RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; Second Week Of October

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1949, Dave Humphrey closed out the season at Seekonk with a win.

Sixty years ago in 1959 the New London Waterford Speedbowl closed out the season with a 50 lap Sportsman feature that was won by Bill Slater in the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8. It was Slater’s 15th feature win of the season as he wrapped up the Sportsman division track championship at the shoreline oval. Ted Stack was the non-Ford feature winner and Newt Palm did likewise in the Bombers. Charlie Webster was declared the non-Ford Champion and Newt Palm, the Bomber Champion.

Fifty five years ago in 1964 the NASCAR Modifieds ran a 200 lapper on the 4/10 mile dirt speedway at Langley Field in Virginia. Ted Hairfield took the win over Earl Moss, Bobby McGinnis and Dennis Zimmerman. Ralph “Hop” Harrington closed out the season at Seekonk with a 100 lap win.

Fifty years ago in 1969, triple 25’s closed out the season at Thompson. Taking the wins were Smokey Boutwell, Bill Greco and Eddie Flemke. The overall winner was Boutwell. Flemke ended up second and was followed by Freddie Schulz, Red O’Keef, Greco, Ernie Gahan, George Pendergast and Sal Dee. The Nascar Modifieds were at North Wilkesboro where Max Berrier took the win over Ray Hendrick, Perk Brown, Jimmie Hensley, Billy Hensley and Jerry Cook. Fred DeSarro finished a distant 28th after an early race crash that saw him break a steering box.

Forty five years ago in 1974, Riverhead ran their season finale with Charlie Jarzombek taking the win over Geoff Bodine and Keilor. Thompson ran open competition big and small block events. Ronnie Bouchard won both events, driving the Manchester Sand and Gravel No.10 in the small block event and the Bob Johnson No.17 in the big block event. In the small block event, Tony Russo finished second and was followed by Fats Caruso and Mike Weeden. In the big block event, Bugsy Stevens finished second with Weeden, third.

Forty years ago in 1979, the Fall Final at Stafford was run on a chilly Friday night after being rained out on its original date. Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Jerry Cook, Bugsy Stevens and Geoff Bodine. On Sunday, Evans and Cook finished one-two at Kingsport; Tenn. Westboro closed out their season on Sunday with Roland LaPierre Jr. taking the win with Joe Howard and Gomer Taylor, third.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, the only action in the northeast was at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Tony Siscone took the final Saturday night modified event over Lenny Boyd. At Rockingham, N.C., Geoff Bodine had quite a weekend as he was the Busch Grandnational winner and Winston Cup pole sitter. Bill Elliott won the Winston Cup event.

Thirty years ago in 1989, all was quiet with the exception of the reconstruction of the grandstand that fell at Thompson.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, the Race of Champions was on tap at Flemington but heavy rain wreaked havoc with both the competition and the crowd. The only event run was the triple A-SK type event. Conditions were wet to say the least as 14 cautions slowed the event. Steve Park was the eventual winner and was followed by Ted Christopher, Kevin Collins, Ken Wooley and Richie Gallup. The actual Race of Champions was rained out and rescheduled for Oct.30. Lee Speedway got their Octoberfest in on Sunday and it was David Berghman picking up his first win. At Rockingham, Dale Earnhardt won the Winston Cup event and sewed up his seventh title, which tied Richard Petty’s record. Mark Martin was the Grandnational winner.

Twenty years ago in 1999, Lee Raceway ran their Octoberfest with Rob Summers taking the Modified win over Charlie Pasteryak. In Winston Cup action at Rockingham, Jeff and Ward Burton finished one-two. Mark Martin was the Grandnational winner. It was also the week that the Seekonk Speedway was awarded a NASCAR sanction for their weekly racing series in 2000.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, NASCAR released The NASCAR Featherlite Modified final point standings for 2004. Tony Hirschman, of North Hampton, Pa. was now officially the series champion. Hirschman, who had four wins in 19 starts beat Eddie Flemke JR. by 104 points. Flemke, of Southington, Ct. had two wins in 19 starts. Jerry Marquis, of Broadbrook, Ct finished third, 281 points behind the champion. Marquis also had two wins in 19 starts. Ted Christopher of Plainville, Ct. finished fourth despite being the top money winner with three wins in 19 starts. Christopher earned $55,615 but his lack of consistency kept him 403 points behind the leader at season’s end. Rounding out the top five was Rick Fuller of Auburn, Mass. Fuller, 443 points behind the leader went winless in 19 starts. Sixth through tenth in the final standings were Jamie Tomaino, Chuck Hossfeld, Donnie Lia, Kenny Barry and Zach Sylvester. Barry, of Griswold, Ct. was crowned Rookie of the Year.

The Featherlite Modified Tour Series continued to be one of the strongest NASCAR Touring divisions. During 2004 87 different drivers attempted to qualify for events. Twelve drivers competed in all events. Car counts were high as consistently 40 to 50 cars were at each event. NASCAR Modified Tour Series director Ed Cox said that talks were in progress for races at Martinsville, Va., Jennerstown, Pa and at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. It was also stated that the mods would not be going to the Lake Erie Speedway in Pa. in 2005.

It looked like the Busch North Series would not be returning to the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts for the 2005 season. NASCAR had doubled the purse requirements for the division for their short track events. Seekonk, which would be celebrating their 60th anniversary season, would host the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series on July 30. The had also booked the NEMA Boston Louie Midget event for August 27 and the True Value Northern New England Modifieds for two visits, May 28 and August 20. Busch North Series Director Lee Roy said that sanctioning agreements being made up for 2005 would address the rainout problems incurred during 2004. An event at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine was rained out as well as a scheduled event at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey.

When the Thompson Speedway broke the news that they were planning to start up a new division of racecars similar to the Florida/IMSA Modifieds the rumor mill shifted into high gear with stories about the demise of the Pro Stock division. The speedway management put all that to rest as they announced that the Pro Stocks at Thompson were there to stay. In the beginning the Pro Stocks were a slam-bang rolling demolition derby. In the last couple of years the division has evolved into a first class racing program with good competition with the minimum amount of wrecks and spins.

Speaking of rumors, rumor had it that the management of the New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire had expressed interest in buying the near-by-Star Speedway, a ¼ mile oval. If the deal didn’t fly the dragway owners were thinking of building their own oval.

The NASCAR Busch Series was in Nashville Tenn. on Saturday. Martin Truex Jr., a graduate of the weekly ranks at the Wall Township Speedway and the Busch North Series, beat out Gregg Biffle in a green-white-checker finish for his sixth victory of the year. Todd Szegedy, who drove the No.50 Featherlite Modified, finished 15th. In Nextel Cup action at Martinsville, Va. Jimmie Johnson out ran Jamie McMurray for the win. Ryan Newman survived a late race confrontation with teammate Rusty Wallace to finish third. On a sad note, it was announced that a plane carrying members of the Hendrick Racing organization had crashed in the Bull Mountain area of Stuart, Va. Said to be on board were Ricky Hendrick, son of Rick Hendrick, John Hendrick, brother of Rick Hendrick and engine builder Randy Dorton. Virginia State Police dispatched a helicopter to the area and no survivors were observed.

On an additional sad note, Dick Watson, a NEAR Hall of Fame inductee lost a long battle with cancer and passed away. It was also learned that Ricky Miller, the last Riverside Park Track champion had passed away.

Boundless Motorsports Racing Inc announced that they had officially changed their company name to DIRT Motorsports Inc. The company owns various dirt track racing series including the DIRT Modified Series, the World of Outlaws Sprint Series, and the World of Outlaws Late Model Series. Among the numerous television broadcasts that the company produces is the popular “Rush Hour on Dirt” which features the ground pounding Big Block Modifieds.

Ten years ago in 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series finally completed its 2009 season with the running of the 150 lap World Series. The series championship was Donny Lia’s to lose. After a spirited race long battle with Ryan Preece and Ted Christopher Lia settled into the fourth finishing position in the closing laps as he wrapped up the title. Christopher took the lead for the final time after a restart on lap 132 and held off Preece to take the win. Doug Coby moved into third with less than five laps to go. Rowan Pennick rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Chris Pasteryak, Erick Rudolph, Kevin Goodale, Ron Silk and Woody Pitkat. Christopher led twice for 93 laps, while Lia led twice for 57 laps.

There were eight caution periods for 47 laps. The car counts was ample but still down from previous years as only 29 Modifieds were on hand for the event that carried a race purse of $85,971.

The Thompson Speedway did their best in less than ideal racing conditions, thanks to the New England weather. In an effort to be proactive with a less than stellar forecast, Speedway Management decided to run feature events for the ARTS Truck Series, the SK Lights, TIS Modifieds, and Mini Stocks on Friday as the forecast for Saturday was for rain and high winds.

After post race technical inspection, John St. Germain of West Sand Lake, NY, was scored as the winner of the ARTS Trucks. Brit Anderson of Branford, CT, scored the victory in the SK Lights Modifieds. TIS Modified champion Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT, put an exclamation point on his 2009 season with a victory at the World Series. Randy Churchill of Niantic, CT, continued his prowess in the Mini Stocks with a win. Ryan Morgan of Mystic made his driving debut in the TIS Modifieds.

On a sad note, Saturday marked the 24th anniversary of the death of the great Richie Evans.

In the Sunoco (SK type) Modified feature at Thompson Ronnie Silk slugged it out with Ted Christopher to win the caution-marred event. Christopher, who led the early going, managed to finish second, after rebounding from a spin. Bert Marvin, who was waiting for Silk and Christopher to tangle, finished third. Tim Sullivan finished fourth. Among the missing was Keith Rocco who was at Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Rocco’s Thompson ride, the Bannister No. 6 had been sold and the race team has reportedly been dissolved.

In other feature events run as part of the World Series at Thompson Mike O’Sullivan won the 30-lap Super Late Model feature. Over Norm Wrenn. The 2009 division champion, Derek Ramstrom finished third. Tom O’Sullivan wonthe Late Model feature over Woody Pitkat and Corey Hutchings. Rob Richardi Jr. won the Pro Four Modified feature. Rick Gentes was the Outlaw Late Model feature winner. In an exciting finish, Chris Perley latterly blew away Dave Shullick Jr. on the final lap to win the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified feature. Nokie Fornoro won the 30-lap NEMA Midget feature. Fornoro, a 34 year veteran, implied that it could be his last race as he is seriously contemplating retirement. Beth Adams was the Outlaw Mini Stock feature winner. Last but not least, Larry Barnett won the Limited Sportsman feature.

The True Value Modified Racing Series wound up their 2009 season at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Kenny Barry took the win over Dwight Jarvis, Louie Mechalides, Jim Kuhn and Jack Bateman. Jon McKennedy won the series title. Barry took over the lead on lap 66 and was never headed.

Wall Stadium in New Jersey was also running with the Tom Commerford Memorial. Originally set for Saturday, the event featuring twin 66 lap features was run on Sunday. Jimmy Blewett won the opener but was sidelined in the second one after wrecking. Anthony Sessley won the night cap. Keith Rocco recorded two third place finishes. Matt Hirschman recorded two runner-up finishes.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin passed Jimmie Johnson and led the last 138 laps to take the win. Brad Keselowski was the Nationwide Series winner at Memphis.

Five years ago in 2014, All eyes were on the Lee USA Speedway as the New Hampshire track hosted Octoberfest 2014. Headlining the program was the Valenti Modified Racing Series which drew 27 cars for a 100 lap feature.

Richard Savory was declared the winner after apparent winner Tommy Barrett was disqualified after ignoring the black flag for over aggressive driving. Race officials were told to stop scoring Barrett on lap 85. Race director John Spence Jr. said Barrett was warned “at least three or four times” for using the bumper before he was finally penalized. The decision did not go over big with the fans as Savory was booed in victory lane. Justin Bonsignore who started dead last as a provisional made a hard and clean charge to the front and came home second. Woody Pitkat recovered from a spin caused by a flat left rear and finished third. A great run was turned in by Dennis Perry who finished fourth. Perry started on the outside pole and took the lead from pole sitter Mike Willis on lap 20. Savory took the lead from Perry following a restart on lap 80. Willis rounded out the top five with Keith Rocco, sixth.

Following the event Spence explained the reason for his ruling. “The decision was made because he was warned. We addressed it in the driver’s meeting that we weren’t going to tolerate any use of the bumper, or driving through anyone. The 9 (Barrett) used the bumper at least three or four times. He almost spun the no. 51 on the backstretch I guess trying to get a caution.” Barrett proclaimed his innocence” “I didn’t dump anybody. I don’t really know,” said Barrett when asked if he knows why he was penalized. “We won’t be back.”

Todd Ceravolo scored a convincing win in the SK Lite feature.

Internet racing news web site RaceDay Ct broke the news that there is a movement on to form a new Northeast based touring Modified series that would bring together NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Valenti Modified Racing Series. Organizers are looking to start the series in 2015.

There are some competitors who felt that the VMRS lacked consistency in enforcing their rules and race procedures. There were Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors who felt that NASCAR was running the Whelen Modified Tour series into the ground.

In Modified racing in the Southland, Andy Seuss finished off his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship last Thursday night, as Burt Myers continued his mastery of the quarter-mile at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Myers pulled away from George Brunnhoelzl III on a green-white-checkered end to the Southern Slam 150. It was the third Charlotte win for the Walnut Cove, North Carolina, driver. Seuss finished fifth to put the final touches on his title run. JR Bertuccio got past Brunnhoelzl on the final lap to take second. Brunnhoelzl, who won the tour championship in four of the last five years, finished third in the race. Kyle Ebersole was fourth.

Earlier in the day, NASCAR Next driver Ryan Preece won the Coors Light Pole Award. He led until Lap 64 when he had to pull off the track with brake issues. That handed the lead to Brunnhoelzl, who was on point until being overtaken by Myers on Lap 83 and the two swapped the lead over the next several laps. M at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Brad Keselowski drove by teammate Ryan Blaney then held off Kyle yers took the top spot for good on Lap 86 and led a race-high 70 laps. A late caution gave Brunnhoelzl one more shot, but Myers was able to hold on for his 15th career win.

Stewart Friesen shocked leader Matt Sheppard with a flat out, high side dive into turn three late in the Syracuse 200 Sunday and emerged from the corner with his third win in the DIRTcar classic at the New York State Fairgrounds mile.

Kevin Harvick led a race-high 162 laps and held off Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray to win the NASCAR Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, his first Sprint Cup victory since April 12 Busch to win Friday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Last year, 2018, The 56th annual Sunoco World Series at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway took center stage this past weekend with the Whelen Modifieds, Sunoco (SK) Modifieds, Super Late Models, Sportsman, Mini Stocks, Midgets and everything in between which were in competition throughout the three-day weekend. When the pit gates opened on Friday a flood of over 200 racing cars entered the pit area.

Thirty-two Modifieds were on for qualifying on Saturday. Ronnie Williams captured the pole for the season ending event. Williams toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.664 seconds for a speed of 120.553 mph. Justin Bonsignore was third with Doug Coby, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Jon McKennedy.

Bonsignore won the battle and the war as he captured his eighth win of the season in the Sunoco World Series 150, ending his title run by celebrating both a race win and a dominating championship.

Bonsignore started third, but ran just outside the top five for the first half of the race. During a caution on lap 81, he rolled the No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet to pit road and changed tires. Quick work by his team allowed him to exit the leader of the race, and he never relinquished the top spot. Jon McKennedy used a late stop for tires, and passed Ron Silk in the final turn, capping his season with a second. Silk was third, followed by Ryan Preece, who led a race-high 83 laps. Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Doug Coby was sixth, followed by Matt Swanson, Bobby Santos III, Chris Pasteryak and Eric Goodale.

Twenty five of the original 33 starters were running at the end. Among those who failed to finish were Dave Sapienza who crashed, Andrew Krause dropped out with ignition problems, Timmy Solomito tangled with Gary McDonald on the start, Cory Osland had mechanical problems, Chase Dowling dropped out after 82 laps with ignition problems, Melissa Fifields latest excuse was handling as she retired after completing 72 laps, Dave Salzarulo had engine problems and Gary McDonald crashed on the opening lap.

Todd Owen made it two for the weekend as he beat out Ryan Preece for the win in the 30 lap Sunoco Modified main event. It was pretty much the last time in the foreseeable future that Preece would be driving a Sunoco Modified as he will be racing full time next year in NASCAR cup competition. Keith Rocco needed only to start the event in order to wrap up the division championship, his third in a row. Rocco dropped out after being involved in a mid race crash. Andrew Molleur finished third with John Studley, fourth. Kyle James rounded out the top five.

The Friday night of racing served as a warmup for the action still to come with the crowning of Thompson Late Model Champion and the penultimate race of the 2018 Granite State Pro Stock Series season as the highlights of the evening.

The Late Models have been the most competitive division all season at Thompson Speedway both in terms of points and the variety of winners. Four different drivers entered the season finale with wins to their credit but one without a victory was Nicholas Johnson who used consistency to open a slim seven-point lead on Tom Carey, III coming into the final race of the year. In the end though it was a battle between Carey and Johnson. Johnson finished fifth completing a season of perfect top five finishes and winning the division championship in the Late Models. Mark Jenison took advantage of the hard racing behind him to charge to the race win.

The Granite State Pro Stocks took to the track later in the evening with a 50-lap feature. As for the race win it was all Eddie MacDonald who dominated the event to score his first win of the season.

The Lite Modifieds held a 20-lap feature that saw the battle for the win become one-two punch with cousins Bryan Narducci and Alexander Pearl duking it out in the front row for much of the event. Narducci was able to hold off Pearl and get the jump on a restart with two laps to go to take the checkered flag for his third win of 2018 at Thompson and repeat as a World Series weekend winner after claiming victory in 2017 which was his first race in the Lite’s at the Big-T. Narducci, who has persevered through cerebral palsy to become a rising star on the local racing circuit, was named the Whelen All-American Series Division III national champion last month.

Despite Mother Nature raining on the party early, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park successfully held day number two of the 56th Annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing on Saturday, Oct. 13. Todd Owen, driving a car formerly driven by Rowan Pennink, won the 50 lap Valenti Modified Racing Series 50 lap battle but it was Woody Pitkat who overcame adversity and won the series championship. Pitkat finished 30th after the rear end in his car expired.

In the front of the field the early battle was between Keith Rocco and Chase Dowling with Rocco having the advantage in the opening laps. By lap 16 Dowling had hunted down Rocco and made the pass for the lead where he remained until a restart with six laps to go allowed Owen to get a jump, pushing past Dowling before the final caution waved on lap 45. Owen held the lead off the last restart winning a wild and eventful Valenti Modified feature. Owen said restarts were key to his success at the end of the night.

Dowling finished second and was followed by Matt Swanson, Anthony Kocella and Anthony Flannery. A big shout out to Bryan Narducci who finished seventh.

Other Saturday winners were Jake Johnson-American-Canadian Late Model Tour, John Zych-NEMA Midgets, Brett Meservy-Pro 4 Modifieds, Allen Coates- Pro Trucks and Desmond Skillings- North East Minis. William Wall crossed the finish line second to fellow local Jake Johnson of Rehoboth, MA, who appeared to have pulled off a shocker of his own after taking the lead with four laps remaining in his first ACT start. Johnson’s joy was short-lived, however, as the young racer was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for a chassis infraction. This gave the victory to Wall, who had been strong in previous ACT events at the speedway and finally broke into the winner’s circle on Northeast Late Model racing’s biggest stage.

It was a long day as the final checkered flag dropped at 11:55pm.

It was thirty six years ago that George Summers ran his last race driving the Art Barry #21. It was in the World Series and he won it! In victory lane he announced his retirement. Since then he has been inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame and the Seekonk Speedway Hall of Fame. George’s daughters Kathie Summers Grice and Mary Summers Cortese announced that their dad will be inducted into the Living Legends Hall of Fame in Daytona on the Wednesday before the running of the Daytona 500. Congratulations to George and his family.

In Monster Cup NASCAR racing, Aric Almirola capped an absolute Stewart- Haas Racing rout at Talladega Superspeedway with an overtime victory that earned him an automatic berth into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

On a sad note, George DeSarro, youngest brother of the late Fred DeSarro and beloved husband of Jo Ann (Falcone) DeSarro, of Riidam Way, Charlestown, passed away at Yale New Haven Hospital on Sunday, October 14, 2018. He was 74. Born in Providence, RI, he was the son of the late Alfred and Helen DeSarro.

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