The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

April 15, 2016

  Fifty years ago in 1966 the Fonda Speedway in upstate New York opened for the season with a 25-lap main event. Lou Lazzaro took the win over Irv Taylor and Ron Narducci. Hank Stevens was the 30 lap Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Martin Shaw was the winner in the Bombers.

  Forty five years ago in 1971, it was all-quiet with no racing.

  Forty years ago in 1976, the Modifieds were at Hickory in North Carolina. Satch Worley took the win over Paul Radford, John Bryant, Wayne Anderson and Jerry Cook.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford was the big modified event of the weekend. With 13000 fans looking on, Bob Polverari raced and beat the legendary Richie Evans to the finish line in the 80 lap, no holds barred event. Reggie Ruggiero finished third and was followed by Bernie Miller, Corky Cookman and Bugsy Stevens. Eddie St Angelo was the non-qualifiers winner. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Darrell Waltrip took the win over Harry Gant. At the Danbury RaceArena Don LaJoie beat out Chick Stockwell and Joe Chowanski for the Modified win while Randy LaJoie made it two in a row in the Sportsman division.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Flyin Brian Ross in his home built No.73 won the 80 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Ross, who dogged Charlie Jarzombek most of the way took the lead with seven to go when Jarzombek suffered a blown engine. Corky Cookman finished second and was followed by Jamie Tomaino, Bugsy Stevens and Jim Spencer. Bob Potter was the SK Modified winner and Charlie Jarzombek was the winner of the Modified 25 lap Busch Clash. At Riverside Park, Ted Riggot took the win over Jerry Marquis.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, The Featherlite Modifieds were at Loudon. Mike Stefanik took the win over Rick Fuller, Mike Ewanitsko, Doug Hevron and Reggie Ruggiero. Joe Bessey was the Busch North Series winner. Rusty Wallace took the Winston Cup win at Bristol.

  Twenty years ago in 1996, New England suffered a complete wash out as rain and snow fell on the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H. Steve Park was the modified pole sitter as well as the outside pole sitter for the companion Busch North Series event. Andy Santarre was the BNS pole sitter and sitting on the outside pole for the modified event was Mike Ewanitsko. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Terry Labonte took the win after Rusty Wallace blew an engine in the late stages, while leading.

  Fifteen years ago in 2001 the Waterford Speedbowl opened for the season on Saturday night. Ron Yuhas took the opening night checker over Dennis Gada, Ed Dachenhausen and Ted Christopher. Alan Coats was the late model winner. John Blewett III won at Wall Stadium while Greg Biffle scored his first Grandnational win at the new Nashville Speedway. Because it was Easter weekend, the Winston Cup division was idle.

  Ten years ago in 2006 Diego Monahan became the first ever driver to win in all four NASCAR Waterford Speedbowl divisions – Mini Stock, Sportsman, Late Model and SK Modifieds on Saturday night. Monahan passed his brother Shawn with only three laps to go and held on to win Saturday night’s SK-Modified feature. Monahan followed his brother, the only other leader, for 27 laps before making the outside move. Chris Pasteryak finished third and was followed by Don Fowler and Ron Yuhas Jr. Rookie sensation Jeffrey Paul finished sixth. Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Late Models: Joe Perry, Sportsmen: Dwayne Dorr and Mini Stocks: Richard Brooks.The True Value Modified Series had their season opener at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH also on Saturday. There were 33 Modifieds on hand. Kirk Alexander took the win over Andy Seuss, Dwight Jarvis, Ed Dachenhausen and Rob Goodenough.
  The Whelen Modified Tour Series was off but their southern counterparts were on the prowl at the Caraway Speedway in Ashboro, NC. Junior Miller took the win over L. W. Miller, Tim Brown, Ted Christopher, Brian Crammer and Gene Pack. Christopher, in the Brady Bunch entry led the first 98 laps of the 156 lap feature and was forced to back off when a tire was losing air. Christopher managed to tough it out as he finished with only seven pounds of air in his right front. Chuck Hossfeld found himself planted in the wall on the 13th lap when he attempted to pass Michael Clifton on the outside.
  Mike Stefanik sat in an all too familiar spot, in the Whelen Modified Tour Series point lead. Stefanik, who won the season opening IceBreaker at the Thompson Speedway on April 9 wasn’t sitting on his laurels as he knew there was some stiff competition headed his way from Chuck Hossfeld, Reggie Ruggiero, Ted Christopher and Tony Hirschman who followed Stefanik at Thompson. Among those looking to get back into the swing of things was Jerry Marquis. A former series champion, Marquis was out front and cruising in the lead with Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile when, on lap 47, his throttle stuck wide open, slamming him into Thompson’s unforgiving concrete wall. Thanks to all the NASCAR mandated safety devices plus the new design Troyer shock absorbing chassis snout and the Kirkey seat Marquis emerged from the wreck unhurt. The car and all its running gear was destroyed. Marquis felt like someone worked him over with a baseball bat but expected to be back in top form in time for the Sizzler. Garbarino had a spare mount ready to go.
  In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, it appeared that Whelen was unhappy over the fact that only 14 races made up the 2006 tour. NASCAR turned up the heat to appease the series sponsor as they signed Jennerstown and Holland Speedways plus they were working on a yet to be named 17th date.
  Jennerstown PA Speedway promoter Larry Mattingly stated that NASCAR approached him about reconsidering running a Whelen Modified Tour Series event in 2006 after he wouldn’t spring for a reported $65,000 purse. After some negotiation a deal was made and a date was set. Mattingly feels that selling a Modified race outside of New England is difficult to say the least. A $40,000 purse is more realistic as Mattingly states that no one is standing in line to get a date. To make it cost effective for competitors NASCAR needs to find a way to make up the $25,000 the promoters can’t afford to pay. The events at Jennerstown and Holland NY will be 100 laps rather than the normal 150 laps. The competitor will use less fuel and tires for somewhat of a savings. The travel costs are the same. The purse is reduced. Mattingly added that Jennerstown holds 8,000. Fan recognition is a big factor in drawing crowds, especially outside of New England. Had NASCAR been more aggressive in the past in getting the Modifieds on television maybe that wouldn’t be an issue now. Don Hawk stated that the 2007 -2011 television package with the Speed Channel would contain 25 dates per year for touring series events. It was hoped that some of these will find their way to the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Needless to say, they didn’t. Hawk had been sincere in his efforts so far. In a somewhat related matter NASCAR was currently in discussion with Dodge to extend their sponsorship contract for the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series.
  Weekly racing competitors at the Stafford Motor Speedway got a big shot in the arm when it was announced that NESN, New England's most watched sports network, announced the addition of NASCAR New England to the network's summer programming line-up. NASCAR New England, hosted from Stafford Motor Speedway, is the only NASCAR authorized regional television program in New England.
  Kevin Harvick won the Busch Series race in Nashville while the Nextel Cup competitors had the weekend off.

  Five years ago in 2011 the Thompson Speedway opened. This year’s Icebreaker featured eight racing divisions topped by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Thompson’s own “Super 6” NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions along with the visiting Sunoco Lite Modifieds were on tap for the two-day event at southern New England’s largest and fastest oval race track.
  Bobby Santos III was full of confidence while a determined Ted Christopher was among the walking wounded. Both are prime contenders for the 2011 Whelen Modified Tour Series title. When its all set and done it would be a battle of wits between the crew chiefs, Bob Mueller who would guide the destiny of the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile and Brad LaFountain who would guide the destiny of the Ed Whelen No. 36. Both are at the top of their game as they know tire, chassis and race strategy. The only variables would be mechanical breakages and wrecks
  Thirty five Whelen Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Santos broke his own track record in qualifying when he turned a lap of 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph) around the .625-mile oval for his fifth career Coors Light Pole Award. the top four qualifiers eclipsed Santos’ previous record lap set last year at 18.418 (122.418). Ted Christopher qualified second at 18.374 (122.456), followed by Justin Bonsignore at 18.386 (122.376) and Ryan Preece at 18.399 (122.289). Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ron Silk, Rowan Pennink, Eric Beers, Doug Coby and Eric Berndt. All tolled thirty three cars qualified.
  It was over shortly after it got started as far as Bobby Santos was concerned. Santos began the Ice Breaker 150 on the pole position and took the lead on the start with Ted Christopher in tow. The defending series champion led the first four laps before giving way to Christopher on the backstretch. Christopher led laps five, six and seven before Santos took it back, leading laps eight, nine and ten. Christopher re-took the lead as Santos began a backward slide. By lap 16 Santos' Mystic Missile began smoking on the right side and that was all she wrote as car owner Bob Garbarino instructed him to pit and shut the engine off. Santos' official finishing position was dead last in 33rd spot. Christopher went on to take the win but it was a rocky road in which he drove. He came from two laps down at one point and a hand injury from an early-race spin to maintain his dominance of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. The 52-year-old Plainville, Conn., driver led the last 39 laps en route to victory.
  At the 1/3 (50lap) mark he spun on the backstretch after taking the lead from Ron Silk. Christopher, who already had fingers on his right hand taped up from a ligament injury, banged up his left hand in the spin. He lost two laps during the incident, one from the spin and then a second from a penalty for pulling up to pit. Christopher was the recipient of the Lucky Dog award on two occasions which put him back in contention on the lead lap. By lap 102 he had put himself into the top ten. His march to the front continued until he took the lead from Ryan Preece on lap 115, never looking back after that!
  Rowan Pennink finished second, followed by Mike Stefanik. Ryan Preece and Justin Bonsignore. Eric Beers finished sixth, followed by Doug Coby, Ron Yuhas, Matt Hirschman and rookie Patrick Emerling. Fifteen of the original 33 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who had problems and failed to finish were Rookie Candidate Rick Gentes and Rob Fuller who lost engines and Richie Pallai, Jr., Erick Rudolph, Gary McDonald, Ron Silk, Eric Goodale, Woody Pitkat, Kevin Goodale, Tom Rogers, Jr., Eric Berndt, Bryon Chew, Jamie Tomaino and Tony Ferrante, Jr who were sidelined after being involed in wrecks.
  Despite the doom and gloom of the economy the speedway enjoyed a good attendance by race fans.
  In other weekend action at Thompson, Todd Ceravolo beat out Keith Rocco and Ryan Preece to win Saturday nights Sunoco Modified 25 lap feature. Joey Cipriano was the Sunoco Lite winner, also on Saturday. On Sunday, Ted Christopher took home top honors in the Sunoco Modified event. Mike O’Sullivan was victorious in the Super Late Model main event. John Materas returned to his winning ways in the Late Models. R.J. Marcotte recovered from an early race spin to score the TIS Modified victory. Danny Fields scored top honors in the Mini Stock division and Joe Coates wired the field in Limited Sportsman division.
  The Waterford Speedbowl completed a briskly paced six-division NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race program Saturday evening, marking the shoreline oval’s return to Saturday night racing for the 61st consecutive season. Keith Rocco of Wallingford picked up his second consecutive checkered flag in SK Modified® action to start the year, beginning 2011 in the same manner as his national championship season. Groton’s Bruce Thomas Jr. was the winner in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race, while Ed Puleo of Branford and Phil Evans of Uncasville wound up the victors in the Street Stock and Mini Stock events, respectively. In INEX racing, sixteen year old Dana Dimatteo of Farmington won the Legends Cars feature event and fourteen year old Taylor Martin of New Hampshire took the Bandolero feature win.
  In Modified action south of the Mason-Dixon Line at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, Junior Miller took the green flag with 10 laps to go and never looked back, taking the 100-lap modified victory.After Jimmy Zacharias dominated the first half of the 100-lap event, veteran modified driver Junior Miller drove his car to victory lane. John Markovic, Jason Myers, Burt Myers and Rick Kluth rounded out the top five.
  Carl Edwards led 169 of 200 laps and won his second consecutive Nationwide race at the 1 1/2-mile, Texas Motor Speedway. It was his 30th Nationwide victory, the 15th NASCAR victory for car owner Jack Roush at Texas, and the first NASCAR win for a Ford Mustang. The polesitter never dropped below third place and won by 0.482 seconds over Brad Keselowski.
  In Sprint Cup racing, Matt Kenseth ended a 76-race winless streak with a dominating run at Texas.

  Last year, 2015, The Thompson Motorsports Park had a practice scheduled for Friday but rain and fog prevailed. On Saturday morning the New England finally kicked in with sunny skies and temps in the 60s. Thirty five Whelen Modified Tour cars were on hand for qualifying. During an early practice session Rowan Pennink had the throttle stick wide open as he roared down the backstretch of the 5/8 mile oval. Pennink's car went head on into the concrete wall and burst into flames when the fuel pump was severed from the engine. Pennink escaped unhurt but his car was all but destroyed form the impact and resulting fire.
  Defending Tour Champion Doug Coby captured the pole position as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.679 seconds (120.456 mph). Second fastest was Bobby Santos III who was a blink of the eye short with a 18.735 second run. Corey LaJoie, Ted Christopher and Timmy Solomito rounded out the top five. Slowest in the field was sophomore contender Melissa Fifield who was almost 14 mph slower than the pole sitter. She was way out of her league and needed to take a step back, sorry to say. During the running of the Ice Breaker she was lapped on lap 8, the first of numerous times. finally after completing 100 laps at an extremely slow speed she parked the car in the infield after complaining of a slipping clutch and cramps in her feet.
  In other Saturday action at Thompson, Moose Douton opened up the 2015 Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park with a win in the Limited Sportsman feature after patience paid off big dividends for the Waterford, Conn. driver. Douton didn’t know he won until after the race was completed. Other winners in NASCAR Whelen All American Series action were Tyler Hines in the Sunoco Modified Lite division and Scott Michalski in the Monster Mini Stock division. Roger Turbush won in the New England Truck Series, Scott Bigelow in the NEMA Light’s, and Scott Quinn in the Vintage Outlaw’s.
  The Sunoco (SK) Modifieds had a strong field of 23 cars to run three qualifying heats. Winners were Kerry Malone, Woody Pitkat and Ted Christopher.
  A picture perfect day coupled with an almost packed grandstand provided the back drop for Doug Coby who appeared to be out for a Sunday drive as he clearly dominated the 150 lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series 150 lapper. Coby, in his Phil Moran prepared mount, took the early lead and proved from the start he was going to be the man to beat. A few early race cautions stopped him from pulling out to a commanding lead, but after a lap 36 restart, that’s exactly what he did. A red flag on lap 14 when Danny Watts hit the wall provided a slight interuption. Once racing resumed, Coby was back out to a ten car length lead over Bobby Santos and Ted Christopher.
  A round of pit stops under caution on lap 75 provided a little drama as Ron Silk inherited the lead but not for long as Coby was able to jump six spots to place himself inside of the top five by lap 84 when the caution flew for Troy Talman. Coby reclaimed the lead on lap 100 when he went by Silk in turn three. Ryan Preece and Silk took tires under caution on lap 104 in hopes to give themselves a shot at Coby up front but to no avail. Timmy Solomito moved into the second spot on a restart at lap 118 putting him side-by-side with Coby for a restart at lap 122. Coby jumped right back out to the front with Santos taking over the second spot.
  Coby pulled away to a huge lead before caution was out again at lap 135. Coby handled the restart as well as he had any other, but this time it was Pitkat who took over the second spot. On the final lap, a five car tangle in turn four resulted in Coby taking the checkers under caution.
  Following Coby and Woody Pitkat at the finish was Santos. Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Timmy Solomito, Eric Goodale, Donny Lia, Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy.
  Ten cautions for 54 laps kept Coby's average speed at 67.514mph. Eighteen of the original 35 starters finished on the lead lap.
  In other Sunday action, Ryan Preece won in the Sunoco Modified Series, Marc Curtis in the Late Model division, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman, and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks. Other winners included Dillon Moltz in the Granite State Pro Stock Series and Scott Quinn in the Vintage Outlaws.
  Taking over an hour to complete the 75 lap distance, Ryan Preece used a late-race pass to slingshot past Keith Rocco on lap 69 and drive on to the victory in the Sunoco Modified 75 lap race. It was a battle right down to the wire in a race that was plagued by 12 caution periods. Preece and Rocco swapped the lead numerous times but in the end it appeared that Rocco lost some power in his engine. Woody Pitkat finished third and was followed by Bert Marvin and Kerry Malone.
  The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series visited the Langley VA Speedway last Saturday. After a John Smith spin in Turn 2 on Lap 45, Burt Myers was forced to the pits to change a cut right rear tire. He thought the early setback ended any chance for a decent finish. He was mistaken.
Myers piloted his No. 1 Remington SCT/Citrusafe/Speedway Auto Auction Ford into first place on Lap 88 of the Pepsi 150 at Langley Speedway and never relinquished the lead, capturing his second consecutive win at the southern Virginia oval and first victory of the 2015 season. The win gives Myers, the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, a total of 16 career wins on the Tour.
  Kyle Ebersole, driving the No. 5 Ebersole Excavating Ford, elected to stay on track as the leaders pitted during cautions at various points during the race, waiting until Lap 140 to get his new tire. He returned to the track in fifth position with seven laps remaining in the race, then worked his way to second with two to go, but was unable to catch Myers and finished in the runner up spot.
  George Brunnhoelzl III started from the pole and led the first third of the race, until pitting after the third caution. He ran in the top five throughout the race but had to settle for a third place finish. Defending Southern Modified Tour champion Andy Seuss finished fourth, and Frank Fleming kept his streak of top-10 finishes at Langley Speedway intact with a fifth place result. Jason Myers, J.R. Bertuccio, Jeremy Gerstner, Gary Putnam, and Bobby Measmer Jr. rounded out the top 10.
  There were 15 cars on hand for the event. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour begins its spring break and will return to action on July 4 at Caraway Speedway.
  While the New London-Waterford Speedbowl has received a new lease on life, hopefully for many years, another historic speedway, the one-mile New York State Fairgrounds Speedway in Syracuse, NY may meet its demise after the running the Super Dirt Week event this coming fall. The one mile speedway, known as the Moody Mile, has been in existence for 109 years.
  Area Auto Racing reported that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo made the opening round of the demise when he allocated $50 million for capitol projects at the fairgrounds. The money promised to Onondaga County executive Joanie Mahoney is earmarked for a project which she says will turn the fairgrounds into a modern facility that can be profitable year round. Her vision and that of Fair director Troy Waffner is to tear down the 16,000 seat grandstand and remove the one mile speedway. In its place would be an Ice Plex for Hockey leagues, an Equestrian Center for horse shows, an RV Park along with useable grass and tree areas.
  On a sad note, former Speedway Scene owner and editor Val LeSeur sent word that his best friend and son, Bob passed away at the age of 53 after suffering a heart attack in South Carolina. During the Speedway Scene years Bob served a vital role as he covered the NASCAR Cup and supporting events with his camera and his pen. Bob was pre-deceased by his Mom, Anne.
  After having won several honors at the North Carolina Masters swimming championships a week ago, Bob was working towards competing in the Nationals. After his shift at the Y, he was doing laps when he suffered a heart attack.
  In NASCAR Sprint cup racing at the Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson had to out-duel Kevin Harvick and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the final 15 laps to score his second win of the season and the 72nd of his career. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS moved from seventh to first over the final 25 laps, using aggressive passes exiting turns to gain a lead he never relinquished. In 2012 Erik Jones made headlines by out-driving Kyle Busch to capture the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. On Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, Jones did something even more impressive by outrunning former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to capture his first NASCAR XFINITY Series triumph.

  That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail,

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 15, 2016

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