RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Third Week Of June
Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy five years ago Bob Blair was the winner at the Seekonk Speedway.
Seventy 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. Dave Humphrey made it two in a row at Seekonk.
Sixty five years ago in 1956 Freddie Luchesi and Larry Antonellis shared victory lane after winning twin events. Pete Frazee took the win at Old Bridge
Sixty 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. At Seekonk, George Summers was the Sportsman winner and John Silvia was the Novice winner.
Fifty five 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. Tony Cortes was the Class A winner and Tony Rose was the Cadet winner at Seekonk. 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.
Fifty 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. Georgie Summers made it two in a row at Seekonk. 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 five 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. Norm Holden was the Modified winner at Seekonk.
Forty 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 five 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 Jivenelli at Riverhead and Tony Hirschman at Shangri-La.
Thirty 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 five 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.
Twenty 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 Brendt 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.
Fifteen 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.
Ten 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 Holdrige.
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.
Five years ago in 2016, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour action resumed on Wednesday, June 15 at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway. Twenty nine cars were on hand for the event.
Bobby Santos ended a long dry spell as he broke the stranglehold that Doug Coby had on the division. Santos, who had tire issues early on staged a lat race rally and passed Max Zachem on the final lap to take the win. Zachem settled for second after coming within one lap of his first career tour win. The 23-year-old from Preston, Connecticut, was making his 23rd career start and led a race-high 43 laps. Rookie Matt Swanson finished third, followed by Patrick Emerling and Jeff Goodale.
Ryan Preece, who is running NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time this season, came back after a spin to finish sixth. Rowan Pennink, Brendon Bock, Jimmy Blewett and Ken Heagy rounded out the top 10. Coby, who earlier in the day won his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, wound up 11th after being black flagged for passing too early on a restart.
Fifteen of the original 29 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Ron Silk, Shawn Solomito, Justin Bonsignore and Andrew Krause were eliminated in accidents with less than 15 laps to go. Craig Lutz and Nick Salva were also accident victims as were Chase Dowling and Dave Sapienza. Melissa Fifield finished a career high 19th, some six laps down. Last but not least was Woody Pitkat who retired after completing three laps when his clutch went bad.
Doug Coby continued to lead the point standings, holding a 19 point edge over Max Zachem. Zachem continued to impress with his extremly strong runs as he came within a tick of scoring his first win in the Tour series. Rowan Pennink,Donnie Lia and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five.
In regular weekly racing action at Thompson Keith Rocco made it four in a row in the Sunoco (SKtype) Modifieds. A touch of the Flu didn’t slow him down as he scored his 220th overall career win. Ronnie Williams finished second in a car maintained by Rocco. Ryan Preece finished third with Rowan Pennink and Woody Pitkat rounding out the top five.
Other winners were Paul Charette in the Late Models, Dan Cugini in the NEMA Lites, Brent Gleason in the Limited Sportsman and Wayne Burroughs in the Mini Stocks.
In weekly racing at Stafford, taking down NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly feature wins on the night were Eric Berndt in the SK Modified® feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the Late Model feature, Daniel Wesson in the SK Light feature, Justin Bren in the Limited Late Model feature, Alexandra Fearn crossed the finish line first but was disqualified in post race tech for a ride height issue, making Tyler Trott the winner, and Noah Korner in the Legend Cars feature.
In the SK Modified feature, Rowan Pennink was able to make a pass stick on Keith Rocco to move into second on lap-38 as Eric Berndt was the leader. Berndt led Pennink and Rocco to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2016 season. Stephen Kopcik finished fourth and Ted Christopher rounded out the top-5.
Third year SK Modified division driver Paul Kusheba IV scored his long awaited first career victory in the division Saturday to showcase the racing card at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Anthony Flannery was victorious in the Late Model feature. Tony Membrino Jr. scored victory in the SK Light Modified feature. Al Stone III was victorious in the Limited Sportsman feature. Charles Canfield won the Mini Stock feature. Duane Noll won in the debut of the track’s new Truck division in weekly racing action at the shoreline oval.
In the SK Modified feature Kusheba took the lead early on and survived numerous restarts to record the victory. Rob Janovic Jr.finished second with Dennis Perry, Joey Gada and Todd Owen rounding out the top five.
The NASCAR Modifieds ran twin 50s at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. Burt Myers broke a season long dry spell as he qualified for the pole position and led every lap to record the win. Lee Jefferies and Tim Brown followed. James Civali, driving the Hills Enterprises No.79 started on the pole but spun out of the lead which allowed John Smith ended up with the win with Jason Myers, second. Jason Myers, Brandon Ward, Burt Myers and Tim Brown rounded out the top five. Civali recovered from his spin to finish 11th.
Area Auto Racing News scribe Kevin Rice reported that Modified car owner David Hill was injured and his former driver, Joe Ryan Osborne from Kannapolis, N.C. was arrested during an altercation in the pit area following Saturday night’s second 50-lap Modified race at NC’s Bowman Gray Stadium.
Hill told Area Auto Racing News that he approached Osborne’s car just to talk to him as Osborne was passing by Hill’s pit stall on the way to his own stall. Osborne then drove forward, and then spun his car around with Hill hanging onto Osborne’s helmet to avoid being thrown from the car and run over. Bystanders told Rice that Hill was thrown high into the air when Osborne was trying to get away, but fortunately he escaped with minor injuries and was not transported to a hospital. Osborne says that he was released by police with no bail after charges were reduced to misdemeanors
The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island saw Kyle Soper take the Modified division win.
Two Massachusetts racers scored big wins in Maine on Saturday night in twin 50s for the Valenti Modified Racing Series at the Oxford Plains Speedway. Anthony Nocella of Woburn, and Jon McKennedy, of East Chelmsford, took decisive wins at the 1/3 mile speedway. Only two caution flags slowed the race. 17 cars finished on the lead lap. Three yellows were displayed in the second event. 9 cars finished on the lead lap.
Following Nocella in the first event was McKennedy. David Schneiderfinished third with Richard Savary and Woody Pitkat rounding out the top five. George Sherman was the runner-up in the second 50 lapper with Chris Pasteryak. Russ Hersey and Colby Fournier rounded out the top five.
NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors had the weekend off. Sam Hornish Jr. hadn’t raced in NASCAR since November of 2015, but it didn’t slow him down as he dominated the NASCAR XFINTY Series American Ethanol E15 250 at Iowa Speedway for his fourth career series victory. Hornish, got the call from Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the No. 18 Toyota in place of Matt Tifft. Tifft was forced to miss Sunday’s race because of a back injury, opening the door for Hornish to step in. Hornish eventually beat Ty Dillon to the finish line by nearly 1.5 seconds for his first XFINITY Series victory of the year in his first start of the season. He led a race-high 183 laps en route to the triumph.
In some sad news, noted championship car owner and NEAR Hall of Fame member Mario Fiore had been fighting a valiant battle with cancer. On Friday close friend David Salzarulo was informed by Mario’s physician that all treatment was now for comfort. While we will not stop hoping for a miracle, the racing community is praying for comfort and a miracle.
Last year, 2020, Mike Stefanik was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The three Inductees consist of two from the Modern Era Ballot, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Stefanik, and one from the Pioneer Ballot, Red Farmer. Congratulations to the 12th NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. In addition to his accomplishments in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Busch North NASCAR Series Stefanik was an accomplished weekly racer at Stafford, Riverside Park and Monadnock Speedways as well as a race car designer and fabricator.
Stefanik was the 1986 Stafford Modified Track Champion. He was also the 1979 Six Cylinder Limited Sportsman Champion. It wasn’t until 1986, the last year Stafford ran full bore modifieds on a weekly basis, that Stefanik won his first feature, which came in the Winston 100 on May 30. It was the only feature he won at Stafford that season, but coupled with consistent top 5 finishes, he was able to garner the title.
Stefanik began his racing career at Stafford in 1976, driving a back up car belonging to Bob Witcop. Believe it or not, the night before he was to make his debut, he was hit by a car outside an auto dealership where he worked. Stefanik picked up his first Limited Sportsman win in 1978, but it was in 1979 when he dominated the division with 9 wins. He moved up to the modifieds in 1980 and garnered his first open wheel win at Riverside Park on July 12. Stefanik ran at both Stafford and Riverside, gaining confidence and experience plus, he caught the eye of Richie Evans. Evans talked Sonny Koszela into giving the young hot shoe a ride in the famous Woodchopper Special that had been formerly driven by Ernie Gahan, Leo Cleary, Fred DeSarro, and Bugsy Stevens.
The combination worked so well that Stefanik literally became part of the family as he married Koszela’s daughter Julie. The alliance and marriage into the Koszela family enabled Stefanik to become a full time race car fabricator as well as a driver.
Stefanik began racing on the NASCAR Modified Tour and was the most successful driver in Tour history. From 1985 through 2014, Stefanik made 453 starts and he holds the series record for most career wins with 74 and championships with 7. Stefanik recorded Spring Sizzler® wins in 1989, 1990, 1997, and 1998, Fall Final wins in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2002, 2007, and 2008. Stefanik’s 2008 Fall Final victory was the 34th and final Stafford win of his career.
When the opportunity to race on the Busch Grand National North series presented itself in 1991, Stefanik jumped at the chance and was been equally successful there. From 1991 through 2005, Stefanik made 164 starts and won 12 races. Stefanik won the championship in 1997 and 1998, marking an unprecedented 2-year stretch where he won the championships in both the NASCAR Modified Tour and Busch North Series.
Mike Stefanik truly deserves his place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame as well as being included as one of the Fifty Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time as voted on by the public in the Stafford Salutes NASCAR at 50 program.
In some real good news, the 2020 racing season at the Stafford Motor Speedway will finally get to start their season with spectators in the grandstands on Friday June 26. The speedway has received approval from the state to open at 25 percent capacity. The track holds 10,000. By last Sunday, June 21, opening night was declared a sell-out. Season ticket holders were given first refusal.
Close to 100 race teams braved 90 degree heat on Saturday in order to shake their cars down in preparation for this weeks opener.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series finally got to drop the green for their 2020 season at the Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania. The event was run without spectators because of restrictions imposed by the flu epidemic. After multiple delays resulting from the pandemic to bad weather, the start of the 2020 season is finally here with a race to honor the late Whelen Modified Tour veteran Wade Cole, who passed away in March. Thirty-three entries, including defending and six-time tour champion, Doug Coby, were at the starting line at the Speedway.
Justin Bonsignore hit the ground running and left little doubt that he is the guy to beat. Bonsignore won the pole which put him on the front row at the start. Doug Coby was second fastest. When the green dropped Bonsignore left everyone in his dust as he dominated the field and led every lap. Coby faded after the half way break and ended up seventh at the checker. Coming off his momentum from last year Craig Lutz slugged it out with Jon McKennedy to finish second. McKennedy finished third. Matt Hirschman, who was the fastest in practice, finished fourth and Calvin Carroll made a tremendous run from a 24th starting position to finish fifth. Sixth thru tenth were Ron Silk, Coby, Kyle Bonsignore, Matt Swanson and Rob Summers.
Four cautions slowed the event. The first caution came on lap 1 when Ronnie Williams, Melissa Fifield and Patrick Emerling tangled in turn one. Emmerling suffered a flat right front tire and stopped on the track. The second caution came when Timmy Catalano lost a drive shaft and crashed in turn three. The third caution was a half way break on lap 70 and the fourth and final caution came on lap 106 when Sam Rameau triggered a wreck in turn four which collected Eric Goodale, Tyler Rypkema, Amy Catalano, Jeff Gallup, Woody Pitkat, John Beatty Jr and Ron Williams.
The Morocco Welding/Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair aired live on Trackpass on NBC Gold, and will re-air on Saturday, June 27 at 12am ET on NBCSN. The Whelen Modified Tour will return to action on Saturday, July 4, with its inaugural visit to White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, New Hampshire. Spectator attendance at this event is limited to 50% of capacity per state health and safety guidelines.
The White Mountain announcement created another problem as the Tri Track Modified Series had previously scheduled an event at the Monadnock Speedway for July 4. Tri Track Open Modified Series officials announced the series will move the originally scheduled season opener at Monadnock Speedway to Sunday, July 5, in the best interest of race teams and fans. The Tri Track Open Modified Series feels this is in the best interest of modified teams and the great fans of our sport. This will allow race fans to catch two modified races in the same state, on the same weekend, without both running at the same time.
The Monadnock event will pay a winner’s purse of $6,000 with $3,250 to be paid for second and $2,600 for third, with a total purse of more than $40,000. NASCAR has not announced a purse structure for the event at White Mountain Motorsports Park. The Whelen Modified Tour has never run at White Mountain, which is not a NASCAR sanctioned track.
It was not an easy decision but Tri-Track officials deserve a pat on the back for making a decision that is best for fans and competitors.
Good news comes from Long Island. The Riverhead Raceway became the latest track to announce plans for reopening following COVID-19 global pandemic shutdowns. The Management at Riverhead Raceway announced a revamped schedule for the 2020 season Wednesday with the track set to open on Aug. 1 and run to Oct. 31. The track will open with a seven-event racing NASCAR Advance Auto Weekly Racing Series card headlined by a 50-lap Tour Type Modified feature.
Riverhead was originally scheduled to host the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on June 20 and Sept. 19. The Sept. 19 event remains in place with the June 20 event being rescheduled to Oct. 17. Riverhead will host open practice days on July 18 and July 25 and will host 16 NASCAR racing events through Oct. 31.
In NASCAR Cup racing at Talladega Ryan Blaney nipped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the finish line by .007 seconds for his fourth win and first since Talladega in October, albeit this time before a mostly empty venue.
June 3, 1972 Saturday night at Stafford saw Fred DeSarro make it two in a row as he took the win over Denis Giroux, Bob Santos, Gene Bergin and Ronnie Bouchard. Warren Brenn was the All American Sportsman winner and Ted Wright was the Mini Midget feature winner.
Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!