RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; First Week Of November

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Thirty five years ago in 1984, Dale Earnhardt won the Winston Cup event at Atlanta. On November 9, Jack Arute stated that most of the Stafford “Officials Team” would be running the show at Waterford during the tenure of his lease. Arute also unveiled plans to move the pit “On Gate” to the turn four area.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, Greg Sacks was the pole sitter at Atlanta but Mark Martin was the eventual winner in the season ending Winston Cup event. Dale Earnhardt won the series championship. Rusty Wallace lost second spot in points after he ran over debris from a fiery crash that involved Geoff Bodine. Hoosier Tire announced that they were dropping out of Winston Cup and Busch Grandnational racing and Martinsville Speedway announced that they were dropping the Busch Grandnational series from their schedule for 1995. On November 15, George Korteweg ended his tenure as track operator and promoter at the Waterford Speedbowl as he announced that he had sold his interest in the track to the Waterford Sports Center, owners of the property. Korteweg was responsible for the repaving of the track and new lighting.

Twenty years ago in 1999, Ted Christopher was the New Smyrna track champion. Jerry Marquis quietly showed his skills as he won the SK Modified championship at Stafford as well as the Northeast Regional title of the Winston Racing Series. Ricky Miller won the last ever-modified championship at Riverside Park and Frank Vigliarolo won the title at Riverhead. Dennis Gada was the mod champ at Waterford. Jay Stuart was the late model king and Moose Douton was the Strictly Stock champ. Todd Ceravolo took the SK title at Thompson and at Seekonk it was Rick Martin. Tony Hirschman was the Featherlite Modified Tour champion after beginning the year with out a ride. Brad Leighton was the Busch North Series champ and in the Busch South division it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jarrett was the Winston Cup champ and Tony Stewart was awarded Rookee of the Year.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, Eric Beers was the Modified Champion at the World Series in New Smyrna. Ted Christopher was the SK Modified Champion at Stafford. Ryan Posocco was the Late Model Champ. At Thompson it was Todd Ceravolo taking the Sunoco SK type Modified Championship. Corey Hutchings was the Late Model Champ and David Berghman was the Pro Stock Champ. Hutchings was also the Late Model Champion at Waterford where Ed Reed Jr. dethroned Dennis Gada for the championship. Keith Rocco was the Sportsman Champion. Tony Hirschman was the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series champion and Andy Santerre was the Busch North Series Champion. Tom Rogers was the Modified Champion at Riverhead and ageless veteran Dave Lape was the Champion at the Fonda Speedway. Kurt Busch was the NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion and Martin Truex Jr. was the NASCAR Busch Series champion.

Ten years ago in 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was part of the NASCAR Touring Series Awards Gala in Concord, N.C. on Saturday, Nov. 14 at which Donny Lia and the rest of the touring series champions were honored. The NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Gala featured the champions and top drivers from all of NASCAR’s North American regional touring series including invitees from the NASCAR Camping World Series East, the NASCAR Camping World Series West, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

NASCAR champions Jason Bowles (Camping World Series West), George Brunnhoelzl III (Whelen Southern Modified Tour), Donny Lia (Whelen Modified Tour, Philip Morris (Whelen All-American Series), Andrew Ranger (Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1) and Ryan Truex (Camping World Series East) were honored at the end of the week during awards ceremonies at the Concord Convention Center.

In a somewhat related matter, Keith Rocco was released as the driver for Eddie Partridge Racing.

NASCAR also announced that they were working on final details of televised coverage of a select number of Whelen Modified races with Versus and SPEED.

Now that the Waterford Speedbowl property owner Terry Eames (1080 Hartford Road LLC) was protected against foreclosure by a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Petition some interesting questions and facts had come to light. A New London Connecticut Attorney who represented a mortgage holder in another matter stated that at least three petitioners are required to force an entity into Chapter 11 rather than the sole petitioner, Rocco Arbitell, in this case. He also alluded to the fact that a petition for Chapter 11may be deemed frivolous if it is clear on the date of filing there was no reasonable likelihood that the debtor intended to reorganize and no reasonable probability that it would eventually emerge from bankruptcy proceedings. The lawyer also added that he felt the intent of the last minute filing was done to frustrate Arbitell’s efforts to exercise his rights and foreclose on the mortgage that he holds. Arbitell had another option. He could petition the court to dismiss the Chapter 11 petition and have it converted into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy which would call for the immediate liquidation of all assets that come under 1080 Hartford’s holdings.

The True Value Modified Racing Series concluded their 2009 season when they crowned Jon McKennedy the 2009 series champion. McKennedy scored four wins in 2009 (Twin State, Seekonk, Oxford Plains and Beech Ridge), paving the way to his first series title. McKennedy held off a late-season charge by veteran driver Rob Goodenough to capture the title by a 15-point margin.

In some sad news it was announced by Kevin Rice of the Area Auto Racing News that True Value Hardware had decided not to renew their sponsorship for 2010. Series founder Jack Bateman felt confidant that a new title sponsor for the series would be found. The True Value Series had become a legitimate alternative to “Tour Type Modified Racing” for both competitors and promoters. Plans for 2010 were already in motion with a maximum of 18 races to be run included a spring event on April 10 at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY.

Series officials deemed the 2009 season a big success. Seventh-three racers competed with the TVMRS in 2009. In 15 races, 12 different drivers were victorious.

Carl Edwards rolled to a dominating win at Phoenix International Speedway that temporarily staved off Kyle Busch’s bid to clinch the Nationwide Series title. Busch spun his Toyota eight laps into the race, suffered heavy damage when he hit the wall, and had to battle to a ninth-place finish.

In Sprint Cup action Jimmie Johnson cruised to a dominating victory Sunday that moved him to the edge of history, winning the fourth race of this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in what his rivals considered a “statement” showing. His win at Phoenix – Johnson’s fourth in the last five races here, and seventh victory of the season, stretched his lead to 108 points over Martin heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Five years ago in 2014, Bruce Beamer, a petroleum company owner from Glastonbury, Ct was the high bidder in the foreclosure sale of the Waterford Speedbowl. The 60 year old gentleman bid $1.75 Million and once all the papers are signed will be the new owner of the property. Until then, the present ownership remains in place. Beamer told Area Auto Racing News that the sale still has to be approved by the court. He said, “before the court can consider the sale it must schedule a date on its docket. No date has been scheduled as yet”. He added as he spoke to AARN reporter Steve Barrick, the court come back and say the offer was not high enough or that other possible bidders were not included” He also told AARN that because of the uncertainty on many fronts he is making no commitments to potential hires.

If and when the deal is consummated Beamer feels that some safety issues need to be addressed. He also feels that some “fence mending” will be needed with aggrieved competitors and creditors.

Internet racing news site RaceDayCt broke the news that approval of the foreclosure sale of the Waterford Speedbowl to Glastonbury businessman Bruce Bemer was delayed on Monday, Nov 3 by New London Superior Court judge Emmet Cosgrove.

An objection to the sale was filed with the court by creditor Edward DeMuzzio and his company CCI Inc. De Muzzio sells computers and has a pizza parlor in New London. In the objection, DeMuzzio alleges that there was collusion between creditors Rocco Arbitell, Peter Borelli, Theodore Parker and Shawn Parker to keep the bidding price low for the auction. They also argued that the property should have been better marketed to attract a higher bid in favor of creditors to realize returns on their debts.

DeMuzzio’s attorney, Michael Bonnano argued Monday to Cosgrove that the property could have been advertised better and targeted more toward commercial developers and that the property’s value would be higher as an industrially developed parcel rather than as a racetrack.

What actually happened was that Terry Eames failed to honor the bankruptcy agreement by not allowing an auditor or receiver handle funds and records for the trustee of the court. Not only that, But Eames didn’t pay the Attorney he hired for the bankruptcy, And the attorney promptly filed a lien against the speedbowl property. Eames bankruptcy was dismissed due to those issues. Its important to know the truth as most reading this assume Eames followed thru on the bankruptcy, When in fact he did not. If he had followed thru or at least attempted to do so, The sale would not have taken place as the creditors would all be getting steady payments from the courts trustee. Also Eames could have had the option of filing bankruptcy again to stave off a sale but was not allowed to do so as an option without a large cash bond, plus paying the committee of sale fees prior to the most recent auction. All these facts are on the Ct Judicial and Federal websites.

NASCAR has announced that Keith Rocco is officially the Connecticut state NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion. Rocco now has 10 career track championships between the three Connecticut ovals. Rocco’s seventh state title was earned with 16 wins, 35 top fives and an additional five top 10s in 46 starts between the Connecticut short-track triangle of Waterford Speedbowl, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Stafford Motor Speedway.

En route to the latest Connecticut crown, Rocco also took home a fourth career track championship at the .375-mile oval in Waterford out of the SK Modified division. He went back-to-back there for the second time, having won his first two titles there in 2010-11.

Rocco registered 11 wins in 23 SK Modified starts at Waterford and breezed to the title by a whopping 250 points behind the wheel of his No. 88 Mr. Rooter/FMR/D&G Paving Chevrolet co-owned by Vin Beedle. He also earned Waterford’s Whelen All-American Series Division II late model division crown for the second year in a row with 11 victories in 21 races.

The accomplishments have accumulated enough that Rocco’s 65 career SK Modified wins are now a division record. He’s also on the verge of breaking the all-time feature wins record at Waterford, which has been in operation since 1951. Phil Rondeau holds the mark at 106 and Rocco will enter 2015 with 103.

Despite the fact that the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was over much is happening behind the scenes. Prior to the season ending Thompson Speedway World Series Ron Silk and car owner Eddie Partridge announced that they were parting ways. Ryan Preece, who replaced Mike Stefanik in the Flamingo Motorsports car, won the Fall Final at Stafford and the World Series at Thompson. Before the dust had settled at Thompson Preece announced that he was leaving the Flamingo car and was moving over to the Partridge car. Long Islander Timmy Solomito who had won Rookie of the Year in the Whelen Modifieds announced that he was leaving the Wayne Anderson entry and heading to the Flamingo car. Added to the mix was the announcement by Donny Lia that he was leaving the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile to “Explore other Options”. It had been rumored but not confirmed that Garbarino is retiring from the sport that he has supported since the early 60’s.

While it was quiet in New England with the exception of the Flea Market at the Thompson Motorsports there was plenty of racing action in the south land at the North-South Shootout that was held at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Originally there had been over 30 Modified entries but because a last minute change eliminated engines with steel cylinder heads the field consisted of 15 Modifieds.

Ryan Preece started off on the right foot with new car owner Eddie Partridge as he scored a second John Blewett III North-South Shootout Modified victory, Preece, who also won the 2012 edition of the North-South Shootout, made his debut in the No. 6 Modified that he will pilot in 2015 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in strong fashion, pulling away from five-time Shootout winner Matt Hirschman for the 125-lap victory in Sophia, North Carolina.

Preece started on the outside pole, only being bested in Friday’s qualifying by Hirschman. Preece didn’t waste to much time as he took the lead on the fifth lap of the 125 lap event. Preece led until lap 65 when Andy Seuss got underneath him entering turn three. Seuss set up Preece off turn two and completed the pass by diving to the bottom of the Caraway banking in the following corner. Seuss remained in the lead until Hirschman got by on a restart on lap 83.

Preece took the lead back from Hirschman on a restart with 27 laps to go. He started to pull away from Hirschman, but with seven laps to go Hirschman started to close back in. Hirschman gave the bumper to Preece on a couple of occasions, but Preece was able to hold him off to score the win. Ron Silk finished third with Jason Myers and Derek Ramstrom rounding out the top five.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson was the last man standing after a chaotic AAA Texas 500 Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway that left tempers flaring on pit road after the race. While Johnson was celebrating in victory lane, a fight broke out on pit road between Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski and their crews that left both drivers sporting bumps and bruises.

Johnson and Gordon spent most of the race fighting for the lead, with Johnson doing most of the leading. The intensity level got turned up during the final 35 laps when a number of caution flags continued to bunch the field up.

Gordon looked like he had the race won, but with four laps left the caution flag waved yet again after Clint Bowyer bounced his Toyota off the front stretch wall. That set up a green-white-checkered restart with Gordon leading Johnson, Keselowski and Harvick.

During the restart Keselowski got a big run as the field entered turn one and he tried to fill a hole between Gordon and Johnson. That move resulted in Keselowski making contact with Gordon, sending Gordon up the track and out of contention as Johnson and Keselowski fought for the lead.

Johnson and Keselowski stayed side-by-side in a fight for the lead, but behind them Gordon spun as a result of a cut tire from his contact with Keselowski. That brought out the caution flag again, setting up a second green-white-checkered restart.

The second green-white-checkered restart was much calmer as Johnson and Keselowski raced side-by-side for the lead. Coming out of turn four as they raced to the white flag Johnson was able to clear Keselowski, allowing him to pull away and pick up his fourth victory of the season.

Last year, 2018, Brandon Thompson, Managing Director of NASCAR Touring Series, confirmed to NASCAR.com that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to South Boston Speedway in Virginia on Saturday, March 30, 2019. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competed at South Boston in 2001, a race won by Jerry Marquis. He defeated 33 other modified competitors, including NASCAR Hall of Famer Mike Stefanik and the late Ted Christopher, who finished second and third. Following Marquis’ victory. Car owner Mario Fiore announced that he was retiring from the sport. South Boston Speedway is located about 60 miles east of Martinsville in Virginia. In operation since 1957, Ray Hendrick is the all-time feature winner with 36 victories.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour director Jimmy Wilson told Area Auto Racing News that the schedule for 2019 is still under construction. He alluded to the fact that the schedule could grow from 16 to 18 events in 2019.

Chances are that the Thompson Speedway would re-up for their four tour events as would Stafford. Riverhead will also re-up for two evens as will the New Hampshire International Speedway. An early season event at Myrtle Beach is in doubt as is a return to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

It appeared that Eddie Partridge would no longer field a car on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on a regular basis now that Ryan Preece had become a regular competitor in NASCAR’s cup series. He will keep one car for Preece whenever he is available. Preece had indicated that he would like to compete at New Smyrna before action for the cup cars begin at Daytona in February.

Partridge, who owns the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island says that because of numerous rain-outs in 2018, Rain-outs at Riverhead will have a Wednesday night rain date. Wednesday night rain dates were good crowd draws last year. Not to look too far ahead, Partridge is considering moving his regular race date from Saturday to either Wednesday or Thursday in 2020.

Bobby Santos traveled west to Irwindale, Ca where he won the 40-lap King of the Wing Sprint Car event. Santos has excelled in just about everything he has driven.

Speaking of traveling, Burt Myers was seen at the Gillette Stadium cheering on the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Myers, who is from Walnut Grove, North Carolina was even wearing a Patriots sweat shirt.

In NASCAR Monster Cup racing at the Texas Speedway Kevin Harvick rocketed past polesitter Ryan Blaney in overtime, after the third restart in the final 35 laps, to win the Texas fall race for the second year in a row and take one of the four championship-contending spots for the season finale in two weeks.

Cole Custer was the Xfinity Series winner. Ryan Preece got caught up in an accident and finished 31st.