Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 27, 2010
Note: Dave's computer is in the shop so he was unable
to complete a column for 2/3/10. Also the SpeedwayLineReport.com
will be on vacation next week, so Dave's next column will be published
February 17, 2010. Sorry for any inconvenience.

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

The big-news in New England this week is Sunday’s 13th annual New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. For more information on this can’t-miss affair, log-on to the NEAR website at www.near1.com See you all there! In the-meantime, please enjoy this week’s little stroll through the “RTT” archives!   Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Pavement Pounders & Denizens of Dirt….     

Seen here in August of 1978 at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl is Street Stock competitor Bob Seller. Among the earliest of drivers to sign-up when the late Harvey Tattersall Jr. introduced the division in late-1977, Seller was a top competitor in this Mopar entry for a number of seasons. In recent years, the family has focused on their involvement with the New England Antique Racers (NEAR) where Bob serves as Vice President and campaigns a vintage Pinto Modified. Get-well wishes go-out to Bob who’s lately been a bit under-the-weather. (Steve Kennedy Photo).  

Captured in the lens of John Grady following a coupe-era victory at Vernon, New York’s Utica-Rome Speedway is a youthful Gary Reddick. One of the top-drivers of his time, Reddick was not-unlike many of his contemporaries, equally talented on both dirt and pavement. Utica-Rome was once a hotbed of action for the best of the asphalt-set, with guys like Evans, Cook, Bodine, Charland, Troyer, etc. competing on a weekly basis. Originally opened in 1961 as a 1/3-mile paved oval, it was revamped to its present 5/8-mile dirt configuration in 1979. Remaining one of the most-successful dirt venues in the Northeast, Utica-Rome’s 49th season opener goes-green on April 18. (Grady Photo).     

Like the aforementioned Gary Reddick, this was another racer whose star shined brightly on both the dirt and paved tracks of the Northeast. Captured here early in his career at what we believe to Fonda Speedway in New York, is Kenny Meahl. A regular winner for many seasons at places like Lancaster, Ransomville, Fonda, etc. the Lockport, NY. native also ran occasionally at that hotbed of Pennsylvania mud-slingin’ the storied Reading Fairgrounds Speedway. Note Kenny’s fancy “driving suit” (any t-shirt would do), and use of an industrial-grade respirator to help keep the inhaled nasties to a minimum. Our sport has made great-strides in the way of safety since the days when Meahl was chauffeuring rides like-this. These guys seemed beyond-brave! (Grady Photo).  

Here’s a driver whose equipment rarely-ever appeared in less than pristine condition, so seeing his Vega in a coat of pre-finish primer rather than its signature coat of Honduras maroon, is indeed a rarity. Norwich, CT. native Mark LaJeunesse was one of the top regulars at the Waterford Speedbowl for decades, but on September 18, 1976 he was lining-up for a qualifying heat at the Thompson 300. Among his many accomplishments at Waterford was annexing the Sportsman-Modified championship in 1975, and snaring a victory in the 2000 edition of the Budweiser Modified Nationals. (Kennedy Photo).    

And around-we-go! Seen here in 1979 at Waterford is LaJeunesse Race Team driver, Howie Nye. A former drag racer, he’d been a longtime friend and crew-member on the LaJeunesse team before deciding to construct this neat little coupe to try the “roundy-round” game. Nye’s freshman season garnered him the 1978 “Rookie of the Year” laurels. Constructed in a “classic” style during an era when tube-frames and late model bodies were taking-hold, it occasionally served as a back-up ride for LaJeunesse, and was later the car that Speedbowl legend the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer guided to many fine-finishes during the twilight of his career. For a time years-ago before determining that writing was a lot easier than trying to own one of these things, this car actually resided in your author’s garage. (Kennedy Photo)

With a “take-no-prisoners” driving-style and a mystique all-his-own, the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener helped sell a lot of tickets at the Waterford Speedbowl. A Bomber class champion that successfully advanced to the Modifieds, this guy was just-plain exciting to watch when he was in his prime. By the time this shot was captured during the spring of 1976, things were winding-down for Bill. He’d rebounded from injuries suffered in a serious crash during a Yankee All-Star event the season-before, and this Pinto wasn’t exactly state-of-the-art equipment. He retired shortly after this effort, but not-before etching his name into the Speedbowl record book to the tune of one championship and a career total of 35 feature victories in 3-different divisions. (Dugas Photo).

Before the “generic” stylings of today’s pavement-pounders, every Modified seemed to have a look of it’s-own. Check-out this little number chauffeured by second-generation racer Richie Galullo. By 1974 when Steve Kennedy captured this pit-row image at the Thompson Motor Speedway, pre-war tin was starting to become a rarity, rather than the norm. The “Pinto Revolution”, a war-waged by legendary car-owner Bob Judkins of #2x fame had helped changed the aesthetics of New England Modified racing forever. Like his late father Danny, Richie was a winner scoring many victories, especially at the late Plainville Stadium. (Kennedy Photo).       

If there was one raceway in New England that still seemed to have an abundance of coupes & coaches in the field while the rest of the region was switching to the newer-stuff, it was the late Plainville Stadium. Seen here behind the controls of a machine typical of Stadium’ rides of the early-to-mid 1970’s, is Fran Forino. As a kid that grew-up at the Waterford Speedbowl, an occasional trip to Joe Tinty’s little palace of speed was always a special treat for yours-truly. Colorful cars, colorful drivers, and a LOT of action! (Kennedy Photo).   

Known primarily for his successes at the late Riverside Park, S.J. Evonsion’s career began during the much-heralded “coupe-era” and concluded on the NASCAR Modified Tour. This image captures the 1972 Riverside champion ready to do-battle at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the 1975 campaign. A fixture on the New England Modified scene for decades, S.J. had a large and dedicated fan-following and was a well-respected figure amongst his racing peers. (Grady Photo).

Lastly, here’s a 1970’s shot of a driver that’s due to take his place among the all-time greats of New England motorsports at the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame induction this Sunday at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, Ct. Coming out of the famous Gasoline Alley in Needham, MA, George Savory raced with great success for 43 years. Competing throughout New England, he won an estimated 300 features and grabbed championships at Norwood Arena (1970), Westboro Speedway (1977) and Riverside Park (1994). He followed that with four “Pro 4 Modified” championships. For more information on this years HOF ceremony, visit www.near1.com (Photographer Unknown).

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

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