Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 21,2010

Volume 2, Number 13                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
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April 11:
THE SONG OF
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.Pete Corey
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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


In this week’s installment of “RTT” we kind of wander-around a bit. From Langhorne, to Danbury, to Plainville & Waterford, they’re all-here. Happy Birthday wishes go out to our pal, the honorable Mr. Pete Zanardi who recently celebrated another year. Also, special thanks to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for contributing some of this week’s shots!  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another Week, Another Dose Of Memories….     

Here we have an at-speed shot of the late, legendary Pete Corey. The venue is Pennsylvania’s former Langhorne Speedway, once the site of the “Race of Champions” the nation’s premier event for the Modifieds. Corey was in the twilight of a brilliant career by the time this 1970 image was captured. He’d won the event in 1955 when the famous track still sported a dirt surface. (Photographer Unknown)

We’ve lately been getting a lot of mail from our friends “Up-North” requesting that we do a little-something on some drivers from their neck of the woods. Seen here with a young fan during the much-heralded “flathead era” is New Hampshire’s Bill George. A former 106 Midway Raceway track champion, he was also a frequent winner at other regional haunts such as Claremont & Legion Bowl. (Photographer Unknown).      

Captured here at Connecticut’s late Plainville Stadium behind the controls of his very-first Modified is Elton Hill. Though he’s frequently recalled as primarily a Stadium’ competitor, he was really much-more. He often departed the local scene during the early days of his career to follow in the tire-tracks of his friend and Mentor, the late Ed Flemke Sr. He was a quick-study, recording victories at such far-away venues as Utica-Rome Speedway in N.Y. (once an absolute hotbed of activity for the best-in-the business). Hill remains perhaps one of the most underrated drivers in New England Modified racing history. (Faust Photo, Courtesy Tom Ormsby).      

Once-upon-a-time-ago, West Springfield, Massachusetts was the site of a fast 5/8-mile paved oval known as the Eastern States Expo Speedway. Built in 1920 as a ½-mile dirt track, it was enlarged in 1947 with the paved surface applied in late-1953. Every summer, the once influential United Stock Car Racing Club led by the Tattersall family hosted some of the biggest New England events of the era. The shows attracted the absolute cream of the crop in Northeast Modified racing. Riverside Park stalwart Tom Vining is seen here in his familiar #144 grabbing the checker before a packed-house. Sadly, the track was torn-down in 1968 to facilitate expansion of the “Big E.” (Grady Photo, Courtesy Tom Ormsby).  

Meet Mr. Don Moon. Seen here as a youngster in the 1960’s during his days as a member of the SNYRA at Connecticut’s late & much-missed Danbury Fair Racearena, Don was a quick-study at the highly-competitive venue, entering victory lane on multiple occasions. An absolute-terror at Plainville Stadium, today he campaigns a replica of his former Pinto on the New England Antique Racers trail. Don’s a good-guy, if you see him at any NEAR events this year, be sure to stop n’ say hello! (Mannion Photo).  

It’s 1974 at what was then-known as the Connecticut shorelines “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Ready-to-go in the early-season “Hott Wheels 100” behind the controls of the Freddie Doolittle coupe is Kenny Bouchard. While we have no-idea of where Kenny finished on that spring day, but we do know that the late, great, Ollie Silva put on a performance never before witnessed at the Bowl’, lapping the entire field twice to win over Bugs Stevens. Today the Speedbowl is still going-strong, and Mr. Bouchard runs the “Drive to Victory” Modified driving school. Kenny is the younger brother of NEAR Hall of Famer and 1981 Talladega 500 winner, Ron Bouchard. (Shany Photo).      

Art Hall was among the best of Connecticut’s 70’s-era Grand American drivers, consistently running near the front at both the Waterford Speedbowl and Thompson Speedway. At its height the division attracted a banner crop of cars and featured many racers who’d later advance to the Modifieds. This nice Steve Kennedy shot captures Art at the Bowl’ on a Saturday evening in August of 1978. Sadly, by 1980 this support class was gone at Waterford largely due to a dwindling car-count and ever-increasing operating costs. (Kennedy Photo).             

By 1977, there weren’t many Corvair-bodied Modifieds left in New England, but Mike Allevo had one. Seen here at Thompson Speedway’s Icebreaker event on April 3, 1977, Mike was definitely stylin’ “old school” in what was quickly becoming a sea of Pinto & Vega entries. Note the fancy lettering adorning this machine. It was done by a young Steve Kennedy, the racing photog that snapped this shot. Today, our friend Steve’s an accomplished artist hailing from Cape Cod, but still finds time to photograph race cars every week at the Waterford Speedbowl. (Kennedy Photo).        

And here’s the late Marty Bezema behind the controls of his “Flying Dutchman” coupe at the late Norwood Arena. Marty was always among the top racers as the fabled Massachusetts speedplant, and in later-years was instrumental in helping organize the Norwood Arena Reunions held at his Bezema Buick, Pontiac, GMC dealership at 402 Providence Hwy.(Rt. US 1), in Norwood. This year’s event is scheduled for Sunday, June 6, and as-always promises to be a can’t-miss affair! (Grady Photo)

And the last entry in this week’s column is a really-early shot of a driver that just about anybody with even the faintest interest in New England Modified racing should know-about. From his NEAR Hall of Fame 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. It wasn’t long before the “racing bug” bite Foote, and he was competing at Norwood on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Lonsdale on Sundays, with regular visits to Westboro when time allowed. He won championships at the Waterford Speedbowl in 1953, and again in 1958. He also took down a championship in Plainville in the 50’s, competing in the United Stock Car Racing Club. The 60’s found Foote racing with NASCAR, winning races from New England to the Carolinas to Daytona. It was during this period that he became one of the “Eastern Bandits”, along with fellow “bandits” Ed Flemke and Rene Charland. Red took down a championship in North Carolina in 1965. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

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

 
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