RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit With Phil Smith – The First Week Of November

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty years ago in 1968, Ray Hendrick won the Rick Taylor was the Daredevil winner.

Forty years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine scored his first ever 500-lap race for the modifieds at Martinsville. Thompson also ran with Fred DeSarro taking the win. Don Collins won the season ending 100 lapper at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

54th victory of the season in the Dick Armstrong No.1 as he won the season ender at Martinsville. George Summers finished second and was followed by Satch Worley, Bobby Santos, Charlie Jarzombek and Ronnie Bouchard. Richie Evans annexed his second driving title. It was also 25 years ago this week that Fred DeSarro passed away after lying in a coma for close to a month after an accident at Thompson. Cale Yarborough made it three in a row Winston Cup Championships. Bobby Allison was second with Darrell Waltrip, third. Ronnie Thomas was the Rookie of the Year and Butch Lindley was the Late Model Sportsman Champion.

Thirty years ago in 1988, the only action was twin 100s at Waterford for modifieds and SK type modifieds. Mike McLaughlin won the modified portion and Ted Christopher was the SK mod winner. Following Christopher were Tom Jensen, John Anderson and Jim Broderick.

Twenty five years ago in 1993, Steve Grissom sewed up the Busch Grand National title at Hickory, N,C. Hermie Sadler was named BGN Rookie of the Year.

Twenty years ago, in 1998, Jeff Gordon won the Winston Cup event at Atlanta after waiting through a 6-1/2 hour rain delay. On a sad note, Dick Moroso passed away after a battle with cancer.

Fifteen years ago in 2003, The Stafford Motor Speedway held its annual competitors meetings. The DARE Stocks met on Monday, the Late Models met on Wednesday, November 5 and the SK Modifieds met on Friday. New rules for 2004 were discussed. Conspicuous by his absence was long time employee Dan Pardi, who had been released from his position at Stafford. Pardi had been in the rules and competition end of things and had been a loyal employee for over 20 years. In Winston Cup action at Phoenix Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the win over Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. In Busch Series action at Phoenix Bobby Hamilton Jr. scored his fourth win of the season.

Ten years ago in 2008, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series closed out another successful season. Car counts were down a bit but overall the competition was great. When the final checker dropped at Thompson, Ted Christopher led the championship standings by 127 points over Matt Hirschman. Hirschman, who lost his ride in the Bennett mount, was one of the first to congratulate the new champion. Todd Szegedy finished the year in third spot with Chuck Hossfeld and Ronnie Silk rounding out the top five. Rounding out the top ten in the final standings are Eric Beers, Mike Stefanik, Rowan Pennick, Jimmy Blewett and Ryan Preece. Next on the agenda is the annual Banquet of Champions at the Mohegan Sun Casino in December.

At the Waterford Speedbowl competitors were still wondering if and or when they would be paid for the Fall Finale. Word had it that track operator Jerry Robinson would not renew his lease of the shoreline oval, which meant that the purse would never be paid. NASCAR, which competitors at Waterford were forced to join needed to go after the non-paying promoter and take legal action if necessary in order to protect their paying members. In the end, NASCAR did nothing!

In True Value Modified Series action at the Twin State Speedway Matt Hirschman, who had won 12 times in three of four Modified racing series won the Ricky Miller Memorial 100. Hirschman started 16th. Lisbon Connecticut’s Chris Pasteryak came from last starting spot to finish seventh and sewed up the series championship. In the 100 lapper, Dwight Jarvis finished second and was followed by Kirk Alexander, Jon McKennedy and Bob Goodenough.

In All Star Modified action at Epping, NH on Saturday night a paltry field of only 15 Modifieds were on hand. According to reports Ronnie Silk led about 2/3 of the 100 lapper before being passed by Mike Stefanik for the lead and eventual win. Silk hung on for second with Matt Hirschman, third. Kyle Ebersol and Rowan Pennick rounded out the top five. Among those who didn’t finish was Ted Christopher who ended up 11th.

In Nationwide Series action, Carl Edwards held off David Reutimann to win the Kroger On Track for the Cure 250 on Saturday at the Memphis Motorsports Park, keeping alive his hopes for a second straight NASCAR Nationwide Series title. Edwards, who missed qualifying because of practice for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Race in Atlanta, started 34th in his No. 60 Ford but made an early stop for fresh tires and gained ground quickly. He took the lead from Mike Bliss on lap 69, and never trailed after that. Reutimann kept his Toyota on Edwards’ rear bumper for the final two laps, but couldn’t overtake him for the lead.

In Sprint Cup action at Atlanta Motor Speedway Carl Edwards passed Denny Hamlin on a late restart, then held on to win Sunday to keep his championship hopes alive. But his seventh win of the season barely dented Jimmie Johnson’s points lead. Johnson had a rough start to the race, earning a rare pit-road penalty that dropped him a lap off the pace, but stormed back to finish second with an impressive final sprint through the field.

Five years ago in 2013, Friday, November 1 marked the 35th anniversary of the passing away of the great Fred DeSarro. Fred, a dedicated family man, an intense racer and a good friend to many was warming up at the Thompson Speedway three weeks previous when something went wrong as he was going down the backstretch and sailed over the third turn banking. Knocked unconscious from severe head injuries, the 1970 NASCAR National Modified Champion never woke up and died on November 1 at the Rhode Island Hospital. In addition to his family and close friends, those most affected by his passing were Carl Bugsy Stevens and Kenny Bouchard who were on the scene when the accident occurred. Fred is gone but he will live in our hearts forever!

NASCAR released the final point standings in the NASCARWhelen All American Series. Lee Pulliam who races in the Late Model division at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia is the racing series National Champion. Keith Rocco, who races at Thompson, Stafford and at Waterford finished third. It was the fifth consecutive year that the 28 year old engine builder finished in the top three. In fact he has finished no worse than fourth in the last seven years. Overall, Rocco won 30 feature events in 2013 including 16 in the SK Modifieds, two in the Valenti Modified Series and 12 in the Late Model division at Waterford. Coming with those victories were the Connecticut State Championship, SK Modified Championships at Waterford and at Thompson plus the Late Model Championship at Waterford. Following Rocco in the Connecticut State Championship was Ryan Preece, Woody Pitkat, Ted Christopher and Todd Ceravolo. Preece also finished fifth in New York State standings.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series closed out the 2013 season at the Thompson Speedway. Overall racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was second to none. There were a total of 50 different drivers in competition. NASCAR has released the final point standings for 2013. NASCAR’s touring series champions will be recognized at the traditional NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards on Saturday, Dec. 14 in Charlotte.

Points Races Wins T/5 T/10
1 Ryan Preece 549 14 4 10 10
2 Doug Coby 517 14 2 6 10
3 Donny Lia 496 14 1 7 8
4 Rowan Pennink 487 14 1 6 8
5 Mike Stefanik 480 14 2 3 8
6 Todd Szegedy 477 14 1 3 7
7 Ron Silk 466 14 0 4 10
8 Justin Bonsignore 464 14 1 5 9
9 Woody Pitkat 457 14 0 2 9
10 Ted Christopher 445 14 0 4 6
11 Eric Goodale 435 14 0 2 7
12 Ron Yuhas, Jr. 424 14 0 1 4
13 Bobby Santos 421 12 2 7 8
14 Jamie Tomaino 397 14 0 0 2
15 Ken Heagy 368 14 0 0 1
16 Cole Powell * 368 14 0 0 1
17 Bryon Chew 367 14 0 1 3
18 Ed Flemke, Jr. 365 14 0 0 2
19 Eric Berndt 345 13 0 0 2
20 Wade Cole 338 14 0 0 0

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon took the lead from Matt Kenseth, who led the most laps in the Goody’s Headache Powder Relief 500, with 21 laps remaining and drove away to a .596-second victory for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season. It was Gordon’s first victory of the season and the 88th of his career. Gordon’s eighth victory was at Martinsville was the 21st for Hendrick Motorsports at the .526-mile oval.

Last year, 2017, The Concord Speedway in North Carolina hosted the annual North-South Shootout last weekend. The event featured Tour Modifieds, SK Modifieds, and the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models. Ten SK type Mods, 12 Pass Late Models and 27 Tour type modifieds were on hand.

The action began on Friday night with the Ted Christopher Memorial Shootouts for both classes of Modifieds, honoring the memory and legacy of Ted Christopher.

Fresh off his win in the Tri-Track event at Seekonk, Matt Hirschman drew the pole position for the 13-car, 13-lap shootout, and led every lap to collect the $3,000, winner-take-all paycheck. Ryan Preece, who won the SK Modified Ted Christopher Dash for Cash, finished second. Gary Putnam finished third in the Modified event with Bryan Dauzat and Anthony Nocella rounding out the top five.
Following Preece in the SK type event was Chase Dowling, Todd Owen, Josh Wood and David Arute.

Matt Hirschman completed a $13,000 weekend at Concord Speedway (N.C.), winning the 125-lap Tour Modified feature at the North South Shootout. Hirschman took the lead from Ryan Preece with 12 laps to go in the $10,000-to-win feature, scoring his sixth victory in the event. Bobby Measmer, Jr. finished third and was followed by Burt Myers and Jeff Fultz. Rounding out the top ten was Kyle Ebersol, Jon McKennedy, Anthony Nocella, Chuck Hossfeld and Jason Myers.

Todd Owen won the 50-Lap SK Modified Feature, David Arute finished second with Chase Dowling, third. Josh Wood and Ryan Prece rounded out the top five.

Matt Craig all but locked up his second straight Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South Super Late Model championship by claiming his sixth win of the season. Other winners at the Shootout were J. Sanders in the Mini Stock Feature, Justin Carroll in Limited Late Models and Jeremy Haudricort in the Chargers.

Saturday, November 4 was a huge day for the North East Motor Sports Museum. Beginning at noon, the Museum honored two of New England’s finest racers, Bugs Stevens and George Summers. The Legends Day event at the Museum included an entertaining roundtable with the honoree superstars that included audience participation. There was free food and a cash beer and wine bar. Ceiling banners featuring both drivers were unveiled at the event as well as a surprise ceiling banner featuring a third honoree, Ron Bouchard’s banner was hung next to those of Summers and Stevens.

Get well wishes to former New England Late Model driver Ricky Shawn who was injured in a plane crash in North Carolina. Shawn was a passenger in a plane piloted by George Howard Chartress III, 62, a Florida man who was was killed after his plane crashed outside of Whiteville Tuesday morning.

FAA officials said a Beechcraft BE-35 crashed in a wooded area short of runway 24 at the Columbus County Municipal Airport. Highway Patrol officials said the pilot, took off from Lake City, Florida, at 7:40 a.m. and was headed to Rhode Island. Chartress was approaching the Columbus County Municipal Airport to refuel when the plane lost power about 400 yards south of the runway and crashed.

Shawn, 58, of Rhode Island, was a passenger in the plane and suffered minor injuries. Shawn ownes and operates a towing service, Bradford Motors, in Bradford, RI.

A tip of the hat goes to Cassie Rocco and Maina Rufrano. As part of their Racing for the Cure campaign leading up to the NAPA Fall Final on Sept. 30, Cassie Rocco and Maina Rufrano took to the wheel of DARE Stock cars supplied by Rent A Racecar for the NAPA Fall Final feature event and in the process raised $5,903 for cancer research in the process. Rocco is the wife of 3-time Stafford SK Modified® champion Keith Rocco and Rufrano is the wife of Rocco’s car owner John Rufrano and mother to SK Light driver Marcello Rufrano.

Rocco and Rufrano set up an online donation page through the American Cancer Society where donations could be made to support Rocco or Rufrano in their fundraising efforts leading up to the race. Rocco’s race was cut short due to a fuel leak and she finished 21st in the feature event while Rufrano came home with a 16th place finish. While Rocco might have lost the battle on the track, she raised $2,985 to Rufrano’s $2,918 to win the duel of raising the most money.

“Together we raised just shy of $6,000,” said Rocco. “Our goal was to raise $5,000 so we exceeded our goal and expectation but I feel like we could do better for sure. Maina won the race on the track but I won the race of raising money, so I’m all right with her beating me on the track. She’s a little braver than I am so I think she would always beat me on the track. Once I got over my fear and anxiety of being out on the track, I was having a blast. I was literally just starting to really have fun and the car stopped. I only got like 5 laps and I was hoping for more. Now I know what to expect and I think it’ll be much better.”

With the success of their fundraising efforts this season, Rocco and Rufrano in conjunction with Stafford Speedway, are excited about organizing a ladies race for 2018 to help raise money for cancer research.

Race of Champions, Lake Erie Speedway and the Erie Sports Commission management announced that the 2018 Race of Champions Weekend will take place in North East, Pennsylvania as the organizations reached a three-year agreement to keep the event in the Erie Region. The announcement comes following a successful 2017 Race of Champions Weekend, which was held at Lake Erie Speedway for the first time in September.

In NASCAR Monster Cup racing, Martin Truex Jr. isn’t invincible after all. Kevin Harvick put a serious dent in Truex’s sense of invulnerability on Sunday afternoon, passing Truex with 10 laps left in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and pulling away to win by 1.580 seconds.
Erik Jones was the Xfinity series winner at Texas.