COLUMNS & FEATURES
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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
By Dave Dykes CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE
we take a journey back in time to the place that branded me a race fan for
life, that Eastern Connecticut oval known as “The Speedbowl.” In closing,
sincere condolences are offered to the family and friends of longtime
Seekonk Speedway photographer John Verissimo who passed-away at the age of 87 on February 12th.
Known in racing as “Johnny Mercury” he expertly captured the action at the
Massachusetts oval for over 3-decades and was a great friend to many in
the sport. Just this year, he was recipient of the prestigious D. Anthony Venditti Memorial award at the Seekonk awards banquet.
He will be truly-missed.
As-always, email reaches me at
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Backing-Up A Bit Speedbowl-Style…….
The late Tommy Van Epps was a standout racer and definitely a
fan-favorite in early action at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl.
A Non-Ford division champion rated 5th on that division’s
all-time win list with 21 feature triumphs, this image captures him
seated behind the controls of a Modified during the track’s
“Cut-Down” era. The Cut-Downs would no longer be a part of the
action at Waterford after Jack Griffin lost his life in a grinding
crash on Saturday
evening August 12, 1954. A switch-back to the considerably-safer “full
coupes” was instituted by track management in short-order. (Shany
If you claim to be familiar with the history of the
Waterford Speedbowl, you should know who this
guy-is. Captured here is the late “Dirty Dick”Beauregard, in the potent Congdon #76 coupe.
In a career that spanned only a decade, this racer
managed to accomplish more than most drivers
spending twice-as-much time behind the wheel.
Starting in 1952, he went-on to score a
combined-total of sixty-two victories in Modified &
Non-Ford competition along with two track titles
before hanging-up his helmet and relocating to the
West Coast. Dick was named as one of the Speedbowl’s
“All-Time 50-Favorite Drivers” when the track
celebrated its half-century mark in 1991. (Shany
As one of the real heavy-hitters in the early days
of the Speedbowl, the late Charlie Webster
had a large & very-loyal fan base. Amassing a career
total of seventy-three feature victories in both
Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion
in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified
crown). Like fellow Speedbowl standout and New
England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don Collins,
Charlie retired from driving at the dawn of the
seventies, thus ending the career of one of
Waterford’s finest chauffeurs. This shot captures
him in a Non-Ford division entry during the
early-fifties. Charlie’s son Eric also went-on to a
winning career in racing at the shoreline oval. (Shany
We admittedly don’t know a whole-lot about this driver,
but the car should be instantly-familiar to long-time
Speedbowl fans. Seen here seated behind the controls of
the potent “Black Panther” #1 coupe in 1964 is
Vinnie Cerrito. Dick Beauregard, who retired from
the sport in 1962, had experienced great-success while
wheeling this machine. In the days before “cookie
cutter” race cars, Waterford rides always seemed to have
their own unique personalities; this little number was
no exception! (Shany Photo).
Here’s a nice shot of the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer.
Synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, Fuzzy remained one
of the most beloved figures of the shoreline oval many-years
after his retirement from the sport. Known as a skilled &
steady chauffer, he was another of those guys that you
seldom saw in any trackside-trouble. Though his long career
yielded feature victories seemingly low in-number (four),
at-least one of them was a major-event. On August 20, 1966,
Baer topped a field of Waterford’s best in snagging a 75-lap
Championship race while wheeling this coupe. (Shany
was an absolute terror in this flawless coupe during the
early-70s, and was a serious contender to break the
stranglehold that Dick Dunn seemingly had on the era’s
Speedbowl track championships. In addition to taking
several weekly features, he also defeated a stellar
field of outsiders to take the checkers in the
open-competition Hott Wheels 100 on Sunday afternoon
April, 22, 1973 as captured here along with his happy
crew. George was another of the many racers that hailed
from nearby Norwich, CT., once a veritable “Gasoline
Alley” for successful Bowl’ teams. (Dugas Photo).
Like any short track, the Speedbowl has had its share of
real “stand on thegas” competitors over
the years, and this guy sometimes paid the price in the
way of bent equipment. Captured here at the shoreline
oval following a typical Saturday night skirmish is the
#6 piloted by Glynn Shafer. He won a ton of races
during his long career which started in the Bomber class
and concluded in the Modifieds. As exciting a wheelman
as ever witnessed at the shoreline oval, he ALWAYS
coaxed the most out of his equipment. (Shany Photo).
Seen here mugging for the camera of longtime New England
racing photographer Rene Dugas in 1974 is the great
Speedbowl racer Dick Dunn and crew chief Al
“Buddha” Gaudreau. Dunn and the “Buddha’s Bullet”
team had a long, successful partnership to the tune of
scads of feature victories and 4-consectutine Speedbowl
track championships starting in 1972. Al’s wife Peg was
actually the owner of this neat coupe. (Dugas Photo).
To New England Midget racing fans, the name John
Ferrell may seem familiar. He was a staple on the
NEMA tour for a number of seasons, serving as one of the
club’s steadiest competitors. When this shot was taken
during the Speedbowl’s “Coupe Era” he was
wheeling this neat little entry in the tracks premier
division. Following in her dad’s footsteps, John’s
daughter Kelley has also tasted success within the realm
of New England’s open-cockpit ranks.
How many readers remember a time when 3-digit numbers
Here’s a 1974 trackside shot of Nels Wohlstrom, a
top-flight Modified driver at what was then still-known
as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. He was a
close-associate of fellow racer and multi-time winner
Mike Beebe, this car having originated at that teams
shop in the Connecticut River Valley area. A popular
Bowl’ chauffer and graduate of the Sportsman Sedan
class, Wohlstrom notched a bevy of fine finishes while
behind the controls of this wild-looking little number
at both Waterford and Thompson. (Shany Photo).
Here’s an early image of the man affectionately
known by Waterford aficionados as “Dickie Doo”
Ceravolo, This Sportsman Sedan entry is where it
all-began for the affable Groton, CT. chauffer
years-before he met with success in the open-wheel
wars. A 1950s-era Chevy, street tires and safety
appointments that include his old-style “Cromwell”
helmet complete the package. From these humble
beginnings, “Dickie Doo” went on to become
the 1988 Modified champion at the shoreline oval.