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

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty years ago in 1969, Martinsville finally got to run the annual Cardinal 500.Ray Hendrick in the famous Tant/Mitchell No.11 picked up his 31st win of the season.

Bugsy Stevens finished second and put himself in the NASCAR record book as the first three time NASCAR National Modified Champion. Perk Brown finished third and was followed by Jerry Cook, Leo Cleary, Billy Hensley, Richie Evans, Bernie Miller, Don Diffendorf and Don Miller. The final Modified standings showed Stevens the champion. Rounding out the top ten were Cook, Bobby Santos, Jimmy Hensley, Fred DeSarro, Billy Hensley, Don Miller, Lou Lazzaro and Ray Hendrick. Red Barbeau closed out the season at Seekonk with a Class A division win. George Ponte was the Cadet winner.

Forty five years ago in 1974, the 1975 season began on Nov 10,1974. The Modifieds ran at the then paved Metrolina Fairgrounds Speedway in North Carolina. Harry Gant in the William Mason No.45 took the win over Jerry Cook, John Bryant and Bugsy Stevens. George Murray closed out the season at Seekonk with a win.

Forty years ago in 1979, Shangri-La closed out their season with George Kent, driving the Cal Smalles No.41 taking the win. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook and Doug Hewitt. Waterford closed out their season with a 100-lap open competition event, which saw John Rosati take the win after losing a lap in the early going because of a flat tire. Rosati made up his lap and passed Rick Donnelly for the lead and eventual win with ten laps to go. Donnelly finished second and was followed by Dick Dunn, Ronnie Rocco, Bob Potter and Dickie Doo Ceravolo.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, there was no racing but the Arute family had announced that they had entered into a lease with Harvey Tattersall for the Waterford Speedbowl for 1985. Racing at Waterford would be under the NASCAR banner.

Thirty years ago in 1989, with a new grandstand in place, Thompson got to run the World Series. Doug Hevron won the 75 lap modified portion. Mike McLaughlin finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero. Bob Potter was the SK type winner.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, Barefoot Bob McCready annexed his 46th win of the DIRT season as he won the Eastern States 200 at Middletown, N.Y.

Twenty years ago, in 1999, Speedway Motorsports announced that third quarter earnings were $6million less than expected. The stock market had a negative impact as 3.2 million shares were traded in one day, which caused the stock to drop from 45-15/16 to 28-1/2.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, a good number of the northeastern modified teams headed south to Concord, North Carolina for the 2nd Annual North vs. South Shootout. Forty-five modified teams were on hand. The top five in time trials were John Blewett III, Eric Beers, Nevin George, Fred Query and Ed Flemke Jr. Qualifying heat winners were Donnie Lia, Ron Silk and Jerry Marquis. Consolation winners were Reggie Ruggiero and Jim Willis. The northern modified contingent led by Donnie Lia took nine of the top ten finishing spots in the 100 lap Shoot-out. Eric Beers took the lead at the start. Southern competitor Jay Foley triggered a massive wreck on lap two that eliminated ten cars including Reggie Ruggiero and Jim Broderick. Caution laps didn’t count as Beers led the restart on lap three. John Blewett III powered by and led from lap 4 to 53. A caution for debris was thrown on lap 53 with just about all lead lap cars making a mandatory pit stop. Jerry Marquis elected to short pit while just about everyone else took on right side tires. Marquis led the pack out of the pit area and once the green dropped, Marquis kept the legendary Ole Blu in the lead. The lack of new tires bit him as Lia took the lead on lap 86 and led the final 14 laps to victory. With less than ten laps to go Marquis spun from his fourth position and ended up 11th. Eric Beers ended up finishing in second spot with Nevin George, third. Bob Santos III turned in another fine run as he finished fourth. Rounding out the top five was the 2003 winner John Blewett III. Eddie Flemke Jr. finished sixth with Doug Coby in the Mansfield CT based entry, seventh. Rounding out the top ten were Ron Silk, Freddie Query and Lisbon Connecticut paving contractor Charlie Pasteryak. Marquis slipped to 11th in the final rundown. Pre race favorite Ted Christopher had a top five car until sidelined with broken rear end gears on lap 82.

Sad news came from Michael Boehler, President of Boehler Racing. Jimmy Fournier, Chief Mechanic and Tire Changer for Boehler Racing passed away on Monday, November 1. Jimmy was a trusted and loyal member of Boehler Racing since the early 1970’s. Lenny now has his main man with him!

Joyce and Dick Ceravolo of Groton, Ct, owners of the Team 31 SK Modified, hosted a victory party in recognition of their Sunoco Modified Track Championship at the Thompson Speedway in 2004. Guests of honor included driver Todd Ceravolo, crew chief Rick Ceravolo and their pit crew along with their wives and friends. Started by Dick Ceravolo in 1969, Team 31 had been responsible for six track championships, three at Waterford and three at Thompson.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were in Phoenix, Arizona. Jamie McMurray was the Busch Series winner and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled out the win in the Nextel Cup

George Bush defeated John Kerry for the President of our country.

Ten years ago in 2009, many race teams from New York, New England and New Jersey traveled south to Concord, NC for the annual North-South Shootout. Car counts included 42 Tour type Modifieds and 23 SK type Modifieds. Practice and qualifying took place on Friday. Taking the pole position with the fastest time for the SK types was Ryan Preece. Matt Hirschman was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were Ron Silk, Eric Beers and Rowan Pennink. In the Tour type Modifieds Chuck Hossfeld took the top spot over Hirschman, Preece, Burt Myers and Josh Nichols. Among the casualties was Keith Rocco who had the misfortune of crashing quite hard in the dogleg area of the track. Rocco stated that a tire came off the rim, which caused him to lose control. Eddie Partridge and his crew rolled out a back-up Modified that Rocco qualified 26th fastest. Other notables who were in the field included Ted Christopher who qualified the Joe Brady No. 00 in 19th spot and George Kent who qualified 39th. The top five in both divisions were locked in with the remaining forced to run heats and consolations. SK type heat winners were Steven Reed and Ted Christopher. Among those who had problems was Woody Pitkat who hit a ton on the front chute during the second heat. Tour type heat winners were James Civali, Eric Beers and Les Hinkley.

The action was hot and heavy on Saturday with consi’s, non-qualifiers and main events. Two Tour type consis were run with the top two transferring to the feature. Earl Paules won the first one with Jamie Tomaino, second. Doug Coby won the second one with Keith Rocco, second. Danny Bohn was the tour type Modified non-qualifier winner.

Matt Hirschman won the 50 lap SK type Modified race over Doug Coby, Ted Christopher, Steven Reed and Ron Silk. Sixth through tenth were Rowan Pennink, Rick Kluth, Keith Rocco, Ron Yuhas, Jr and Shaun Carrig. Ryan Preece, who had led since a lap 34 restart, spun on lap 43 while fighting to hold off Hirschman. Preece ended up 13th at the finish.

Burt Myers won the 125 lap North-South Shootout which had to be classified as a wreck fest. Myers, who started fourth, took the lead after Matt Hirschman blew a tire while in the lead on lap 7. Hirschman’s blown tire was the apparent result of contact with Chuck Hossfeld. Hossfeld led the opening green and was moved up to the loose stuff by Hirschman. Hossfeldt suffered enough damage to put him out for the day. He was credited with the 30th finishing position. The race, which took close to 1-3/4 hours to run, was slowed by nine caution periods and two red flag periods. Rowan Pennink continued his string of fine performances as he finished second. Doug Coby spun on lap 70 and came back to finish third. Hirschman ended up fourth. Rounding out the top five with one of his best runs in quite a while was Jamie Tomaino. Sixth through tenth were George Brunnhoetzl, III, Eric Goodale, Jimmy Zacharias, Pete Brittain and Anthony Sesely. Among the non-finishers was Ted Christopher. Christopher finished 25th after a confrontation with JR Bertuccio. As the pair were facing nose-to-nose Bertuccio signaled the former National Champion with his middle finger. Christopher gave him a wave as he drove to the pits.

Word came from Florida that the Daytona International Speedway and the New Smyrna Speedway will alter their schedules so as not to conflict with Super Bowl XLIV. The Daytona Int. Speedway announced that their annual Daytona 500 qualifying session, usually held the Sunday before the 500 will be moved up a day to Saturday, Feb 6. The Daytona 500 will be run on Sunday, Feb 14. The New Smyrna Speedway which will host the 44th annual World Series of Asphalt Racing from Feb 5 through Feb 13 will alter its starting time on Feb7 to 4:00pm and will host a giant Super Bowl Party for race fans and competitors later in the evening.

In New England on Friday, November 6 was the US Marshall’s Public Auction of seized race cars, parts, engines, trailers and tractors that were part of the Mystique Motorsports Race Team that was owned by Jim Gallante who was convicted of Federal charges. The cars were built by Barry Kuhnell and driven by Ted Christopher. According to Jerry Pearl the sale drew a goodly amount of interested buyers including Mike Christopher who was acting in behalf of his brother Ted who was at the North-South Shootout. Pearl stated that Christopher bought three SK Modified cars and a Mod Tour type chassis. He also stated that Mike Smeriglio and Sly Szaban each bought Tour type cars.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action Kurt Busch won at the Texas Motor Speedway after he passed brother Kyle with 2 1/2 laps to go. The younger Busch’s quest to become the first driver to win all three of NASCAR’s national series on the same weekend ended when his No. 18 Toyota ran out of fuel. Kyle Busch, who had already won the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races at Texas, had led 232 laps Sunday until he suddenly slowed on the backstretch on lap 332 of 334. Kurt Busch’s 20th career victory came with an average speed of 147.137 mph and by a nearly 26-second margin over second-place Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth was third. Jimmie Johnson had hoped to clinch the series title but ended up in 38th spot. Coming out of Turn 2 on the third lap, Sam Hornish got loose after being tapped by David Reutimann. Hornish made contact with Johnson, who scraped the outside wall. It looked as if Johnson might save his car before he was hit again by Hornish, then slammed into the inside wall. Jeff Gordon, another Hendrick driver who is third in points, finished 13th after avoiding serious problems of his own. He cut his points deficit to Johnson from 192 to 112, though he lost ground on Mark Martin.

Based on scans from television cameras there were numerous empty seats at the Texas Speedway.

Five years ago in 2014, NASCAR released the final point standings for the Whelen Modified Tour Series for the 2014 season. Thirteen events were run. Doug Coby with 511 points took the series championship over Ryan Preece by 22 points. Justin Bonsignore finished in third spot with 484 points, five points behind Preece. Ron Silk and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Eric Goodale, Timmy Solomito, Woody Pitkat and Patrick Emerling. Fifty one different drivers were in competition. Justin Bonsignore and Bobby Santos were the big winners with three victories each to their credit. Other winners were Preece and Pitkat, two each along with Coby, Goodale and Tommy Barrett who had one each.

Eleventh through 20th include Don Lia, Barrett, Matt Hirschman, Glen Reen, Jamie Tomaino, Rowan Pennink, Wade Cole, Gary McDonald, Ron Yuhas Jr and Dave Salzarulo. Fifteen of the top 20 competitors ran the entire series.

While the speedways in the north are quiet there was action south of the Mason-Dixon line where Burt Myers scored another win. After winning four of the final seven NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races of the 2014 season, Myers earned his second KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series feature win of the year Saturday night at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina. The win gave Myers five wins in his last nine touring Modified series starts and cemented his place as the current top dog for Southern Modified racing.

Fifteen-year-old Modified rookie Spencer Davis, driving the Hillbilly 79, took the lead on lap four and led through the leaders’ pit stops at lap 66. Although Bobby Sheffield beat Davis off pit road, Davis led the restart lap and continued to show the way until a right-front tire went down on lap 88. Zach Brewer finished second with Jason Myers, third.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his fourth race of the season on Sunday at the Martinsville Speedway in an emotional victory a week after he was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Jeff Gordon finished second, giving Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2 finish on the 10-year anniversary weekend of the fatal plane crash that killed 10 people on their way to the speedway.

Dirt tracker Brett Hearne picked up his 11th career Eastern States 200 big-block modified victory at the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY, his third in a row. Hearn made a clean sweep during Eastern States Weekend, fast timing Friday with a lap time of 20.763 and winning Saturday’s 358-Modified feature race. He started Sunday’s Super DIRTcar Series event on the pole, with Tim Hindley on the outside pole. At the green flag, Hearn took the lead, but it was Stewart Friesen who cruised to second over Hindley.

Last year, 2018 The Tri-Track Open Modified Series (TTOM) was originally scheduled to be run this past Saturday at the Seekonk Speedway but because of adverse weather conditions was pushed back to Sunday. It was well worth the wait as the Venditti family and the Tri-Track crew had a beautiful fall day in which to race and close out the 2018 season with 43 tour type Modifieds.

Fresh off his recent Race of Champions victory at the Lake Erie Speedway in Northeast, Penn and his victory in the Octoberfast 150 at the Mahoning Speedway in Leighton, Penn, Matt Hirschman came to the Seekonk Speedway with victory on his mind last Sunday. Hirschman used an unorthodox plan to get in the event and it worked! His plan was to not qualify and get in the event with a provisional. Prior to qualifying Hirschman learned that he was one of three drivers eligible for a Provisional. His main objective was to not wear out his tires and go non-stop in the main event while most of his competition would have to pit for fresh rubber.

Starting scratch in the 27 car field, Hirschman methodically worked his way through the field to the front. Hirschman used a lap 61 restart to get by Chase Dowling for the lead. Ron Silk moved to second past Matt Swanson on a lap 84 restart. A lap 98 caution set up a green-white-checkered finish, but Hirschman was able to hold off the charges of Silk. Chris Pasteryak did an outstanding job as he finished third. Dowling and Anthony Sesley rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth included Les Hinkley, Brian Robe, Anthony Nocella, Todd Patnoad and Keith Rocco.

Rocco started on the pole and led the first 37 laps before giving way to Dowling. Dowling led until lap 60. From there on it was Hirschman all the way for the win and series championship.

Ryan Morgan ended his season on a high note as he survived some rough stuff in his pursuit of the victory in the 50-lapper for the Late Models as part of the Haunted Happening. Seekonk Speedway regular and 2018 Late Model champion Ryan Kuhn took the early lead from pole sitter Mark Hudson while Morgan and Vinny Arrenegado, Jr. battled for third. On lap 44, Morgan dove low on Kuhn in a bid for the lead. The two make slight contact. Morgan got the edge and the lead. Kuhn tried the crossover move; to no avail. Kuhn stayed glued to the bumper of Morgan in the closing laps. On lap 49, Kuhn, in a last-ditch effort, dove to the bottom of Morgan coming out of two, tried the outside groove out of turn four; again, to no avail. Morgan was able to hold on for the victory over Kuhn.

The Pro All Star Series Super Late Models made their inaugural appearance in the Haunted Happenings at Seekonk Speedway. Like their counterpart Modifieds, a series championship was on the line. At the end of the 150-lap event, Travis Benjamin of Belfast, ME, was holding the checkered flag and DJ Shaw of Center Conway, NH had secured the championship. Reid Lanpher of Manchester, NH, Nick Sweet of Barret, VT, Curtis Geery of Waterboro, ME, and Derek Griffith of Hudson, NH, completed the top-five in the event.

With a guaranteed spot in the Championship 4 Round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at stake, Logano moved the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. out of the way in Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap to win for the first time at the Martinsville Speedway .526-mile short track and claim his berth in the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Congratulations to Megan Fuller on her Rookie of the Year honors at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Being a rookie driver in any division can be a daunting task but for Meghan Fuller, the 2018 Street Stock season at Stafford Speedway proved just the opposite. The Auburn, MA native began her rookie campaign at Stafford with only 3 previous Street Stock starts under her belt but that didn’t slow her down. Fuller scored her first career Stafford win in the second race of the season and she was a championship contender for the entire season before finishing second in the final Street Stock standings and taking home the R.A.D. Auto Machine Rookie of the Year honors in her #2 Propane Plus Chevrolet.

In addition, Congratulations to Bryan Narducci on his winning Rookie of the Year honors in the SK Lites. The 2018 season at Stafford Speedway saw Bryan Narducci come very close to a fairytale ending to his rookie season in the SK Light division. A graduate of the Wild Thing Karts, Narducci moved up to the SK Light division after 2 seasons and 6 wins in Stafford’s Limited Late Model division. Narducci was bidding to become the fifth driver in Stafford’s SK Light history to win both the championship and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season but he ended 2 points short of winning the championship. Narducci will take home the R.A.D. Auto Machine Rookie of the Year honors and the $500 bonus that goes along with the award.

On a sad note, a New England legendary Modified car owner and builder, Bobby Judkins, passed away after a battle with Parkinsons Disease. Judkins built the famous 2x Modifieds that carried Billy Harman, Eddie Flemke, Gene Bergin, Ronnie Bouchard and Jerry Marquis to hundreds of wins. Judkins was a master of setting up fuel injection on Chevrolet engines but was best known for bring the Ford Pinto to NASCAR Modified racing. With the help of Jack Arute, NASCAR made the body legal for competition. Judkins was most proud of his grandson, Ryan Preece, who recently secured a ride in NASCAR’s top division, Monster Cup, on the Joe Gibbs race team.

It was also sad to hear that Québec Modified competitor and gentleman Denis Giroux had passed away. He had a brilliant career collecting wins across the northeast and was probably on his way to NASCAR stardom when a violent crash ended his career in 1974 at the Stafford Motor Speedway Spring Sizzler. Denis spent the last few years in a Quebec nursing home after battling the somber side effects of that 1974 crash when he hit the first turn wall.