Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 9, 2009

Volume 1, Number 49                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


Presented here is another “varied-assortment” to grace your monitor screen. There’s some old stuff, some not-so-old (relatively speaking, that-is). Special thanks go out to contributors Tom Ormsby & “Wild Bill” Slater for adding to this week’s fun! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Yet Another Helping Of “Old Stuff”…

Here’s another pick from our webmaster Tom Ormsby’s vast archive of images. The date is April 10, 1966, and the location is the late Riverside Park fifth-miler in Agawam, Massachusetts. Seen in this paddock-area shot are three of most famous names in New England Modified racing history. From left-to-right are Rene “The Champ” Charland, Jerry Humiston, and Dick Dixon. This trio of talent was responsible for scads of victories and championships in what many consider to be the true “golden era” of racing in the Northeast. (Ormsby Collection).

A Stafford picture from Mr. Ormsby’s collection, this one captures veteran the late Freddie Colossa. A unique ride in that it was campaigned during a time when coupes and coaches remained standard-fare at New England’s Modified racing haunts, the full-bodied Chevy II tin was “different” to say the least. Historically-astute readers will recognize the name of the car’s owner; it was none-other than one “Moneybags” Moe Gherzi, a star-performer in the early days of our sport, and also the long-time Race Director at Plainville Stadium. (Ormsby Collection).      

Here’s a seldom-seen image, the famed #V-8 of Bill Slater sitting on its roof! We believe the shot to be from 1968, a time in-which Bill wasn’t driving at Thompson (where this shot was captured) due to legalities concerning a serious crash at the “Big T” where both he and Mario “Fats” Caruso were seriously-injured. The “hired-gun” on this day was well-known local chauffer, the late Leo “Ace” Hill. Also important to note is by this-time Slater was running his own team, former car owners Bob Vitari & Vic Bombaci having retired from the sport. (Slater Collection).

Seen here early during the early-stages of his long career is New England Modified great Ron Narducci (right), along with celebrated car-owner “Sharky” Gaudioso (left). Narducci of-course went on to become one of the regions most-winning drivers on both dirt and asphalt. For decades, the famous pink & white #44 creations of master car-builder Gaudioso were always among the cars to beat, employing only the most-talented of drivers. (Photographer Unknown).   

Ed Reed Sr. enjoyed a long & fruitful career at the joint known as Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. Reed actually began his tenure at the “shoreline oval” as a car owner before climbing behind the wheel of a Street Stock in 1977, a class in-which he’d become a champion. He’s seen here in his days as a Modified chauffer, wheeling one of long-time Waterford car owner Freddie Beaber’s familiar “checkerboard” #716 creations. Proving that the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” his son Ed Jr. became both a Late Model and Modified champion at the historically-rich 1/3-miler. (Kennedy Photo).     

Seen here is another former Waterford Speedbowl champion, “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo. Starting his career in the now-defunct Daredevils (a full-bodied support class), at the shoreline oval, he and his team claimed the Modified title in 1989. One more of Waterford’s many “Family Acts”, son Todd annexed the Modified laurels in 1997. This afternoon in the late-70’s saw Ceravolo plying his trade on the famed ½-miler at Stafford Springs Speedway. As a side note, many readers heard about the serious injuries Dick sustained during an accident at his home earlier this year. We’re happy to report that he’s on the fast-track to a complete recovery! (Adaskaveg Photo).  

Seems like whenever we run a piece on the drivers of New York State, the old mailbox fills at a record-pace. This one’s for all of you guys. Seen here celebrating a victory in 1966 at Owego New York’s Shangri-La Speedway is one of that area’s most popular & successful hot-shoes, Bill Strosahl. Long a fixture on the Modified circuit of the Finger Lakes region, Strosahl gripping a cherished checkered flag was a common sight when the top-drivers wheeled creations like this immaculate little 5-window coupe. Though I’m fast-approaching “Old Guy” status, it’s hard for this scribe to imagine that the late Fred Smith snapped this shot over 40 years-ago! (Smith Photo).      

It’s 1975 at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway, and this is New England Modified great, Billy Harman. Starting his career at Waterford in the late 1950’s, before it was all-over in the 1970s, he’d become a winner at the highest echelon of the division, the NASCAR Modified circuit. As with many of the personalities featured this week, Billy is a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. If the car in this shot looks-familiar, it should, as Jerry Dostie campaigned it for many years at the Waterford Speedbowl as both the # G&M, and also the “Crown-7”. After Harman vacated the ride early that season, the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener ran it at Waterford, unfortunately sustaining injuries in a grinding “Yankee All-Star League” crash. The incident signaled the end for the car, but many of its parts lived-on. The Lajeunesse team purchased many of the spares salvaged from the wreck, incorporating them into a new Vega-bodied mount. (Dugas Photo).

Long-before the Arute family purchased Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway from Mal Barlow in 1969 and proceeded to transform it into the premier racing showplace it remains today, it was a typical eastern dirt-half miler (though Barlow had actually paved the joint two-years previous to the arrival of the new ownership). This shot captures the muddy action at the old “Stafford Speedway” as it was known-then. It was a real Mecca for the dirt-slingin’ contingent, and many of the top-names from that segment of the sport called the place their weekly home. (Photographer Unknown).

We end this installment of “RTT” with a shot of another successful second-generation driver. Seen here with a coupe at Stafford during the formative years of his career, is Ed Flemke JR., son of the late, great “Steady Eddie” Flemke. JR. co-owns Raceworks Chassis (a wildly-successful racing fabrication shop that he’d started with his dad), with fellow NASCAR Modified Tour driver, Reggie Ruggiero. Both remain among the top-racers in New England. (Adaskaveg Photo).

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

 
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