Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 6, 2009

Volume 1, Number 19                                                                                       New Column Every Wednesday


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This week we start on a sad-note, reporting on the loss of New England Modified Great Billy Schulz who passed-away last week. Racing Through Time sends sincere condolences to Billy’s family on their loss. As always, there’s a liberal dose of nostalgia for this week’s readers, everything from a few “Dirt-Slingers” to some “Speedbowl Standouts”. As always, enjoy your stay at our little slice of cyberspace and feel-free to visit often! At the bottom of the page is a bonus video featuring the late Ollie Silva I found surfing the net. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@yahoo.com   

Modified Racing Looses Another Pioneer Along With A Few More From The Archives….            

With last week’s passing of New England Modified Great Billy Schulz, we loose yet another piece of the puzzle that represents the history of our sport. Schulz was one of the top-drivers at the much-missed Norwood Arena, and also excelled at many other regional venues including Seekonk Speedway, and Thompson Speedway. He was the founder and operator of Country Club Auto Body in Norton MA., running the business for 40 years until recently retiring. Billy is seen here celebrating a Norwood Arena win on July 5, 1969. (Balzer Photo).     

Captured here in May of 1978 is Speedbowl Street Stock competitor Scott Porier. Driving for Jay Stuart (who later became a fine competitor in his own right), Porier scored three victories on his way to a second-place finish in the season standings, a scant 7-points behind titlist Ed Reed Sr. Started in 1977 by United’s Harvey Tattersall Jr., the Street Stocks were a wildly-popular division boasting full-fields and a slam-bang program. Not to be confused with today’s hybrid class, with the exception of safety features these things were truly-stock, boasting factory chassis and bias-ply 78-series passenger tires. (Kennedy Photo).

Larry Lamphear was a local kid who literally grew-up going to the races at the Speedbowl. When it came time to start his career, he purchased a coupe from his friend the late Terry Peabody, and went-racing. This Mustang II-bodied entry was his second car, a paddock shot captured in 1977. Lamphear was an exciting competitor during his years behind the wheel, last visiting victory circle in 1988. (Kennedy Photo).

Seen here in a classic Speedbowl coupe-era shot is Charlie “Chuggy” Savage. Though he frequently ran at Waterford scoring multiple victories in both the Modifieds and later the SK’s, he also tasted success at other tracks in the region. This car served as a dual-purpose ride for Charlie, as he was also known to take-in an occasional dirt show. Note the professional-appearance of the team. (Dugas Photo).

Joey “Pops” Trudeau was a fan-favorite at the Speedbowl for decades, and his winning reputation kept him in-demand with all of the top teams of the early days. This shot captures him with one of his many 60’s-era rides. After coming-close to notching the championship on several occasions, he finally scored in 1971 wheeling a Mustang-bodied creation for the Gada team. Curiously-enough, Trudeau took the title without the benefit of a single feature victory. For the Gada clan it was a banner-season, as Bob Sr. also scored, winning the Daredevil title. (Dugas Photo).

Winning at Waterford seemed to come-easy to the Bunnell family, and they always did it in immaculately-prepared equipment. When Ed notched the Bomber championship in 1966, it was a preview of things to come. Seen here in one of the team’s creations is younger brother Donnie Bunnell, who became one of the shoreline oval’s most prolific winners of the 1970’s. Perhaps the most memorable of his accomplishments was a stunning win in the UNITED-sanctioned “Bicentennial 200” of 1976, then the Speedbowl’s longest Modified event to-date. Making the race even more special, he was wheeling a supposedly “outdated” coupe (now restored and campaigned by NEAR's Don Murphy). Note the period-perfect “psychedelic” paint scheme as well as the “family crest” on the front bumper of Donnie’s Chevy II mount. All the cars were truly a reflection of the builder back-then. (Shany Photo). 

In 1974, Rick Elnicki was a model of Speedbowl consistency, scoring two feature victories on his way becoming the Sportsman Sedan champion, upstaging divisional strongman, Ron “Boots” Cote by a narrow-margin. Rick is seen here with a car typical of the division, a “Tri-Five” Chevy. Considering the amount of these classics that were cobbled-up in the name of local short-track racing, its little-wonder that they fetch so-much money on today’s classic car circuit. But then again, they were simply “used cars” when this shot was taken! (Dugas Photo).

If you’re reading this, little introduction is required for this driver. Simply one of the greatest to sit behind the controls of a race car, the late “Dynamite” Ollie Silva was both a huge winner, and one of the most-admired competitors in all of short track racing. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Silva recorded over five-hundred feature victories over the course of a career that started in 1949 at the long-shuttered Dracut, MA. Speedway and concluded in 1980. He was victorious in Modifieds, Supers, Sprint Cars, and Cut-Downs. Etched into the record books of the Waterford Speedbowl is an absolutely-dominating Modified win in the 1974 Hott Wheels 100 in which Silva lapped the entire field not once, but twice! To this-day, the locals still talk about it….. (Grady Photo).       

Seen here in 1964, Dave Lape wasted little-time in jumping head-first into the big leagues of dirt-track stock car racing. As one of the best-ever, his career actually started at the now-defunct Victoria Speedway in upstate NY. From there, he established himself as one of the men-to-beat at another New York State oval, the historical Fonda Speedway. Known primarily as a dirt-specialist, it should be noted that Lape also excelled in the art of asphalt racing before settling-in on the dirt as both a driver and well-respected car builder. With a Fonda record approaching one-hundred feature victories as well as five track championships, at age 61 the resident of Canajoharie, NY is still very-much part of the weekly field at Fonda looking to improve on his impressive record at the place known as “The Track of Champions”. (Grady Photo).      

The late Anthony “Goober” Scheidel may have never been a huge winner, but for what he lacked in racing victories, he more than made-up for in simply being a great human being. Extremely popular with both fans and fellow competitors, Goober stated his career at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium before directing his efforts toward the big dirt ovals of the Northeast. Never a “high-buck” operator, it was the self-satisfaction of actually competing in the arena of his childhood heroes coupled with a simple love of the game (and perhaps a dose of racing wanderlust), that kept him going. This shot captures the personable Goober during one of his dirt sojourns to Fonda Speedway. (Grady Photo).

It’s 1971 at Plainville Stadium, and this pit-side image captures what it was all-about in those days. Get yourself a little pre-war coupe, bolt-in a small-block, add the required safety-features, and go-racing. Shown here is the Modified of Pete Saunders, who purchased it from a guy named Tom Ormsby when the latter took a break from racing to serve in Uncle Sam’s Air Force. With a degree of fondness for his old ride, Tom recently relayed some of its finer points. “That was my 4x coupe. I sold it to Pete at the conclusion of the 1969 season. He ran it the next-year, and perhaps the 71’ & 72’ seasons also,” says Ormsby. “One of the things I remember well is that it had two ten-gallon Volkswagen gas tanks. There was a switch on the right side of the driver’s seat to switch between the two. I would use one tank for practice and qualifying, and switch it to the other for the feature. It was Pete's first Modified, I believe the only one he ever drove, having run in the Novice class prior to that. I think Bobby Mikulak may have ran it a few times for him also. Later-on, he owned a Pinto that Fred Alkas drove.” Ormsby returned to racing after serving his country, competing at the Stadium’ until its closure in 1981. (Hoyt Photo).

   
 

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