Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 1, 2009

Volume 1, Number 12                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


This week it’s a few more images from those halcyon days of full starting fields and packed grandstands at 1080 Hartford Road, the site of what was first known as the “New London-Waterford Speedbowl”. Dismal weather conditions stalled day-two of the season-opening “Modified Nationals” last weekend as the Bowl’ attempts to reassert itself as a facility worthy of its nickname as “The Action Track”. For a slice of variety, we’ve also included an image of a former Plainville Stadium competitor who’s son grew-up to be a Bowl’ regular. Special thanks to friend and racing photographer par-excellence, Steve Kennedy for this week’s donated Shany photos. As a bonus there is a video at the bottom of the page I ran across of Trenton Speedway Memories you might enjoy. As always, contact me at foreveryoung@yahoo.com

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.  (Kennedy Photo).     

This is a rather-rare shot in that you hardly-ever saw this driver in any trouble on the track, much-less sitting in the wall with a fire brewing. Donnie Bunnell was a smooth and well-respected driver during his tenure at the Speedbowl, but on May 13, 1978, he and his Frank Konopka-owned Vega fell victim to the unforgiving wooden railroad ties that formally circled the outer-perimeter of the Bowl’. (Kennedy Photo).  

NEAR Hall of Famer Billy “Gramps” Greco (left, wearing All-Star helmet), was once an infrequent competitor at Waterford, but returned to full-time status when Harvey Tattersall Jr. purchased the track in 1975. In this shot from September 3, 1977, he’s just met with the Corvair-bodied # 73 entry chauffeured by long-established Bowl’ star George Allum. Joe Zenga was the owner of Billy’s # 06 Vega. (Kennedy Photo).  

The Greco-Allum fracas from another angle. That’s Allum leaning on the roof of his car, patiently waiting for the track crew to work their magic. (Kennedy Photo).

Now heavily-involved with the New England Antique Racers, the Sellar family once fielded this MOPAR Street Stock at Waterford. In-fact, they were one of the first teams to construct a car for the division, which was the brainchild of then-promoter/track owner, Harvey Tattersall Jr. In this “under the lights” shot from August of 1978, it’s Bob Sellar behind the controls. Son Rod later assumed the driving chores from his dad, the team eventually advancing to the Modifieds. That’s standout Street Stock competitor Chris Banta to the inside of Sellar. (Kennedy Photo).

Seabury Tripler goes down in the Speedbowl history books as not only a winning racer, but also as the guy that helped jump-start the “Pinto Revolution” in New England Modified racing. As this shot shows, before the legendary “M” mounts of “Trip” were shod by Ford’s modern subcompact tinwork, they wore the then-conventional stylings of this neat little coupe. Note that this image was captured before Nomex firesuits were the norm. (Shany Photo, Steve Kennedy Collection).

Another photo generously donated by Steve Kennedy captures a driver simply synonymous with Speedbowl history. The late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer was there from the very beginning wheeling those primitive Coupes & Coaches of the early days, concluding his career in a modern-era LaJeunesse Race Team Vega in the 1980’s. This shot shows him in a familiar #121 self-owned creation that was actually rather-radical for the period with its advanced split-axel suspension set-up. Despite a worn-appearance, the car was a real-mover. (Shany Photo, Steve Kennedy Collection).

What was known as a “Sand Safety Strip” once circled the outer-parameter of the racing surface at the Speedbowl. Originally built-in as a safety feature (the theory being that it would “slow-down” errant competitors before impact), it remained until the 1960’s when it was paved. This 50’s-era shot captures the Congdon team cars of NEAR Hall of Famer Dick Watson and early Bowl’ star Dick Beaureguard doing some time up in the “sandbank”. Other than capitol improvements funded by former operators the Korteweg family in the 1980’s including repaving, a new Armco retaining wall, and several other structural projects, the Speedbowl remains essentially the same as it did during it’s opening in the spring of 1951. (Shany Photo).   

The last photo in this week’s installment of RTT ventures-away from the confines of the shoreline oval to another CT. track that once provided some of the best short-trackin’ in the region. The late Plainville Stadium was a haven for Modified racing, but like Waterford, also presented great support-division action. Known at various times as the Novice Class, Pleasure Division, and lastly, Late Models, there’s been precious-little written about Plainville’s “fender-brigade” in the years since the track closed. Seen here in 1974 is a young Carl Charette, his ride one of the better-looking entries in the division. The “Baby Dennis” adorning the front fender of Carl’s tri-five Chevy is no-doubt a nod to his son, who years-later became a top racer within the ranks of the Speedbowl’s SK Modifieds. (Kennedy Photo). 

 CLICK ON SCREEN TO START VIDEO


That's it for this week. Email me at:
 
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