Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 28, 2009

Volume 1, Number 5                                                                                       New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                                      CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

** Sincere condolences from Racing Through Time go out to the entire family of Waterford Speedbowl Late Model racer Tim Jordan on the untimely loss of Tim’s mother, Debra Jordan. Mrs. Jordan fought a valiant battle against cancer before succumbing on Sunday Jan 25.

 

 Stacking Em’ Up At Danbury
It started like any other Saturday night at Connecticut’s storied Danbury Fair Racearena. A capacity crowd was present and a paddock area brimming with the flathead-powered Coupes & Coaches of the Southern New York Racing Association were ready to do-battle on the demanding third-mile oval.
 

Throughout its acclaimed history, the Racearena was known for fierce competition amongst the members of its closed-club sanctioning body. The joint is also recalled for some bone-jarring crashes, and the evening of August 11, 1962 provided patrons with motorized mayhem of the extreme variety.

Following a lap-5 restart, leader Bill Adams lost a wheel heading into the front-chute triggering a crash that claimed a staggering fourteen of his fellow competitors.


Following a lengthy-cleanup, action resumed and saw point-leader and nine-time Danbury champion Chick Stockwell claim his 4th feature of the season. By the checkers, the full-field had been reduced to a mere nine competitors.

Simply another action-packed night at the Racearena. (MANNION PHOTOS)  

This member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame traces the beginnings of his career back to the Waterford Speedbowl, where he made his youthful debut as “Little Bill” Harman. After conquering the shoreline oval he progressed to the national scene becoming a star during the “Golden Era” of the NASCAR Modified circuit. He’s seen here with UNITED’s Harvey Tattersall III celebrating a 70’s Waterford triumph. The car was the potent Coventry Racing Enterprises Coupe and Billy’s tenure with the team bought many-more victory lane celebrations. (Dugas Photo)

Another NEAR Hall Of Famer, Leo “The Lion” Cleary raced all-over the Northeast for over six-decades. A winner at virtually all the speedplants that once dotted the New England landscape, he gained a reputation as a tough, but fair competitor. Fewer were more determined to get to the checkers first than Mr. Cleary. This classic image captures Leo with an early Joe Brady coupe at a venue where he was particularly successful, Massachusetts’ fabled Norwood Arena. (Grady Photo)

Long-associated with the Waterford Speedbowl, the Bunnell family fielded winning rides for decades at the Eastern Connecticut oval. Ed Bunnell earned a Bomber title in 1966 wheeling a machine crafted in the team’s modest shop located in nearby Montville, CT. This rather-rare shot captures younger sibling Donnie Bunnell seated at the controls of an early, short-lived example of the famed #318 Dodge coupe, a car synonymous with shoreline oval lore. A few years-later, an updated version provided Donnie with a stunning victory in the 1976 Bicentennial 200 which was then, Waterford’s longest event to-date. The car is presently restored and campaigned on the NEAR circuit by Don Murphy. (Shany Photo)

The late Don MacTavish was headed toward sure-stardom when his fatal crash in the 1969 Permatex 300 at Daytona cut-short one of the most brilliant careers in all of short track racing. “Mac” won the 1966 National Sportsman Championship in dominating fashion finishing well-ahead of his closest competitors, “Wild Bill” Slater, and Rene Charland. He competed in over 100-races on his way to the title. Yet another New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the much-admired “Mac” was inducted in 2001. This shot captures him in the mid-60’s at the controls of a typical Coach-bodied entry of the era. The car-owners name eludes me, so if anyone knows, please feel-free to shoot me an email. (Grady Photo)

Its 1978, and “Steady Eddie” Flemke is taking the low-road in passing Waterford veteran Mark LaJeunesse. It was an era in which technologies clashed, the contemporary stylings of the Pinto & Vega stealing the limelight from the traditional Coupes & Coaches of an earlier time. Though they remained popular at a more localized level, the typical “stock-frame” Modified was soon replaced by tube-frame creations similar in design to what we have today. The Manchester Sand & Gravel Pinto provided Flemke with much-success during the latter stages of his career. Note that Eddie is sporting a full-face helmet – yet another change that came-about in the late-70’s. (Kennedy Photo)

Benny Derosier, one of the racers that helped to cultivate the scene at the Speedbowl during its early years, recently passed-away in Florida where he’d resided for a number of years. In addition to his accomplishments at Waterford, Benny successfully competed at many other pioneering New England speedways including Riverside Park, Lonsdale Arena, Plainville Stadium and Cherry Park. Award-winning racing journalist Pete Zanardi states that “Derosier was one of the first-drivers to make an impression on me,” further adding that “He was one of the racers that helped define my interest in the sport. I really centered-in on him as a young fan.” This early image captures Benny at the wheel of the Barney Tiezzi-owned #230, one of his more familiar Waterford rides. (Shany Photo)


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