Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 22, 2009

Volume 1, Number 17                                                                                       New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

As with last week’s installment of “Racing Through Time” it’s a little-bit of everything again. Special thanks goes out to former New England Modified racer Larry Lafayette for providing a bit of an update on Mike Allevo who was pictured last week in his # 777 Corvair Modified. According to Larry, the last time he talked to Mike, he was serving as a charter fishing boat captain in Naples, Florida. Our webmaster Tom Ormsby also added that Mike had raced drag cars before getting into the Modifieds. It’s kinda’ neat when you can add a little history to a vintage photo – Thanks, Guys! And with that, it’s on with the show! Contact me at foreveryounginct@yahoo.com 

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. (Kennedy Photo).     

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. (Kennedy Photo)

Their name synonymous with racing on Long Island, the Brunnhoelzl family logged many-laps at that tiny 1/5-miler known as Islip Speedway. This coupe-era shot captures Ed Brunnhoelzl ready-to-go at the track which also included a figure-eight course and a drag strip. Opening in 1947, it eventually yielded to encroaching development, closing the gates forever in 1984. It’s said that Islip held the first-ever Demolition Derby, and the late Larry Mendelson is fondly-remembered as one of the most innovative short-track promoters in the history of the sport. (Grady Photo). 

Charlie Centinaro was one of the real movers & shakers on Harvey Tattersall’s United circuit. Starting his stellar career at Connecticut’s West Haven Speedway, he later became a top-shoe at the much-missed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass as seen here. First scoring in 1969, “Mr. Centinaro” racked-up a total of 5-victories at The Park’, his final visit to victory lane coming on the evening of June 2, 1973. (Grady Photo).  

Another shot from Riverside Park’s United-era captures journeyman competitor George Rettew at the controls of an absolutely classic-looking coupe (as out webmaster notes, it looks a lot like it may have formally been the Czarneki Bros. #20 driven by the late Bobby Stefanik). Rettew’s career saw him compete at several other Northeastern ovals including Stafford Springs Motor Speedway and Malta, New York. Note the “vinyl-top” on this little beauty. The Park’ always featured of the best-looking cars in all of Modified racing! (Grady Photo).

New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Nate “Smokey” Boutwell raced – and won in just about everything. Be it Modifieds, Supers, Midgets, or Sprint Cars, chances-are that “Smokey” wound-up in the winners circle during his celebrated career. Among his accomplishments were championships at Connecticut’s Thompson and Stafford Speedways, Pines and West Peabody Speedways in Massachusetts, and titles at Menands, NY. and Hudson New Hampshire. 1956 was a high-water mark, the year yielding fifty-six feature victories. In this shot, Boutwell’s ride is the potent Garuti Bros. Chevy II. (Grady Photo)

Saying this driver, Donald “Dutch” Hoag experienced one of the most celebrated careers in all of Modified racing would be an understatement. His roots tracing back to the old Napels, Speedway in New York State where he bought an old coupe from a friend, readied-it for racing, and pulled it to the track with a chain, Hoag went-on to become a 5-time Langhorne National Open winner. His influence on fellow racers was widespread. For instance, Geoff Bodine’s first taste of Modified driving came in Dutch Hoag's car at Shangri-La Speedway, when Hoag let him try it in a practice session. Bodine worked on Dutch Hoag's crew in 1968 and 1969. In the 1969 Race of Champions, Bodine handed the wrong tire over the wall during a pit stop. This was a time when Modifieds ran very different tire sizes among the four corners, so Hoag had to make an extra pit stop loosing his chance at a second-consecutive victory. Bodine later make his teacher proud, winning the first Race of Champions after it was moved from Langhorne to Trenton in 1972. Hoag is an inductee of several Hall of Fames, including the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame and the FOAR Score Hall of Fame. (Grady Photo)..

From a historical standpoint, Maynard Troyer is mainly remembered as a top Northeastern Modified racer. However, his career actually began in Sarasota, Florida in 1956. After relocating to Rochester, N.Y. in 1964 he paired with Dave Nagle, owner of Nagel Ford in forming a Late Model team. An ultra-successful union, the first season yielded twenty feature wins as well a track championship. Always the innovator, Troyer was the first to run 15" wide racing tires – a trend that helped to change short track racing. Following a spectacular career as one of the countries premier Modified shoes, he retired from driving in 1982 to become the man behind Troyer Engineering, and the rest is history. This shot captures Maynard in one of his early Ford Falcon bodied creations. Note that the car is absolutely spotless – a hallmark of all Troyer creations. (Grady Photo).     

In the colorful early-days of our sport, nicknames were all-the-rage, and a nod to one’s ethnic linage was all part of the fun. In today’s politically-correct atmosphere, some of this stuff might seem a bit out-of-place, but it was another era, after-all. Just as the great Ronnie Narducci became the “Top Wop” owing to his family’s roots, pioneering Modified driver Johnny Georgiades was proudly known as “The Flying Greek”. A fixture on New England ovals for decades, he was one of the top-draws in the days of the coupes. This shot captures him ready to roll at what looks to be Plainville Stadium. Note the old “Cromwell” helmet Johnny’s wearing. That my friends, was state-of-the-art safety equipment in those days…. (Frank Faust Photo, Courtesy Tom Ormsby).     

Lastly, here’s a West Haven Speedway victory shot of Nicky Porto captured early in his career during his “Novice Class” days. That’s United’s “Pops” Tattersall on the left. Following the demise of West Haven, Porto went-on to become a top Modified shoe at Plainville Stadium, taking many wins in his familiar # 69. Venturing-out to Riverside Park in the mid-70’s, he also nailed a victory there in May of 1975. More on Porto’s Plainville career can be found on www.vintagemodifieds.com (Herb Todd Photo).

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

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