RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Third Week Of May

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1951 the final touches were being done to the new asphalt surface at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Racing at Seekonk fell victim to rain.

Sixty five years ago in 1956 Roland LaPierre made it two in a row at Seekonk.

Sixty years ago in 1961, Johnny Thompson was the Saturday night winner at the Norwood Arena. At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Ted Stack made it three in a row in Sunday Modified action at the shoreline oval. Stack also won the non-Ford feature and the Modified feature on the dirt at Stafford while Joe Maynard was the Bomber winner at the shoreline oval. Rain ruled at Seekonk. At the Islip Speedway on Long Island, Al DeAngelo broke Axel Anderson’s toe hold on victory lane. Anderson finished second.

Fifty five years ago in 1966 New York hot shoe Pete Corey was the Friday night winner on the dirt at Stafford. Jerry Cook broke the stronghold that New England drivers held at the Albany Saratoga Speedway as he won the Friday night 30 lap feature. Mario “Fats” Caruso finished second and was followed by Dennis Zimmerman, Rene Charland and Gaston Demaris. Crowd favorite Pete Corey went two for two on the weekend as he took the 25 lap win at Fonda on Saturday night over Irv Taylor and Ernie Gahan. Dave Dias was the Saturday night winner at Norwood. Local favorite Charlie Webster won the Modified 30 lap feature at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Bunnell made it four in a row in the Bombers and Bill Sweet was the Daredevil winner. George Murray was the Class A winner and Ed “Flash” Flanagan was the Cadet winner at Seekonk. Jim Hendrickson took the win at Islip over Cliff Tyler and Fred Harbach. At Utica-Rome on Sunday night Cook backed up his Friday night win with a victory at the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday night. Lou Toro finished second with Bill Wimble, third. Dave Kotary and Richie Evans rounded out the top five. Marcel Goddard won the season opener at the Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vermont.

Fifty years ago in 1971, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY saw the best in the business come together on Friday night. When the checkered flag flew it was two of New England’s best leading the way as Bugsy Stevens took down the win with Steady Eddie Flemke coming home in second spot. Guy Chartrand finished third and was followed by Jerry Cook, Andy Romano and Leo Cleary. Stevens continued his winning streak to Stafford on Saturday night as he won both ends of the twin-25 lap program. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek outdistanced Art Tappen and at Fonda, Lou Lazzaro beat out Maynard Forette. Joe Peters was the Class A winner at Seekonk. Racing on Sunday at Utica-Rome and at Thompson was rained out. It also rained at Waterford on Saturday night.

Forty five years ago in 1976, Riverhead ran on Friday night with Fred Harbach taking the win over Gary Winters, Charlie Jarzombek and Greg Sacks. Harbach tried to carry his streak to Islip on Saturday night but when all was said and done, the Flying Dutchman had to settle for second behind Tiger Tom Baldwin. Jerry Cook finished third with Wayne Anderson, fourth. Stafford pulled the plug because of rain and cold but they ran at Riverside despite the fact that only 3600 were in the stands. Charlie Glazier took the win over Ronnie Rocco, Ron Wycoff and Sonny O’Sullivan. Waterford also beat the weather as Bob Potter ruled the roost at the shoreline oval in the Modified division. Potter was hot as a pistol as his win made it three in a row. Don Fowler was the Grand American Late Model winner. Stormin Norman Holden was the Modified winner at Seekonk. At New Egypt it was Ricky Lutz over John Blewett Jr and Wayne Anderson. On Sunday, a NASCAR Modified event was run at Cayuga where Roger Treichler took the win over Ed Howe, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook

Forty years ago in 1981, rain washed out all racing in the Northeast except at Claremont, Danbury and Lancaster. Punky Caron beat out Dwight Jarvis at the New Hampshire oval and Siege Fidenza won at Lancaster. Lou Funk Jr in the Modifieds and Randy LaJoie in the Sportsman were the winners at Danbury. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Jody Ridley got his first and only win in NASCAR’s top division. Bobby Allison finished second. Ronnie Bouchard qualified 12th but crashed 22 laps into the event and finished 27th.

Thirty five years ago in 1986, Jamie Tomaino beat the best there was at Stafford on Friday night. Mike Stefanik finished second and was followed by Greg Sacks and Kenny Bouchard. There were only 19 Modifieds on hand and despite the fact that they were all good ones, the Stafford management was having thoughts of dropping the mighty Mods from their weekly schedule. Saturday night at Waterford, Dale Holdredge held off Ricky Young to take the win. At Riverside it was Reggie Ruggiero and at Riverhead Wayne Anderson led Steve Park to the checker. The Modified tour was at Monadnock on Sunday. Kenny Bouchard took the win over Jim Spencer, Jamie Tomaino and John Rosati. In other weekend action, Leo Cleary was the Pro Stock winner at Seekonk and Jim Spencer was the Modified winner at Shangri-La. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Geoff Bodine started third and won the 500 lap-500 mile grind that saw temperatures in the 90’s.Darrell Waltrip was the Busch Grandnational winner.

Thirty years ago in 1991,Stafford rained out on Friday night but Ted Christopher more than made up for it on Saturday night as he went two for two as he won a left over 75 lapper and the regular Saturday night 35 lapper at the Waterford Speedbowl. Reggie Ruggiero beat out Jerry Marquis at Riverside and Eddie Brunnhoelzl Jr took Riverhead. Ken Wooly won an open competition event at New Egypt on Sunday as he out distanced Tony Siscone and Jamie Tomaino. At Monadnock, Kirby Monteith ruled the roost as he won out over Dwight Jarvis, Jerry Marquis and Mike Ewanitsko.

Twenty five years ago in 1996, Lloyd Agor took the lead on lap 42 of the 50 lap feature at Stafford and went on to take the win over Bo Gunning and Tony Sylvester. Indy pole sitter Scott Brayton died in a practice crash caused by a deflated tire. On Saturday the Waterford Speedbowl management called the night’s races at noon because of impending rain. Needless to say, they got skunked by the weatherman and it never did rain. Waterford’s events were run on Sunday. After a big wreck on the start, Scott Spaulding went on to take the win. Tom Rosati, pinch-hitting for Reggie Ruggiero who was at Nazareth for a Mod tour event got credit for the win at Riverside on Saturday. Ruggiero arrived late and jumped into the car in the mid stages but Rosati started the event and got credit for the win. Ted Riggott finished second. Double features were run at Riverhead with Tom McCann and Chuck Steuer taking the wins. The Modified Tour was at Nazareth for a 100 lapper on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero led for 71 laps and was going into the final turn on the last lap when he was dumped by Jan Leaty, who went on to take the win. A very unhappy Ruggiero restarted and ended up 19th.Tony Hirschman finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Ed Kennedy, Ken Wooley and Tony Ferrente Jr. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Michael Waltrip took the lead with nine laps to go and won the Winston. It was also on this weekend that Alan Johnson got his 100th DIRT victory, that coming at Canadaigua

Twenty years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher beat out Eric Berndt and Lloyd Agor at Stafford on Friday night. Christopher started 13th and took the lead on lap 9 of the 50 lap feature. Dennis Gada made it three in a row at Waterford on Saturday night. Mark LaJunesse finished second with Ed Reed Jr, third. John Fortin won a 50 lapper at Riverhead and Mike Carpenter beat out Jimmie Blewett at Wall. The NASCAR Modified Tour Series was at Nazareth. Ted Christopher took the pole and led the first 15 laps before losing a drive shaft. Mike Stefanik led from lap 16 to 42 when he pitted. Nevin George and Tom Cravenho had their time at the point until lap 62 when Stefanik re-assumed the lead with Mike Ewanitsko in tow. The two swapped the lead until lap 76 when Stefanik hit the wall after banging wheels with Ewanitsko. Ewanitsko went on to take the win and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, John Blewett III, Charlie Pasteryak and Zane Zeiner. There were a total of nine cautions in the 100 lap event. Greg Biffle won the BGN 150, also at Nazareth. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon won the Winston in his back-up car after wrecking his original car on the start. Because of wet track conditions, NASCAR allowed this to happen. Todd Bodine won the No-Bull 5 Winston Open. Maynard Forette, at 65 years of age won the Saturday night modified event at Lebanon Valley and Scott Sharp took the Indy 500 pole with a speed of 226.037 mph.

Fifteen years go in 2006 the Stafford Motor Speedway suffered a rain out for the second week in a row. At the Waterford Speedbowl Dwayne Door made it five in a row in the Sportsman division, thus setting a division mark. Dorr, who started 12th, needed only six laps to take the lead. He then survived a restart- challenge from eventual runner-up Jim Procaccini with four laps left to the 20 lap feature. Jeff Pearl scored his first win of the season as he beat back advances from Dennis Gada. Chris Pasteryak finished third with rookie contender, Tyler Chadwick, fourth and Rob Summers, fifth. Other winners at the shoreline oval were Tim Jordan in the Late Models, Danny Field in the Mini-Stocks and Mark Bakaj in the Legends. In some sad news, Don Fowler, who finished sixth in the SK Modified feature suffered a stroke shortly after returning to his home in Clinton, CT.

In other Saturday night action, John Blewett III scored his 15th career at the Wall Township Speedway. At the Riverhead Raceway Chris Young won his second Modified feature of the year. True Value Modified Series racing at the Lee Raceway rained out. Bob Santos III won a USAC Midget event at Concord, NC.

It looked like many of Nextel Cup star Dale Jarrett’s fans would be burning their t-shirts, hats and jackets as they voiced their protests of him leaving the Ford camp for Toyota. Jarrett, who was 49, was in the twilight of his career with maybe only a couple years remaining of his competitive career. It was all about money and greed. Jarrett would drive a Toyota bodied Nextel Cup car owned by Michael Waltrip and financed by Toyota. They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Jimmie Johnson won the Nextel All-Star Challenge and its $1 million prize Scott Riggs won the Nextel Open.

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was almost one mile-an-hour faster than anyone else on the track and easily captured the pole for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. The No.6 Penske Racing Honda posted a four-lap average of 228.985 m.p.h. for his first Indianapolis 500 pole.

The DIRT MotorSports Inc. head office in Norman, Okla., appeared to have taken a more professional direction in the business of auto racing entertainment with in its top management. Paul Kruger, who first approached DIRT founder Glenn Donnelly with Boundless Motor Sports Racing’s offer to purchase Donnelly’s organization, resigned his position as president and CEO of the new DIRT MotorSports and sold the majority of his holdings in the company. In his place, Tom Deery was named acting CEO. Deery, a former NASCAR official whose family runs Rockford Speedway in Illinois, also is president of DIRT MotorSports, which includes the World of Outlaws sprint and late model series, DIRT NorthEast and both the UMP and MARS late model series.

Ten years ago in 2011, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continued on Spring Break before returning on Friday, May 27 at Stafford for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

The Thompson Speedway began its weekly Thursday Night Thunder Series. Keith Rocco of held off Ted Christopher to score the victory in the Sunoco Modified feature event. Derek Ramstrom was the feature winner of the Super Late Models and Rick Gentes was triumphant in Late Model action. Jay Sundeen wired the field to score the victory in the TIS Modifieds while Larry Barnett the all-time winning most driver in the Limited Sportsman division, added to his tally with a victory and Danny Field was the top dog in the Mini Stock main event; making it two-in-a-row for the Icebreaker winner.

Once the sun went down the temperatures dropped but the action on the track kept spectators warm. The competition was very good but the fields of cars, with the exception of the Limited Sportsman (26) and the Mini Stocks (23) was sparse. There were 13 Late Models, eleven Sunoco (SK) Modifieds, eight Super Late Models and nine Thompson Modifieds

Keith Rocco led green to checker to score the victory in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature event. Ted Christopher finished second followed by Todd Ceravolo, Ryan Preece, and Danny Cates.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ran on Friday night and boasted 25 SK Modifieds in the pit area. Ted Christopher recovered from his race ending broken crankshaft on opening night to pick up his first win of the 2011 season with a dominating performance in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Dillon Moltz was the winner of the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Barrett, Jr. was the winner of the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera, Jr. became the first repeat feature winner of the 2011 season with a victory in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Andrew Hayes drove to victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In action at the Waterford Speedbowl, Six divisions were in competition on Saturday night, with Keith Rocco, the defending division champion, returning to the winner’s circle in the SK Modifieds®.

Brian Andronaco Jr. was the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race, his first on the season. Ed Puleo made it two in a row in the Street Stocks. A first time winner took the checkered flag in

the Mini Stock feature with third generation racer Jeffrey Cembruch took the win. Rounding out the night’s winners were Dana Dimatteo in the Legends Cars and Taylor Martin who won the Bandolero feature.

Waterford drew 19 Modifieds which is fairly respectable. The Street Stock field, which at on time numbered over 100 per night, was a mere 11.

In Modified action south of the Mason-Dixon line at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC early evening rain forced cancellation of the scheduled event.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, John Fortin used an 11th lap double file restart to his advantage to score the victory in the 35-lap NASCAR Modified feature event for the Whelen All-American Series. The victory was worth $1,450 to the former three time track champion and his 24th career visit to victory lane.

In Nationwide Series racing at Dover, Carl Edwards was sure he tapped Joey Logano on the last lap but Edwards missed him, and all the mayhem behind him as Logano lost control on his own and tagged the wall, triggering a wreck-filled final lap that knocked out several contenders and let Edwards win the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Dover International Speedway. Matt Kenseth was the Sprint Cup winner.

Five years ago in 2016, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series converged on the New London – Waterford Speedbowl last Saturday night for the New England Cycle Center 161 with 29 Modifieds. The event meant the 600th consecutive start for veteran Jamie Tomaino. Tomaino was given a standing ovation prior to the start.

With forecasts of heavy rain on the way the Speedbowl management reset the racing schedule twice and their efforts paid off as they got the event in before a fairly decent crowd.

Ron Silk, the 2011 Whelen Modified Tour champion, ended a 42-race winless streak with his first victory since August 2012. Silk started fifth and took the lead on lap 145 from Max Zachem. Zachem went on to record his best ever Tour finish, in second spot. Jimmy Blewett finished third and was followed by Jeff Goodale and Rob Summers. Brendon Bock, Matt Swanson, Doug Coby, Donny Lia and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top ten.

There were ten cautions that consumed 63 laps of the event. During the start of the race Nick Salva got loose and went high into turn 1 and rolling through the turn and down the track Melissa Fifield hit Salva. Andrew Krause, Wade Cole, and Walter Sutcliffe Jr. were also involved in the wreck in turn two. The wreck caused a red flag to come out and stopped the race for 12 minutes. The next caution came only 4 laps after the restart when Bobby Santos and Tom Abele Jr., went into the wall between turns one and two.

The third caution of the event came out when Ted Christopher spun into the infield on lap 19. At the same time Christopher was spinning Rowan Pennink hit the wall between turns one and two, he was able to return to the race many laps down. On lap 39 Timmy Solomito spun 360 degrees exiting turn 4 after contact with Doug Coby and was able to keep the car moving, however the caution flag flew for the fourth time in the race.

The 5th caution of the race came out on lap 73 when the Dowling machine had a right front tire go down and he hit the wall on the front straight away. The 6th caution came out only 13 laps later when Craig Lutz had a right front tire go down. The 7th caution came out when Dave Sapienza got into the wall in turn 3 after getting hit by Solomito. On the restart the 8th caution comes out for Doug Coby who spun into the turn 2 wall.

The 9th caution flew when Solomito lost a tire and pushed Pitkat up and Pitkat hit the wall in turn 2, Pitkat wouldn’t be able to return to the race. The 10th caution came out on lap 150 when Solomito got spun and hit the wall in turn 4.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to action on June 3 at Stafford Motor Speedway with the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

In other action at the shoreline oval, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature was suspended with 18 laps remaining in the scheduled 35-lap event because of rain. Diego Monahan was leading the event, with Ted Christopher in second, when the rains came and brought the event to a halt. The 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature also fell victim to rain. Ray Christian III scored his first career Late Model victory. Jordan Hadley led every circuit to win the 25-lap Mini Stock feature. Young Jacob Perry continues impress as he scored a tenth in the Minis.

The Bowman- Gray stadium in Winston-Salem, NC featured Kevin Powell Motorsports 100 for the NASCAR Modifieds. Taking the win was Chris Fleming with Burt Myers, second.

The Stafford Motor Speedway is 0 for 2 as the Friday night Series of racing fell victim to rain. After a one week delay the recently revamped Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island opened for the season. In the modified feature Shawn Solomito in the #15 Wayne Anderson modified passed last years champion #0 Tom Rogers Jr. for the win and never looked back.

Many upgrades by new owners Eddie and Connie Partridge greeted fans including clean new bathrooms, better concessions, new pace cars and trucks, the band in turn 3 who sang a great Star Spangled Banner and the new lighting system.

On a sad note, the great Dutch Hoag, five-time winner of the National Open (which became the Race of Champions) at Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Speedway and a Modified legend in his own time, passed away at the age of 89. Many drivers feared Langhorne, but tough old Dutch won on both its dirt and asphalt surfaces.

Matt Kenseth put a frustrating start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season behind him by winning Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover Int’l Speedway after a thrilling late-race battle with young guns Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Erik Jones dominated the second half of Saturday’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover Int’l Speedway and collected his second Dash-4-Cash $100,000 bonus of the season.

Last year, 2020, Stafford Speedway has announced an additional 4 iRacing events over the next month. All Phases Renovations will continue to partner with Stafford Speedway to present the weekly iRacing broadcast frome Stafford Speedway each Friday night. All Phases Renovations will also host this Friday’s Modified Invitational event which will feature Modified competitors battling it out in an 80 lap Tour-Type Modified iRace.

On Thursday, May 14, NASCAR announced the next slate of races in its return to racing, featuring events at Bristol Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series and the ARCA Menards Series will all see action in the newly released schedule.

NASCAR had previously announced that Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway would host the first two weeks of racing following a two-month stoppage of action due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Like those two weekends of races, the newly announced dates will also be run without fans in attendance.

Bristol Motor Speedway will be the next track on the schedule following Charlotte, hosting an Xfinity Series race on May 30 followed by the NASCAR Cup Series on May 30. Atlanta Motor Speedway (June 6 and 7) will feature a race by each of the three national series, including a double-header on Saturday with the Xfinity Series and Gander Trucks.

Martinsville Speedway will then host a mid-week NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights on Wednesday, June 10, three days after racing at Atlanta. The NASCAR Whelen Modified tour originally scheduled with the Martinsville event has been cancelled.

Homestead-Miami Speedway will be next on the list, hosting a NASCAR Cup Series night race on Sunday, June 14, that will be preceeded by an Xfinity Series race earlier in the day. That will be the second of two Xfinity Series races at Miami, which will also be part of a double-header with the Gander Trucks on Saturday, June 13.

The announced slate will wrap up at Talladega Superspeedway, starting with an ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series double-header on Saturday, June 20, and the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, June 21.

In addition, NASCAR today announced the postponement of events at Kansas Speedway (May 30-31); Michigan International Speedway (June 5-7), the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio (May 30) and the Gander Trucks Series race at Texas Motor Speedway previously scheduled for June 5, as well as the cancelation of all NASCAR national series races and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Iowa Speedway for the 2020 season. The NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway scheduled for June 13 has been realigned to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, June 14. Further Iowa Speedway realignment dates will be announced in the future.

The NASCAR Cup Series returned to racing at Darlington Raceway this past Sunday, May 17. NASCAR’s return to real-time action Sunday afternoon was a resumption of the close-quarter, high-action brand of racing that fans have long expected at historic Darlington Raceway, culminating with Kevin Harvick claiming his first trophy of the season in front of a robust television and radio audience eager to welcome sports back.

The Real Heroes 400 was the first on-track activity in nearly two months after NASCAR suspended competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to track included specific guidelines unique to this unprecedented situation – no fans in the grandstands, temperature checks at track, a limit on number of team members and of course, social distancing.

Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin followed Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to the finish line. Ryan Preece finished 20th.

It looked like another speedway will bite the dust following the 2020 season. On Tuesday afternoon, May 12, Myrtle Beach Speedway unveiled an updated event schedule for the 2020 racing season. That schedule is condensed to six remaining events for the South Carolina facility, with an August 18 event being advertised as “the last race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.” The property has been sold for re-development. NASCAR has announced that the Whelen Modified Tour will open its 2020 season with a new event added to the schedule on May 30 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. NASCAR also announced to team owners that their June 6 event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway and their June 20 event at Riverhead Raceway have been officially postponed with a plan to reschedule them at a later date.

LFR and Troyer chassis owner Rob Fuller is leading a group to put on a Tour Type Modified event May 30 at the Hickory Speedway in Newton, N.C.

The event is expected to be run without fans but be available for pay-per-view viewing. It’s unclear at this time what the pay-per-view pricing structure plan is for the event.

Hickory Motor Speedway will kick off its 2020 season on Saturday with a five-division six-feature card that will be run with no fans on site. Hickory will offer a pay-per-view of their Saturday show with an advertised promotional price of $19.99 if purchased before Saturday and $24.99 on the day of the event through the website Speed51.

The one-third mile Hickory Motor Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most storied short track venues. The former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour competed twice at Hickory with Junior Miller winning an event there in 2006 and George Brunnhoelzl III winning at the facility in 2011.

On a sad note, Raymond Garuti Sr., 95, of Southington, passed away on Sunday, May 10, 2020, at Autumn Lake Health Care in Cromwell. He was the husband of the late Irene (Cap) Garuti. Ray, with his brother Rich, owned and operated Ray’s Garage in Kensington for 39 years.

Out of that small garage, the brothers built some of the fastest modified race cars on the East Coast, winning around 150 feature events with such drivers as Eddie Flemke, Smokey Boutwell, Jocko Maggiacomo and Moe Gherzi. The Garuti Brothers were inducted into the New England Race Car Hall of Fame on January 30, 2011. Ray was a U.S. Army Veteran.

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