Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday November 27, 2013
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

First, I’d like to wish all of our readers a happy start to the holiday season. It’s indeed a time for reflection, and a period in-which we should remember to be thankful for all we have in this great country. As for this week’s installment, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all who continue to contribute photos – it’s always appreciated! Lastly, extra-special thanks to my transplanted Floridian pal Tom Ormsby who serves as Webmaster (not easy when you’re dealing with someone as “computer-challenged” as me). Without his dedication the site simply would not have become a reality over four years-ago. So-far it’s been a great ride! Till’ next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Thanksgiving Offerings (In a Racy Sorta’ Way)…

Presented here courtesy of none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the much-accomplished Dr. Dick Berggren is an incredible image of one of my personal childhood heroes, the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. As the result of a recent email conversation, Dick was good-enough to search his extensive archive of negatives when I’d mentioned that for eons I’d been looking for a shot of Bill when he was wheeling the potent Bonville #4 Bomber at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1960s. Also seen in this timeless victory lane image is the late Jack Brouwer (grandfather of former ‘Bowl Late Model champion John Brouwer Jr.), who was among the early owners of the shoreline oval. Scrivener later successfully advanced to the headlining Modifieds, but not before he claimed a career-total of 21 Bomber feature events and clinched the divisional championship wheeling this ride in 1965. This is a beautiful photo! (Shany Lorenzent Photo Courtesy Dr. Dick Berggren).

New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer “Dangerous Dan” Galullo was one of the brightest stars of the once powerful United Stock Car Racing Club headed-up by the Tattersall family. Pictured here at Massachusetts’ former (and greatly-missed), Riverside Park Speedway, he won the 1962 Grand Championship, a lofty feat accomplished by winning at the many UNITED-sanctioned tracks that once dotted New England. Shown here in what is believed to be one of Bob Oliver's potent #10. A multi-time Riverside Park titlist, he also recorded feature wins at Plainville Stadium, Waterford Speedbowl, and Cherry Park in Avon, Connecticut among others. He competed in at-least one documented NASCAR Grand National event (now known as the Sprint Cup Series) at New Jersey’s Old Bridge Stadium in 1956. Following a serious heart-attack, Galullo retired from driving while still in his prime. He passed-away in 1974, but not before witnessing the racing accomplishments of his sons, Richie and Danny Jr. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

And here we have another classic entry from our friend, New York State Racing Historian, Roger Liller. Not unlike how-much this week’s first entry means to yours-truly, this driver holds a special place in Roger’s bank of racing memories. We’ll let him explain. He says, “I just heard that Saugerties, NY. driver Stretch VanSteenberg, one of my favorites, passed away recently. He had been living in Florida over the past several years, and is survived by his son Jeff who still lives in the Saugerties area and is involved in racing. This photo of Stretch is from his friend Don Beesmer of Olive Bridge, NY, and shows him at Pine Bowl Speedway with his #38 where he had great success. He won 1 feature at the Arlington Speedway, and 4 at Rhinebeck putting him in a 5-way tie for 10th all-time.” Photos like this help keep the significance of these racing pioneers at the forefront. Roger and his group the Hudson Valley Historic Racing Association do a terrific job of preserving their regions rich racing heritage! (McDowell Photo Courtesy of Roger Liller & Don Beesmer).    

Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium - one of my favorite topics! Seen here making a 1960s appearance at Joe Tinty’s racy little ¼-miler is none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the late Dick Dixon. Here’s an excerpt from his HOF biography; Dick Dixon was a family man from Warehouse Point, Connecticut.  He was a top competitor in the United Stock Car Club, USCC, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and also competed in the Grand American division run by NEAR Hall of Fame member, Harvey Tattersall Jr. One year, he won 13 of 15 late model features run by United. He earned several wins on the old Big E racetrack in both the coupes and the late models. Dixon and the white “8balls” that he built in his own shop were synonymous. In an era before fire retardant safety clothing were known, Dixon and the “8ball” crew stood out in their clean white shirts and pressed pants. At a time when most of his competitors were having success with Chevys, he was almost exclusively a “Ford” man.  Dixon raced in several Grand National (Winston Cup) events, including races at Charlotte, Lime Rock, Daytona, and Islip Speedways. Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett were close friends.  In fact, Holman-Moody offered Dick a lucrative contract to move down south and manage their race shop.  Dick decided to pass on the offer, however, to allow him to spend more time with family and continue to compete in the northeast. Dick was well respected in “local” racing circles, competing against NEAR Hall of Fame legends: Bergin, Caruso, Charland, Flemke, Greco, Krebs, and Jocko Miaggiacomo. Unfortunately, Dick Dixon lost his life in 1967 while competing at Thompson Speedway in the #zero sedan normally driven by fellow Inductee, Billy Harman.  As a tribute to Dixon’s popularity, the Indianapolis Speedway had a moment of silence the weekend after Dick passed away.” (Faust Photo).

Our Webmaster & good friend Tom Ormsby also donated a shot to this week’s festivities, and it’s a dandy! The late Johnny “King” Cambino earned his nickname as one of the premier drivers at rough & tumble Connecticut ovals like the late West Haven Speedway (as seen-here), Plainville Stadium, and Cherry Park in Avon. In later years, he followed United to Riverside continuing his reign as one of the club’s top-competitors. This shot captures him ready-to-roll in a coupe typical of the fare offered-up at West Haven. Stated above is really only part of the story. In the 1990s “The King” came out of retirement while in his sixties to become a winning driver in the Waterford Speedbowl’s Street Stock class. Some guys just possess a natural talent in the racing game – this guy was one of them. (Shany Lorenzent Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

He was known as “Gentleman Dick” Watson and in subsequent years, simply as the “Silver Fox.” My friend the late Dick Watson was one of the most-respected drivers of his era. A fellow competitor that raced against Watson during his heyday once stated that “He was a driver that you could run with lap-after-lap. You simply never had to worry about him doing something that would get the both of you in-trouble.” This image captures him during the 1970s at Connecticut’s Thompson Motor Speedway when he was behind the controls of the Norm Kies-owned entry, a relationship that bought him much-success. Deservedly-so, Dick was inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame in 2003. (Rene Dugas Photo).

Our old pal Carl Kibbe of NEMA sent us this neat shot of a pair of the greatest open-wheel racing talents to have ever emerged from our region. On the right is Hall of Famer Dave Humphrey who before becoming a New England Midget racing legend (6-time NEMA champion), was a winning stock car racer. In fact, he handily annexed the 1951 title at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl to become that track’s first-ever champion. On the left is the late Johnny Coy whose celebrated career began in 1946 and concluded in 1984. The 1949 Auto Racing Association/Midget Auto Racing Association champion and a 4-time ARDC titlist, Coy triumphed in Midget events all over New England with a NEMA feature win total in the double-digits. The location & year of this image? It’s 1982 at the former Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts. (Carl Kibbe Collection).        

Next, we have a unique “wreck shot” from Connecticut’s much-missed Danbury Fair Racearena. Our friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby knows the skinny on this one, which fortunately, wasn’t as-bad as it looks. He says, “This is the #4 of our friend Don Moon at Danbury. A car cleaned-off his rollcage, roof & all. He was very-lucky in this one. The only thing that saved him is that he was only wearing a lap belt and was able to duck-down when he saw it coming. Otherwise, it could have taken his head-off.”  Moon, one of Plainville Stadium’s best-ever, successfully campaigned at Danbury for a number of seasons, becoming a feature winner at what many consider to have been one of the most- competitive racing venues in New England. (Mannion Photo).

Jerry Glaude was a Speedbowl Bomber class standout that found success in the Modifieds almost immediately. Seen here pitside during the “Coupe Era” at the shoreline oval when he was the chauffer of one of legendary Waterford car owner Freddy Beaber’s famed “checkerboard” specials, the popular Glaude recorded a combined total of nineteen feature victories before quietly retiring from the sport. (Rene Dugas Photo).          

It’s the former Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts during the glory days of the United Stock Car Racing Club, and the driver is one Gig Smith. A regular at the ultra-popular Agawam oval for a number of seasons, Gig’s cars were always sharp-looking. We really like this little number from the days when coupes & coaches were still the way to go. It looks to be perhaps, a Willys body? And take a look at the induction setup under the hood – pretty exotic compared to what we have today, huh? Riverside always hosted neat cars…. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK 1: And once-again we present a couple of images from the files that we’re having some difficulty-with. Both of this week’s picks are from Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl (as it was first officially known), and we haven’t the faintest idea of who these racers-are. If you have any concrete information on these guys, do email us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com  In doing-so, you’ll be aiding in our little on-going “New England Auto Racing Preservation Movement” (thankfully, it never seems to end!)…. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK 2: And, here we have specimen #2 of this week’s “Motorsports Mystery Personalities.” This dude looks vaguely-familiar to us, but not-enough to guess at a positive ID. Remember, there are literally hundreds of these images in the “RTT” archives, so any assistance we get is very-valuable! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

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

 
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