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

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty five years ago in 1965 Joe Trudeau won the 25 lap Sunday afternoon Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Bill Scrivner was the Bomber feature winner.

Fifty years ago in 1970, the Waterford Speedbowl had their scheduled opener rained out for the second week in a row. It stayed dry long enough for Fulton to get their opener in. Guy Chartrand in the Ed Cloce Hemi-Cuda took the win over Lou Lazzaro. At South Boston in Virginia, Ray Hendrick won a 400 lap modified event. Billy Hensley finished second and was followed by Jimmy Hensley, Melvin Chilton and Satch Worley.

Forty five years ago in 1975, the only event scheduled was the Fulton opener, which ended up getting snowed out for the second week in a row. The Ontario Speedway Operating Company in California headed by Parnelli Jones and Tony Hulman turned over the keys to the speedway on March 31 after having two non-profit seasons. The City of Ontario, which owns the speedway, took over the day to day operation of the track. This was the beginning of the end for the west coast racing facility.

Forty years ago in 1980, Thompson ran the IceBreaker on Easter Sunday after being rained out the week before. John Rosati took the modified win over Bugsy Stevens, Bentley Warren and Roland LaPierre Jr. Jeff Fuller was the Late Model winner.

Thirty five years ago in 1985, Chargin Charlie Jarzombek won the rained out Cardinal 200 at Martinsville. Doug Hevron finished second and was followed by Jim Spencer, Brett Bodine and Jamie Tomaino. Brett Bodine won the Sportsman 200.At Riverside on Saturday night; Kenny Bouchard took the win over Ray Miller and John Rosati.

Thirty years ago in 1990, Jerry Marquis was the Saturday night winner at Riverside Park. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was in Richmond, Va. Ricky Fuller, driving the Chase 77 took the win which carried a prize of $17,800.Mike McLaughlin finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty and Jamie Tomaino.

Twenty five years ago in 1995, three inches of snow fell on Riverside Park causing officials to cancel the event. At New Hampshire International the Featherlite Modifieds and the Busch North Series were the main attractions. Mike Stefanik scored a convincing win in the BGNN portion. Stub Fadden finished second and was followed by Brian Ross, Kelly Moore and Jerry Marquis. In the modified portion, Mike Ewanitsko started 8th and took the lead from Charlie Pasteryak on lap 92 of the 125 lap event and went on to take the win. Satch Worley in the Garbarino No.4 finished second and was followed by Tony Hirshman, Ed Kennedy and Jan Leaty. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Dale Earnhardt took the win over Jeff Gordon.

Twenty years ago in 2000, Lee Petty passed away at the age of 86 and Jeff Fuller was fired from his Winston Cup ride. In Grandnational action at Nashville, Randy LaJoie ended a long dry spell as he took the win. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Rusty Wallace dominated the event until blowing a tire in the late stages and losing two laps which allowed Mark Martin to take the win.

Fifteen years ago in 2005, The Waterford Speedbowl was scheduled to host the opening event in New England on Saturday and Sunday. The main event of the weekend was to be the Waterford Nationals-150 lap SK-Modified event. The Speedbowl had posted a $20,000 purse with $5,000 going to the winner. The forecast of torrential downpours, up to four inches of rain, forced the Speedbowl management to postpone the weekend’s Budweiser Modified Nationals. The event, which included the lucrative SK-150, was been re-scheduled for May 21-22. In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, Eddie Flemke didn’t stay without a ride for long as it was announced that he would be driving the Teto No.10 that was formerly driven by Tony Papale. Flemke’s former mount, the Hillbilly Racing No.79 took on a new color scheme highlighted by florescent orange with white trim. Long Island racer JR Bertuccio was expected to run at least the first three Whelen Modified Tour events in the Bear Motorsports No. 14. Bertuccio competes weekly in a family owned Modified at the Riverhead Raceway. Reports state that 2003 Whelen Modified Tour Champion Todd Szegedy had relocated to Mooresville, North Carolina and was working for Robert Yates Racing in the Shock Absorber department. Szegedy is hoping to secure a Busch Series or ARCA ride.

Several Modified Tour teams took advantage of Thursday’s practice session at the Thompson Speedway. Chuck Hossfeld and Mike Stefanik were shaking down their new rides along with Chris Kopec, Renee Dupuis, Ted Christopher, Howie Brode, Don Lia, Charlie Pasteryak, Kevin Goodale and Ricky Fuller. According to NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks there were a total of 87 cars on hand.

The Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series event that was scheduled for the Ace Speedway in Elkin, NC on Saturday night was rained out. The Southern Modifieds ran a non-sanctioned 125-lap event at the Friendship Speedway, also in North Carolina, on Sunday. Ted Christopher in the Hills Enterprises Hillbilly Racing No.79 took the win. Christopher drove his Hillbilly Racing Modified to the win in the 125 lap feature for the Modifieds. Christopher snatched the win from L. W. Miller when Millers modified was caught up in a mid race accident involving several cars. Miller’s car was clipped by another spinning car after the caution flew. Rear end damage ended Miller’s day after leading the first 87 laps. Miller had pretty much had his way until that point with some pressure from Donnie Lia, another invader from the Northeast. Caution periods kept the race close and after each restart, Miller has to fend off the challenges of first Lia then Christopher. After Miller’s early exit, Christopher led a pack that included Jay Foley, Earl Baker, Burt and Jason Myers and FMS “rookie” challenger, Zach Brewer. Foley had a couple of chances at the number 9 of Christopher but after a few laps “Teddy” would manage to pull away. Foley had his hands full near the end of the race with Burt Myers until lap 113 when Myers got a run on the inside of Foley but contact between the two cars sent Myers into the inside wall and out of the race. Foley hung on to finish second with Jason Myers third, Brewer fourth and Baker fifth. A scoring recheck after the event moved Bob Park to 5 th followed by Bobby Hinkle, Baker, D. J. Krentz, Kevin Powell and Lia who was penalized for passing on the wrong side on a restart. Caution flew eleven times for 57 laps. The 125 lapper took 1 hour, nine minutes and 31 seconds to complete. L. W. Miller led laps 1 through 87 and the winner led 88 through 128. Foley was the winner of the “Bud Pole Award” for the Modifieds. Seven cars finished on the lead lap. Twenty-six Modifieds took the green flag. Kevin Harvick scored double victories at Bristol as he won the Busch Series and Nextel Cup events.

Ten years ago in 2010, The only short track Modified racing the second annual Frostbite Winter Nationals at the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC. A sparse field of only 15 Modifieds were on hand for the 125 lap event. Matt Hirschman was the top qualifier. Burt Myers was second fastest. The draw for starting positions saw Burt Myers draw the pole and Brian King the outside pole. Drawing starting positions three through five were Jason Myers, Hirschman and James Civali. King got the best of Burt Myers and went on to take the win. Myers tried his best but in the end had to settle for the second spot. Finishing third was Ted Christopher driving the Joe Brady #00. Zach Brewer finished fourth with Josh Nichols, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Jason Myers, James Civali, Jimmy Zacharias, Scott Rigney and Gary Young. Among those eliminated in the early going were Hirschman and George Brunnhoelzl III who finished 14th and 15th respectively.

It was learned that Burt Myers, one of the stars of the History Channel reality series “Mad House” has made his intentions known that he will head north to race in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series opener, IceBreaker 2010 at the Thompson Speedway. Myers has never run at Thompson but has competed against many of the top runners of the series at Martinsville.

The Hartford Courant has stated that Bobby Santos III had been hired by Bob Garbarino to drive the Mystic Missile on the Whelen Modified Tour Series this year. Its a great opportunity for the third generation driver who has won in just about every division he has ever raced in including the Modified Tour. Driving the Mighty No. 3 of Mike and Janice Boehler, Santos won the season ending World Series at Thompson in 2007.

Hot on the heels of the announcement that the Whelen Modified Tours Series would visit the road course at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut came word that dogs, the four legged variety, wouldl not be allowed on the property. Evidently track management got sick and tired of picking up the land mines that had been left behind!

In some sad news, Richard “Moon” Burgess passed-away on Wednesday, March 17 after suffering a serious stroke earlier in the month. Burgess started his career in the midgets during the 1940’s, switching to stock cars later in the decade. He competed with success at virtually every track in the region including Thompson, Waterford, Plainville, Riverside Park, Kingston, Candlelight Stadium, Cherry Park, West Haven, and others. Burgess experienced his greatest degree of success while behind the controls of the potent “Flying Eagle” #1 coupe. He retired from the sport in 1953 after a relatively brief but spectacular career in which he won over 200 races including 63 feature events.

Justin Allgaier passed Brad Keselowski on a restart with 27 laps remaining in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Bristol, then held him off over the closing laps to give Penske Racing its first 1-2 finish in the Nationwide Series. It was Dodge’s first win at Bristol since August 2007.

In Sprint Cup action at Bristol, Jimmie Johnson finally knocked Bristol off his to-do list, plowing from sixth to first in just three laps to grab his first career victory at the revered Tennessee track.

Five years ago in 2015, with the exception of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in action at South Boston it was quiet as NASCAR”s big three celebrated Easter Weekend.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series visited the South Boston VA Speedway last Saturday. Ryan Preece, driving a car normally driven by Ryan Newman led all but one lap as he literally cleaned house at the southern Virginia speedway. Preece started on the pole and for all intents and purposes led the entire 150 lap distance that was extended to 160 laps because of cautions. JR Bertuccio was credited with leading one lap because of his position in the pit area during a caution. Bertuccio ended up second with Burt Myers, third. Rounding out the top five were Eric Goodale and Danny Bohn. Four of the original 19 finished on the lead lap.

Congratulations went out to Dick Berggren who was inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame. Berggren did it all, from photographer, driver, promoter, editor and broadcaster and he did it with grace and class!

Last year, 2019, The Whelen Modified Tour was in South Boston, Va.. A strong field of 32 NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand. Also on tap was the previously rained out PASS Commonwealth Classic at Richmond which also had tour type modifieds on their venue created a direct conflict for both modified competitors and modified fans. As of Thursday, March 28 there were only 10 tour type modifieds were pre-entered. Among those who were entered at Richmond was Matt Hirschman. Hirschman, who is not considered a regular on the Whelen Modified Tour, finished 11th at Myrtle Beach.

At South Boston the Whelen Modifieds performed in a near full house. At Richmond the grandstands were empty. Tommy Catalano was the pole sitter as he toured the .400 mile recently paved oval in13.849 seconds or 103.979mph. Second fastest was Chase Dowling in the Jamie Tomaino entry. Ron Silk was third. Jon McKennedy and Matt Swanson rounded out the top five.

Catalano took the lead at the start. Dowling slid back which made it obvious that the top groove lacked grip. The first caution flew on lap 16 when Burt Myers tapped Justin Bonsignore as the field backed up in the turn three area. Bonsignore’s mount suffered severe damage to the right front suspension. Catalano continued to lead the field when on lap 27 the second caution flew as Frank Fleming, Kyle Ebersol, John Fortin, Jeremy Gerstner and Calvin Carroll crashed. Catalano continued to lead until Walter Sutcliffe spun in turn 4 bring out caution no.3.

Catalano and Dowling pitted for fresh tires. Burt Myers elected not to pit and inherited the lead and Ron Silk moved up to second. The fourth caution of the day flew on lap 83 when James Civale spun and hit the wall in turn four. Myers indicated that he was going non-stop without a tire change as the field took the green on lap 89. Kyle Bonsignore was running second as Silk was closing on the front two. On lap 126 Sutcliffe spun for the second time, bringing out the fifth caution.

When the green was displayed on lap 132 Myers hit the gas and momentarily slipped which allowed Silk to surge by for the lead Myers regained his composure but the damage was done. With worn out tires he was shuffled to the back as Dowling, Jimmy Blewett and Kyle Bonsignore rode by.

At the 150 lap mark the checkered flag was waved and Silk ended a long dry spell. Chase Dowling finished second with Jimmy Blewett, third. Kyle Bonsignore and Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Chris Pasteryak, Patrick Emerling, Doug Coby, Timmy Solomito and Craig Lutz.

Eighteen of the 31 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who did not finish were Calvin Carroll (32), Kyle Ebersol (31), Jeremy Gerstner (29) and Frank Fleming (30) who wrecked on lap 26, Rob Summers retired after 42 laps with overheating problems. Timmy Catalano (27) and Eric Goodale (26) retired with engine trouble on laps 49 and 50. Justin Bonsignore (25) continued to have bad luck as he crashed on lap 16, made repairs only to retire after 93 laps with power steering problems. James Civale (22) recovered from hitting the wall on lap 83 only to drop out after completing 117 laps with electrical problems. Melissa Fifield (24) and Wade Cole (23) were running at the end but no where close to speed.

After two events, Doug Coby leads the series point standings. Coby leads Jon McKennedy by three points. Jimmy Blewett sits third with Patrick Emerling and Chris Pasteryak rounding out the top five.

Overall, the quality of this event and the quantity of entries was very good. The Modifieds did not disappoint as they continue to be the most competitive and entertaining of all of the NASCAR divisions. FansChoice.TV did an outstanding job in their presentation of the event. As previously announced,

FansChoice.TV will live stream the entire NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule.

In the inaugural Commonwealth Classic at Richmond Raceway (VA). Matt Hirschman dominated the 75-lap feature, winning from the pole. It was basically a 75 lap practice session for the veteran racer. Andy Seuss was second with Bobby Measmer, third.

In some great news, FansChoice.TV will air ALL 10 NASCAR events at Thompson in 2019, beginning with the 45th annual Icebreaker weekend! This includes all of Thompson’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour & more!

Internet Racing News site RaceDayCt reported that the trial of New London-Waterford Speedbowl owner Bruce Bemer was scheduled to begin on Monday, April 1 in Danbury Superior Court. Bemer was arrested, along with two other men, in March 2017 in connection with a Connecticut based human trafficking ring. Investigators allege the decades long ring victimized mentally ill young men. Bemer, of Glastonbury, has pleaded not guilty to charges of patronizing trafficking victims under 18 and accessory to human trafficking. Hopefully this will not affect the installation of new grandstands that are scheduled to be installed at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Denny Hamlin raced to his second NASCAR Cup victory of the season, overcoming two penalties on pit road and missing the entry another time during green flag conditions Sunday in Texas.

While Hamlin led the final 12 laps, and 45 of the 334 overall, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch missed out on the chance for a tripleheader weekend sweep. Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota finished more than 2.7 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer. The race, which had only three cautions outside the two stage stoppages, featured 27 lead changes among 13 drivers. It was the 33rd career victory for Hamlin.

Clint Bowyer finished second, followed by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Daniel Suarez. Erik Jones was fourth ahead of polesitter Jimmie Johnson, whose career-long winless drought reached 66 races. William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.

It was the third time at Texas that Busch won the Xfinity and Trucks Series races before coming up short in the weekend-ending Cup race. Ryan Preece finished 22nd.