Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 14,2010

Volume 2, Number 12                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


This week it’s another varied assortment from the archives. Everyone from Southern Modified star Paul Radford to Riverside Park’s Bobby Bard make an appearance. As-always, enjoy!  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Turn The Page (More From The Archives)……     

Seen here at one of Stafford Spring Motor Speedway’s early Spring Sizzler events is Paul Radford, certainly one of the Southland’s finest Modified shoes. A native of Ferrum, Virginia, he was a familiar site at major New England Modified events of the 1960’s & 70’s. Radford made one NASCAR Grand National start (known today as the Sprint Cup Series), wheeling Junie Donlavey’s Ford Torino at Martinsville, VA. in 1974. He retired in 1988 at age-56 following a stint in the NASCAR Busch Series. (Grady Photo).   

This one captures popular coupe-era star George Rettew celebrating victory at one of the great UNITED events that were once conducted yearly at the big track on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts. As stated here many-times, in the days before NASCAR gained a foothold in New England, the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club was THE premier sanctioning body in the Northeast. (Grady Photo).      

Lou Toro (real name Louis Conforte), was a fierce competitor for decades, no-matter what the venue. Like many other racers from his era, running as much as 4-times weekly was commonplace. He was particularly good at UNITED haunts like West Haven and Riverside, but also excelled at the independently-sanctioned “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. A popular chauffer with both fans and the guys he raced-against, he’s captured here in the lens of our pal, veteran racing lensman John Grady. Not sure of the track, as Lou’s busy schedule covered about every bullring in New England. (Grady Photo).      

In later-years, it was jokingly referred-to as the “Great French Barbeque.” At the time, it was hardly funny….  This fiery crash ended Rene Charland’s bid for a fifth NASCAR National Sportsman title in 1966 as he was seriously injured on Memorial Day weekend at Malta, New York. He was forced to sit out the rest of the season but had already earned 5700 points, enough for a third-place finish in the title chase. Many more victories followed his triumphant recovery and he remained a major-player in the sport until his retirement in 1984. A member of the famed “Eastern Bandits” his was a stellar career that included multiple championships at a variety of tracks in both New England and the South. In addition he won 4 Canadian National championships. Known as “The Champ”, Charland was among the first racers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (Grady Photo).

The lady was a racer; this is Ms. Rae Williams, a former Super Stock competitor at the Waterford Speedbowl. Weekly racers of the “Fairer Sex” were much-less commonplace a couple of decades-ago and it was ladies like Williams and Emma Coates-Green that helped pave the road of acceptance on the local level. And yes, this driver recorded some very fine finishes within one of Waterford’s most competitive support divisions. The year was 1981. (Kennedy Photo).  

To New England Midget racing fans, the name John Ferrell may seem familiar. John was a staple on the NEMA tour for a number of seasons, serving as one of the club’s steadiest competitors. When this shot was taken during the Waterford Speedbowl’s “Coupe Era” he was wheeling this neat little entry in the tracks premier division. How many of you remember a time when 3-digit numbers were commonplace? (Dugas Photo).      

Familiar driver, familiar number, and familiar car…. Eddie Bunnell (along with brothers Donnie, Junior, and cousin John), were around the Waterford Speedbowl for what seemed an eternity. A former Bomber champion, Eddie later advanced to the Modifieds enjoying a long career as one of the division’s top racers. He’s seen here in 1981 behind the controls of what had formally been the #110 chauffeured by among-others, NEAR Hall of Famer Bob Potter, The entire Bunnell family remained a vital part of the shoreline oval scene for many seasons. (Kennedy Photo).            

They started as the “Daredevil” class in 1965 to bolster a sagging car-count in the Bombers, were renamed “Sportsmen Sedans” in 1971, and by Harvey Tattersall’s arrival as a promoter/owner in 1975, were christened “Grand Americans” (no-doubt a nod to his UNITED roots). When this victory lane image was captured of a smiling Wayne N. Smith, things were on the wane for the class. By 1980, they were gone as one of the Speedbowl’s “full-fender” support classes. Smith enjoyed 2-victories in 1977 when this shot was taken, and the championship was won by another Mr. Smith – AKA “Mr. Mysterious.” (Kennedy Photo).       

Seen here is “RTT” reader and our friend, former Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) competitor Richie Fuller. The locale is New Hampshire’s high-banked Star Speedway and that’s an OFFY powerplant under the bonnet. Fuller ran the Midget circuit for a number of years before a serious accident curtailed his career. Special thanks goes-out to Richie for sending us this shot out of his personal collection! (Photographer Unknown).

Lastly, we have a nice color shot of Bobby Bard from the late & much-missed Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts. Captured here on June 24, 1972, Bard recorded a total of ten Park’ feature victories, the first in 1964, and the final in 1974. That resume also includes a victory in the 1974 Riverside 500 in which he was teamed with multi-time winner of that prestigious event, Ronnie Wyckoff. Riverside always seemed to have some of the prettiest Modifieds in New England – this was one of them! (Shany Photo).

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

 
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