Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday March 31, 2010

Volume 2, Number 10                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we present another dose of Waterford Speedbowl history as the Connecticut oval basks in the glow of one of its most successful openers in eons. Special thanks go out to frequent contributor & friend Mal Phillips for again forwarding some shots for our enjoyment! Get-well wishes go-out to our pal, longtime racing writer Pete Vanderveer who’s been recently hospitalized. GET-WELL SOON PETER!!    Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Yet Another Dose Of Speedbowl History….     

Last week we ran a shot of the late Johnny Savage Jr., a past competitor at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Thanks to regular “Racing Through Time” contributor and friend Mal Phillips, now we can see where it all started for the Savage family. Captured here during a trackside ceremony (not-sure of the occasion), is John Savage Sr. A winner in the Non-Ford division (an early support class), he was an extremely popular racer at the Speedbowl of the 1950’s. (Shany Photo, Phillips Collection).   

And here’s another shot of John Savage Sr., this time lined-up for a Non-Ford feature at the Speedbowl. This is a significant shot not-only because it captures one of Waterford’s true pioneers, but also because of the car. This was one of the first rides campaigned by famed car owner/builder and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Art Barry of Preston, CT. For over fifty-years, Barry creations have been landing in victory lane with drivers like Bob Potter, Leo Cleary, George Summers, Bobby Santos, Ed Flemke, Sr., and Reggie Ruggiero aboard – it’s a long list. That’s 1953 Non-Ford champion Darwin “Bud” Matter and his #99 in the background. (Shany Photo, Phillips Collection).       

It’s Saturday evening September 9, 1978 at the Speedbowl, and that’s Dave Monaco in the Monaco Ford Mustang #36 (one of the few Ford-powered Modifieds of the era), leading New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer the late Ed Flemke Sr. #10, and Roland LaPierre Jr. #134 (who went-on to win the event). As a side-note, Roland is the son of early New England Modified star, the late “Pappy” LaPierre, and the grandfather of Nick Teto, the young man behind www.yankeeracer.com (Kennedy Photo).     

It’s November 4, 1979, and New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer John Rosati has just captured the Speedbowl’s open-competition “Fall Stinger 100.” It wasn’t an easy feat, as he’d recovered from a flat early in the event, un-lapping himself for the victory. On the right is track owner/promoter the late Harvey Tattersall Jr. (also a HOF member). Next to Harvey is Chief Starter Chris Hopkins. (Kennedy Photo).

Seen here behind the controls of a Vega Modified during the spring of 1981 at the shoreline oval is John Bunnell. Starting in the Sportsman Sedans (an early full-bodied support class), with the exception of 1974 when he wheeled a #27 Ford Fairlane entry for future Street Stock champion Ed Reed Sr., John’s cars always carried his familiar #65. Though victory lane eluded him during his long career in the Modifieds, he was a fine driver that recorded many top-finishes in the Speedbowl’s headlining division. (Kennedy Photo).  

We really like this Speedbowl paddock shot from 1981. Seen here is second-generation racer Rod Seller. Inheriting the wheel from his father Bob (currently Vice-President of the New England Antique Racers), who was one of Waterford’s first Street Stock competitors when the class debuted in 1977, Rod himself spent some time in the full-fender class before graduating to this Vega-bodied Modified. The Seller family is very active with NEAR. (Kennedy Photo)  

Here’s another Speedbowl action shot from 1981. A trio that’s obviously very-hard on the throttle, this one captures Mark LaJeunesse in one of his familiar #33 mounts leading the late Marvin Chase, and that’s Ronnie Wyckoff in the Berndt-owned #54 North End Auto Parts Vega. Note the old railroad-tie walls; they remained in-place until the arrival of the Korteweg family in 1988 who replaced them with Armco barrier as-well as making other capital improvements including a complete re-paving of the racing surface. Often-overlooked historically, the Kortewegs’ contributions to the Speedbowl were many, and their tenure as tireless promoters was one of the most-successful of the track’s modern era. (Kennedy Photo).           

If you’re even remotely familiar with Waterford Speedbowl history, you should know something about this popular driver. Captured here in 1983 during the twilight of a career that had started at the very beginning of the place in 1951, is the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer. Though he scored only 4 Modified feature victories (the first in 1966, the final in 1969), his impact on the fans at Waterford, as-well as the many young drivers he tutored over the years is simply immeasurable. Teamed with his father “Pops”, the duo campaigned perpetually low-buck creations out of their modest shop for decades, getting the job done season-after-season. Following the passing of Pops, Fuzzy stepped-in as a hired gun for the LaJeunesse team, recording a string of fine finishes that continued until his retirement in the late-1980’s. To this-day, the name “Fuzzy Baer” remains synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl. (Kennedy Photo).        

Here’s a guy that really got-around during his many seasons as one of New England Modified racing’s premier drivers. A big winner since the days of the old West Haven Speedway, Anthony “Jap” Membrino was one of the most-colorful characters that our segment of the sport had ever seen. This action shot captures “Jap” toward the end of his career during a rare Speedbowl appearance in July of 1981. (Kennedy Photo).

Joe Tiezzi returned as a regular at the Speedbowl in 1975 when Harvey Tattersall Jr. purchased the place. For a number of seasons he remained one of the shoreline oval’s most-successful drivers, recording multiple feature wins. This victory lane shot captures him on the evening of August 22, 1981. The guy on the left is none-other than 1978 Street Stock champion, Ed Reed Sr. The Tiezzi family had a long history at Waterford, having campaigned the potent #230 Coupe during the early years with among others, the popular Benny Deroiser at the wheel. (Kennedy Photo).

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

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