Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 5, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 1                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


This week we present an assortment of New England racing personalities that really run the gamut. From an unknown Waterford Street Stocker of the 1970s to Hall of Famer “Steady Eddie” Flemke, there’s a little something for everybody here. Remember, 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, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com         

Yet Another Scan Of The Archives…..      

In 1977 Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl introduced a new support class due in-part to boost a sagging car-count in the old Grand American division. By the next season the class had flourished, and it seemed like everyone was getting into the act. See here is Dave Dykes during the spring of 1978. His well-used Plymouth Belvedere (a 4-door, no-less), had been purchased from established competitor Paul Jutila. With a firesuit borrowed from family friend & former Daredevil racer Gary Welsh, and a helmet purchased from the local Two-Guys department store (remember them?), he was on his way. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

Lou Austin was one of the premier players during New England Modified racing’s much-heralded “Coupe Era.” Seen here in the 1960s behind the controls of his familiar #73 at the much-missed Norwood Arena in Massachusetts, it should also be noted that Lou was quite the multi-talented competitor. In addition to his accomplishments in the Modifieds, he also occasionally campaigned within the ranks of the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA), enjoying considerable success. (Grady Photo).           

A few weeks-ago we ran a shot of this driver and his Hudson coupe, and it stirred a lot of interest. Once-more, here’s Joe Wilcox at Massachusetts’ much-missed Riverside Park Speedway. Though he was always in the hunt, Joe’s lone Riverside feature victory occurred on the evening of June 12, 1971 (as seen here), making him among the last guys to grab a main event on the old fifth-mile oval. For the 1972 campaign, the track was expanded to a ¼-mile. (Grady Photo).

Seen here during a late-70s outing at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motors Speedway is Fred Alkas in the Vieira Brothers Gremlin. Along with his older brothers Dave (a NEAR Hall of Famer), and George, Fred enjoyed considerable success on the ovals of New England, and particularly on his home track of the late & much-missed Plainville Stadium. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).      

What has to be said about this photo? Both the car and the guy holding the checkered flag should be easily-recognizable to anyone with even a remote knowledge of New England auto racing history. The driver is legendary New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke, and the car is one of the many Coupes that fellow Hall of Fame member the late, great, Richie Evans campaigned during his long, storied career. The arrangement between these two superstars on this evening all those years-ago obviously worked-out well! (Grady Photo).

Like so-many of the racers from his generation, the late Maynard Forrette saw no boundaries in the difference between running on dirt or asphalt. A big winner on both, he’s probably most fondly remembered for his stunning dirt-slingin’ drives on the daunting Syracuse Mile where during the later stages of his career, he often bested competitor’s half-his-age. A master mechanic and innovative car builder, Forrette also ran Northern Speed Supply, a haven for racers seeking to get the most out of their equipment. (Grady Photo).      

Captured here in 1969 at Connecticut’s late Danbury Fair Racearena is Dick Dyke. A steady competitor with the Southern New York Racing Association for a number of seasons, Dyke was never fortunate-enough to score a main event, but did manage to snare multiple heat wins and a “B” feature. Note that this car is powered by a flathead V-8. This was the standard powerplant for competitors of the SNYRA long-after the majority of New England had progressed to the overhead-valve V8. It worked for them, as Danbury was always the scene of high car-counts & terrific competition! (Mannion Photo).   

To a certain degree, the late George Pendergast gets short-changed when it comes to talking about the racing feats of his generation’s drivers. Pendergast was in-fact, a noteworthy winner grabbing checkers all-over New England during the much-heralded “Coupe Era.” Perhaps overshadowing his accomplishments was a fun-loving persona. Ever-the-Rogue (in a good-way), few escaped George’s practical jokes and desire to make racing an absolutely-entertaining endeavor both on, & off the track. This shot captures George at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl following a triumph while behind the controls of the “Baldy” Simons coupe. That’s Jack Brouwer offereing-up a victory handshake. (Shany Photo).  

By the time legendary New England lensman Shany Lorenzent captured this Waterford Speedbowl 60s-era image of Dick Dunn in his lens, Mr. Dunn had already proven himself to be a skillful Bowl’ chauffer with several feature victories on his resume. However, it was a pairing with car owners Al and Peg Gaudreau a few seasons-later that would cement his status as one of the best-ever in the history of the Speedbowl. We’re talking-about pure “Icon-Level” notoriety in what was 1970’s Waterford action. (Shany Photo).     

While we customarily refrain from running shots of unidentified racers (and we have more than a few in the archives), this one just begged to be displayed. Seen here is a typical example of what the cars looked-like for a period in the 1950’s at Waterford as builders moved-away from the more traditional “Full Coupes” to the notoriously lower & lighter “Cut Downs.” It was a sad-chapter in Speedbowl history; the death of driver Jack Griffin while racing one of these in 1954 prompted a move back to the more substantially-constructed “Full Coupes.” As a side note, if anyone can identify this driver, please do drop us an email! (Shany Photo).

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

 
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