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2009 Archives

12/30/09: Speedbowl Memories (Plus One From Stafford)… We open this week with a shot of a pioneering figure in the history of what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, John “Cannonball” Baker. This hulking “Coach” entry was but-one in a succession of #314 creations that Baker campaigned at Waterford from the 1950’s until his final drive in 1974. In later years, he was one-half of a family team that also included his son, aptly-nicknamed “Musketball.” Though his career was reasonably-brief by conventional standards, this guy had a huge-impact on the early history of the Speedbowl. Twice a Modified titlist (1952 & 62), Dick Beauregard’s flamboyant driving-style won-over a legion of fans, along with a few detractors. A true “stand-on-the-gas” competitor, his retirement in 1962 after only a decade yielded 62 victories in both Modified & Non Ford competition. This shot captures him shortly before he hung-up his helmet, quite-fittingly retiring as a champion. The driver to the right with the big-grin is none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer and pal of yours-truly, “Little Bill” Harman. MORE>>

12/23/09: More Faces From The Past (And Happy Holidays To All!)…. This week we start with another vintage Midget image from the late Cherry Park Speedway in Avon, CT. Indiana native and World War II veteran Ted Klooz was a standout driver during the division’s busy post-war period and like many of the racers of his era, traveled extensively. We believe this image captured during the 1947 campaign to be from an ARDC show. Sadly, the 24 year-old Klooz lost his life in a grinding crash later that season at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway during a Consolidation Midget Racing Association event. The late Pete Corey (aka “The Crescent Hillbilly”), was simply one of the best racers of his generation. When he lost his left leg in a horrible 1959 crash at Fonda, his comeback elevated him from hero to legend. The fact that his car had to be equipped with a hand brake after he lost his leg seemed almost immaterial. Corey actually began his career as a motorcycle racer switching to stockcars in the late 1940s. He won sporadically in the early '50s and then landed a ride with famed Schenectady, New York car owner Bob Mott in 1955. It proved to be a career-move that made him the hottest driver in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Seen here with an injected Mustang modified sponsored by longtime supporter Jimmy Bosco of Commercial Tire, Corey retired in 1973. MORE>>

12/16/09: Faces From The Past (Continued)….. We open this week’s column with an action-shot from the former Cherry Park Speedway located in Avon, Connecticut. A truly-picturesque facility (complete with an old-time covered grandstand), Cherry Park opened in 1882 as a horse track and in 1933 began presenting auto racing on the original half-mile dirt circuit. Closed for the war-years, it reopened in 1946 as a fifth-mile, being paved shortly thereafter. A hotbed of action for the Midgets, it also hosted the then-new stock cars. It lay dormant from 1954 to 1959 when it was razed for development. Seen here are early Midget racing standouts Dee Toran, George Rich, Bert Brooks, and Len Duncan. Here’s a dramatic 70’s-era Seekonk action-shot of a pair of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members. That’s George Summers in the #31 leading Ronnie Bouchard in the #35. Seekonk remains one of the most historically-significant ovals on the East Coast, having first opened its gates on May 30, 1946. The tradition continues today, as the Vendetti family readies for another season of competition in 2010 at the Massachusetts oval affectionately-known as the “Cement Palace.” MORE>>

12/09/09: Yet Another Helping Of “Old Stuff”… Here’s another pick from our webmaster Tom Ormsby’s vast archive of images. The date is April 10, 1966, and the location is the late Riverside Park fifth-miler in Agawam, Massachusetts. Seen in this paddock-area shot are three of most famous names in New England Modified racing history. From left-to-right are Rene “The Champ” Charland, Jerry Humiston, and Dick Dixon. This trio of talent was responsible for scads of victories and championships in what many consider to be the true “golden era” of racing in the Northeast. A Stafford picture from Mr. Ormsby’s collection, this one captures veteran the late Freddie Colossa. A unique ride in that it was campaigned during a time when coupes and coaches remained standard-fare at New England’s Modified racing haunts, the full-bodied Chevy II tin was “different” to say the least. Historically-astute readers will recognize the name of the car’s owner; it was none-other than one “Moneybags” Moe Gherzi, a star-performer in the early days of our sport, and also the long-time Race Director at Plainville Stadium. MORE>>

12/02/09: A National Champion Passes, And More Memories From The Past... The Northeastern racing community lost a real treasure when the great Ernie Gahan passed-away at age-82 on Thanksgiving evening. Gahan’s 28-year racing career started during the post-war stock car racing boom of 1948 at New Hampshire’s Dover Speedway. By the time he’d hung-up his helmet in the 1970’s, he’d amassed over 300 career victories. Perhaps his greatest achievement in the sport was being the first New Englander to win a NASCAR National Modified championship in 1966. He was equally successful on both dirt and asphalt. He won a record 21 features on the old dirt at Stafford Speedway in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He had eleven starts in Grand National (now Sprint Cup), series competition, recording two top-ten finishes, one of which was in the 1962 Daytona 500. In 1963 Gahan was credited with saving the life of Marvin Panch by pulling him out of a burning race car at Daytona. MORE>>

11/25/09: More Memorable Moments From The Past….. Few early Modified teams were more professional than that of “Wild Bill” Slater and his Bob Vitari & Vic Bombaci-owned #V-8. During an era in which the sport was still more than a little “rough-around-the edges”, these guys really shined. Their equipment was never-less than immaculate, and the driver and crew were always neatly-attired. This shot captures an early version of the #V-8 at a UNITED-sanctioned Eastern States event in Springfield, Massachusetts during the 1959 season. Slater, Vitari, and Bombaci are all members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Another great shot of the legendary “Wild Bill” Slater-driven #V-8 team. Like mentioned-above, these guys simply epitomized professionalism during the early days of Modified racing in New England. As seen here, even the team’s hauler was a spiffy-looking unit. You have to wonder just how-many victories these two coupes were responsible-for, as Slater was definitely in his prime when this image was captured. MORE>>

11/18/09: Lakeville, West Haven, and More….. The late Tony Mordino is seen here following another memorable victory. It’s thanks to the diligence of people like RTT Webmaster Tom Ormsby that images like this gem still exist. He was one of the first guys to bring the history of New England’s glorious racing past to the masses via the internet. This photo remains one of his favorites, and I’ll let him explain the reason for all the extra smiles in this ancient West Haven Speedway shot. “The #78 which was owned by Bucky Membrino and driven by Tony Mordino lost a wheel on the last lap of a feature. Jap Membrino pushed the car over the finish line with the wheel off and Tony won the race.  If I recall the story right, UNITED’s Harvey Tattersall then made a rule that a car had to finish the race under its own power!” Along with the crew is (L-R), Jap, Bucky, and Tony. MORE>>

11/11/09: Hall of Famers & More….. During its sixties-era heyday, the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl routinely played-host to capacity crowds and some of the best racing in New England. This victory lane shot captures the late Marvin Chase along with New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Bob Potter (check-out Bob’s fancy “driving boots” and celebratory cigar). Potter of-course, became a multi-time champion with close-to 100 victories at the shoreline oval in addition to many Stafford and Thompson accomplishments. Chase enjoyed a long career as one of the area’s top drivers. The Speedbowl will reportedly open again in 2010, celebrating its fifty-ninth consecutive-season of operation. Seen here during the early days of his career is Paul Richardson, who like the aforementioned Bob Potter is a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. It all started in 1965 at Oscar Ridlon’s Pines Speedway in New Hampshire. The next year, he bought Al Riley’s “Little Princess” cutdown, and won the Hudson (NH), points championship. Moving to the Super Modifieds during the early years of NESMRA, he became a superstar in the division, and is 5th on the all-time winners list. He was also a winning Modified driver. Nicknamed “Ricochet” for his thrilling driving style, he completed his career driving in the BUSCH East division. MORE>>

11/04/09: Confessions Of A “Racing Packrat” (Or Stuff I Forgot I Had….) We start this week’s column with an early-career shot of a guy that was both a top competitor at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl and also a trendsetter in defining the “look” of Modified stock cars in the years following the “Coupe Era”. Seen here in an early “M” Coupe is Seabury Tripler. Along with talented fabricator the late Owen Bowen, “Trip” introduced New England’s first-ever Pinto-bodied Modified at Waterford on opening day of 1971. The event scantly pre-dated NEAR Hall of Famer Bob Judkins’ debut of his Pinto, which became the first NASCAR-legal mount sporting the then-new Ford subcompact tinwork. aptured here on the old Riverside Park fifth-mile in Agawam, Massachusetts is Ronnie Wycoff. Starting his racing career in Florida, he joined the Sportsman ranks at Plainville Stadium after moving North in 1959. Success in the Modifieds quickly-followed, with wins at an assortment of New England speedplants. Included in those victories are multi-time triumphs in UNITED’s “Riverside 500” events, once a benchmark of the Northeastern racing season. MORE>>

10/27/09: Another Weekly Peek Into The Past…. Seen here at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1960’s is a young Tommy Mactino. A rather infrequent visitor to the shoreline oval, Tommy was a star at the UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway. Also referred to as “The Rock” owing to it’s close proximity to the old Savin Rock Amusement Park, it was a paved 1/5 mile oval located on the waterfront in West Haven, Connecticut. The track was somewhat unusually shaped, built around a baseball diamond named Donovan Field (after "Wild Bill" Donovan, a manager of the NY Yankees). Many of New England’s finest Modified drivers called West Haven home at one time. Billy Greco, Johnny Cambino, Danny Gaudiosi, Sal Dee, and Danny Galullo are just a few. A victim of urban renewal, the track closed in 1967. MORE>>

10/21/09: Yet More Modifieds – 1970’s Style! We start this week’s installment with a photo of the fellow that’s not-only responsible for bringing you my weekly “Racing Through Time” endeavors, but also the site that’s become perhaps the most-popular spot on the Internet for keeping-abreast of the latest New England racing news. Seen here during his days as a young Modified driver is “Tommy” Ormsby, the guy behind www.speedwaylinereport.com and of course, the historically-rich www.vintagemodifieds.com Tom ran weekly at The Stadium’ for years, and was a well-liked and respected member of the “Plainville Gang”. Fortunately for-us, he took-up computers after leaving racing, his first endeavor being the Vintage Modifieds site which he started a number of years-ago. Now residing in Florida, Tom also stays active with the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), serving as the clubs webmaster www.near1.com  Busy guy, that Mr. Ormsby! MORE>>

10/14/09: Yet Another Dose of Racin’ Remembrances…. This New London-Waterford” Speedbowl shot has been languishing in the files for what seems like eons. A gift from my friend the late Dan Pardi, I’ve been hesitant to run-it as I have no-clue as to the identity of this 1950’s-era Bomber pilot. Purely because it’s a kinda’ neat-looking car (a Hudson perhaps?), I decided to publish-it. Check-out the skinny whitewall on the left-front and the turn-signal located on the top of the trunk (evidence of it being flat-towed to the track?). The driver’s rudimentary safety-equipment includes a Cromwell helmet (the drivers often referred to these leather-sided Brit-inspired gems as Brain Buckets”), and a short-sleeved shirt. If any readers know this racers identity, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  MORE>>

10/07/09: Turning Back The Clock On Plainville Stadium Part II Captured here during June of 1977 is journeyman Stadium’ competitor, Larry Babbit. This car was wheeled by Bill Harris (note the “Bill or Larry” on the roof, no-doubt a nod the duo’s racing partnership), at the Waterford Speedbowl to many a fine-finish during the earlier-years of the era. When Harris was at the shoreline oval, the neat little Coupe wore a gleaming-white coat of paint and carried the #17. And here we have one Jimmy "Doc" Robinson ready to take the green in 1973. Typical of the rides of the time, Robinson’s pre-war Coupe sported a stock production frame, and components that were the result of the builder’s ingenuity and a lot of long-evenings in the garage. Not a lot of “store-bought” stuff on this car, and it certainly was a more-affordable sport for the “average-guy” back-then. Also note the mufflers – Plainville was among the first tracks in the region to mandate the sound-suppressing devices. MORE>>

09/30/09: Mods, Midgets, Supers, Grand Americans, etc. Captured here celebrating an early-70’s Seekonk victory with Sandy of the infamous “Wally Salleba Girl Watchers Club” is 1970 NASCAR National Modified Champion, the late Fred DeSarro. In one of the most publicized “driver-switches” in New England Modified racing history. DeSarro left the Sonny Koszella “Woodchopper Special” team in 1971 to join forces with the late Len Boehler. Bugs Stevens, who’d nailed three NASCAR National Championships with Boehler, went-with Kozella. DeSarro remained a premier New England Modified racer until passing-away in November of 1978 from injuries sustained at the Thompson Speedway. DeSarro, Boehler, Stevens, and Kozella are all members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. MORE>>

09/23/09: Turning Back The Clock On Plainville Stadium... Captured here in the 1970’s at the former Danbury Fair Racerena is the popular Gino Spada. Starting his racing career at Plainville during the late-sixties, he later concentrated on the tough SNYRA-sanctioned Danbury becoming a multi-time winner and a consistent front-runner. Also venturing-out to the various NASCAR haunts of the day such as Stafford & Thompson, Spada was always a threat to triumph wherever he competed. As the longtime proprietor of Red Barn Radiator in Berlin, CT. he supplied a legion of competitors with the best in racing-radiators. In later-years, he became involved with the Northeastern Midget Racing Association (NEMA), owning the car chauffeured by his son Tommy (a real family-affair, his daughter Cassandra served as the team’s crew-chief). Sadly, Gino passed-away just last-weekend following a battle with cancer. “RTT” offers the Spada family sincere condolences on their loss. MORE>>

09/16/09: “Like A Box of Chocolates, You Never Know What You’re Going To Get…….” Seen here in the sixties at the late Plainville Stadium during his reign as a New England Modified standout, Dennis Zimmerman parlayed his Coupe experience into a successful career on the USAC Indy Car circuit. A self-professed “student” of the late, great, Ed Flemke Sr., he conquered storied eastern Modified haunts such as Norwood, Riverside Park, Plainville, and Waterford before taking-on the ovals of the South, where his accomplishments netted a pair of NASCAR State Sportsman titles. After a stint in URC Sprint Car competition it was on to Indy Cars, then the absolute pinnacle of American motorsport. Zimmerman continued his success in the Indy Cars, qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 in 1971 & 1972. His best finish in the May extravaganza was eighth, a feat earning him honors as the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. This image captures him at Pocono’s Schaefer 500 on July 3, 1971 with the Fiore Racing Enterprises Offy. Starting 17th, he finished 24th after a clutch-failure felled the team after only eighty-eight circuits (the late Mark Donahue won). A 2001 inductee of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Zimmerman departed the sport in 1974 following an event at Long Island’s Islip Speedway where ironically, he was wheeling a car owned by his “teacher” and fellow NEAR Hall of Famer, the late Ed Flemke Sr. Emerging from retirement just this season, Dennis has recently been competing in the Sprint class at Whip City Speedway in Westfield, MA. MORE>>

09/09/09: A Racing Flashback - Speedbowl-Style! As one of the real heavy-hitters in the early days of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, the late Charlie Webster had a large & very-loyal fan base. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, Webster was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). Like fellow Bowl’ standout and New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don Collins, Charlie retired from driving at the dawn of the seventies, thus ending the career of one of Waterford’s finest chauffeurs. This shot captures him in a Non-Ford division entry during the early-fifties. Charlie’s son Eric went-on to a winning career in racing, and now serves on the staff at the Speedbowl. Like Webster, the late Ray Delisle was there from the start, and was winning early in his Waterford career. Felled by serious injuries sustained in a Speedbowl crash when his Coupe was hit from-behind, his old-style “jerry can” fuel tank erupting in-flames, Delisle endured a long, painful recovery before returning to the game. In 1964, his career reached its zenith when he waltzed-away with the Modified title wheeling the famed Simons Bros. #9. MORE>>

09/02/09: Yet Another Weekly Slice Of Racing History….. A personal glimpse into the past; Back in the days when popular Speedbowl coupe-era star Joe Coullard housed his racer on the corner of Clark Lane and Fog Plain Road in Waterford, the little guy you see behind the wheel used to beg his parents to stop for a visit whenever they were in the area. Joe being the dutiful host, would let the youngster get behind the wheel and dream of the day when he’d be just like his pal Joe, going-around in circles on the track that was then known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. A few years down-the-road, little Gary Welch got his chance…. And here’s Gary Welch all grown-up and about to take his early Daredevil entry out for a spin on the 1/3-mile tarmac of the Bowl’. The car had formally been wheeled by his cousin Paul Jutila, and was owned by Bob Hayes who worked with Welch at East Lyme Chevron. Typical of the times, it was almost completely-stock save for a few rudimentary safety appointments. Somewhat novel by Waterford-standards, it was a Ford product amidst a field that was overwhelmingly populated by General Motors entries (save for the ultra-successful Gada team). The firesuit he’s wearing is one of the old single-layer Drag-All numbers that were so-popular then. Years-later your author was gifted with the suit by Welch (a long-time family friend), and used it in his brief & unspectacular Street Stock career in the late-70’s. Ironically, our car was a former Paul Jutila mount. MORE>>

08/26/09:
Plainville Pioneers & Waterford Warriors….
Captured here in the lens of famed New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzent is former Speedbowl Modified racer, Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo. By the time he posed for this shot in 1972, he’d already established himself as a Waterford winner having taken his first checker in 1971 as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. This coupe (his first Modified), was a former # V4 “Mystic Missile” entry originally campaigned by famed car owner Bob Garbarino who still runs cars on today’s NASCAR Modified Tour. The little 1935 Chevy coupe served the popular racer well, providing a springboard to success in the shoreline oval’s premier division. In 1988, the career of “Dickie Doo” reached its zenith, as he and longtime racing associate Dana Gerry waltzed-off with the championship. A surprise to everyone, Ceravolo then announced his retirement, going-on to oversee the career of his son Todd. Like-father, like-son, Todd became a Waterford Modified champion in 1997. MORE>>

08/19/09: More Racing Personalities From The Past….. By the time this Waterford Speedbowl paddock image was captured in August of 1978, Rod Tulba was already an experienced-hand at the “circle-game”. Years-before as a youngster, he’d entered competition in the Daredevil class as a close associate of the Gada team. This Vega was part of a multi-car team fronted by Paul Giguere (seated on tire), who also fielded entries in the Street Stock class. Tulba went-on to become a winning Modified shoe, recording a pair of victories at the shoreline oval in 1981. What has to be written about this guy? If you’re at-all familiar with New England racing history, than you should already know a little about the career of Gene Bergin. A member of the first class inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Bergin excelled in everything from Modifieds, to Midgets and Sprint Cars. Starting his career in 1949 at the Stafford Motor Speedway, he remained one of our regions top-drivers for over three-decades. This shot captures him following a win at the Waterford Speedbowl on July 9, 1977 where for a brief-time that season, he was a weekly regular in the “Smittys” #11 Pinto. MORE>>

08/12/09: More Lakeville Dirt, And Fowler Takes A Flyer… They appeared on the scene at the Waterford Speedbowl during the early years of what was known as the “Daredevils”, a class developed in the sixties to replace a floundering Bomber division. The three gentleman you see here are (left to right), Larry "Insta” Gada, Chris “Wally” Gada, and Bob “Allie” Gada, and yes, this is the brother-act responsible for starting what became no-less than a racing dynasty at the shoreline oval. There’s now a second and third generation of the family winning at the Bowl’. In looking back at the history of the Daredevils, you’d be hard-pressed to find three more popular chauffeurs than these guys, and during the real heyday of “fendered” racing at the Bowl’ they were all winners. One thing setting the Gada boys apart from the rest of the field was their penchant for running FORD products within a field that was overwhelmingly populated by machines of the General Motors-variety. Novel nicknames-aside, rest assured that Mrs. Gada’s boys were true “stand-on-the-gas” racers with the trophies and championships to prove-it. Also captured in this shot is car owner and future Speedbowl Street Stock champion, Ed Reed Sr. MORE>>

08/05/09: New England Dirt Trackin’, Hall of Famers, etc.. Captured here during the height of his brilliant racing career is one Raymond “Hully” Bunn, a native of New Britain, Connecticut. First climbing behind the wheel at the late Plainville Stadium in 1949, within two-years he had become one of the premier short- trackers in the country. In 1951, he emerged victorious in the first-ever Race of Champions at the storied Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania topping a field of over one-hundred top-notch Modified-Sportsman competitors. A frequent winner from coast-to-coast, he retired in 1965 following a serious crash at Lebanon Valley. Bunn was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001. Massachusetts’ glorious Lakeville Speedway! Seriously, the old girl would have never aced a beauty contest or rated highly in a poll of the nation’s premier dirt-tracks, but more than one New England racer will tell you that the place was just tons of fun! Originally opening in the late 1920’s, the facility underwent a number of name-changes during its long history – Middleborough Fairgrounds, Camp Joe Hooker Raceway, Golden Spur Speedway, and lastly, Lakeville Speedway. A half-miler located near the Middleboro/Bridgewater area with a tricky oil-soaked dirt surface, it was a career-springboard for some pretty-notable racers, and also served as a Sunday playground for many of our regions top-pavement shoes. MORE>>

07/29/09: Mixing-It-Up MODIFIED Style!  Pictured here in the fifties at New York State’s Empire Raceway (AKA Menands Speedway), is the late, great Dick Dixon with his signature 8-ball Coupe. Dixon was one of New England’s brightest racing stars particularly within the once-mighty United Stock Car Racing Club. A standout Modified competitor, he was also extremely successful within the ranks of United’s Grand American Late Model division, where one season he captured thirteen of fifteen scheduled events. While still very-much in his prime, he perished in a grinding Thompson Speedway crash during the 1967 season. Dixon was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. As for Empire Raceway, it was a ¼-mile paved affair located near Troy, which closed at the conclusion of the 1961 season to make-way for development of a shopping plaza. MORE>>

07/22/09: More Weekend Warriors (New England-Style)… Rhode Islander Fred DeSarro was one of the truly-gifted racers of his era. Seen here following a victory in the Sonny Koszella “Woodchopper Special” he was a top New England Modified shoe for what seemed like eons. The racing media had a field day with the much-publicized “driver-switch” in 1971 when the great Bugs Stevens took the wheel of Koszella’s car, and Fred climbed aboard Bugs’ vacated Lenny Boehler “Ole’ Blue”. Truth-be-told, there were no hard-feelings. Fred and Bugs were great friends and remained-so until Fred’s death following a tragic 1978 Thompson Speedway crash. Both are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, as are Boehler and Koszella. Few drivers of the much-heralded “Coupe Era” were more traveled than New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy Harman. Growing-up in the shoreline community of New London, Ct. it was only natural for the speed-crazed young kid to get-involved with the happenings at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. After many successes in his backyard, Harmon took to the road, maintaining a hectic schedule that rewarded him accolades at venues from coast-to-coast. In later-years, “Little Bill” centered his efforts closer-to-home again, experiencing several triumphs at local tracks in this car, the “Coventry Racing Enterprises” entry. MORE>>

07/08/09: Vintage Thoughts On A Holiday Weekend…. Captured here at Stafford in an absolutely classic-looking coupe during the early days of his career is Ed Flemke Jr. With a father like NEAR Hall of Famer the late, great “Steady Eddie”, this youngster had some mighty-big shoes to fill, and thus-far, he’s done a darned good job of carrying-on the family racing heritage. A veteran of the NASCAR Modified Tour, Flemke Jr. won the title in 2002 after years of coming close. Much like his late father, Ed Jr. is viewed by many as a steady-shoe, utilizing experience to his advantage when required While following what looked to be a wreck-in-the-making, Flemke wisely used his head (and saved his equipment), in averting disaster when the leaders tangled on the last-lap at this years New England 100 at New Hampshire, finishing a fine-second to Donnie Lia. Few did more-with-less than Ernie Gahan did during his twenty-eight year career as one of the nation’s top Modified drivers. Virtually a one-man show for a good part of his career, the winner of the 1966 NASCAR National Modified Championship started racing in the 1940’s at New Hampshire’s old Dover Speedway. Well-before the days of the much-heralded “Eastern Bandits” he won over three-hundred features on a well-traveled road that stretched from his home state of Maine, to the coast of Florida. A multi-time NASCAR Grand National (now the Nextel Series), starter, his resume also includes two top-10 finishes, one in the Daytona 500. MORE>>

07/01/09: Varied Assortment Part III…..  Pictured here is the late Russ McLean, the 1969 Sportsman-Modified champion at the much-missed UNITED-sanctioned Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass. Fondly-recalled as a very popular racer amongst both fans and competitors. His lone feature victory occurred on the evening of April 17, 1971 in the car seen here. Utilizing a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor during what was perhaps a less politically-correct era, note that McLean’s sanitary little Coupe was christened “The Other Woman”. Few drivers got-around more than my old friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, “Wild Bill” Slater.  In addition to being a master at the most notable of Modified haunts, he also excelled on the high-banks of the NASCAR super-speedways. He’s seen here taking a break for a cold drink during one of his yearly Daytona sojourns. Note the absence of a fire suit and the rudimentary safety appointments on Bill’s Chevrolet. The cars were truly closer to stock back-then, and were more than a handful to navigate at the speeds these guys were eclipsing. MORE>>

06/24/09: Waterford Vets Worthy of Mention, Dirt Track Stormers, & Racing from “Across the Pond”…. Pictured here celebrating his first-ever victory at the 1/3-miler known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl on September 7, 1974 is a young Mark LaJeunesse. It was future champion Jerry Pearl that he’d out-dueled to the checkers in one of the seasons more hotly-contested features. Starting his career as a kid in the Quarter Midgets, LaJeunesse jumped right-into the Modifieds upon returning from armed forces service in Vietnam during the early-seventies. Though his first ride was an updated ex-Freddie Doolittle creation, subsequent machines were all self-designed and exquisitely hand-crafted at the team’s modest shop in Norwich, CT. Chief-wrench on the family team was father Al (kneeling, third-from-left), who’d been working on race cars for decades, most notably the ride of family relative and famed Waterford shoe, “Dirty Dick” Beaureguard. LaJeunesse called Waterford home for three-decades, scoring the United Stock Car Racing Club’s 1975 Sportsman-Modified title, and nearly twenty feature victories including the 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Another son of the “Rose City” won that night too, as “Big Mike” Daigneault annexed the Sportsman Sedan main event. LaJeunesse and Daigneault are but two of a large group of great drivers from nearby Norwich that called the Speedbowl home for many years. MORE>>

06/17/09: This Week, It’s “A Little Bit Of Everything…..” This guy is a Hall of Fame member of the following; The New York Stock Car Association, Fonda Speedway, Dirt Motorsports, Eastern Press Association, and of course, was a 2002 inductee of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of Daytona's Living Legends of Auto Racing – no minor accolade. Pictured here during a coupe-era outing in his signature # 33, the career of the much-celebrated Bill Wimble began during the early-fifties in New York State. The winner of the 1960 NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, like many of his contemporaries he maintained a super-hectic schedule. During 1967-alone, Wimble competed every weekend at three New York tracks, Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga, and Fonda. Amazingly-enough, he was crowned track champion at all of them! Also a force to be reckoned-with in Connecticut, Wimble was particularly-successful on the former dirt-surface of the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. MORE>>

06/10/09: Hudsons, Non-Fords, and a Speedbowl Legend… We begin this week’s column with an ancient image of a car manufactured by a company that was once a major-player in the world of stock car racing both locally, and in the big leagues. The late Hudson Motor Company produced some of the most popular automobiles in America, and was particularly successful in the early days of NASCAR with their “Fabulous Hudson Hornet”. This shot captures one of Hudson’s products closer to home at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the fifties. The driver is the great Benny Derosier and the car was owned by Chester, Connecticut’s Barney Tiezzi. Barney’s son Joe later carried-on the family tradition becoming one of our region’s top drivers. Note the license plate & light on the roof-post, an indication that the car may have been flat-towed. Back-then, trailers were considered a luxury for some teams. The late “Moneybags” Moe Gherzi was one of the guys defined our sport during its infancy. Already an established star when this shot was captured in the lens of Shany Lorenzent, he was one of the most-prolific winners in early “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl action. MORE>>

06/03/09: Cut-Downs, Daredevils, and “Dirty Dick”….. We open this week’s edition of RTT with a classic “cut-down” era Speedbowl image of Sparky Belmont. As one of the premier racers of his time, Belmont (real name Michael Belmonti), was a winner and huge crowd-draw at New England venues such as Riverside Park, Waterford, West Haven, and the track where he experienced his greatest degree of success, Joe Tinty’s Plainville Stadium. Starting his career during the post-war Midget racing boom, he soon found his niche in the stock cars. It was after winning a 100-lap contest at Plainville in 1969 that Sparky suffered a fatal heart-attack, thus ending the life and career of one of our region’s most colorful early competitors. Think today’s Ted Christopher is aggressive? This guy would make him look like a choirboy! Dick Beaureguard (AKA “Dirty Dick”), was one of the real heavies in early competition at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Seen here behind the controls of one of the premier rides of the day, the Condgon #76, he was known as a “no-holds-barred” driver, the kind of guy that struck-fear into the minds of even the most seasoned of his fellow racers. MORE>>

05/27/09: And Yet More Images From The Past….. The late Harvey Vallencourt was a pioneer on the New England Modified circuit that became an unfortunate statistic in a sport that can sometimes reveal a cruel side. Starting his career at the old West Haven Speedway, Harvey was known as a proficient chauffer enjoying many successes over the years. Sustaining severe head-injuries in a seemingly minor crash at Plainville Stadium in the mid-seventies, he was confined to a hospital bed for almost a decade before his passing from injuries received in the accident. The popular Vallencourt is seen here with starter Billy Dunn after a Plainville triumph decades-ago. Another driver that experienced early success at the old West Haven Speedway was this guy, the late Pete Brockett Sr. Spending over three-decades behind the controls of a Modified, his later efforts were centered-on the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl where he also became a winner. His ride known as “Brockett’s Rocket”, Pete was always a crowd-favorite at the joint known as the “shoreline oval”. MORE>>

05/20/09: More Tales From The “Good Old Days”... It’s Wednesday evening July 15, 1978 at Joe Tinty’s Plainville Stadium, and having a smoke while waiting for the night’s race card to unfold is second-generation driver Richie Galullo. The Stadium’s open-comp shows routinely drew stellar fields, and young Galullo was on the top of his game. The “cent sign” Vega one of the premier rides of the day. Nicky Porto’s career can be traced back to the heyday of the Tattersall racing dynasty known as UNITED – once the top sanctioning body in the Northeast. When Steve Kennedy shot this image, he was wheeling this ex-Tony Dadio Coupe at Plainville Stadium. Porto was one of the premier drivers of his era at the Stadium and was no-doubt a contender when captured on film here, June 29, 1977. Seen here at the Stadium is an interesting shot of a driver that unfortunately, is filed under the “Unknown” category. As Steve Kennedy notes, it looks suspiciously like a dirt car which would not have been uncommon in an era before such specialization in car construction. At Plainville, you never-knew who was going to pull into the pits for the open shows. This image was recorded in July of 1973, and if anyone knows the details, please feel-free to contact me! MORE>>

05/13/09: Yet Another Varied Assortment….. Few Modified drivers have had more of an impact on the local racing scene over the years than this fellow, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Bob Potter. Starting his career in the early-sixties at Waterford, the Taftville, Ct. native captured his first Modified checker in 1965 with an estimated 140 feature wins to follow along with multiple championships at Thompson, Stafford, and of-course, the Speedbowl. Never officially retired, Bob is seen here at the Bowl’ in June of 1979, a year in which he scored a convincing victory in the prestigious UNITED-sanctioned Waterford 200. Won by invader Marty Radewick and serving as the opening event for 1980, “Blast-Off” was a 100-lap Modified grind that drew a stellar field to the Speedbowl, and among those mixing it-up with the locals was the pride of Long Island, the late “Chargin’ Charlie” Jarzombek. Seen here in one of his familiar #1 machines, he was an infrequent visitor to the shoreline oval, but always ran well when he ventured-out to 1080 Hartford Road. Tragically, Charlie lost his life in a crash at Martinsville, VA. in the spring of 1987. He was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. MORE>>

05/06/09: With last week’s passing of New England Modified Great Billy Schulz, we loose yet another piece of the puzzle that represents the history of our sport. Schulz was one of the top-drivers at the much-missed Norwood Arena, and also excelled at many other regional venues including Seekonk Speedway, and Thompson Speedway. He was the founder and operator of Country Club Auto Body in Norton MA., running the business for 40 years until recently retiring. Billy is seen here celebrating a Norwood Arena win on July 5, 1969. Captured here in May of 1978 is Speedbowl Street Stock competitor Scott Porier. Driving for Jay Stuart (who later became a fine competitor in his own right), Porier scored three victories on his way to a second-place finish in the season standings, a scant 7-points behind titlist Ed Reed Sr. Started in 1977 by United’s Harvey Tattersall Jr., the Street Stocks were a wildly-popular division boasting full-fields and a slam-bang program. Not to be confused with today’s hybrid class, with the exception of safety features these things were truly-stock, boasting factory chassis and bias-ply 78-series passenger tires. MORE>>

04/29/09: Covering All The Bases….. Like so-many of the racers from his generation, the late Maynard Forrette saw no boundaries in the difference between running on dirt or asphalt. A big winner on both, he’s probably most fondly remembered for his stunning dirt-slingin’ drives on the daunting Syracuse Mile where during the later stages of his career, he often bested competitor’s half-his-age. A master mechanic and innovative car builder, Forrette also ran Northern Speed Supply, a haven for those racers seeking to get the most out of their equipment. This shot is believed to be from Utica-Rome. By the 1976 season when this shot was captured at Plainville Stadium, most New England Modified racers had bid-goodbye to the traditional stylings of the old coupes and coaches. At Joe Tinty’s ¼-miler however, they could still be captured in-action probably more than at any track in our region. That’s Fred Murtha in a neat little 3-window entry lining-up next to our friend, Larry Lafayette. According to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby who ran a lot of laps with Murtha, the car was a real-looker. MORE>>

04/22/09: Waterford, Riverside, Islip, Plainville, And More! The 1978 season at Waterford was one of the most successful campaigns in the tracks history, as Dick Williams of the Coastal Racing Association stepped-in to lease and promote the facility following a less-than-stellar multi-year run by Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club. Pictured here in May of that year is veteran Modified campaigner Larry Lafayette. Starting his career in the early-60’s, the personable Lafayette was a fixture on the New England circuit for more than three-decades. He now resides in Port Charlotte, Florida. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Dave Alkas so-dominated the proceedings at his home track during the 70’s, trade-paper scribes began referring to him as “The King of Plainville Stadium”. Never an easy-place to conquer with its tight-turns and ultra-competitive fields, Alkas teamed with owner Roland Cyr to capture five championships and is the track’s all-time winner. This shot captures during the waning-years of The Stadium in July of 1978. MORE>>

04/19/09: Another Varied Slice Of Racin’ History…. The year is 1972 and that’s our webmaster, a young “Tommy” Ormsby taking the low-road to avoid a spinning Danny Gaudiosi in one of the famed Sharkey coupes.  The venue of course, is the much-missed Plainville Stadium. Ormsby relates that the shot was captured shortly after a rebuild of his car, which was demolished following a trip through the wall and into the pits a few weeks-before. “We changed the color and number (it had formally been a blue # V-O), hoping that it would bring better luck. I’m pretty-sure this was an open-show, as I don’t recall any full-bodied cars like the Chevelle seen here running with us weekly, but it was 37 years ago.” stated Ormsby recently. In the background is the Plainville Drive-In screen and the Sunoco station on then Rt. 72 (now 372), and Crooked St. MORE>>

04/08/09: Spring Cleaning In The Archive Room…… Yeah, I know, we’ve ran shots of this car before (humor-me, it’s a personal favorite). It’s the early-seventies, and that’s Seabury Tripler flanking the Speedbowl’s infamous “Racin’ Rambler.” As reported here in an earlier column, Chuck Bowen, son of legendary fabricator Owen Bowen, is in the final stages of completing a replica of this car as a tribute to his late father. Owen worked his magic on the tinwork of an early-60s Rambler American to come-up with one of the most recognizable cars ever-ran at the shoreline oval. The list of legendary chauffeurs that wheeled Fred Beaber-owned checkerboard 716 creations is a lengthy affair. During one of the longest associations with Waterford of any car-owner in the track’s history, the victories came frequently. In this late-sixties image, Jerry Glaude had one of his rare off-nights, balling-up the front suspension on Freddie’s little coupe. MORE>>

04/01/09: More “Old Bowl” Plus a Snippet of Plainville Fenders…. As a close associate of the Gada clan, Rod Tulba began his Speedbowl career hustling Daredevil division entries around the shoreline oval. In later years he advanced to the Modifieds as captured in this image from August of 1978. Team members Paul Guigure (seated on right-front), and Steve Scovish (left), were also competitors in the Street Stock class. At the time, the track was owned by Harvey Tattersall Jr. of United fame, but had been leased to Dick Williams and his Coastal Racing League. Tulba returned to the track in later years as a winner in the “Heroes of The Bowl” events once held in conjunction with Nostalgia Weekend. MORE>>

03/25/09: Speedbowl Memories Sprinkled With A Few Hall Of Famers…. First on this week’s agenda is a shot of Billy “Gramps” Greco. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master of the short oval, honing his skills at tight little joints like the late West Haven Speedway and the much-missed 1/5-miler at Riverside Park. A darling of the old Harvey Tattersall-led United circuit (once the most influential sanctioning group in New England), in later-years he also became a winner at the ultra-competitive Danbury Fair Racarena. He’s seen here at Riverside Park in his familiar # 43. Billy’s as popular today as he ever-was, and can really enlighten you on the history of the sport. If you get a chance to chat with him, please do! MORE>>

03/18/09: The Late “Stub” Fadden at Catamount Along With More Bowl’ Memories…. This photo from the collection of the late (and much-missed), Danny Pardi captures Stanley “Stub” Fadden during year-ten of what was one of the most brilliant careers in all of New England auto racing. A member of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, among his accomplishments was championships at Thunder Road and Catamount Stadium in Vermont, and Mount Lauier, Quebec. “Stub” also scored a pair of “Milk Bowl” victories at Thunder Road. Though early record-keeping wasn’t what it is today, it’s estimated that he scored over 250-victories in a career that spanned three-decades. Here he’s seen in 1970 at “The Home of the Brave”, the late Catamount Stadium. As noted earlier, Fadden passed-away just last week at the age of 75. MORE>>

03/11/09: When Coupes Ruled In New England….: The shot is from the 1964 season. The driver is Wayne Wilkinson. The body was I think, a '35 Pontiac? The car was owned by Dave and Jesse Hill (Leo's brothers) and Deke Bromley. They ran about 3/4 of the season before it was destroyed after Lou Toro and Wayne had a shoving match that ended up with the #6 slamming hard into the pit gate bulkhead. Here’s a shot from 1965. This car was actually built right-after the crash with Toro, but was not completed until the start of the next season. That's Joe McNulty behind the wheel. Once-again, the owners were by Dave and Jesse Hill, along with Deke Bromley. At the conclusion of the season, Dave and Deke got out of the racing game but Jesse hung-around for a couple of more years with the car in the next picture. MORE>>

03/04/09: The “Racin’ Rambler” Makes A Return, And Other Vintage Topics: Chuck Bowen, son of celebrated Speedbowl car builder and driver the late Owen Bowen (see his profile in last week’s installment), contacted me recently to report that he’s in the process of replicating a car that was crafted by his father and driven to much Speedbowl success by the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. Chuck had been searching for the “Racin’ Rambler” for quite some-time, and finally hit pay-dirt via placing an ad in the NEAR newsletter. The former owner had already started the project, so Chuck has a great canvas to work-with. It’s seen here in its present-state. His plans are to finish the car and campaign it with NEAR as a tribute to both his dad, and “Wild Bill” who scored his final Waterford career victory with the car on Easter Sunday of 1974. MORE>>

02/25/09: The Connecticut Valley Rocket Plus More Speedbowl Greats! “Wild Bill Slater” aka “The Connecticut Valley Rocket” was among the first drivers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, and for good reason. Starting his career in the early-50’s, few can claim more accomplishments in the sport. Multiple championships, a much-coveted Langhorne victory, and a long reign as one of Modified racings most-respected officials are all part of the Slater legacy. This Stafford shot is believed to be from 1968, a period in which Bill had assumed the V-8 racing operation from his former car owners, the famed duo of Vitari & Bombacci. MORE>>

02/18/09: A Couple of Dirt Track Legends and Some Speedbowl Greats…. This week it’s a mix-of-sorts, a combo of Speedbowl veterans along with a dash of those who plied their trade on the Northeastern dirt circuit. Enjoy! Another of the Speedbowl’s steady competitors from the Connecticut River Valley region, Tucker Reynolds Sr. ran this neat little Coupe in early-70’s action. Note the use of a street-rated tire on the left front wheel and the homemade headers – both hallmarks of an era when builders truly did it on their own, rather than relying on the thickness of their wallet. Reynolds’ son Tucker Jr. made quite a splash a few years-ago, developing into a winning and extremely popular SK driver. MORE>>

02/11/09: With the Waterford Speedbowl facing an uncertain future, this week we present an assortment of vintage images from the Eastern Connecticut third-miler known as “The Action Track”. Opening in the spring of 1951 with advance-publicity billing it “New London Speedway”, financial issues have made it a tough-go for the historically-rich speed plant in recent years. Hopefully, the gates will again swing- open in the spring to present shoreline fans with their fifty-ninth consecutive season of racing at the Bowl’. Early in 1976 former Sportsman division chauffer Paul “Hawk” Fugener debuted this rather unorthodox-looking American Motors AMX-bodied Modified. His second-season in the Bowl’s headlining division, Fugener’s rookie entry was a much-more conventional Coupe. That machine eventually ended-up in the hands of another competitor to be campaigned at the Danbury Fair Racarena under the banner of the Southern New York Racing Association. “Hawk” ran an abbreviated sophomore year, soon fading from the scene entirely. MORE>>

02/04/09: Speedbowl Hot-Shoes Invade The Konk’: As the long-time staff photographer at Seekonk Motor Speedway, Johnny Mercury provided fans with timeless images from the track lovingly known as “The Cement Palace”. Captured here are some of his shots taken during one of the Konks’ great open shows of 1971. Of particular interest to historically-inclined Waterford Speedbowl fans is the amount of shoreline oval heavy-hitters that made the trek in hopes of grabbing some of D. Anthony Venditti’s generous purse. Seen here leading the pack in his trend-setting Pinto is the Speedbowl’s Seabury Tripler. This car arguably set the standard for the “modern-era” of Modifieds, pre-dating the Judkins #2X which is widely-acknowledged as the first-ever NASCAR-legal Pinto. MORE>>

01/28/09: Stacking Em’ Up At Danbury: It started like any other Saturday night at Connecticut’s storied Danbury Fair Racearena. A capacity crowd was present and a paddock area brimming with the flathead-powered Coupes & Coaches of the Southern New York Racing Association were ready to do-battle on the demanding third-mile oval. hroughout its acclaimed history, the Racearena was known for fierce competition amongst the members of its closed-club sanctioning body. The joint is also recalled for some bone-jarring crashes, and the evening of August 11, 1962 provided patrons with motorized mayhem of the extreme variety. Following a lap-5 restart, leader Bill Adams lost a wheel heading into the front-chute triggering a crash that claimed a staggering fourteen of his fellow competitors. MORE>>

01/21/09: When the New London-Waterford Speedbowl opened to the public in 1951, the racing surface consisted of a crushed bluestone concoction that was trucked-in from the Millstone Point area of town. Contrary to what’s been written, the track was never comprised of clay or dirt. In short-order, pavement took the place of the dusty original surface. This image captures what was known as the “Sand Safety Strip” that was in-place until the 1960’s. It was originally devised as a safety feature to help slow-down errant racers before decent into the infamous railroad-tie wall. Unfortunately, ever-increasing speeds over the years had just the opposite-effect. Once a competitor got a wheel into the “sand”, it almost always yielded disastrous results. MORE>>

01/14/09: When the late Bobby Santos joined-forces with Preston, CT. car owner Art Barry, it was pure Modified Magic. Captured here in one Barry’s famous “Stump Jumper” Coupes during the much-heralded big-block era, the formidable duo won from coast-to-coast. Some years-ago, Barry noted that his former driver was particularly successful at the divisions Northern haunts, once annexing 7 features-in-a-row at New Hampshire’s Claremont and Monadnock Speedways. This particular car had a long, successful life after leaving the Barry shops. It served as a winning platform for both the late Ed Yerrington Sr. and later Mark LaJeunesse, the latter earning his first of many Speedbowl triumphs with the little Coupe in September of 1974. Master car-builder Barry joins his friend and former chauffer as a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame later this month on January 25th. See www.near1.com  for details on this year’s HOF inductions. MORE>>

01/07/09: Connecticut’s West Haven Speedway-West Haven Speedway (AKA ”Savin Rock” for its close proximity to amusement park of the same name), started life in 1935 as a 1/5-mile dirt oval. The track was constructed within the confines of Donovan Field, a baseball coliseum named in honor of “Wild Bill” Donovan, a popular early manager of the New York Yankees. The following season saw the track paved, continuing in that configuration until the gates closed during the war-years. During its formative era, West Haven was celebrated as a top venue for the wildly-popular Midgets, once the “Road to Indy” for any driver aspiring to advance to the big-leagues of racing. Open cockpit Maestros such as Bill Schindler, Johnny Thomson, Ted Tappet, and the Brothers Rice, George and Johnny, bought capacity crowds to the track located close to the warm sea breezes of the Connecticut shore. MORE>>

01/04/09: Eddie Bunnell garnered the 1966 Bomber championship at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford Speedbowl”. Active until the mid-1980’s he became a proficient Modified shoe, recording many fine finishes during his tenure in the Bowl’s headlining division. This rather rare image catches him at-speed in a car that’s probably unfamiliar to most Waterford fans (at least in this livery). Known for fielding their own cars, on this occasion in 1980 the Bunnell team utilized one of the # 110 coupes made famous a few years earlier by Bob Potter. The car is presently restored back to its original state and campaigned on the NEAR vintage circuit. MORE>>

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