Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 27, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 16                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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Scott Pruett smoked 'em again at this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  (Brian Cleary Photo -
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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Here we are, back for another weekly peek at the “old daze.” Special thanks go out to my pals Val LeSieur, Tom Ormsby, and Ed Grab for contributing this weeks images (a pretty diverse selection if I say-so myself). Until next time, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com   

Yet A Few More “Blasts From The Past”….              

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.” (Hoyt Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur)                 

And here’s a nice profile shot of the guy who guided that Roland Cyr creation to all of those legendary wins on Joe Tinty’s ultra-competitive ¼-miler. Highly-respected by his peers, Dave Alkas was simply “The Man” at Plainville. As mentioned-above, his stunning record of victories and championships at his home track resulted in an induction into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame; a lofty accomplishment indeed! Every year, Dave and company organize a Plainville Reunion with the 2011 event to take place on Saturday, October 8, at the Berlin Fairgrounds. A can’t-miss affair, watch for more information here as the date draws near. (Hoyt Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur).          

The Alkas Connection at Plainville was a far-reaching endeavor, as Dave wasn’t the only family member to claim the checkers. Pictured here is brother Fred Alkas who was also a very successful modified shoe. The week before this shot was captured in 1976, he’d snared one of those ultra-competitive 100-lap mid-week open comp shows that add to the legend of “Tinty’s Place.” (Hoyt Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur).           

Lastly, here’s another of the “Brother Act” that was so-successful at Plainville. As a popular Novice class standout, George Alkas routinely took the checkers. After advancing to the modifieds, he proved that he was more than up-to-the-task in the headlining division. He’s seen here after capturing a 50-lap affair in 1978, an event that he reportedly “ran-away” with. Sadly, George perished in a highway accident during the early 1980s before reaching his full potential as a racer. I’d originally planned on running a black & white version of this shot, but our good friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby pulled this great color image from his archives for us. Tom also added that the car was the original former Bob Judkins #2X Pinto creation. Thanks, Tom! (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection).                    

And here we have yet-another New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer. It’s the fall of  1981, and our friend Ray Miller has just defeated a stellar group of the best modified racers in the country to capture the Thompson 300. During an era in which the sport was still considered a little “rough-around-the-edges”, Miller was a picture of professionalism both on & off the track. A real “thinking mans driver,” his cool style rewarded him with victories in some of the most-celebrated events of his time. Ray’s coming out of retirement this year to pilot a Midget (along with fellow HOF member Denny Zimmerman), in the newly-formed “Dirt Midget Association.” For more information go to the club’s website at www.dmaracing.org (Hodge Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur)       

It’s the Waterford Speedbowl of the 1970s, and you have to wonder what these two giants of the sport of New England modified racing are discussing. On the left are Bob Potter, and right, that’s none-other than Billy Greco. Both celebrated members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, their careers account for an astonishing amount of feature victories and championships on the ovals of our region. For more on their exemplary careers, visit the Hall of Fame website at www.near1.org Me? I’m happy to now count these two guys among my friends having watched them race when I was growing-up! (Dugas Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur)

Another shot from the 1970s at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, this team placed a severe hurting on the competition at the shoreline oval for a lot of seasons. Starting in 1972, they recorded 4-consectutive track championships and scads of feature victories. Saying that they were dominating during those years would simply be an understatement. Pictured in victory lane from left-to-right are car owners Al & Peg Gaudreau, driver par-excellence Dick Dunn, and United’s Harvey Tattersall III. (Dugas Photo Courtesy Val LeSieur).            

Captured here through the lens of our friend & regular contributor Ed Grab at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the “Pinto Era” is the late George “Moose” Hewitt. Another multi-time modified titlist (5), at the Waterford Speedbowl, his long racing career actually started in motorcycles where he was also a champion. Sadly, George, one of the elder-statesmen of our sport, passed-away in 1997 while he was still a very competitive modified shoe while in his 60s. (Ed Grab Photo).             

Here’s another one from Mr. Grab. Seen here at the Waterford Speedbowl during the 1980s is the late Prentice “Corky” Cookman. A graduate of the SNYRA at the former Danbury Fair Racarena, he was among the first drivers to run the entire NASCAR Modified Tour at its start back in 1985 (the late Richie Evans was the champ that year, taking an impressive 12 features). Sadly, the extremely popular Cookman perished in an accident at the Thompson Speedway on July 21, 1987. (Ed Grab Photo).              

While the image isn’t exactly “vintage” it’s more than worthy of appearing on this site. Seen on the right being inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame just a few months-ago, is Val LeSieur. As the man behind Speedway Scene, the publication that set the standard for New England auto racing news for nearly 4-decades, his weekly newspaper was what you wanted to read if you were truly to be informed about the sport in our region. The guy making the presentation is none other than our friend Bones Bourcier, just one of the writers that graduated from Speedway Scene into a celebrated career in motorsports journalism. From scribblers like yours-truly to pro-level writers, it seems as if just about everybody worked for our pal Val at one time. (LeSieur Collection).                           

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

 
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