The Chrome Horn - Looking Back with Phil Smith


Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby
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     Thirty years ago, in 1977
, rainouts split the modified fields of cars as some went to Martinsville for the Cardinal 500 and some went to Thompson for the World Series. Martinsville had the NASCAR sanction and drew most of the top stars. The World Series, at that time was open competition. Bugsy Stevens took the win in Virginia. Local favorite Billy Hensley finished second with Brian Ross, Hank Thomas and Brett Bodine rounding out the top five. At Thompson, Fred DeSarro took the win over Freddie Schulz, Leo Cleary, George Summers and Bobby Clark.

    Twenty-five years ago, in 1982, the NASCAR Modifieds were in Martinsville for the season ending Cardinal 500. Fifty-seven cars were on hand. Best appearing awards went to Tony Siscone and the Dick Barney No.14 modified and the No.32 Late Model Sportsman driven by Dale Jarrett. The modified 250 lapper saw Jim Spencer jump out to an early lead over Doug Hevron and George Kent. Greg Sacks, who had all but dominated the modified ranks was on the move and by lap 27 had taken the lead. Sacks led until lap 92 when he, along with Richie Evans, Tony Siscone and Brett Bodine pitted for fuel. Spencer led the restart on lap 98 with Jerry Cranmer, Sacks, Bodine, Evans and Siscone in tow. Spencer led until lap 124 when he lost a driveshaft and Evans assumed the lead. A terrible crash and a horrific fire occurred on lap166. Ray Everham hit the wall and stopped on the backstretch. Tony Siscone, with nowhere to go, rear-ended Everham's car, splitting the gas tank. Flames engulfed both cars. Everham escaped but Siscone, who was pulled out by Brian Ross and Geoff Bodine, suffered serious burns. Just before the crash, Siscone had removed his driving gloves, as they had become sweaty. After a long red flag period the race was resumed with Kent in the lead as Evans had pitted. Sacks, who was hoping to end his season with a win, dropped out on lap 187 when his right front suspension broke. Evans made a gallant charge in the closing laps but in the end had to settle for second behind Kent. Satch Worley finished third with Jerry Cranmer, fourth and Brett Bodine, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Paul Radford, Bob Vee, Gail Barber, Jean Michaud and Tom Baldwin. It would take over a year for Tony Siscone to heal and be able to race again, which he did. In fact, Siscone came back to Martinsville to record a well-deserved win. The Martinsville event was also the final race of Jerry Cook's driving career as he retired to accept a position as Technical Coordinator in the Northeast for NASCAR.

    Twenty years ago, in 1987, the Winston Modified Tour headed for Martinsville for what was supposed to be the last event of the year but because of the fact that the Stafford Fall Final had to be re-scheduled to the following week the Martinsville event did not determine the series champion. George Kent took the win with Jamie Tomaino finishing a strong second. Third thru fifth were Mike Mclaughlin, Satch Worley and Brian Ross.

    Fifteen years ago, in 1992, the Thompson World Series took center stage as the Winston Modified Tour season came to a close. Reggie Ruggerio took the 125 lap win but had to settle for the runner-up spot in the final standings to Jeff Fuller who finished tenth. Satch Worley, in the Mystic Missile finished second with Mike Ewanitsko in third spot. Doug Hevron and Ricky Fuller rounded out the top five. Ted Christopher won the SK Modified portion of the World Series as he beat out Eddie StAngelo and Mike Christopher. The final Modified Tour standings showed Jeff Fuller as taking the championship over Ruggerio, Tom Baldwin, Steve Park and Satch Worley.

    Ten years ago, in 1997
, the Richmond International Speedway closed out the 1997 Nascar Modified Tour Series with a 150-lap event. Mike Stefanik ended his championship season in fine style as he took the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 113 and never looked back. Finishing second was pole sitter Tony Hirshman. Jan Leaty finished third and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, Rick Fuller, Tom Cravenho, Tom Baldwin and Christopher.

    Five years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series had closed out the year with Mike Stefanik taking the driving title. The tour consisted of 19 events with a total of 99 different competitors. Of those, 14 ran in all events. Their participation percentage was 14%. Looking at other NASCAR divisions, the Winston Cup has had, 84 different competitors in 28 events. Their participation percentage is the highest, 33%. The Busch Grandnationals have the highest car counts with 123 cars in competition. Nineteen ran all events for a percentage of 15%. The Craftsman Trucks have drawn 107 vehicles for 20 events. Twenty competitors ran all events for a percentage participation of 19%. The Busch North Series had a total of 18 events with a total participation of 64, which puts their percentage at 25%. The Goody’s Dash Series, which would be dropped by NASCAR after 2003 ran only 14 events. Eighty-seven cars ran with 12 running all events for a participation percentage at 14%.
    Competitors of the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series were still waiting for their 2003 schedule. Waterford announced theirs a few weeks back, May 10 and August 30. Last week word leaked from Riverhead that their dates were June 7 and August 2. Chances are that Stafford will announce their entire 2003 schedule at their banquet this week. From all indications the New Hampshire International Speedway will have their Featherlite Modified Tour Series events on Friday, July 18 and on Friday, September 12. Many competitors of the Busch North Series and the Featherlite Modified tour were hoping that NASCAR and the Speed Channel would announce their 2003 Touring Series coverage schedule as now was the time for race teams to be out beating the bushes for sponsorship dollars and it would be a big plus for a competitor to give a potential sponsor the word that his product will be on the television.
    The Busch North Series Champion Andy Santerre won $95,185 in 18 events. Santerre scored three wins included with 10 top 5’s. Matt Kobyluck finished second, 38 points behind the leader. Kobyluck recorded two wins and 11 top fives. Brad Leighton, Kelly Moore and Tracy Gordon rounded out the top five. Featherlite Modified Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik won $87,890 in 19 events. Stefanik won two events, which included seven top fives. Ted Christopher was the leading winner with five victories to his credit including ten top 5’s. He finished 50 points behind Stefanik with a season total of $76,745. Chuck Hossfeld, Jerry Marquis and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five. Schedules for both touring series are due out any day. Overall, both New England based series provided good competition and were good draws at the gate where ever they raced.
    Auto racing in the northeast lost two staunch supporters. Ronald Marquis, Jerry Marquis’ dad and Tony Vecchio Sr. Mr. Marquis was very instrumental in his sons auto racing career and Mr. Vecchio played a vital part as he supplied both Modifieds and Busch North Series cars for Tony Hirschman, both would be missed.

    Last year, 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was originally scheduled for Saturday but because of impending rain, the event was rescheduled for Sunday against the Waterford Speedbowl Double Down event. As predicted, high winds close to 50mph and heavy rain, close to two inches in spots, blanketed the entire New England – Long Island area on Saturday. Race teams and fans coming from Long Island were forced to drive around through New York City when the ferry terminal on Orient Point, Long Island became submerged after 6-10 foot waves from Gardners Bay crashed ashore. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to a flooded parking lot and track after it rained for over seven hours on Saturday. The Double Down Showdown was postponed to Saturday, November 4.
    Stafford’s Fall Final took the green shortly after 4:00p.m. on Sunday. Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT jumped from his pole starting position and went non-stop for 150 laps to take the green. Despite the fact that there were no lead changes there was action a plenty going on. Mike Stefanik became the Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion when he took the green as he had a decisive point lead going into the event over Ted Christopher. Stefanik finished sixth. Christopher, who crashed while running second on lap 51, lost second spot in the final standings by one point to Eddie Flemke Jr. who finished ninth. Christopher was credited with 25th finishing spot. Christopher’s car broke a left rear brake rotor, which caused his car to turn sharply into the wall. Preston City Connecticut’s favorite son, Kenny Barry finished a strong second after coming from a 19th starting spot. Zach Sylvester, from Lebanon, CT, finished third with defending series champion Tony Hirschman, fourth. Rounding out the top five was John Blewett III. Stefanik finished sixth with Donny Lia, Ronnie Silk, Flemke and Jerry Marquis rounding out the top ten.
    Eight caution periods for 42 laps kept the average speed down to 64.518mph. In addition to the Christopher crash on lap 51 there were others who went out on the hook of a wrecker including Reggie Ruggerio who wrecked with Chuck Hossfeld on lap 29, Jimmy Blewett who was part of a six car wreck on lap 7 and Rob Summers who wrecked on lap 21.
    In other racing action at Stafford, three track championships were decided on the track, as Frank Ruocco won the SK Modified championship, Woody Pitkat won the Late Model championship, and Shelly Perry won a 4-way battle to take the SK Light championship. Feature winners included Willie Hardie winning the 50-lap SK Modified feature, Ryan Posocco winning the Late Model feature, and Matt Gallo won the 20-lap SK Light feature. In the 50-lap SK Modified feature event, Willie Hardie won the battle, but Frank Ruocco ended up winning the war. Hardie did all that he could do to overtake Ruocco for the championship by winning the race, but Ruocco ran just aggressively enough to stay in a championship clinching position throughout the 50-lapper. The race started with Jeff Malave leading the early laps, but Woody Pitkat overtook Malave on lap-6. Pitkat held the race lead until he dropped off the pace and pulled behind the wall on lap-45, which gave the lead of the race to Hardie, who had worked his way up to second. Ruocco and Hardie started the race side by side in the 5th row, and while Hardie set sail for the front of the pack, Ruocco was never more than several positions behind Hardie, keeping himself in championship contention. Hardie took the checkered flag ahead of Malave, Zach Sylvester, Brad Hietala, and Eric Berndt. Ruocco finished seventh to win the championship by 6 points over Hardie.
    On a sad note Midget Great Johnny Coy passed away on Saturday Oct 28th. Johnny raced everything from jalopies to Modifieds, but it was the midgets where he excelled. In 1958 NASCAR had a midget division. Out of 25 races Johnny won 14 of them and the NASCAR Midget Crown.
    Tony Stewart was the Nextel Cup winner at Atlanta and Kevin Harvick was the Busch Series winner at Memphis.

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:  November 2, 2007

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