The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

June 3, 2016

  Seventy years ago in 1946 D. Anthony Venditti saw the fruits of his labor come to life as he opened his Seekonk Speedway on Route 6 in Seekonk, Mass.

  Sixty five years ago in 1951 Ed “Spinner” Smith, who in later years would become a Pit Steward at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, won the 25 lap Modified feature at the shoreline oval.

  Fifty five years ago in 1961, rain washed out the Modified programs planned for Saturday night and Memorial Day Monday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. The Bombers and the non-Fords were able to get their events in on Monday. Ed Moody won what ended up being six in a row in the Bombers. Arnie Harris was the non-Ford winner.

  Fifty years ago in 1966 the Albany Saratoga Speedway ran a 30 lapper. Eddie Flemke, fresh off his Memorial Day win, made it two in a row at the 4/10 mile speedway. Elton Hill finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Dennis Zimmerman and Don MacTavish. MacTavish stayed close to home on Saturday night as he took the feature win at Norwood. Rain prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl. Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner at Stafford on the dirt. At the Fonda Speedway Bill Wimble recorded his second victory of the year. Kenny Shoemaker and Pete Corey rounded out the top three. At Utica-Rome on Sunday night Don MacTavish took a 100 lap win over Wimble, Flemke, Cook and Frank Mathalia.

  Forty five years ago in 1971, Thompson switched over to Friday nights. In the twin 25 lap features Ray Hendrick made a surprise visit and walked off with the opener. Fred DeSarro, now in the Len Boehler Ole Blu, finished second and was followed by Leo Cleary, Bob Santos and Win Barrows. Cleary, in the Garbarino Mystic Missile, won the nightcap. DeSarro was again second and was followed by Santos, Billy Harman and Hop Harrington. Hendrick didn't finish as he went into the dirt bank after a tangle with Bugsy Stevens. At the Albany Saratoga Speedway, Eddie Flemke, in a Richie Evans team car, took the win over Robbie Kotary, Ken Canestrari and Eddie Pieniezak. Evans was under suspension from NASCAR for running non-sanctioned events. While Flemke was taking top honors at Malta, Evans was at the Fulton Raceway where he finished fourth behind Merv Treichler, Lou Lazzaro and Roger Treichler. Geoff Bodine rounded out the top five. Stafford ran a 50 lapper on Saturday, which saw Fred DeSarro take the win over Lou Austin, Bob Santos and Leo Cleary. Donnie Bunnell made it two in a row at the Waterford Speedbowl as he copped a 50 lap Modified win. Bill Sweet was the Sportsman Sedan winner. At Fonda, Harry Peek beat out Maynard Forette, Lou Lazzaro and Rene Charland. Mousie Kempster won at Islip and at Utica-Rome; Fred DeSarro made the long trip from Rhode Island pay off as he beat the best to take the win. Dave Lape finished second with Lou Lazzaro, third. Stafford planned a 100 lap event for Monday but it rained and the event was rescheduled.

  Forty years ago in 1976, New Egypt ran on Thursday night with Fred Harbach taking the win. Friday night at Riverhead, Harbach played second fiddle to Charlie Jarzombek. Wayne Anderson finished third and was followed by Greg Sacks and Jerry Cook. Islip ran a 50 lap double point event on Saturday night and it was Anderson taking the win over Sacks, Jim Tyler and Bob Park. Bugsy Stevens added to his win total at Stafford on Saturday night as he beat out Ronnie Bouchard, John Rosati, Fred DeSarro and Jim Spencer and at Riverside, veteran Lou Tabone held off Bob Polverari and Pete Fiandacca. Dick Dunn, driving the Mighty No. 3 Budda’s Bullet of Al and Peg Gaudreau, scored a convincing 100 lap Modified win at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Rick “Sleepy” Knapp was the Grand American winner. Sunday night racing at Thompson rained out.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, despite suffering with a case of chicken pox, Richie Evans didn't let that slow him down as he won a 100 lapper at Stafford on Friday night. Ray Miller finished second and was followed by John Blewett Jr and Bob Fuller. Other Friday night winners were Tony Siscone at New Egypt and George Kent at Spencer. Saturday night at Riverside saw Evans carry his winning streak as he beat out Marty Radwick for the win. At Waterford, Rick Donnelly survived a heated battle with Don Bunnell to take the win. At Westboro, it was Ronnie Bouchard over Roland LaPierre Jr, George Savory and Leo Cleary. Seekonk had only nine Modifieds but it was a good show just the same as Bugsy Stevens came home the winner over George Summers and John Rosati. Bouchard made it two for two as he took Monadnock on Sunday. Punky Caron finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. On the Island at Islip, Charlie Jarzombek took the win over Bob Park and Fred Harbach. At Danbury Rit Patchen took the win over Bones Stevens in the Modifieds as Randy LaJoie ruled in the Sportsman.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Mike Stefanik led the charge at Stafford where he beat out Reggie Ruggiero, Mike Mclaughlin and Corky Cookman. On Saturday night at Riverside it was a crash fest as only six of the original 22 starters survived to finish the 50 lap modified main event. Jack LeCuyer took the win over John Rosati and Bob Polverari. John Blewett Jr won a 75 lapper at Riverhead over Wayne Anderson and Fred Harbach and at Seekonk; Leo Cleary got his third Pro Stock win. Other weekend action saw Tom Baldwin victorious at New Egypt, Tony Jankowiac at Spencer and Jan Leaty at Tioga. The Winston Cup cars were in Riverside, Cal where Darrell Waltrip took the pole and the win. Bobby Rahal won the Indy 500.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, It was the Teddy and Mikey Christopher show at Stafford as the twin brothers finished one-two on Friday night. Ricky Young did the deed at Waterford on Saturday night and at Riverhead it was Tom Tillotson over Wayne Anderson and Bob Park. Ricky Fuller beat out Jerry Marquis at Riverside and on Sunday, the Modified Tour was at Thompson for a 150 lapper. Jeff Fuller took the win and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Steve Park and Doug Hevron. It was also on this weekend that Todd Bodine got his first Busch Grandnational win, that coming at Dover Downs.

  Twenty years ago in 1996, Ted Christopher recorded his 36th career win at Stafford on Friday night as he beat Lloyd Agor and Ken Barry to the stripe. Jim Broderick got his second of the season at Waterford on Saturday night. Jerry Pearl finished second with Dennis Gada, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggiero fought long and hard as he avoided a big crash with five to go and passed Richard Savory on the last lap to take the 50 lap win. Riverhead saw Tom McCann in victory lane. The Featherlite Modifieds and the Busch North Series were at Loudon. Steve Park led the final 51 laps of the BNS event and beat Jerry Marquis by ½ second. Jan Leaty dominated the Modified event until getting a flat under green which opened the door for Tony Hirschman who ended up with the win. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Steve Park. Chris Aman and Jerry Marquis who rounded out the top five.

  Fifteen years ago, in 2001, the Thompson Speedway held a private race on Thursday night to entertain those in the area for a Harley Davidson event. HD bought 10,000 tickets to give away but only about 300 showed up. Todd Ceravolo started fourth and took the lead on lap five and survived numerous wrecks to record the win. Dennis Boticello finished second and was followed by Kerry Malone, Scott Quinn and Zach Sylvester. Jim Williams with his donut car took the 50 lap SK-Modified feature at Stafford on Friday night with Eric Berndt, second and Kerry Malone, third. Rain washed out action at Waterford for the second week in a row but at Riverhead, JR Bertuccio made it two in a row. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Jeff Gordon led 380 of the 400 lap distance as he took the win. Steve Park was closing at the end but had to settle for second. Jim Spencer was the Grandnational winner.

  Ten years ago in 2006, rain blanketed the New England area wiping out action at the Stafford Speedway for the fourth week in a row. Rain also washed out racing at Waterford, Seekonk and at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. The Nextel Cup and Busch Series events got to run in Dover. Matt Kenseth passed teammate Jamie McMurray with four laps to go at the Dover International Speedway and went on to win the Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America for his second win of the season. This was Kenseth’s 12th career victory and #92 for Roush Racing. It was worth $323,591 from the over $5.6M in posted awards. Early rain washed out the afternoon qualifying session and forced Burton to start 36th in his Chevrolet Monte Carlo. But the 38-year-old veteran battled his way to the front and held off Nextel Cup star Carl Edwards to register the best come-from-behind victory ever at Dover.

  Five years ago in 2011 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ventured to the Stafford for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125. Ron Silk ended a long dry spell as he returned to Victory Lane for the first time in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event since 2009 and he did it in dominating fashion as he went pole to pole. Driving for Eddie Partridge, Silk led all 125 laps to collect his fifth career win in his 25th start at Stafford. Once the race began, he was rarely challenged, and at one point had nearly two seconds on the field. Points leader Rowan Pennink followed in second with defending Whelen Modified Tour Champion Bobby Santos third. Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten were Todd Szegedy, Chuck Hossfeld, Doug Coby, James Civali and Matt Hirschman.
  The race was slowed just three times by caution with the red flag displayed during the second yellow on Lap 53 to clean up a multi-car incident after Kevin Goodale hit the front stretch wall. There were 31 cars on hand. Seventeen of them were on the lead lap at the finish.
  The Thompson Speedway celebrated its 71st Anniversary. Ryan Preece scored his first career Sunoco Modified victory. Chris “Moose” Douton took a borrowed ride to victory lane in the extra-distance Limited Sportsman event. Larry Gelinas posted his first victory of the season in Super Late Model action. John Materas continued his early season success with his second win of the year in the Late Models. Cam McDermott earned his first win of the year in the TIS Modifieds. Danny Field notched his third win on the season in the Mini Stocks. On the 71st anniversary of its first race, Thompson International Speedway hosted 95 race cars in the 6 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions.
  Ryan Preece led pole to pole to score his first victory of the season in the caution-free 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Danny Cates and Ryan Preece were on the front row for the green flag, Preece controlled the event from when he took the lead off turn 2 and was never headed. Keith Rocco tried to advance on the low line past Todd Ceravolo but was kept at bay. Ted Christopher, whose car was repaired after a broken tie rod in the heat race, was up to fifth by lap 12. At the halfway juncture, Ryan Preece was still in command with Danny Cates in second. Ceravolo, Rocco and Christopher rounded out the top-5. Preece’s advantage over the field was some seven car lengths in his favor. On lap 18, Rocco found his opportunity to overtake Ceravolo. Ceravolo would have no part in it and used a crossover move to go back by Rocco on the next circuit. Ted Christopher was now in the mix as he got under Rocco to gain the fourth position. Christopher continued his advance past Ceravolo on lap 21 off of turn 4. With 7 circuits to go, Preece led the remainder of the event to score the win. Danny Cates was second, followed by Christopher, Ceravolo and Rocco.
  Although the bottom line looks good as far as the car counts go the Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds drew a scant 11 cars and the Super Late Models only totaled 7.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted a 5-division NASCAR Whelen All-American Series along with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event as part of the 21st Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 125 on Friday, May 27th. Keith Rocco scored his second victory of the season one week after destroying his car in a heat race accident in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Woody Pitkat picked up his first win of the 2011 season after starting shotgun on the field in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Matt Galko picked up his second feature win of the season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera, Jr. picked up his third win of the 2011 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cliff Saunders picked up his first win of 2011 in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
  Pitkat had won two previous Late Model events but had them taken away because of technical issues.
  In action at the Waterford Speedbowl, three of five scheduled events got in the record book before heavy fog rolled in, forcing the end of the ISMA Supermodified race three laps shy of its scheduled distance, and the postponement of the remaining two feature events. In racing action, Rich Staskowski of Hope Valley, RI picked up the victory in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, his first on the season. Defending Mini Stock champion Ken Cassidy raced to his 27th career division win, his second victory on the year. In ISMA Supermodified action Russ Wood of Pelham, NH was the winner in a crash marred race, shortened to 47 laps. The final three laps were halted after the fog was too thick to continue.
  In the Southland, Saturday was a historic event for Burt Myers at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. He claimed his 46th win, tying him for sixth on the all-time featured event list. It was also a memorable night for Joseph “Bobo” Brown, who became the 119th driver on that list of featured event winners. Brown took the checkered in the second race for the GMAC Insurance Modified Series, his first Modified win ever at Bowman Gray. Burt Myers qualified on the pole for the first 25-lapper for the Modifieds. Right beside of him on the outside front row was Jonathan Brown. As the green flag fell, Brown pushed hard on the outside, riding side-by-side with Myers for several laps. Myers claimed victory in the first race. Brown finished second, and Brian Loftin.
  The O’Reilly Auto Parts “Madhouse Scramble” sent Joseph Brown, the brother of Jonathan Brown, to the pole for the start of the race. Joseph “Bobo” Brown had to fight to hold his position in the initial start, but he emerged victorious 25 laps later, his first Modified win ever. Myers finished a distant 12th.
  At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Tim Solomito made it two in a row in Modified competition.
  In Modified Racing Series action Rowan Pennink survived six caution periods and three red flags to win the 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series event, Saturday night, at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH. The victory was Pennink’s third with the VMRS and his first of the 2011 season.
Chris Pasteryakand Jon McKennedy brought the field to green with McKennedy jumping into the lead until Pasteryak took over the top spot on lap four. Pasteryak then set the pace before turning over the lead to Pennink on lap 39. Pennink led the remaining 60 laps to secure the win. Todd Patnode ended up second with Chris Pasteryak third, Dwight Jarvis, fourth, and Ken Barry, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Rob Goodenough, Les Hinckley, Aaron Fellows, Joe Doucette, and Kirk Alexander.
  The race program was marred by several crashes with many competitors receiving heavy damage. Sean Bodreau, flipped end-over-end in the first qualifying race forcing the second generation driver out of the event. Bodreau was not injured. There were 27 cars on hand.
  In addition to leading the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series point standings Pennink led the Valenti Modified Racing Series point standings.
Get well wishes were sent out to longtime motorsports writer Al Robinson, who was recovering from a stroke. Al, who was the former Public Relations Director at the Dover Downs Speedway and the defunct Busch North Series had a stroke at his home.
  On a sad note, noted photographer Howie Hodge sent word that Charles Kepley of the C&C Promotions family that was responsible for the annual North-South Shootout died suddenly.
  In Sprint Cup racing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. was out front on the final lap for the first time in 105 races, and the only thing standing in the way of a victory was the gas, or lack of it, in his tank. The crowd roared as he took the white flag, the fans stomping in the stands in near hysteria over the almost certain ending of Earnhardt's nearly three-year losing streak. In a blink of an eye, it was over.
  The gas tank in his Chevrolet ran dry along the backstretch at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and as Earnhardt tried to coast his way through the final turn, Kevin Harvick zipped past him to steal the Coca-Cola 600. It was a heartbreaking end for the victory-starved JR Nation, and somewhat mimicked the final lap of the Indianapolis 500.
  Earlier Sunday, rookie JR Hildebrand crashed coming out of the final turn to lose the Indianapolis 500. Both Earnhardt and Hildebrand are sponsored by the National Guard, and the sudden turns in the two big races spoiled what would have been a celebratory Memorial Day for the military, which makes sponsorship of auto racing its top marketing tool.
  JR Hildebrand lost $1.5 million in the last mile of the Indianapolis 500. He was leading the race heading into the final turn on the final lap when he went high to pass a slower car and slammed into the safety wall, allowing Dan Wheldon to win the 100-year anniversary race. Wheldon received $2,567,255 for the victory while Hildebrand earned $1,064,895 for his second-place finish. The total purse was $13,509,485.
  Matt Kenseth passed teammate Carl Edwards with two laps to go and hung on to win the 300-mile Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

  Last year, 2015, The stars and cars of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed for the New London-Waterford Speedbowl for the Mr. Rooter 161 on Saturday night. The event, the only stop of the year at the shoreline oval drew a near overflow crowd and a jam packed parking lot. Track owner Bruce Bemer and his staff have done wonders with the infrastructure of the facility including a manicured grassy infield, remodeled rest rooms, clean and neat concessions and a fully painted grandstand. In a statement from track General Manager Shawn Monahan "Wow. What a great night at the races. I appreciate my staff. They are so respectful and driven to succeed. The crowd was record breaking, the morale was through the roof, and the racing at the bowl is second to none. Thank you to everyone who made it happen! " Prior to the start of the evening's events a special plaque was presented to Keith Rocco and 108 balloons were released in honor of his landmark 108 feature wins. Rocco, by the way, is closing in on the 200 mark for career wins overall. In addition to 109 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl the 30 year old driver has 50 wins at the Stafford Motor Speedway and 37 wins at the Thompson Motorsports Park Thompson Speedway giving him a grand total of 196 career wins.
  The Mr.Rooter 161 drew 33 Whelen Modifieds, 12 which are based on Long Island. Donny Lia, from Jericho, New York, posted a fast lap of 13.965 seconds (96.670 mph) around the .375-mile oval for his 21st career pole, and second in a row in this event. Keith Rocco, the winningest driver in Speedbowl history, qualified second-fastest at 13.975 (96.601). The entry blank said there would be 28 starters, NASCAR allowed all 33, including Melissa Fifield, to start the event. The young lady clearly does not belong on the track with the high speed modifieds. During qualifying she was 11.575 mph slower than the pole sitter. Starting in the rear, she was lapped in 8 laps. NASCAR needs to place her in a lower division before she hurts someone.
  The starting grid for the Mr.Rooter event went straight up from time trials. Lia took the lead at the drop of the green with Rocco in tow. Ryan Preece moved into the second spot on lap 22 while Lia blocked. Lia led through lap 46 before being overpowered by Preece on lap 47 as they entered turn three. Preece survived at least three restarts before giving way to Doug Coby who managed to slip by to lead laps 128 and 129. Preece retook the lead on lap 130 following a caution when Justin Bonsignore hit the front stretch wall. Rocco, who was still a contender in the late stages saw his hopes of a top five come to an end on lap 121 when Coby forced him into contacting the wall a getting a flat.
  Todd Szegedy in the Mystic Missile set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish when he hit the backstretch wall on lap 158. Going past the 161 lap mark Preece took the lead on a Lap 163 restart anf continued to lead the final two laps to record the win. Coby finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Max Zachem finished a career high fourth after starting 33rd with Woody Pitkat, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Patrick Emerling, Rowan Pennink, Spencer Davis and Keith Rocco. Twelve of the original 33 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. There were 12 cautions for 73 laps in the event that took one hour-18 minutes and 30 seconds to complete.
  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues this coming Friday, June 5 with the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at Stafford (Connecticut) Motor Speedway. Following the Stafford event it's on to Thompson on Wednesday June 10 for the Mr Rooter 125. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP) has extended an invitation to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams for an open test day on Friday, June 12, to be held on the 1.5 mile road course.
  In other Saturday night action at the Speedbowl, Keith Rocco scored career win 109 as he won the Late Model event. Anthony Flannery was looking to run away with the race that he had led since the fourth lap and had a huge lead, but with nine to go, a spin brought out the yellow flag. Rocco who was running a distant second, blew him away on the restart. In the SK Modified 35 lapper Rocco played second fiddle to Ted Christopher. Christopher fought off a late race Rocco challenge and hung on for the win. Tyler Chadwick placed third. Chris Meyer passed Al Stone III on the final lap and won the 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature. Ken Cassidy Jr. won the 25-lap Mini Stock feature.
  At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Keith Rocco picked up his second win of the 2015 season in the SK Modified® feature, Tom Fearn picked up his first win of the season in the Late Model feature, Matt Swanson was a first time career winner in the SK Light feature, Trace Beyer got his second win of the season in the DARE Stock feature, and Cory DiMatteo won his second Legend Cars feature of the season. The Xtra Mart Xtra D 25 program on Friday, May 29th on what was also Military Appreciation Night. Xtra Mart Convenience Stores put up a $500 bonus that was split evenly among the top-5 finishers in the extra distance Ltd. Late Model feature event. Al Saunders was the big winner, taking his second feature win of the 2015 season in the 25-lap Ltd. Late Model feature.
  Rocco added to his racing legacy as he scored his 50th overall feature win at the half mile oval. Rocco got by Ryan Preece on a lap 34 restart to take over the race lead while Matt Galko and Woody Pitkat were third and fourth. Todd Owen got around Dan Avery to move into fifth but it was Rocco and Preece glued together at the front of the field with 3 laps to go. Rocco held Preece off to the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2015 season. Galko finished third, with Pitkat and Owen rounding out the top-5.
  The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island announced that time trial qualifying would be used for the remainder of 2015. The original idea of running some features via handicapping has been scrapped. With some of the Riverhead regulars at Waterford a lean field of 13 NASCAR Modifieds were on hand. In twin 30 lap events Kyle Elwood won both. Sadly, with the format at Riverhead, competition is at an all time low.
  Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC two nights of racing were on tap this past weekend. Tim Brown, in striking distance of Junior Miller’s all-time feature win mark of 73 for more than a year, finally pulled ahead with a win in Friday night’s Midway Mobile Storage 100. It was his 74th career victory, which put him one ahead of Miller, who is still an active competitor.
  Brown, who won a record ninth Bowman Gray championship in 2012, tipped his hat to his race team for another milestone. Brown, who works full time for Michael Waltrip Racing, started third. He took the lead from Ronnie Clifton in the 63rd lap and held off runner-up John Smith and third-finishing Chris Fleming, who was the fastest qualifier with a season-best lap of 13.288 seconds (67.7 mph).
  It was also a big night for Burt Myers who won a $6,000 prize by winning the Colors Edge Challenge. Myers, one of four top qualifiers who had the option to start at the rear of the field for a chance of winning the challenge bonus with a top-four finish, took the gamble and won. He started 17th and finished fourth.
  Brown, who became Bowman Gray Stadium’s all-time leader for feature-race wins on Friday night, added another victory on Saturday night and boosted his record total to 75. Brown, who drew a pole starting position, led all the way in a 100-lap race for Bowman Gray’s featured Modified Division, fending off challenger Burt Myers through six double-file restarts. Myers finished second, John Smith third and Danny Bohn finished fourth and picked up a $3,000 bonus for taking the Colors Edge Challenge.
  Jimmie Johnson survived multiple late-race restarts on old tires to capture Sunday’s FedEx 400, his 10th at the ‘Monster Mile’ at Dover and his series leading fourth victory of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Chris Buescher bumped teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. out of the race lead with 10 laps left, then saved enough fuel to score his second NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of the season on Saturday at Dover Int’l Speedway.

  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: June 3, 2016

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