Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy five years ago in 1946, Bill Randall and Eddie Casterline won twin Midget events at Seekonk.
Seventy years ago in 1951 Steady Eddie Flemke Sr, who would become a Modified Legend in his own time, was the Wednesday night winner at what was then called the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Moneybags Moe Gherzi, who drove the Garutti Brothers No. 14 was the Saturday night winner at the shoreline oval. George Smaldone and Rusty Rushton were the winners at Seekonk.
Sixty five years ago in 1956 Don Collins was a double winner as he annexed victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Wednesday and on Saturday. Non-Ford winners at the bowl were Arnie Harris and Charlie Webster. Red Barbeau and Larry Antonellis were the feature winners at Seekonk. Tommie Elliott took the win at Old Bridge.
Sixty years ago in 1961, Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. He backed it up with by winning the mid-season championship at Norwood on Saturday night over Red Foote, Bill Slater, Leo Cleary and Joe McNulty. Joe McNulty of Gales Ferry, CT became the fourth different driver from New England to win a feature at the Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey. McNulty, who just beat out Bill Slater, Red Foote, Ernie Gahan and Dennis Zimmerman, took the lead in the 25 lap event on lap one from Ron Narducci. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Newt Palm was the Wednesday night winner and Dick Beuregard took top honors on Saturday night. Billy Clarke was the Class A winner and Gavin Couper was the Cut Down winner at Seekonk. Islip ran on two different nights, Saturday and Tuesday. Fred Harbach took the top spot on Saturday and Jim Hendrickson took it on Tuesday. Connecticut invader Joe McNulty blew away the locals at Old Bridge for the win.
Fifty five years ago in 1966, Charlie Trombly was the Thursday night winner at Catamount. Bill Wimble went two for two as he won the Friday night 30 lapper at the Albany- Saratoga Speedway and followed it up with a 111 lap win at Fonda on Saturday night. Don MacTavish finished second on Friday night and was followed by Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton and Elton Hill. Pete Corey made it three in a row on the dirt at Stafford. Lee Millington finished second at Fonda with Charland, third. Don Collins was still at the top of his game as he won the 30 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. Jerry Glaude was the Bomber winner and Howard “Jiggs” Beetham, who in later years would team up as a car owner with Bob Potter, was the Daredevil winner. Deke Astle was the Class A winner and Tony Rose was the Cadet winner at Seekonk. Bugs Stevens took the checker at Norwood on Saturday night and was followed by Leo Cleary and Johnny Thompson.The annual North-South battle at what was then a one mile speedway in Trenton, NJ was on tap for Sunday. The event started 60 cars and was won by Ray Hendrick driving the Tant/Mitchell No.11. Fellow Virginian Bill Dennis finished second with Runt Harris, third. Jerry Dostie and Mario “Fats” Caruso rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Al Tasnady, Jim Hays, Pete Hamilton, Tiny Lund and Bugsy Stevens. Sunday night racing at the Utica-Rome Speedway rained out.
Fifty years ago in 1971, Fred DeSarro and the Ole Blu of Len Boehler were on a tear as they did some serious traveling and some serious winning. The All Star League ran a 100 lapper at Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vt. DeSarro took the win over Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook, Bugsy Stevens and Andy Romano. All Star League regular, Ron Narducci took a wild end over end off turn three. Narducci sustained back injuries and his car was demolished. The All Star League moved to Stafford on Thursday where it was DeSarro again. Gene Bergin finished second and was followed by Hop Harrington and Leo Cleary. DeSarro continued his streak at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway where he took on the best of New York and New England. Running on a rail, DeSarro made it three for three. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Dick Clark and Guy Chartrand. Don MacClaren made it five in a row in NESMRA competition at Thompson on Friday night. Gene Bergin, in the all-new Bobby Judkins Pinto bodied No. 2x that had just been declared legal by NASCAR, was the spoiler as he had the car to beat at Stafford on Saturday night. DeSarro had to settle for second with Hop Harrington, Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Santos rounding out the top five. Don Steiner won at Waterford over Jerry Glaude and Terry Peabody. George Summers was the Class A winner at Seekonk. In other Saturday night action, Lou Lazzaro took the double point win at Fonda over Maynard Forette and Jerry Cook. DeSarro made it four out of five as he won the Utica-Rome 100 on Sunday night. The Bugman finished second and was followed by Lazzaro and Cook. Richie Evans was the Modified winner at the Fulton Raceway. Merv Treichler finished second. Ken Andrews made it two in a row in Supermodified action at Fulton. Nolan Swift finished second. Also on Sunday, Gene Bergin, in the Judkins Pinto, won a 100 lap open at Oxford Plains. Rene Charland finished second with Bobby Turner, third.
Forty five years ago in 1976, the Yankee All Star League was at Waterford where Fred DeSarro took the win. Richie Evans won a 100-lap Trenton qualifier at New Egypt. Wayne Anderson finished second. Friday night at Riverhead saw Charlie Jarzombek make it three in a row at the Long Island east end speedway. Wayne Anderson finished second with Fred Harbach, third. At Monadnock, Punky Caron was again, the top dog. On Saturday night at Stafford, Geoff Bodine made it two in a row. DeSarro finished second and was followed by Flemke and Brian Ross. Other Saturday winners were Tom McCann at Islip, Mike Beebe at Waterford, Roland LaPierre at Westboro and Don Dionne at Seekonk. Ronnie Bouchard streaked home the winner at Thompson on Sunday as Geoff Bodine got a little on-track education from Ed Flemke. With both cars out because of a wreck and DeSarro in the pits with a blown engine. Bob Santos ended up second and was followed by Gene Bergin, Moose Hewitt and Keith Williams.
Forty years ago in 1981, Modified Madness, an open competition event, was run at Stafford on Tuesday night. Fifty-seven Modifieds and almost 7000 spectators were on hand to watch as Ronnie Bouchard in the Len Boehler No.3 beat the best in the business in this 50 lap contest. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Corky Cookman and Jerry Cook. Back at Stafford on Friday, Brian Ross put the Mystic Missile in the top spot. Evans followed along with Reggie Ruggiero and Corky Cookman. Other Friday night winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, John Blewett Jr. and Punky Caron won his 46th at Monadnock. Joe Howard won the Thompson 300 qualifier at Westboro and it was Eddie StAngelo taking the top spot at Seekonk. Joe Tiezzi beat out Moose Hewitt at Waterford and at Riverside, Stan Gregger and Ray Miller each scored wins. Double features were also on tap at Islip where Charlie Jarzombek and Wayne Anderson each scored wins. Fred Drumm took the Sportsman main at Danbury while Rit Patchen was the Modified winner.
Thirty five years ago in 1986, Reggie Ruggiero, driving for Mike Greci, won the Manchester Oil Heat 100 at Stafford on Friday night. Jamie Tomaino finished second with Mike Stefanik, third. Waterford ran twin features with Bob Potter and Bob Gada jr taking the checkers. Kenny Bouchard beat out Stan Gregger at Riverside and at Riverhead; John Blewett jr took a 200 lap win over Mike Ewanitsko. Sunday racing at Thompson rained out.
Thirty years ago in 1991, Waterford ran a Wednesday night program with Ted Christopher in the North End Auto Parts No.54 taking the win. At Stafford on Friday night, Mike Christopher got a well-deserved win over Tom Tagg and Bob Potter. Seasoned veteran Moose Hewitt took the regular Saturday night win at Waterford and at Riverside Park; Reggie Ruggiero scored his seventh of the year over Rick Fuller. On the Island at Riverhead, Ed Brunnhoelzl won out over Tom Baldwin and Wayne Anderson. Thompson ran twin features on Sunday night which saw Richie Gallup and Mike Christopher. It was also on this weekend that Race of Champions promoter Joe Gerber announced that the ROC would be moving from Pocono Raceway to the Flemington Speedway after that year’s event. Little did many know that it was the beginning of the end of the historic event, the way it was! In Winston Cup action, Dale Jarrett, driving for the Wood Brothers scored his first Winston Cup win in a photo finish over Davey Allison at Michigan. On Monday, August 19, Hurricane Bob moved thru New England and did considerable damage to the main grandstand at the Thompson Speedway.
Twenty five years ago in 1996, Todd Ceravolo took a Thursday night win at Waterford when Don Fowler spun with two laps to go. Jim Broderick finished second with Tucker Reynolds Jr, third. Bo Gunning beat out Ted Christopher at Stafford on Friday night but the big news was that the Arute Family announced that the season ending Fall Final would be telecast by ESPN-2. Dennis Gada went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night as he beat out Scott Spaulding, Don Fowler and Jeff Pearl. Fowler was later disqualified. Tom McCann won at Riverhead and Reggie Ruggiero got his sixth win at Riverside. At Fonda, Jack Johnson took the win over Dave Lape and wrapped up his eleventh track championship. The Featherlite Modifieds shared the billing with the IRL at Loudon and had their event cut from 75 laps to 61 laps because of a scheduled TV start time for the IRL event. Tony Hirschman took the lead from Jan Leaty and scored a big win for car owner Len Boehler. Leaty finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Steve Park and Jerry Marquis. The Loudon event drew 24,000, many of those being Modified fans. The speedway management knew this and announced that the IRL would not be back. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Dale Jarrett passed Mark Martin with two to go to take the win. Jeff Purvis was the Busch Grandnational winner. In Busch North Series action at the Star Speedway, Jerry Marquis took the win.
Twenty years ago in 2001 the Thompson Speedway ran their annual Thursday night NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series event. With over $65,000 on the line, a full pit of 40 Modifieds and over 8,000 spectators was on hand. John Blewett III seemed to have things under control as he took the lead on lap 101 and was headed for victory when Tom Cravenho went in too hard and got Blewett wiggly enough to allow Tony Hirschman to duck under and go on for the win. Blewett recovered to finish second. Ricky Miller, Rick Fuller and Chris Kopec rounded out the top five. Cravenho ended up 13th. In SK-Modified action at Thompson, Ted Christopher continued his domination of the division as he recorded his ninth win. Bert Marvin finished second with Kerry Malone, third. Christopher carried his winning ways over to Stafford on Friday night where he won a 40 lapper over Frank Wainwrite and Lloyd Agor. Ronnie Silk scored an upset at Waterford as he beat out Dennis Gada for a 100-lap win and at Riverhead, Eddie Brunnhoelzl JR picked up his 21st career win at the Long Island oval. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Sterling Marlin got the win in a Chrysler product. It was the first win for the auto giant since 1979. The long awaited NASCAR report on the death of Dale Earnhardt finally went public. NASCAR’s determination was that the broken seat belt was a factor as well as the angle of the collision and the force of impact with the turn four wall at the Daytona Speedway. Bill Simpson of Simpson Safety Products stated that the reason the belt broke was due to the fact that they were not properly installed.
Fifteen years ago in 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night for the New England Dodge Dealers/Budweiser 150. Ted Christopher, who started 20th ended up an unpopular winner as he was given the Bronx Cheer in victory lane. Christopher, who along with John Blewett III staged a torrid side by side duel for the lead from lap 131 to lap 140. Christopher had just exited turn two when he made contact with Blewett, sending him into the wall. Christopher said he didn’t mean for it to happen, Blewett and the almost capacity crowd felt different as they voiced their disapproval. NASCAR Tour director Ed Cox felt it was a racing accident and took no action. Blewett actually chased Christopher on foot to no avail. Had he caught him would have made for a different scenario. A few years back at Stafford, Blewett went after Carl Pasteryak and actually jumped aboard his car and began ripping at wires until the car shut off. Once the wrecked car of Blewett was removed Christopher ran the final three laps uncontested. Tony Hirschman, who was the Busch Pole sitter, ended up second with Zach Sylvester, third. Tom Bolles and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Mike Stefanik, Ed Flemke, Ron Yuhas, Don Lia and Jerry Marquis.
There were 38 cars on hand. Among those who didn’t make the 33 car starting field was Reggie Ruggiero who was the victim of motor trouble as his crankshaft broke during practice. Alex Hoag also had motor trouble while Kevin Goodale hit the wall. Eric Berndt and Jake Marosz failed to make it on time. Pole sitter Hirschman led the opening laps which turned into a high speed freight train. Hirschman led for 45 laps before giving way to Mike Stefanik. A caution period on lap 30 saw John Blewett III pitting for a tire. Stefanik led until lap 82 when he pitted during a caution that came out when James Civali rode over Eric Beers’ wheel. Beers expressed his displeasure of Civali’s driving while Blewett pitted again for two more tires. A quick stop enabled Blewett to get a good spot for the restart as he was able to tale the lead from Steve Whitt on lap 98. From then until the Blewett wreck the racing was at a fever pitch.
In regular weekly racing action Glen Boss took the win in the TIS Modifieds, Shelly Perry won her fifth Mini Stock feature, Jeff Zuidema took the Late Model main and Mike O’Sullivan won a squeaker in the Pro Stock feature. Larry Barnet was the Limited Sportsman winner and Jimmy Blewett gave a pay back body slam to Keith Rocco as he took the Sunoco Modified feature.
The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway started their week on Tuesday night. Billed as CARQUEST Presents the Big One, drivers had a chance to make history with the largest Northeastern payout ever offered with the Valvoline $50,000 challenge. If a driver could win both the 30-lap Midget race and then start last and win the 100 lap PRA Big Car Series race, then that driver would leave Stafford Speedway with a $50,000 bonus provided by Valvoline, CARQUEST Auto Parts, and Stafford Motor Speedway. Bobby Santos, III first won the 30-lap midget feature event, and then went out and won the 100-lap PRA Big Car Series race after starting shotgun on the field to leave Stafford $50,000 richer. Santos, a third generation racer is home grown from Franklin, Mass.
Stafford Speedway returned to action on Friday night with five NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series feature divisions all in action. In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Woody Pitkat collected his second SK Modified feature win of the 2006 season by holding off a determined challenge from Frank Ruocco. Lloyd Agor led the first lap with Kurt Lenahan taking the lead on lap-2. Lenahan held the lead until lap-5 when Pitkat moved out front. Ruocco took second from Lenahan on lap-7, and he spent the next 33 laps glued to Pitkat’ s bumper, looking for a weak point to use to his advantage and overtake Pitkat for the race lead. But that weak point was never exhibited to Ruocco as Pitkat was able to fend him off for the victory. Chris Jones finished third, with Jeff Malave, and Eric Berndt rounding out the top-5. Jim Peterson continued his winning ways with his second consecutive Late Model feature win, Glen Reen was a first time winner in the SK Light Modified feature while Mike Sweeney was also a first time winner in the Limited Late Model feature, and Jeff Hubbell was the DARE Stock feature winner, his first feature win of the 2006 season.
The NASCAR Busch East, formerly Busch North Series, was at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Matt Kobyluck treated the home folks with a victory after a paint swapping deal that saw Sean Caisse brush the wall. Bryan Chew ended up in second spot in a race that finished up in the rain. Earlier in the evening Jeff Pearl beat Chris Pasteryak on a green-white-checkered restart and held on to capture his third Waterford Speedbowl 35-lap SK-Modified feature of the season. Pasteryak, who stated he missed a shift fell to third as Shawn Monahan slipped into the second spot. Tommy Fox and Diego Monahan rounded out the top five. Jeff Miller won the 20-lap Mini Stock race. Rain ended the Late Model feature after nine laps.
At the Michigan Int. Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. was able to push his way past Carl Edwards on a restart with two laps to go en route to winning Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series CARFAX 250. The incident created a firestorm of controversy that included Edwards pulling in front of Earnhardt’s pit area for a heated verbal exchange with Earnhardt’s crew. Edwards then pulled back onto the track to ram into the side of Earnhardt’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the cool-down lap. In Nextel Cup action, Matt Kenseth easily kept four-time NASCAR champion Gordon at bay in the final laps of the GFS Marketplace 400 by conscientiously taking care of his tires after his final pit stop.
Ten years ago in 2011, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour joined the Indy Cars at Loudon, NH. Bobby Santos crossed another track off his list when he earned the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pole in time trials for the Granite State Classic. Santos toured the one mile oval in 29.858 seconds (127.564 mph) for his sixth career Coors Light Pole Award and second of the 2011 season. There were 31 cars on hand. Second fastest was Eric Beers with Eric Beers, third. Justin Bonsignore and Rowan Pennink rounded out the top five.
Mike Stefanik ended a long dry spell in the No. 16 Diversified Metals/R.B. Enterprises Pontiac when he earned his first win of the season and the 71st of his Tour career by edging Woody Pitkat at the line. It was Stefanik’s seventh win at the track and first since Aug. 2, 1998. Additionally, it was his first overall victory since winning at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sept. 27, 2009. The runner-up marked the best career finish for Pitkat. Todd Szegedy finished in in the third position followed by Justin Bonsignore and Eric Beers in fourth and fifth, respectively. Bobby Santos, Ryan Preece, Glenn Tyler, Erick Rudolph and Doug Coby rounded out the top 10.
There were 10 lead changes among 5 drivers. Santos led the opening 29 laps before giving way to Erick Rudolph who led lap 30. Santos retook the lead one lap later and remained on the point until lap 44 when Bonsignore took his turn on the point for one lap before giving way to a determined Santos who would lead to lap 53. Bonsignore and Santos slugged it out until lap 60 when Woody Pitkat came alive. From there on Pitkat and Mike Stefanik went toe to toe. Stefanik took the lead for the final time on lap 73 before sprinting home for the win. Seventeen of the original 31 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who failed to finish were James Civale, Andy Seus and Ron Yuhas who wrecked on lap 92, Matt Hirschman, Kevin Goodale, Eric Goodale and Don Lia who wrecked on lap 66, Jake Marosz retired on lap 62 with handling problems, Eric Berndt wrecked on lap 58 and Ted Christopher who dropped out with rear end problems after completing 50 laps. Jimmy Blewett, Wade Cole and Ken Heagy dropped out with engine problems with engine problems.
The crowd on hand was extremely sparse. The Indy Cars that raced on Sunday also played to a sparse crowd, estimaed to be 30,000.
In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Sunny skies and 82 degree weather welcomed race teams and fans. The Late Model division took the center stage with their 40-lap extra distance race and Tommy O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA, was the star. Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT, returned to top-form and to victory lane in the Sunoco Modifieds. Andy Lindeman of Poestenkill, NY, was tops in the touring New England Truck Series. Derek Ramstrom of Worcester, MA scored his fourth win of the season in the Super Late Models. Dwayne Dorr of Ledyard, CT, motored his way to the victory in the Limited Sportsman division. Jay Sundeen of Douglas, MA, bested the field to win in the TIS Modifieds. He had been knocking on the door and on Thursday night Eric Bourgeois of Moodus, CT, scored his first Mini Stocks feature event win of the season. There were 14 cars on hand for the event.
The Stafford Motor Speedway did not run into any weather problems as Ryan Preece scored his third win of the 2011 season in the SK Modified® feature, Ryan Posocco scored his second win of the 2011 season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Matt Galko nailed down his fourth win of 2011 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Shawn Thibeault picked up his fourth win of the 2011 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Albert Saunders picked up his first win of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
In the SK Modifieds, Keith Rocco came home in second, with early leader Dan Avery, Glen Reen, and Eric Berndt Berndt rounding out the top-5. Ted Christopher finished a distant 21st after being collected in an early race wreck.
At the Waterford Speedbowl, the shoreline oval hosted the fourth annual Wings and Wheels event Saturday night, staging another round of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing for the SK Modifieds®, the track’s weekly headline division plus the visiting ISMA Supermodifieds, NEMA Midgets and Valenti Modified Racing Series.
Claiming victories were Keith Rocco, continuing his domination of the SK Modified® division by picking up his tenth win on the season. Chris Perley scored his third career win at the Speedbowl by picking up the victory on the 50-lap ISMA Supermodified race. A first-time winner reached the winner’s circle in the 25-lap NEMA Midget feature as Todd Bertrand etched his name into the record books. In the 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature, veteran racer Jerry Marquis of Broad Brook came out of racing retirement to score an upset victory.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series returned to the Stafford Speedway to complete a previously started event. Keith Rocco continued his winning ways as he picked up his first career Modified Racing Series victory in the Lincoln Tech 80. The race was started on June 24th, but rain halted the race with 32 laps complete. Rocco was the race leader when the rain came and he had to fight off strong challenges from Matt Hirschman and then Todd Owen to take the victory as he led the final 47 laps of the race.
With 10 laps to go, it was a four-car train for the top spot with Rocco leading Owen, Doug Coby, and Hirschman. With 5 laps to go the running order remained the same, but Rocco was able to pull away from Owen by several car lengths. Rocco led the field around to take the checkered flag. Owen finished second, with Coby, Hirschman, and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top-5.
Before the engines would cool the series headed to the Waterford Speedbowl. Retired race driver Jerry Marquis came out of retirement and won the 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature at the shoreline oval. The win came on a night when the track presented the fourth annual “Wings & Wheels” program in front of a large crowd of open-wheel race fans. Marquis became the fourth consecutive first time winner and the 10th different winner for 2011. Marquis was asked to pinch-hit for regular driver Rowan Pennink who was competing in a Whelen Modified Tour event in Loudon. Marquis agreed to practice the car at Stafford, (CT) on Friday and be ready on Saturday at Waterford if needed. When the field of 21 cars rolled from the Waterford pit area, Marquis took his position in the front row to a rousing ovation.
At the drop of the green flag, Marquis was the driver to beat and no one could top the Roscoe Racing #25. The 56-year Marquis had the field covered but received pressure throughout the race. Local favorite Rob Janovic Jr, of chased Marquis until Les Hinckley III slipped by on lap 40. For the next 60 laps Hinckley chased Marquis and ran him hard on restarts but this was not the night for the current point-leader. Marquis prevailed for the full 100-laps. Keith Roccostarted 21st and finished a solid third. Chris Pasteryak finished fourth with Max Zachem rounding out the top five. Mike Holdridge, Louie Mechalides, Dave Etheridge, Tim Jordan, and Josh Sylvester finished sixth through tenth. 17 of the 21 cars that started the race finished the event, 16 on the lead lap.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Eddie Brunnhoelzl was the NASCAR Modified winner.
The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC fell under rain which washed out both 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division.
At Watkins Glen, subbing for injured Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch held off Jimmie Johnson on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Nationwide Zippo 200 on Saturday.
Busch beat his Sprint Cup nemesis by nearly a second for his third victory in 12 Nationwide races. He also deprived brother Kyle of his 50th career victory, which would have broken a tie with Mark Martin for the most in series history. Marcos Ambrose of Australia won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Monday’s rain-delayed Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. He had to make a late pass of Brad Keselowski to finally win at the Glen, where he had finished third, second and third in the last three Cup races there
Get well wishes went out to Dick Caso, a long time Modified veteran who was critically injured following a accident on his moped. Dick was a multi-time winner at many New England tracks for about 3 decades and earned the nickname “Daring” Dick Caso for his driving style. In addition to his own cars Caso drove the Ted Marsh No. 55 and the Billy Simons No.9 in numerous NASCAR Modified events in the 1970’s. Get well wishes also went out to former Speedway Scene publisher and editor Val LeSieur who had entered Tufts Medical Center in Boston with a knee infection.
Five years ago in 2016, The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park played host to the Budweiser ‘King of Beers’ 150 this past Wednesday, August 10, and featured the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NEMA, and Thompson’s four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. The speedway paid tribute to the late Ronnie Bouchard and the late Mario Fiore. The night also the debut of the all new book by Bones Bouncier on the life and exploits of the late Ronnie Bouchard.
Justin Bonsignore got redemption from previous near misses as he took advantage of a great pit stop under the first caution of the event to give Doug Coby a run for his money and in the end he was able to secure not only the lead, but also an impressive win despite the best efforts of some of the series’ best talents to take the top spot away and a huge points day that put him in the hunt for the championship title.
Bonsignore qualified third and was able to muscle by Coby for the lead in turn four on lap 73 and hold off the two-time defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion for his ninth career win and fourth overall at Thompson.
Three cautions for 17 laps slowed the 25 car field. The first caution on lap 54 ended a long green flag period when Craig Lutz spun in turn four. This allowed then leader Coby along with most of the field to pit for fuel and tires. This eliminated any of the front runners from running out of gas. Chase Dowling and Eric Goodale didn’t change tires and were first on the grid for the restart. The green flew on lap 61 and Coby wasted little time as he had the lead back by the time they got to the third turn. The second came on lap 126 when Ronnie Silk spun. Bonsignore, who had the lead by then, led the restart on lap 133 as Coby faded back to the fourth spot as Bobby Santos took over second with Woody Pitkat, third. The third and final caution of the race was given to the field on Lap 143 when Shawn Solomito spun in turn four. Bonsignore was able to drive away with Coby back in second to get his first win since the Holtsville, N.Y. native won at Riverhead Raceway last season. Santos finished third with Pitkat and Ryan Preece, who just got engaged, rounded out the top five. Max Zachem, who started sixteenth, was sixth with Silk, Donny Lia, Shawn Solomito and Jeff Goodale coming home seventh through 10th, respectively.
Jimmy Blewett, fresh off his win at Stafford, fell victim to the wrath of NASCAR as he saw his hopes of a top finish vanish when he was put to the rear from his sixth position in the running as officials claim he was rough riding. Blewett had tapped Shawn Solomito, causing him to spin. Instead of a possible top five Blewett ended up finishing 14th.
Twenty one of the 25 starters were running at the finish. Fifteen were on the lead lap. Andrew Krause, who started ninth, finished 22nd with suspension problems. Melissa Fifield finished 23 with alleged suspension problems. The truth of the matter is the fact that she was parked by NASCAR after being lapped 19 times and going too slow on the track. Gary McDonald had rear end problems and Rowan Pennink had 7, overheating problems with ole Blu. The Budweiser King of Beers 150 will be televised on NBC Sports Net on Friday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. ET.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action along with its NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour counterparts for their annual combination race this Wednesday, Aug. 17 on the high banks of the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. The Bush’s Beans 150 will be held at 6 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The Bristol race will be taped-delayed by NBC Sports Net and will air on Friday, Aug 26 at 9:00pm.
In other racing at the Big T, the Sunoco Modifieds took to the track twice as the series held its regularly scheduled event for the day and a makeup race that was rained out on July 9th. Points leader Keith Rocco looked to continue his domination of the series this season after seeing his win streak broken in late July. In the first race he would not be able to regain his winning ways but came home a strong third as Woody Pitkat, the reigning champions of the series, claimed his first win of the season, fighting off strong runs from Rocco and Ryan Preece to find his way back to victory lane. Rounding out the top five were Rowan Pennink and Ronnie Williams.
The second Sunoco Modified event did see Rocco return to top form as he fought his way to the lead, passing Rowan Pennink on lap 25. Pennink had led following a lap 2 restart.
“It’s tough when everyone is nose to nose. It’s hard to pass,” said Rocco in victory lane. “It looked like Preece spun himself out and it worked to our advantage – I have to thank the fans for sticking around and watching the race. I hope we made it fun for them.”
Despite a spin while battling for the lead Preece finished third and shared some choice words with Rocco after the event as the two had engaged in an intense battle over the course of the race. Pitkat held on for a great night in the Sunoco Modified Series with a second place finish while Jeff Gallup and Mike Benevides rounded out the top five.
In XtraMart Limited Sportsman Series Josh Wood led across the finish line and took home his third win of the season at the Big T, spoiling Corey Hutchings’ push for his second win of the season.
The Late Models saw a comeback victory by a familiar name as William Wall continued his strong 2016 season. Wall claimed his fourth victory of the year after having to work his way to the front in the 25-lap feature. Matt Lowinski-Loh, Rick Gentes and Brian Tagg traded positions within the top three for much of the event, but Wall took advantage of a good car and a late race caution to take the lead and, eventually, the win.
In the Mini Stocks it turned out to be a battle of the 24’s as Joe Baxter and Brad Caddick fought it out in the closing laps for a win in the division. Despite starting in the rear of the field, Baxter worked his way to the front in methodical fashion to claim a win in the mini stock division. Baxter was later disqualified, giving the win to Wayne Burroughs, Jr.
The NEMA Midgets also held a 25-lap feature where John Zych took home another win on the year and secured the points lead in the process. Prior to the NEMA event drivers performed a parade lap with the pole position left temporarily vacant in honor of Bryan Clauson who lost his life in a crash while racing in the Belleville Nationals in Kansas over the weekend.
Speedway manager Josh Venada pretty much summed up the event when he stated “The value of two of my core business philosophies were confirmed, (1) always be honest and forthright & (2) over-communicate.”
At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night racing was cancelled due to rain and lightning.
The New London-Waterford Speedbowl survived on hot night as temps were in the mid 90’s with high humidity which ended up a true test of man and machine. Youth prevailed as Keith Rocco scored a triple play as he won two late model features plus the SK Modified feature. For the weekend, between Waterford and Thompson Rocco went four out of five in feature wins. Rocco keeps rolling along at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he continues to build on his record setting feature win total. Rocco recorded two wins in the Late Model division and one in the SK Modifieds at the shoreline oval bringing his track win total to 130 wins. The win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 228 wins which also include victories at Thompson and 42 at Stafford Speedway.
In the first Late Model race, Rocco tracked down early leader Anthony Flannery midway through the race for his fifth win of the season. He didn’t wait long for win No. 6, but he needed to pull off the closest finish of the night to make it happen. He squeezed underneath Jason Palmer with three laps to go, and then was able to beat him by a centimeter at the finish line.
In the SK feature. He was running fifth on lap 9 when the four cars in front of him, driven by Bo Gunning, Todd Owen, Tom Abele and Justin Gaydosh, got together in turn 4. Rocco was able to avoid contact and take over the lead at the same time. Dennis Perry moved into second, but didn’t have enough firepower to derail Rocco. Ted Christopher came from 11th starting position to finish third. Joe Gada and Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five.
In other action at the shoreline oval there were two national qualifying races for the U.S. Legends cars. Eddie Fatscher of Eastport N.Y. was the winner in the completion of the first 50-lap feature, which was suspended by rain Thursday after 17 laps. Austin Green of Concord, N.C. dominated the second 50-lap feature.
Jordan Hadley won the 25-lap Mini-Stock feature. There were two Limited Sportsman features. It took Monte Gibbs just 11 laps to go from 14th to first en route to a win in the opener. Then Chris Meyer survived a three-wide battle against Al Stone and Gibbs to win the second feature.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island it was just as hot there as it was at Waterford as the east end raceway beat the elements on a truly a hot August night for the NASCAR Whelen All American Series. The NASCAR Modifieds ran Twin 50 feature events on Elvis Night with Kyle Soper and championship leader Shawn Solomito taking home the wins. For Soper it was his second win of 2016 while for Solomito it was his fourth triumph of the season.
In action at the Bowman-Gray Stadium in North Carolina Chris Fleming and Jonathan Brown won twin 50 lap NASCAR Modified features.
NASCAR’s Sprint cup teams had the weekend off. Justin Marks was masterful in the rain on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, leading a race-high 43 laps en route to his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory.
Last year, 2020, The Stafford Speedway continued their Weekly Racing action on Friday, August 14 with all 5 of its divisions in feature action. After winning the biggest SK Modified® race of the season one week ago in the NAPA SK 5k, Chase Dowling made it back to back wins by taking the checkered flag in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature. Paul Arute was a first time 2020 winner in the Late Model feature, Derek Debbis won for the second time in the SK Light feature, Andrew Durand scored his third win in the Limited Late Model feature, and Zack Robinson scored his third points paying win and fourth overall win in the Street Stock feature.
In the 40 lap SK Modified feature Dowling started deep in the field in 14th spot. Troy Talman, who had led from lap seven, found Dowling on his tail as the laps wound down with ten to go. Dowling made the decisive move on lap-31 coming out of turn 4 and took over the lead. At the finish it was Dowling making it two in a row. Talman hung on for second with Mike Christopher Jr, third. Stephen Kopcik and Andrew Molleur rounded out the top five.
In some big news, Tri Track Open Modified Series Officials and Stafford Motor Speedway officials jointly announced last Saturday a race date for the 2020 season. The Tri Track Open Modified Series will make their debut at the Connecticut half-mile on Saturday, October 24, marking the conclusion of the year for both the Tri Track Series and Stafford.
The race was originally scheduled to take place at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts, however, due to guidelines from the state, and on-going discussions about possible fan capacity at the third-mile oval, Tri Track officials decided to make the move to lock-up another confirmed date.The event will bring some of the top Modified drivers together to chase more than $40,000 in purse money with a $10,000 winning prize.
The SK Light Modifieds and Street Stocks will join the card on October 24 to fill out a thrilling day of racing in Connecticut. Both Stafford and Tri Track have had their seasons affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic but feel like this will give both a chance to end the season with a major event. “This is great for Modified racing,” Mark Arute, President of Stafford Motor Speedway, said. “The team at Tri Track shares the same passion for Modified racing that we have at Stafford and the craziness of 2020 has allowed this event to come together. It should be a great show for the fans and will be an event that ends this season on a positive note.”
The Tri Track Open Modified Series was at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire last Saturday night. Sam Rameau scored an upset victory as he withstood a last lap slam by Ronnie Williams to win the 100 lap contest. Rameau pocketed a $6,000 check with the victory as part of a lucrative purse that was over $40,000. The final corner was nearly a repeat of the July 5 Tri Track race at Monadnock. While Rameau took the top spot from Silk on lap 72, and looked to be driving off to victory, a caution flag with just four laps to go doubled the field back up. Rameau spun his tires on the restart, but got away, before another quick caution stopped the action. Although Rameau hit the final restart perfectly, he couldn’t quite get away from Ronnie Williams. Williams, the two-time and defending SK Modified champion at Stafford Motor Speedway, drove deep into turn three, slammed the back of the No. 06 Central Mass Tree machine of Rameau, and lost control. Williams would spin as the car dropped fluid, while the rest of the field rushed to find a way around. Some made it, some didn’t.
Monadnock Modified regular Brian Robie escaped the final corner carnage to finish second, while Matt Hirschman, a winner at Star Speedway on July 25, finished third. Woody Pitkat drove the Stan Mertz prepared No. 6 to a fourth-place finish, with Anthony Nocella finishing the top-five. Matthew Kimball was sixth, followed by Craig Lutz, Ron Silk, Carl Medeiros Jr. and Austin Kochenash. Williams ended up 14th.
Thirty-one cars attempted to qualify for the Monadnock 100, with 26 of them taking the green flag in the feature. Austin Kochenash, Brian Robie, Matt Hirschman and Kirk Alexander picked up an extra $300 each for winning heat races part of the Pepsi Challenge. Woody Pitkat would collect the Hard Charger award courtesy of Green Construction, a $500 bonus.
Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco made his presence known as he dominated the SK Modified ranks with another win. Rocco brought his track win total to 151wins, 90 of those in an SK Modified. Rocco also has 49 career Late Model victories, four Limited Sportsman division wins, four Valenti Modified Racing Series victories, two Truck Series wins, one Pro Four Modified win and one NEMA Lite win during his career at Waterford.
The win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 284 wins which also include 151 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 63 at Thompson and 70 at Stafford Speedway.
Kyle James finished second with Joey Gada, third. Opening night winner Tim Jordan finished fourth with Joey Ternuilo fifth and Bryan Narducci, sixth.
In other action at the Speedbowl, Ryan Morgan scored victory in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Mark Panaroni won the 20-lap Mini Stock feature. Shawn Monahan was victorious in the 25-lap Open Street Stock feature. Travis Hydar topped the field in the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature. Wayne Burroughs Jr. was second and Nichole Thibeault third. Al Stone III won the 25-lap Sportsman feature. It was the 55th career Sportsman win at the track for Stone, extending his all-time record for wins in the division.
NASCAR’s most popular driver won the Cup Series road course race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, holding off hard-charging Denny Hamlin following a late restart and notching his third consecutive victory away from ovals.
It appeared that the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS), officials have made things right at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Speedway as they have released the purse structure for all local divisions which will be part of the Thompson 150 on Wednesday, September 2. The locals will race for nearly $24,000 in combined posted awards on a card that also includes the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Sunoco (SKtype) Modifieds will have a 30-lap, $1,500-to-win feature Second place receives $900 with a $600 prize for the third-place finisher. Every racer who takes the green flag will collect a minimum of $200 with more than $8,500 in total awards for a 24-car starting field.
Previously under the management of the Hoenig family local division races had less of a sub-par racing purse which was an insult to competitors.
In a surprise turn of events Kevin Rice reported in Area Auto Racing News last week that there maybe no racing action at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem North Carolina next year, 2021. The college football season for the Winston-Salem State College is expected to be using the facility in the spring when auto racing usually starts plus a planned construction project is also on the horizon.
Rice also alluded to the fact that a new southern tour for the modifieds is expected to be announced shortly. The new series will have similar rules to that of the Tri Track Series which will be led by Hoosier Tire Rep Gary Freeman.
Gene Bergin, in the all-new Bobby Judkins Pinto bodied No. 2x that had just been declared legal by NASCAR, was the spoiler as he had the car to beat at Stafford on Saturday night. DeSarro had to settle for second with Hop Harrington, Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Santos rounding out the top five.
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!