RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Second Week Of April

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago in 1953, rain washed out Sunday racing action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Fred Astle Sr was the opening day winner at Seekonk.

Sixty five years ago in 1958 Bob Malzahon was the opening day winner at the Old Bridge Speedway in New Jersey.

Sixty years ago in 1963, Wild Bill Slater led a northern invasion that took no prisoners on opening day at the Old Bridge Stadium in New Jersey. Slater won the Modified feature over Bill Wimble, Pete Corey and Ernie Gahan. Richard Petty won a 400 lap NASCAR (Cup) Grand National event at South Boston.

Fifty years ago, in 1973, rain washed out the racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Forty five years ago, in 1978, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford drew 111 Modifieds. Maynard Troyer scored the win and led a top three sweep of New York drivers. Richie Evans finished second with Geoff Bodine, third. Bugsy Stevens and Fred DeSarro rounded out the top five. Kenny Bouchard led the early going until being passed by Geoff Bodine on lap 8. Bodine led until lap 44 when Troyer brought the crowd of 13,000 to their feet as he took the lead John Rosati won the non-qualifiers event over Eddie St Angelo, Jim Tyler and Jerry Bartlet.

Forty years ago, in 1983, Gil Hearne won his 69th career victory at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey. Tony Hirschman finished second with Jerry Cranmer, third. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Harry Gant took the lead after Darrell Waltrip was forced to back off because of ignition problems. Geoff Bodine finished ninth after leading most of the laps run.

Thirty five years ago, in 1988, Reggie Ruggerio took the 50 lap win at Riverside on Saturday night. Jerry Marquis finished second with Bruce D’Assandro, third. Al Hill was the modified winner at North Wilkesboro. The Winston Modifieds (Featherlites) were at Thompson for the Ice Breaker. Mike Ewanitsko took the win in the 75 lapper after Tom Baldwin was parked by George Kent with two laps to go in the 75 lap contest. Mike McLaughlin finished second with Doug Hevron, third. Rounding out the top five were Kerry Malone and Jeff Fuller. Baldwin ended his day in tenth spot and was ultimately fined $200 for fighting with Kent after the event was completed. It was also opening day at Seekonk where Johnny Tripp took the win over Bugsy Stevens.

Thirty years ago in 1993, it was all quiet for the Easter weekend with the exception of the Busch Grandnationals who were at Hickory for a Saturday afternoon event which saw Steve Grissom take the win over Ricky Craven and Joe Nemachek. It was also on this weekend that NASCAR announced that they had entered into an agreement to run a 400 mile event at the Indianapolis, Speedway.

Twenty five years ago in 1998, Richie Gallup won the Saturday night 50 lapper at Riverside Park over Ted Riggott, Rob Summers, Eddie Spiers and Dan Avery. The Winston Cup was off for the Easter weekend. The Busch Grandnationals ran at Hickory, N.C. where Ed Berrier took the win.

Twenty years ago in 2003, rain threatened to put a damper on the IceBreaker for the second week in a row but as it turned out the sun came out on Sunday and the entire two-day event was run in one day. With 43 Modifieds on hand, Zach Sylvester took the pole. Tony Hirschman drew the pole for the start and led the first four laps of the 150-lap contest. John Blewett III led from lap 5 until lap 35 when he gave way to Nevin George. George led from lap 36 until lap 60 as Chuck Hossfeld turned up the wick and powered his way into the lead. Hossfeld and George swapped the lead until lap 99 when Hossfeld took it for good and led the rest of the way to the checker. Blewett ended up second and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak, Mike Stefanik and Sylvester. Twin SK-Modified events were run with Jeff Malave and Eric Berndt taking the wins. In Busch Racing Series racing at Nashville David Green took the win over John Sauter and Ashton Lewiss. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, pole sitter Jeff Gordon gave Bobby Labonte the bumper, with 36 laps to go, to take the lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took second spot.

Fifteen years ago in 2008 , Dennis Gada, gunning for his seventh SK Modified Championship at the Waterford Speedbowl was the master of the re-start as he won the $5,000-to-win Waterford SK Modified “150”, the centerpiece of the 10-division Modified Nationals which including extra-distance events for the Speedbowl’s Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stock divisions. The Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Race Trucks, Allison Legacy Cars and NEMA Lites were also on tap. A huge field of SK Modifieds, 34, were on hand for the event that began the 58th consecutive season of auto racing at the shoreline oval. In Saturday time trials Gada was fourth fastest behind Doug Coby, Kenny Horton and Matt Hirschman. Based on a draw among the top qualifiers Coby started on the pole with Horton, outside. Hirschman started third. Gada started eighth.

At the drop of the green Coby jumped out into the lead. His time on the point was short as Gada bolted into the top spot on lap eight and survived numerous re-starts to take the win, his 58th. The top prize of $5,000 was well earned. Kenny Horton ran second for most of the event until 19 laps to go when his tires gave out, forcing him to spin. Coby moved into second spot but lost it to Frank Ruocco on a lap 148 restart. Ruocco ended up second with Coby, third. Jimmy Blewett, who pitted for tires on lap 51 was the odds on favorite to make a run for the win but his efforts fell short as he had to settle for fourth spot at the checker. Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five.

In other weekend racing action at the shoreline oval, it was defending champion Bruce Thomas picking up right where he left off in 2007, winning the 50-lap Late Model feature. Thomas passed early leader Ron Yuhas Jr. with 29-laps remaining and seemed to be cruising to an easy victory until SK Modified regular Keith Rocco closed. His first time-ever behind the wheel of a Late Model, Rocco dogged Thomas to the finish, executing a last-ditch effort at the stripe to overtake the winner. Rounding-out the top-5 was Ron Yuhas Jr., Marc Curtis, and Ed Reed Jr. Al Stone III held off defending Sportsman champion Dwayne Dorr for the win in the 30-lap Sportsman feature. A close finish, Dorr was right on the winner’s bumper during the final circuits. Dave Trudeau, Chris Douton, and Joe Curioso completed the top-5.

Defending champion Ken Cassidy Jr. led the majority of the 30-lap Mini Stock feature, only to be passed by Randy Churchill with three circuits remaining. A restart closed the field for the final time on lap twenty-seven. Churchill nipped Cassidy at the finish by less than a fender. Chris Williams finished a close third followed by Phil Evans and Lou Bellisle. In the 25-lap Northeastern Midget Association feature, Randy Cabral got out in the lead early and cruised to a commanding victory over Joey Payne, Greg Stoehr, Adam Cantor, and, Erica Santos.

In some good news, Ron Mentus who pens a column in the auto racing trade paper Area Auto Racing News, reported that Jerry Robinson and his Waterford Speedbowl partners were nearing completion of financial and legal details to purchase the track and once and for all get it out of the hands of Terry Eames. Mentus alluded to the fact that the deadline to close the deal was April 26. He stated that Robinson felt confident that no further snags would develop. This move would put racing at the shoreline oval on solid ground. Robinson also told Mentus that the track had purchased 6,000 aluminum grandstand seats which hopefully would be erected in time for the 2009 season. The announcement was just another lie and false promise that Robinson made.

The season opening Nationals, which was not advertised in any of the local papers within a 25 mile radius, drew less than half a grandstand of fans. What a shame as the racing was great.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, winning a fuel gamble at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Ariz. As leader after leader dived for the pits to take on gas in the waning laps, Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet stayed on the track and the two-time reigning Cup champion made it to the finish, beating Clint Bowyer, another fuel gambler, by 7.002 seconds.Mark Martin, 49, a part-time driver in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 8, battled at the front with its former driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for much of the 312-lap race on the mile oval. It appeared Martin had his first win since 2005 locked up after he passed Earnhardt on lap 272 and began to pull away, building leads of more than a second. With the end in sight, Martin was called into the pits on lap 301, giving up the top spot to Johnson. Denny Hamlin, who did pit, finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Martin, Jeff Burton and Earnhardt.

FOX and NASCAR postponed the start of the race for 15 minutes waiting for the Red Sox – Yankees baseball game to end, only to have fans miss both the final out of the game and the first lap of the race. That’s like two errors on one play.

NASCAR announced that they won’t change their drug stance: The call for regular random drug testing by some of NASCAR’s biggest stars apparently will not change the organization’s current policy of testing only for “reasonable suspicion.” .But NASCAR president Mike Helton said the reaction by drivers to the ESPN The Magazine report that former truck and Nationwide driver Aaron Fike used heroin the same day he drove in some races was positive and showed drivers were policing themselves.

Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race: Kyle Busch beat Carl Edwards out of the pits on their final stop, then held off the defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion for his second straight victory in Phoenix. Denny Hamlin finished third. Series leader Clint Bowyer, who fell from fifth to 13th when he was penalized late in the race for speeding on pit road, was eighth.

Ten years ago in 2013 The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH on Saturday night. The series second event of the year felt more like a winter-fest as 40-degree temperatures and blustery winds chilled a good crowd on hand. Monadnock is a high banked-1/4 mile asphalt oval. Rowan Pennink took the 100 lap win over Tom Barrett and Louie Mechalides. Todd Patnode and Max Zachem rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Richard Savory, Tim Jordan, Mike Holdredge, Jim Boniface and Norm Wrenn. Pennink, who started 13th, took the lead on lap 94.

Outside front row starter Mike Holdridge led the first 50 laps when pole-sitter Max Zachem moved by. Todd Patnode wrestled the lead from Zachem on lap 72 and led until giving way to Pennink.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, the temperature took a dive when the sun went down but the wind chill factor didn’t seem to bother Keith Rocco who scored his second SK Modified victory of the year at the Connecticut shoreline oval. Rocco, who took the lead from Frank Mucciacciaro on lap 27 of the 35 lap feature, survived a final restart on lap-33 to beat out Ted Christopher. Mucciacciaro held on for third. Diego Monahan and Kyle James rounded out the top five. Other winners at the speedbowl were Jeff Smith in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Randy Churchill won his second SK Light Modified race of the year in as many tries and Allen Coates returned to the winner’s circle in the Street Stock division.

Garrett Denton won his second Mini Stock feature race of 2013 and Brad Voglesong rounded out the night’s winners in the X-Car division.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour was in action at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Third generation driver George Brunnhoelzl started from the pole position after winning his 20th career pole award earlier in the day, but lost the lead to Tim Brown on the race’s first lap. Brunnhoelzl behind the wheel of his No. 28 Epox-Z/Oval Speed Chevrolet spent the rest of the race looking at the rear bumper of Brown. An opportunity presented itself, though, on Lap 146 when the caution flag flew for a multi-car incident in Turn 1 of the .455-mile oval which set up a green-white-checkered finish. After Brown took the white flag Brunnhoelzl tapped the leader’s rear bumper in Turns 3 and 4 opening a window for Brunnhoelzl to slip through to victory. Brown hung on to finish second. Shortly after taking the checkered flag Brown tapped and spun Brunnhoelzl in turn 1. Kyle Ebersole finished third for the third straight race. Last year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Danny Bohn scored a season-best finish of fourth followed by Brian Loftin in fifth. Rookie Luke Fleming, Burt Myers, Andy Seuss, Jason Myers and Gary Putnam rounded out the top-10 finishers on the night.

Seventeen cars took the green. NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver Tim Brown was penalized by NASCAR following his involvement in the post race incident at Caraway Speedway near Asheboro, N.C. Brown, driver of the No. 02 car was found to have violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing. Altercation with another competitor on the race track after the race had concluded.) of the 2013 rule book.

As a result of this violation, Brown was fined $500, suspended from NASCAR until the fine was paid and placed on NASCAR probation until Aug. 28.

Matt Kenseth completed a dominating performance at Kansas Speedway Sunday by holding off Kasey Kahne to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400. Kenseth started from the pole and led a race-high 163 laps during the 267-lap event, becoming the third-straight driver to win from the pole in Sprint Cup competition. It is the first time since 1985 pole winners have won three-straight Sprint Cup races.

Five years ago in 2018, With two events of the Whelen Modified Tour Series in the history books the point standings showed Justin Bonsignore at the top of the heap. Craig Lutz and Chase Dowling were tied in the second spot, eight points back. Fourth, 15 points back, was Jon McKennedy. Rounding out the top five was Rob Summers. Sixth thru tenth were Doug Coby, Timmy Solomito, Calvin Carroll, Burt Myers and Jimmy Blewett.

Next stop on the tour was the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler on April 29. Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car owner George Bierce posted $500 bonuses in memory of Ted Christopher for each of the three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events being held at Stafford Speedway this season. Starting with the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® 200 on Sunday, April 29th, competitors will be eligible for the bonus which will be paid throughout the field. The 13th place qualifier, 13th place car on lap 13, and 13th place finisher will each receive a $100 bonus while the winner will receive $200 for a total bonus of $500.

“I wanted to do something to honor Teddy,” explained George Bierce, owner and operator of Major Motion Transport. “I’ve known Ted for a long time. I sponsored his cars when he ran for Billy “Bear” Calicchio and raced against him for a long time. He was a fierce competitor and a friend, we’ll miss him. I’m glad we can put up a bonus in his honor.”

Christopher, with 374 career wins is the Stafford Motor Speedway all-time winningest driver with 131 feature wins, 109 of them in the SK Modifieds. He is also the winningest driver in NAPA Spring Sizzler® history with 6 wins. He also accumulated nine SK Modified championships at the Arute family owned track.

The $500 bonus will be paid out for each of the three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events held at Stafford, including the April 29th NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®, the August 3rd Starrett 150, and the September 29th NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final. Bierce, a long time supporter of short track racing, has had a long list of modified talent compete in his signature #19 modified. Drivers including Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Eric Beers, Ron Silk, and 5-time champion Doug Coby have all piloted the Major Motion Transport #19.

The bonus posted by George Bierce adds to the weekly SK Modified® bonus posted by Kevin Harvick and KHI Management in honor of Ted Christopher. In addition, the Stafford management is working on a special SK Modified® event in memory Ted Christopher scheduled for Friday, July 13th in honor of the Stafford legend.

The 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® takes the green flag April 27-29. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. Tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount Tickets are now available at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores. For a full list of the 72 participating locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, please call the speedway office or point your web browser to ww.staffordmotorspeedway.com/participating-napa-auto-parts-stores.

Congratulations to Ryan Preece on his big win in Bristol, Tennessee. Preece won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. The win also included a $100,000 bonus Dash for Cash. Preece, who scored his first Xfinity Series at the Iowa Speedway last summer is eligible to run in a Dash for Cash event at Richmond this week but is not entered.

Kyle Busch won the rain-delayed, run on Monday, Monster Cup Series race on a cold, dark day at Bristol Motor Speedway.Busch passed Kyle Larson with five laps remaining to win his second straight Cup Series race. It was Busch’s 45th career Cup win and marks the fifth time in his career that he has won back-to-back races; he won the previous week at Texas. It also Busch’s seventh victory at Bristol.

Larson finished second while Jimmie Johnson finished third to claim his first top-five finish of the season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth and Alex Bowman finished fifth.

On a sad note, Michael Casalaspro who we all knew as Mike Cass passed away on Wednesday, April 11. For over 40 years Mike was a dedicated NASCAR Official on Long Island as well during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Under the Campi family Mike served as the Chief Steward at Freeport Stadium. He also worked Islip and Riverhead in later years with his good buddy and mentor “Big” Bob O’Rourke. His most recent role in racing was with the late Bill & Ellen Denniston as they ran the Hoosier Tire franchise at Riverhead Raceway. Mike was a loyal longtime employee of Cremosa Cheese.

Last year, 2022, In Easter Sunday action, Derek Gluchacki’s victory at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the biggest of his young career, his second ACT Late Model Tour win following Thompson Speedway’s Sunoco World Series in 2021. Tom Carey III earned his second-consecutive silver Northeast Classic trophy while Patrick Laperle made his return to the United States a statement, earning his best NHMS finish in third. DJ Shaw in the A.H. Fence #04VT took fourth and Dillon Moltz capped a strong run with fifth. 2013 Serie-ACT Champion Dany Trepanier took sixth, defending ACT Tour champion Ben Rowe charged from 25th to finish seventh, Jamie Swallow Jr., Jean-Phillippe Bergeron and Shawn Swallow rounded out the top-10.

Jon McKennedy won the 40 lap Modified Series event over Ronnie Williams, Colby Fournier and Woody Pitkat

The second annual Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was pushed back 24 hours but the show was well worth the wait. Going into the Pro All Stars Series event, a MacDonald was most certainly the favorite. Eddie MacDonald #17MA is just one win behind Cup Series star Kyle Busch for the most wins at NHMS all time. In the end a different MacDonald would be the one to claim the checkers after the end of the 50-lap main event. Austin MacDonald #13 put on a dominating performance leading the vast majority of the event but it was not without a challenge.

In NASCAR Cup action, Kyle Busch won the Food City Dirt Race from a distant third place after the Ford of second-place Chase Briscoe slid up the high-banked dirt track into the Chevrolet of leader Tyler Reddick in the final corner, turning both cars sideways. Reddick righted his Camaro and steered toward the finish line, but Busch’s momentum off Turn 4 carried his No. 18 Camry past the flag stand 0.330 seconds ahead of Reddick, who was denied his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Busch, on the other hand, notched his 60th career victory, ninth-most all-time and most among active drivers. With his first win of the season, he matched Richard Petty’s series record streak of 18 years with at least one trip to Victory Lane.

After the second of two rain delays, Busch restarted second on Lap 227, but he fell back as Briscoe passed him on Lap 232 of 250 and began to chase Reddick for the lead.

It has been announced that racing will return to North Wilkesboro Speedway this year. Called a Racetrack Revival, the effort to bring back racing to the North Wilkesboro Speedway, will begin with racing in August on the pavement and then on dirt in October before the track is repaved in 2023, Speedway Motorsports announced Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Classes in August will include Hornets, Super Late Models, street stocks, Pro Late Models, Limited Late Models, modifieds and Late Model stocks. Classes in October will include Hornets, Super Late Models, street stocks, 602 crate Late Models, modifieds, 604 crate Late Models, 410 sprint cars, big block modifieds and Super Late Models. There are no NASCAR events on the schedule.

Big news regarding drag racing and stock cars in Western NY. Retired businessman and drag racer Mike Swinarski and veteran stock car driver Scott Nurmi are expected to purchase and co-own New York International Raceway Park in Lancaster, they told The Buffalo News.

The track, formerly known as Lancaster Speedway, will change names to Lancaster Motorplex upon completion of the sale, which was expected to happen last Friday, April15, Swinarski and Nurmi said.

Historically, one of the more popular stock car attractions at Lancaster has been the Race of Champions events. The ROC has not run at Lancaster the last two seasons, but ROC operator Joe Skotnicki met with Swinarski this week and both sides are in the exploratory stages of possibly bringing back ROC involvement to Lancaster.

Congratulations to Quinn Wazorko Christopher who has been named one of the Top 25 Women in Business in 2022 by the Hartford (CT) Business Journal. A native of Plainville, Quinn Wazorko Christopher graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2002, going on to Southern Connecticut State University for a master’s in social work. Until she became owner of M&T Enterprises in 2017, Christopher was employed at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville.

Following her husband’s (Ted Christopher) unexpected death in 2017, She had to decide what to do with his business of servicing Allison transmissions. She had no knowledge of the transmission business, but with her brother-in-law Mike Christopher’s support and knowledge, they decided to continue running the business. For the last five years, they have continued M&T Enterprises’ success.

While their account base has increased by 30% since 2017, she would like to see it grow an additional 20% in the next two years and serve 500 clients. They will do this by continuing to be competitive, providing quality repairs and exceeding client expectations. As a businesswoman, she hopes to serve as a role model for those interested in this type of career.

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