RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Third Week Of May
Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy five years ago a drivers strike at Seekonk went into its third week.
Seventy years ago in 1953, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl began its summer schedule which included holding races on Wednesday and on Saturday. Massachusetts invader Red Bolduc was the Wednesday night winner and Red Foote was victorious on Saturday night. Non-Ford winners were Bud Matter and Bob Tyson.
Sixty five years ago in 1958, Don Collins was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the non-Ford winner at the Ct shoreline oval. Joe Kelly took the win at Old Bridge.
Sixty years ago in 1963 Rene Charland was well on his way to the NASCAR Sportsman Championship as he made it two in a row at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Eddie Flemke made it two in a row at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Cam Gaglairdi finished second with Ed Ortiz, third. The then dirt Stafford Springs Speedway began its second year under the NASCAR sanction with Ernie Gahan taking the win. Rain prevailed at Waterford, Norwood and at Seekonk. Down in the southland Ray Hendrick won a 100 lap Modified event at South Boston.
Fifty five years ago, in 1968, Bugsy Stevens made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. Eddie Flemke, the previous week’s winner, finished second. Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell finished third with Reno Tulonen and Leo Cleary rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Lou Lazzaro took the top spot over Don MacTavish, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland and Andy Romano. Bugs Stevens took his winning ways to Norwood on Saturday where he dusted the field. At Fonda, Ray Sitterly scored a surprise victory over Kenny Shoemaker and Ron Narducci and at Fulton, Dutch Hoag scored the first of 12 events he would win over the next three seasons. Eddie Flemke put the 2x of Bobby Judkins in victory lane at Thompson while at Utica-Rome twin features were on tap. Lou Lazzaro won the left over feature from the previous week. Sonny Seamon finished second with Ken Platt, Dick Fowler and Dick Clark rounding out the top five. Richie Evans who beat out Sonny Seamon, Andy Romano, Jerry Cook and Robbie Kotary for the top spot, won the regular evening’s feature. Rain prevailed at Waterford, Norwood, Seekonk and at Lancaster.
Fifty years ago in 1973 Friday night racing at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. rained out. It cleared on Saturday and at Stafford Springs Eddie Flemke took the win over Fred DeSarro, Ron Bouchard and Don Flynn. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek again bested the 1/5-mile oval, beating out Jim Hendrickson for the win. At Tioga, Eddie Pieniezak took the win over Wayne Edwards, George Kent and Jerry Cook. Lingering showers at Waterford prevailed. Rain washed out events scheduled at Pocono and Utica-Rome. George Delmar was the Late Model winner at Seekonk.
Forty five years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine was on a tear as he won three out of four for the weekend. At Stafford, he beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Leo Cleary, at Seekonk he won over Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens and at Utica-Rome he beat Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. The only downer was a blown engine at Oswego on Sunday afternoon. Other weekend winners were Jerry Cook at Riverside, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Charlie Jarzombek at Islip, Ronnie Bouchard at Thompson and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. Maynard Troyer won the modified half of the Port City 150 at Oswego.
Forty years ago in 1983, rain soaked the northeast. Stafford ran on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Bobby Vee, Kenny Bouchard and Greg Sacks. Jerry Pearl was the SK Modified winner. Marty Radwick took the victory at Riverside Park over Ray Miller and Dennis Albro. At Tioga, Richie Evans beat out Wayne Edwards. Waterford, Wall Stadium, Islip, Spencer and a special modified event at Pocono, rained out.
Thirty five Years ago in 1988, Stafford rained out. At Waterford on Saturday, Ed Flemke Jr. took the win over John Jensen. At Riverhead, it was Don Howe over John Blewett Jr. and at Tioga, Tony Hirschman made it three in a row with Lee Sherwood, second. Mike Stefanik was the winner at Monadnock on Sunday.
Thirty years ago in 1993, Steve Chowanski took the Friday night win at Stafford after the Christopher brothers tangled on the last lap. Saturday saw rain at Waterford. Jerry Marquis got his third win at Riverside and Brian Miller scored a win at Riverhead. Twin SK events were run at Thompson on Sunday. John StAngelo and Ted Christopher were the winners. Marquis made it two for two on the weekend as he won on Sunday at Monadnock. The Modified Tour Series joined the Busch Grandnational North/South divisions at Nazareth. Tim Connolly won the modified event over Doug Hevron, Jamie Tomaino, Rick Fuller and Tom Baldwin. Bob Pressley won the Busch GN event after Mike Stefanik broke a motor mount while leading. Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin with two to go to win the Winston at Charlotte.
Twenty five years ago in 1998 Memorial Day came a week early and the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik started second and led all 150 laps as he went non-stop. Chris Kopec finished second with John Blewett III, third. Carl Pasteryak and Ed Kennedy rounded out the top five. In SK Modified action at Stafford Bo Gunning scored his 34th career win as he out ran Chris Jones and Jim Broderick to the checker. Tucker Reynolds passed Jerry Pearl with 10 laps to go and went on to record the win at Waterford. Rick Donnelly finished second while Pearl faded to third. Eddie Flemke won a 125 lapper at Riverside Park over Bob Polverari and Todd Ceravolo and at the Riverhead Raceway it was Ken Heagy in victory lane. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Sunday. Ted Christopher led from lap 40 to the finish only to get disqualified with an illegal transmission. Bert Marvin was awarded the win with Dennis Gada moving up to second. Charlie Pasteryak, Todd Ceravolo and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five. Mark Martin took the lead from Jim Spencer with four laps to go and went on to win the Busch Series 300 at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon beat out Rusty Wallace to win the Winston Cup World 600 at Charlotte and Eddie Cheever won the Indy 500. Tom Carey was the Busch North Series winner at the Holland Speedway.
Twenty years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was scheduled to be at the Stafford Speedway on Friday night but heavy rain forced the Arute family to pull the plug and reschedule to Friday, May 30. The decision to scrub the event was made around 9:00 am which saved countless competitors and fans needless travel. A very good and smart move! Waterford and Seekonk followed suit early on Saturday morning. Seekonk’s Busch North Series event at Seekonk was rescheduled to Saturday, May 31. Waterford’s holiday program would run in July. With four events in the 2003 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series record book John Blewett III sat atop the point standings. Winless, Blewett had four top tens including two top fives. The 2002 rookie sensation Todd Szegedy sat in the second spot, one point behind Blewett. Szegedy was also winless but had four top tens including three top fives to his credit. Ted Christopher finished 32nd at Thompson in the season opener but since then had come on like gangbusters and had clawed his way to third spot, thirty five points behind the leader. Christopher had two wins to his credit including the Spring Sizzler at Stafford and the recent Service Electric 100 at Nazareth. In addition to his two wins and a DNF, Christopher had one top five and was the series money leader with $21,400 in the win column. Chuck Hossfeld led the point standings through the first three events but ran into miss-fortune at Nazareth when officials said he jumped the final restart and placed him at the tail end of the lead lap in 19th spot. Hossfeld actually crossed the finish line in 8th spot. Although he did not actually pass the car in question he was along side as they crossed the start line and officials felt that it was his intent to make a pass. A questionable call to say the least. Hossfeld, who won the season opener at Thompson, had a total of three top tens including two top fives. Even with a slip to fourth spot, Hossfeld was only 36 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five was former series champion Jerry Marquis. Marquis had four top tens including one top five and was 41 points out of first spot. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, Eric Beers, Rick Fuller, Tony Ferrante Jr. and Dave Etheridge. NASCAR’s top divisions had better luck as the big weekend at Charlotte was completed. Jimmie Johnson was declared the winner of the Winston Cup World 600 after rain caused the race to be stopped at the 414-mile mark. Matt Kenseth was second. On a sad note, it was learned that former Stafford Motor Speedway pace car driver Peter Locke had passed away at the age of 66.
Fifteen years ago in 2008, the Stafford Motor Speedway suffered their third successive rain out. The Waterford Speedbowl continued to benefit from Stafford’s rain outs as their car counts in the SK Modified division had become quite healthy. Six-time champion Dennis Gada came from deep in the pack Saturday evening to win his third NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK feature of the season on Little League Night.
The 35 lap SK Modified feature got off to a rough start as a pile of cars got drop kicked into the first turn wall after outside pole sitter Frank Mucciacciaro Jr failed to come up to racing speed. Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr got the worst of it and were towed from the scene. On the restart, Wendell Dailey led momentarily before passed by Mucciacciaro and several others. Justin Gadosh then moved to the front pressed by Rob Janovic and a fast-moving Dennis Gada. Passing Gaydosh, Gada pulled alongside leader Janovic, executing an outside-pass to take the lead with only three circuits remaining when the caution waved for the final time. In one of the closest SK finishes of 2008, he was able to get the advantage on defending champion. Following was Gaydosh, Ronnie Silk, and Rocco. In the Late Models, Ed Reed took his second feature of the season. Moving into the lead following an altercation between leader Tim Jordon and defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr., Reed distanced himself from a furious battle between Vin Esposito and Ron Yuhas Jr. Having his best run of the season, a surprisingly-fast Esposito was able to nip Yuhas for second. After restarting from the back of the field, Jordan and Thomas Jr. recovered to complete the top-five. Both of these drivers deserved the “Meatball Flag” Jordan for blocking and Thomas for the lack of patience. Ed Lamb Jr. became the sixth different Sportsman feature winner of the season in scoring his first-ever main event. Lamb was dogged in the closing laps by veteran Jim Proccaccini, but managed to pull ahead by several car-lengths at the finish. Walt Hovey, Jr., Al Stone III, and Jonathon Avery followed.
In the caution-free Mini Stock feature, teenage rookie Raymond Christian III put on a dominating performance to win the first of his career. Christian is the son of defending “Women On Wheels” champion Kathy Civardi, and the step-son of popular Speedbowl veteran Jeff “Soup” Civardi. Lou Belisle finished second, and rounding-out the top-five was Randy Churchill Jr., Ken Cassidy Jr., and Bill Leonard.
According to the State of Connecticut Judicial website the Waterford Speedbowl was once again the center of foreclosure action. Rocco Arbitell, along with Peter Borelli, filed suit in state court in New London to foreclose on the Speedbowl property. The case was filed against 1080 Hartford Road, the group that owned the Speedbowl, and Terry Eames. In the mean time, the Speedbowl continued to run every week bacically drawing fans on a word of mouth situation.
Special congratulations were sent out to Howie and Mary Hodge, two very special people who celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss on Sunday, May 18. Thanks to the efforts of Howie and Mary the Whelen Modified Tour Series gets recorded in pictures.
Kasey Kahne picked up a $1 million payday Saturday by gambling on a late pit stop to steal a win in NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star race. Kahne didn’t take tires on the pit stop before the fourth and final 25-lap segment, a decision that helped him start second when the race resumed. He wasn’t challenged and easily held off Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth for the victory. Kahne wasn’t originally eligible for the race, needing to finish first or second in the preliminary Sprint Showdown. He finished fifth, but earned his spot through a fan vote. The 100-lap event was intermittently dominated by Kyle Busch, Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Biffle, who led the final 11 laps of the third segment, took two tires and was mired in traffic on the start of the final segment. Biffle, who finished second, never got a chance to run down Kahne, who slid past leader Jimmie Johnson to lead the final 17 laps. Kenseth was third. Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.
Ten years ago in 2013, The Memorial Day weekend began on a wet note as the Stafford Motor Speedway management and NASCAR postponed the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series 23rd ANNUAL TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON 125 due to a forecast for inclement weather.
In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl, rain prevailed. Riverhead Raceway on Long Island also fell victim to rain.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC the Myers brothers battled it out in the first of two 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division. Jason Myers held off older brother Burt and celebrated his first victory of the season. In the second race, John Smith held off fellow Mount Airy driver Chris Fleming for his first victory of the season.
NASCAR honored a pair of its most famous and successful families with inductions into the Hall of Fame. Past champion Dale Jarrett joined father Ned in the hall and master mechanic Maurice “Chief” Petty became the fourth member of one of NASCAR’s most royal families to be selected for enshrinement. Maurice joins older brother, “King” Richard Petty; their father, championship driver Lee Petty; and cousin Dale Inman, Richard’s longtime crew chief in the hall.
Tim Flock, a two-time premier series champion, also was selected along with Jack Ingram, who drove to success on what became NASCAR’s Nationwide Series; and Fireball Roberts, the flashy showman from the 1950s who raced to 33 victories before his death in 1964.
In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing at Charlotte, Kyle Busch dominated as he raced to his sixth Nationwide Series victory of the season and record seventh career win at the 1.5-mile track. He also was Truck Series winner at the track the previous week, his fifth victory in that circuit at Charlotte.
Tony Kanaan drove past Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart Sunday with three laps to go, then coasted across the finish line under yellow to win the Indianapolis 500 when defending race winner Dario Franchitti crashed far back in the field.
Kevin Harvick took the lead from Kasey Kahne during a restart with 11 laps left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and pulled away to his second victory in NASCAR’s longest race. Kasey Kahne appeared to have the race under control when the caution flag waved with 16 laps left for a large piece of debris on the front stretch. Kahne opted not to pit during the caution period, but Harvick and all the other lead lap cars did. Harvick got off pit road first, allowing him to restart second along Kahne.
The field returned to racing with 11 laps left and Harvick went right to work. Working the low line below Kahne, Harvick was able to take the lead at the exit of turn two. Once out front Harvick slowly pulled away, eventually beating Kahne to the checkers by 1.490 seconds. Kurt Busch, who was forced to change batteries in his car late in the race, recovered to finish third. Polesitter Denny Hamlin was fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 was filled with chaos and strange happenings. The race was slowed by 12 caution flags and two red flags. One of those red flags came when a nylon cable from an overhead television camera snapped and fell onto the track on lap 121. The cable caused damage to several race cars, including severe damage to then race leader Kyle Busch’s Toyota, as well as 10 race fans. Seven race fans were treated and released at the track while three were transported to a local hospital for observation.
Five years ago in 2018 Last year, 2018, NASCAR Hall of Fame’s tenth induction class was announced late last week at the Hall in Charlotte, NC. Congratulations to the five individuals that make up the Class of 2019 are Davey Allison, Jeff Gordon, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske and Jack Roush and the Landmark Award recipient Jim Hunter.
The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair Modifiedz night, the biggest SK Light Modified race of the season, on Friday, May 25th. The SK Light Modifieds ran their longest race of the season with a 40-lap feature, doubling their weekly distance. Matching 2017, Doug Dunleavy of Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair partnered with Stafford Speedway to put up a posted purse of $9,940 including a $2,000 payday for the winner.If a $9,940 SK Light Modified purse wasn’t enough, Dunleavy posted an additional $2,950 for the 2018 Modifiedz night, doubling the winners’ purse for all Stafford divisions. With the increase, the SK Modified 40-lap feature paid a potential $3,600 to win, the Late Model 30-lap feature $1,750 to win, Limited Late Model feature $850 to win, and $400 to win for the Street Stocks.
In the 40 lap SK Modified feature Rowan Pennink ended Keith Rocco’s win streak by taking the win,Through no fault of his own, Rocco was collected in a lap six wreck. Rocco rallied back and came across the finish line in fourth spot behind Pennink, Ron Williams and Chase Dowling, . Following post-race inspection, Dowling’s car was found to be 10 pounds underweight and he was penalized 10 positions, one position for each pound his car was underweight, moving him to 13th in the finishing order.
Other winners at Stafford on Friday night were Marcello Rufrano in the 40-lap SK Light feature, Tom Fearn in the Late Model feature, Jeremy Lavoie, and Johnny Walker in the Street Stock feature.
Round one of the 2018 edition of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series went to post in northern New Hampshire on Saturday night with 30 Modifieds on hand. Home track favorite Mike Willis, Jr. of Grantham, NH, scored the victory in the inaugural Ron Bouchard’s Auto Stores 100 at Claremont Speedway presented by SPAFCO and Jerico. A strong crowd was on hand to watch and appreciate as one of their own scored the victory over some of short track racing’s best like runner-up Ryan Preece and podium finisher and Series’ dominator Matt Hirschman. Hard-charging Tommy Barret and Ron Silk completed the top-five.
Despite starting on the pole it was not a cake walk for the young charger as he had to overcome dogged determination by his fellow competitors and late-race restarts to capture the popular win and the $6,000 winner’s share. Hard-charging competitors locked in fierce battles from the drop of the green flag, the race was undeniably a fitting tribute to the late, great Ron Bouchard.
On lap 95, Willis made a bold move and was able to take the lead away from Silk. The twelfth and final caution flew for an incident that involved Chris Bolton to set up a three-lap dash for the cash. Despite his efforts from the outside, Silk could not overcome Willis. Willis easily retained his lead; bringing Preece along and into second. Hirschman dogged Preece but to no avail. For as heated as the battle for the lead had been over the closing laps, Willis went uncontested for the win at the checkers. It was a popular win for a young driver who calls Claremont home. In victory lane he was quick to acknowledge his father and the efforts of his crew. Willis received congratulations from Preece and Hirschman, his fellow podium finishers in victory lane. Kudos go out to fourth-place finishers Tommy Barrett, who after suffering mechanical woes, a broken rear-end axle in the consi, used a provisional to get into the field and started scratch on the 27 car field. Silk completed the top-five. Sixth through tenth were Matt Galko, Woody Pitkat, Todd Patnoad, Rowan Pennink and Les Hinkley.sixth-place Galko. Recovering from adversity was the story for the remainder of the top-ten including Pitkat, Patnode, Pennink, and Hinckley.
The inaugural Ron Bouchard Auto Parts 100, presented by SPAFCO and Jerico, is also made possible with the help of a strong list of associate sponsors with a ton of racing heritage including Broad Brook Heating & Cooling, Fred Wilcox, Bruce Brennenstuhl, Fuller RV Rentals and Sales, Fuller’s Car Laundry, Ballard Trucks, Metcalf Paving, Pat’s Auto Center, George Summers Trucking, Ashaway Cement Products, Mad River Construction, Bradford Motors, Dunn’s Corner Repair, Twin Cedars, Central Mass Tree and Ed French & Son Paving. Next up for the TTOMS is the prestigious Open Wheel Wednesday 100 at Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, June 27. .
On tap at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was the Full Fendered Throwdown presented by Belltown Motors Tire Service Center and Belltown Recycling. Anthony Flannery was the overall champion of the Late Model 20/20/20 Shootout picking up $2000.00 check for his efforts. In three separate 20 lap features Flannery finished fifth, second and second. Individual winners were Jason Palmer, Ryan Morgan and Bruce Thomas Jr. Other winners were Scott Serydnsky in the 375 Sportsman, Jordan Hadley in the Limited Sportsman, Nick Pappacoda in the Mini Stocks and Dwane Noll in the trucks.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series was also at the shoreline oval. Joey Doiron collected his first win in GSPSS competition and like Flannery, he did it with consistency. He finished third in all three 35-lap races. Jacob Dore led from the pole to dominate the first 35-lap feature, Cory Casagrande battled hard in the closing laps against George Bessette and held him off for the win in the second feature and Devin O’Connell worked forward from fourth starting spot to dominate and drive away from the field to win the third 35 lapper.
Across the big pond on Long Island, Tom Rogers was the Modified tour type winner at the Riverhead Raceway. Howie Brody finished second with Kyle Soper, third. His NASCAR Modified triumph, 49th of his career leaves Rogers just one win shy of tying the late Jim Malone Sr. for second on the all time win list at the track.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, rain prevailed. Burt Myers, the defending champion, has accumulated 232 points and holds an 18-point lead over second-place Tim Brown, the all-time wins leader in track history. Lee Jeffreys sits in third with 196 points.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Officials announced that the May 20 event, which was originally cancelled due to the pending weather forecast, will now be rescheduled. The Limited Sportsman Long Distance, presented by Pepsi, is now scheduled for Thursday, June 7.
The race program is headlined by the ultra-competitive Limited Sportsman Division, who will compete in their longest race of the year. The Sunoco Modified, Late Model, and Mini Stock Divisions will all be on the card, as well, competing in regular distance events.
Will Power gave team owner Roger Penske a 17th Indy 500 victory in a sweep of the “month of May” at Indianapolis. Danica Patrick ended her racing career with a bang as she hit the wall and never finished.
Kyle Busch marked off the only track where a points-race victory had eluded him Sunday night, leading 377 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is the only driver in NASCAR’s modern era to win a points race on every NASCAR track on the schedule. Busch started on the pole, won every stage in the circuit’s longest race and left everyone else fighting for second on the way to his fourth victory of the season. It was Busch’s first win in 29 tries points-racing at Charlotte and gave him a series distinction like no other with wins at all 23 tracks on the top series. Keselowski overcame a humid afternoon and an hour-long rain delay Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway to become the first repeat winner on the Xfinity Series this season.
Last year, 2022, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled up-country to the Lee New Hampshire Speedway on Saturday. The Lee event was the the culmination of over six months of dreaming, planning, and preparing to bring NASCAR’s oldest division back to Lee USA Speedway for the first time since 1998. Through the efforts of Kevin Rice, the Lee event end up being close to $20,000 to win with the lap money and bonuses available from NASCAR, JDV and the $10,925 total bonus money.
Despite the big money up for grabs only 19 cars showed for the event. Among those missing were Patrick Emmerling, Tyler Rypkema, Dylan Slepyan, Ronnie Williams and Jimmy Blewett. Blewett stayed home to be with his daughter who is ill.
In time trials Jake Johnson driving the Ole Blu of the Boehler family put the legendary car on the pole. Matt Hirschman was second fastest with Doug Coby , third.
Doug Coby made it two in a row as he again dominated the competition. Coby, who was back in Tommy Baldwin Jr.’s No. 7NY for second straight race following a victory at New York’s Riverhead Raceway, spent the first half of the race conserving his equipment while Matt Hirschman led the way. Hirschman jumped into the lead at the start. Coby moved into the lead for the first time following a restart on Lap 104, but he appeared to be in trouble as J.B. Fortin began marching through the field with fresh tires. Fortin had almost caught Coby when the caution flag waved for a spin by Justin Bonsignore. That allowed the entire field to hit the pits for fresh tires, with Tommy Catalano beating Coby off pit road to take the lead.
Catalano’s time at the front was short, as Coby quickly returned to the lead during the restart with 19 laps left. Coby had the race under control at that point and looked well on his way to victory until contact between polesitter Jake Johnson and Eric Goodale brought the caution flag back out with two laps left.
Coby held serve during the Overtime restart, fending off Jon McKennedy and pulling away to his 33rd NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. McKennedy’s runner-up result was his best finish of the season. Hirschman dominated the opening 100 laps of the race but struggled to race his way back through the field following his first pit stop. After being mired down in traffic, he eventually recovered to finish third, but he admitted there were some decisions he would like to have back after he dominated the opening portion of the event. Ron Silk finished fourth for his second top-five of the season, while Johnson was fifth in his second career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start. Kyle Bonsignore, Austin Beers, Fortin, Goodale and Justin Bonsignore completed the top 10.
A big shout-out went out to young Jacob Perry who qualified the Jack Bateman entry in fifteenth spot. Melissa Fifield finally made the top 20 in 19th spot only because of the short field. Perry got to run a few practice laps due to his tire disadvantage by having this be his first race. The third generation driver found his balance and was happy with the car. He struggled in single car qualifying, fully expected being set up for the end of the race. Started 15th, fell into a ride mode just setting up for the end. He came in for tires on the first yellow and just got beat by what they didn’t know. Took two right sides and came back around for the left and NASCAR called one to green. Left side lugs were already off so they were committed to the stop and unfortunately they went green and he lost a couple laps in the pits. Once he was in the hole, he couldn’t climb out, not getting the wave or lucky dog. Despite all, he fought hard and turned some really good laps, had great long run speed and really felt he had a top 5 car at the end, unfortunately just didn’t play out that way. Perry and his team built a notebook and will come back prepared for Monadnock but until then, time to go win 15k at Claremont this week!
Ron Silk is the series point leader going into Jennerstown holding a three point edge over Eric Goodale. Jon McKennedy sits in third, 8 points back. Tommy Catalano is tied with McKennedy. Rounding out the top five is Austin Beers, 19 points back. Sixth thru tenth include Kyle Bonsignore, Craig Lutz, Justin Bonsignore, Dave Sapienza and Patrick Emerling.
After a week’s delay because of rain the Stafford Motor Speedway shifted into high gear for their Call Before You Dig Modified Open 81 lap event. As heavy rain was closing in on the western and southern New England area the Stafford management opted to move their schedule around so as to get the entire program in, just about. The SK Lights were last in the program and had just passed their half way mark when the rains moved in.
Ronnie Williams was in top form as he took the checkered flag with a dominant drive to outlast Woody Pitkat over the final laps. Starting from the pole there was never a question as to who was in charge. The action was slowed by the caution flag with 50 laps complete for a spin by Marcello Rufrano. Under the caution the field came to pit road with Williams winning the race off pit road followed by Matt Galko, Chase Dowling, Pitkat, Stephen Kopcik, Teddy Hodgdon, Jeff Gallup, Keith Rocco, Tommy Barrett, and Cory DiMatteo. Galko streaked into the lead on the restart with Pitkat moving into second. Williams fell back to third with Dowling and Hodgdon side by side for fourth place. Pitkat took the lead from Galko on lap-53 and Williams was now trying to follow Pitkat by Galko, which he did on lap-54 to move into second and drop Galko back to third. Dowling was fourth with Hodgdon right behind him in fifth place.
Williams was now applying heavy pressure to Pitkat for the lead and he made a move to the inside of Pitkat on lap-59 to move back into the lead. Gallup spun in turn 2 to bring the caution back out with 60 laps complete. A multicar wreck broke out on the restart with Barrett taking the hardest hit into the turn 2 wall to bring the caution right back out before a lap could be completed.
On the restart, Pitkat powered his way into the lead on the outside of Williams with Hodgdon third, Galko fourth, and Kopcik fifth. Williams made a move to the inside of Pitkat in turn 3 on lap-64 to move back into the lead but Pitkat didn’t cede the position and he retook the lead on lap-65 coming out of turn 2. The lead battle continued on lap-66 with Williams taking the lead in turns 3+4. Hodgdon was still third with Goodale and Galko making up the top-5. Kopcik was just behind Galko in sixth place while Williams was slowly starting to stretch out his advantage over Pitkat at the front.
Pitkat couldn’t get close enough to Williams over the final laps as Williams took the win. Goodale finished third with Hodgdon and Kopcik rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth included Keith Rocco, Matt Galko, Chase Dowling, Stephen Kopcik and Anthony Bello, Newtown.
In other Friday night action at Stafford, Stephen Kopcik took down his first SK Modified® feature win of the 2022 season, while Kevin Gambacorta in the Late Model feature and Rich Hammann in the Limited Late Model feature events were both winners for the second consecutive week. Chris Matthews won a rain shortened SK Light feature for his first SK Light feature win at Stafford since September 5, 2008 and Jason Finkbein scored his very first career Street Stock feature win at Stafford in a photo finish with Travis Downey that was easily the best finish of the night.
Eric Berndt was the winner of the Blast Off SK Modified 71 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Rob Janovic finished second with Todd Owen, third. Jason Palmer was the Late Model winner with Ryan Morgan, second.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island defending NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper in the Wayne Anderson #15 seeking his fourth title in five years got his championship defense off on the right foot, literally Saturday night when he scored a milestone 25th career victory at the eastern Long Island oval. A strong field of 22 Tour Type Modifieds signed in for competition for the regular season opener.
Dave Brigati was runner-up in the Coors Light LFR with John Baker third in the Staria Automotive Chevy. Justin Brown of Manorville and JR Bertuccio of Centereach both recovered from an earlier race incident that saw Bertuccio sent to the rear for spinning Brown after contact. Brown and Bertuccio were fourth and fifth.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC Chris Fleming has a lot of things going his way so far this season at the place they call the Mad House. Not only does he have one of the best nicknames, The Showstopper, but his car was near perfection in the first Modified 25-lap race on Saturday night in front of about 10,000 fans who were hungry to see racing again. After two weeks off thanks to rain that canceled racing, Fleming and his crew found something.
“We worked on our car every night the last two weeks, and it paid off,” said the 58-year-old Fleming who won his 12th career Modified race in his 298th career start. Fleming led all 25 laps and got to start from the pole because he’s the points’ leader. While he’s never won a points title, he shakes his head when asked if this is his year.
Even with three caution flags Fleming never faultered on the single-file restarts on a somewhat damp track. There was a rain storm about 6 p.m. that came through but 90 minutes later after the track was dried the track was deemed good enough to race. Finishing second behind Fleming was Brandon Ward followed by Jason Myers, Burt Myers and Tim Brown, the defending champion.
In the second Modified Division 25-lapper it was Zack Brewer of Arcadia getting his first career win in that division. Thanks to the Madhouse Scramble he got to start on the pole and he never trailed in a clean race with no cautions. Finishing second was Jeremy Gerstner with Lee Jeffreys winding up third.
Matt Hirschman added to his war chest on Sunday as he won the Thomas J. Wanick, Jr. Memorial at the Mahoning Valley Speedway in Pennsylvania. Hirschman, who has 11 wins in 14 starts this year, collected $7,000 for his efforts. It was his 208th career win. Blake Barney finished second, Earl Paules, third and Chuck Hossfeld, fourth.
In NASCAR Cup racing, the checkered flag was already waving for Ryan Blaney when the caution lights came on just yards before he got to the line to win NASCAR’s All-Star race and $1 million. He had to get his window net back in place and go two more laps. After an extended caution period, when Blaney was fiddling with the net while having to maintain speed, he stayed in front through a green-white-checkered finish. Pushed by his Penske teammate Austin Cindric on the restart, Blaney was able to stay in front and hold off Denny Hamlin, who finished 0.266 seconds behind.
With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.
The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory. The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone:
Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.
Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal181 (877-907-8181.