Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday June 15, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 23                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week it’s another “varied selection” with an emphasis placed on the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Special thanks go out to all of this week’s contributors, particularly our pal Chris Langer who came-up with a BUNCH of vintage images from the ‘Bowl for us to enjoy. Also, sincere condolences go-out to the family & friends of former New England modified competitor Billy Knight who passed-away last week. To all, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com            

Yet-Another Batch Of “Old Stuff”….

We start this week’s edition of Racing Through Time on a sad-note, as it was learned last week that former New England modified racer Billy Knight passed-away on Sunday, June 5. He was 56. Starting his career at Plainville Stadium, he also raced frequently at Riverside Park and Stafford. Our Webmaster Tom Ormsby who raced against Billy at Plainville had this to say: Billy started at Plainville, but spent most of his career at Riverside. I always knew him to be a really nice person. He raced at Stafford for a time and was a big fan-favorite at Riverside Park. Knight was always known for really sharp-looking equipment and this shot of him in his Vega at Stafford is no exception. Our sincere condolences are offered to his family & many friends. (Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).   For Billy's obituary <<CLICK HERE>>

Here’s a great shot of the late Ed Yerrington at Waterford circa 1967. After a distinguished career as a racer, Yerrington successfully made a transition to the management segment of the sport working a several New England raceways. Note the body on this little number; it’s a Studebaker Lark. Though coupes & coaches were prevalent throughout the 1960s & 70s, occasionally teams would create something a little different. Waterford long had a reputation for somewhat radical cars. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer).

The year is 1972, and the guy behind the controls of this neat coupe is journeyman Speedbowl chauffer Bob Finkeldey. Another photo from the collection of Chris Langer, it was noted that this was the former #101 originally piloted by Walt Perkins at the ‘Bowl. Finkeldey remained a staple of the competition at the shoreline oval though the 1970s, and was most-known for his drives in the #110 coupe. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer).                                  

Captured here at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early 1970s is Danny Hyde in his #J7 coupe. This car was a former Simons Brothers “Excavator Special” and was driven to many wins by some of the finest racers in New England. That’s Jerry Dostie in his Crown-7 coupe in the background. Not that this shot was captured before fire-retardant driving uniforms became mandatory! (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer)      

Seen here is yet-another example of the Speedbowl’s forward-thinking car builders of the early-1970s. Bob Tetreault was also among the guys who utilized the stylings of the compact Studebaker Lark to makeup the body on his rather-radical shoreline oval chariot. Note the packed-house. There was once a time when New England short tracks routinely played host to sell-out crowds almost every week. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer).                      

Here’s popular Lou Caso trackside at the shoreline oval during his days as a Modified chauffer. Though he never scored a feature victory in the Speedbowl’s headlining class, he was a Bomber division standout taking multiple main event wins in the popular support class. Remaining a staple of the Speedbowl scene for many years, Caso departed the sport as the 1970’s began. That’s Chris “Wally” Gada on the outside, and in the #121 is the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer in his familiar #121 coupe. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer).     

Captured here pitside at the Speedbowl during the 1969 campaign is Mike Cherrick. The car was owned by Ken Davis & Tim Brown, both local products residing in Waterford. According to a clipping in the New London Day newspaper at the time, the car was powered by a 327 Chevy engine and was reportedly one of the “better handling machines of the new season” at the shoreline oval. Neat ride, huh? (Dugas Photo).                   

OK, so we’re seemingly a bit fixated on Studebakers this week… Seated behind the wheel of yet another of the South Bend, Indiana products is another member of the Tetreault family, this-time, it’s Lou. The locale of-course is Waterford, and the year is 1971. One of the steadier competitors at Waterford, Lou was the 1955 Bomber division champion at the ‘Bowl, and scored a combined career-total of 31 feature wins in the Bombers & Modifieds. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Chris Langer).                     

When you think of Charles “Chick” Stockwell, your mind immediately conjures-up images of overwhelming success as the all-time winner on the ultra-competitive surface of the late SNYRA-sanctioned Danbury Fair Racearena in Connecticut. Nine championships, 207 victories, and a stint as “Most Popular Driver” for six-years (1976-1981), are bound to sew-up his association with what was once considered one of the most-successful short track operations in America. However, Stockwell’s accomplishments are much further-reaching than his deeds experienced at Danbury. Racing as much as three and four times a week (a common thread for drivers of his generation), he successfully conquered the New York state dirt ovals of Orange County, Lebanon Valley, and Rhinebeck (AKA Dutch’s County Fairgrounds), the latter bringing him the 1957 championship. During the fifties, he also campaigned at Nutmeg State speedplants such as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, Thompson Speedway, Plainville Stadium, and the Stafford Fairgrounds. Extremely versatile, Stockwell was also successful within the full-bodied divisions, annexing the 1963 & 64 United Stock Car Racing Club’s Grand American titles. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, this ancient image captures Chick at Danbury. (Mannion Photo).                     

Lastly this week, we have an oldie of the late “Hammerin Hank” Stevens captured at the former Westboro Speedway which was located in Massachusetts. Though he’s mostly recalled as a top-notch stock car driver, Stevens scored many wins all over New England during a career that included competition in both Modifieds and Midgets. Stevens was particularly-good at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl and stands-out as one of that tracks most-proficient early chauffeurs. (Miour Photo, R.A. Silvia Collection).

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

 
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