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

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty years ago in 1969, Thompson ran a 500 lap Modified event. Bugsy Stevens all but sewed up his third consecutive NASCAR National Modified Championship as he took the win.

A virtually unknown Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Billy Hensley, Fred DeSarro, Bob Santos and Lou Lazzaro. In the Southland, Ray Hendrick won both ends of a twin bill for modifieds and late model sportsman at the Beltsville Speedway in Maryland.

Forty five years ago in 1974, it was off to Martinsville for the annual twin 250’s for the Modifieds and Late Models. As he had done all year, Ronnie Bouchard dominated the Modified 250 and capped off a very successful season. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Merv Treichler and Bugsy Stevens. Jerry Cook finished fifth and sewed up the 1974 Nascar modified championship by scant 77 points over Evans. In the final point run down, Geoff Bodine finished third and was followed by Stevens, Charlie Jarzombek and Bouchard. Ray Hendrick won the late model 250 with Reds Cagle, second

Forty years ago in 1979, Jerry Cook scored his seventh win of the season as he held off Richie Evans to win the annual Fall 250 at Martinsville. Evans hammered on Cook for the final six laps but to no avail and had to settle for second spot. Ronnie Bouchard, in an Evans team car, finished third with Maynard Troyer and Geoff Bodine rounding out the top five. Morgan Shepherd won the Late Model 250 over Joe Thurman.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, Tony Siscone scored an emotional victory at Martinsville as he won the Fall 250 over Ron Bouchard, Jamie Tomaino and Bob Polverari. Siscone, who had been badly burned in an accident with Ray Everham, dedicated his win to the late Eddie Flemke. Siscone took the lead after Richie Evans lost an engine on lap 228.The final standings for 1984 showed Evans the champion with Jim Spencer, George Kent, Corky Cookman and Brian Ross rounding out the top five.

Thirty years ago in 1989, Jeff Fuller was the 200 lap modified winner at Martinsville. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Doug Hevron and George Kent following. L.D.Ottinger won the late model portion.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, Tony Siscone won the rained out Race of Champions at Flemington and announced his retirement from racing in victory lane. Ed Flemke Jr. finished second. Kenny Bernstein went 314 mph at Pomona, California. In Winston Cup action at Phoenix, Terry LaBonte took the win.

Twenty years ago in 1999, Jeff Green was the Busch Grandnational winner at Memphis. The Venditti family announced that the Seekonk Speedway would operate under a NASCAR sanction for the 2000 season. Also on this weekend it was announced that five members of the over the wall crew, The Rainbow Warriors of the Jeff Gordon crew, had been hired away by Robert Yates.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series held their awards banquet in Nashville, Tenn. Drivers and crews from all over the country converged on the music city for what had to be the richest season ending payoff in NASCAR Weekly Racing Series history. Representing the New England region was Champion Richard Wolf who was the titleholder from the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Greg Pursley, who raced at the Irwindale Speedway in California, was crowned the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Champion. Pursley, won 13 races on his way to the title. Among those taking part in the awards ceremony was Todd Ceravolo who finished fourth in the New England Region. Ceravolo, who is also the 2004 Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified Track Champion said he was impressed by the gala affair that saw over $1.6 million paid out to short track racers from coast to coast.

The Stafford Motor Speedway has announced that they had named former Late Model Champion Chuck Zantarski of West Haven as the Assistant Race Director under Race Director Frank Sgambato JR. Zantarski would have a driver’s view of the racing which should lead to better policing of the racing in general. A former racer can understand what racers do and why they do it.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the Atlanta International Raceway in Georgia. In what has to be the greatest rebound in auto racing history Jimmie Johnson scored an emotional win over Mark Martin in the Nextel Cup event. For Johnson it was his third in a row. Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson entered the race with a heavy heart as the organization he races for suffered a multi tragedy just a week prior when Hendrick family members and employees perished in a plane crash near Martinsville Virginia. Carl Edwards finished third. It was a rough day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished a distant 33rd after a late race bout with the wall. Earnhardt was attempting to pass Edwards and mis calculated when he went to get back in line. Matt Kenseth won the Aarons 312 Busch Grand National event.

Nextel Cup star Jimmy Spencer found himself in hot water recently when Cornelius, North Carolina police arrested him. Spencer was charged with interfering with police who were trying to serve a warrant on his son, Jonathan, who was accused of pouring paint on two cars on October 6. Spencer was also charged with disorderly conduct. Evidently Morgan-McClure Motorsports didn’t appreciate the fact that their driver had been arrested as they released him and hired Mike Wallace to drive their car at Atlanta last weekend. Wallace did not qualify for the Atlanta event.

Ten years ago in 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had come to an end for another season. The final point standings for 2009 confirmed Donny Lia as the series champion. Lia entered the entire 13-race season and amassed 2002 points. Lia won four events for a season total winnings of $71,774. Ryan Preece, 16 points back, finished second. Preece also ran 13 events, winning two and collecting $51,721. Defending series champion Ted Christopher ended up in third spot in the final standings with 1931 points to his credit. Christopher won three times and had a season total of $67,249. Rowan Pennick finished fourth with 1867 points. Although winless, Pennick ran consistently up front, recording 11 top ten finishes and a season total of $35,277. Rounding out the top five was Todd Szegedy with 1823 points. Szegedy also had goose eggs in the win column but his consistent finishes banked him $37,384. Sixth through tenth for 2009 are. Chris Pasteryak, Mike. Stefanik, Eric Beers, Woody Pitkat and Eddie Flemke,Jr

After the completion of its regular season as a clay track in September, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was converted to an asphalt track, using blacktop that had been lying under clay since 1977. Two race events were run on the asphalt in October. It was announced that Malta would be repaved and reconfigured. Devil’s Bowl Speedway would be also be paved. The True Value Modified Racing Series had already indicated that they will be racing in an event there in 2010.

The True Value Modified Racing Series announced their Champion and final point standings for 2009. Jon McKennedy, with 487 points was the series champion. Rob Goodenough with 474 points finished second. Third was Stephen Masse. Rowan Pennink and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Jack Bateman, Les Hinckley III, Dwight Jarvis, Mike Douglas Jr. and Michael Holdridge.

The scheduled second annual foreclosure proceedings of the property in which the Waterford Speedbowl is located was cut a day short as Terry Eames and his “LLC” group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The New London Day reported that the scheduled foreclosure auction scheduled for Saturday, October 31 had been cancelled. What it means is that Rocco Arbitell and Peter Borelli would be still holding the bag and would not receive the money they loaned Eames when they bailed him out in July of 2007. Eames owed in excess of $800,000. Eames said that racing will continue in 2010 at the shoreline oval.

Arbitell hinted to the Hartford Courant that he was thinking of “dropping a dime” on Eames to the IRS. If that is true, the IRS is an organization not to fool with or lie to! They collect money, property and put people in jail.

Since putting a wheel under George Korteweg to get control of the track Eames had literally run the place into the ground. Shawn Monahan is another victim. Eames took him “In” and almost totally bilked him until he took the advice of his lawyer and cut his loses.

Dover Motorsports, Inc. announced that it was ceasing all operations at Memphis Motorsports Park and that it would not be promoting any events in Memphis in 2010. As previously announced, the Memphis facility had been under an agreement of sale to Gulf Coast Entertainment but Gulf Coast was unable to secure financing. NASCAR has approved the realignment of their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events from Memphis Motorsports Park to the Nashville and Gateway facilities.”

In Sprint Cup action the Associated Press reported that NASCAR demanded drivers be on their best behavior at Talladega Superspeedway, where a ban on bump-drafting sanitized what’s usually one of the most spectacular races of the season. In the end, chaos reigned, just like always. After 450 miles of what resembled a slow Sunday drive, the action picked up and the outcome was much of what everyone has come to expect out of Talladega: An unlikely winner, two spectacular crashes and an army of drivers frustrated about the unpredictability of restrictor-plate racing. In response, the 43-car field spent much of Sunday in a single-file parade lap that almost looked to be a conscious thumbing of the nose at NASCAR. Ryan Newman’s harrowing crash with five laps to go left him upside down in the grass, and NASCAR needed a stoppage of almost 13 minutes to cut him from the car. Outspoken in the wake of Edwards’ April crash, he was none too pleased to have spent almost 15 minutes trapped inside his car. His crash set up two-lap sprint to the finish, and that was halted when championship contender Mark Martin went flipping across the track in his own spectacular crash. The race ended under caution, with Jamie McMurray in Victory Lane.

Five years ago in 2014, This week was an important one for race fans, competitors, track operators and sanctioning bodies. First and foremost the race fans and competitors of the Waterford Speedbowl were watching and waiting to see the results of the foreclosure auction scheduled for high noon on Saturday, Oct 18. The 26.7 acre Speedbowl property had an appraised value of $2.8 million, buildings and land included, according to the Waterford assessor’s office. Waterford Town tax collector Mark Burnham said property owner Terry Eames is current on his property taxes, which total roughly $56,000 a year.

Bruce Beamer, a petroleum company owner from Glastonbury, Ct was the high bidder. The 60 year old gentleman bid $1.75 Million and once all the papers are signed will be the new owner of the property.

Court records listed nine creditors in the current foreclosure suit against Eames, which was filed by Rocco Arbitell and Peter Borrelli in 2008. In April, Eames estimated his debt to creditors at $1.9 million.

Much to the relief of many who felt the Speedbowl would be devoured by a wrecking ball Beamer stated the racetrack would continue to operate more than likely with the current management in place.

The new owner of the Speedbowl would not be allowed to expand the facility or add any new uses to the property according to Mark Wujtewicz, planner in the Waterford Department of Planning and Development.

Arbetell was spectating with his wife at the Thompson Speedway last Sunday. He said that he is relieved that it’s over, at least for himself and Borelli. They will get their money, the other parties in the foreclosure will not. He, along with his almost partner feel that the new owner should clean house at the shoreline oval and put a new management team in place.

NASCAR had been getting some bad press as has the Valenti Modified Series. NASCAR had been accused of running the Whelen Modified Tour Series into the ground with its high fees and competition cost to members. Car counts at recent events had been sub-par. At the recent Fall Final at Stafford Speedway promoter Mark Arute told Area Auto Racing News that there would be a Spring Sizzler and Fall Final at the track but made no mention of the June or August Modified tour events that have been annually run at the track. In all fairness, Stafford had not released their 2015 schedule and Arute’s non-mention of the events could just have been an oversight. Evidently somebody at NASCAR got off their butt and made phone calls to entice car owners to bring their cars to Thompson for the World Series as there were 36 on hand including a large contingent of Riverhead competitors.

Despite the bad press generated by Tommy Barrett cheerleaders over his recent DQ at Lee, Barrett, who said he was all done with the Valenti Modifieds, was part of the 32 VMRS cars on hand at the World Series. Steve Masse started on the pole and led every lap of the 75-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature. Woody Pitkat finished second with Keith Rocco, third. Richard Savary, Rowan Pennink, and Ted Christopher rounded out the top six. Barrett finished out of the top ten.

Rain, on and off made for a long day on Saturday at the World Series. Following practice for all divisions rain postponed Whelen Modified Tour Series qualifying procedures initially for two hours, but it got underway just after 5 p.m. with eleven cars taking time. A heavy rain cell delayed the conclusion until 7:30 p.m. when the rest of the field was able to complete qualifying laps. Woody Pitkat put down a lap of 119.579 mph for the pole, which was his second this season and second at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Ryan Preece was second fastest with Tommy Barrett, Jr., third. Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Doug Coby and Donny Lia.

In addition to Modified tour qualifying and the Valenti Modified Racing Series there were five other divisions racing to just about midnight at the track. Taking wins were Nick Anderson in the Monster Mini Stocks, Wayne Coury in the Outlaw Sportsman, Toby Wells in the Northeast Mini Stocks, Phil Lausier in the Pro Four Modifieds and George Rego in the Outlaw Street Stocks.

The sun poked out on Sunday and the remaining features of World Series weekend at Thompson ran uninterrupted. The Whelen Mod Tour championship was Doug Coby’s to lose. He came close as Ted Christopher hounded him most of the way just waiting for a mis-cue or a mechanical problem. All the drama ended on lap 139 as Christopher suffered severe front end damage after a tangle with Troy Talman and Tommy Barrett Jr. Christopher drove away from the wreck only to park his car behind pit road. Following a restart on lap 143 Coby’s luck ran out one lap later as his car suffered a flat right front tire. To add salt to the wound Coby was penalized by NASCAR for bringing out the caution, thus taking away any chance of a top finish. Coby was kept calm by crew chief Phil Moran who reminded him that no matter what, the championship was his.

Ryan Preece who had a so-so season was on cruise control as he won the 150 lapper going away. The event which carried a purse of $85,336 and paid $6,000 to win saw Woody Pitkat jump out from his pole starting position at the drop of the green. Pitkat led until lap 8 when Preece passed him in turn three. Pitkat’s day came to an end on lap16 when he ran over the wheel of the lapped car of Gary MacDonald. Preece led until he pitted during a caution period on lap 71 for fresh tires. Tommy Barrett led the restart on lap 75 with Preece in the sixth position. Barrett slowed on lap 76 allowing Rowan Pennink to take the lead. Running on a rail, Preece wasted little time as he re-took the lead on lap 78 in turn four and never looked back. Pennink faded to third in the closing laps as Don Lia powered the Mystic Missile home in the runner-up finishing position. Ron Silk finished fourth with Justin Bonsignore, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Spencer Davis, Eric Goodale, Max Zachem and Timmy Solomito. Coby ended up 17th and Christopher, 20th. At the conclusion of the event Preece announced that he was leaving his Flamingo Motorsports ride and would be taking over the seat in the Eddie Partridge entry.

In a good news announcement the Thompson Motorsports Park management announced the track would host four Whelen Modified Tour Series events in 2015, up one from 2014.

In other Sunday action at Thompson, Woody Pitkat started third and avoided a multi-car wreck at the start to grab the lead on the restart before driving on to the win in the Sunoco Modified 30-lap feature event. Over aggressive driving spelled disaster for several cars at the start of the Sunoco Modified feature. Four cars were taken off the front stretch on a hook after two cars made contact and sent one into the inside retaining wall. Ten cars were collected in the mayhem. Max Zachem and Woody Pitkat went side-by-side into turn one for the restart, but it was Pitkat with the advantage coming out of turn two. Cam McDermott settled into third with pressure from Keith Rocco. Pitkat commanded the first half of the race even as he maneuvered through lapped traffic. Rowan Pennink’s day, however, wasn’t going as well as he got black flagged from track officials at lap 16. McDermott remained a solid contender in second, running a mere five car lengths behind Pitkat. Zachem and Rocco rounded out the top four. The long green flag run only helped Pitkat, who drove on to the checkered flag unchallenged after McDermott got hung up by a lapped car in the closing laps of the race. Todd Ceravolo, rounded out the top five. Ryan Preece, who drove through the race opening wreck, finished sixth and wrapped up the Sunoco Modified Track championship.

Charlie Rose was the Late Model winner, Derek Ramstrom, the Granite State Pro Stock winner, Randy Cabral the NEMA Midget winner,Chris Perley,the ISMA Supermodified winner, Chris Turbush, the New England Truck Series winner and Corey Hutchings, the Limited Sportsman winner.

Matt Kenseth gave Brad Keselowski the final push he needed to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, guaranteeing Keselowski a spot in the third round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoyed a week off.