Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1951, The New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran it’s third and final race on their crushed stone surface. Taking the win was NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Don Rounds. Because of extremely dusty conditions it was determined to cover the 1/3 mile oval with asphalt.
Sixty years ago in 1961 rain interrupted the opening night program at the Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA. It was announced that Carl Merrill would hold the position of NASCAR Chief Steward. Merrill would hold that position until the track closed in the fall of 1972. Ray Lackey won the season opener at Seekonk. Ted Stack made it two in a row in Modified competition at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Stack also won a 25 lap Bomber feature. Eddie Moody won the Bomber feature. Down on Long Island at the Islip Speedway Axel Anderson took the win at the tough 1/5 mile oval. Ernie Gahan was the winner at the Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey. At the South Boston Speedway in Virginia, Eddie Crouse took the win.
Fifty five years ago in 1966, Friday night racing at the Albany Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was cancelled because of rain. Bill Wimble took the 25 lapper at Fonda on Saturday night over Lou Lazzaro and Pete Corey. Gene Bergin made the long haul from his home in Manchester, Ct to Utica – Rome where he won the Sunday night 30 lap feature. Lou Toro finished second with Jerry Cook, Dave Kotary and Don MacTavish. Rain washed out the features on Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl after qualifying had been completed. The remaining program was carried over to Sunday where Bob Potter recorded his first feature win of the year. Eddie Bunnell made it two in a row in the Bombers while Robbie Robertson was the Daredevil winner. Rain was also the winner at Seekonk.
Fifty years ago in 1971, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was supposed to open on Friday night but heavy rain changed all of that. The Stafford Motor Speedway began their Saturday night season with twin 25’s the regular format. Leo Cleary in the Mystic Missile won the first 25-lap feature over Hop Harrington, Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens. The second 25-lap feature saw Stevens beat out Bobby Santos and Cleary for the win. On Long Island at Islip, Cliff Tyler was the winner with Bob Park, Al DeAngelo and Gary Winters following. At the Waterford Speedbowl, Seabury Tripler, in what had to be the first Pinto bodied Modified, took the win at the shoreline oval. Dick Dunn finished second with Joe Trudeau, third. Bill Sweet broke Big Mike Daignault’s stranglehold on the Sportsman Sedan division. Joe Peters was the Class A winner at Seekonk. On Sunday at Thompson it was twin 25’s.Bugsy Stevens took the first one over Bob Santos, Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary and Ray Miller. Hop Harrington in the former Tant/Mitchell coupe, now owned by Dick Armstrong took down the nightcap. Stevens finished second with DeSarro, third. Sunday night racing at Utica-Rome rained out.
Forty five years ago in 1976, Stafford began their regular Saturday night season on a somber note as speedway owner Jack Arute announced that the track could possibly close in three weeks if the crowds didn’t pick up. Needless to say, a good crowd plus 52 Modifieds were on hand. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by John Rosati, Dale Holdredge, and Fred DeSarro. It was also on this night at Stafford that the winning team of Ronnie Bouchard and car owner Bob Johnson came to an end. At the Islip Speedway on Long Island, Fred Harbach took the win over Greg Sacks. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain for the second week in a row. On Sunday, Wayne Anderson took the win at New Egypt and at Thompson, Geoff Bodine, in the Armstrong No.1, took the win over George Summers, Bugsy Stevens and John Rosati.
Forty years ago in 1981, Ray Miller took advantage of Richie Evans’ misfortune as he won the Friday night opener at Stafford. Evans had the lead with nine laps to go when his transmission went sour, causing him to slow. Miller, in hot pursuit, took the lead and the eventual win. Bugsy Stevens finished second with John Rosati, third. Evans ended up sixth. Twin 40’s were on tap at Thompson on Sunday. Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek each shared in the glory as the both won. During the running of the second event, Evans and Mike Stefanik tangled with the end result being that Stefanik ended up on his roof. Jerry Cook was the winner at Shangri-La on Saturday and at Islip it was Fred Harbach over Don Howe and Wayne Anderson. In Modified action at Danbury Rit Patchen unseated Bob Riley to take a 50 lap win. Randy LaJoie returned to victory lane as he scored the Sportsman win.
Thirty five years ago in 1986, Stafford began their Friday night season with bone chilling temperatures. Jeff Fuller in the Jack Neusner 2x took the win. Reggie Ruggiero in the Mike Greci No.11finished second with Charlie Jarzombek, third. Mike Stefanik and George Brunnhoelzl rounded out the top five. Bo Gunning was the SK Modified winner. Bob Potter made it two in a row at Waterford after coming from an 18th starting spot. At Riverside it was Mike McLaughlin over Ted Riggott and Mike Stefanik and at Riverhead, Don Howe bested Bob Park, Tom Baldwin and Bill Park. Racing at the Shangri-La Speedway (Tioga) was snowed out. The NASCAR Modifieds were at New Egypt for a 150 lapper. Wayne Anderson took the win with Jamie Tomaino, second. Bob Park finished third. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, the entire 42 car field qualified at over 200 mph. Bill Elliott was the pole sitter with speed of 212.229 mph. Bobby Allison took the win after Elliott lost a transmission with 14 laps to go.
Thirty years ago in 1991, the Friday night racing at Stafford was rained out. At Waterford on Saturday night, Mark LaJunnesse was awarded the win when a post race inspection revealed that Bob Potter’s engine contained illegal piston rods. Joe Tiezzi ended up second with Don Bunnell, third. Kevin Debbis was the late model winner. A newcomer by the name of Tim Connolly took the win at Shangri-la. Andy Romano finished second. At Riverside it was Jerry Marquis over Dan Avery and Rick Fuller and at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, Dwight Jarvis held off Bruce Del for the win. It rained at Talladega on Sunday and the event was run on Monday. Harry Gant took the win. Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg after being involved in a 17-car wreck triggered by Ernie Irvan.
Twenty five years ago in 1996, rain wiped out racing at Stafford, Waterford and Riverside. It stayed dry at Riverhead where Don Howe took the win over Mike Ewanitsko, Bill Park and Tom Tillotson. The Busch North Series was at Jennerstown, Pa. Andy Santarre took the 150 lap win over Dave Dion, Robbie Crouch, Dale Shaw and Mike Stefanik. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Rusty Wallace passed Jeff Gordon with five laps to go and took the win. NASCAR found Wallace’s’ car to be 1/4 inch too low and levied a fine of $25,000.In other news, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway filed suit against CART because they were calling their cars Indy Cars.
Twenty years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher started his weekend off with a 50 lap win on Friday night at Stafford. Chuck Docherty finished second with Lloyd Agor, third. Curt Brainard and Larry Ross rounded out the top five. Willie Hardie JR who won SK Modified events at the Spring Sizzler suffered a broken collarbone as a result of a wreck. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Waterford Speedbowl. Reggie Ruggiero took the lead from Rob Summers on lap74 of the 200-lap contest and went on to take the win. Summers who had led from lap 1, faded to fourth at the finish. Mike Stefanik finished second with Ted Christopher, third. John Fortin rounded out the top five. Eleven cautions for 62 laps slowed the event. Dennis Gada won the regularly scheduled 35 lap SK-Modified feature over Eddie Reed JR and Ron Yuhas JR. The previously rained out Waterford Nationals 150 was also run. Eric Berndt led all 150 laps to collect the $5,000 first prize plus $3079 in lap money. Ed Reed JR finished second with Ed Dachanhausen, third. Bert Marvin and Mark LaJunesse rounded out the top five. Marvin made a swift trip to Thompson later in the day to win a 30-lap SK Modified event that was run in conjunction with the Hooters Cup Late Models. In other weekend action JR Bertuccio went pole to pole at Riverhead and Kenny Tremont got his 90th win at Lebanon Valley. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Tony Stewart took the win. Jimmie Spencer was the Busch Grandnational winner. On a sad note, Smokey Yunick died at the age of 77.
Fifteen years ago in 2006, the Stafford Motor Speedway began their regular Friday night schedule. In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Jeff Baral, took the lead from Kurt Lenahan on lap-4, and from there he held off the charge of Willie Hardie to take the checkered flag. The race went green from lap-5 to 40, and Baral and Hardie slowly pulled away from the field to wage a two-car battle for the win. Ted Christopher finished third, with Eric Berndt and Frank Ruocco rounding out the top-5. In the 30-lap Late Model feature, Woody Pitkat and Ryan Posocco took turns swapping the lead over the final two laps of the race with Pitkat emerging as the winner. A late caution set up a three-lap sprint to the finish. Pitkat was the leader on the initial restart, but as the white flag was displayed to the field, Posocco made a charge into the lead in turns 1+2. Pitkat moved back to the inside of Posocco in turns 3+4, and as they headed towards the checkered flag, the cars touched slightly, which loosened Posocco up enough to give Pitkat enough of a margin to take the checkered flag first. Todd Owen, Jim Peterson, and Wayne Coury, Jr. rounded out the top-5. Other Friday night winners were Duke Place in the SK Lights, Andrew Durand in the Limited Late Models and Stacey Botticello in the DARE Stocks.
At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Rob Janovic Jr. beat back a late challenge from Tommy Fox and went on to capture the 35-lap SK-Modified feature, the fourth winner in as many starts. Janovic took over with 28 laps remaining and then survived a couple restarts, the last with eight remaining. Fox took up the challenge following a restart with 18 laps remaining. Ron Yuhas Jr. finished third and was followed by Diego Monahan and John Brouwer Jr. In the Late Model division a bit of road rage handed Jay Stewart a victory. Stuart took command on a lap 13 restart and then romped to victory. The road rage occured when Jay Lozyniak and Mark St. Hilaire, battling for the lead spun, tangled in the front stretch. St Hillaire was so incensed that he deliberately drove his car into that of Lozyniaks. On the green, Stuart got away from Bruce Thomas Jr. and had a seven-car length lead inside of four laps. Thomas got second back from Duane Noll in the final laps. It is expected that track officials will impose a penalty on St. Hillaire. Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Dwayne Dorr making it four in a row in the Sportsman division, Jeff Civardi in the Mini Stocks and Chris Bakaj in the Legends.
The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island opened for the season on Saturday night. Veteran Chris Young held off 59 year old and the previous years track champion Bill Park in the 35 lap Modified feature. Great runs by JR Bertuccio as he was passing guys on the outside and also third generation driver Eddie Brunnhoelzl III who finished 6th and also did some outstanding side by side racing.
The Whelen Modified Tour Series was in the middle of a three week break before resuming on Memorial Day weekend at Stafford. After two events Mike Stefanik who won the season opener at the Thompson Speedway and finished fourth in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford led the point standings with a 30-point edge over Ted Christopher. Christopher had a fourth at Thompson and a sixth at Stafford. Rookie James Civali sat in third spot. Civali had a sixth at Thompson and a seventh at Stafford and was 44 points out of the lead. Doug Coby who won the Sizzler and finished 16th at Thompson after being collected in a wreck, sat in fourth spot. Rounding out the top five was defending series champion Tony Hirschman. A fifth at Thompson and a ninth at Stafford had the former title holder 47 points in arrears. Sixth through tenth were Reggie Ruggiero, Chuck Hossfeld, Donnie Lia,, Eric Beers and Dick Houlihan.
The Waterford Speedbowl announced that they had added a second Whelen Modified Tour Series date to their schedule. In addition to their previously announced date of Saturday, July 22, the shoreline oval would run the Whelen Modifieds on Sunday, September 24 in conjunction with the already scheduled Town Fair Tire Fall Finale. The addition brought the series total events to 17.
Two New York state speedways were in the process of changing hands. Long Island racer John White purchased the Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY and the Chemung Speedrome in Chemung, NY.
In True Value Modified Series action Windsor Locks, CT, racer Les Hinckley started outside front row Saturday night, shot into the lead at the drop of the green flag and led 92 of the scheduled 100 laps of the Chappy’s Concessions 100 presented by Northeast Waste Services and Bly Machine at the Canaan Fair Motorsports Complex, Canaan, NH, on a night that saw thirty seven modified racers from throughout the northeast travel to the ‘Upper Valley” of New Hampshire, a fifty minute late start because of rain, several persistent showers, six caution flags, a race shortened by track curfew, and high winds that created wind chills in the upper 30’s. Because of the rain delays the 100 lap race went green at 10:56pm; four minutes shy of a town ordinance that prohibits a race from starting beyond 11:00pm. Hinckley set a fast pace early on, was chased by rookie Bobby Grigas III, Marshfield, Ma, in his strongest run yet, holding down the number two spot until lap 34 when a support bar broke forcing the young driver to the sidelines. Danbury, Ct., hot shoe Ed Dachenhausen moved to the runner-up spot and chased the race leader to the finish while Ascutney, VT, veteran Dwight Jarvis, a two time winner at Canaan in 2004 turned in another solid run and finished third. Chris Wenzel, Holyoke, Ma, ran a strong race to finish fourth while Gary Casella, Saugus, Ma, rounded out the top five.
In Nextel Cup action at Richmond Dale Earnhardt JR took the win over Denny Hamlin. Kevin Harvick won the companion Busch Series event.
Ten years ago in 2011 the 40th Annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler got underway Friday, April 29 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions. Action continued on Saturday, April 30 with Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford’s weekly divisions.
In Whelen Modified Tour Series qualifying Doug Coby captured the Coors Lite Pole position as he toured the 1/2 mile oval in 17.985sec. Coby was one of four drivers limited to one qualifying lap because their spotters were late to report prior to time trials. Second fastest and taking the outside pole was Todd Szegedy. Defending Tour Series Champion Bobby Santos III was third fastest followed by Eric Beers and Rowan Pennink. There were 31 Modifieds on hand for qualifying.
Bobby Santos rebounded from a blown engine in the season opening Ice Breaker at Thompson with a win in Stafford Speedway’s Tech-Net Spring Sizzler.
Santos, the defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, held off points leader Rowan Pennink over the closing laps to claim the victory. Santos opened the season with the Coors Light Pole Award at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway but lasted just 16 laps before engine issues ended his day. It was Santos’ third career win at Stafford and first in the track’s annual season kickoff, which was running its 40th edition.
Ron Silk edged Eric Beers for third, while Mike Stefanik finished fifth. Erick Rudolph was sixth. Ted Christopher, three-time defending race winner, finished seventh. Matt Hirschman, Tom Rogers Jr. and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10. Pole sitter Doug Coby, finished 29th.
Starting third, Santos shot into the lead on lap one dragging Eric Beers with him. The first caution flew on Lap 83 when Doug Coby hit the back stretch wall. Ted Christopher led the field when they restarted on lap 90. The second caution waved on Lap 111 when Richie Pallai and Gary McDonald spun in turn two. The field went back to green on Lap 117. Christopher continued to lead with Santos hot on his bumper. Todd Szegedy, Rowan Pennink and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five. The yellow was displayed again on Lap 132 for debris on track. Knowing he couldn’t make 200 laps on a tank of fuel, Christopher pitted and handed the lead to Santos.
The green flag was displayed on lap 138 with Santos in the lead and Pennink, second. Caution again, this time for Wade Cole who spun in turn one and deposited a ton of dirt on the track which caused NASCAR Race Control to stop the cars between turns three and four. The field returned to green on lap 145 with Santos leading followed by Rowan Pennink, James Civali, Matt Hirschman and Erick Rudolph.. They no sooner got going and the yellow flew again, more debris as cars are falling apart. Santos continued to lead. Ryan Preece was closing in on the top five when he slipped a bit.Preece and Jimmy Blewett got together on lap 160 which resulted in Kevin Goodale going over Preeces nerf bar thus bringing out another yellow. With 31 laps to go the green was displayed with Santos on the point over Civali and Pennink. Civali had a problem on lap 174 as he collected Todd Szegedy and Ed Flemke Jr as he hit the backstretch wall.
Santos continued to lead the field as they took the green on lap 179. Ron Silk moved into the second spot. The caution waved again on lap 183 when Jimmy Blewett went up and over Eric Berndt after Berndt had come down on the New Jersey driver. With the laps winding down the field went back to green on lap on lap 186. Pennink displaced Silk from the second spot. The final laps saw Pennink turn up the heat on Santos but the third- generation racer was not to be denied as he streaked home the winner of the 200 lap Spring Sizzler. Following Santos at the finish was Rowan Pennink, Ron Silk, Eric Beers and Mike Stefanik. Erick Rudolph, Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman, Tom Rogers and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top ten.
Twenty of the original 31 starters finished on the lead lap.
In other Stafford action, Ryan Preece was the SK Modified winner and Woody Pitkat took the Late Models. Pitkat’s team was disqualified from the victory after being found in to have been using an unapproved mixing of fuel.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour went back on Spring Break before returning on Friday, May 27 at Stafford for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.
In action at the Waterford Speedbowl, Tyler Chadwick an opening lap wreck to win the SK Modified feature, his seventh career victory at the shoreline oval. On the beginning laps pole sitter Rookie Jeff Gallup triggered a wreck that created a pig pile in turn two which collected cars driven Tucker Reynolds Jr., Rob Janovic Jr., Glen Pressel, along with cars further back in the field including Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco. Rocco, Reynolds, Janovic and Pressel were sidelined for the night.. On the restart Frank Mucciacciaro went head to head with Chadwick. Chadwick spent three laps outside Mucciacciaro before he took the lead and slowly pulled away. Shawn Monahan, Tom Abele, Kyle James and Ron Yuhas Jr. completed the top five.
In other events, Jeff Smith won his first Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race of the season. Special Street Stock and Mini Stock memorial events were won by Norm Root and Ken Cassidy Jr. respectively. Howard Payne won the visiting New England Truck Series feature, Melissa Fifield was a first-time winner in the Allison Legacy Series race. Paul Kusheba won his first career Speedbowl feature in the Legends Cars feature, while Glen Thomas Jr. and Frank Alessio wound up victorious in the X-Car and Super X-Car Saturday Showdown Series races.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH on Saturday night. Les Hinkley took a well earned win. Constant side-by-side racing often with five to seven car battles took place throughout the race with a couple of three-wide showdowns thrown in for good measure.
Defending Champion Jon McKennedy and Steve Masse led the 24- car field to green with McKennedy leading the first 11 circuits. Three-time Champion Kirk Alexander, moved into the lead on lap 12 with heavy pursuit from McKennedy, Jim Boniface and Louie Mechalides.
Hinckley, ailing from a stomach bug prior to race time, was running in a solid third on laps 86 through 96. The Connecticut veteran pulled up alongside McKennedy and powered by on lap 97 to second, and then by Mechalides on lap 98. to go on and win the highly competitive race. Mechalides, McKennedy, Alexander, and Goodenough followed the winner across the line. Sixth through tenth were Jarvis, Rowan Pennink, Tim Jordan, Chris Pasteryak and Norm Wrenn. Alexander was disqualified following a post race inspection.
In Modified action south of the Mason-Dixon line at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC being one of the walking wounded didn’t impede the progress of Bert Myers. Burt Myers’ ribs were feeling much better at the fall of the checkered flag in the season opening GMAC Insurance 200 at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Myers, Bowman Gray’s defending Modified champion punctured a lung and broke three ribs in a racing crash little more than two weeks ago, took the lead with 18 laps left and went on to a relatively pain-free victory in front of a full house at the 17,000-seat stadium. It was Myers’ 45th win overall in Bowman Gray’s featured Modified Division. Myers indicated that fresh tires were key. Myers pitted for fresh right-side tires during a caution with 55 laps left and it paid off in the end result. Brian Loftin, who lost his wife in an auto accident assumed the lead when Myers pitted. In the end he finished third as Jonathan Brown edged him out for second..
Denny Hamlin grabbed the lead for the first time 44 laps into the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway and dominated the rest of the 250-lap race. Kyle Busch, his team mate, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
Last year, 2020, While the New England speedways remained quiet the Stafford Motor Speedway has filled in some of the gap with their iRacing series. Modified Tour cars will be in action Friday, May 8 and the Invitational Tour Modified race is set for May 15.
NASCAR announced that they will resume racing May 17 with the Cup Series racing at Darlington Raceway. It will be the first of seven races among three series between May 17-27.
No fans will be allowed at any of those events.
The coronavirus that continued to hold our country hostage was beginning to weaken. The Florida beaches are beginning to re-open and on the national level, the governor of North Carolina has said that NASCAR can go forward with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway without fans in attendance at the end of May unless health conditions deteriorate in the state. Gov. Roy Cooper said he and state public health officials have had discussions with NASCAR and the speedway located in Concord regarding safety protocols for staging the race. Cooper said the state offered input on NASCAR’s plan, but he believes the race can go forward on Memorial Day weekend for the 60th consecutive year.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, one of the state lawmakers to initially petition Cooper to permit racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, welcomed the return of NASCAR and praised the “Tar Heel spirit.”.
New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu addressed racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during a press conference recently. The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is scheduled to host the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on July 19. The race weekend at NHMS is also scheduled to include NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events on July 18 in addition to various events on July 17 at both the 1.058-mile oval and the dirt track facility that was opened last year. The governor hinted that a trimming of the NASCAR weekend in Loudon could possibly mean the Whelen Modified Tour event on July 18 being cut from the schedule.
Construction and erection of the all new grandstand at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl is progressing. The delay to the start of the 2020 season has worked in favor of the shoreline oval.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series director Jimmy Wilson confirmed to internet news site RaceDayCT that the May 23 series event at Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway had been postponed to a date still to be determined. Wilson told RaceDayCT series officials are hoping for a return to action in June, though where that might happen remains unclear. He said the series is committed to running all 17 events scheduled this year. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had now seen its first five events of the season put on hold due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Stafford Speedway management posted the following to their Facebook page: “Based on the Governor and State of Connecticut’s most recent guidelines we will be unable to run events in the month of May including the 2020 NAPA Spring Sizzler. At this time it is unclear when we will begin to race in 2020. We are working with local government officials to begin private practice and hope to have further guidance in the next week. We will provide schedule updates as soon as we have them. We will honor all tickets at a future date. We appreciate your patience and hope everyone is staying safe at this time.”
Word comes from Bob Finan on Long Island that Riverhead Raceway owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz announced that due to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent federal and state restrictions put into place by local & state officials they were forced to cancel all racing events for the month of May. The track had previously canceled two safety technical inspection days and a warm-up up day slated for the final three weeks of April.
The official statement reads, “Due to Federal and Local regulations regarding the Covid-19 virus, Riverhead Raceway regrets to announce that all events in the month of May have been canceled. We will continue to monitor regulations set forth by the state and we will be ready to race when those regulations change and allow us. All of us at Riverhead Raceway are hoping that you and yours are staying safe and home during this worldwide pandemic.”
Riverhead Raceway is located 77 miles east of New York City considered by experts to be a “hot spot” of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States. Sadly the Long Island racing family has been directly affected by the coronavirus with the April 15th passing of Street Stock/Late Model legend Paul McElearney, 70. Both Joe Krukowski and Jim Kelly former Modified drivers at the track also contracted the virus. Earlier this week Kelly who remains active in racing with the LIVARS Vintage Race Car group was transferred to a physical therapy facility. Krukowski is also expected to be transferred from Southampton for PT later this week. Both McElearney & Krukowski are enshrined on the Riverhead Raceway Cromarty Wall of Champions.
Lou Modestino advised that Ray Stonkus and Firestone Tire dealer Gene White have been inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame. Stonkus was a New England native who fielded a Modified at the Norwood Arena who settled in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Working with fellow Georgia Racing Hall of Fame inductee the late Pete Hamilton,a Newton, MA native, his first racing experience came as a car builder and owner. The two would win the 1967 NASCAR Nationals Sportsman championship, opening the door for both to compete in the NASCAR Grand American and NASCAR Grand National Series. Incidently, Hamilton won the Daytona 500 in 1970 driving a team car for Petty Racing.
Stonkus moved to Atlanta in 1969 to work on Gene White’s Grand American Team, where Pete Hamilton drove to 10 wins and the series championship. He would work for Sam Posey’s Trans-Am team in 1970 and 1971 before moving back to NASCAR with Pete Hamilton for 1972 and 1973.
Stonkus also worked as a part of the founding of JTG Dougherty Racing, which now fields two cars in the NASCAR Cup Series. Stonkus passed away on March 19, 2020.
Gene White of Marietta, Georgia was an early racer who became a renowned car owner. He saw his driving career at Atlanta’s famed Peach Bowl in the late 50s, and finished 18th in the first running of the Daytona 500 in 1959. White became a racing tire dealer for Firestone, one of four national distributors, selling tires for all forms of motorsports.
White was also an innovator who helped to develop the fuel cell, replacing the dangerous old steel gas tanks. White died on April 15, 1986.