Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 29, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 49                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


A full mailbox was the deal last week, with many of you indicating that the vintage “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl stuff really hit-the-spot. With that said, here’s another round of oldies from the Connecticut speedplant affectionately-known as the “Shoreline Oval.” Special thanks go out to our pals Mal Phillips, Rusty Sage, and R.A. Silvia for donating this week’s images. Also, the deadline to get tickets to the 2011 New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Banquet is quickly-approaching. To be held on January 30th at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, Connecticut, visit www.near1.org for more information. To all, please have a HAPPY NEW YEAR! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com       

Ushering-In The New Year…. Speedbowl Style!      

Opening this week’s edition of “Racing Through Time” is a late 1970s trackside shot of Nels Wohlstrom, a top-flight Modified driver at the Waterford Speedbowl and other New England area tracks for many seasons. A popular shoreline oval chauffer and graduate of the Sportsman Sedan class, Wohlstrom notched a bevy of fine finishes while behind the controls of this slick Chevy Monza-bodied creation. (Kennedy Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Captured here on opening day of 1970 with his 1934 Chevy coupe, “Daring Dick” Caso may have never won any popularity contests with track officials at Waterford, but he had more than his fair-share of fans among the Speedbowl’s grandstand patrons. A nickname well-earned, his driving style was of the “no-holds-barred” variety and when in his prime, a Caso-drive to the front was itself worth the price of a Saturday night ticket. In terms of finance, he was a low-bucker that got the ultimate out of equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. Nicknames were big during Caso’s tenure, as he was also christened “The Cromwell Comet” by the late, great John Small, one of the grandest announcers in Speedbowl history. The moniker was of course, a nod to Dick’s hometown.  (Dugas Photo, Courtesy Rusty Sage).         

Here’s another great shot from opening day at Waterford in 1970. Before graduating to the Modifieds, Walt Dombrowski claimed the 1963 Speedbowl Bomber championship. The transition was a smooth-affair; with Walt scoring his first checkers in Waterford’s headlining division in 1966. By the time Rene Dugas took this photo, he’d secured a seat in this coupe, Stan Majewski’s legendary L&M (that’s Stan on the left). By seasons-end, this duo had clamed the championship! (Dugas Photo, Courtesy Rusty Sage).

I really like this shot for a couple of reasons. First, the late Warren Sipuleski Sr. was a good friend of mine, and second, in the sea of “tri-five” Chevy’s & Fords that populated Waterford’s old Daredevil class, his neat early-60s Impala racer really stood-out from the pack. The car was a winner also, as Warren steered it into victory lane on Saturday evening October 2, 1971. (Shany Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).   

It’s 1971, and here we have New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member and 6-time Speedbowl Modified champion, Bob Potter when he was driving for storied Waterford car owner Freddie Beaber (second from left). As we all know, Bob’s ultra-smooth style behind the wheel garnered him hundreds of feature victories and multiple championships at Waterford, Stafford, and Thompson. As for Freddie, God only-knows how many victories his fondly-remembered checkerboard #716 creations took at the shoreline oval! (Dugas Photo, Courtesy Rusty Sage).

The great Sal “Dee” Delucia remains one of the most fondly-remembered racers of his era. His relatively brief but spectacular career stalled by serious racing-related injuries, had longevity been in the cards, he would have undoubtedly accomplished even more. With roots tracing-back to the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl as seen-here, Dee won-over a legion of fans undoubtedly fueled by his no-nonsense drives to the front during what many railbirds consider the most-competitive period in New England modified racing history. Winner of the 1965 Speedbowl Modified title, this guy was truly one tough competitor! (Shany Photo).   

Nicknamed the “The Southern Gent” Bill Grainger was just-fine with the moniker bestowed upon him by the Speedbowl’s announcing team. Hailing from North Carolina, he’d garnered an impressive racing resume by the time of his arrival in CT. courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Navy. While stationed at the Sub Base in nearby Groton, Grainger & crew ran this seemingly-massive 1957 Plymouth entry in early-70s Daredevil division action. With his number a nod to “The King” and a roof adorned with a giant Rebel flag, there was no mistaking the fact that this Southern boy meant business; the car was a winner! (Shany Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).  

If I were to tell you that I knew anything about this driver, I’d be fibbing! Honestly, the photo is part of group of extraordinary vintage Waterford shots that our friend Mal Phillips gifted us with a number of months-ago. We can tell you this; it’s the 1950s, the guy behind the wheel is a racer by the name of Mike Dooley, and we think it’s a Non-Ford division entry. To my estimation, it’s a pretty classic-looking ride! (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).   

Lou Tetreault was the 1955 Speedbowl Non Ford champion, recording over 30 victories in the once-popular support class. Additionally, he notched a Modified win during the 1956 campaign. One of the tracks true pioneers, he’s seen here behind the controls of what would be considered a top-flight piece of machinery during the early days of the sport. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).

Lastly this week, we have a shot of the late, great Ted Stack, absolutely one of the best of his time. Though he scored heavily at several other New England raceways, it was probably the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl that garnered him the most success. A multi-time champion (1961 in the Modifieds, and 1957 & 60 in the Non Fords), Stack accumulated a combined total of 71 feature victories at the shoreline oval. This early 1950s image captures him ready to roll in a Non-Ford entry. Stack drove for many of the best teams to have ever competed at Waterford and his services were always in high demand. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).                

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

 
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