Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday August 3, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 30                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Here’s we are, and it’s another Wednesday in the books. Special thanks go-out to our friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby for cordially donating the majority of this week’s treasures. Also, condolences are sent out to the family & friends of former Plainville Stadium racer Skip Zeigler, and also Valenti Modified Series Racing Director Tom Hoyt both of which we sadly lost last week. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com      

Pacing The Past (Weekly)…..

It’s with a heavy-heart that we present some sad news as relayed by our Webmaster, Tom Ormsby. It was learned last week that former modified racer Skip Zeigler passed-away last Saturday due to complications while undergoing cancer treatments. States Tom who competed against Skip at Plainville Stadium; “Skip started racing at Plainville, CT. in the late 1950s and was a regular until the track closed. His trademark was the red & white coach-bodied #126. The last three seasons he ran the “Flying 0” coach owned by his brother Gene. He also raced at Riverside Park, Stafford, Thompson, Lebanon Valley, and a few other tracks in upstate New York.” He was the 1966 Plainville Stadium track champion. This shot captures Skip at Plainville during the early stages of his long career. Our condolences go out to his family and many friends on their loss. (Ormsby Collection).          

Just a great shot of one of our region’s truly-legendary modified racers. Seen here behind the wheel of his trusty coupe is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Ed Flemke Sr. Another one from Mr. Ormsby’s archives, he had this to say about the image; “This is Eddie with Rocky Germani of Rocky's AMOCO. Besides being a real character Rocky went on to own the Cent-Sign cars driven by Richie Galullo and Ron Vannesse.” (Ormsby Collection).  

Seen here at the dawn of the stock car era in New England, the late Harold “Red” Cummings actually came to the coupes after a successful stint in the midgets immediately following World War II. Known as the “Yankee Red Head” during his heyday, Cummings was one of the most celebrated racers of his time. In addition to his New England endeavors he also competed on the tracks of the South against the likes of early NASCAR legends such as Fireball Roberts and the Flock brothers. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2006, Red passed-away at age-87 in 2010. (Ormsby Collection). .                     

The location is the late & much-missed Plainville Stadium, and the mountain of a man standing next to Dalena Brothers XD-2 Willys coupe is none-other than our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo. A winner all over New England during the early 1950's before retiring in 1967, he recorded a ton of modified feature victories, and was particularly-tough at Plainville where he was twice a track champion. (Ormsby Collection).                         

Classic car, classic driver! Billy Harman is also a member of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, and deservedly-so. From his HOF biography; “At age 21, Billy Harman began racing a modified 312 Ford at the Waterford Speedbowl. He won a feature in his first year, as well as taking down Rookie of the Year honors.  He continued at the Speedbowl for the next 7 years, recording many wins and holding four different track records, including the fastest 10 lap heat, 25 lap feature, 50 lap feature, and non-stop 100 lap feature. He dominated there, especially in 1965 and 1966, driving the famed L & M Coupe. Following 1966, Bill felt it was time to move on to more and bigger challenges. He went on to win races for many car owners, including Freddie Beaber in the 715 and 716, Tuck Hoffman and Kevin Coan in the 73, and Bob Judkins in the 2x.  In 1971, driving the #55 for Ted Marsh, Billy finished 6th in the National Modified Championship.  He raced from Canadian tracks in the North, to Hollywood Speedway in Miami Beach, Florida. He raced as far West as Ohio, competing at 54 tracks, and winning at 14 different speedways.  From the Race of Champions in Trenton and Pocono to the Oxford Plains 250, Harman thrived on the ‘big’ races.  He also competed in the 1st Thompson 500 ever run, running 2nd to Fred DeSarro in Ted Marsh’s 55 with only 10 laps to go before blowing a motor.” Bill retired in the late 1970’s, following a successful stint behind the controls of the Joe Zenga Vega. Today, Billy and his lovely wife Donna divide their time between homes in Connecticut and Florida. (Ormsby Collection).                                

Though we’re not sure of the location, seen here in his familiar #98 is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Ron Narducci. During his long racing career, he competed at an estimated 60 race tracks, starting in New York State while he served in the Air Force. Stationed in New York, he took down 17 feature wins and won 2 track championships at Waterloo, NY. Upon returning to Connecticut, he won the Sportsman Championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1958. From 1959-66, he ran with NASCAR, winning multiple championships. 1960 saw him finish 2nd in sportsman points at Norwood, and he finished 3rd in Modified points at Menands, NY. During this time, he won many features, including 6 in 1963 with Sharkey Gaudiosi’s #44. With the paving of Stafford in 1967, he again started running the NY State circuit. He won 5 features at Fonda, his home track that year, including a 100 lap Championship race. In 1967, he joined the All-Star League, becoming a 6 time victor on the Winning Track Team, representing Fonda, Albany-Saratoga, and Catamount Stadium. The final years of his career were spent in the Fingerlakes of NY, where he finished 4th in Modified points at Weedsport in 1975. From that point until his retirement in 1982, Ron ran on the DIRT circuit. (Grady Photo).                   

Here’s something a little different from veteran racing photographer Rick Huff. Long-before he became a NASCAR pavement modified star, Jimmy Spencer was winning on the dirt tracks of Pennsylvania in his family race team’s late model as seen here. Spencer went-on to become one of the most successful NASCAR modified stars of his generation. Eventually reaching the very pinnacle of the sport, in later years he became a multi-time winner in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series. (Ormsby Collection).  

Seen here clowning-around at the 1971 Texas 500 is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Pete Hamilton on the left, and that’s the late Benny Parsons on the right. Hamilton of-course, began his career in New England, becoming one of the regions all-time greatest modified racers before hooking-up with Petty Enterprises and going on to score among other events, the 1970 Dayton 500. Two years after this image was captured, Parsons was crowned the 1973 Winston Cup Champion. After retiring from competition he became a popular television racing announcer/analyst, a position he held until his untimely passing in January of 2007. (Photographer Unknown).                                       

Here’s a really early shot of our old pal Don Moon, courtesy of longtime Plainville Stadium photographer Phil Hoyt. In addition to his residency at the much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler, Moon competed at a number of other Eastern modified haunts during his long career, compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in 1966, including the Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’ season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the young upstart. These days, Moon campaigns an immaculate version of his former Pinto Modified on the NEAR circuit. (Hoyt Photo)

This guy’s name remains synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division at that track than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. Unfortunately, the venue in this shot and the identity of the other gentleman is lost to time. (Photographer Unknown).                    

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

 
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