Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 10, 2013
 

 

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Volume 5, Number 15                                                                                    New Column Every Wednesday



Updated 3-24-13

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

First on the agenda this week is the good news that our friend Al “Buddha” Gaudreau is home with his wife Peg after a stay in the hospital. Peg & Al were of-course, the owners of the potent “Buddha’s Bullet” that the great Dick Dunn raced to multiple championships and mucho feature victories at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl during the 1970s. Get-well soon Al! On somber note, it was learned that popular longtime car owner Chuck Montville of the Valenti Modified Racing Series passed-away unexpectedly on April 4th. Our condolences are sent to his family and many friends. Special thanks as-always to our friends Roger Liller and Bob Ellis for their photographic contribution this week, and the same to Walter Jablonski. And lest we forget, it’s Webmaster & pal Tom Ormsby that gets this site jump-started each & every Wednesday! Also this week thanks to Tom Ormsby and Ken Meisenhelder of KGM Video is a video from 7-8-89 from Riverside Park Speedway. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

It’s Wednesday; Time For Speedbowl Memories….

We open this week’s edition with another great vintage Waterford shot courtesy of our friend New York State racing historian, Roger Liller. Culled from the collection of our mutual pal Bob Ellis, this one captures Jackie “The Flying Finn” Hill. Little is known about this racer, but the photo is obviously from the 1950s and the team was probably a local concern carrying sponsors from nearby New London, and also Hope Valley, RI which is right over the state line. You gotta’ love the exhaust header set-up on that potent six-banger! (Shany photo from Bob Ellis collection via Roger Liller).

While recently reviewing the hardcopy & negative files we have by longtime Speedbowl photographer Shany Lorenzent, this image of one of the shoreline oval’s most fondly-remembered combinations caught our eye. Newt Palm & the L&M modified were twice crowned track champion (1967 & 68). Walt Dombrowski also grabbed the title driving the potent little Willys-bodied coupe in 1970, cementing the car’s status as one of the most famous rides in ‘Bowl history. We just like this shot; it kinda’ captures everything that the Speedbowl was all-about in the 1960s. (Shany photo).

His name simply synonymous with the Speedbowl, our late friend Fred “Fuzzy” Bear remained one of the most beloved figures of the shoreline oval many-years after his retirement from the sport. Known as a skilled & steady chauffer, “Fuzz” was another of those guys that you seldom saw in any trackside-trouble. Though his long career yielded feature victories seemingly low in-number, at-least one of them was a major event. On August 20, 1966, Baer topped a field of Waterford’s finest racers in snagging a 75-lap championship race. This one captures him behind the controls of one of the many #121 creations that he and his late father “Pops” campaigned at the Speedbowl for decades. (Shany photo).

We really love this photo as not-only does it capture one of the Speedbowl’s all-time best racers, it also includes a much-cherished autograph. The late Charlie Webster was one of the guys that literally helped put the shoreline oval on the map. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). He shocked the local racing community with his decision to retire at the dawn of the 1970s while still very-much in his prime. During the track’s Nostalgia Weekend festivities in 2000 Charlie was fittingly voted one of the Speedbowl’s “50 Favorite Drivers.” (Shany photo).

If you’re at all familiar with New England modified racing, not much has to be said about this fellow. As a driver, the late Ed Yerrington was a big winner, and in later years as an official became one of the most-respected figures in the sport. He’s captured here in an absolutely classic shot ready-to-roll during the 1960s at the Speedbowl behind the wheel of one of his familiar #66 creations. (Shany photo).  

He was known as “Gentleman Dick” Watson and in subsequent years, simply as the “Silver Fox.” The late Dick Watson was one of the most-respected drivers of his era. A fellow competitor that raced against Watson during his heyday once stated that “He was a driver that you could run with lap-after-lap. You simply never had to worry about him doing something that would get the both of you in-trouble.” This image captures him during the 1970s at the Speedbowl behind the controls of the Norm Kies coupe, a ride that bought him much-success. Deservedly-so, Dick was inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame in 2003. (Shany photo).

This one goes out to our old friends Peg & Al Gaudreau who were the owners of this car, a ride that blazed a trail of glory in 1970s Speedbowl action. Known as the “Buddha’s Bullet” and wheeled by the great Dick Dunn (seen here picking up yet- another feature victory), Peg & Al provided their driver with the horsepower & handling to notch scads of feature victories and four consecutive modified track crowns from 1972-75. (Shany photo from Walter Jablonski collection).

Like every short track, the Speedbowl has had its share of real “stand on the gas” competitors over the years, and this guy was one of them. Captured here celebrating a feature victory at the shoreline oval during the 1970s, Glynn Shafer won a ton of races during his long career which started in the Bomber class and concluded in the modifieds. As exciting a wheelman as ever witnessed at the Speedbowl, he ALWAYS coaxed the most out of his equipment; the guy was one tough customer. (Shany photo).

Years-ago, our late (and much-missed), friend Danny Pardi gifted us with a number of vintage Speedbowl shots, and this is one of them. Owned and built by the late Fran Grote of Chester, CT. (who would become Stafford’s NASCAR Chief Steward), this 1939 Ford flathead coupe won multiple features at the Speedbowl. Its number “XP-1” was culled from a popular experimental jet plane of the era. When Grote took an official’s position at Stafford in 1959, he got out of the car-owning business and sold this rig complete with trailer for $100.00. While it says Wes Kingsley on the door, it’s actually a young George Pendergast behind the wheel in this shot. (Shany photo)

This shot has been in the files for years, and it wasn’t until having pulled out a bunch of early-70s Speedbowl yearbooks recently that we even had a single hint of the identity of the driver; we’re still not entirely-sure. Obviously an associate of the Gada Racing Team (and the car looks to be a former #271), we think this racer is a gentleman by the name of Joe Scalia. Back-then when the yearbooks (and weekly programs), were put-together by Peter Bendfeldt and his staff, they contained many “candid” images in-which a shot of Scalia was captured. If anyone is entirely-sure of the identity of this “mystery driver” feel-free to email us as foreveryounginct@gmail.com (Shany photo)

BONUS SHOT 1: In the “RTT” archives we have a huge number of both hardcopy and negative images taken by Shany Lorenzent from the early-days at the Speedbowl, and this is one of them. While we don’t know a lot about his career, the name Walt Johansson appears in several results records from the era. Either-way, it’s a great shot of a neat coupe wheeled by a young racer during the early-days of the shoreline oval. We were particularly-struck by the overall quality of this decades-old image. It’s classic “Shany” at his very-best. (Shany photo).

BONUS SHOT 2: As a kid, this driver & car combo was truly one of my favorites. Long-associated with the Speedbowl, the Bunnell family fielded winning rides for decades at the popular Connecticut oval. Ed Bunnell earned a Bomber title in 1966 wheeling a machine crafted in the team’s modest shop located in nearby Montville, CT. This shot captures younger sibling Donnie Bunnell in the 1970s with their famed #318 Dodge coupe, a car synonymous with Speedbowl lore. A few seasons-later this ride provided him with a stunning victory in the 1976 Bicentennial 200 which was then, Waterford’s longest event to-date. (Dugas Photo).


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

A reminder for Chuck's friends, Visitation hours will be on Saturday, April 13, 2013, from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. at Windsor Locks Funeral Home, 441 Spring Street, Windsor Locks, CT 06096. Interment will be at a later date.

NASCAR Modifieds, along with the New England Antique Racers & ACOT from Riverside Park Speedway

 

Video is Courtesy of Ken Meisenhelder's KGM Video.
This and many other DVDs' are available at www.KGMVideo.com 

 
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