Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 5,2010

 Volume 2, Number 15                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Yet another week and another edition of “Racing Through Time” (time flies when you’re having fun!). This time we highlight the career endeavors of our usual “New England Celebrities” along with a few personalities hailing from the upper-reaches of the Empire State. Enjoy! As-always,  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

(Yet-More) Modified Memories….        

Captured here in the lens of celebrated racing photographer the late Fred Smith is Dave Kotary. A standout racer in the Northeast for many seasons, Kotary got his start in the Modifieds wheeling coupe-bodied creations like the one seen here. Among his many accomplishments was nailing a track championship at New York’s Brewerton Speedway in 1963, a season in-which he won 17 out of 20 events ran. At the time, he was only 20 years-old. Many more triumphs followed at Empire State haunts such as Utica-Rome, Malta, and Shangri-La. (Smith Photo)

The late Kenny Shoemaker was one of the best in the sport, period. To list the number of victories and top car-owners that he drove for during his heyday would simply take more space than this weekly column allows. “The Shoe” is justifiably an inductee of several stock car racing Hall of Fames. Kenny passed-away in 2001 leaving-behind a huge legion of fans and fellow competitors that recall him as one of the most exciting drivers to have-ever graced a Northeastern speedway, dirt or pavement. (Grady Photo).  

The year is 1965, and the venue is the late Reading Fairgrounds Speedway in Pennsylvania. Opened on September 20, 1924, the popular dirt half-miler ran continuously (save for the war years), until 1979 when it was sold in the name of development. The absolute-best in the sport of dirt Modified racing competed here weekly in front of capacity crowds – the place was always packed. Sadly, the property in which the once-proud track stood is now the site of the “Fairgrounds Square Mall.” It’s a fate that unfortunately, befalls too-many of our nation’s short tracks. (Consoli Photo).       

Another great Empire State Modified driver was Dick Clark, captured here in a classic Coach-bodied entry (complete with big-block injection), during what we believe to be the late 1960s. Like many of his contemporaries, Clark was proficient on both dirt and pavement. Based on his accomplishments in what many racing historians consider the true “Golden Era” of Northeastern stock car racing, Clark was inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in 1997. (Grady Photo).   

The late Billy Schulz was a prominent New England Modified racer for many years, experiencing success throughout the region. He was particularly-good at the storied Massachusetts oval known as Norwood Arena where he was a champion. This shot captures Billy there in the late 1960’s. A banked ¼-miler, Norwood closed forever at the conclusion of the 1972 season with New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Dave Dion claming the final championship. By that-time, Late Models were the top-class at the Arena. Today, there’s no-trace of what was once considered the premier center of NASCAR Modified racing in the Northeast; the site is now an industrial park. For a more comprehensive look at Norwood Arena history, visit our friends at www.norwoodarena.com  (Balser Photo).   

And here’s another famous New York State Modified racer from the past, Chuck Boos. The car seen here (shot during the 1969 campaign at Lancaster), was really-trick for it’s time. Featuring 4-wheel drive, it never really hooked-up on pavement, but was an absolute rocket on the dirt. Boos’ of-course, was one of the big-winners of his time scoring multiple track championships at places like Lancaster and Ransomville. Never one of the “flashier” racers, Boos’ easy-demeanor and basic-approach to the sport coupled with a willingness to help fellow competitors (esp. those new to the sport), made him very popular with both racers, and grandstand patrons. (Reining Photo).      

Here’s the late Danny Galullo, perhaps one of the most-overlooked drivers in the history of New England Modified racing. Webmaster Tom Ormsby recently relayed to me that his good friend the late Ed Flemke Sr. often said that Galullo “was a driver you could run wheel-to-wheel with without worry.” Needless to say, few were a better judge of talent than “Steady Eddie.” In the early-days, “Dangerous Dan” was part of the “Waterbury Gang” that routinely invaded that baseball stadium-turned raceway, the West Haven Speedway, doing battle with local heavies such as Johnny “King” Cambino, Billy Greco, and Tommy Sutcliffe. A two-time Riverside Park titlist, he recorded twenty Park’ victories, the first coming in 1960, the final in 1966. Adding to his stellar record is the 1962 United Stock Car Racing Club Grand Championship, a title earned by conducting a season-long point chasing blitzkrieg tour of the many Tattersall-sanctioned tracks in the New England region. This guy was simply one of the best the Northeast had to offer during his era, and the statistics prove-it! (Grady Photo).              

As with the guy profiled above, here’s another New England Modified shoe that’s kind of “slipped through the cracks” in a historical-sense. Starting his racing career in Florida, Ronnie Wyckoff quickly became one of the area’s premier drivers after relocating northward in the early 1960’s. A 3-time Riverside 500 champion, he found success at virtually all of New England’s Modified venues during his long career, and drove for the some of the best in car-owners. As evidenced by his triple in the Riverside 500 events, he was particularly good at the long-distance shows. Though Plainville Stadium records are incomplete at this time (we’re working on-it), it’s estimated that Ronnie’s win-total at that track approaches 40. Couple that with a parcel of victories at Riverside Park between 1974-1980, and you have what could only be considered a stellar career. This Plainville shot captures him behind the controls of the potent Czarnecki coupe. (Hoyt Photo).         

While we admittedly don’t know a whole bunch about the driver of this ultra-sanitary coupe, the image goes to prove that Plainville Stadium did indeed sport some fine-looking machinery. In addition to his endeavors at “Tinty’s Place”, Jack Geary also raced at the Danbury Fair Racearena, where he scored 1 career feature victory. Though not confirmed, it’s believed that he also competed at Riverside Park and West Haven Speedway and made sporadic appearances at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Any readers care to elaborate on Mr. Geary’s career? (Hoyt Photo).

The last shot for this week captures popular Lou Caso pitside at the Waterford Speedbowl during his days as a Modified chauffer. Though he never scored a victory in the Bowls’ headliners, he was a Bomber division standout scoring multiple 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. (Dugas Photo).

 

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

 
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