Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 12,2010

 Volume 2, Number 16                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

With the 25th annual Westboro Speedway Reunion slated for later this month we thought we’d feature a few shots from that much-missed Massachusetts oval. The event takes-place on Sat. May 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 17 Willow Street in Westboro and runs from noon to 6pm. Go to www.near1.com for more info. Also on the agenda this week is a peek at a few more images from the archives. Special-thanks to Webmaster Tom Ormsby & our longtime friend Rob Bunnell for reaching-into their collections. As-always, enjoy!  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Westboro, Riverside, Waterford, Plainville, Etc….        

Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts was an ultra-competitive paved ¼-miler that opened in 1947 and sadly, closed its gates forever at the conclusion of the 1985 season. From Midgets to Coupes, and just about everything in-between, Westboro hosted them-all during its long history. This shot from the 1960s captures Joe Cast (46), Big Joe Rosenfeld (44), Deke Astle (2), and, Fred Borden (10), partaking in some typical action under the lights. With its steep (and sometimes treacherous), high banks, the track provided New England fans with some of the fastest speeds in the region during the “Coupe Era.” (Balser Photo)

Originally constructed with an eye on the bustling post-war Midget racing boom, Westboro Speedway could seat eight-thousand fans, and during its heyday the place was routinely-packed. The first-ever event for the facility was in-fact, a Bay State Midget Racing Association show won by Joe Sostilio in his Leader Card Special. However, when the Coupes displaced the Midgets as the main weekly-draw in New England, the fans just kept-coming for action like this. For a more detailed look at the orgins of Westboro, grab a copy of “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers” penned by our pal Lew Boyd and available at www.coastal181.com  (Balser Photo)

Youthful Pete Salvatore was one of the early “Coupe Era” heroes to emerge from the steeped tarmac of the late Westboro Speedway. As clean-cut a young guy you’d ever find and extremely popular with fans, he was known as “The All-American Boy.” The guy was a HUGE winner. A champion at both Westboro and Brookline, he’s seen here celebrating victory in an entry owned by Bob Bouchard (Ron & Kenny’s dad). That’s Bob in the middle. (Balser Photo).    

Before stock cars took-over following the war years, Midgets were THE short-track attraction across the nation and Westboro Speedway had them in droves. Seen here at the ¼-miler once located on the Boston-Worcester Turnpike is Johnny Mann, one of the best-ever. A multi-time Northeastern Midget Association champion, Mann scored heavily with multiple New England Midget sanctioning groups, and ranks 5th on the all-time NEMA winners list. Want a little-more history on Westboro and its drivers? Be sure to attend the track’s 25th Annual Reunion taking place on Sat. May 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 17 Willow Street in Westboro. Festivities-get underway at noon and run until 6:00. (Bob Miour photo courtesy Tom Ormsby).    

Seen here in 1961 on Riverside Park’s old fifth-mile (the Agawam, Massachusetts track was later extended to a banked ¼-mile configuration) is Bobby Bard Sr.  Notching many wins at both Riverside Park (where he ranks 26th on the all-time winners list), and Plainville Stadium, he was a top New England Modified driver for decades. For a time, he also ran weekly at the Waterford Speedbowl when the facility assumed a UNITED sanction in 1975. (Shany Photo courtesy Tom Ormsby).  

Captured here during an early Modified outing, Richard "Toby" Tobias was a tremendous race car driver, an innovator, and remarkable fabricator. His career spanned nearly 3-decades, ending tragically with his death in a USAC sprint car race in 1978. His lifetime win total of over 300 races was celebrated in several different types of open wheel race cars. He became nationally known for his exploits on the USAC sprint car circuit, notching their 1972 "Rookie of the Year" title. However, he is perhaps known best to those of us in the Northeast as one of the greatest Modified drivers of his generation. (Photo courtesy Tom Ormsby).      

Here’s a rare-one courtesy of our Webmaster. It’s the “Cut-Down” era at Riverside Park Speedway, and the pilot of this little Coupe is none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Charles "Buddy" Krebs. From 1948 to his retirement in 1974, he won an estimated 200 features, competing in the Modified, Sportsman, and Grand National divisions. Krebs is best-recalled for his accomplishments at Riverside, where he notched multiple track titles. He also took six Riverside 500 wins, with his 1st coming as a teammate of Jocko Maggiacomo (ironically, the other driver in this shot). He also won at Westboro, Plainville, Millers Falls, Candlelight Stadium, Thompson, and Stafford. Krebs was a founding member of NEAR. (Shany Photo courtesy Tom Ormsby).               

Here’s a peek at some real Waterford Speedbowl history. The guy celebrating victory flanked by a duo of pretty young ladies is Benjamin “Turk” Hewitt. Older brother of multi-time Speedbowl Modified champion George “Moose” Hewitt, Turk was a standout Bomber class driver at the shoreline oval celebrating 13 career victories during the early days of the popular support class. We believe this ancient image to be from Labor Day, 1959. The photo was submitted by our old friend Rob Bunnell, brother of longtime Bowl’ Modified shoe, John Bunnell. (Shany Photo courtesy Rob Bunnell).          

Seen here “on the gas” behind the controls of the Joe Palmeri-owned #VO Coupe at Plainville Stadium during the early-1970s is Ron Van Nesse. A big winner at that popular Connecticut ¼-miler, he also occasionally ventured-out to other area speedways such as Riverside, Thompson, and Stafford. From the “Coupe Era” to the newer-generation of Pinto/Vega creations, Ron remained a factor at any track he ran for many seasons. (Hoyt Photo).

And here’s a West Haven Speedway shot of a classic driver behind the wheel of a classic car. From his New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame biography; “Billy Greco’s first race car was a Dodge 6 cyl.-powered car, running in the Non-Ford division at West Haven. He debuted in the #1147, but the number was shortened to 147 at the urging of track announcer Tom Galon, who said that the number took too long to repeat. The following year, the number was changed again, this time to K9, because, according to Greco, “The car was a dog.” Greco began racing in 1951, and established himself in the sport early on, by taking track championships at West Haven in 1955, and again in ’56 and ’58. He won Saturday night championships at Riverside Park in 1965 and 67, and also took down several Tuesday night track championships a the Park. His combined feature win total at the Park is 68 including five 500 lap team races. Billy’ success was not limited to just driving for Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car club. He was a charter member for the All Star Racing league and had success on both dirt and asphalt. In the late sixties he tried his hand with NASCAR. Later in his career he was allowed to join NYSSCRA and he raced at the Danbury Racearena. The car in this shot is one of the potent Coupes of Fred “Sharkey” Gaudiosi (also a Hall of Fame member). It was one of the most-winning & recognizable cars in all of New England Modified racing. (Shany Photo).

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

 
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