taking the win,Through no fault of his own, Rocco was collected in a lap six wreck. Rocco rallied back and came across the finish line in fourth spot behind Pennink, Ron Williams and Chase Dowling, . Following post-race inspection, Dowling’s car was found to be 10 pounds underweight and he was penalized 10 positions, one position for each pound his car was underweight, moving him to 13th in the finishing order.
Other winners at Stafford on Friday night were Marcello Rufrano in the 40-lap SK Light feature, Tom Fearn in the Late Model feature, Jeremy Lavoie, and Johnny Walker in the Street Stock feature.
Round one of the 2018 edition of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series went to post in northern New Hampshire on Saturday night with 30 Modifieds on hand. Home track favorite Mike Willis, Jr. of Grantham, NH, scored the victory in the inaugural Ron Bouchard’s Auto Stores 100 at Claremont Speedway presented by SPAFCO and Jerico. A strong crowd was on hand to watch and appreciate as one of their own scored the victory over some of short track racing’s best like runner-up Ryan Preece and podium finisher and Series’ dominator Matt Hirschman. Hard-charging Tommy Barret and Ron Silk completed the top-five.
Despite starting on the pole it was not a cake walk for the young charger as he had to overcome dogged determination by his fellow competitors and late-race restarts to capture the popular win and the $6,000 winner’s share. Hard-charging competitors locked in fierce battles from the drop of the green flag, the race was undeniably a fitting tribute to the late, great Ron Bouchard.
On lap 95, Willis made a bold move and was able to take the lead away from Silk. The twelfth and final caution flew for an incident that involved Chris Bolton to set up a three-lap dash for the cash. Despite his efforts from the outside, Silk could not overcome Willis. Willis easily retained his lead; bringing Preece along and into second. Hirschman dogged Preece but to no avail. For as heated as the battle for the lead had been over the closing laps, Willis went uncontested for the win at the checkers. It was a popular win for a young driver who calls Claremont home. In victory lane he was quick to acknowledge his father and the efforts of his crew. Willis received congratulations from Preece and Hirschman, his fellow podium finishers in victory lane. Kudos go out to fourth-place finishers Tommy Barrett, who after suffering mechanical woes, a broken rear-end axle in the consi, used a provisional to get into the field and started scratch on the 27 car field. Silk completed the top-five. Sixth through tenth were Matt Galko, Woody Pitkat, Todd Patnoad, Rowan Pennink and Les Hinkley.sixth-place Galko. Recovering from adversity was the story for the remainder of the top-ten including Pitkat, Patnode, Pennink, and Hinckley.
The inaugural Ron Bouchard Auto Parts 100, presented by SPAFCO and Jerico, is also made possible with the help of a strong list of associate sponsors with a ton of racing heritage including Broad Brook Heating & Cooling, Fred Wilcox, Bruce Brennenstuhl, Fuller RV Rentals and Sales, Fuller’s Car Laundry, Ballard Trucks, Metcalf Paving, Pat’s Auto Center, George Summers Trucking, Ashaway Cement Products, Mad River Construction, Bradford Motors, Dunn’s Corner Repair, Twin Cedars, Central Mass Tree and Ed French & Son Paving. Next up for the TTOMS is the prestigious Open Wheel Wednesday 100 at Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, June 27. .
On tap at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was the Full Fendered Throwdown presented by Belltown Motors Tire Service Center and Belltown Recycling. Anthony Flannery was the overall champion of the Late Model 20/20/20 Shootout picking up $2000.00 check for his efforts. In three separate 20 lap features Flannery finished fifth, second and second. Individual winners were Jason Palmer, Ryan Morgan and Bruce Thomas Jr. Other winners were Scott Serydnsky in the 375 Sportsman, Jordan Hadley in the Limited Sportsman, Nick Pappacoda in the Mini Stocks and Dwane Noll in the trucks.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series was also at the shoreline oval. Joey Doiron collected his first win in GSPSS competition and like Flannery, he did it with consistency. He finished third in all three 35-lap races. Jacob Dore led from the pole to dominate the first 35-lap feature, Cory Casagrande battled hard in the closing laps against George Bessette and held him off for the win in the second feature and Devin O’Connell worked forward from fourth starting spot to dominate and drive away from the field to win the third 35 lapper.
Across the big pond on Long Island, Tom Rogers was the Modified tour type winner at the Riverhead Raceway. Howie Brody finished second with Kyle Soper, third. His NASCAR Modified triumph, 49th of his career leaves Rogers just one win shy of tying the late Jim Malone Sr. for second on the all time win list at the track.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, rain prevailed. Burt Myers, the defending champion, has accumulated 232 points and holds an 18-point lead over second-place Tim Brown, the all-time wins leader in track history. Lee Jeffreys sits in third with 196 points.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Officials announced that the May 20 event, which was originally cancelled due to the pending weather forecast, will now be rescheduled. The Limited Sportsman Long Distance, presented by Pepsi, is now scheduled for Thursday, June 7.
The race program is headlined by the ultra-competitive Limited Sportsman Division, who will compete in their longest race of the year. The Sunoco Modified, Late Model, and Mini Stock Divisions will all be on the card, as well, competing in regular distance events.
Will Power gave team owner Roger Penske a 17th Indy 500 victory in a sweep of the “month of May” at Indianapolis. Danica Patrick ended her racing career with a bang as she hit the wall and never finished.
Kyle Busch marked off the only track where a points-race victory had eluded him Sunday night, leading 377 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is the only driver in NASCAR’s modern era to win a points race on every NASCAR track on the schedule. Busch started on the pole, won every stage in the circuit’s longest race and left everyone else fighting for second on the way to his fourth victory of the season. It was Busch’s first win in 29 tries points-racing at Charlotte and gave him a series distinction like no other with wins at all 23 tracks on the top series. Keselowski overcame a humid afternoon and an hour-long rain delay Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to become the first repeat winner on the Xfinity Series this season.