2011 Archives

12/28/11: Another Year In The Books…. Captured here in 1974, it’s with great sadness that we report the recent passing of multi-time Waterford Speedbowl champion, Bill Sweet Sr. Fondly-remembered as the “Norwalk Nightrider” to a legion of veteran Waterford Speedbowl fans, Bill copped the Daredevil division title for 2 consecutive seasons in 1967 & 68. Along the way, he scored a total of 40 feature victories in Daredevil, Sportsman Sedan and Grand American competition, the first in 1966, the final in 1975. He ranks first on the list of all-time Daredevil feature winners, with 31 trips to victory lane. Sweet was one of the real movers & shakers in the early days of the Daredevil division, a class of full-bodied race cars that was started in 1965 at the shoreline oval to replace a fading Bomber division. Bill’s grandson Brent currently pilots an SK Modified at the Speedbowl, his late grandfather having been one of his most-dedicated fans. Sincere condolences are sent-out to the entire Sweet family and all of Bill’s many friends on this somber occasion. MORE>>

12/21/11: Happy Holidays To All! (And A Few Extra Shots This Week….) At Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, George Allum was an absolute terror in this flawless coupe during the early-70s, and was a serious contender to break the stranglehold that Dick Dunn seemingly had on the era’s track championships. In addition to taking several weekly features, he also defeated a stellar field of outsiders to take the checkers in the Hott Wheels 100 on Sunday afternoon April, 22, 1973 as seen-here. Another of the many racers that hailed from nearby Norwich (once a veritable “Gasoline Alley” for successful Bowl’ teams), Allum is the brother-in-law of former Waterford Modified competitor Mark LaJeunesse, yet another resident of the “Rose City” that enjoyed great shoreline oval success. MORE>>

12/14/11: Yet-Another Weekly “Blast From The Past”  It’s another Saturday night at Plainville, and it’s another win for car owner Joe Palmieri and his driver, John Bergenty. Joe, who passed-away in December 6th, is seen on the right in this shot; it’s an image that played-out many times during his decades-long association with our sport. Like any good modified team, Joe had a great crew helping to turn the wrenches, and they’re certainly a happy-bunch in this image! The Joe Palmieri #VO team was certainly a successful operation at Plainville, but they also did well at many other tracks in New England such as Waterford, Riverside Park, and as-seen here, the expansive high-banks of Thompson Speedway. Veteran modified shoe Ronnie VanNesse was behind the controls of Joe’s piece when this nice shot was captured in the 1970s at the “Big T.” Just a timeless shot of a great-looking coupe! Seen here at Connecticut’s late (and much-missed) Plainville Stadium is veteran modified racer Freddie Colassa, who was one of the best at the demanding little ¼-miler.   MORE>>

12/07/11: By Popular Demand; Yet-MORE Speedbowl Memories…. He was one of the biggest names to have emerged from the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl during its early history, and no-doubt sold a lot of tickets during the shoreline oval’s formative years. Love-him, or hate-him, the late “Dirty Dick” Beauregard was a winner. During a relatively-short Speedbowl career of only a decade, he managed to notch a pair of Modified titles along with over-40 feature victories. Both controversial and immensely-popular at the same-time, he retired in 1962 as a champion. This one captures him in one of his more-recognizable rides, the Congdon’s Garage #76. Dick passed-way in September of this year at age-85. Next is a shot of the immortal Melvin “Red” Foote. Seen here at the Speedbowl of the early-50s behind the controls of his familiar #J2, his long career was a colorful and well-traveled affair. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, here’s an excerpt from his NEAR biography; Melvin “Red” Foote ran his first race in 1948, at Kingston, RI. Carl Morrow and Ralph LeGendre co-owned Foote’s first car, a silver #1 coach. MORE>>

11/30/11: By Request; More Speedbowl Memories…. Here’s one that’s sure to please longtime shoreline oval fans, and it’s a real favorite of yours-truly (I’ve been trying to get a copy of this print for eons). It’s 1972, and the young guy on the left is our close friend Mark LaJeunesse who at the time was just embarking on a Speedbowl career that would bring many triumphs for 30-plus seasons. On the right is the late, great Dick Beauregard, truly one of the pioneering stars at Waterford. With track championships in 1952 & ’62 along with 65 feature victories, Beauregard is easily one of the best to have ever competed at the Speedbowl. There’s a definitive connection between these two drivers; Mark’s father Al who for years was a tremendous force on his son’s race team, was with Beauregard from the start of his career. Sadly, we lost Dick just this year when he passed-away on September 7. Special thanks to Larry Pont for this gem of an image. MORE>>

11/23/11: Sharing A Few More Modified Memories The Day Before Thanksgiving….. Starting-off this week’s edition of “Racing Through Time” we have a vintage shot sent-in by reader Bill Flood of Tampa, Florida. Bill writes “This is Ken Dayton who raced at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. This picture was taken in 1963 when Seekonk ran flatheads. Ken raced in the 1950s with his friends from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Guys like Hop Harrington and Andy Anderson. He also raced at Norwood Arena and the Kingston Fairgrounds. He retired when Seekonk went modified.” Special thanks to Mr. Flood for sharing his memories of the driver of this sharp little coupe! Captured here during the 1960s at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts is the late, great Ed Flemke Sr. Starting during the emerging popularity of stock cars in the post-war era, it’s estimated that he won over 500 feature events during a career which spanned 3-decades. Along the way, he helped many young drivers get their starts, including Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton, and Indy 500 veteran Dennis Zimmerman (also HOF members). MORE>>

11/16/11: Yup, More Wednesday Wanderings….. Here we have a nice shot from the 1970s of our good friend, Waterford Speedbowl modified veteran Mark LaJeunesse seated behind the controls of the coupe that started his decades-long career. His accomplishments at the shoreline oval include snaring the United Stock Car Racing Club’s 1975 Sportsman-Modified Championship, and scoring a stunning victory in the 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Always a crowd-favorite, he was long-considered one of the “guys to watch” on any given Saturday night. This one’s from the daunting high-banks of Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway of the 1950s. That’s the late Sparky Belmont in the Central Garage #37 coupe dicing-it-out with Frankie Blum in the Norm Kies #21 and Andy Anderson in the #86. As relayed here many times, following a convincing victory in a 100-lap contest at Plainville Stadium in 1968, he collapsed during the post race celebration, and passed-away on the spot. “Sparky” had been a star on the post war Midget circuit before switching to stock cars. MORE>>

11/09/11: Waterford, Plainville, Stafford, (And One From Riverside) ... Pictured here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl during the early days of the Daredevil class (and immensely-popular support division started in the 1960s), is one Roger Charbonneau. Among the more accomplished racers in a class that seemed to be made-up of a sea of “Tri-Five” Chevy’s & Fords, Roger scored a career total of 8 feature victories within full-bodied at the track affectionately-known as the “shoreline oval.” Here’s another great photo taken through the lens of our pal & former Plainville Stadium Official Track Photographer, Phil Hoyt. Seen here behind the controls of an-absolutely neat coupe is Bob Vivari, track champion and big-winner at Joe Tinty’s much-missed Nutmeg State ¼-miler for many seasons. Bob remained one of the best at Plainville right-up until its untimely closure at the dawn of the 1980s. MORE>>

11/02/11: More Wednesday Wanderings….. Seen here early following a cut down victory early in his career is Fitchburg, Massachusetts’ Reino Tulonen. He competed in big cars, midgets, sprint cars, jalopies, coupes, modifieds and super modifieds. In 1951 he drove the Custom Auto Body Henry J in 4 NASCAR Grand National (now know as the Sprint Cup Series) events. His many accomplishments include winning the 1951 New England Championship and the 1951 Seekonk Cutdown championship. Known as "The Flying Finn", he built, owned, drove, and worked on his own cars. Later in his career, he was successful making the transition to supermodifieds and NASCAR modifieds, winning the 1964 Westboro, MA. title. Fittingly, Reino was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005. MORE>>

10/26/11: More Wednesday Wanderings….. Captured here in the early 1970s at the Speedbowl is our much-missed friend, the late Dick Watson, who passed away 7 years ago this week on Oct. 24th 2004. Known as “Gentleman Dick” Watson as well as “The Silver Fox”, he was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Dick began and ended his career at Waterford. From that first race in 1953 until his retirement in 1976, he competed at tracks across New England including; Waterford, West Haven, Plainville Stadium, Lonsdale, Seekonk, Langhorne (dirt & paved), Norwood Arena, Thompson Speedway, & Stafford Motor Speedway. His first victory came at Plainville Stadium. Among his most notable rides was the Bob Garbarino #V-4“Mystic Missile” and the Freddie Beaber #716 as seen-here. In 1966 he moved to the NASCAR Modified circuit, winning the Thompson World Series. He scored top-ten point finishes at Thompson in 1966 and '67, and at Stafford in '67 and '68 competing against some of the very best drivers of the era. Dick also competed in several Grand National (now known as Sprint Cup) events. MORE>>

10/19/11: Remembering Oscar “Cannonball” Ridlon’s URDC Circuit…. Meet the late Oscar Ridlon, once a very-influential figure within the realm of New England auto racing, and especially in the formation a class that would eventually become known as the Super Modifieds. A former big car & midget racer of epic proportions, he later became the owner & promoter of the former Pines Speedway in Groveland, Massachusetts, and also New Hampshire’s Hudson Speedway. At one time, his URDC circuit was one of the most successful of sanctioning bodies, producing talent that would become household names in our region. Guys like Hall of Famers Ollie Silva, Don MacLaren, Bentley Warren and Paul Richardson in naming just a few, all raced for Ridlon early in their careers. Also at the helm of Maine’s Arundel Speedway for a time, Ridlon was the personification of an old-time promoter, ruling his tracks with an often-controversial “Iron-Fist” mentality. Some of the stories told by the drivers that raced for him are truly the stuff of our region’s racing folklore.  MORE>>

10/12/11: Regarding Midgets & Modifieds…. Here’s a wonderful shot of the late Al Keller, one of the post-war era’s greatest open-wheel stars. In 1949, he also began competing occasionally in NASCAR’s Strictly Stock (later Grand National) division. From 1949-54 he ran in 29 races, winning twice. In 1954, Keller turned his complete attention to the AAA & USAC Championship Car Series. He raced Champ Cars, Sprints, and Midgets over the next several seasons, and also competed in the Indianapolis 500 scoring a best finish of fifth in 1961. Sadly, later that year he perished in a fiery crash at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The attrition-rate was often of staggering proportions during the early days of open cockpit racing. Known as “The Flying School Master” as a nod to his daytime gig, Connecticut’s Johnny Carpenter was actually one of the better-traveled midget racing stars of his generation. In addition to winning many races close to his Nutmeg State headquarters at places like Cherry Park and Candlelight Stadium (both in Connecticut), he also tasted success in New York State. MORE>>

10/05/11: In-Honor Of This Weekend’s Reunion, We Present More Plainville Stadium Memories!!! Here’s a really-early shot of one of Plainville Stadium’s most-colorful track champions, and according to the guys he raced-against, One Tough Competitor! Long-before NASCAR’s late Dale Earnhardt St. picked-up his ”Intimidator” nickname, the gutsy AnthonyJap” Membrino was rattling the cages of his fellow competitors all over New England. Not-only did this guy put on a show; he also won races, and a whole-lot of them! Jap is scheduled to be present at Saturday’s Third Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion at the Berlin Fair Grounds. Be-sure to stop-by and say hello! The much-accomplished Don Moon is one of the former Plainville Stadium competitors that we have to thank for helping to stage the track’s annual reunion. Don won a ton of races at Plainville, and was also very-successful at a number of other New England raceways during his traveling days. Known as a master craftsman in the realm of car builders, his rides were always super-fast and immaculate-looking. This shot captures him behind the controls of his familiar #9 coach with starter Billy Dunn's assistant the late Richard Biggie following one of his many Plainville feature victories. MORE>>

09/28/11: Celebrating (More) Plainville Stadium History…. Here’s a great shot from Mr. Ormsby’s archives and we’ll let him provide the commentary; Pictured is Bobby Nield and the late Eddie Hamel-owned #25. Bobby Knox was the longtime driver of the car, Nield only drove a short time and I don't know much about him except he never raced again after this. The car was distinguished by a small blue light on the roof. Eddie unfortunately was one of the five people hit with shrapnel when my #VO coupe went through the fence. This is a rare photo. I'm pretty sure this is the only shot that captures long-time Track Physician the late Dr. Edmund "Ned" Ziegler (seen in dark coat between the ambulance attendants in the white coats). Plainville was the only track in New England I'm aware-of that employed a Physician at the track and had onsite a fully-equipped first aid trailer. Dr. Ziegler was a former Medical Director for the City of New Britain and for many years was the Head of Emergency Services at Middlesex Memorial Hospital in Middletown before he retired. MORE>>

09/21/11: More Oldies (With An Emphasis On Plainville!)… We really like this early-70s shot of one of Plainville Stadium’s true “low-buck operators.”  I’d gander to say that our Webmaster and former Stadium’ competitor Tom Ormsby probably raced more than a few laps against the man known-as “Bubblegum Joe” Bubbico. Once a familiar sight all-over the ovals of New England, he eventually moved west and continued his racing career at San Bernardino’s Orange Show Speedway in Southern California becoming a top-competitor in the Late Model class. Still later, he became the Reverend Joe Bubbico, serving the parishioners of “On Track with Jesus” - an independent non-denominational Christian outreach program. Seen here behind the controls of the Joe Palmeri-owned #VO Coupe at Plainville Stadium during the early-1970s is Ron VanNesse. A big winner at that popular Connecticut ¼-miler, he also occasionally ventured-out to other area speedways such as Riverside, Thompson, and Stafford. MORE>>

09/14/11: It’s Wednesday, So You Know What That Means; (More Old Stuff, Of-Course!)… Sadly, it was learned last week that Waterford Speedbowl Icon Dick Beauregard passed-away recently. A Taftville, CT. native and a resident of California since the 1960s, he was one of the drivers that helped lay the groundwork for the traditions-rich racing heritage of the coastal Connecticut oval that continues today. In a relatively-short Speedbowl career of only a decade he notched a pair of Modified titles along with over-40 feature victories. In the Non-Ford class, he annexed the checkers on 20 occasions. Both controversial and immensely-popular at the same-time, he retired in 1962 as a champion. This Shany Lorenzent captures him during the twilight of his career. Here’s another great Waterford image from the 1960s donated by our old pal & frequent “RTT” contributor, Rusty Sage. Flanking the absolutely classic-looking coach of the Bunnell family race team is “Jiggs” Beetham. A top Speedbowl chauffer for a multitude of seasons, Jiggs would later hang-up his helmet and team with New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Bob Potter to form one of the region’s most successful Modified teams. The Bunnell family always fielded top-notch equipment, and this ride was no exception. MORE>>

09/07/11: Catching-Up After Hurricane Irene (A Hard Act To Follow….)  Here’s a nice shot of the late Raymond “Hully” Bunn who passed-away at age 91 on August 25. Inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, here’s an excerpt from his HOF biography; Raymond “Hully” Bunn of Bristol, CT, built his first racecar, a ’37 Ford Coupe, in 1949. Beginning at the Plainville Stadium, he soon was competing all over New England. While he drove his own equipment in the early part of his career, he later drove for many owners, including Johnny Ross, John Melnick, and Steve Danish. He began to compete outside New England, traveling to Tampa, Florida and Bainbridge, Ohio, as well as down the East coast into Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where he continued to be a frequent winner. “Those were fun days”, says Hully. “You could build a car for $1000, and most features paid at least $300 or $400 to win. Langhorne paid $1000, so you could really make a living at it back then.” In 1951, driving the #X coupe, Bunn beat out over 100 cars to win the Inaugural Race of Champions, a 100 mile race at Langhorne, PA. MORE>>

08/24/11: Traveling Back To The 1980s Modified-Style !!!! Here was have a nice shot from the Thompson Motor Speedway captured in 1980 of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Bob Potter. From his HOF biography; “In Southern New England, mention the number 51 and the immediate response is Bob Potter. Starting at Waterford Speedbowl in 1962, Potter began winning in 1966 and before it was over captured 11 championships an estimated 140 features at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford.  A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95.” This guy truly ranks as one of the best New England modified racers of all-time. By the time Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo was captured here pitside at the Stafford Motor Speedway in 1981, he’d already established himself as a Waterford Speedbowl winner having taken his first checker in 1971 at the shoreline oval as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. MORE>>

08/17/11: Vintage Views; A Continuation… As stated-above, our old pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Val LeSieur was recently hospitalized. Launching Speedway Scene in 1971, his weekly paper became a “must-read” for anyone even remotely involved in the sport of auto racing in New England. It focused on the sport's people and issues in addition to reporting race results. Full of feisty columns, it was soon required reading across the region. Fans used it to follow their favorite racers, and to help determine their own weekly racing schedules. Promoters alternately loved and loathed its candid commentary. Racers valued the boost it gave their careers. Based on his many contributions to the sport, LeSieur was inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame this year. MORE>>

08/10/11: Yet-Another (Very) Varied Assortment….. One from Thompson; “Daring Dick” Caso may have never won any popularity contests with track officials, but he had more than his fair-share of fans among the grandstand patrons. A nickname well-earned, his driving style was of the “no-holds-barred” variety and when in his prime, a Caso-drive to the front was itself worth the price of an admission ticket. In terms of finance, he was a low-bucker that got the ultimate out of equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. A big-winner in the early 70s, he’d often take-off to run the dirt tracks of PA with this Corvair or it’s stable-mate, a Coupe-bodied creation. Nicknames were big during Caso’s tenure, as he was also christened “The Cromwell Comet” by the late, great John Small, one of the grandest announcers in Waterford Speedbowl history. MORE>>

08/03/11: Pacing The Past (Weekly)….. It’s with a heavy-heart that we present some sad news as relayed by our Webmaster, Tom Ormsby. It was learned last week that former modified racer Skip Zeigler passed-away last Saturday due to complications while undergoing cancer treatments. States Tom who competed against Skip at Plainville Stadium; “Skip started racing at Plainville, CT. in the late 1950s and was a regular until the track closed. His trademark was the red & white coach-bodied #126. The last three seasons he ran the “Flying 0” coach owned by his brother Gene. He also raced at Riverside Park, Stafford, Thompson, Lebanon Valley, and a few other tracks in upstate New York.” He was the 1966 Plainville Stadium track champion. This shot captures Skip at Plainville during the early stages of his long career. Our condolences go out to his family and many friends on their loss. MORE>>

07/27/11: And The Beat Goes On; More “Old Stuff” From Waterford… One-third of a brother-act that also included siblings Bob “Allie” Gada and the late Larry “Insta” Gada, Chris “Wally” Gada wheeled this Mustang Mach 1-bodied Modified in ‘Bowl action. Famous for their loyalty to products of a FORD-nature, the team fielded winning entries for years at a track that was overwhelmingly populated by entries propelled by “The General” during their generation. It was no-fluke, as the Gada’s won big. They fielded this car simultaneously with their winning (Bob being a multi-time track champ), full-bodied entries. Following Larry, veteran Joey Trudeau got-behind the controls, going-on to grab the 1971 Modified championship. MORE>>

07/20/11: Connecticut’s Much-Missed Danbury Racearena; The Early Years…. Here’s a shot of a real Danbury hero that I DO happen to know a bit-about. When you think of Charles “Chick” Stockwell, your mind immediately conjures-up images of overwhelming success as the all-time winner on the ultra-competitive surface of the late SNYRA-sanctioned Danbury Fair Racearena in Connecticut. Nine championships, 207 victories, and a stint as “Most Popular Driver” for six-years (1976-1981), are bound to sew-up his association with what was once considered one of the most-successful short track operations in America. Sadly, we lost Danbury at the conclusion of the 1981 season so a Mall could be constructed on the property. Like we needed another mall in Connecticut, right? Here’s a nice pitside shot of Lou Funk Jr. from 1962. Along with his dad Lou Sr., they were a formidable duo at Danbury winning a boatload of features. Lou Jr. experienced great success at the Racereana in later years wheeling a Chrysler Kit Car modified.  MORE>>

07/13/11: YET-MORE “Waterford Wanderings”…. This guy’s name remains synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division at that track than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. This shot is from 1968, and captures the ‘Bowl legend behind the controls of the potent Simons Brothers #9. Another coupe-era shot from what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl captures Bob Tetreault on a Saturday evening in 1970. Typical of the times, Bob’s racer sported a nifty vintage body, stock frame, and probably 99% of the components used in its construction where products of good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity, rather than a fat-wallet. Sadly, Modified racing has become prohibitively-expensive for many would-be competitors and has also forced many veteran teams out of the sport. It remains a truly-disturbing trend. MORE>>

07/06/11: Another-Dose Of Modified Memories…. Here we present a nice candid shot captured at the Waterford Speedbowl by our longtime friend & veteran New England racing photographer, Steve Kennedy. Seen here with a smile for the camera is local shoe, John Bunnell. Starting in the old sportsman sedan class before progressing to modifieds like the sharp Vega creation seen here (a body-man by profession, John routinely campaigned very-attractive rides), he was a part of the action within the shoreline oval’s premier division for nearly 3-decades. We believe this shot to be from the 1981 season. One of the real joys of doing this site has been making many new friends since we first went online a few years-ago. One of those friends is Rusty Sage, who along with others has contributed a number of classic images for all to enjoy. Here’s another from Rusty’s archives and it’s a beauty! Captured in a classic Shany “portrait shot” is a 17 year-old Donnie Bunnell (cousin of the aforementioned John Bunnell) during the start of his long, storied Waterford Speedbowl career. From this youthful start in 1967, Donnie became one of the absolute-best at the shoreline oval recording a career-total of 33 feature victories in Daredevil, Modified, and SK Modified competition. MORE>>

06/29/11: More Wednesday Wanderings….. Seen here in 1963 capturing one of his many feature victories at Connecticut’s former Danbury Fair Racearena is popular Jimmy Smith. One of the Southern New York Racing Associations (SNYRA) best-ever, he recorded 5 track championships, the first in 1965, his final in 1973. He was a founding member of the SNYRA and ranks 5th on Danbury’s all-time winners list. Sadly, Jimmy passed-way on Sunday, June 12 at the age of 72. Our condolences go out to his family and many friends. Here’s a real oldie from the annals of Connecticut auto racing history. Seated behind the controls of a unique-looking specimen from the region’s cut down period of the 1950s is one Whitey Brainard. The location is the small paved oval that resided in the infield section of the larger half-mile dirt oval of Stafford Speedway (paved to its present configuration in 1967). Note that Brainard’s car is powered by a Buick straight-8, which must have made it a handful! MORE>>

06/22/11: A Trip Through “The Silvia Files”… Captured here in the 1950s with their driver the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi, are the Garuti brothers, Richie & Ray. From their New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame biography; Rich and Ray Garuti are truly New England auto racing pioneers, building their first stock car for Plainville Stadium early in the 1950s. They continued to build winning cars for over two decades, scoring on both the United Stock Club and NASCAR circuits.  The numbers 14 and 28 will forever be associated with the New Britain, CT natives. They began with the Midgets, first maintaining somebody else's car before acquiring their own. Johnny DeLeo remembers some impressive runs in the #14  V60-powered Kurtis.  Modifieds, however, is where they made their mark. George Lombardo, Moe Gherzi, Ed Flemke, Jocco Maggiacomo and Smokey Boutwell were the principal drivers. The cars out of Ray's Garage in the Kensington section of Berlin, CT had dominating seasons with Lombardo at Plainville Stadium and  with Gherzi at the Waterford Speedbowl before moving  on to Riverside Park, United's flagship for over two decades. MORE>>

06/15/11: Yet-Another Batch Of “Old Stuff”…. We start this week’s edition of Racing Through Time on a sad-note, as it was learned last week that former New England modified racer Billy Knight passed-away on Sunday, June 5. He was 56. Starting his career at Plainville Stadium, he also raced frequently at Riverside Park and Stafford. Our Webmaster Tom Ormsby who raced against Billy at Plainville had this to say: Billy started at Plainville, but spent most of his career at Riverside. I always knew him to be a really nice person. He raced at Stafford for a time and was a big fan-favorite at Riverside Park. Knight was always known for really sharp-looking equipment and this shot of him in his Vega at Stafford is no exception. Our sincere condolences are offered to his family & many friends. Here’s a great shot of the late Ed Yerrington at Waterford circa 1967. After a distinguished career as a racer, Yerrington successfully made a transition to the management segment of the sport working a several New England raceways. Note the body on this little number; it’s a Studebaker Lark. MORE>>

06/08/11: Every Picture Tells A (Speedbowl) Story…  Hailing from the Connecticut River Valley region, Mike Beebe enjoyed a long and successful career in the modified division at Waterford, notching a career total of 8 feature victories in the ‘Bowls premier division. He recorded his first in 1971, his final in 1979. When this shot was captured in the late-60s, Beebe was just starting-out in the Daredevil division, a once-popular support class that routinely drew a record number of entries each week. Originally conceived as a replacement for the struggling Bomber class, it was often that both A & B main events were run for the wildly-popular full-bodied Daredevils. After a period of inactivity, Beebe in later years returned to the sport wheeling a Legends car along with his son Mike Jr. Though they remained essentially the same animal with the exception of a few performance-enhancing rule revisions, the Daredevils underwent a name-change becoming known as “Sportsman Sedans” for the 1971 season. While weekly fields would never again reach the expansive numbers of the formative years of the division, competition was still of the fierce-variety. MORE>>

06/01/11: Yup, It’s Wednesday And You Know What That Means; More Old Stuff Starting this week’s column we have a nice shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member George Summers during his days as a Cut-Down chauffer at Norwood Arena. Silenced forever in 1972, the fondly-remembered Massachusetts ¼-miler was a hotbed of racing action featuring the biggest names in the sport for decades. This weekend on Sunday June 5, the memories will be rekindled at the 7th Annual Norwood Arena Reunion to be held at Bezema Motors on US Rt. 1 in Norwood, Mass., the Auto Mile. For more information visit our friends at the Norwood Arena Speedway Historical website www.norwoodarena.com I know I’ll be there Sunday! Its Memorial Day 1949, and things are about to get underway at Joe Tinty’s Plainville Stadium in Connecticut. That’s Ted Tappett on the pole, followed by Tommy Coates, Dick Eagan, Ray Nester, Ray Brown, and Ernie Gessell. Sadly, Plainville closed at the dawn of the 1980s, but not before gaining its reputation as one of the most competitive ¼-milers in New England. In looking at the archives, it seems that just-about all of the best drivers of modified racing competed at Plainville during its long history. In-particular, the mid-week open competition shows routinely drew the biggest names in the sport. MORE>>

05/25/11: Another Week, Another Peek At The Past…. This one from Connecticut’s late Plainville Stadium comes from the files of our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Val LeSieur. No-doubt having appeared in Val’s fondly-recalled Speedway Scene weekly, the caption on the back reads; A jam-up on the back chute sent Stan Greger flipping end-over-end in one of the most spectacular accidents-ever at Plainville Stadium during the 1974 season. Although the car was demolished, Greger received only minor injuries. The Stadium will open the 1975 season on Saturday night, April 19th. Portrait images of drivers are kinda’ rare, so we just had to run this one, The guy you see here is Dick Dunn, absolutely one of the best racers to have ever turned a lap at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. Wheeling a modified owned by our friends Peg & Al “Buddha” Gaudreau and adding to an already impressive resume, during the four-straight seasons that he was crowned champ (1972-75) Dunn recorded an impressive 18-feature victories including a number of extra-distance shows. MORE>>

05/18/11: More May Modified Memories…..  “Daring Dick” Caso may have never won any popularity contests with track officials at Waterford, but he had more than his fair-share of fans among the Speedbowl’s grandstand patrons. A nickname well-earned, his driving style was of the “no-holds-barred” variety and when in his prime, a Caso-drive to the front was itself worth the price of a Saturday night ticket. In terms of finance, he was a low-bucker that got the ultimate out of equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. Nicknames were big during Caso’s tenure, as he was also christened “The Cromwell Comet” by the late, great John Small, one of the grandest announcers in Speedbowl history. The moniker was of course, a nod to his hometown. MORE>>

05/11/11: Yet More Wednesday Wanderings…. Seen here during the 1960s during an outing at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway is Frank Manafort. Associated primarily with the late Plainville Stadium (another Nutmeg State oval where he experienced great success garnering several championships), Manafort was a top New England modified competitor in the mid 60's to the early 70's retiring to help run the family business  In later years, he came back to compete in the Legends division where he continued winning. Gary Colturi was on the fast-track to success when news of his tragic death in a motorcycle accident both stunned and saddened the New England racing community in 1973. He was extremely popular with both fans & his fellow competitors. Teaming with legendary car owner Mario Fiore later in his career, he raced to much-success at Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway. Courtesy of his friend & one-time car owner Mario, we’re able to present this shot of Gary at Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts during the 1965 season. MORE>>

05/04/11: Wednesday Means More Modified Memories…. Starting this week on sad note, word was received that Rochester, N.Y. Modified driver Dick Emerson passed away Yesterday. Dick raced into the mid-1970s at Lancaster (NY) Speedway and Spencer Speedway (Williamson, N.Y.) and also at Oswego, N.Y.  Pictured here in about 1970 is Dick Emerson, a weekly competitor at Lancaster Speedway. It was a Falcon-bodied Modified, and I was used to seeing mostly Coupes at the tracks I frequented with my family. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Emerson or his career, but I sure liked the looks of his Modified! As a 3-time NASCAR National Sportsman Champion, a member of the famed “Eastern Bandits”, and an inductee of both the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, little has to be said about this driver that hasn’t already been written. Known as “The Champ”, Rene Charland won over 250 features and countless track titles races during a career that spanned 4-decades. He’s seen here with just one of the coupes “The Champ” guided to victory lane. MORE>>

04/27/11: Wednesday Means More Modified Memories…. Courtesy of my friend and former boss at Speedway Scene, Val LeSieur, we have a nice candid “garage shot” of Roland Cyr working on the potent Vega-bodied modified that he and driver Dave Alkas campaigned to so-many triumphs at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium. A multi-time track champion, Alkas was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008, and of-course Val took his place among the greats just this year. Written on the back of this shot is the following; “Roland Cyr of Burlington works on the new Vega-bodied modified that will be driven this season by Dave Alkas at the Plainville Stadium. Cyr and Alkas have teamed-up as a winning combination at the stadium for many years. The car features a modified independent front suspension developed by Cyr.” MORE>>

04/20/11: More April “Old-Daze” Action…. Here’s a great early shot from Connecticut’s “Stafford Springs Speedway” of the 1950s courtesy of our old pal, Mal Phillips. The driver is John Coon, and his coupe is typical of the machines that lapped the storied nutmeg state oval at the time. The Arute family purchased the track from Mal Barlow at the dawn of the 1970s rechristening it “Stafford Motor Speedway” and transforming it into the showplace it remains today for the NASCAR modified division. We ran a piece on this driver a few months-ago, and have subsequently received a ton of requests for more images of the popular “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl star. Seen here at the shoreline oval during the early days of his career is Johnny Sandberg. Claiming the 1952 Non-Ford championship, he scored a career-total of 19 feature victories at Waterford in both Non-Ford and Modified competition. His final Bowl’ triumph came during the 1961 campaign. MORE>>

04/13/11: Another Installment Of “The Way We Were”… Here’s a nice shot from the personal scrapbook of our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. The year is 1959, and it’s Billy’s Rookie year as a New England modified stock car racer. From his Hall of Fame biography; “At age 21, Billy Harman began racing a modified 312 Ford at the Waterford Speedbowl. He won a feature in his first year, as well as taking down Rookie of the Year honors.  He continued at the Speedbowl for the next 7 years, recording many wins and holding four different track records, including the fastest 10 lap heat, 25 lap feature, 50 lap feature, and non-stop 100 lap feature. He dominated there, especially in 1965 and 1966, driving the famed L & M Coupe. Following 1966, Bill felt it was time to move on to more and bigger challenges. MORE>>

04/06/11: With A Little (More) Help From Our Friends… Flanked by a State Trooper on the right, and “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl Vice President Anthony Albino on the left, this drivers name remains synonymous with the shoreline oval and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division there than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. While he drove for a varied list of top teams, he’s probably best recalled for his accomplishments while behind the wheel of his self-owned “Little Jewel” #106. Special thanks go to longtime ‘Bowl track photographer & friend Rene Dugas for the loan of this classic 50s-era image. MORE>>

03/30/11: With A Little Help From Our Friends (Again)….. From November 4, 1978, we open this week’s edition of “RTT” with a shot of the late, great Richie Evans at Connecticut’s Thompson International Speedway. A native of Rome, NY., Evans left his family's farm at age 16 to work at a local garage. After finding early success in drag racing, a friend suggested he try building a car to race at the nearby Utica-Rome Speedway. He ran his first oval-track car, a 1954 Ford Hobby Stock numbered PT-109 (after John F. Kennedy's torpedo boat in World War II), in 1962. He advanced to the Modifieds in 1965, winning his first feature in the season's final night. In 1973, he became the NASCAR National Modified Champion. In 1978 he won a second title and did not relinquish his crown during the next seven years. Evans took over four hundred feature race wins at racetracks from Quebec to Florida before he was fatally injured at age-44 in a practice crash at Martinsville in late 1985.  MORE>>

03/23/11: Continuing Our Trek Down Memory Lane….. Here’s a rare one. Pat Doherty owned winning modifieds in New England for years, employing the services of some of the regions best racers. In this shot, it’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Fred Desarro behind the controls of one of his coupes in November of 1972. What makes this shot particularly-rare is the surface of the track; Pat ran the car on dirt AND asphalt during an era in which purpose-built cars had not yet become prevalent. Lakeville was a wild n’ woolly ½-mile dirt oval that opened in the 1920s as Camp Joe Hooker Speedway (it had previously been utilized as an Army horse training camp named after General Hooker). Also known as “Golden Spur” it closed in 1975, and sadly, Desarro lost his life resulting from a grinding Thompson crash during the 1978 season. MORE>>

03/16/11: Another Week, Another Very-Varied Selection…. Seen here in the 1960s behind the controls of a full-bodied “Tri-Five” Chevy celebrating victory at the former Westboro Speedway during the early days of his career is “Fast Finch Fenton” (known in mere-mortal terms as Lew Boyd). As the proprietor of Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com Lew brings to us the best in racing-related reading, video, and artwork. This guy has been-around the sport for a long-time, and saw success during his driving days in just about every division in New England, dirt & asphalt. You gotta’ love this neat Chevy and it’s period-perfect “Batman” inspired paint-scheme! “Dynamite” Ollie Silva - what else has to be said? For a generation of New England racing fans, watching this man compete in either a Super or a Modified was in-itself, worth the cost of an admission ticket. Shown here following an early victory, he claimed over 500 feature triumphs during his career. To Connecticut race-goers, one victory stands-alone in illustrating a typical show of “Silva Dominance” when the man was in his prime. MORE>>

03/09/11: More “With A Little Help From Our Friends…” Born on December 16, 1916 in the Bronx, New York, the late Tony Bonadies was one of the East Coast’s all-time midget racing greats. Extremely popular, his career spanned almost three decades during which he competed in more than a thousand races. Although he never captured an ARDC Midget Championship, he was ranked among the top six in seven out of his last eight seasons in the series' final classification table, and was twice the runner-up. A 3-time Indy 500 entrant, he was running in an ARDC midget show at Williams Grove, PA. on July, 5 1964 when his right-rear axle snapped; the car got airborne and violently barrel-rolled several times. Sadly, he was thrown to the ground and died instantly. This shot captures Bonadies celebrating yet-another victory during the height of his illustrious career. MORE>>

03/02/11: Remembering Gene Bergin Along With More From The Archives…. Simply-stated, we lost a HUGE talent and a good friend when New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Gene Bergin passed-away last weekend following a lengthy illness. Be it modifieds, sprint cars, or midgets on dirt or asphalt, he always found his way to the front of the pack. Upon hearing of his pal’s passing, fellow Hall of Famer Pete Zanardi stated that “Gene Bergin was the most naturally-gifted & versatile race driver that I’ve ever seen. He could win in anything.”  He’s captured here during the 1960s flanking the Beebe Zalinski M6, a car that he guided to the first-ever Stafford Motor Speedway asphalt championship in 1967. Again, 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 the late Gene Bergin. A member of the first class inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, he started his career in 1949 at the Stafford Motor Speedway, remaining one of our regions top-drivers for over three-decades. MORE>>

02/23/11: And The (Vintage) Beat Goes On….. Captured here in the pit area of Connecticut’s high-banked Thompson Speedway is one of my favorite rides of all-time, the Rambler-bodied modified of the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. It’s 1973, and he was making an infrequent visit to the “Big T.” With its body crafted by the late Owen Bowen, the little Dodge-powered AMC really stood-out in the field. It was in this car that “Wild Bill” scored his final career victory which took place at his home track, the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl on Easter Sunday of 1974. We have a ton of “unidentified” shots like this one in the files, and have found that publishing them here can sometimes solve the mystery. The locale is Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium, and the machine you see here was typical of the machines that frequented the ultra-competitive ¼-miler during the late 60s & early 70s. MORE>>

02/09/11: Another Helping Of Modified Memories….. Captured here on the high-banks of Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway is our pal, Coastal 181’s Lew Boyd. The year is 1976, and he had this to say about his ride on that day; “This was “The Stang” we were running mostly at Fonda. We had rebuilt the car completely over the winter, changed it from #181 to No Cents, and put in a 482 big block. It was pretty fast, but we were definitely behind the curve. Manufactured cars (Tobias, Schwinning, Weld, etc) had come on the scene big time, and we ate some dust!” Boyd’s racing partner Bruce Cohen added that “We were having some steering/heating problems with the car and so it was off to the Big T for some trouble shooting.” When’s the last time you saw a dirt-car at Thompson? MORE>>

02/02/11: Another Slice Of The Past…. This was a sight often witnessed by fans of New England Super Modified racing in the days that NESMRA reigned-supreme at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway. That’s the legendary “Big Daddy” Don MacLaren on the inside, and the equally-celebrated Ollie Silva on the high-side. Both Don & Ollie are gone now, “Big Daddy” having passed just recently, and Ollie in 2004. The intense duals waged between these two Hall of Famers remains the stuff of legend. Here’s another one from Star Speedway. Captured here in a dramatic action-shot is Jerry Wall piloting his famous (and hugely-successful), “Yellow Jacket” NEMA Midget. Quite revolutionary for it’s time, the car was a huge departure from the more conventional “uprights” that had long been the standard of Midget racing in the Northeast. Wall was a longtime star on the NEMA circuit, recording 14 feature victories during his career. MORE>>

01/26/11: It’s Wednesday – Time For More Old Stuff !!! Starting this week’s edition of “RTT” we have an image of one of the Waterford Speedbowl’s most fondly-remembered combinations; Newt Palm & the L&M Modified. He was twice a champion (1967 & 68), while wheeling the potent little Willys-bodied coupe. Walt Dombrowski also grabbed the title driving the L&M in 1970, cementing the car’s status as one of the more famous cars in ‘Bowl history. We admittedly don’t know a whole-lot about this driver and his neat square-roof coupe, but we do know that the car was a real looker! Seen here at the Waterford Speedbowl pitted next to the team of Mike Beebe during the early 1970s is Dick Chapman. Classic coupes like this one remained standard fare at the shoreline oval when this shot was recorded, but teams were starting to look toward late model sheetmetal as evidenced by Beebe’s Ford Mustang-shod mount. MORE>>

01/19/11: Yet-Another Selection Of Short Track Stormers… Here’s a special one sent-in from one of our readers, Rick Burdick. Seen here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early 1970s is driver Ricky Taylor, a standout competitor in the old Sportsman Sedan division. The little guy with him is the late Bobby Burdick. Sadly, Bobby perished in motorcycle accident in 1977, just a few years after this shot was captured. Taylor & the Burdick brothers are cousins. The great Sal Dee remains one of the most fondly-remembered racers of his era. With his relatively brief but spectacular career stalled by serious racing-related injuries, had longevity been in the cards he would have undoubtedly accomplished even-more. With roots tracing-back to the Waterford Speedbowl, Dee won-over a legion of fans undoubtedly fueled by his no-nonsense drives to the front during what many railbirds consider the most-competitive period in New England modified racing history. This image captures his famous “Flying 70” mount in the Thompson pits. MORE>>

01/12/11: More Wednesday Wanderings (Vintage-Style)….. We open the latest edition of “Racing Through Time” with a 60s-era Modified division shot of Johnny Sandberg, one of the best-ever at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Claiming the 1952 Non-Ford championship, he scored a career-total of 19 feature victories at Waterford in both Non-Ford and Modified competition. Sandberg’s final shoreline oval triumph came during the 1961 campaign. And here we have another image from the Speedbowl, this time it’s Bill Staubley during the 1964 campaign. It was a particularly-good season for the talented chauffer, as he’d racked-up an impressive 8 Bomber class feature victories by seasons-end. Staubley later advanced to the headlining Modified division where he remained a steady competitor for many seasons. MORE>>

01/04/11: Yet Another Scan Of The Archives….. In 1977 Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl introduced a new support class due in-part to boost a sagging car-count in the old Grand American division. By the next season the class had flourished, and it seemed like everyone was getting into the act. See here is Dave Dykes during the spring of 1978. His well-used Plymouth Belvedere (a 4-door, no-less), had been purchased from established competitor Paul Jutila. With a firesuit borrowed from family friend & former Daredevil racer Gary Welsh, and a helmet purchased from the local Two-Guys department store (remember them?), he was on his way. Lou Austin was one of the premier players during New England Modified racing’s much-heralded “Coupe Era.” Seen here in the 1960s behind the controls of his familiar #73 at the much-missed Norwood Arena in Massachusetts, it should also be noted that Lou was quite the multi-talented competitor. In addition to his accomplishments in the Modifieds, he also occasionally campaigned within the ranks of the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA), enjoying considerable success. MORE>>

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