The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

April 1, 2016

  Forty five years ago in 1971, Thompson opened their season with Modifieds and Supers running together. Bobby Santos in the Joe Brady No.41 took the 50-lap win. Lou Austin finished second. Howie Brown, in a Supermodified, finished third. The Supers were very unreliable as most failed to finish. Rene Charland finished fourth and was followed by Bob Karvonen, Ernie Gahan and Billy Schulz. Jerry Glaude won the open competition opener at the Waterford Speedbowl. George Summers finished second and was followed by Joe Trudeau and Walt Dombrowski.

  Forty years ago in 1976, it was all-quiet.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, The Thompson Speedway opened the season with Dick Williams as the promoter, under warm 70-degree skies. With over 12,000 fans on hand, Richie Evans followed up his Martinsville win with another win. George Kent finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Kenny Bouchard. Because of the huge crowd, Williams added $3,000 to the race purse and paid every non-qualifier $50.00. Jeff Fuller was the late model winner and was followed by Ron Cote and Pete Fiandaca. In the south at the Winston Cup event at Bristol, Ronnie Bouchard qualified third behind Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. Bouchard ran in the top five until losing an engine at the half way mark. In Busch Grandnational action, Geoff Bodine went two for two as he won at Langley Field on Saturday and at South Boston, on Sunday. Both were 200 lap events.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Riverside Park opened for the season. Mike Stefanik took the 100-lap win as 10,280 race hungry fans looked on. Stan Greger finished second with Bob Polverari, third.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, Riverside began their season with a 100 lapper that went non-stop with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win. Charlie Pasteryak finished second and was followed by Jerry Marquis, Stan Greger and Rick Fuller.

  Twenty years ago in 1996, Chris Kopec made it two for two at Riverside as he beat out Dave Berube and Reggie Ruggiero for the win. Thompson saw the Modified Tour on hand for a 125-lap event. Steve Park took the win after coming back from a pit stop for tires on lap 59.Park took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 98.Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Bruce Del. Todd Ceravolo went pole to pole to win the 35 lapper for the SK's. On a sad note, Fred DeSarro Sr. passed away after suffering congestive heart failure.

  Fifteen years ago in 2001, the Featherlite Modifieds were off. Kevin Harvick led 114 laps of the Texas Grandnational 200 to take the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Winston Cup pole sitter but it was Dale Jarrett and Steve Park who finished one-two.

  Ten years ago in 2006, The Waterford Speedbowl opened for the season with The Nationals. The two-day event hosted feature events for SK Modifieds (150 laps), Late Models (50 laps), Sportsman (30 laps), Mini-Stocks (30 laps), and NEMA Midgets (25 laps) plus Allison Legacy and American Race Trucks. All features were run on Sunday. "Don’t believe what you read in the papers" is what track owner Terry Eames alluded to at a drivers meeting on Saturday. He said the entire 2006 season would be run as scheduled. The Nationals, a big event that should have bolstered the Speedbowl’s checkbook, was disappointing at the box office, but a resounding success on the track. Good fields of cars and good racing didn’t disappoint those who came. Too bad the grandstands were less than half full. Lack of advertising was key. The race fans knew the Speedbowl was opening for the season but much of the general public didn’t. Frank Ruocco made a guest appearance at the Speedbowl, as did Jimmy Blewett and Ken Horton. They stole the SK Modified show from the regulars. Blewett started on the pole and led the event until he got loose and passed by Ruocco with about 12 laps to go. Blewett went non-stop without a tire change while Ruocco pitted for a fresh set shortly after the half way mark. Ruocco took the top spot while Blewett ended up fourth. Kenny Horton came from dead last to finish second while Chris Pasteryak was the top finishing Speedbowl regular in third spot. Dennis Gada rounded out the top five. Other winners were Joey Payne in the NEMA Midgets, Mark Esposito in the Legends, Dave Silvia in the Mini Stocks, Tayla Orleans in the Allison Legacy Cars, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Jason Heroux in the Pro Fours, Seth Duval in the Trucks and Dwayne Door in the Sportsman.
  The proposed domed speedway in Plainfield Ct. had been out of the news in recent months. Now came word that the First Selectman, Kevin Cunningham, had asked the town planning commission to repeal the controversial zoning regulations that would have allowed a domed speedway to be built in a new commercial district near the existing greyhound track. Cunningham had allies in the Planning and Zoning Commission, which could work in his favor. If Cunningham ended up being successful and the zoning regulations were repealed, the roughly 820 acres that were designated as the Resort/Recreational Development District, known as the C5 District would revert back to their previous zoning designations, the possibility of building a domed speedway in Plainfield would be dead. It had been almost a year since the C5 District regulations were approved and the district was established in the southeastern section of the town. During this time town officials waited for an application to build a multimillion-dollar domed speedway, which would generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and attract NASCAR-caliber events to the area. In the mean time, Eugene Arganese, and his New England Raceway LLC, had not submitted an application despite saying several times that one was in the works.

  Five years ago in 2011, Kevin Rice reported that four VMRS teams were at Thompson on Saturday for the first of two Saturday practice sessions which would lead up to the Ice Breaker. Les Hinckley, Chris Pasteryak, Steve Masse and Tim Jordan were shaking down their mounts in preparation for the season opener at the Waterford Speedbowl.
  Rice also noted that Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers including Matt Hirschman in the legendary Ole Blu of the Boehler family were on hand to get in a few shakedown runs. In addition to Hirschman, other tour drivers included Todd Szegedy, Bobby Santos III, Ronnie Silk, Glen Tyler, Tom Rogers, Kevin Goodale, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Woody Pitkat, Wade Cole, Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby, Eric Goodale, Ron Yuhas, Rob Fuller and Bryon Chew.
  Richie Pallai, Jr. was on hand with his new advisor and mentor Bob Potter. Potter is a multi-time winner at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson who has a wealth of driving experience and set-ups. Rick Gentes has thrown his hat in the ring for Rookie of the Year honors as he joins the Tour in 2011. Modified Tour competitors will not be allowed to practice at Thompson this week.
  In the Sunoco Modified (SK type) ranks Ryan Preece started out the year on the wrong foot as he apparently had a throttle stick and ultimately did alot of damage when he crashed into the turn one concrete wall
  Due to persistent rain overnight and a weather forecast calling for a cold rain throughout the weekend, NASCAR and Caraway Speedway postponed the Caraway 150 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race originally scheduled Saturday night
  Matt Kobyluck, winner of 16 career races NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the 2008 series champion, announced that he would not be competing in the 2011 racing season. Kobyluck’s longtime sponsor, Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino, announced the 2010 season would be their last on Kobyluck’s #40 cars. Kobyluck owns and operates a sand and gravel operation in southeastern Connecticut.
  National Speed Sport News published its last issue. After more than 76 years, the publication, which was first published as National Auto Racing News on Aug. 16, 1934, printed its last issue, dated March 23, 2011.
  Through the years National Speed Sport News was the industry leader in covering motorsports, much of it thanks to Chris Economaki, 90, who sold the first issue of NSSN at Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway in New Jersey, and began writing for the publication soon after that and became editor in 1950.
  Economaki saw the publication through its glory days, launching a career on television and taking his newspaper into thousands of homes across America. In a time when there was no Internet and very little racing was on television or radio, National Speed Sport News thrived.
  NASCAR's top divisions were on the West coast. It was another dismal crowd at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sunday afternoon. Despite a shift from the second race of the season to the fifth, more than half the seats at the two-mile superspeedway were empty for Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Interestingly, the race came down to a battle between California natives with Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick edging El Cajon’s Jimmie Johnson. Harvick passed Johnson on the final turn at Auto Club Speedway to win after trailing the entire race. Kyle Busch had the dominant car most of the day and led a race-high 151 laps, including off a restart with nine laps left. Johnson, a five-time winner at Fontana, had the late burst, chasing down Busch for the lead with two laps left.
  Kyle Busch came out of the pits in the lead after taking two tires on a late stop, then held off Edwards and Harvick to win his third straight Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday.
  Last year, 2015, The NASCAR Southern Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina last week. Andy Seuss went from Zero to hero in two weeks. After finishing last in the season opener two weeks ago at Caraway Speedway, Seuss held off Eric Goodale on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Charles Kepley Memorial 150 Saturday in a return to Caraway.
  The key to success was with his pit crew. Seuss’ pit crew got him out of the pits first just in front of Eric Goodale on Lap 131, after a spin by Kyle Ebersole brought out the fifth caution flag of the race. Ryan Preece rebounded from contact with JR Bertuccio on the final restart on Lap 146 to finish third, with Bertuccio and Burt Myers completing the top five.
  For most of the race it appeared Bertuccio was on his way to his third career tour win as he took the lead from Preece on Lap 8 and remained out front until the leaders came in for the decisive pit stop. It was the most laps the Centereach, New York, native had led in competition since he led 145 in his win last April at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, North Carolina.
  Jason Myers finished sixth, and Ebersole able to work back through the field after his late spin to finish seventh. Frank Fleming, Gary Putnam and John Smith completed the top 10.
  Seuss and the rest of the Southern Modified competitors will be in action next Saturday at Virginia's South Boston Speedway for the South Boston 150.
  Congratulations to Todd Ceravolo who won a 2015 Corvette in a raffle last week. Son-in law Keith Rocco will be driving the Ceravolo family Sunoco SK Modified at Thompson this season.
  In some sad news, multi-time New London-Waterford Speedbowl Modified track champion Dick Dunn passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, March 27th, 2015. He was 77. Long heralded as a top star at the Speedbowl, Dunn began his career in the shoreline oval’s support divisions before successfully transitioning to the headlining Modifieds where by the 1960s he’d become a multi-time feature winner with his own car, and also while driving for other teams.
  A pairing with car owner the late Peg Gaudreau and her late husband Al at the dawn of the 1970s proved wildly-successful for the Middletown, CT, native. Piloting the Gaudreau "Buddha’s Bullet" #3, he went on to record 4-straight Speedbowl Modified track championships beginning in 1972.
  Significant Speedbowl victories during those years included the Schaefer 100, New England 100, and Fall Stinger 100. The Dunn-Gaudreau team also notched feature event victories at other New England speedways including the Thompson Motorsports Park in Connecticut, and at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway. Additionally, the team also frequently competed at the big yearly Modified shows at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway.
  In 2000 he was named among the Speedbowl’s "50 Favorite Drivers" during a ceremony honoring the tracks 50th Anniversary. The last laps of Dunn’s Modified career were recorded at the Speedbowl aboard a Ted Marsh-owned Modified in 1987.
  The funeral was held on Monday at 11 am from the Coughlin-Lastrina Funeral Home, 491 High Street, Middletown, CT followed by a mass of Christian burial at St. Pius X Church at 12 noon. Burial was in the family plot in St. Sebastian Cemetery, Middlefield, CT.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Denny Hamlin passed teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead with 28 laps to go Sunday and ended Toyota's 32-race winless streak in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. It was his fifth victory on NASCAR's oldest, smallest circuit. Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Joey Logano, Kenseth and David Ragan, giving Joe Gibbs Racing three cars in the top five. Logano won the Camping World Truck race on Saturday.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

Looking Back Archive

Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: April 1, 2016

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