The Chrome Horn - Looking Back with Phil Smith


Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby
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Forty years ago in 1967, the All Star League visited the tight 1/5th mile oval at Islip on Long Island. Eddie Flemke, a master of the bullrings, lived up to his reputation as he won the 100-lap event over Jerry Cook, Bill Wimble and Fred Harbach. Rain prevailed on the East Coast for the entire weekend, wiping out all racing.

    Thirty five years ago in 1972, Fred DeSarro went two for two as he won at Seekonk on Friday night and at Stafford on Saturday night. At Seekonk, Billy Clarke finished second and at Stafford, Leo Cleary, Ernie Gahan, George Summers and Hop Harrington, rounded out the top five. Bob Santos took the Friday night win at Malta. Ron Bouchard finished second with Richie Evans, third. At Fonda, on Saturday night, Maynard Forrette beat out Harry Peek and Al Castrucci for top honors. Modifieds from all over the East Coast converged on the Pocono Raceway for the Flight 216 modified event on the ¾ mile oval. Ninety-eight modifieds were on hand. Richie Evans won the event over Maynard Troyer and Ray Hendrick but the real story was the effort put in by Fred DeSarro and Art Barry who teamed up, just for the day. During practice, the engine in the Len Boehler No.3 spun a bearing. Without a spare engine, Boehler loaded the car and headed home. Santos, who had won Malta on Friday night, offered his ride to DeSarro. DeSarro made numerous chassis changes and even change the steering wheel. The Barry modified went and handled like it never did before and was a potential winner until slowed by a broken water pump. Sunday night action at Utica-Rome, rained out.

    Thirty Years ago in 1977, Bugsy Stevens was the winner of the Tuesday night Modified Madness. The 50-lap event drew 44 modifieds. Geoff Bodine finished second with Charlie Jarzombek, third. When the mods returned to Stafford on Friday night, Ronnie Bouchard had it all figured out as he won, hands down. John Rosati finished second. with Ed Flemke, third. Rosati took it up a notch as he won at Seekonk on Saturday night over Ray Lee and Leo Cleary. Joe Howard ruled Westboro despite extreme pressure exerted by George Savory and Freddie Schulz in the closing stages of the 35 lap main event. At Riverside, Geoff Bodine won a 100 lapper over Reggie Ruggiero and Bob Polverari and at Thompson on Sunday night; Fred DeSarro beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie Flemke.

    Twenty five years ago in 1982, Kenny Bouchard was awarded the Friday night win at Stafford after apparent winner Greg Sacks was disqualified with an illegal carburetor. Ray Miller finished third but he too, ran amuck with the tech inspector, and was also disqualified with an illegal carburetor. Bob Polverari ended up second with Bugsy Stevens, third. At Spencer, also on Friday, Richie Evans led Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook and George Kent across the stripe and at New Egypt, John Blewett Jr. was the 100-lap winner. At Waterford, on Saturday night, Lightning Larry Lanphear took the win from his up front starting spot. Bob Potter finished second with Randy Lajoie, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio won a 100 lap Race of Champions qualifier. Marty Radwick finished second with Ray Miller, third. Racing on Long Island took a weekend off. The Riverhead program was cancelled because of the lack of cars and Islip was cancelled because of a fatality. Doug Hewitt beat out Jerry Cook at Shangri-La and at Seekonk, it rained. The Bouchard brothers, Ronnie and Kenny, finished one-two at Thompson on Sunday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished third with Mike McLaughlin, fourth. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Tim Richmond was the Busch Pole sitter. Darrell Waltrip took the win.

    Twenty years ago in 1987, Jerry Pearl was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Leading the Tri-Track point series, Pearl beat out Bo Gunning and Mike Christopher. Waterford rained out on Saturday night. Evidently it was a coastal Connecticut storm as Riverside and Riverhead got their events in. At Riverside, Mike Stefanik swept a 200 lapper, which also guaranteed him a spot in the Thompson 300. Reggie Ruggerio finished second with Mike McLaughlin, third. At Riverhead, Tony Ferrante JR took the win over Wayne Anderson and Fred Harbach. Jimmy Spencer ruled the roost at Shangri-La as he took the checker over Tony Hirschman, and George Kent. In Sunday night SK-Modified action at Thompson, Mike Christopher held off brother Ted along with Bo Gunning, Bob Potter and Kerry Malone. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Dale Earnhardt SR took the win.

    Fifteen years ago in 1992, Bob Potter lost the point lead at Stafford on Friday night after he wrecked on the first lap. Bo Gunning took the win over Richie Gallup, Lloyd Agor and Mike Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified tour was at Riverhead for a 200-lap event. Mike Ewanitsko took the win over Jeff Fuller, Steve Park and Satch Worley. At Waterford, Ted Christopher in the North End Auto Parts No.54 took the modified win. Twin features were run for the late models. Phil Rondeau won his 9th of the season and Jerry Young won the nite-cap.

    Ten Years ago in 1997, Bo Gunning was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Ted Riggott got his fifth of the year at Riverside. The Busch North Series was also at Riverside and it was Dave Dion taking the win over Mike Stefanik and Jerry Marquis. Tucker Reynolds got his fifth win at Waterford. Jim Broderick finished third behind Todd Ceravolo but was disqualified when it was discovered using an illegal carburetor. Eddie Brunnhoelzl jr. won the Fred Harbach Memorial at Riverhead. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Watkins Glen with the Trucks. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 33 and led the final eight laps to take the win. Fuller finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty, Mike Ewanitsko, Tim Arre and Tim Connolly. Ron Fellows won the truck race. Ted Christopher finished seventh and Mike Ewanitsko finished 21st.At Bristol, Jim Spencer won the Grand National event. Steve Park finished second and sewed up the Rookie of the Year title. In the on going confrontation between Randy LaJoie and Buckshot Jones, NASCAR fined Jones $5000 for trying to ram LaJoie after the two made contact during the event. Jones missed. In the Winston Cup portion, Dale Jarrett passed Mark Martin in the closing stages of the event and took the win. Evidently there was a little confusion in a recent article concerning the date that the late Corky Cookman and Mike Hornat went out of the track and into the fourth turn grandstand at Stafford. It was August 5, 1983 on the eighth lap of a scheduled 100 lapper that John Falconi got loose as he exited turn four. Both Cookman and Hornat rode over Falconi's wheel and sailed out of the track.

    Five years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Stafford on Friday night. NASCAR, because of numerous complaints, changed the qualifying procedure in hopes of leveling the playing field. In the past, those who went out early to qualify had a distinct disadvantage because of the lack of rubber and debris on the track. In order to make it fair for one and all NASCAR made the following change. Each car would take its first time trial lap and then pull in. When the entire field had their lap, the process would begin again. One must give NASCAR credit with this change. There were 43 Modifieds on hand and the jury was still out as far as the change in format for qualifying. Jerry Marquis’ pole speed held but six cars did improve their times, the second time around. Among those who didn’t make the cut were Kenny Bouchard, Wade Cole, Carl Pasteryak, Jimmy Kuhn, Jake Marosz and Tom Baldwin.

    Friday’s NASCAR Modified Tour Series event at Stafford served as a monument to both Ted Christopher and Bugsy Stevens. Christopher took the win, his 73rd, and broke Stevens’ all time win record. Stevens, who hadn’t turned a wheel for quite some time, was on hand for the debut of his new book, The Life and Times of Bugsy Stevens. Even though he had been retired as a driver for quite a while, he is still as popular as ever. Those who followed him during the 60’s. 70’s and 80’s still follow and speak well of him. The Bug was still the Bug, very friendly and talked to everybody and most of all; he had not forgotten where he came from. Any way, Christopher didn’t qualify all that well as he started 15th. Eddie Flemke Jr. qualified fourth and by the luck of the draw, started on the pole with the Hill Enterprises No.79. Chuck Hossfeld in the Garbarino Mystic Missile started on the outside pole and jumped out to an early lead with Flemke in tow. Flemke, who in the past has made it a point of going non-stop without a stop for tires, took the lead on lap 9 and held it thru lap 63.In the mean time, Christopher, who had previously gone the 150 lap distance at Stafford had conservatively worked his way into second spot. The opportunity to lead presented it self on lap 64 and he took it. Flemke then turned up the wick a bit and he re-took the point on lap 70. Evidently, Christopher’s set-up wasn’t exact as he began to slip a little. A caution on lap 106 presented a way out for the defending National Champion as it allowed him to pit for new rubber. Maybe it was the chill in the air or maybe not as Flemke was only able to hold the lead for 43 laps when Jerry Marquis took over the top spot on lap 114. His lead was short lived as Flemke took it back on lap 121. All the while, Christopher on fresh rubber was coming to the front. With 18 laps to go, Christopher powered by and went on to make it four for four in Tour Series action at Stafford. Flemke held on for second and was followed by Marquis, Hossfeld and Rookie sensation Todd Szegedy. All tolled sixteen cars finished on the lead lap. For the second race in a row, defending Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik had problems and was an early out. After losing an engine at Thompson, Stefanik came to Stafford where he qualified sixth. Starting third, he was never a factor and his night ended on lap 70 when he dropped out with ignition problems.

    The regular weekly racing also started last Thursday at Thompson where rain prevailed and washed out the regularly scheduled SK-Modified event. The Pro Stocks had a scheduled 75 lapper but the event was red-checkered after 39 laps when the clouds opened up. Norm Wrenn took the win. According to NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks, 145 cars were on hand. In SK-Modified action at Stafford on Friday night, Brad Hietala ended a long dry spell. Hietala previously won at Stafford in 1983. Since then it’s been a rough road. In 1985 he almost paid the ultimate price when female driver Gilda Berti planted him in the wall. Hietala suffered severe head injuries, which almost ended his racing career and his life. What made the win even sweeter is the fact that he built his car himself in a day where the majority of the cars on the track in competition come from major chassis builders. Donnie Travaglin came all the way from the rear to finish second with Jay Miller recording a third. Series point leader Bo Gunning finished 10th. At Waterford, Ed Reed Jr. and Dennis Gada kissed and made up and are no longer mad at each other. Reed beat Gada out for the win. Reed admitted that he jumped the last three re-starts and was surprised that officials said nothing. The big story of the night was the fact that third generation driver, sixteen year old Bobby Santos III won the Boston Louie Memorial NEMA Midget event.

    Last year, 2006, The Whelen Modified Tour Series had the week off as they prepared for their trip to Martinsville. Current point leader Mike Stefanik leads the charge into September. In ten starts, Stefanik has recorded nine top tens including one win. Sitting in second spot is series money leader Ted Christopher. With three wins in ten starts Christopher trails Stefanik by 71 points. Defending series champion Tony Hirschman is 113 points behind the leader. In ten starts Hirschman has seven top tens including one win. Rounding out the top five are Ed Flemke JR and James Civali.

    The SK Modified, the cheaper alternative to the full-blown Tour type Modified is the lead division at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson. Originally conceived as a low cost alternative to the Tour type Modifieds, the SKs had escalated in price to the point where cars were being parked because of the costs to be competitive. Engines were in the $20-25,000 range and its and it was a monkey see, monkey do world because if one wanted to beat his competition one had to equal his competition’s equipment. The Waterford Speedbowl Management announced that the Speedbowl SK Modified Spec Engine was ready for release. Extensive testing on the track and on a dynamometer had resulted in an engine package that developed power in parity with the SK “Open” motor.

    The objective of the program was to create a lower cost alternative to the current SK Modified engine. This new motor was not intended to totally replace the use of open motors. The use of the SK Spec engine is not going to be mandatory. The package is based on the GM Performance Circle Track Fast Burn crate engine (88958604). Added to that is a spec carburetor, complete ignition system and numerous other accessories. A GM “Hot Cam Kit” is installed to bring the power up to the level needed for SK competition.

    The engine was dyno tested before delivery to ensure that it produces the proper horsepower and to check for any initial running flaws. The engine came from the factory with GM’s state-of-the-art seal bolts in place. Additional seals could be installed before delivery. The sealing of the engines was intended to reduce technical inspection costs for the racer.

    Based on the then current actual trading price of the base motor, the total price of the Speedbowl SK Modified Spec Engine package was $7,975.00. Additional savings compared to the open motor would come from a much lower annual maintenance cost of $2500.00 and the use of spec headers. Several other exceptions to the SK Modified rules would be allowed for the Spec engine.

    Woody Pitkat scored his third win of the year at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night as he took the top spot in the Sunoco Modified feature. Pitkat held off Todd Ceravolo, Tom Cravenho and Jeff Malave. Numerous wrecks and spins slowed the progress of the event. In the end only 10 of the original 27 starters were still running. Pitkats win put him in a tie for the track championship and NASCAR Regional standings with Malave. Paul Charette rounded out the top five. Keith Rocco was clearly the fastest in the early going. Although he ended up ninth the second generation driver pretty much had his night turn sour after he lost it on a restart and was ping-ponged by much of the field. Jimmy Blewett, the previous weeks winner, was also collected in the Rocco crash.

    Norm Wrenn who has had more than his share of bad luck won the Pro Stock feature. Corey Hutchings rebounded from a bad week to score the Late Model triumph. Danny Cates scored his third win of the season in the Limited Sportsman division, Tim Sullivan of scored his second in the TIS Modifieds, and Ron Rixham claimed win number one on the season in the Mini Stocks.

    The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway came very close to declaring another rainout on Friday as close to two inches of rain dumped on central Connecticut around noon. The Arute family remained patient and the skies cleared for another night of racing. Willie Hardie took his first SK Modified feature win of the 2006 season, Ryan Posocco took his second feature win of the season in the Late Model feature, and Andrew Durand was a winner for the third time this season in the Limited Late Model feature. There were two first time winners as Matt Gallo took the SK Light feature and Barry Fluckiger was the DARE Stock feature winner.

    In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Willie Hardie picked up his first feature win of the 2006 season with a strong drive. Hardie took the lead from polesitter Lloyd Agor on a lap-3 restart, and he then had to hold off multiple strong challenges from Frank Ruocco on several restarts to take the win. Ruocco finished second, with Agor, Todd Owen, and Chris Jones rounding out the top-5. In the chase for the SK Modified championship, Ruocco took over the points lead from Jeff Malave, who blew a transmission on the opening lap. Malave finished dead last in the 24 car starting field.

    Chris Pasteryak redeemed himself of a previous miscue at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night as he won the 35 lap SK Modified feature. Pasteryak, a second-generation driver, was in contention to win at the shoreline oval the previous week when he missed a shift on a restart. He more than made up for it on Saturday night. Pasteryak held off Rob Summers over the final 16 laps to take the victory. In doing so, he moved himself into second in the point race. Summers worked him over but to no avail as he tried high and low before settling for second. Point leader Dennis Gada finished second with Jeffrey Paul and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five.

    Mark Bakaj set a track record with his sixth straight Legends victory. Bakaj rode the Legends feature win into the record book, equaling the six straight Saturday night victories of Ed Bunnell, the latter doing it in 1966 in the Bomber division. Other winners were Tim Jordan in the regularly scheduled Late Model 30 lapper; Glenn Colvin in the continuation of the Aug. 19th Late Model feature; Joe Bertholet in the Sportsman 20 lapper and Dave Sylvia in the Mini Stock 20 lapper.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891.
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The Chrome Horn 'Looking Back with Phil Smith' Archive


Source: Phil Smith/Courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
Posted:  August 24, 2007

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