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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
By Dave Dykes CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE
This week we present a real
potpourri of vintage racing images, kinda’ a little-bit of everything.
Special-thanks go out to our friends Tom Ormsby, Chris Langer, and Steve
Kennedy for sharing some of their visual memories for all to enjoy! Lest
we forget, condolences go out to the family & friends of veteran modified
campaigner Roger Hill and also Joe Gerber who along with his father Al
promoted the Race of Champions, both of whom the racing community lost
recently. GOOD NEWS NOTE: As reported here a few months-ago, former
modified great “Daring Dick” Caso had been critically injured in a Moped
accident. It was learned at Sunday’s NEAR Annual Meeting that Dick has
made a full-recovery and is doing great! As-always, email reaches me at
NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of
the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.
More… Vintage Views!
with great sadness that we report the passing of Westfield, North
Carolina modified racing veteran Roger Hill last week following
a brief illness. A fixture on the NASCAR Modified Tour since the
1980s, he stepped out from behind the wheel to become a car owner in
1996. A well-liked and respected member of the racing community, his
“Hillbilly Racing Team” had employed some of the brightest talent on
the circuit over the years. This photo from what we believe to be
Martinsville captures Roger at the controls of his Capri-bodied
creation during his driving days. (Tom Ormsby Collection).
Here’s a nice pitside shot of the late Marvin
Chase. Known by Connecticut fans as primarily a
Waterford Speedbowl competitor, he also tasted
success at the storied Norwood Arena in
Massachusetts – an easy feat by no-means. After
hanging-up his helmet, Marvin became involved with
the New England Antique Racers, heavily contributing
his time to the club. Every year, a NEAR member is
presented the “Marvin Chase Contribution Award”
in honor of this late racer. Fondly remembered,
“Marv” had many friends at the shoreline oval,
including this scribe. (Dugas Photo, Tom Ormsby
If you were lucky enough to be around the sport when
this guy was in his prime, you witnessed one of the
best. Our friend and Webmaster Tom Ormsby of
www.vintagemodifieds.com once stated that he was
“Colorful, Controversial, and Popular” all at
the same time. The truth-is, Anthony“Jap”
Membrino helped sell a lot of tickets during a
stellar career that lasted over 3-decades. While he
experienced incredible success at Plainville Stadium
Jap also won-big at many other New England venues.
He’s captured here at the late & much-missed
Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts in the
Eddie Oles Gremlin. The 78 year old Jap has been in
the hospital with a 90% artery blockage and should
be home tomorrow, but, will be laid up awhile. Cards
can reach him at Tony Membrino 328 Bassett Rd.,
Watertown, Ct. 06795. (Shany
Here’s a driver that was successful in both the
“fendered” divisions and the Modifieds. Shown here
at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl in 1972 is
“Uncle Don” Steiner at the wheel of his neat little
Chevy Corvair-bodied entry. The crossover to late model
tinwork from the traditional coupes produced some really
memorable Modifieds, and Steiner’s ride was one of them.
(Shany Photo Courtesy Chris Langer).
As with the aforementioned Don Steiner, not all teams
utilized pre-war tin as a style palette during those halcyon
days of the much-heralded “Coupe Era.” Seen here in
1970 at Waterford celebrating a feature victory aboard his
Chevy II-bodied mount is Montville, CT. speedster Donnie
Bunnell. A Bowl’ Superstar for many seasons, the popular
Bunnell was known as a steady and sportsman-like chauffer.
Perhaps his biggest moment in the sun was a stunning victory
in the 1976 UNITED-sanctioned “Bicentennial 200”, then the
longest-ever event staged at the shoreline oval. Note the
“Psychedelic” numbers – a sign of the times! (Shany
Photo Courtesy Chris Langer).
Call em’ Daredevils, Sportsman Sedans, Grand Americans,
Late Models, or whatever, when it came to “full-fender”
racing, this guy was one of the absolute-best.
Plainfield, Connecticut’s Ron “Boots” Cote
had few equals when in his prime, excelling at a trio of
his home-state ovals. At the Speedbowl-alone (as seen in
this 70’s-era victory lane image), he recorded over
thirty career-victories and a duo of championships.
(Steve Kennedy Photo).
Here we present a nice “at-speed” shot captured at the
Waterford Speedbowl by our longtime friend & veteran New
England racing photographer, Steve Kennedy. Seen here
doing his thing is local shoe, John Bunnell.
Starting in the old Sportsman Sedan class before
progressing to modifieds like the sharp Vega creation
seen here (a body-man by profession, John routinely
campaigned very-attractive rides), he was a part of the
action within the shoreline oval’s premier division for
nearly 3-decades. We believe this shot to be from the
1981 season. (Steve Kennedy Photo).
It’s the 1979 Thompson 300, and the chauffer of this
neat little number is none-other than Geoff Bodine.
Extremely successful in the modifieds (particularly when
he was teamed with owner Dick Armstrong of Nu-Style
Jewelry Team fame) the result of his deeds in the
open-wheel wars bought a successful career at the top
including a stunning victory in the 1986 Daytona 500. A
member of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall
of Fame, it’s reported that the 62-year-old Bodine will
return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series this year to
compete in at-least 15 events. (Steve Kennedy Photo).
Another 1979 shot from Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway,
this time it’s the man fondly-recalled as the “King
of the Modifieds” the late, great Richie Evans.
A native of Rome, NY., Evans left his family's farm at
age-16 to work at a local garage. After finding early
success in drag racing, a friend suggested he try
building a car to race at the nearby Utica-Rome
Speedway. He ran his first oval-track car, a 1954 Ford
Hobby Stock numbered PT-109 (after John F. Kennedy's
torpedo boat in World War II), in 1962. He advanced to
the Modifieds in 1965, winning his first feature in the
season's final night. In 1973, he became the NASCAR
National Modified Champion. In 1978 he won a second
title and did not relinquish his crown during the next
seven years. Evans took over four hundred feature race
wins at racetracks from Quebec to Florida before he was
fatally injured at age-44 in a practice crash at
Martinsville in late 1985. Before his death, he’d
already clinched the inaugural Winston Modified Tour
championship (now known as Whelen Modified Tour). In
1979-alone, he started 60 NASCAR Modified races and
posted 54 top-five finishes -- including 37 victories.
Richie was among the first inductees into the New
England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, and will join
the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year. (Steve Kennedy Photo).
Here’s a great late-70’s Thompson Speedway victory lane
shot of one of everybody’s favorite low-buck New England
modified shoes, Bruce “Gomer” Taylor. Often
tasked with competing against teams that possessed
much-greater financial resources, he managed to win his
fair-share of events during a long, colorful career. One
of the sports true “Good Guys” his easygoing &
likable demeanor endeared him to both his fellow
competitors and the fans. Even today, its guys like this
that remain the heart & soul of our sport. (Steve Kennedy Photo).
Here’s a nice Thompson Speedway shot from 1978 of
4-time Waterford Speedbowl Modified champion Dick
Dunn during one of his visits to the track known
as the “Indianapolis of the East.” Wheeling the
appropriately-christened “Buddha’s Bullet”
for our friends Peg & Al “Buddha” Gaudreau, he
reigned supreme at Waterford during the early-1970s.
Adding to an already-stellar resume, during the
four-straight seasons that he was crowned champ
(1972-75), Dunn recorded impressive 18-feature
victories including a number of extra-distance
shows. Historically-speaking, Dunn remains one of
the best-ever to have competed at the Speedbowl.
(Steve Kennedy Photo).
Close-quarters at The Bowl’….. Captured here
motivating down the front-chute at the Speedbowl
eons-ago are veteran Modified campaigners Mark
LaJeunesse in his familiar #33, and
Roland Lapierre Jr.
in his equally well-recognized #134. Both of these
drivers had long-histories in the sport by the time
Steve Kennedy snapped this shot. Before becoming a
modified winner, LaJeunesse had been a
championship-caliber quarter midget racer in his
youth, and his father Al had been involved with the
sport since the early days with multi-time Speedbowl
champion Dick Beauregard. Also a winner, Lapierre
grew-up around the burgeoning days of New England
Modified racing, his late father being the
much-celebrated Roland Lapierre Sr. (who
incidentally will be inducted into the New England
Auto Racing Hall of Fame in a couple of weeks on
Sunday, January 29). Go to
www.near1.com for more information on this
year’s HOF Induction Ceremony.
(Steve Kennedy Photo).
(5 days ago) Dave Dykes said:
Folks, thanks for all the wonderful comments. I read
each & every one of them, and your input is truly
(5 days ago) Nick Fontaine said:
Keep up the great work Dave, love looking at all these
great pictures. They always take me back in time, to the
great times I always had!!
(6 days ago) Pete Newsham said:
Every Wed. this website brings a big smile to my face :)
love it !
(6 days ago) Phil Smith said: Geoff Bodine and Hop
Harrington built the No.1 for Allen Whipple
(6 days ago) Steve Kennedy said:
Am wondering if Jap's Gremlin was the 00 before or after
it was VO. Am assuming that 35 connection relates to
Jap's ride in a blue Guida sponsored Pinto, ran around
1976. Same owners I'd imagine. Unique looking racer. Get
well soon Jap!!
(6 days ago) Sonny O said:
I believe the 35 car Jap is in is the old VO of Ron
(6 days ago) Tom Ormsby said:
Eddie Oles was the owner of the #35. Jap has been
hospitalized with a 90% artery blockage and shoud be
home tomorrow, 1/12/12.
(6 days ago) frank said:
1952 photos of united cars 14 94 84?
(6 days ago) Jimcamp said:
Who's car is that Jap is in???