The Chrome Horn - Looking Back with Phil Smith


Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby
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     Thirty-five years ago, in 1972,
the Modified season came to a close at Martinsville where Bobby Santos put the Art Barry No.09 in victory lane. Mike Loescher finished third and was followed by Eddie Flemke, Bernie Miller and Melvin ”Puddin” Swisher. Rounding out the top ten were Hank Thomas, Bugsy Stevens, Ray Hendrick, Leo Cleary and RE Brim. Sixty-one modifieds were on hand.

    Thirty years ago, in 1977, Thompson’s World Series fell victim to rain. The only modified action was in the Southland at the Hickory Speedway in North Carolina . Jerry Cook took the win over Paul Radford.

    Twenty five years ago, in 1982, Greg Sacks and the invincible Ernie Wilsburg No.5 continued their domination of the modified division as they cleaned house at the World Series at Thompson; George Kent finished second with Kenny Bouchard in third spot. Rounding out the top five were Reggie Ruggerio and George Summers. New Egypt , which was asphalt at the time also, ran with Jerry Cranmer taking the win over Wayne Anderson, John Blewett JR, Jerry Cook and Lenny Boyd. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville , Darrell Waltrip took the win over Ricky Rudd.

    Twenty years ago, in 1987, Reggie Ruggiero won the 50 lap modified portion of the Thompson World Series. Ruggiero was with some hot company as he had Jimmy Spencer on his bumper for most of the way. Ruggerio started sixth and took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 11. Spencer started tenth and bulled his way to the front. Moving into second on a lap 16 restart, Spencer used every trick in the book to no avail as Ruggerio was on top of his game and wasn’t about to be denied. Jamie Tomaino had a strong run going in third spot by the half way mark but a slowly leaking tire was his un-doing. Tomaino’s miss-fortune opened the door for Mike Mclaughlin, who moved into third. Mike Stefanik and George Kent were running fourth and fifth in the late stages but they too, ran into problems. Stefanik pitted with a flat with ten to go and Kent spun out. Jeff Fuller, who was driving for Art Barry, moved into fourth spot and remained there to the finish. Ricky Fuller rounded out the top five. Tom Baldwin finished sixth and was followed by Don Howe, Carl Pasteryak, George Kent and Doug Hevron. Bob Potter won the 35 lap SK Modified portion. Ted Christopher finished second and wrapped up the Tri-Track championship. Jerry Pearl finished third.

    Fifteen years ago, in 1992, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was in Martinsville for a 200-lap event. Jan Leaty was the pole sitter but in the end it was Mike Stefanik taking the win over Wayne Anderson. Jeff Fuller finished third and wrapped up the series championship. Doug Hevron and Mike Ewanitsko rounded out the top five. Also, on the same day, was the Octoberfest at Lee Raceway where Ted and Mike Christopher finished one-two.

    Ten years ago, in 1997, Waterford ran its final event on Saturday night. Jim Broderick took the lead on lap 26 of the 35-lap event and went on to record his fifth win of the year. Todd Ceravolo finished second and sewed up the track championship. Tucker Reynolds was third with Jeff Pearl, fourth. Ted Christopher scored an impressive win in BGNN action at Lime Rock. After starting tenth, Christopher took the lead for the final time with two laps to go. Kim Baker finished second with Dennis Doyle, third. Mike Stefanik finished ninth and became the first driver to ever win the Busch North and Modified championships in the same year. It was a very hectic weekend In addition to the Busch North Series event at Lime Rock the Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway for the World Series. The 125 lap main event was full of excitement and the crowd of over 10,000 got their money’s worth. Mike Ewanitsko, driving the Sheba Racing No.8, dove under Rick Fuller with two laps to go in an attempt to take the lead. Fuller tried to pinch him off but instead ended up spinning out after making contact. Tony Hirshman ended up in second spot with Tim Connolly, Jamie Tomaino and Ed Flemke JR rounding out the top five. Fuller, driving the Art Barry No.21 recovered to finish seventh. Ed Flemke JR was the winner of the SK-Modified feature over Mike Christopher, Ted Christopher and Scott Quinn. In Busch Grand National action at Fontana , California , Steve Park was the pole sitter with Bob Labonte on the outside. Labonte had the race won until he ran out of gas with less than ten laps to go and handed the win to Todd Bodine. Park finished second.

    Five years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Martinsville . Forty seven Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the forty starting spots. Ken Woolley Jr. took the Busch Pole with Ricky Fuller, Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. L.W. Miller took the win. The racing was far from mundane. Fuller jumped out to take the lead on the start. Fred Vordermeir was the first casualty as he hit the wall on lap 15 after suffering a cut tire. Jerry Marquis, who is a contender for the tour series championship, suffered a major setback on lap 28 when his engine soured, forcing him to park it for the day. Also having engine problems which put them out were Eric Beers, Tom Baldwin and Tim Arre. Fuller led until lap 76 when Woolley mustered the required steam and took the point. Woolley led until lap 94 when fellow New Jersey competitor and former series champion Jamie Tomaino took his turn in the lead. Tomaino, having one of his best runs in quite a while, led until lap 150 when L.W. Miller took command. Miller never looked back and went on to take his first ever Modified Tour Series win. Once Miller took the lead the rest of the field turned up the wick and that’s when the action started. Todd Szegedy and Chuck Hossfeld got into a side-swiping duel when Szegedy dove under Hossfeld in turns three and four on lap 165.Szegedy drifted up as he came out of four and pinched Hossfeld into the wall. Hossfeld came off the wall and moved down on Szegedy who in turn dumped him into the wall, then spun himself and triggered a big wreck that took out David Berghman, Tony Hirschman and ultimately Ed Flemke Jr. A red flag was required to remove the wrecked cars that blocked the track. The next big incident of the day occurred on lap 190 when Ricky Fuller drilled Ted Christopher and spun him out. Christopher, far from being a happy camper was able to recover and finish ninth. Fuller finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Jamie Tomaino, John Blewett III, Robbie Summers and Charlie Pasteryak.
    Shortly after the completion of the event Christopher met with tour officials in the NASCAR trailer. Evidently he didn’t like what they had to say and what they did or didn’t see. Christopher left the trailer in a huff, slamming the door so hard it almost came off the hinges. The tape of the incident was available. Pictures don’t lie and NASCAR should have taken some action on this issue.
The Busch North Series couldn’t get a break as rain washed out the season finale at Lime Rock again.
    Wall Stadium ran a Race of Champions Tour event on Sunday. Jimmie Blewett took the win. Ken Woolley Jr. and John Blewett III made it back from Martinsville and ended up second and third. George Kent, who previously sewed up the 2002 ROC title crossed the finish line in third spot but was disqualified after a post race inspection revealed that he had tires that had been chemically altered.

    Last year, 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway for the annual World Series. Tony Hirschman set fast time in qualifying. It was the fourth Bud Pole Award of the season for Hirschman, the defending series champion, and also locked up the season long 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award Championship.
Hirschman toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.697 seconds for an average speed of 120.340 mph. Ron Yuhas of Groton, Conn. was second fastest with a speed of 120.077 mph. Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. qualified third with a speed of 120.045 mph. Defending race winner Jerry Marquis was fourth fastest and Waterford winner Donny Lia rounded out the Top-5.
The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Jimmy Blewett and Marquis made up the front row. Christopher started third while Hirschman lined up fourth. Yuhas drew fifth flanked by Lia. There were 42 cars on hand for time trials.
    In other Saturday action at Thompson, Adam Norton of Brookfield , MA scored the victory in the Harry Kourafas Memorial for the Pro-Four Modified and Bernie Singer of Danbury , CT was the winner of the All-Star Truck Series event. Thompson regulars visiting victory lane included Danny Cates of Chaplin , MA winning a thriller in the Limited Sportsman event, Joe Godbout III of Hope Valley, RI in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larson, Jr. of Milford , MA in the TIS Modifieds. Feature events were also run for the Outlaw divisions with Rick Gentes of Woonsocket , RI (Late Model), Jimmy Silvia of Middletown , RI (Strictly Stock) and Michael O’Connor of Barrington , NH (Mini Stock).
    Sunday was a perfect fall day for racing.. The only thing negative was the way that campers hogged space in the parking lot. There is no order for them to park as they park every which way. The speedway needs to regulate the camper parking in the future.
In what ended up being a surprise finish Reggie Ruggiero took the checkered flag in the Whelen Modified Tour Series Xtramart 150. Ted Christopher had taken the lead from Jimmy Blewett as they exited turn four on the 122nd lap. One lap later Billy Pauch Jr hit the wall in turn two, bringing out the caution. When the field went back to green on lap146 Christopher led the charge with John Blewett III in hot pursuit. On lap 147 as Christopher entered turn three Blewett attempted to pass on the low side. Christopher moved down to block. Blewett knew he was about to be pinched into the infield grass and turned into Christopher, sending him hard into the wall. With both cars destroyed Reggie Ruggiero, who was running third, inherited the lead for a green – white – checkered finish on lap 158. Jimmy Blewett ended up in second spot as he had nothing for Ruggerio at the finish. Jerry Marquis finished third with Donny Lia and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top five.
    Jimmy Blewett led the charge at the drop of the green. Jerry Marquis took the lead by the time the field got to turn two. The first caution flew on lap 20 for Billy Pauch Jr who spun on the front chute. Marquis continued to lead until lap 25 when Tony Hirschman took the lead. The second caution flew on lap 35 when Danny Sammons and Kenny Barry got together in turn three. The green flew on lap 40 but one lap later the caution was out again for a seven car tangle on the front chute. Marquis retook the lead when the field went back to green on lap 46. Hirschman faded to fourth as Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher slipped by. Two laps later the caution flew again, this time for a 14 car tangle in turn one that brought out the red. The field went back to green on lap 53 with Marquis leading Ruggerio, Christopher and Jimmy Blewett. By the time the field entered turn one Christopher had shot into the lead. Lap 55 saw the caution waving again, this time as Bob Grigas drilled Eric Beers into the turn four wall. Back under green at lap 60, Christopher still led Marquis as John Blewett III moved into third. Blewett moved past Marquis on lap 78. Christopher continued to lead as Blewett’s tires began to wear. By lap 94 Blewett had slipped to fourth when he spun by himself as he exited turn two. Blewett along with Christopher, Marquis and a host of others pitted for fresh rubber on lap 96. Richard Savory assumed the lead over Donny Lia as the field took the green on lap 100. A three wide move by Grigas on the backstretch triggered a wreck that collected among others, Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman, which ended their bid for a possible win. Savory led until Jimmy Blewett on lap 122, as previously mentioned, passed him. It was the 44th career victory for Ruggiero, who drives the Atlantic Sprinkler Chevrolet, and his first since 2004 when he won at Wall Township , N.J. Ruggiero’s last win at Thompson occurred in 1998.
    “Nobody seemed to want to win this race tonight, “ said Ruggiero. “I was just glad we were in a position to get it at the end.”
    Christopher was credited with 19th position after the lap 148 accident, effectively ending his hopes for his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship. Mike Stefanik of Coventry , R.I. finished fifth in the race and now leads Christopher by 148 points. Stefanik needs to earn at least a last place finish in the final race of the year at Stafford Springs , Conn. on Oct. 28 to secure his seventh career title.
    In other Sunday action at Thompson, Todd Ceravolo scored a convincing win over Jimmy Blewett, Jeff Malave, Zach Sylvester and Woody Pitkat. David Berghman beat out Fred Astle Jr for the 50 lap Pro Stock win. A scary moment occurred on lap 29 when Scott Rotherford went up and over another competitor and slid on his roof into the turn one wall and catching fire. Ben Dodge Jr, special assistant to track owner Don Hoenig, ran to the accident and pulled Rotherford to safety as fire engulfed the entire car. Ben Seitz won the NEMA Midget 25 lapper and Nokie Fornoro won the 50 lap ISMA Supermodified event after early leader Chris Perley dropped out. Sixty five year old Bentley Warren finished second.
    Norwich , Conn. Native Bob Potter was selected to the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Potter, who has 140 feature wins to his credit, is a five time Modified Track Champion at the Waterford Speedbowl and a five time Modified Track Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. He was also the 1988 Duel Track (Thompson – Stafford ) Champion. A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95. Potter will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on January 28, 2007 at the La Renaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Potter joins an elite group that includes Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Gene Bergin and Wild Bill Slater to name a few. Also to be inducted along with Potter are Supermodified great Bentley Warren, Busch East competitor Dave Dion, Canadian Jean Paul Cabana, John Rosati, car owner and former owner of the Westboro, Mass. Speedway John Falconi Sr, car builder/crew chief Bob Johnson and former Northeastern Midget Association president John McCarthy. The 10th anniversary inductees represent over a thousand victories and three-dozen championships.

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:  October 19, 2007

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