Taking A Look At Northeast Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 2, 2012
 


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Volume 4, Number 18                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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Tearoffs
MAY 4

 SIZZLER REFLECTIONS 1972/2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Something we’ve always encouraged here at “RTT” is reader input via email. It’s served us well over the years as we’ve managed to make a lot of great new friends, and we’ve also been able to present at-least some of the subject matter that you readers want to see appear each & every Wednesday. Among the most-requested are shots from Connecticut’s late and much-missed Plainville Stadium and the still very-much alive Waterford Speedbowl, another great little Connecticut oval. With that-said, please enjoy this week’s selections from Waterford. Above-all, have a safe & happy week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com    

Pacing The Past (Again)….Speedbowl-Style!      

Seen here celebrating a Modified feature victory during his pre-“Buddha’s Bullet” days (a reference to the famed mount owned by Peg & Al Gaudreau that he’d race to Speedbowl Stardom in later seasons), is a young Dick Dunn. Bringing to the table a wealth of experience by the time of his pairing with the Gaudreau’s, he went on a rampage in 1972 annexing four-straight Modified titles. Like so-many of his contemporaries, Dunn was a graduate of the Bomber division having first-visited victory lane in that popular support class during the 1959 campaign. By the time of his retirement, he’d scored a total of 40 Waterford Modified victories. Note the old-school Firestone racing shirt Dick’s wearing – a prized racing collectable today! (Shany Photo).   

Here’s a wonderful 60s-era shot of the best-ever at the Speedbowl. Newt “Mr. Lightning” Palm was a multi-time titlist and certainly one of the most-popular drivers to have ever competed at the shoreline oval. Sadly, his career was cut-short due to serious injuries received at Seekonk during an open competition event at the Massachusetts oval. During a brief reign (by today’s standards), Palm captured a total of 4 track titles at Waterford, which also included 2 in the Bomber division. (Shany Photo).        

Here’s what it was all-about at the Speedbowl during the formative years of the track also known as the “Shoreline Oval.” Meet “Big Butch” Caswell. Smiling-away and seated behind the wheel of a full-fendered Modified coupe typical of the early days, he was a mountain-of-a-man. He was particularly-good in the Non-Ford division, recording a number of victories and top-5 finishes during his career. (Shany Photo).       

We really like this one! Three or four-wide at the Speedbowl is a beautiful thing – when it works! Here’s a wonderful early action shot captured through the lens of the great Shany Lorenzent, one of the real pioneers in the field of New England auto racing photography. That’s Jerry Glaude in Freddy Beaber’s checkerboard #716, Glynn Shafer in the #6, Angie Cerease spinning in the L&M, Jiggs Beetham #18, Dave Spence #206, and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members Bob Potter in Roger Bonville’s #110, and the late Dick Watson in the Norm Kies #21. (Shany Photo).                 

To be honest, we really don’t know a whole-lot about this driver, Butch Zak other than what we’ve researched in our large collection of vintage Speedbowl programs. However, that’s not to say that we don’t like his neat little coupe! Typical of the transitional era in New England Modified racing, by the 1960s & early-70s creations such as this were the norm. Gone were the “full coupes” to be replaced by lighter & lower rigs like the one seen here. (Shany Photo).       

Like any other Saturday night short track in the nation, crashes are part of the action at the Speedbowl, and will remain-so; it’s the nature of the beast. On this night in the early 1970s, getting tangled-up in the action was our late friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Dick “The Silver Fox” Watson with the Norm Kies #21, and that’s Mike Beebe’s #09 Mustang. By the look on his face, Dick seems to be wondering when the wrecker is going to get the cars separated so he can return to the action! (Shany Photo).                              

Nicknamed the “The Southern Gent,” Bill Grainger was just-fine with the moniker bestowed upon him by the Speedbowl’s announcing team. Hailing from North Carolina, he’d garnered an impressive racing resume by the time of his arrival in CT. courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Navy. While stationed at the Sub Base in nearby Groton, Grainger and his team ran this seemingly-massive 1957 Plymouth entry in early-70s Daredevil division action. The car was a winner. With his number a nod to “The King” and a roof adorned with a giant Rebel flag, there was no mistaking the fact that this Southern boy meant business! (Rene Dugas Photo).                      

Seen here in the early-70s is the late Matt Jones behind the controls of an entry typical of those found in the old full-fendered Speedbowl support class known as “Daredevils.” Created in 1965 to bolster a sagging car-count in the Bombers (another support division), there were a TON of these things competing once the class got-rolling. Consisting of mostly “Tri-Five” Chevy’s & Fords, it was a bang-up show and very popular with fans. Jones was closely-associated with the Gada family team, who still compete weekly at The Bowl’. (Shany Photo).      

Another one from the early-1970s, this shot captures one of the Speedbowl’s more consistent competitors during that period. Daring to be different, Don Phaneuf campaigned this Ford Maverick-bodied entry within the waning-years of the much-heralded “Coupe Era” at the shoreline oval. Though he never notched a feature victory, he did score several qualifying heats and a number of top-5 main event finishes. (Shany Photo).     

Captured here behind the controls of a positively-classic coupe, though he was on the scene for a seemingly short-period, Ed Barton managed to etch his name into the shoreline oval history books as a winner. On Saturday evening June 26, 1971, he took the 36-lap June Championship Modified feature event over Speedbowl stalwarts Jiggs Beetham, Seabury Tripler, “Daring Dick” Caso and Don Bunnell. Future Modified champion Dickie Doo Ceravolo was the accompanying Sportsman Sedan main event winner that night. (Shany Photo).                 

BONUS SHOT: Seen here following a feature victory in an early Bomber division effort, Newt “Mr. Lightning” Palm went-on to become one of the most popular & winning drivers to have ever competed at Waterford. 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. (Shany Photo).   

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

 
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