Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday Aug 13, 2012
   

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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Another “hump-day” and it’s time for a few more “vintage views.” This week we again present another varied selection of images from New England’s short track racing history. As-always, special thanks goes out to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for getting each installment of “RTT” posted every Wednesday, and also to those of you who take time to write – it’s sincerely appreciated! It was a tough week racing-wise; condolences are sent to the family & friends of noted New England modified racer Red O’ Keefe who passed-away last week, and also to the family & friends of Roy Beauregard, long a supporter of racing at Waterford who also left us last week. Both will be sorely-missed. This weeks is the final installment of the 2003 NEAR Nostalgia weekend at the Speedbowl. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

More Racin’ Images For A Wednesday…..

From the archives of our Webmaster Tom Ormsby comes this great shot of the late Red O’Keefe during the twilight of his long racing career. We believe the location to be Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. O’Keefe, who passed-away at age-80 on August 9, was a standout New England modified competitor for many seasons claiming feature events at a number of the regions speedways. He was the 1965 West Haven Speedway track champion and nearly repeated in ’66 placing second to fellow United Stock Car Racing Club star, the late Johnny “King” Cambino. The winning margin for that’s years title race was a scant single-point. He enjoyed his best seasons at another CT. oval, the former West Haven Speedway competing in the Non-Ford division. A skilled mechanic & fabricator, his self-built creations always placed an emphasis on safety. He added innovations like front & rear firewalls, a fire extinguisher, and a full roll cage not unlike today’s NASCAR designs. In addition to his championship, he also received many other awards at West Haven such as “Top Driver/Mechanic” and “Most Popular Driver.” (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Here’s a neat one from the Stafford dirt era. In perusing some of my original Shany Lorenzent prints, this one caught my eye. Note the name on the rear quarter-panel; that’s Fred Snape, who owned cars for a number of years in New England during the early days. Employing some of the best racers of the time, his driver in this shot is the much-accomplished Lionel Arel. If the name Snape sounds familiar, it should. Fred’s the father-in-law of Crystal Snape, who along with her husband Jim are frequently seen today at our region’s raceways capturing the action via photos. While we’re not exactly sure of the year of this shot, it has to be pre-1957. That’s the year in-which the tracks classic “fairgrounds-style” covered grandstand burned to the ground. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

One of the most-popular support classes in the history of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, the Bomber division was a slam-bang show that not only pleased the crowd, it also served as a springboard to the headlining Modifieds for many racers; this guy was one of them. Lou Caso is captured here at the shoreline oval as a young Bomber pilot. Though he never scored a feature victory after graduating to the Modifieds, he was a standout in this division, taking multiple feature victories. Remaining a staple of the Speedbowl scene for many years, Caso departed the sport as the 1970s began. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

Captured here in 1972 behind the wheel of his modified at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium is Prospect, CT. native Sherm Saunders. Prior to his long residency at Joe Tinty’s racy little ¼-miler, he was one of the top-dogs at the United-sanctioned West Haven Speedway. Saunders had a number of victories at Plainville and sometimes competed at Riverside Park. He also performed well in the big star-studded United shows once held yearly on the former 5/8-miler on the grounds of the “Big E” in Massachusetts. (Steve Kennedy Photo).                  

Skip Barna was a noted Coupe-Era racer at the late Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. One of the top drivers during the Tattersall/United reign at the famed quarter-miler, his singular feature victory at “The Park” came on the evening of June 20, 1970. This one captures Skip with one of his earlier rides, a Hudson flathead- powered machine. (John Grady Photo).    

Another Saturday night at Waterford, and another feature victory; this guy had MANY of them! Seen here celebrating a win while chauffeuring the potent Norm Kies #21, is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, our friend Bob Potter. An ultra-popular racer, the Taftville, CT. native started his career at Waterford in 1962 behind the controls of a Bomber class entry. He went-on to win multiple Modified championships at Waterford (where alone, he claimed close to 100 career victories), Thompson, and Stafford. (Shany Lorenzent Photo). 

Here’s an early shot of Johnny “Johnnyboy” Georgidas. A longtime coupe-era star in New England, Georgidas was particularly-tough at the Tattersall/United haunts of the day. We believe this ancient Shany image to have been recorded on the old 1/5-miler at the late Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam Massachusetts. (Shany Lorenzent Photo)

We really like this early Stafford Springs Motor Speedway image of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Pete Hamilton. From his HOF biography; Pete Hamilton’s rise to the top was a fast one. He started driving a street division racer in 1962 at the Norwood Arena. He went on to be the Thompson World Series Twin 50’s champion in 1965, and won the NASCAR National Sportsman championship in 1967 driving the Worcester Sand & gravel #69. Hamilton’s star really began to shine when he moved South at the end of the 67 season. He was the 1968 Grand National Rookie of the Year and went on to win 12 of 26 Grand American Division (pony cars, camaro’s mustangs etc.) in 69. Pete made 64 Grand National (now Winston Cup) starts with impressive results. He scored 33 top ten finishes, 26 top fives, and 4 wins along with 3 poles. But unquestionably, Pete Hamilton’s greatest victory came in 1970 when he won the Daytona 500 in the Petty Enterprises #40 Superbird. He won twice more at both Talladega races in 1970 and got his fourth and final super speedway win at the July race at Daytona driving for Cotton Owens. He also won a Daytona 125 qualifier in 1971. He was the first driver to win $100,000 on a super speedway in a single season. He retired later in 1971 at the height of his career because of a recurring neck injury suffered in a 1969 Grand American race. Hamilton went on to be a very successful car builder. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

Here’s yet-another vintage image from the old United Stock Car Racing Club-sanctioned 1/5-miler at the late Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. Seen behind the controls of the “Buzzin Bea” coupe is Woodbury, CT. native George Landry. The first-ever track champion at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium in 1949, he was also a multi-time feature winner at Riverside. One of the more-versatile racers of his era, in addition to his exploits in stock cars, he was an exceptional midget racer also, campaigning with both ARDC & NEMA. He also competed in the eastern USAC Sprint Car division. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

It’s the 1960s at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl and Joey “Pops” Trudeau was already an established fan-favorite at the Speedbowl, and his winning reputation kept him in-demand with all of the shoreline oval’s top teams. After coming-close to notching the championship on several occasions wheeling coupe-era creations like the one seen here, he finally scored a few seasons-later in 1971. Curiously-enough, Trudeau notched that title without the benefit of a single feature victory while driving the "Smitty's" #11 coupe. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

     
     

BONUS SHOT: The location is Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, and the year is 1956. That’s the driver known as the “King of the Cutdowns” the late Gavin Couper on the left, and on the right is our late friend & Hall of Famer, “Wild Bill” Slater. There was obviously some sort of contact made between these two giants of the sport on this evening, and it’s interesting to see how the high-spirited Couper is reacting compared to the seemingly always even-tempered Slater who seems to remain rather aloof to the situation. At the time, Bill was wheeling the Baldy Simons #11 and had notched the championship at Waterford. (RA Silvia Collection).  

 

New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 12
An Interview with Hall of Famer Ron Narducci.

 
 

 

 

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

This Weeks Comments

(3 days ago) Jim Splettstoeszer (written by h said:

Hi Clayton, I've been asked to tell you that the guy you bought the 95 from, now has Johnny's last car, #87. All restored. If you'd like to contact me, I can send you a picture of the car.

(5 days ago) Bob Georgiades said:

Hey Clayton, how are you doing? Just letting you know i ran thompson a few weeks back marking a streak going back to 1948 for "Georgiades Racing". It's not out of our blood yet. Just can't afford it like back in the day.

(6 days ago) clayton said:

Additional on "Johnyboy", car 86 Wally Post, 85 a very young Dennis Zimmerman and John's 87 were housed in Glastonbury, Ct at Sunnyside Sunoco, John & Wally both started & won many races at Cherry Park.

(6 days ago) frank said:

photos of 84 car?

(6 days ago) ctbill said:

That's interesting. Bob Steadman drove the blue and white #58 coach for my Dad at the Bowl in the early to mid 60's if I recall the years correctly.I was pretty young back then and remember only bits and pieces

(6 days ago) NELS said:

NICE OLD SHOT OF JOEY TRUDEAU DAVE! THANKS!

(6 days ago) clayton murphy said:

Johnyboy Georgidas photo taken at the park in 1955 the year he was Sportsman Champ for Tuesday nights.

(6 days ago) ron said:

dave do you know if there is a photo of a car #410 blue &white driver was bob stedman from wakefield ri owner i think was whites from stonington ct

 
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