The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

November 11, 2016

  Forty years ago in 1976, the Modifieds ran a special event at Kingsport, Tenn. Geoff Bodine ended his modified season with a win over Paul Radford and John Bryant.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, the Thompson Speedway hosted their annual banquet. Taking top honors were Richie Evans, the Modified Champion, Dave Wandzy, the Street Stock Champ and Ron Cote, the late model champ. Special awards included most Improved in the Modifieds, Corky Cookman, Late models, Fran Colson and Street Stock, Jack Crosby. Rookie honors went to Ed Kennedy in the Modifieds, Rick Armstrong in the Late Models and Rick Fuller in the Street Stocks. Dick Williams, who promoted the speedway during the year, announced that he was not renewing his lease.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Ben Dodge was hired by NASCAR to help out in the promotion and publicity of the Featherlite Modified Tour. Waterford held their annual banquet, which honored Bob Potter as the SK Modified champion and Brian McCarthy as the Super Stock champion. Most improved honors went to Ed Flemke Jr in the SK's and Chuck Zentarski in the Super Stocks. Rookie of the Year honors went to David Gada in the Modifieds and Dave Wheeler in the Superstocks. Promoter Ed Yerrington announced that the 1987 Tri-Track point fund would be in excess of $100,000, which would be, more than was for the Modified or Busch North Series at that time.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, November 10 turned out to be a sad day for New England Auto Racing as D. Anthony Venditti, owner and promoter of the Seekonk Speedway had passed away. Venditti was a visionary and although some of his ideas seemed off the wall sometimes, nine times out of ten he could read the future of auto racing. He had the original idea for what we now know is a Pro Stock. Venditti could be very stubborn but no matter what, he always stuck to his guns. He had the respect of just about every one that knew him.

  Fifteen years ago in 2001, the Stafford Speedway held their annual banquet and crowned Ted Christopher the SK-Modified Track Champion. Christopher was also the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Regional and National Champion. NASCAR’s Winston Cup and Grand National divisions were in Homestead, Florida. Joe Nemachek took the GN win. In Winston Cup action, Bill Elliott got the first Dodge win for Ray Everham. Elliott took the lead from teammate Casey Atwood with five laps to go. Michael Waltrip finished second. During the running of the event three of Ricky Rudd’s crew plus a NASCAR official were injured on pit road when Ward Burton bounced off the car of Casey Atwood and hit Rudd’s car while it was being serviced. In SMART Modified competition at South Boston, Virginia, Gary Meyers took the win over Charlie Pasteryak and Jay Foley. Ed Flemke JR, in the Hill Racing No.79 was the fastest of the field and was leading with 10 laps to go when Frank Flemming drilled him into the wall on a restart. It was also announced on this weekend that NASCAR entered into agreement with Dodge for multi-year sponsorship of the sanctioning bodie’s Weekly Racing Series.

  Ten years ago in 2006, it looked like the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series had gone by the wayside as NASCAR and Whelen Engineering announced a multi-year agreement for Whelen to become the new title sponsor of NASCAR’s weekly racing program. The series was re-named the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for 2007.
  The leasing of the Waterford Speedbowl continued to a hot topic of conversation. Jerry Robinson, a virtually unknown in racing circles, leased the shoreline oval. Robinson owned the Legends Cars Series. It was hoped that Robinson could breathe new life into the track that had all but run into the ground by property owner Terry Eames. Things got so bad in 2006 at Waterford the track was running unadvertised races as too much money had been owed for too long of a period to area radio stations and newspapers. It was amazing that the track did as well as it did.
  Priorities included re-opening and modernizing the restrooms and repairing sections of grandstand that have been closed for repair. As it turned out, Robinson ended up being one of the worst things that ever happened to the shoreline oval.
  In Whelen Modified Tour Series news Mike Stefanik indicated that he would pursue his tenth championship with Flamingo Motorsports for 2007. Barry Kuhnel who played a key role as his crew chief in years past would be a consultant. Stefanik would be driving a 2007 model Troyer chassis, which was Ford powered. Word was being tossed around about a Whelen Modified Tour Series event in Mansfield, Ohio.
  Word came from Lew Boyd that two legends were under the weather and could use a card of cheer. Four time NASCAR Sportsman Champion Rene Charland was recuperating from a recent car crash and. Bill Wimble had developed tongue cancer and would have a rough few weeks with radiation and chemo
  The Daytona Beach Journal reported that NASCAR President Brian France drove into a parked car and hit a tree with his Lexus. NASCAR issued a statement that he spilled a soft drink which evidently caused him to lose control of the vehicle. Evidently he wasn’t drinking Pepsi and evidently his Lexus wasn’t shod with Goodyear Tires. Police said the Lexus had $1,500 damage.
  Kevin Harvick led 252 of the 312 circuits and captured the Checker Auto Parts "500" presented by Pennzoil at Phoenix International Raceway by a quarter of a second today over Johnson. Harvick also won the Busch Series event.

  Five years ago in 2011, The annual North-South Shootout took center stage this past weekend. Previously run in Concord, NC, the event was been relocated to the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. There were 27 Tour type Modifieds and a somewhat slim field of 13 SK type Modifieds on hand. Rain blanketed the entire state of North Carolina on Friday which forced event officials to condense the event into one day.
  It was announced that qualifying heats would be eliminated in order to expedite the running the event in a timely fashion. Southern racer Burt Myers was the top time setter among the Tour types and Zane Zeiner was the pole sitter for the SK types.
  Despite running on a cool, damp night the event drew a pretty decent crowd. Woody Pitkat, who races weekly at Thompson and Stafford, took the lead on the start and went on to lead the entire 50 lap distance of the SK type event. Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco, also Thompson and Stafford regulars, followed Pitkat at the finish. Matt Hirschman and Earl Paules rounded out the top five.
  The Tour type Shootout went 125 laps and when all was said and done, Matt Hirschman sat in victory lane. Burt Myers took the lead at the start and paced the field until Andy Seuss passed him in traffic on lap 33. Myers developed severe handling problems as he faded after losing the lead. Seuss led until lap 53 when most of the field pitted under caution that was thrown for debris on the track. Jason Myers, who did not pit assumed the lead. By lap 60 Hirschman had taken the lead as Myers' tires had gone away. In a sprint to the finish, Hirschman was able to out run runner-up Seuss. George Brunnhoelzl III, Burt Myers and Zane Zeiner rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jimmy Blewett, Chris Pasteryak, Kyle Ebersole, Jason Myers and Patrick Emerling. Among the missing was Ted Christopher, who was seen walking around the Flea Market with his hand bandaged up, at the Thompson Speedway.
  Tim McCreadie completed a sweep of the Lowes Foods World Finals Presented by Tom’s Snacks, Coca-Cola and Nature’s Own at The Dirt Track at Charlotte while Matt Sheppard captured his second straight Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified championship.
  NASCAR's Big Three went to Fort Worth Texas. Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Truck Series race Friday night after his championship-contending truck driven by Ron Hornaday Jr. was knocked out of the race by a retaliating Kyle Busch. Trevor Bayne earned his first career NASCAR Nationwide victory after he passed dominating teammate Carl Edwards following a tremendous restart with seven laps remaining Saturday at Texas. Tony Stewart raced to his second consecutive victory, and won for the fourth time in eight NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup races, finishing just ahead of points leader Carl Edwards in the so-called "Texas Title Fight" that fully lived up to its billing on Sunday.
  NASCAR finally got tough with Kyle Busch who continued to have anger management problems with those whom he races with. The often volatile Busch was suspended from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series on Friday night. In the past Busch, who has a history of road rage on the track, has been fined and put on probation for his actions. Evidently, as most of us knew, he didn't get the message. Fines and probations mean nothing to those who compete in NASCAR's top divisions. Sponsors or car owners pay the fines and it's business as usual. It's good that NASCAR finally acted because the worse thing you can do to a driver is to tell him he can't race! Hopefully now he has gotten that message.
  With the exception of the Thanksgiving weekend Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey the 2011 racing season in the northeast was over. The undisputed overall feature winner is Keith Rocco with 32 wins to his credit. Twenty eight of these came in the SK Modifieds. Second overall in feature wins is dirt tracker Matt Sheppard with 21 victories. Ted Christopher had one of his rare "off years" as he only had 12 wins on the season. Worth mentioning is the fact that dirt tracker Brett Hearne had 12 victories and at the same time brought his lifetime total to 800.
  Former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield, barred from the association since 2009 for a failed drug test, was arrested at his western North Carolina home and charged with possession of methamphetamine, and police said he might face more charges. Mayfield was arrested Tuesday night, Nov 1 and charged possessing 1.5 grams of meth. The former Sprint Cup driver was suspended from NASCAR in May 2009 after failing a random drug test. Mayfield denied he was using an illegal drug, but NASCAR said he tested positive for methamphetamines.

  Last year, 2015, The big racing event of the weekend was the annual North-South Shootout at the Concord Speedway in North Carolina. Rainy skies and New England type cold and dampness greeted competitors and fans alike. There were 28 tour type Modifieds and eight SK type Modifieds on hand. Because of he fact that he tracks was oozing water practice was minimal and qualifying heats were eliminated. Keith Rocco just kee rolling along as he toured the the Concord oval in15.608 seconds. Bobby Measamer, Jr was second fastest 15.615. Tommy Barrett, Jr, who had not raced since being picked up for driving under the influence earlier in the year, was third fastest at 15.629. John McKennedy and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five in Shootout qualifying.
  Jimmy Zacharias has the pole for the Mr, Rooter 50 lap SK Modified Feature. Todd Owen was second fastest with Steve Kopcik, Keith Rocco and Jimmy Wallace rounding out the top five.
  Impending rain and a bad forecast for the evening forced officials to postpone the event to Sunday.
  Justin Bonsignore's eventual win in the Modified shootout had a dark cloud hanging over it. Matt Hirschman was first under the checkered flag but a reversal of fortune and some poor officiating after the fact took away Bonsignore's glory. Race Director Tommy Fox was forced to leave the track while the race was under a red flag with nine laps remaining for weather.
  While Fox was on his way to the airport one of Matt Hirschman's developed a leak. Those left in charge chose not to penalize Hirschman which is a no-no. After much discussion and some loud words the decision was made to place Hirschman in 16th place at the finish.
  Keith Rocco won the Mr Rooter SK Modified event. It was Rocco's 213th career win.
  Woody Pitkat Crowned Valenti Modified Racing Series Champion in Manchester, NH Pitkat was joined by car owner Peter Kulessa, crew chief Greg Felton, and the Patterson Farms race team for the special presentations. The VMRS championship was the first for both Pitkat and Kulessa.
  In accepting his award Pitkat thanked the Perry family and Valenti (Auto Group) for all their support and sponsoring of the series. Pitkat acknowledged Jack Bateman, the series founder, saying “thank you for your hard work, time, and sacrifice, to give us a great affordable series to race at week in and week out. I admire your dedication.” Pitkat also stated winning the series title was his first ever series championship and he considered it a special feat. “I may never win another so this one means a lot.”
  He complimented VMRS drivers. “Just because I run the tour does not put me above anyone. I am a race driver and so are these guys with this series. I am grateful for the opportunity to run with them and compete here. I look at it as another addition to my resume.” Kulessa spoke proudly of his first championship. “It’s unbelievable the guys just worked so hard. Last year we made the switch to Woody and had top five finishes. We knew we had a good car and we knew we had a good driver. This year we were supposed to run a limited schedule. When July rolled around we were leading the points so we decided we might as well give it a shot.”
  In addition to the champion, the top 14 drivers were also recognized for their accomplishments. Runner-up Chris Pasteryak, Norman Wrenn, Todd Patnode, Todd Szegedy, Donnie Lashua, Mike Willis Jr, David Schneider, Dennis Perry, Jon McKennedy, Rowan Pennink, Dylan Kopec, Russ Hersey, Anthony Nocella, and Kirk Alexander were recognized.
  Jack Bateman disclosed that 14 races are on the schedule for 2016 and he anticipates two more dates to be added in the near future. The series will make the announcement as soon as those dates are finalized.
  Drivers Sam Posey, Greg Sacks, Joey Laquerre, Stan Gregor, the late Jim McCallum and the late Ronnie Marvin, car owner the late Paul Dunigan, publishers Lew Boyd and the late Jim Moffat, engine-builder Joe Fontana and promoter Red McDonald were inducted in the New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame this past Sunday. Vermont’s Justin St. Louis received the Mitchell/Ratta Media Award.
  Dick Williams and Jim Schaefer, principals behind the successful Tri-Track Series, shared the 2015 New England Antique Racers’ Frank Maratta Award. The presentations, giving in recognition of their outstanding contribution and support of auto racing, were part of the agenda at the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame 18th induction banquet Maneeley’s Banquet Hall, 65 Rye Street, South Windsor, CT.
  Over the past two seasons, the Tri-Track Series had paid out over $400,000. The eight races have attracted an average car count of 40, including the top Modified teams from New England and New York. Lee, Star, Seekonk, Monadnock and Waterford have hosted Tri-Track events.
  Williams, from North Stonington, CT and Schaefer, from Riverhead, NY, are the leaders of a group that has made the Tri-Track Series a reality. According to Williams, a familiar face in New England racing for decades, the impetus was a conversation among a group of old timers. “They were saying how much they missed the old open competition events,” recalled Williams. “We thought with a little common sense it could happen again and we got four or five guys together and made it happen.”
This year’s payout $287,000 distributed in a number of ways including lap money and last-chance races. There were six different winners in the first seven races.
  'We'll get it right,' NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France said of how the sanctioning body will react to Matt Kenseth's move on Joey Logano at Martinsville. Logano was leading the race on Lap 454, when he was put into the wall by Kenseth, who was nine laps down after being hit by Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, earlier in the race. Kenseth was suspended for two events, fined and put on probation.
  Another one bites the dust! Patrick Emerling, who comes from western New York indicated on web site RaceDayCt that he may be cutting back his Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule after being a regular in the series for five years. Bottom line, if you spend 5 grand to run a race, that pays 3 grand to the winner, and a few hundred to start, no matter how rich you are, or how much your sponsors give you, Eventually it will no longer be fun.

  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: November 11, 2016

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