RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit: Third Week Of August

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1949, Bob Cameron was the 20 lap feature winner at the Buffalo Civic Stadium in New York. At Seekonk, Don Hall took top honors.

Sixty five years ago in 1954 Sparky Belmont made it two in arow in Wednesday night Sportsman action at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Bob Cahoon was the non-Ford winner. Saturday night at the shoreline oval saw Johnny Thompson take the top spot in the Sportsman division. At Seekonk, Fred Astle was the A division winner. Gil Pelletier won in the B division.

Sixty years ago in 1959, George Janoski was the Friday night winner on the dirt at the Stafford Springs Speedway. Bill Slater made it three in a row at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won the 25 lap Sportsman feature on Wednesday night. Slater finished a close second to Don Collins on Saturday night. After a post race protest by Slater it was determined that the event was checkered one lap short but the finish held. Ted Stack was the non-Ford winner on both nights while Newt Palm made it three in a row as he won the Bomber feature on Wednesday night but could not back it up on Saturday night as Bill Strong won the Bomber feature. Don Hall was still winning at Seekonk.

Fifty five years ago in 1964, Pete Corey was the Friday night winner on the dirt at the Stafford Springs Speedway. Kenny Shoemaker and Bill Wimble rounded out the top three. Jim Hendrickson won at Islip and Don Stives at Wall Stadium. Charlie Webster was the winner of a 60 lap Modified MadCap event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Krashen was the Bomber winner. Ray Hallquist won a 500 lap Late Model event at Seekonk. Bobby Sprague was the 30 lap A division winner.

Thirty years ago in 1989, Jerry Pearl was the Friday night winner at Stafford as he drove the S&S Racers No.33 to a convincing win, beating out Steve Chowanski. Bob Potter all but locked up the track championship at Waterford on Saturday when he took the win at the shoreline oval. The mod tour series was at Riverside where Mike Stefanik won out over Tom Baldwin. At Riverhead, Carl Miller held off Tom Tillotson and at Thompson on Sunday, Ted Christopher was the winner. Seekonk fell victim to rain.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, Thompson ran on Wednesday with Ted Christopher taking the win over Tom Tagg. The Mod Tour was at Stafford on Friday. Jeff Fuller took the lead at the 3/4 mark of the 150 lapper to win out over Reggie Ruggiero. Carl Pasteryak started on the pole and with a very impressive run, finished third. Jan Leaty and Tom Baldwin rounded out the top five. Mike Christopher was the SK Modified winner. At Waterford on Saturday night, Phil Rondeau inherited the lead after Jim Broderick and Todd Ceravolo tangled while fighting for the lead. Mike Gada finished second with Mark LaJunesse, third. At Riverside it was Reggie Ruggiero over Steve Park and at Riverhead it was Bob Park beating out Don Howe. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Geoff Bodine

dominated the 500 lap contest until suffering water pump failure just 45 laps from the finish. Rusty Wallace was the eventual winner with Mark Martin, second. Kenny Wallace won the companion Busch Grand National event and the big news was that Ernie Irvan who had suffered life-threatening injuries at Michigan improved to the point where he was taken off the critical list.

Ten years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was scheduled to travel to the Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome on Saturday, August 29. With a bad weather forecast at hand the event was called off.

In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Woody Pitkat scored his second win of the season in the Sunoco Modifieds. Mike O’Sullivan also took down his second win of the season in the Super Late Models. John Materas swept the action in twin features for the Late Model division. Shawn Monahan scored his first Limited Sportsman feature event of the year in dominating fashion. Brian Tagg, was tops in the TIS Modifieds while Steve Michalski was the winner in the Mini Stocks.

Woody Pitkat took over the lead on lap five and withstood a number of late race cautions to score his second Sunoco Modified feature event of the 2009 season. There were 17 Sunoco Modifieds on hand. Among the missing was Todd Ceravolo who, would sit out a few races until his father shows signs of recovery from a recent accident. As of last Sunday night, Aug 30, the popular car owner and former Waterford Speedbowl Champion is, in his wife’s words, “holding his own”. Surgery to reset broken bones had been scheduled for late last week but was put on hold as a minor complication developed. Ceravolo, 70, suffered serious injuries on Aug 21while attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor.

The Stafford Motor Speedway suffered another rainout on Friday because of persistent rain showers. The rains carried over to Saturday forcing the Waterford Speedbowl to pull the plug on their racing program.

In True Value Modified Series racing at the Thompson Speedway the third time was certainly a charm for Andy Seuss who scored the victory in the third attempt to get the True Value Modified Series event in the books at the Thompson International Speedway. The event was postponed on two different occasions earlier in the season. Seuss scored his first True Value Modified Series (TVMRS) victory of the season in a drama-filled 75-lapper. Seuss took the lead late in the event and held back serious challenges from Steve Massey and Rowan Pennink to score the victory. Richard Savary had a strong run to finish second. Todd Owen joined the duo on the podium. Ted Christopher, who started scratch on the field, finished fourth. Chris Pasteryak completed the top five.

NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division had the weekend off as the Nationwide Series cars headed to Canada. Carl Edwards won the race after making a surprise pass of Marcos Ambrose on the final turn of the race. It was another lost opportunity at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for Ambrose, who has had a chance to win all three Nationwide races conducted on the street circuit since NASCAR began racing here in 2007.

Ambrose led 60 laps over the 14-turn, 2.7-mile course – including 31 in a row before the rain moved in for the second straight year. Still, the hard-charging Tasmanian figured to be a lock since he grew up racing in the rain. But after overcoming restart after restart in the crash-filled event, Ambrose slipped up at the wrong time.Edwards won a two-lap sprint to the finish on a track that was both wet and dry in spots from a light rain, making up more than a second on the final lap. Edwards began to close fast on Ambrose entering turn 10, a right-handed hairpin, and that gave Edwards renewed hope. Seconds later, Ambrose slid sideways after hitting the rumble strips in turn 14. Edwards slipped past and outraced him down the final straightaway.

NASCAR Canadian Tire Series star Andrew Ranger was third. Former Formula One star Jacques Villeneuve finished fourth on the track named for his father, and Brad Keselowski was fifth. Busch went from fourth to 10th on the final two laps.

Five years ago in 2014, in the aftermath of the fatal accident involving NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Tony Stewart, that led to the death of Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward Jr., NASCAR issued new rules overseeing the behavior of drivers during events.

On Friday, August 15, NASCAR announced new rules stating that barring emergency situations like a fire, smoke or being sprayed by hot water or oil, a driver involved in a crash is not allowed to exit a car until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR official. They also mandated that after exiting their car a driver must either proceed to an ambulance or safety vehicle. The new rules also stated that: “At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron or another moving vehicle at any time This rule covers all NASCAR divisions from Sprint Cup on down to weekly NASCAR sanctioned short track racing that is held at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Thompson Speedway this past Thursday for the Budweiser 150. The event drew 25 cars. Justin Bonsignore earned his second Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park victory this season behind the wheel of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entry after taking the late race lead and holding on through two restarts.

Donny Lia, who was the pole sitter, and Ron Yuhas led the field at the start with Lia getting the early lead. Tommy Barrett, Jr. moved into second on lap four before he and Lia pulled away from the rest of the field by half-a-straightaway. Barrett attached himself to Lia’s bumper, but Lia held strong in the lead despite the pressure. The first caution occurred on lap 12 when Bobby Santos hit the first turn wall as a result of a deflating tire. The restart came on lap 17 with Lia jumping to the front. Ryan Preece got by Barrett for second, but didn’t have enough to take over the lead. Lia, Preece and Barrett pulled away from the rest of the field. Barrett challenged Preece on the outside in turn three, but Preece pulled away coming out of the corner. Preece started working the bottom groove to try and make a run on Lia, but Lia was too strong and continually pulled away.

The second caution flew on lap 40 for debris spotted in turn one. Lia continued to set the pace when racing resumed at lap 46. Preece got hung up on the inside groove and dropped back to fourth behind Doug Coby and Yuhas. Preece’s luck continued to turn for the worse, however, when he got turned coming off turn four.

Racing resumed on lap 58 with Lia leading the way. Barrett and Coby rounded out the top-three with Barrett only a car length behind Lia. The field strung out single file until the caution flew again on lap 73 when Patrick Emerling got loose and hit the outside wall in turn two. Emerling pitted with a right front flat. Lia led a contingent of lead lap cars onto pit road, but it was Timmy Solomito out first. Glen Reen inherited the lead for the restart.

Reen held off the hard-charging Ron Silk to keep the lead on the restart, but Silk was able to get a run on the bottom to take over the top spot on lap 83. Barrett followed suit to take over second on lap 85 while Matt Hirschman took over third. Lia, meanwhile, was on the move and had advanced to third by lap 95.

The long green flag run worked into Silk’s favor as he worked his way through lapped traffic with ease. Barrett remained within distance, but couldn’t get close enough to challenge. The race took a surprising turn at lap 124 when Emerling spun in turn one collecting Barrett and Lia, ending their night. Coby and Justin Bonsignore took over second and third.

Silk drove to the front on the restart at lap 129 but caution quickly came back out when Rowan Pennink spun in turn four. Coby took the lead when racing resumed at lap 135, but the action wasn’t over yet. Justin Bonsignore used the bottom groove to take the lead on lap 136 in turn four. Coby remained glued to his bumper, but the race came to a halt quickly when Yuhas and Eric Goodale hit hard in turn two.

Bonsignore led the field back to green with only nine laps remaining. Coby hung tough on the inside, but Bonsignore was able to prevail and hold on to the lead. Coby, Silk and Preece went three-wide for the second spot with Silk coming out with the position. Caution would realign the field back to the last completed lap with Coby back in the second position beside Bonsignore for the restart. Bonsignore cleared Coby heading into turn one to hold on to the lead. Hirschman advanced to second with Coby holding on to third at the finish. Preece and Silk rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Timmy Solomito, Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy,Glen Reen and Spencer Davis.

In other racing action at Thompson Kerry Malone led the way in NASCAR Whelen All American Series action with a convincing victory in the Sunoco Modified 30-lap feature event. Also picking up wins were Larry Gelinas in the Late Models, Eric Bourgeois in the Monster Mini Stock division and Corey Hutchings in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division. Art Chartier won the Vintage Outlaw feature.

In Sunoco (SK) Modified action, Malone used two three-wide moves to take the lead on the third lap of the Sunoco Modified feature and led the remainder of the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature.

Troy Talman took the early lead, but had Malone to deal with as he shot up to the front to challenge heading into turn three. Talman held the lead as they came to the line. On lap three, Talman’s night took a dramatic turn when he and Keith Rocco made contact in turn two and took him out of the lead and out of contention. Malone used the outside groove for the restart with Tyler Chadwick getting relegated back to the sixth spot after starting on the front row inside groove. Todd Ceravolo, Ryan Preece, and McDermott rounded out the top-four. Malone pulled out to a five car length lead as the remaining top-five, which included Rocco, ran nose-to-tail.

As the laps wound down, Malone and Ceravolo pulled away from Preece, who had slipped back by ten car lengths. Meanwhile, Rocco got by McDermott for the fourth spot at lap 26 and began to close in on Preece. Malone approached lapped traffic as he took the white flag, but it didn’t slow him down at all as he cruised to checkered flag ahead of Ceravolo. Rocco, Preece and McDermott rounded out the top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ran under somewhat chilly skies last Friday night. Taking down NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly feature wins on the night were Keith Rocco, his first at Stafford this year, in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Adam Gray in the 30-lap Late Model Feature, Nick Salva in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Norm Sears in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, Andy Marchese in the 15-lap DARE Stock, and Cory DiMatteo in the 20-lap Legend Cars feature.

In the SK Modified feature. Rocco got clear of Ryan Preece on lap-35 and Rowan Pennink was almost alongside Preece but he fell back into line in third. Pennink got ahead of Preece on lap-37 but Preece came back the very next corner and moved back in front of Pennink for second. With all the shuffling going on behind him, Rocco had pulled out to a slight lead and he led the field back to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2014 season. Preece finished second, with Pennink, Woody Pitkat, and Dan Avery rounding out the top-5.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl local favorite Rob Janovic Jr. claimed the night’s SK Modified® victory, his first of the year. Bruce Thomas Jr. took his third Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature win, Josh Galvin won for the tenth time in the Street Stocks, and Ken Cassidy Jr. took his sixth Mini Stock win of the year. Brendon Bock won his first ever Speedbowl feature in the evening’s INEX Legend Cars race and Allen Coates recorded another win in the New England Truck Series at his home track.

In the SK Modified feature, Keith Rocco used a late race surge to take second, passing Tim Jordan for the spot on the final lap. Jordan was third and Diego Monahan was fourth, with Craig Lutz fifth.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Seekonk Speedway for a 100 lapper on Saturday night. Norm Wrenn scored an upset win after the front runners tangled on the last lap. To set the stage, Justin Bonsignore was leading Richard Savory when the took the white flag. Savary got into the back of Bonsignore in turn two and got them both out of shape. Rowan Pennink got clear of both going into turn three. Bonsignore slammed Pennink in the center of the corner, getting them both out of shape and Wrenn got by off four to take the win. Pennink ended up second with Bonsignore, third. Richard Savory and Bob Goodenough rounded out the top five.

Something kind of strange happened at Seekonk. It seems that local runner Todd Annarummo has incredible luck when it comes to drawing starting positions. Annarummo, who is not a VMS regular, started on the pole in the second heat and started on the outside pole in the feature. It just seems strange that when ever a Modified race is run at Seekonk Annarummo always draws an up-front starting spot??

In Modified racing in the Southland, Burt Myers led all the way in the first 50-lap race for Bowman Gray Stadium’s featured Modified Division and claimed his division-leading fifth victory of the season. Chris Fleming survived and won a wild second Modified race, capturing his career-best third victory in one season. Myers, a six-time Bowman Gray champion, started from the pole position in the first Modified race after a draw for the top starting spot among the fastest six qualifiers.

Riverhead Raceway on Long Island hosted twin 30’s for the Modifieds. Tom Rogers Jr won them both.

Jeff Gordon raced to his third NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, holding off Kevin Harvick on Sunday for his first win at Michigan International Speedway since 2001.

Chris Buescher took the lead on the 68th of 90 laps in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and nursed his fuel the rest of the way to hold off Regan Smith and Brian Scott. Smith, in particular, was waiting for Buescher to run out of gas.

Last year, 2018, In what started out as a quiet week in racing circles in New England ended up in a fire storm. Internet racing news site Racedayct broke the news that former New London-Waterford Speedbowl owner Terry Eames had been hired in general manager type of position at the Thompson Motorsports Park, which would include overseeing events on the Thompson Speedway oval, though his exact role is still to be defined.

Track ownership is currently mounting a restructuring of management at the facility that includes bringing on Eames and also partnering with the venue management group Comcast Spectra. The track’s deal with Comcast Spectra management is expected to begin on January 1, 2019.

Track owner Jon Hoenig said he could not comment at this point about any staff changes happening at the facility. Eames also said he could not comment on the situation at this point.

Eames is expected to be in his new role at the facility before the next NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event at the track, which is scheduled for Sept. 9.

RacedayCt sources have also confirmed that current Thompson Speedway general manager Josh Vanada will leave his position with the track within the next month, though he will remain involved with organization of the final two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events in 2018.

Jon Hoenig who says he is the owner of the Thompson Motorsports Park evidently didn’t look into Eames’ past very closely. As the former owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Eames ran the track into the ground by not paying his bills and not paying his competitors. Eames will replace Josh Venada. It will also be interesting to see how concession operator Steve Rubin fits into the equation.

Donald Hoenig took over track operation from his father in 1964. He has operated the facility successfully for years until his retirement a few years ago. Jon Hoenig is Don’s grandson

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Bristol Motor Speedway last Thursday. The Bush’s Beans 150 was the 11th race in the fight for the championship and it marked the third race in the month of August for teams. Justin Bonsignore scored his ninth career pole, fourth of the season and third at Bristol in qualifying for the Bush’s Beans 150. Bonsignore’s lap of 14.876 seconds (128.986 mph) around the 0.533-mile oval put him on the pole. Patrick Emerling, who posted the fastest lap in practice earlier, qualified second with a lap of 14.942 seconds (128.417 mph). Timmy Solomito placed his No. 16 Starrett Tools Racing Ford third in qualifying with a time of 15.027 seconds. A slim field of 21 cars attempted to qualify. As usual, Melissa Fifield was dead last with a speed of 105.9 mph which was 22.196mph off the pole speed.

Bonsignore started from the pole after posting the fastest time in qualifying but lost the lead on lap one to Patrick Emerling. From there, Bonsignore’s difficult climb back to the front of the field came to a close just after the mandatory halfway, break where teams changed their Hoosier tires.

He re-took the lead on lap 90 from Timmy Solomito, and never relinquished the top spot, cutting through lapped traffic while Chase Dowling tried everything to make a move to the lead in search of his first tour win. Dowling chased Bonsignore across the line and finished second. Rob Summers finished third, while Patrick Emerling, who led 52 laps, finished fourth. Five-time and defending series champion Doug Coby faded in the final circuits and rounded out the top five.

Sixth through tenth included Ronnie Williams who was sixth, followed by Dave Sapienza, Rowan Pennink, Burt Myers and Eric Goodale.

Seventeen of the original 21 starters were running at the finish. Among those who failed to finish were Woody Pitkat who had electrical problems and Ken Heagy who lost an engine. Melissa Fifield’s latest excuse was power steering problems as she went fifteen laps before parking it. Maybe she needs to fire her crew chief who appears to be doing a sub-par job of maintaining her car which has not been competitive

The next stop on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is at the Oswego Speedway in New York on Saturday, September 1. The Bush’s Beans 150 is scheduled to air on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 22, at 6:00 p.m.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday officials postponed the Call Before You Dig event because of impending rain.

On the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, track management took on Mother Nature but, in the end, the state of Connecticut won as they shut down the racing at midnight because of curfew. At one time the track was all but under water because of heavy rain but after a gallant effort by the track crew most of the night’s program went on.

Keith Rocco, the all time winner at the speedbowl went pole to pole in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 100 lapper. When qualifying heat races were canceled because of potential bad weather, the practice times were used to establish the starting lineup. That meant Rocco started the race on the pole. The win also took Rocco to a career overall total of 259 wins which include 150 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 60 at Thompson and 49 at Stafford Speedway. Dylan Izzo, making his first Valenti series start, finished second. He was close enough to the leader to make an occasional inside move against Rocco. He could not get past him, however. Long Island N.Y.. driver Dave Schneider finished third, followed by Mike Holdridge, who was inside the Top 5 for the second half of the race, and Ken Barry, who got as high in the standings as second before falling back late in the race.

Three other races were able to be completed Saturday after a four-hour rain delay. Rob Janovic thundered past Matt Gallo with 16 laps remaining en route to his second SK Modified win of the season. Jordan Haley came from behind to win the 25-lap Mini Stock race and a $200 bounty. Aaron Plemons led every laps in the Super X-Car event.

Features for the Late Models, SK Lite Modifieds, Mini Stocks and CT Pro 4 Modifieds were unable to be run because of Saturday’s lengthy rain delay and will be rescheduled.

In the SK Modifieds, Matt Gallo was second and Diego Monahan, in his first start of the year, was third. Shawn Monihan was fourth.

An altercation with 16 to go between Todd Owen and Kyle James eventually forced both drivers to the sidelines. Owen finished ninth and James was disqualified.

That incident lifted Janovic into the point lead by 10 over Owen and 16 over James. It was Janovic’s 33rd career win, lifting him into a tie with Don Bunnell for 31st place on the all-time Speedbowl list.

A special 100 lap open competition event paying $5,000 to win was held at the Claremont Speedway in northern New Hampshire on Saturday night. A restart with 19 laps to go gave Ron Silk a long-awaited chance to challenge Les Hinckley for the lead, which he did. Silk snagged the lead while Hinckley battled a tight racecar on the first laps of the restart. Hinckley’s car did come back in the final laps, as he hounded Silk with some bumper taps over the final three laps. But Silk was stout enough to hold on and claim the $5,000 check in his fourth win overall in 2018.

Of the 17 original starters only ten finished on the lead lap. Les Hinkley finished second with Todd Patnoad, third. Chase Dowling and Russ Hersey rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Tommy Barrett, Dana Smith, Brian Robie, Jeff Murray and Kirk Alexander.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jonathan Brown won the 150-lap race and finished second in the points behind Burt Myers, who finished sixth in the race and won his third straight series championship. It is the ninth time in Myers’ career he has won the Modified Division title. Coming into the final weekend of the year, Myers needed only finish inside the top nine if Brown won the race to first in the points race.

Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island was rained out for the eighth time. Next up is their Wednesday Night NASCAR special this Wednesday August 22nd.

In NASCAR Monster Cup racing, Kurt Busch stole the spotlight from his younger brother Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway to snap a 58-race winless streak and grab an overdue short track victory. Kyle Larson had to go 10 extra laps on Friday night, but the payoff was worth it.

Holding off a determined Justin Allgaier in overtime, Larson won the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, collecting his first victory at the .533-mile high-banked concrete short track.

On a sad note, Ed Clark, New England Antique Racers founder passed away at the age of 78 on Aug 11. He followed his father George Clark’s footsteps by serving as a NASCAR technical inspector and official from 1960 to 1982. Mr. Clark was also a Navy veteran who served onboard the USS Tarawa CV-40 from 1956 to 1958.

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