Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 6, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 26                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

From the cavernous & seemingly-endless confines of the “Racing Through Time” cyber-archives comes another dose of “Modified Memories” for everyone’s viewing pleasure. Special thanks go-out to the usual suspects for donating some of this week’s images. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another-Dose Of Modified Memories…..

Here we present a nice candid shot captured at the Waterford Speedbowl by our longtime friend & veteran New England racing photographer, Steve Kennedy. Seen here with a smile for the camera 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. (Kennedy Photo, Sage Collection).   

One of the real joys of doing this site has been making many new friends since we first went online a few years-ago. One of those friends is Rusty Sage, who along with others has contributed a number of classic images for all to enjoy. Here’s another from Rusty’s archives and it’s a beauty! Captured in a classic Shany “portrait shot” is a 17 year-old Donnie Bunnell (cousin of the aforementioned John Bunnell) during the start of his long, storied Waterford Speedbowl career. From this youthful start in 1967, Donnie became one of the absolute-best at the shoreline oval recording a career-total of 33 feature victories in Daredevil, Modified, and SK Modified competition. (Shany Photo, Sage Collection).    

Captured in the pits of what was then still-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl is John “Jake the Snake” Marosz. The prototypical low-buck operator, he scored but a single victory in the Speedbowl’s headlining division. The checkers fell his way on Saturday evening, July 20, 1974. (Photographer Unknown)                               

Here’s a nice “at-speed” shot of the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer wheeling the last of his self-built signature #121 creations. The date is Saturday evening, June 9, 1979. Baer would finish-up his career a few-years later following a number of stellar runs as a member of the LaJeunesse Race Team. Synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, Fuzzy remained one of the most beloved figures of the shoreline oval many-years after his retirement from the sport. Known as a skilled & steady chauffer, he was another of those guys that you seldom saw in any trackside-trouble. Though his long career yielded feature victories seemingly low in-number (four), at-least one of them was a major-event. On August 20, 1966, Baer topped a field of Waterford’s best in snagging a 75-lap Championship race. (Kennedy Photo).          

Seen here getting an assist in the Waterford pits on May 30, 1981 is the great Dick Dunn aboard the “Buddha’s Bullet” Pinto (that’s owner Al “Buddha” Gaudreau in the back on the left, and son Tommy on the side). Dunn and the “Bullet” team had a long, successful partnership to the tune of scads of feature victories and 4-consectutine Speedbowl track championships starting in 1972. Also captured in this shot over on the right is the #66 Vega of second-generation racer Dave Hill Jr. (Kennedy Photo)              

We really like this Steve Kennedy shot of a guy that’s absolutely a pivotal figure in the history of one of New England’s most-missed short tracks. If there was ever a “King of Plainville Stadium” Dave Alkas held that title. A many-time champion, and the Connecticut ¼-milers all-time Modified winner, this one captures him on June 29, 1977 aboard his longtime ride, the Roland Cyr Vega. Fittingly, Dave was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Kennedy Photo).         

Befitting of a tight, flat ¼-mile short track, pileups like this were often the norm at Connecticut’s late Plainville Stadium. An absolute hotbed of action for some of the real unsung heroes of racing in the Nutmeg State, this little “aftermath” shot captures our pal Bob Mikulak taking a “smoke break” as he’s waiting for an errant competitor to be removed from the side of his coach. Bob was one of the top-runners at “Tinty’s Place” for a number of seasons. (Hoyt Photo).                          

Captured here in September of 1973 at Plainville Stadium, the late Harvey Vallencourt was a pioneer on the New England Modified circuit that became an unfortunate statistic in a sport that can sometimes reveal a cruel side. Starting his career at the old West Haven Speedway, Harvey was known as a proficient chauffer enjoying many successes over the years. Sustaining severe head-injuries in a seemingly minor crash at Plainville in the mid-seventies, he was confined to a hospital bed for almost a decade before his passing. (Kennedy Photo).                                     

As a 3-time NASCAR National Sportsman Champion, a member of the famed “Eastern Bandits”, and an inductee of both the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, little has to be said about this guy that hasn’t already been written. Known as “The Champ”, Rene Charland won over 250 features and countless track titles races during a career that spanned 4-decades. He’s seen here with just one of the coupes that he guided to victory lane during his long, storied career. (Grady Photo).   

Pictured here is Empire State modified great, Dick Clark following a victory aboard his classic coach-bodied entry during what we believe to be the late-1960s. Like many of his contemporaries, Clark was proficient on both dirt and pavement. Based on his accomplishments in what many racing historians consider the true “Golden Era” of Northeastern stock car racing, Clark was inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in 1997. (Grady Photo).      

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

 
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