Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday February 4, 2009

Volume 1, Number 6                                                                                       New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                                      CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

* Many-thanks to the folks responding to my inquiry regarding the owners of the Don MacTavish #01 Coach photo from last week. Among those helping-out were Bones Bourcier, Bruce Cohen, Billy Harman (who also wheeled the car at one point), and Tom Ormsby. Bruce identified the owners of the car that his late pal drove as Rhode Island’s Andy Anderson and Fitzy Fitzgerald.

Speedbowl Hot-Shoes Invade The Konk’

As the long-time staff photographer at Seekonk Motor Speedway, Johnny Mercury provided fans with timeless images from the track lovingly known as “The Cement Palace”. Captured here are some of his shots taken during one of the Konks’ great open shows of 1971. Of particular interest to historically-inclined Waterford Speedbowl fans is the amount of shoreline oval heavy-hitters that made the trek in hopes of grabbing some of D. Anthony Venditti’s generous purse.

Seen here leading the pack in his trend-setting Pinto is the Speedbowl’s Seabury Tripler. This car arguably set the standard for the “modern-era” of Modifieds, pre-dating the Judkins #2X which is widely-acknowledged as the first-ever NASCAR-legal Pinto. (Mercury Photo).

The great Leo Cleary wheeling the #4 Garbarino Brothers "Mystic Missile" Coupe finds himself in an unfamiliar position, the field scattring to avoid him. Among others, that’s Hop Harrington in the Tant Mitchell #1 piling-in and Speedbowl alumnus Dale Holdridge in the #37. (Mercury Photo).

Jerry Dostie in the G&M Coupe fights to keep it off the wall, while Donnie Bunnell in the Bunnell Brothers Chevy II takes the low-road in avoiding the skirmish. The Dostie mount is probably more familiar to longtime Bowl’ fans as the #7. Creatively-crafted with engineering bordering on the unconventional, the car was equipped with an automatic transmission, somewhat of a rarity in those days. Note the “psychedelic” numbers on the Bunnell car, no-doubt a stylistic-nod to the era. (Mercury Photo).

The legendary Richie Evans leads while Ed Yerrington #66 and Ronnie Bouchard #17 hit the binders to avoid an errant Coupe on the ever-tricky surface of the “Cement Palace”. (Mercury Photo).

Unlike their counterparts in the rest of New England, late model full-bodies were the standard at 70’s-era Seekonk as evidenced by this bevy of weekly regulars. In-fun, I still enjoy jabbing my pal R.A. Silvia about the “weird” Modifieds that his home track used to run (as if Waterford never had a few “unique” rides). That’s NEAR Hall Of Famer George Summers in the #81. Note the “wing” on the #31 - perhaps an early attempt at short-track aerodynamics? (Mercury Photo) 

In this dramatic image, Jerry Dostie fights to gain-control as the pack approaches. Note the “Zoomie” headers and the “racing gloves” that are gripping the wheel. With fire-retardant Nomex still a relatively new development, the gloves were probably employed by Jerry to combat a chilly Massachusetts evening more than anything-else. (Mercury Photo)

The late Johnny “King” Cambino was a star of Harvey Tattersall’s United Racing Club in an era when it seemed as though the organization controlled all racing in New England. An absolute terror at joints like West Haven and the old 1/5-miler at Riverside Park, he later emerged from retirement to enjoy a second-career as a winning chauffer in the ranks of the Waterford Speedbowl’s Sportsman division. He’s captured here in a rare Seekonk appearance. Note the “K” on the radiator to warn competitors that “The King” was in hot-pursuit. (Mercury Photo).

As with the Waterford troops, the racers that plied their trade on the tarmac of Joe Tinty’s rough n’ tumble Plainville Stadium occasionally headed northward to the Konk’ in search of some of the big “open money”. Stadium’ stalwart Dave Germano #95 is seen here rounding the circle in a positively neat Coach. Plainville cars always embodied the style of what a truly-classic New England Modified should look-like. (Mercury Photo).



As another UNITED star, Lou Carangelo, was one of the top-draws during the heyday of the Tattersall promotional monopoly. He’s seen here at one of the great yearly events held at the former track on the grounds of the Springfield Exposition Center (now the site of Dick Berggren’s Speedway Expo). That’s fellow United campaigner Red O’Keefe in the little Dodge at the left. (Grady Photo).

There are two-generations of Waterford Speedbowl champions captured here. After years of journeyman competition at the shoreline oval, local-favorite “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo captured all the marbles, nailing championship honors in 1988. Nine-seasons later his son Todd (pictured here, second from right) took the title. This Pinto-era shot is from 1979. At one-point during recent years, the elder Ceravolo had expressed interest in running the Speedbowl, a scenario that many railbirds feel could have helped to avert the turmoil that now seems commonplace at the historically-rich CT. oval. (Kennedy Photo).

As one of the premier drivers on the dirt tracks of our region, Eddie DelMolino enjoyed a long, successful career slinging-mud at joints like Fonda and Lebanon Valley. However, the coach he’s seated behind here should stir some interest in nostalgically-minded pavement fans also. Owner “Sharkey” Gaudiosi fielded winning New England pavement Modifieds for decades, employing only the best chauffeurs. Many don’t realize that Sharkey machines enjoyed a winning tenure on dirt also. (Grady Photo)

In this shot, Nicky Porto captures everything that was Plainville Stadium. A low-slung evil-looking Coach and a driver harboring a “Tough Guy” stance – that was the Stadium during its best days. Seen here during an open show in 1972, my friend racing photographer Steve Kennedy wrote on the back of the picture that “Porto destroyed the car only 3-weeks later when he exited the track, flying over the third-turn wall.” (Kennedy Photo).  

The result of Porto’s excursion is seen here – it was a brutal landing. Our webmaster knows a thing-or-two about airborne antics at The Stadium also. He took-flight over the fence early in his career as a kid-racer known as “Tommy” Ormsby. The results of that one can be seen on www.vintagemodifieds.com (Hoyt Photo).

Lastly, here’s the great Danny Gaudiosi wheeling another Sharkey-crafted effort at Plainville Stadium in September of 1972. During the latter-stages of a brilliant career, he guided this little Coupe to much-success at both the Stadium and other area Modified haunts. Embodying the very persona of the determined group of racers that emerged from the post-war era, “Little Dan” was as tough as they came. He was another that pocketed a lot of purse-money when the stock cars assumed center-stage after the popularity of weekly Midget racing went on the wane in the early-50’s. (Kennedy Photo).

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