Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 4, 2011

 Volume 4, Number 1                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

And here we are, back again in 2012. Hard-to-believe we’ve been doing the Internet version of “Racing Through Time” for exactly 3-years now, isn’t-it? Who would have thought that it would still be with us after having started as a weekly feature in the Waterford Speedbowl weekly track program back in 1996? Since starting the online version in 2009, we’ve presented over 1,560 vintage photos for the pleasure of our readers, something that would not be possible without the help and dedicated efforts of our Webmaster & friend Tom Ormsby. Also deserving of a big THANK YOU are the many of you that have shared your photos with us, another thing that’s deeply appreciate. In closing, big congratulations go out to our friends Diane & Jerry Pearl who on New Year’s Day celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Celebrating Exactly Three Years Of “Racing Through Time” Online… 

Captured here behind the controls of a midget at Tiverton, Rhode Island’s former Ponta Delgada Motor Speedway is one Howard L. Bumpus. Known as “Bumpy Bumpus” in the racing world, the native of Brockton, Massachusetts was one of New England’s best. From a newspaper clipping of the era; “He is without a peer in big car racing in New England and is much sought-after for competition for the large tracks in the eastern United States.” It was in-fact, his foray into big car racing that would result in the end of his life. While running second in a big car qualifying heat at Flemington, New Jersey on Sunday, June 16 1946, he collided with leader Frank Bailey. His car began a violent series of flips, and the unfortunate Bumpy was ejected from the cockpit suffering a broken neck. Later that day, the great Ted Horn claimed the feature victory. Open cockpit racing has forever been a dangerous segment of our sport with the days of “pre-roll cage racing” particularly lethal. Ponta Delgada Motor Speedway which opened in 1939 as a 1/5-mile dirt oval (it was paved in June of 1941), ran until 1953 with a break for the war years. A drive-in movie theater was built on the property in 1958. It was the site of Rhode Island’s first auto race following World War II on Sunday, September 16, 1945. (Smith Photo).

We’ve had this photo in our files for years and have never published-it. It was shot by our old friend, celebrated Northeastern auto racing photographer, John Grady. When John sent it to me, he had written the following on the back; “David, this picture is rare and I’ve never published it due to the extent of injuries Denis Giroux received in the wreck.” This occurred on lap-1 of the first qualifying heat of the 1974 Spring Sizzler at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. That’s Denis Giroux violently airborne in the John Steiger owned #7 Pinto, having just ran-over the #41 Brady Bunch mount of NEAR Hall of Famer, Leo Cleary. Sadly, the popular Giroux who was on the fast-track to success in the NASCAR modifieds, received critical head injuries as a result of the wreck. It stunned and saddened the entire New England racing community and, although he made a very short comeback, the wreck ended the career of one of the division’s greatest young talents. (John Grady Photo).     

In our files, we have several “unique” shots, and this is clearly one of them. Seated at the controls of what began its life as an “M” Pinto of “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl regular Seabury Tripler is Angie Cerease, one of the 1970s-era pilots of the famed L&M coupes at the shoreline oval. We’re assuming this arrangement was a short-lived affair. If anyone knows the story on this shot, please feel-free to write! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

And here we have a great 1950s-era victory lane shot of Johnny Sandberg, one of the best-ever at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Claiming the 1952 Non-Ford championship, he scored a career-total of 19 feature victories at the Speedbowl in both Non-Ford and Modified competition. Sandberg’s final shoreline oval triumph came during the 1961 campaign though he continued as a top competitor into the later years of the decade. Note the fancy duds that legendary shoreline oval flagman Loren Card is wearing – the guy was a class-act! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).            

Here’s another gem from when the shoreline oval was officially-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. It’s the 1960s, it’s a Bomber class entry, and the driver is Walt Dombrowski. In 1963 driving the Bill Moran-owned coupe, Walt won six features on-route to the Bomber title edging-out Jerry Dostie by fourteen points. Both drivers later went-on to great success in the modifieds with Walt annexing the 1970 track title while chauffeuring the potent L&M coupe. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).        

Norwich, CT. native Mark LaJeunesse was one of the top regulars at the Waterford Speedbowl for decades, but on August 19, 1977 his familiar Vega-bodied creation was sporting a big-block and he was ready to compete at another Connecticut oval, the famed Stafford Motor Speedway. 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. It’s hard to believe that our pal Steve Kennedy captured this image over three decades-ago, isn’t-it? (Steve Kennedy Photo).                                        

Today’s fans know the now-retired Jerry Pearl as a multi-time Connecticut SK Modified Champion. Back when this shot was taken in May of 1975, he was wheeling this coupe at places like Waterford, Stafford, & Thompson where this shot was captured. Following a short break in the early-70’s, he successfully campaigned a Daredevil entry at the shoreline oval in a car vacated by Bill ‘The Southern Gent” Grainger (a mammoth 57’ Plymouth no-less, with a giant Rebel flag across the roof). From there, it was back to the open-wheel wars, and the rest is history. Jerry is the dad of popular Jeff Pearl, the 1998 Speedbowl SK champion. (Steve Kennedy Photo).                         

Recently serving as a Technical Inspector for the New England Antique Racers, our old pal Jim Torok was once a part of the weekly starting field at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Captured here pitside in the early-70s with the crew of his ultra-sanitary #13 coupe (a hallmark of all Torok creations), the consummate low-bucker ended his career at the now-shuttered Danbury Fair Racarena at the dawn of the 1980’s. In addition to his official duties with NEAR, he still manages to put in some fast-laps every season with the club as the owner and driver of the restored Corky Cookman Pinto and Lou Funk Buick straight-8 powered Coupe. (Dugas Photo).             

Nicky Porto remains one of the best to have ever-competed at Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium. Another driver that spent the formative years of his career competing at West Haven Speedway where he snared multiple victories, his reign at Plainville was nothing-less than spectacular. Leaving the local scene for a brief period in the mid-70s, he headed to Riverside Park during what was arguably one of that track's most-competitive eras becoming an almost instant feature winner (May 17, 1975 to be-exact). Porto later returned-home to “Tinty’s Place” picking-up where he’d left-off as a winner. This shot captures him on Wednesday June 29, 1977 on the evening of one of those great 100-lap open-comp shows that used to draw capacity-crowds to The Stadium’. (Steve Kennedy Photo)                                            

Lastly, here’s another one from the Speedbowl. It’s August 26, 1978, and captured here pitside is Street Stock competitor Harry Rice. Introduced in 1977, the Street Stock class was a big-hit from the git-go, featuring a banner crop of cars and a slam-bang show. Rice was one of the division’s premier competitors, scoring a bunch of main event victories wheeling this MOPAR creation, and notching championships in 1980 & 81. After leaving the division he went-on to record multiple victories in both Modified & SK Modified competition. (Steve Kennedy Photo).                  

That's it for this week. Email me at:
 
COMMENTS FROM 1-4-12

(3 days ago)
Anonymous said:

Folks, thanks for all the positive comments on "Racing Through Time." As-long as you guys continue to enjoy the site, Webmaster Tom Ormsby and I will bring it to you each & every week. On a personal-level, it's my way of giving-back to a sport that's meant so-much to me for my entire life. Thanks again! - Dave Dykes

(4 days ago) Bob said:

I was there that day too. I never heard hoe Denis did after the accident. I remember it took a long time to get him out of the car. So I suspected it wasn't good. Hope He recovered well.

(4 days ago) Jerry Fascione said:

I was there that day also...what sticks in my mind is the loud thud his car made when he hit the wall I'll never forget it.

(4 days ago) Tony Leckey said:

Another incredible job Dave. I remember the Giroux wreck well as my brother and I were sitting close to turn 1 that day. We got there late and there were very few seats to be had. Those days are over. Hope all is well.

(5 days ago) Paul Watrous said:

Dave - so thankful for your site and all the memories that it brings back. It also serves as a hotbed of ideas for vintage racer model building. Sorry that I missed you at Thompson this fall. Have a great year!

(5 days ago) J.P. said:

I remember Dennis Giroux driving the blue #50 coupe at Stafford back in the 70's...He was one of my favorites...there were so many good ones back then to root for.

(6 days ago) Bob said:

Another note about the Denis Giroux crash. It was a bad day for him as he used to drive the Sherri cup 9X coupe and crashed that in the warmups that same day.

(6 days ago) grillking said:

Great job Dave ! Thanks for all your hard work, Have been a modified fan for 40 plus years. Started at Plainville,and still go to the races up and down the east coast! It's great to see all the cars of yesteryear and read all the well prepared information that YOU provide us! Thanks again!!

(6 days ago) Cal in clinton said:

I have seen all youre colums and luv em and now this comment section is awsome

(6 days ago) Honkin Pete from Mass. said:

Great work David !!! Three tumbs up :)

(6 days ago) Denny Z said:

On a sad note I just learned Jack Arute's Mom passed away.

(6 days ago) RickEastman said:

Keep up the great work, I really enjoy and look forward to wednesday and the new post.

(6 days ago) R.A. Silvia said:

David, kudos for all your hard work to produce this vehicle every week. We elder citizens truly appreciate it!! R.A. in R.I.

 

 
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