Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday March 14, 2012
 


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Sometimes luck just goes your way; such is the case with this week’s selection of vintage photos from Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. Some time-ago, old friend Paul Romano contacted me to tell me that he’d secured a number of 70s-era Speedbowl shots in the way of some scrapbooks that his childhood friend Walter Jablonski had assembled when he was a fan of the shoreline oval (and a big Dick Dunn supporter). Turns-out that Walter as-well as Paul were both prolific model car builders when they were kids, with Walter having been a winner in the popular contests which were once a part of each season at the Speedbowl. Ironically, I competed in these affairs also, my best results being a third-place in 1975 with a replica of Jerry Pearl’s #43 coupe. It’s indeed, a small-world! Special thanks go out to Paul this week for donating the use of his old pal Walter’s scrapbooks for all of us to enjoy! Also, contributing this week’s “Bonus Shot” is our Chester, CT. pal, John Divis. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com                         

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Scrapbooks From The 70s (Thanks Walter)…..        

On the left is multi-time Waterford modified champion Dick Dunn, and on the right is a young Walter Jablonski who’s just won the annual Speedbowl model car contest with an exact-replica of the “Buddha’s Bullet” coupe that Dick had masterfully chauffeured to so many Waterford victories in the 1970s. With the exception of the “Bonus Shot” all of this week’s photos are from the scrapbooks that Walter had carefully assembled as a youngster (and huge fan of Mr. Dunn). This shot actually appeared in the Friday, June 21 1974 edition of the Groton News, making the junior high school student quite the local celebrity for his winning effort. Today, a number of Walter’s models are carefully-preserved in a showcase at Spectrum Powder Coating in Griswold, CT. which is owned by his longtime friend Paul Romano. It was Paul who made all of this week’s photos available for use in “Racing Through Time.” (Dave Shippee Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).

It simply wouldn’t be a tribute to Walter’s efforts in preserving the history of Dick Dunn’s reign at Waterford as a multi-time champion without a shot like this. From left-to-right, are a crew member (if anyone knows this gentleman’s identity, please feel-free to write), car owner Peg Gaudreau, Dick, and Al “Buddah” Gaudreau. As a husband & wife team, Peg & Al provided Dick with the horsepower to notch scads of feature victories and four consecutive modified track crowns from 1972-75. You gotta’ love the sculpted likeness of his car owner that Dick’s just been presented-with! (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).                   

This one stands-out as one of my personal favorites in Walters’s collection, as I was a big fan of this driver, and especially the car (the handiwork of the late Owen Bowen). Seen here celebrating another win with his crew during a long & successful career at the shoreline oval is the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. It’s the early 1970s, and he was really-hot in this Rambler American-bodied entry. It was quite the radical-ride and representative of the seemingly always-unique machinery that was campaigned at the Speedbowl during that era. Bill’s last-ever feature victory came while aboard this car on Easter Sunday in 1974. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).                               

And here we have a coupe-era Saturday night feature lineup shot at what was then known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. The late Johnny Savage campaigned this ride to many fine-finishes during a career that started in the mid-1960s. He was closely-associated with the team of shoreline oval Icon, the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer and his father “Pops.” Sadly, Johnny passed-away a few years-ago at a relatively-young age. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).              

Stan Wildermuth may have never been a prolific feature winner, but as a teammate to the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer, he won the respect of his peers as a predictable, consistent chauffer; a guy you could race wheel-to-wheel with, no problem. A back-marker by no-means, Stan was always in the thick of the battle, recording a number of up-front performances during his career. His reputation as a capable racer was an enduring affair, as during the former “Heroes of the Bowl” events (a race where former drivers climbed into Street Stocks during Waterford’s annual Nostalgia Weekend), he was always in-demand with present-day teams. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).      

It says “Bill” on the roof, but to longtime Speedbowl fans, there’s no mistaking who’s behind the wheel. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, the ultra-popular Bob Potter started his career at shoreline oval in 1962 behind the controls of a Bomber class entry. Never officially retired, Potter went-on to win multiple modified championships at Waterford (where alone, he claimed close to 100 career victories), Thompson, and Stafford. Also in this shot is “Daring Dick” Caso in the #86, and Mike Beebe in the #09. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).            

Here’s a 70s-era image featuring a real Superstar within the ranks of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s support classes. Extremely-popular and a huge winner, “Big Mike” Daigneault handily scored the 1973 Sportsman Sedan title and endeared himself to the fans with his patriotic red, white & blue “Spirit of 76’” Ford entries. Mike ranks 7th on his divisions all-time win list with a total of 27 career feature victories. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).   

It was a car absolutely-synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, and was responsible for stealing a LOT of checkered flags at the track affectionately nicknamed the Shoreline Oval” by locals. Raced to ultra-success by some of the best drivers to have ever competed at The ‘Bowl, on this day in the early 1970s, it was popular Angie Cerease at the controls. Like those that came before him, Angie was also a winner in the potent little Willys-bodied creation. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).                      

By the time Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo posed for this shot at the controls of his Pinto modified, he’d already established himself as a Waterford winner having taken his first checker in 1971 as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. In 1988 his career reached its zenith, as he and longtime racing associate Dana Gerry waltzed-off with the championship. A surprise to everyone, Ceravolo then promptly announced his retirement, going-on to oversee the racing career of his son Todd. Like-father, like-son, Todd became a Speedbowl modified champion in 1997. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).       

Captured here at the controls of his very-first modified ride, Norwich, CT. racer Mark LaJeunesse made the weekly trek down Rt. 395 to the Waterford Speedbowl for decades. Starting his career as a youth in the quarter midget ranks, he returned from the armed forces in the early 70s to begin a modified career that spanned over thirty seasons. The first victory came in 1974 with many-more following including a triumph in the Speedbowl’s 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Under the Tattersall UNITED sanction of 1975, he garnered the Sportsman Modified title. (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).

BONUS SHOT: Though the image is worn & tattered, if you’re a longtime fan of the Speedbowl, you’re sure to know who the young guy behind the wheel of this Bomber class entry-is. From these humble beginnings Newt “Mr. Lightning” Palm went-on to become one of the most popular & winning drivers to have ever competed at Waterford. He was still a relative-unknown at this stage of his career, but things would change rapidly. Newt scored a combined total of 48 feature victories in both modified & bomber class competition. He was twice a Bomber track champion in 1959 & 60, and scored the Modified title in 1967 & 68. Keep-in-mind, that this was accomplished during what would be considered a very-short career by today’s standards. Special thanks to our friend John Divis for contributing this shot from his personal collection. (Shany Photo, John Divis Collection).   

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

This Weeks Comments:
 

(5 days ago) Dan Hansell said:

I have a pix of my Dad Bruce Hansell and my Grandfather Bud Peck who had a car that they raced at that track. I would like to poxt it somewhere If I may. The car was # 69

 

 (5 days ago) stan cogdill said:

Thanks Lary for the street info on the M-6. I love this site and the pictures. If I could just go back one more time to Riverside Park in the summer of 1963 (1/5 mile) and see Dick Dixon wheel the M-6 through traffic to the front.

 

 (6 days ago) PEG said:

LOVE THE PICTURES WANT TO REMIND YOU DICK WON CHAMPIONSHIPS 72-75 BUT PEG AND AL ALSO WON CAR OWNER IN 76,THANKS AGAIN FOR THE KIND WORDS

 

 (6 days ago) nels wohlstrom jr. said:

ANOTHER GREAT WEEK OF RTT!
 

 

 (6 days ago) Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Talked to Ray, The photo of his 1st car that was pictured last week was in 1965 and the photo was taken at Malta, N.Y. The one and only time he raced there.

 

 (6 days ago) Lary Pincince said:

note to stan cogdill about the M6,in last weeks column I think it was green st in monson.

 
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