The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

October 28, 2016

  Sixty five years ago in 1951 Dave Humphrey won the first ever Modified Championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in style as he won the final racing program of the year, a 25 lap Modified event. Humphrey, who also took the title at the Seekonk Speedway narrowly edged out Moe Gherzi for the title.

  Sixty years ago in 1956 Wild Bill Slater won the 50 lap season ending Modified event at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner.

  Fifty five years ago saw rain wash out the racing at the Waterford Speedbowl.

  Fifty years ago in 1966 at the World Series at Thompson, season ending twin 50's were won by Sal Dee and Bugsy Stevens. Ed Flemke Sr was the overall winner.

  Forty five years ago in 1971, NESMRA promoted the World Series event at Thompson which saw Supers and Modifieds running together. The Supers of the day were very unreliable which gave the full bodied cars a chance. The 50 lap main event was won by Eddie West in a Super, who had a two lap lead on the field. Don McLaren, also in a Super was second. Finishing third was Eddie Flemke who drove the Mystic Missile. Howard Brown, in a Super was fourth. Rounding out the top six were Bob Potter in the Billy Simonds Excavator Special and Leo Cleary in the Armando Riccio Flying Nine.

  Forty years ago in 1976, Geoff Bodine and Ray Hendrick, driving team cars owned by Richard Armstrong finished one-two in the season ending Cardinal 250 at Martinsville. Pole sitter Harry Gant in the William Mason No.45 led the event until retiring with a blown engine. John Bryant also led the event until losing two tires. Paul Radford finished third with Richie Evans, fourth. The 250 lap Sportsman (Busch Grandnational) event was snowed out.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, Geoff Bodine dominated the season ending Cardinal 250 at Martinsville as he led all but 15 laps to record his ninth win of the season. Bodine drove a modified owned by Phil Taylor. Bugsy Stevens in Bodine's old ride, the Armstrong No.1, finished second. It was a war of attrition as only 15 of the original 40 starters were running at the finish. A challenge from Richie Evans never materialized as he dropped out after only five laps with a broken master cylinder. Maynard Troyer finished third and was followed by Kenny Bouchard, Ray Miller and Doug Hewitt.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Charlie Jarzombek capped a successful season as he won the season ending Modified 200 at Martinsville. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by George Kent, Jeff Fuller, Jim Spencer and Carl Pasteryak.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, the Featherlite Modified Tour was at Martinsville for a 200 lapper. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Jan Leaty on lap 128 and held off Leaty to take the win. Jeff Fuller finished third and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero, Wayne Anderson, Steve Park, Jamie Tomaino and Satch Worley. Harry Gant won the Busch Grandnational 200 lapper over Chuck Bown and Dale Jarrett.

  Twenty years ago in 1996, after a one week postponement because of rain, Thompson ran the season ending World Series. Steve Park, who had the pole position, cleaned house as he took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 105 of the 125 lap event. Stefanik had nothing for Park and had to settle for second in the final run down. Jerry Marquis finished third and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, Tom Bolles, Bert Marvin, Tim Arre and Mike Ewanitsko. Tony Hirschman, in the Len Boehler No.3, finished 10th and sewed up the series championship. Because of numerous wrecks, the SK 30 lapper was shortened to 20 laps with Bob Potter getting the win over Jim Broderick, Scott Spaulding, Ricky Young and Don Fowler.

  Fifteen years ago in 2001, the only action was at Phoenix where Casey Atwood was the Winston Cup Busch Pole sitter. Jeff Burton took the win. The Busch Grandnationals were also at Phoenix. Jim Spencer was the pole sitter and was the class of the field until his transmission blew. Waiting in the wings was Greg Biffle who went on to take the win.

  Ten years ago in 2006 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Fall Final at Stafford 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 win. 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.

  Five years ago in 2011, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had wrapped up their 2011 season. Congratulations to Ron Silk and the Eddie and Connie Partridge led TS Haulers Race Team. Silks season point total was 2443 while runner-up, Todd Szegedy amassed 2367 points. Eric Beers ended up in the third spot followed by Rowan Pennink and Doug Coby. Sixth through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Justin Bonsignore, Bobby Santos, Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph. Fifty seven different drivers were in competition during the season. Fourteen different drivers ran all 16 events. Ted Christopher was the top winner with four victories to his credit. Silk and Szegedy each won three while Coby, Bonsignore and Santos had one each. Other winners were Mike Stefanik, Glen Reen and Ryan Newman.
  Many race teams were taking a wait and see attitude before making plans for 2012. Lenny Sammons, Publisher and Editor of Area Auto Racing News got an interesting answer from car owner Bob Garbarino when asked about his plans for 2012. He stated that he was not making a decision about next year until he saw a schedule. Sammons quoted Garbarino, " I don't buy green bananas anymore" he said, alluding to the fact about making a decision when the schedule is unknown. Ryan Preece was all set for 2012 as it had been announced that he would drive the Flamingo Motorsports entry that was vacated by Mike Stefanik.
  Doug Coby and Daniel Hemric were running second and third behind Glen Reen on a lap 160 restart in the recent World Series NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the Thompson Speedway and got together shortly after taking the green. Hemric, from Kannapolis, NC, was driving the Roger Hill No.79 and found himself in the turn one wall and Coby spun. Based on what was heard on a scanner it was assumed that NASCAR Control felt that Coby was overaggressive and placed him one lap down. Coby stated that NASCAR did not penalize him for over aggression. "I was the one who was taken out by the 79 on that late restart and I was penalized for passing cars under caution to attempt to get my second place spot back", he said. He added, "Brian Vance, the Tour Race Director, afterwards acknowledged that the one lap penalty was more a result of his frustration with all of the drivers for how the race was ending, and acknowledged that it may in fact have been inconsistent with other calls he made that day with regards to other drivers who were incorrectly lined up on the racetrack".
  The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee New Hampshire last weekend, 32 cars strong. Qualifying heat race winners were Ken Barry, Chris Pasteryak and Mike Holdridge.
  Rowan Pennink took the season ending win over Les Hinckley, Norm Wrenn, Rob Goodenough and Matt Hirschman. Chris Pasteryak finished ninth and has won his second VMRS Championship.
  The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour wrapped up their 2012 season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. There were 15 cars on hand. George Brunnhoelzl III started from the outside of the front row and led every lap en route to winning the Caraway 150 season-ending event.
Brunnhoelzl took the lead from his pole-sitter and Ideal Racing teammate Andy Seuss on the first lap and was never threatened as he picked up his fifth win of the season and 11th of his career. Burt Myers picked up his best finish of the season in second place with rookie Daniel Hemric finishing with his first-ever top-three finish. Andy Seuss was fourth and Brian Loftin completed the top five. Jason Myers completed his most consistent season on the tour with a sixth-place finish with Tim Brown rebounding from a spin to finish seventh. 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Austin Pack was eighth with Brandon Ward ninth and L.W. Miller completing the top 10.
  Brunnhoelzl entered the night with a comfortable lead in the point standings only needing to take the green flag to wrap up the series championship. Seuss finished second in the final point standings.
  Clint Bowyer hung teammate Jeff Burton out to dry on the last lap of Sunday's Talladega race, pulling around him when the checkered flag was in sight to pick up his first win of the season and the 100th in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing.

  Last year, 2015, The New London-Waterford Speedbowl concluded its 2015 racing season with Bemer's Super Bowl of Auto Racing. Bruce Bemer, a Glastonbury businessman is responsible for keeping the facility as a race track. The two-day event included all nine of the Speedbowl's weekly series, plus the New England Trucks, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, the 19th annual SK Modified Nationals, where the winner received $5,000 and the Tri Track Open Modified Series where close to 50 drivers were entered.
  Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza reported that Derek Ramstrom showed up at New London-Waterford Speedbowl with the fastest car in the Granite State Pro Stock Series on Saturday. He was fastest in practice and fastest in the feature event, never looking back after he passed D.J. Shaw for the lead just before lap fifty. Ramstrom scored his first victory of the 2015 season in his final start which put a cap on what was a tough season for the Seekonk Grand Prix No. 35 team. While he won the feature event, Derek Griffith, an 18-year-old driver, collected the 2015 Granite State Pro Stock Series championship crown with his third place finish.
  There were 31 SK Modifieds on hand for three qualifying heats for the Sunday 75 lapper. Scoring wins were Paul Kusheba, Jimmy Zacharias and Craig Lutz. Ryan Preece won the consolation event. In other Saturday action at the shoreline oval Ethan Durocher inherited the Bandolero 20 lap feature win Saturday evening, after winner Jacob Perry failed to past post-race technical inspection. Brandon Plemens found himself picking up a $1,000 check by scoring the win in the 40 lap Limited Sportsman feature event. Pete Zakerite survived a rough, wreck-filled Mini Stock feature to notch his second straight Mini Stock win in New England.
  Woody Pitkat continued his late season winning surge as he won the Tri-Track Series 75 lapper at the Speedbowl. Starting ninth, a determined Pitkat charged his way to the front and by lap 19 was in the second spot behind Les Hinkley when the caution was waved. On the restart Pitkat jumped into the lead and never looked back as he romped to victory. Pitkat earned a little over $8,000 for his efforts.
  While Pitkat opened up a good lead Hinkley began to fade. Hinkley was able to hang on for the runner-up finish despite the efforts of Ron Silk who settled for third. Rounding out the top five was Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece. Sixth throug tenth were Steve Masse, Jon McKennedy, Chris Pasteryak, Matt Hirschman and Chase Dowling.
  New London-Waterford Speedbowl SK Modified Track Champion Keith Rocco had a disappointing 19th place finish in the Tri Track event but more than made up for it as he won the 19th annual SK Modified® Nationals 75-lap event and the 30 lap Late Model event. bringing his track win total to 121 wins. The win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 212 wins which also include victories at Thompson and Stafford Speedways.
  On lap-30 Rocco had cleared Ted Christopher, only to see Christopher take the top spot back in turn one on lap-35 with a bold inside maneuver. A lap later, Rocco was back inside of Christopher through turns three and four, leaving Christopher to try and counter. While all eyes were out front, Matt Hirschman quietly worked his way into the top-five looking poised to make a run over the second half of the race.
  Hirschman restarted third after a lap-42 yellow flag and pit stops for some teams reset the running order behind Rocco and Christopher. From there, Hirschman remained a factor the rest of the way. Rocco would never officially relinquish his lead, however six additional yellow flags over the remaining laps enabled both Christopher and Hirschman to fire shots Rocco’s way in attempt to derail his efforts at a third consecutive Modified Nationals victory.
  After trading blows with Christopher to finally take second, Hirschman’s best shot at Rocco came on a lap-65 restart. Contact between the two coming to the green flag had Hirschman making a nice recovery to hold second while Rocco squirted away in the lead. Rocco needed to master one final restart on lap-72, doing so to pull ahead to a three car length victory. Hirschman’s race ended with a runner-up finish at the checkered flag, and Christopher was in contention until the conclusion to take third. Eric Berndt overcame a lap-10 incident to finish a strong showing in fourth, and Ryan Preece rallied from a rough first half of the race to take home a well-earned fifth place.
  In other Sunday action at the shoreline oval Nick Salva was the SK Light winner and Dylan was the Legends winner.
  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour closed out their season. Doug Coby sealed the championship with a convincing win at the recent World Series. In 15 events Coby scored seven wins which included 11 top five finishes. Ryan Preece, who was tied with Coby going into the finale fell 11 points shy. Preece, in 15 starts scored four wins which included seven top fives. Woody Pitkat drove his heart out at the World Series but in the end was 13 points shy of the champion.Pitkat ran the entire 15 race schedule and scored one winwhich included 11 top fives. Todd Szegedy, who teamed up with Bob Garbarino at the last minute to drive the famed Mystic Missile, finished the year in fourth spot. Rounding out the top five was Patrick Emerling. Although winnless, Emerling ran in all 15 events and recorded nine top tens. Sixth through tenth in the final standings are Timmy Solomito, Donny Lia, Eric Goodale, Chase Dowling and Justin Bonsignore. Dowling was the highest finishing rookie. Eleventh through twentieth in the standings are Bobby Santos, Max Zachem, Ted Christopher, Jamie Tomaino, Jeff Goodale , Shawn Solomito, Dave Sapienza, Rowan Pennink, Ken Heagy and Gary McDonald
  In a somewhat surprise move, Robert Our who owns the no. 22 driven by Ted Christopher said his race team had suspended operations. On a positive note, NASCAR's George Silverman told Area Auto Racing News that TV coverage for the sanctioning body's touring divisions has been "Huge" and he expects a greater focus on touring series coverage by NBC Sports net next year. It is also a good bet that the Seekonk Speedway will host a Whelen Modified Touring Series date in 2016 and it is a strong rumor that the Oswego Speedway in up-state New York would like to bring back their Labor Day weekend Modified 200 with a NASCAR sanction. Years ago the Oswego 200 Modified event was one of the best paying events in the northeast with the winner receiving in excess of $18,000.
  Joey Logano completed a sweep of the second round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, but it wasn’t without a great deal of controversy.
  Logano was declared the winner by NASCAR after a crash at the start of a green-white-checkered restart, leaving Logano just a few feet ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the time of the caution.

  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: October 28, 2016

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