The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

June 24, 2016

  Sixty five years ago in 1951 the Wednesday night racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was cancelled due to rain. New Britain CT native “Money Bags” Moe Gherzi won the 25 lap Modified main at the shoreline oval on Saturday night.

  Fifty five years ago in 1961 Emanuel Zervakas won the Yankee 500 NASCAR Grand National event at the Norwood Arena. Ernie Gahan was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Ted Stack returned to his winning ways at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won his sixth Modified feature of the year. Stack also won the non-Ford feature while Ed Moody made it four in a row in the Bombers.

  Fifty years ago in 1966 Rene Charland was at the top of his game as he won the Friday night feature at the Albany Saratoga Speedway. Frank Mathalia finished second with Pete Hamilton, third. Dennis Zimmerman and Gene Bergin rounded out the top five. Pete Corey mastered the dirt at Stafford. At the Fonda Speedway on Saturday night Jerry Cook took the win over Kenny Shoemaker and Bill Wimble. Charlie Webster won a 50 lap Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl. A young George “Moose” Hewitt was the Bomber feature winner and Rick Taylor took top honors in the Daredevils. Ernie Gahan, who was well on his way to becoming the 1966 NASCAR Modified Champion took the Sunday night win at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Shoemaker and Charland followed with Mathalia fourth and Hamilton, fifth.

  Forty five years ago in 1971, still sore from hitting a light pole two weeks previously, Fred DeSarro returned to the racing wars with a vengeance as he went on a tear going four for four. Len Boehler had Ole Blu tuned to perfection as DeSarro cleaned house at Thompson winning twin 25's at Thompson on Friday night, a thirty lapper at Stafford on Saturday and an open competition event at Stafford the following Wednesday. Following DeSarro in the first event at Thompson was Leo Cleary, Ernie Gahan and Bob Santos. Santos finished second in the nightcap and was followed by Gahan. Albany-Saratoga ran a 100 lap double point event, also on Friday. Taking the win was Steady Eddie Flemke in the Richie Evans 61x. Still on the outs with NASCAR, Evans and his crew pitted the car in the parking lot. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Denis Giroux, Andy Romano and Jerry Cook. Following DeSarro at Stafford on Saturday night was Rene Charland in the Bob Johnson No.17.Bugsy Stevens finished third with Ernie Gahan, fourth. At the Fulton Raceway Bob Sweeney won a 60-lap feature over Don Diffendorf and Mike Loescher. Lou Lazzaro, well on his way to legend status copped wins at Fonda on Saturday night and at Utica-Rome on Sunday. The amazing thing is that he won both events with the same car. Maynard Forette finished second at Fonda and was followed by Dave Lape and Harry Peek. At Utica-Rome, Dave Kotary finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro and Denis Giroux. Oxford Plains ran an open comp modified event on Sunday. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by Charland and Homer Drew. Bob Potter won the 36 lap June Championship Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl. Larry Gada was the Sportsman Sedan winner. Last but not least it was Charlie Jarzombek over Fred Harbach at Islip.

  Forty years ago in 1976, Geoff Bodine, fresh off a Sunday afternoon 150 lap win at Stafford made it three in a row at Thompson on Sunday night. Bodine, driving for Richard Armstrong, used a Jack Tant small block Chevy for power. While the Sunday night small block series at Thompson was intended for the low buck racer, the intent was lost as Armstrong shelled out the bucks for a professional motor builder. This was the beginning of the end of the so-called golden era. To compete with Bodine and Armstrong other teams would have to follow suit or just be content to follow the leader. Fred DeSarro, driving for Len Boehler, finished second to Bodine three weeks running. Boehler, a mechanical genius, built his own engines. Despite Boehler's efforts, DeSarro couldn't keep up. Many saw this as the beginning of the end of the backyard racer. At the Stafford 150, Bodine took the lead from DeSarro on lap 14 and never looked back. SJ Evonsion finished second and was followed by Satch Worley, Ed Flemke Sr and Richie Evans. It was also on this weekend that Stafford owner Jack Arute announced that as of July 14 all owners and drivers would be admitted free. In other weekend action, Fred Harbach won at New Egypt, Charlie Jarzombek at Riverhead, Fred Sipalla at Islip, John Anderson at Riverside, Ronnie Bouchard at Westboro and Punky Caron got his fifth win of the season at Monadnock. At Waterford, it rained.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, a huge crowd of 7100 fans was on hand to watch George Summers take the Friday night modified feature at Stafford. Following Summers at the line were Ray Miller, Kenny Bouchard and Brian Ross. Richie Evans, who won at Holland on Wednesday night, blew an engine. Rain blanketed the east coast on Saturday washing just about everything out. Maynard Troyer won at Spencer, Allen Whipple at Monadnock, Billy Griffin at Shangri-La and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. At Thompson on Sunday, Evans lost his second engine of the weekend. Kenny Bouchard in the Len Boehler No.3 took the win over Reggie Ruggiero and George Summers. It was father-son night at Danbury as Don LaJoie won a 50 lap Modified feature and Randy LaJoie was the Sportsman winner. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Darrell Waltrip took the pole and Bobby Allison, the win. Ronnie Bouchard finished tenth.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, New Egypt ran a circle of Champions (Mod Tour)150 at New Egypt on Wednesday night. George Kent came away the surprise winner after Jeff Fuller crashed with a lap car while coming down for the checker in the lead. Jim Spencer finished second with Mike McLaughlin, third. George Brunnhoelzl jr took the Friday night win at Stafford. Reggie Ruggiero was running second on the final lap when he tangled with Gilda Berti and crashed. Bugsy Stevens ended up in second spot with Brian Ross, third. Richie Gallup was declared the SK Modified winner after the top three finishers, Bo Gunning, Ted Christopher and John Anderson were disqualified after a post race inspection determined that their carburetors were illegal. Rick Donnelly won twin features at Waterford and Mike Stefanik took top honors at Riverside. Other weekend winners were Don Pratt at Spencer, Dan Jivanelli at Riverhead and Tony Hirschman at Shangri-La.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, Mike Christopher beat out Bob Potter and Bob Georgiades in SK action at Stafford on Friday night. Rain washed out Waterford but at Riverside and Riverhead it stayed dry. Charlie Pasteryak won out over Reggie Ruggiero at Riverside and at Riverhead; Dan Jivenelli was followed across the stripe by Wayne Anderson. The Modified Tour was at Oxford Plains on Sunday. Jeff Fuller in the Sheba No.8 took the win over Doug Hevron and Mike Stefanik .In SK Modified action at Thompson, Ted Christopher took the win over Richie Gallup and Mike Christopher.

  Twenty years ago in 1996, Mike Christopher was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Steve Park finished second and was followed by Jim Broderick, Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning. At Waterford on Saturday night, Bob Potter scored his 95th career win at the shoreline oval. Potter, who had been racing since 1964,started in 11th spot and took the lead with 26 laps to go in the 35 lap feature. Potters win broke the all time record previously held by Don Collins. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Riverhead for a 200 lap event. Because of a late race caution, the event went 207 laps with Rick Fuller taking the win over Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Chuck Steuer. Eleven cautions for 54 laps slowed the average speed of the event to 45.39 mph. Richie Gallup was the winner at Riverside Park. The Busch North Series was at Thompson on Sunday. Robbie Crouch led the 150 lap event until lap 81 when he went too hot into turn three, spun and took out Rick Fuller and Andy Santarre who were third and fourth. Jerry Marquis took the lead at that point and went on to take the win. Mike Stefanik finished second with Brad Leighton, third. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Rusty Wallace took the win and in Busch Grandnational series action at Myrtle Beach, David Green took the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr made his debut and finished 14th, down one.

  Fifteen years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher recorded his third win at Thompson on Thursday night and made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. At Thompson, Kerry Malone finished second with Bill Anderson, third. At Stafford, Christopher was chased by Eric Berndt and Lloyd Agor. In Busch North Series action at Stafford, Kelly Moore took the win over Brad Leighton and Dennis Doyle. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Seekonk under threatening skies but it didn't seem to bother Chris Kopec who took the win after taking the lead on lap 44 of the 150 lap event. Mike Stefanik had led from lap 15 to lap 43, pitted with handling problems and was never able to re-gain the lead. Charlie Pasteryak finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Mike Ewanitsko and John Blewett III. Based on a forecast of rainy weather, the Waterford management decided to pull the plug on the night’s races. Needless to say it never rained and many unhappy fans were on hand to express their opinions! At Riverhead, Wayne Anderson got his first win in ten years as he took the checker over Don Lia. In Winston Cup action at Sonoma, Tony Stewart took the win.

  Ten years ago in 2006, the Thompson Speedway managed to beat the weather as they put round two of Thursday night Thunder in the history books. Jimmy Blewett put the Eddie Partridge No. 12 at the top of the heap as he took the win in the Sunoco (SK) Modified division. Bert Marvin showed a lot of strength and actually led during the mid portion of the event before he was sidelined with a broken wheel hub. Marvin indicated that the broken hub was a result of Blewett driving into him. Jeff Malave finished second with Tom Cravenho, third. Opening night winner Keith Rocco was taken out after a grinding crash with Ted Christopher. Christopher was driving for John Jensen. Todd Ceravolo also had a good run going until rubbing wheels with Tom Cravenho forced him to have a tire go down in the late stages. Ceravolo ended up 10th. For the second week in a row the defending champ Malave finished second ahead of Cravenho. Woody Pitkat finished fourth over Buddy Charette. Corey Hutchings won a close one over Steve Landry in the Late Models, which went the 50-lap distance. Other winners were Jeff Zuidema in the Pro Stocks, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman, Rick Blanchard in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larsen in the Thompson Modifieds.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to rain again. Because of an extremely wet spring only four events, including the Spring Sizzler had been run. Eric Berndt, with four top tens including one win sat in the SK Modified point lead. Berndt held a four-point lead over Woody Pitkat. Although winless Pitkat also had four top tens. Jeff Malave sat in a distant third spot, some 26 points behind Pitkat. Todd Owen and Bo Gunning rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jeff Baral, Lloyd Agor, Chris Jones, Frank Ruocco and Kenny Horton. Woody Pitkat, with three Late Model victories led the division. Jim Peterson and Ryan Posocco make up the top three. Bill Davis, with one win, was the Limited Late Model point leader and Shelly Perry was the SK Light point leader.
  At the Waterford Speedbowl the rain gods continued their wrath as an all day monsoon all but swamped the Speedbowl grounds. Dennis Gada had gone seven for seven in top 10 finishes. Despite the fact that victory lane had eluded him he sat in the lead of the SK Modified point standings. Gada held a 12 point lead over Chris Pasteryak Veteran Tommy Fox sat in third spot, 10 points behind Pasteryak. Rounding out the top five were the Monahan brothers, Diego and Shawn. Sixth through tenth were Jeffrey Paul, John Brouwer Jr., Rob Janovic, Rob Summers and Jeff Pearl. In the Late Model division, Jay Stuart with two wins held a 28 point edge over Tim Jordan. Danny Field, with four wins led David Silvia in the Mini Stock division by 30 points. In the Sportsman division, Dwane Dorr had six wins and held a commanding 50 point lead over Bill Gertch. Mark Bakaj was the Legends leader.
  It was announced that Whelen Modified Tour Series points leader Ted Christopher would be driving for the Al-Lee Installations team for balance of the 2006 season. Ed Whelan would field 2 cars for the balance of the year. Ted Christopher would run all the remaining races. Mike Andrews would drive a limited schedule consisting of the remaining short track races to gain experience at the tour level.
  Saturday night at the Holland International Speedway Bryon Chew scored his first NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series victory after six years of trying. Chew led only three laps of the Fuccillo Auto Park HUGE 150. Dueling side-by-side with leader Mike Johnson on a restart at lap 145, the Long Island driver finally claimed the lead for good on the white flag lap, winning by 0.221 seconds. Mike Olsen edged Tracy Gordon for third and closed to within 22 points of leader Sean Caisse, who placed eighth.
  In Nextel Cup action at Sonoma, CA Jeff Gordon ended a dry spell as he took his first win since October 2005 at Martinsville. Ryan Newman finished second with Terry Labonte, third. Paul Menard was the Busch Series winner at Milwaukee.

  Five years ago in 2011, sometimes bigger is better but in the case of the Sunoco Modifieds at Thompson last Thursday night smaller was the way to go. The Sunoco (SK) Modified field increased to 13 which included Woody Pitkat who took over the ride vacated by Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco who is among the walking wounded. Pitkat and Rocco provided some of the best racing and cleanest competition seen at the northeast oval in quite a while. Pitkat prevailed in the end. On lap 15 of the 30 lap Sunoco Modified feature Rocco took the lead from Danny Cates with Pitkat in tow. From then on, the pair sliced and diced, trading the lead numerous times. Pitkat took the lead for the final time in turn two on lap 27. Rocco, who was wearing an arm brace and in obvious discomfort before the start of the race, settled for the runner-up spot. Cates crossed the finish line in third spot but was later disqualified when officials determined that his car had illegal mufflers. Rick Fuller was elevated to the third finishing position. Todd Ceravolo and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five.
  The Valenti Modified Racing Series made their first of two visits to Thompson. The 26-car field was a strong one. Mike Stefanik ended a long absence from victory lane as he led the 75 lap VMRS event from pole to pole. Stefanik, who had concerns for the condition of his right rear tire ran just fast enough to keep the field at bay. Series point leader Rowan Pennink moved into the second spot with 10 laps to go was never a factor as the former Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion just stepped it up a bit. Pennink finished second with Chris Pasteryak, third. Steve Masse and Les Hinckley rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jon McKennedy, Eric Goodale, Richard Savary, Rob Goodenough and Mike Holdridge.
In other action at Thompson on Thursday, Danny Field made it five for five as he continues to dominate the Mini-Stock division. Derek Ramstrom scored a commanding win in the Super Late Model main event while Tommy O’Sullivan ran to his first victory of the 2011 season in the Late Models. Shawn Monahan scored his second-straight Limited Sportsman feature event victory and R.J. Marcotte wired the field to score the victory in the TIS Modifieds. The entire race program was over at 9:55pm.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway decided not to suspend Adam Skowyra for his failure to heed both the black flag and the black flag with white cross in his heat race. Skowyra is responsible for triggering a wreck that caused defending National Champion Keith Rocco to suffer a dislocated shoulder. Skowyra was placed on probation for two events in which he participates and had been removed from the handicap system and must start in the rear of the next two events. He got off easy!
  Stafford pulled the plug on Friday night's racing shortly after lunch due to the fact that heavy rain was eminent in the central Connecticut area.
In action at the Waterford Speedbowl double features for the SK Modifieds were the orders for the day. Glenn Pressel III took down his first career win in the held over 35-lap SK Modified® race, while veteran Jeff Pearl picked up his 36th career win in the regularly scheduled feature. In Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model action, multi-time division champion Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to the winner’s circle. Chris Meyer won a highly entertaining and competitive Street Stock feature, Chris Williams won his second Mini Stock feature on the year and Joe Cipriano was the SK Light Modified race winner. Jonathon Avery was the winner in the New England Truck Series feature.
  There were 25 SK Modifieds on hand including Ted Christopher. Christopher finished fourth in the left over event and 23rd in the nite cap. Defending National Champion Keith Rocco had a rough night as he crashed out of the left over event, finishing 17th and recorded a sixth in the regular scheduled event.
  In the Southland at the Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, Dean Ward took the win in a 100 lapper. Joseph "Bobo" Brown finished second. Brian Loftin was third. Burt Myers recovered from an early spin that dropped him to the rear and finished fourth.
  At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Justin Bonsignore took the NASCAR Modified win.
  At the Michigan Raceway, Carl Edwards passed Ricky Stenhouse with less than 10 laps remaining to earn his fourth NASCAR Nationwide victory of the year. Denny Hamlin raced to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory over a year, holding off Matt Kenseth.
  NASCAR announced the 2012 class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The five-person class, which will be officially inducted in a ceremony during the weekend of Jan. 20, 2012 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., consists of: Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Inman, Richie Evans and Glen Wood.
  Members of the 55-member NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met in a closed session in Charlotte, N.C., to vote on the induction class of 2012. Richie Evans, perhaps one of the greatest Modified drivers ever was voted in to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The announcement was made by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s “Great Hall.”
  The undisputed “king” of Modified racing, Evans captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-85. In the first year of the current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour format in 1985, Evans won 12 races, including a sweep of all four events at Thompson, Conn. Evans ranked No. 1 in the 2003 voting of the NASCAR All-Time Modified Top 10 Drivers, and he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
  Evans also won Modified track championships at 11 tracks in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. He won four championships at Thompson, two at Stafford Motor Speedway and one at the Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass.

  Last year, 2015, the word from former Modified car owner Mario Fiore was that Tommy Barrett probably won't race again this year. Fiore further stated that Barrett will race in 2016 as he has MGM sponsorship to bring to a team. He also hinted a possible return to racing when he stated "If no takers I know someone who can run a modified team as good as any out there".
  Barrett, of Millis, Mass., was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after a traffic stop at 1:48 a.m. on April 17 in Willimantic. He was also cited at the time for driving unreasonably fast and failing to signal a turn.
  At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Rowan Pennink took his fourth win of the year in the SK Modified® feature, Michael Scozelli was a first time winner in the Late Model feature, Nick Salva scored his second win of the year in the SK Light feature, Glenn Bartkowski was a first time winner in the Limited Late Model feature, Alexandra Fearn won for the second consecutive week in the DARE Stock feature, and Devin O’Connell was a winner for the third consecutive week in the Legend Cars feature.
  In a green-white-checkered finish, Pennink took the lead at the green with Justin Bonsignore immediately attaching himself to Pennink’s bumper. Bonsignore tried to make a move but Pennink was too strong to be overtaken and he nailed down his fourth win of the 2015 season. Ryan Preece finished third, with Sean Foster and Ted Christopher rounding out the top-5. Among the missing was Woody Pitkat who was serving a one week suspension because of a confrontation his car owner had with the crew of Ryan Preece on June 12.
  The SK Modified® top-5 finishers each received a $300 bonus from Xtra Mart, which meant the feature winner took home over $2,000 in purse and contingency bonuses while the 2nd through 5th place finishers went home with $700 or more.
  The Valenti Modified Series ran twin 50's at the Lee Speedway in New Hampshire on Friday. Chris Pasteryak coupled a third in the first 50 and a win in the second fifty to become the overall winner. Each feature awarded points towards the series championship standings, but the overall finish of the event was determined by each driver’s combined finish. After finishing third in the first 50-lap feature, the field would be inverted for race number-two and Pasteryak found himself starting from the 18th position. He quickly charged towards the front before diving to the inside of Mike Willis, Jr. on lap 43 to take over the top spot. From there, he pulled away from the field to record the win.
  Steve Masse, who substituted for Rowan Pennink in the Gary Casella-owned No. 25 machine, made his way to the front from the fourth starting position and held off a hard-charging Jon McKennedy to claim the victory in race number-one. Getting through traffic and making his way towards the front from the 20th starting position would be a challenge for Masse during the early stages of the second race. He would eventually begin his charge during the middle stages of the race, but came up short by just two positions. The Bellingham, Massachusetts driver would finish fourth in the second race and record an overall total of five (1+4), which would be good for second overall.
  Jon McKennedy looked to be the guy to beat, but like Masse he struggled making his way through the field early on in the second 50-lap feature. The former VMRS champion would be able to make his way to the seventh spot when the checkered flag waved. His finishes of second and seventh would earn him a total of nine and the final podium finishing spot.
  Woody Pitkat, on a one race suspension from Stafford, recorded a pair of sixth-place finishes and finished fourth and Richard Savary (8+5=13) rounded out the top-five.
  The New London-Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain on Saturday night. The bowl has made a remarkable turn around since being purchased by Bruce Bemer. The doom and gloom that had followed the track for many years was gone and had been replaced with a positive attitude from competitors and fans alike.
  At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night many NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams were on hand to hone their skills for the up-coming week's Hoosier 200. Among those on hand were Modified Tour champion crew chief Phil Moran and Doug Coby, 2015 NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler winner Woody Pitkat and his Buzz Chew Chevrolet #88 team along with Justin Bonsignore #51 and Eric Goodale #58 who were also getting ready for the Hoosier Tire 200 on June 27th. Needless to see a great night of racing was lost because of heavy rain that prevailed.
  Going into the Hoosier Tire 200, after five events Ryan Preece led Woody Pitkat by a mere five points. Preece had two wins and Pitkat, one. Doug Coby, with two wins, sat in third, one point behind Coby. Rounding out the top five were Bobby Santos and Todd Szegedy. Sixth thru tenth were Timmy Solomito, Ted Christopher, Patrick Emerling, Rowan Pennink and Eric Goodale.
  Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC Jason Myers cruised to victory in the first of two 25-lap Modified Division races, and his brother Burt was right behind him.
  In the second Modified race, John Smith broke through for his first victory of the season after three top-three finishes previously. Again, it was a wire-to-wire winner with Smith starting on the pole thanks to the Madhouse Scramble.
  Following the Myers brothers in the first event were Tim Brown, Chris Fleming and Ronnie Clifton. Bo Bo Brown finished second in the nightcap. Jason and Burt Myers finished eighth and ninth respectively.
  Erik Jones has had one heck of a week. It started with a victory in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Battle at Berlin 251 at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on Tuesday, followed by a triumph in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Iowa Speedway. He closed out the weekend on Sunday by winning the rain delayed NASCAR XFINITY Series Owens Corning Atticat 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, his third victory of the week and second career victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
  On a sad note, Jimmy Jorgensen, a member of the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame and one of the premier owner/mechanics in Northeastern auto racing history, passed away Thursday, June 18.
  From Riverside Park, where his “Flying Zero” won three championships between 1958 and 1962, to the 1969 Indianapolis 500, where he experienced the heartbreak of being first alternate, the 2012 Hall of Fame inductee left a lasting legacy on New England racing. He was successful with the URC Sprint Cars between the Modifieds and the Indy Cars.

  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 24, 2016

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