RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Fourth Week Of April

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1951 the New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran it’s second event which was won by Stan Woods.

Sixty years ago in 1961 the New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran it’s rescheduled opener which was won by Ted Stack. Joe Maynard was the Bomber winner and Charlie Webster was victorious in the Non-Fords. Earl Moss was the winner at South Boston in Virginia.

Fifty five years ago in 1966 Pete Hamilton, who would go on to become the 1970 Daytona 500 winner took the Friday night 30-lap win at the Albany Saratoga Speedway on Friday night. Rene Charland finished second and was followed by Eddie Flemke, Dick Dixon and Dennis Zimmerman. The entire above mentioned have since been inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. The Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon, NY began its sixth season with Bill Wimble taking a 30 lap win over Ernie Gahan, Frank Mathalia, Eddie Flemke Sr. and Lou Toro. Rain washed out the Sunday afternoon program at the Waterford Speedbowl. The Seekonk Speedway opened for the season with Bob Anderson taking the Class A win. Ed “Flash” Flanagan taking the Cadet win.

Fifty years ago in 1971, Fred DeSarro got a mid week call from Len Boehler to drive the mighty No.3 that had recently been vacated by Bugsy Stevens. Their first outing together as a team was at Martinsville for the spring 100 on Saturday. Ray Hendrick, still in his prime, cleaned house as he took the win over Stevens and Jerry Cook. DeSarro finished fourth. After an all night high speed run up I-81 the scene shifted to Thompson. On a mission, DeSarro didn’t disappoint the fans as he won both ends of the scheduled twin 25’s. In the first 25, Bob Santos finished and was followed by Stevens and Leo Cleary. In the second 25, DeSarro and Stevens slugged it out as they ran wheel to wheel to the checker. Ronnie Shawn finished third and was followed by Jerry Cook and Ernie Gahan. A scheduled 50 lapper at Fonda on Saturday night was snowed out and the Utica-Rome Speedway suffered its first of three rainouts in a row. Rain washed out action at the Seekonk Speedway. The weather stayed dry in Connecticut as Bob Potter took a 30-lap win at the Waterford Speedbowl over Howard “Jiggs” Beetham, Leo Hill and Bob Tetrault. Big Mike Daignault made it four in a row in the Sportsman Sedans.

Forty five years ago in 1976, the New Egypt Speedway, then asphalt, hosted the NASCAR Modifieds. Maynard Troyer lapped the field to take the 150-lap win over Jerry Cook, George Wagner and Wayne Anderson. Steady Eddie Flemke made it two in a row at Thompson. Ronnie Bouchard finished second. Rain prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl.

Forty years ago in 1981, the Modifieds were at Martinsville for the Spring 150.Because of a broken driveshaft while qualifying, Richie Evans started dead last in the 30 car field and after a determined charge took the win over Ronnie Bouchard, Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook and Ray Hendrick in the Dick Armstrong No.1.Lancaster opened for the season on Sunday. After finishing sixth at Martinsville, Geoff Bodine made the all night ride pay off as he won the open competition event George Kent finished second with Jerry Cook, third. Waterford also opened for the season with an open competition event which drew 42 cars. Rick Donnelly took the win with John Rosati, second. Eddie St Angelo finished third and was followed by Moose Hewitt, Joe Tiezzi, Charlie Jarzombek and Jerry Pearl. Bob Riley beat out Don Lajoie in Modified action at Danbury. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Morgan Shepherd took the win. Joe Ginty was the Sportsman winner at Danbury with Bo Gunning, second.

Thirty five years ago in 1986, Brett Bodine, already firmly entrenched in the southern Grandnational ranks drove Art Barry’s modified to a 1.13 second win over Brian Ross in the Spring 150 at Martinsville. George Kent finished third and was followed by Corky Cookman, Kenny Bouchard and Jamie Tomaino. At the conclusion of the Martinsville, Kent hopped a plane for Shangri-La (Tioga). The trip was worth it as the Duke took the Saturday night win over Rod Spaulding and Tony Jankowiac. Riverhead also ran with Jerry Solomito taking the win. At Waterford on Sunday, Bob Potter started fourth and led all 86 laps of the main event. Richie Gallup finished second and was followed by Harry Rice and Charlie Savage. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville Tim Richmond was the pole sitter and Ricky Rudd won the 500-lap grind.

Thirty years ago in 1991, Mike Stefanik went pole to pole to win the 150 at Martinsville. Rick Fuller in the FioreNo.44 finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggerio, George Kent and Doug Hevron. Among the missing was Tom Baldwin who was reported to have been shot by a home intruder. At Riverside on Saturday night, Dan Avery took the win over Bruce D’Assandro and Brad Hietella. Rick Fuller made it back from Martinsville only to be ejected for rough riding after officials felt he intentionally wrecked Charlie Pasteryak. Other Saturday night action saw Carl Miller beat out Bill Park at Riverhead. On Sunday, Waterford ran a 91 lapper as their opener. Dennis Gada took the win over Ricky Young and Harry Rice. Monadnock also opened on Sunday with Rick Fuller taking the win over Kirby Monteith and Dwight Jarvis.

Twenty five years ago in 1996, Waterford ran back to back events on Saturday and Sunday because of a rain out of the Blast Off event. Eric Berndt beat out David and Dennis Gada to win the Saturday night 35 lapper. Tommy Fox was the late model winner. During the running of the late model event Matt Kobyluck was ejected for two weeks for arguing with officials over an accident he had with Eddie Reed Jr. On Sunday in the rained out 96 lap opener, Todd Ceravolo took the lead from veteran Jerry Pearl on lap 55 and went on to record the win. Jim Broderick pitted for fresh rubber on lap 54 and made a hard charge to the front but his efforts fell short and he had to settle for second spot. Pearl finished third ahead of the Gada Bros. Don Howe won at Riverhead and Reggie Ruggerio beat out Richie Gallup at Riverside. In BGNN action at Lee, Dave Dion took the lead from Jerry Marquis on lap 91 and went on to win the 150 lap event. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, Sterling Marlin took the win over Dale Jarrett. NASCAR took Ernie Irvan’s pole winning car and put it on a chassis dyno. While loading the car, NASCAR tech man Gary Nelson slipped the clutch and ultimately ruined the engine. Bill Elliot fractured a left thigh bone after going fifteen feet in the air and came down on all fours like a ton a bricks and Ricky Craven almost went out of the ball park in a twelve car wreck.

Twenty years ago in 2001 John Blewett III took the win in the 200 lap,30th annual, Spring Sizzler after Rick Fuller dove under and spun with leader Mike Stefanik on lap 183.Reggie Ruggiero ended up second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Jerry Marquis, Tony Hirshman and Stefanik. There were 10 cautions for 50 laps as 7000 looked on. Willie Hardie won the twin 40 lap SK Modified events. Eric Berndt beat out Ed Reed Jr. for the win at Waterford and it was Chris Young at Riverhead. Twin features were run at Wall Stadium with Jimmy Blewett and Tim Arre sharing victory lane. In Winston Cup action at California Speedway, Rusty Wallace came from a 19th starting spot and dominated the event on his way to victory. Jeff Gordon finished second. Hank Parker Jr won the California Grandnational event. Billy Nicewicz, former Richie Evans crew chief, was Parkers crew chief. It was also announced that CART cancelled their event at Dallas-Fort Worth. With that news, Speedway Motorsports stock dropped 3.50.

Fifteen years ago in 2006 all roads led to Jack Arute’s Stafford Motor Speedway for the 35th annual Spring Sizzler. The weather was sunny and breezy, a big difference from the original Sizzler in 1972 when it was cold and dismal. Forty-eight NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Donny Lia. set fast time in qualifying to earn his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award of the season. Lia circled the ½ mile Stafford Motor Speedway in 18.600 seconds for an average speed of 96.774. It was the 9th career Bud Pole Award for Lia and his second consecutive for the Sizzler. Defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Tony Hirschman was second fastest with a speed of 96.753 mph in the Kamco Supply Chevrolet. Former champion Todd Szegedy was third fastest with a speed of 96.370 mph. Eddie Flemke and Mike Stefanik of rounded out the Top-5 in qualifying. The Top-10 qualifiers drew for starting position. Chuck Hossfeld picked the pole and was joined on the front row by John Blewett, III. Mike Andrews picked third. Lia drew the fourth starting position and Szegedy drew 5th. Stefanik, Flemke and Hirschman started 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. Chris Pasteryak was the highest qualifying rookie as he qualified 11th. Rookie Danny Sammons was 12th.

Among those who failed to qualify were Richard Savory, Ron Silk, Carl Pasteryak, Joe Mongeau, Dennis Cherette, Eric Berndt, Jon McKennedy, Jim Storace, Wade Cole, Tom Cloce, Ken Heagy, Anthony Seseley, Glenn Tyler and Jake Marosz.

Whelen Modified Tour Series car owner Curt Chase of Mansfield, CT calls the Stafford Motor Speedway his home track. On Saturday after his driver Doug Coby qualified 29th Chase remained optimistic. Chase gave Coby his marching orders, which were to save his tires and stay out of trouble. Coby did his job as he drove to his first career Whelen Modified Tour win. One of the best crowds in many years was on hand. Coby led the final 62 laps and held off a late race challenge from Donny Lia. Coby pitted once, on lap 74 under caution. He was in the third spot on a lap 139 restart and when the two cars in front of him driven by Zach Sylvester and Tony Hirschman made contact. Coby, in the right place at the right time, took over the top spot. Eric Beers driving the legendary Ole Blu of Janice and Michael Boehler finished third. Then current series point leader Mike Stefanik was fourth with Rob Summers rounding out the top five. Coby also won the Powerade Power Move of the Race Award. Matt Hirschman earned the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award and James Civali was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie for the second consecutive event.

There were 11 cautions for 56 laps. Twenty of the original 33 starters were running in the lead lap at the finish. There were seven lead changes among eight drivers. It was Chuck Hossfeld jumping out front on the initial green and for the first 43 laps, the race was being run liked they were all double parked on the street but as the old saying goes, cautions breed cautions and that never was more true than Sunday at Stafford. John Blewett, III took over the lead on lap 22 before the yellow fever hit the track, as there were five cautions, all within 36 laps and for mostly minor spins. On lap 52, Todd Szegedy, former series champion took over the lead from Blewett but just as he did, Jamie Tomaino spun. As the track clicked off lap 60, it was Szegedy setting the pace with Blewett second, with Stefanik third, Eric Beers fourth and tour champion, Tony Hirschman fifth. On lap 70 a caution flew for Zack Sylvester and it was a chance for both Coby and Lia to duck into the pit area tires and adjustments and with Stafford a tricky track to pass on, the early pitting played out later down the road. Mike Stefanik then moved into second and began applying pressure to Szegedy for the lead but Ted Christopher, the master at Stafford passed Stefanik and soon set his sights on Szegedy before passing him on lap 87. On lap 93, another caution slowed the field and many of the front cars all pitted but Christopher and Szegedy stayed on the track hoping to pit later and have fresher tires at the end. On lap 100, the caution again flew as the field hit the halfway point in the feature and the top five cars were TC, Szegedy, Reggie Ruggiero, Ken Barry and Rick Fuller. On lap 106, Reggie Ruggiero in the Dick Barney owned #41 showed he hasn’t lost anything behind the wheel despite being a part timer on the tour recently. He dispatched Szegedy for second with Fuller taking third as Szegedy settled into fourth with Matt Hirschman moving into the fifth spot. Another caution flew on lap 116 when Mike Stefanik, getting impatient with cars in front of him made it three wide in turn one trying to get around but it caused the cars of Hossfeld and Blewett to become locked together and spin in turn one. On lap 117, when pit road opened up, Christopher, Ruggiero, Szegedy, James Civali, Barry and Blewett all pitted. Ruggiero’s crew lost him a lap on pit road when they had trouble with a right front tire. That surrendered the lead over to Rick Fuller in the Joe Brady owned/Polar Beverages Chevrolet. On lap 130 with Fuller still setting the pace, it was Zack Sylvester second with Tony Hirschman third, Doug Coby fourth and fifth to Matt Hirschman. Another caution flew on lap 134 for another simple spin but it was the ‘Lucky Dog’ for Ruggiero as he was able to get back on the lead lap. Zack Sylvester and Tony Hirschman were on the front row for the restart but as the duo hit turn one, Sylvester rode Tony up the track and Hirschman spun and as Sylvester was trying to correct himself, Coby sneaked by for the lead. The final caution of the day flew on lap 145 as Kirk Alexander brought out the caution as he stopped in turn three. At lap 150, the top five were Coby, Lia, Rob Summers, Eric Beers and Matt Hirschman. Mike Stefanik was now on the move up to seventh on the track and he was clearly the quickest car on the track. Stefanik moved to sixth on lap 158 and then just four laps later passed the younger Hirschman for fifth. On lap 174, Eric Beers got by Rob Summers for third and Stefanik took the opening to get by Summers also for fourth. In the mean time, Coby was beginning to stretch his advantage just slightly over Lia but as they clicked off lap 190, the leaders were beginning to encounter lapped traffic. On lap 196, they caught the last car and Steve Whitt, who has run up front in the past didn’t give Coby and Lia any room and that allowed not only Lia a chance at Coby but for Beers and Stefanik to close in and challenge. But it wasn’t to be and Coby finally got the monkey off his back and cruised to win the Spring Sizzler. Coby earned $7,600 for the win. Sixth through tenth was Ted Christopher, James Civali, the highest finishing rookie for the second straight race, Matt Hirschman, Tony Hirschman and Danny Sammons in his first top ten finish. Ted Christopher was the SK Modified winner. Keith Rocco finished second with Frank Ruocco, third. Woody Pitkat was able to overtake Todd Owen for fourth. Pitkat was the Late Model winner.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night the temperatures took a dive but that didn’t hold back defending SK Modified Champion Rob Summers as he was able to record his first feature win of the year at the shoreline oval. Earlier in the day Summers qualified 28th for the Stafford Sizzler. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. was the early leader until lap 20 when Summers made an outside move to take the lead. Dennis Gada moved into the second spot in the late going but couldn’t muster the required power to overcome Summers and settled for the runner-up spot. Chris Pasteryak, who qualified 11th at Stafford wound up third with Tommy Fox and Shawn Monahan rounding out the top five. Other Saturday night winners at the Speedbowl were Larry Goss in the Late Models and Dwayne Door making it three in a row in the Sportsman division.

A proposed speedway in metro New York took a few steps backward when a public hearing for the proposed NASCAR track was canceled after 700 disorderly people mobbed the entrance to the school where the hearing was to be held. Police were called to step in to quell the near riot and cancelled the meeting. It also appears that the proposed domed speedway in Plainfield, CT was dying a slow death.

Ten years ago in 2011, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour was in action at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. Ted Christopher made it two in a row as he edged Thomas Stinson in a two-lap dash to the finish.

Christopher, a veteran of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with 294 career starts and 39 wins on that circuit, took command from pole-sitter George Brunnhoelzl III on the sixth lap of the Caraway 150 and held off Stinson in a green-white-checkered finish to win by .284 seconds.

Christopher’s victory follows his at South Boston, Va. It marked the sixth career win in 15 starts in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for the Plainville, Conn., driver and his fourth win at Caraway. After being passed, Brunnhoelzl stayed close and shadowed Christopher for most of the race. He made several challenges, but was not able to regain the lead. Stinson, who had started 17th, caught the pair on Lap 125 and gained the second spot on Lap 131. He attempted to move by Christopher for the lead, but had to settle for the runner-up spot. John Smith finished third with Brunnhoelzl and Frank Fleming rounding out the top five. Jason Myers, Austin Pack, Tim Brown, Lee Jefferies and James Civali made up the top ten. Jeffries was pinch hitting for the injured Burt Myers. Ten of the original 20 starters were on the lead lap at the finish.

For the second week in a row the Waterford Speedbowl pulled the plug due to cold weather and heavy rain along the Connecticut shoreline.

In Nationwide Series racing at Nashville, Carl Edwards led five times for 148 laps beating Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by .521 seconds. Edwards surged past Busch as the two dueled for the lead with 35 laps to go. Sprint Cup competition took a week off.

Five years ago in 2016, The big event of the weekend was the 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Originally conceived by Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd as an early season, high paying open competition event in 1972 the event had grown from its original 80 laps to a 200 lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event sanctioned by NASCAR. One of the originators, Bruce Cohen, feels that the Sizzler has lost its original intent and has become just another Whelen Modified Tour event.

Thirty two Modifieds were on hand for time trials. Doug Coby continued to be the fastest of the fast as he scored his 6th pole in a row. Second fastest for the outside pole was Jimmy Blewett in the Mystic Missile. Rounding out the top five was Southern Modified Tour contender George Brunnhoelzl III, Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy. Kyle Elwood qualified the Eddie Partridge entry for Ryan Preece who was at the Richmond Xfinity series event. As usual, bringing up the rear was the Tour’s favorite turtle, Melisa Fifield who was 2-1/2 seconds off the pole speed. NASCAR announced that all 32 cars on hand would start.

Doug Coby literaly cleaned house last Sunday with his almost total domination of the 200 lap Sizzler. Coby jumped out from his pole starting position and led 193 of the 200 laps for his third Sizzler win. While Coby “Sizzled” the balance of the field “Fizzled”

Doug Coby didn’t win the season-opener a couple of weeks ago, but he made everyone aware Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway he’s still the driver to beat to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. While Justin Bonsignore, Jamie Tomaino and Ted Christopher were each credited with laps led, Coby left little doubt through the afternoon he had the winning car.

Todd Szegedy ended up in second with Rowan Pennink third. Timmy Solomito backed up his season-opening win with a fourth-place finish and Bonsignore was fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Shawn Solomito, Bobby Santos, Chase Dowling, Brendon Bock and Max Zachem.

The race was slowed five times for caution with the only multi-car incident occurring on Lap 106 after Bonsignore and Ryan Preece got together following a restart. Thirteen of the 32 starters finished on the lead lap. As usual Melissa Fifield lost her first lap at lap 10 and finally parked it after completing 122 laps after experiencing brake problems???

In other racing at Stafford Rowan Pennink staged a spirited battle with Woody Pitkat to win the SK Modified season opener. Jeremy Sorel finished third with Glen Reen and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. A healthy field of 30 cars took the green. Michael Bennett was the Late Model winner.

Stafford begins their regular Friday night season on May 6.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, There were no team orders Sunday at Richmond Int’l Raceway as Carl Edwards dumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch entering the final turn to win the Toyota Owners 400. It was Edwards’ second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and the fourth in a row for JGR and Toyota. Edwards, who led a race-high 151 laps, ran down Busch in the closing laps of the three-quarter-mile oval. At the white flag, Busch appeared to have the race won but Edwards drove it into turn one and closed to Busch’s bumper. Entering turn four, Edwards drove his No. 19 into the back of Busch’s No 18, pushing it up the track and allowing Edwards to pass and beat Busch to the checkered flag by .675 seconds.

In NASCAR Xfinity Series action, A pair of late-race cautions weren’t enough to stop Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday at Richmond Int’l Raceway as he scored his first NASCAR XFINTIY Series victory in nearly six years. Earnhardt, driving his own JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was the class of the field during the ToyotaCare 250 Saturday at the three-quarter mile oval. He took the lead from polesitter Erik Jones on lap 18 coming out of turn four and from there asserted his dominance.

On a sad note former NASCAR Champion Bill Wimble has passed away. His first race win was in 1955, and his first point championship came 3 years later. He won the first NASCAR National Sportsman Championship and the first NASCAR New York State Championship in 1960 and ran at Fonda Speedway for 10 years, from 1958 through 1967, winning the track championship in 5 of those years. On a circuit of Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga and Fonda in 1967, he won the point championship at all three tracks. He won 10 Most Popular Driver awards in the Northeast through the 1960’s, was the first driver chosen for Kodak’s “All Time Great Award” in 1972 and was the second driver chosen for the Race of Champions Hall of Fame in 1979. He was inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in 1988, the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame in 1990 and the DIRT Hall of Fame in 1992. Finally, he was inducted into the Living Legends of Auto Racing in 1993, The Eastern Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 2001 and the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2002.

Not only are his on track accomplishments and accolades almost overwhelming, he was also awarded the Carnegie Bronze Medal in 1963 for aiding in the rescue of Marvin Panch from a fiery wreck at Daytona, the John Naughton Memorial Sportsmanship Award in 1963 and the Buddy Schuman Award by Champion Spark Plug in 1964.

Last year, 2020, From the way it looked the Jennerstown Speedway is prepared to run its scheduled May 23 Whelen Modified Tour event as planned. Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf extended that state’s stay at home order Monday from May 2 to May 8. Jennerstown was originally scheduled to be the fifth of 17 races on the 2020 Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

As far as racing in New England went the Tri-Track Open Modified Series was slated to open its season on May 9 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. The race was originally scheduled to run on May 2. New Hampshire currently has a state at home order through May 4.The race was rescheduled from its May 9 date.

The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park announced on Friday, Apr 17, that the 46th annual Liquid Death Icebreaker, originally rescheduled for May 15-16, will not happen during that weekend as it has been postponed to a yet to be announced later date.

Scheduled racing at Stafford is on track. Opening night will be on Friday, May 22 with a full card of live racing. One week later, Friday, May 29, will see the Call before You Dig Pro Late Model Special event followed om Saturday and Sunday with the Annual Spring Sizzler.

It was announced that Connecticut could possibly begin a multi-step process of loosening restrictions on businesses and gatherings by June, a co-chairman of Gov. Ned Lamont’s advisory committee said Thursday.

Indra Nooyi, a former CEO of Pepsi, said the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group will present the Democratic governor a list of options and considerations for reopening the state, backed with modeling data, in time for a May 20 deadline. That’s when Lamont’s “stay-at home” order suspending all in-person, nonessential functions is set to expire.

Fred DeSarro won the initial Spring Sizzler at Stafford in 1972. Eddie Flemke had victory in sight when the water pump in the former Judkins 2x expired.

Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!