Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday August 24, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 33                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of requests for shots from the 1980s. Thanks to Ed Grab, who at one time recorded the action at the Waterford Speedbowl we’re able to present a number of shots from that era this week. Ed of course, traveled to a number of other New England raceways during his tenure as a racing shutterbug, and some of those are featured this week also. Until next time, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com         

Traveling Back To The 1980s Modified-Style !!!!

Here was have a nice shot from the Thompson Motor Speedway captured in 1980 of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Bob Potter. From his HOF biography; “In Southern New England, mention the number 51 and the immediate response is Bob Potter. Starting at Waterford Speedbowl in 1962, Potter began winning in 1966 and before it was over captured 11 championships an estimated 140 features at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford.  A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95.” This guy truly ranks as one of the best New England modified racers of all-time. (Grab Photo)           

By the time Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo was captured here pitside at the Stafford Motor Speedway in 1981, he’d already established himself as a Waterford Speedbowl winner having taken his first checker in 1971 at the shoreline oval as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. In 1988 his career reached its zenith, as he and longtime racing associate Dana Gerry waltzed-off with the modified championship. A surprise to everyone, Ceravolo then promptly announced his retirement, going-on to oversee the racing career of his son Todd. Like-father, like-son, Todd became a Waterford Modified champion in 1997. (Grab Photo).     

Richie Turfano is captured here at Waterford motoring through the pits in 1981 (note the rocks & dirt; this was prior to the major improvements made later in the decade). Turfano was neither a big-winner nor the recipient of a championship, but experienced many fine runs behind the controls of this neat Pinto-bodied mount. (Grab Photo).

Like so-many racers, Ricky Young started his career in the full-fendered support classes. A Waterford Speedbowl regular for years, he fared-well after advancing to the open-wheel modifieds, always the shoreline oval’s premier division. He recorded a total of 14 SK Modified victories between 1987 & 2003 and notched the track championship in 1991. He’s seen here at the Speedbowl behind the controls of his Vega-bodied creation in 1981. (Grab Photo).  

Seen here pitside at Stafford in 1981 is the late George “Moose” Hewitt. A 5-time Modified champion at the Waterford Speedbowl, he scored a career-total of twenty-three feature victories in the Modifieds, SK Modifieds, and Bomber divisions at the shoreline oval. In addition to those triumphs, he also won at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway on multiple occasions, including a stunning victory in the 1975 Winston 100. Sadly, the popular Uncasville, CT. chauffer passed-away in February of 1997 while still very-much in his prime as a driver. Often-overlooked is the fact that before coming to auto racing, Moose was a champion Motorcycle racer. (Grab Photo).         

Norwich, CT. racer Mark LaJeunesse made the weekly trek down Rt. 395 to the Waterford Speedbowl for decades. Starting his career as a youth in the Quarter Midget ranks, he returned from the armed forces in the early 70s to begin a modified career that spanned over thirty seasons. The first victory came in 1974 with many-more following including a triumph in the Speedbowl’s 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Under the Tattersall UNITED sanction of 1975, he garnered the Sportsman Modified title. This image was captured at the ‘Bowl back on June 15, 1985. He won the feature later that evening…. (Grab Photo).                      

Pictured here at the Speedbowl in 1985 is the late Marvin Chase. Known by local fans as primarily a ‘Bowl competitor, he also tasted success at the storied Norwood Arena in Massachusetts – an easy feat by no-means. After hanging-up his helmet, Marvin became involved with the New England Antique Racers, heavily contributing his time to the club. Every year, a NEAR member is presented the “Marvin Chase Contribution Award” in honor of the late racer. Fondly remembered, “Marv” had many friends at the shoreline oval, including this scribe. Mr. Chase was particularly-fast in this immaculate Pinto, recording a number of stellar finishes. (Grab Photo).     

Hailing from Montville, CT., a mere stones-throw from the Waterford Speedbowl, Donnie Bunnell gained notoriety wheeling his family’s familiar #318 at the shoreline oval. It was a number made famous at the Speedbowl by his brother Ed, a 60’s-era Bomber champion. Smooth-as-silk behind the wheel, and well-respected by his peers, Donnie was one of those racers that was seldom-involved in on-track trouble. His style was that of the Collins/ Potter/Dunn ilk. Here he’s seen at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway in 1981 behind the controls of the Pat’s Auto Center “Blue Knight” Pinto, a ride he campaigned with great success for a number of seasons. To the disappointment of his many fans (this scribe among them), Donnie retired during the early-90’s while still in his prime. Our pal Pat Doherty (the original owner of this car), now campaigns it on the New England Antique Racers (NEAR) circuit. (Grab Photo).                 

Here’s a shot of the ride belonging one of the New England’s longest-running performers. Dale Holdridge’s career lasted over 3-decades. Known as a gentleman on & off the track, he was one of those drivers that you seldom ever saw involved in any controversy; just a good, steady shoe that fellow competitors enjoyed racing wheel-to-wheel with. This one captures his Pinto at Stafford in 1980. Proving the old adage “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” rings-true in our sport, Dale’s son Mike is also an accomplished racer most recently tasting success in the tough Valenti Modified Series. (Grab Photo).                    

Here we have a nice pitside shot captured at the Speedbowl of our friend “Big John” Jarush behind the wheel of his Vega in 1982. A familiar sight on the speedways of New England for a number of seasons, John started his career at Plainville behind the controls of a straight-axle modified coupe that he purchased for the princely sum of $800.00 with trailer (try doing that today!).  John retired from driving in the early 1990s, but stays active in the sport today as the crew chief on the Peter Portante Allison Legacy team. (Grab Photo). 

We liked this image so-much, that we just had to include it this week even-though it brings our standard of 10 shots to a total of 11 (how’s that for a bargain?). Truly one of the best New England modified racers to have ever completed a lap, our friend Billy Greco remains a fan-favorite years following his retirement as a driver. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1999, there were few better on the short tracks of our region than this guy, esp. within the realm of the former United Stock Car Racing Club (once much-more powerful than NASCAR in New England). This one sees “Gramps” ready-to-roll at Waterford in 1985. (Grab Photo).

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

 
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