RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit: First Week Of October

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago the Buffalo Civic Stadium in western New York closed out their season with a 100 lapper. The race was called after 67 laps because of curfew with Bob Minet declared the winner. Bill Rafter was declared the track champion. Don Hall was the A division winner at Seekonk.

Sixty five years ago in 1954, The New London Waterford Speedbowl wrapped up their fourth season with a 50 lap Cavalcade of Champions event for the Sportsman and 20 lapper for the non-Fords. Moe Gherzi lived up to the name “Money Bags” as he took the victory. It was Gherzi’s 14th victory of the season but he lacked consistency as Fred Luchesi, in the Sgambato #9 with five wins, took the track title. Tom Van Epps, with his 14th victory in the Dennis Thornton entry, wrapped up the non-Ford title. Sadly, Van Epps would never race again as he lost his life in an automobile accident in March of 1955.

Sixty years ago in 1959, the 9th Annual Race of Champions was 100-mile event on the dirt at the Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Jim Delaney took the win over Ray Hendrick. Lionel Arielwon the season finale on the dirt at Stafford. George Janoski was declared the Modified Track Champion and Don Rounds was declared the Sportsman Track Champion. Wild Bill Slater won the 50 lap Sportsman October Championship on Sunday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Other winners at the Speedbowl were Charlie Webster in the non-Fords and Newt Palm in the Bombers.

Fifty five years ago in 1964, the final version of the dirt Race of Champions was run at the Langhorne Speedway. Freddy Adam took the 100 Mile National Open over Ken Shoemaker and Bill Wimble. Steady Eddie Flemke made a rare appearance at Seekonk where he walked off with a 30 lap Modified win.

Fifty years ago in 1969, the big event of the weekend was the annual Race of Champions at the Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa. Ray Hendrick and Dutch Hoag were the pole sitters. These two legends put on one of the greatest races ever seen as they ran wheel to wheel for 90 laps until Hoag lost oil pressure and had to drop out. From there on, Hendrick cruised to the 200-mile victory. Roger Treichler finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Chuck Boos, Merv Treichler, Guy Chartrand and Richie Evans.

Gary London, who was a scribe for National Speed Sport News made the following observation when Hendrick pulled into victory lane. ” One of his crewman slashed one of his tires, The replacement was so heavy it took three guys to lift it”. A great way to “make weight”, he added. Carl Miller backed London up, “Yeah I saw that with my own eyes, was standing there with my Dad. I think it was the left front. Freddy Harbach told me later that it was filled with sand.” George Summers was the 35 lap A division winner. George Ponte was the 100 lap B division winner.

Forty five years ago in 1974, the Race of Champions had moved to Trenton and was stretched to 300 miles in the 1-1/2 mile kidney shaped oval. Fred DeSarro who had had a sub par season showed up with a tri-colored creation owned by Len Boehler and preceded to put on one of the best all time performances at the New Jersey oval. DeSarro was in the hunt all day but it all came down to the last lap when he and long time rival Bugsy Stevens came off of turn four wheel to wheel. With the crowd on its feet, the two raced to the finish line with DeSarro winning by less than six inches. Stevens finished second with Satch Worley, third. George Summers was the 50 lap winner at Seekonk.

Forty years ago in 1979, the Thompson World Series was on tap. A 50 lapper was run for the modifieds. Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Dave Thomas, Charlie Jarzombek, Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie StAngelo. Denny Wheeler won the Supermodified portion. Bentley Warren finished second with Doug Hevron, third. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, the World Series at Thompson saw Reggie Ruggiero beat the master, Richie Evans. Brian Ross ended up third. At Wall Stadium, Doug Wolcott took the Saturday night main event over Tony Siscone and Gil Hearne.

Thirty years ago in 1989, the World Series was scheduled at Thompson, qualifying was done on Saturday and just before the Sunday features were to begin the main grandstand collapsed. Luckily only a few spectators were in their seats and only a few minor injuries incurred. Needless to say, the event was cancelled and was rescheduled to November 12.The grandstand had been in place since the speedway was built in 1939.What was left was bulldozed and carted away and a new all steel grandstand which is in place today was erected.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, the World Series at Thompson drew a record of 467 cars for nine divisions and a near record attendance of 14,000 fans. In the Modified Tour Series 125,Jan Leaty pitted early for tires and drove his way to the front to take the lead on lap 74 and the eventual win. Mike Ewanitsko finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggerio, Tim Connolly, Satch Worley and Mike Stefanik. John Anderson was the SK winner over Tom Tagg and Bert Marvin and Tommy Fox was victorious in the Late Models.

Twenty years ago, in 1999, it was a big weekend and a sad one to say the least. Riverside Park, a Saturday night institution for many ran its last events before the speedway would be destroyed to make way for more amusement park rides. Bob Polverari, a many time Park champion, scored his 38th career victory after Ed Flemke Jr. and Brad Hietella tangled with eight laps to go in the 100 lap modified feature. Chris Wenzel finished second with Flemke, third and Rob Summers, fourth. Todd Szegedy was the SK modified winner. Prior to the final event, Richie Evans, Polverari, Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks were inducted into the Riverside Park Hall of Fame. At Thompson, Rick Fuller won the rained out World Series-Featherlite Modified Tour Series 125. Fuller took the lead from Tim Connolly on lap 118.Conelly finished second and was followed by Tony Hirshman, Ed Flemke Jr. and Tom Cravenho. Hirshman was declared the 1999 series champion. Todd Szegedy carried his winning momentum from Riverside to Thompson as he won the 30 SK World Series main. Szegedy started last. Mike Christopher finished second with Chris Kopec, third. Driving a Super Modified normally driven by Mike Ordway, Ted Christopher started dead last and with the entire grandstand cheering, took the lead in the event with two laps to go and went on to victory. Bryan Wall won the Busch North Finale at Lime Rock. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Dale Earnhardt Sr. took the win.

Fifteen years ago, in 2004, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway. It was showdown time between Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke Jr. for the series title. Fifty Modifieds were on hand for time trials. The Long Island gang dominated the top spots as Mike Andrews, a regular competitor at the Riverhead Raceway and Donnie Lia were the fastest. Andrews went 119.827 mph and Lia, the Bud Pole Champion for 2004, clocked in at 118.997 mph. The top six re-drew for starting spots with third fastest qualifier Tony Hirschman drawing the pole starting spot. Todd Szegedy, the 2003 series champion, drew the outside pole. Eddie Flemke was not so fortunate as he qualified in 24th spot

In what had to be one of the best events ever put on by the Modified Tour Series, Mike Stefanik came from a dead last starting spot to ring down the curtain on 2004 with a convincing win. Tony Hirschman, who led the first 33 laps ended up third in the final rundown and secured his fourth Modified Tour Series Championship. Hirschman, who was in contention with Eddie Flemke JR for the title, was able to breathe easier after an incident on a lap 58 restart that ultimately eliminated Flemke from the title chase. It appeared that Ted Christopher checked up or brake checked Todd Szegedy as they exited turn two which resulted in a scramble on the back chute which saw Flemke suffer front end damage that would cause him to lose laps in the pits making repairs. Prior to that, all eyes were on the Southington, Connecticut racer as he put on a brilliant display of driving as he came from his 24th starting spot to as high as fourth. Christopher continued to lead until he hit the turn two wall on lap 82 and ended up spinning in turn four with a flat right rear tire. Szegedy assumed the lead from that point. Mike Stefanik, who pitted early in the event for a front-end adjustment, worked his way to the front and on lap 92 took the lead. Stefanik and Szegedy traded the lead back and forth until lap 97 when Stefanik was able to put a little distance on the 2003 series champion. Szegedy ran second to Stefanik until lap 123 when he brushed the wall in turn two. Chuck Hossfeld moved into second with Hirschman moving up to third. Rookie’s Zach Sylvester and Kenny Barry rounded out the top five. Barry and Sylvester ended up tied for the Rookie of the Year title. Barry was given the nod, as he was higher in the final point standings. An estimated crowd of 9,500 sat in the sun drenched grandstands.

Tony Hirschman, who was a guest on Gary Danko’s radio show during the week, hinted that he might cut back his racing schedule in 2005. Hirschman hoped to help his son, Matt, further his racing career and feels that if he still races it could alter his focus. Because of the fact that Mike Stefanik was committed to the Busch North Series at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday Todd Ceravolo was asked to qualify his Mod Tour ride at Thompson. Congratulations to Modified Tour Series photographer Mary Hodge as she was presented the Yvonne Durocher Woman in Racing Award at the recent New England Antique Racers Awards Banquet. Mary and her husband Howie do an excellent job of covering the Modified Series tour with their pictures, which are seen in every major racing publication.

The Busch North Series traveled to the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey on Saturday to wrap up their season. On and off rain all day Saturday, on the Jersey shore forced officials to cancel the event. It would not be made up. Andy Santerre had already wrapped up the series championship.

The Dodge Weekly Racing Series at Thompson on World Series weekend provided some excellent racing. Jim Civali gave Ted Christopher some of his own medicine as he took the win in the 30 lap Sunoco SK-type Modified event. Christopher started on the pole and led just about all the event except for a brief moment when Kerry Malone led before dropping out. Civali glued himself to Christopher’s bumper and when the opportunity presented itself when the pair exited the fourth turn on the final lap Civali made his move. Christopher attempted to block but Civali held fast and the pair touched. Christopher lifted long enough to allow Civali to forge ahead and take the win. During the slow down lap Christopher vented his frustrations as he spun Civali in turn two. Eric Berndt ended up third with Bert Marvin and Tom Cravenho rounding out the top five. David Berghman capped off his championship season in the Pro Stock division with a convincing win. Starting 29th, Berghman made a superb charge to the front and took the lead in the 30 lap feature on lap 18 to record his 9th victory of the season. Other winners on Sunday were Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Chris Perley in the Supermodifieds and Mark Buonomo in the NEMA Midgets.

The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted an automotive Flea Market over the weekend.

The final point standings for 2004 at the Waterford Speedbowl were made official. Eddie Reed JR. was officially the SK Modified Champion. Reed had three wins to his credit. Dennis Gada, who was a five-time champion, finished second, 16 points back. Ron Yuhas JR, with two wins finished third with Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five. Corey Hutchings was by far the class of the Late Model field as he won six events on his way to the title. Hutchings, also the Late Model champion at Thompson, beat Allen Coates by 46 points. Coates had five feature wins to his credit. Mark St.Hilaire, with two wins, ended up third. Former division champion Phil Rondeau, three wins and Carl Erickson round out the top five. Second generation driver Keith Rocco won the Sportsman division championship on the final lap of the final feature. Rocco, the son of Ronnie Rocco, beat Ed Gertsch by eight points. Rocco had three wins while Gertsch had six wins to his credit. Dwayne Conant, Norm Root and Roger Perry rounded out the top five. Glenn Colvin, with three wins, is the Mini Stock Champion. Colvin beat Tim Jordan by 22 points. Richard Brooks was the top feature winner with five victories and finished third in the final standings. Joe Bavalocco and Bill Leonard rounded out the top five. Michael Pepe, with two wins, is the Legends Champion. Pepe outdistanced Silas Hiscock JR by 50 points. Sixteen year old Jeffrey Paul ran in only eight events but he won six of them which placed him third in the final standings. Jim Ahern and Silas Hiscock Sr rounded out the top five.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Mike Bliss made a dramatic three wide pass in the closing stages to take the lead and eventual win on Friday night’s Busch Series event and on Saturday night Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished one-two. Casey Kahne had them covered until a blown out tire forced him into the wall and out of the event.

Ten years ago in 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was supposed to wind up the 2009 season but Mother Nature had different ideas as a “Noreaster” dumped a large amount of rain and wet snow in the northeast corner of Connecticut forcing the Thompson Speedway Management and NASCAR to postpone the World Series. As it turned out the Thompson Speedway management and NASCAR made the right decision as high winds and heavy rain mixed with snow pounded the entire New England area on Sunday.

The scheduled foreclosure proceedings of the property in which the Waterford Speedbowl is located was still on for Saturday, October 31. Property owner Terry Eames had stated that he had “turned the corner” and would stave off the impending sale of the property. Unlike Jerry Robinson who never paid competitors who raced in the 2008 Fall Finale at the shoreline oval, Eames had paid his competitors when they have raced.

Forbes magazine named ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy the Most Powerful Woman in Sports. The article dated October 14, 2009, stated France Kennedy’s “26-year career at ISC spaned a period that expanded the sport past its Southern base.” The article added, “She rose to president in 2003 and to CEO in June 2009. Analysts say she’s played a big role in most all of the company’s acquisitions and improvement projects dating back to the 1990s.”

Kyle Busch, still dealing with a flu that developed into walking pneumonia, dominated the Nationwide Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Friday night, picking up his seventh victory of the year to move closer to his first series title. In Sprint Cup action, Denny Hamlin was already at home when Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line for his third victory in five championship races.

Five years ago in 2014, In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl a persistent wet Saturday afternoon rain forced the Waterford Speedbowl to postpone its racing schedule for the first of its two day Finale Weekend. A revised Sunday schedule had thirteen divisions in action at the shoreline oval’s cap to the 2014 racing season, which could be the last at the shoreline oval.

Keith Rocco came close to cleaning house in the two modified events held. When all was said and done he dropped out of the SK Modified event with engine trouble and won the 100 lap Valenti Modified Racing Series 100. Rocco was leading the SK Modified event when he lost power on lap 36. Rocco now has 103 career wins at the Waterford Speedbowl.

In the SK 50 Craig Lutz was the early leader until Rocco took the point on Lap 11. Rocco led until losing power on lap 38 which opened the door for eventual winner Ed Puleo. Puleo led the rest of the way to hold off Ted Christopher for the win. Rob Janovic finished third with Dennis Perry recording a well-earned fourth. Diego Monahan rounded out the top five. There were 23 SK Modifieds on hand.

In Valenti Modified Racing Series action 32 cars were on hand for their 100 lapper. It seems that when ever Todd Annarummo is in competition he always seems to draw a top spot in a qualifying heat. He did it again as he drew the pole for the first heat. Keith Rocco was the spoiler as he blew him away on lap six of the ten lap heat.

In the VMRS 100 Rocco showed his strength and experience at the Speedbowl as he took the lead from Kyle James and fought off challenges from Tommy Barrett Jr and took the win by close to half a straightaway. Steve Masse and Barrett were early and mid-race factors but in the end it was Rocco who prevailed. Pre-race favorite Ted Christopher was in contention until he was collected by a spinning Barrett on lap 28. Barrett pitted and recovered as he was back in the top five by lap 53. Steve Masse took the lead for a short time at the half way mark. Three laps latter Rocco took the lead back for good. A strong run by Dennis Perry came to an end on lap 35 when he passed Dylan Kopec. Kopec sun Perry into the turn three wall, putting him out for the day. Richard Savory avoided the spins and wrecks of others as he ended up in the third spot on Barrett’s tail. Masse and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five. Rocco overcame 11 caution flags, including one red flag, to win his third Modified Racing Series race of the season and second at the Speedbowl. Rocco’s season totals show 30 wins overall including 18 in Modified competition.

In addition to Rocco’s victory, Corey Barry (SK Light Modified) and Garrett Denton (Mini Stock), secured season championships by winning their respective features in the Whelen All-American Series races, with the other Whelen features going to Jason Palmer (Late Model) and Josh Galvin (Street Stock).

Also on the season ending racing card, Ryan Bigelow was the NEMA Midgets winner, Dan Cugini captured the NEMA Lite feature, Ray Reed won the Super X-Car race, Anthony Marvin captured the Bandolero feature, Wayne Shifflet won the X-Car race, Dana Dimatteo the Legend Cars race and Jay Stuart captured the Outlaw Stock race.

In Modified racing in the Southland, Danny Bohn edged Brian Loftin at the finish line to take the Prestoria Farms 150 checkered flag in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action Saturday at Caraway Speedway. It was the third career victory for Bohn, and second at the .455-mile oval in rural Sophia, North Carolina. The dramatics were setup by a series of late-race cautions. Burt Myers had dominated the bulk of the event, but broken rearend on Lap 130 opened the door to the field. Loftin assumed the lead and held Bohn at bay for two subsequent restarts before the green-white-checkered flag conclusion.

Loftin, an eight-time winner at Caraway, took the white flag in the lead, but coming to the checkers Bohn made it a side-by-side dash. With four-time titlist and current championship contender George Brunnhoelzl III wrecking behind them as they came to the stripe, it was Bohn that edged ahead. It was so close that it took a review of the official timing and scoring by NASCAR Race Control to determine the winner. The final margin of victory: 0.019 seconds.

Bohn and Loftin were followed across the finish line by Kyle Ebersole, points leader Andy Seuss and Luke Fleming in the top five. The rest of the top 10 included: Spencer Davis, JR Bertuccio, Daniel Speeney, Mike Norman and Bobby Measmer Jr.

The Whelen Southern Modified Tour will conclude its 2014 season and crown a champion in the finale on the quarter-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 9.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the Kansas Speedway Joey Logano managed to avoid troubles that ruined the days of fellow Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne to score his second win of the Chase and his fifth of the season. In doing so, Logano clinched a spot in the Eliminator round of the Chase. Logano had to fend off a hard-charging Kyle Larson over the final laps. Larson wound up settling for second, followed by Chase driver Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Another Chase contender, Carl Edwards, rounded out the top five. Kyle Busch drove to his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season Saturday afternoon at Kansas Speedway during the Kansas Lottery 300.

Last year, 2018, On the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Todd Owen was the SK Modified winner over Kyle James, Rob Janovic, Andrew Molleur and Timmy Jordan.

In other action at the Speedbowl, Jonathan Puleo wracked up his second consecutive victory and sixth victory overall in the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature. Anthony Flannery took his third consecutive win and sixth victory overall in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Shawn Monahan won the 30-lap Sportsman feature. In the Mini Stocks, Charles Canfield made it nine out of 16 starts in the 25-lap and Randy Cabral swept both the 25-lap NEMA and 25-lap NEMA Lites features.

Rain wreaked havoc at the Octoberfest event at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Woody Pitkat was declared the winner of the Valenti Modified Racing segment. Mike Willis was second with Kirk Alexander, third. Rounding out the top six were Richard Savory, Brian Robie and Jacob Perry. Brandon Barker was the PASS Super Late Model winner.

Norm Wrenn and his staff made a valiant effort to complete the program before Mother Nature won out.

In Super Dirt competition at the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York, Fulton Speedway champion Larry Wight came from third to first in two laps to take the lead with 20 laps to go and held off multi-time 200 winner Stewart Friesen for the win.

Jimmy Phelps looked to be the race winner, but he chose to stay out and not pit which eventually was his downfall. Phelps led until 20 laps to go, fell back to second when Wight passed him and then ran out of gas with four laps to go.

The Seekonk Speedway ran their D.Anthony Venditti Memorial on Saturday night Wayne Helliwell Jr won the 150 lap Pro Stock contest. Jake Johnson was the Late Model winner

On a sad note, Peter Caron, son of Janice Boehler and step son of the late Len Boehler passed away last week. Peter and Michael Boehler grew up along side of their dad’s famous Ole Blu.

Christopher Bell won his sixth Xfinity Series race this season in the playoff race Saturday at Dover International Speedway, setting the rookie record for victories in a season. Ryan Preece finished fourth.

In NASCAR Monster Cup racing, Chase Elliott pulled away to win in overtime Sunday at Dover International Speedway for an automatic berth into the next round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Elliott was the surprise winner in a race that had been dominated by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers until a pair of wrecks over the final laps jumbled the field and set the stage for Elliott. He kept his No. 9 Chevrolet off pit road and drove into victory lane.

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