Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 27, 2009

Volume 1, Number 43                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


This week, not unlike an ill-handling race car, we’re all-over the place (hey, nobody eve-accused your author of being stable). Anyway, our selection runs the gamut from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Mod Stars, Dirt Denizens, and Late Model Movers, there’s a bit of something for everyone. As always, enjoy!    
Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com 

Another Weekly Peek Into The Past….       

Seen here at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1960’s is a young Tommy Mactino. A rather infrequent visitor to the shoreline oval, Tommy was a star at the UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway. Also referred to as “The Rock” owing to it’s close proximity to the old Savin Rock Amusement Park, it was a paved 1/5 mile oval located on the waterfront in West Haven, Connecticut. The track was somewhat unusually shaped, built around a baseball diamond named Donovan Field (after "Wild Bill" Donovan, a manager of the NY Yankees). Many of New England’s finest Modified drivers called West Haven home at one time. Billy Greco, Johnny Cambino, Danny Gaudiosi, Sal Dee, and Danny Galullo are just a few. A victim of urban renewal, the track closed in 1967. (Shany Photo).

Captured here celebrating a 1981 Waterford Speedbowl victory is the late George “Moose” Hewitt. A 5-time Modified champion at the Bowl’, he scored a career-total of twenty-three feature victories in the Modifieds, SK Modifieds, and Bomber divisions. In addition to his local triumphs, he also won at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway on multiple occasions, including a stunning victory in the 1975 Winston 100. Sadly, the popular Uncasville, CT. chauffer passed-away in February of 1997 while still very-much in his prime as a driver. Often-overlooked is the fact that before coming to auto racing, Moose was a champion Motorcycle racer. (Kennedy Photo).   

Another popular driver at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl was this guy, Charlie “Chuggy” Savage. Seen here in the early 1970’s, Savage was one of the shoreline oval’s “top-guns” in the Modified division for eons. You have to love the neat little Coupe that he’s sporting in this shot. Check-out the flag mounted on the front-end, along with his matching “face protection” (hey, this was before full-face helmets!). Savage was one of the benefactors of the cost-cutting standards set-forth in the advent of the SK Modified, doing quite-well in the early-days of the division. (Shany Photo).

If you claim to be familiar with the history of the Waterford Speedbowl, you should know who this guy-is. If you don’t, shame-on-you! Captured here is “Dirty Dick” Beauregard, truly one of the earliest of the shoreline oval’s “Superstars”. In a career that spanned only a decade, this racer managed to accomplish more than most drivers spending twice-as-much time behind the wheel. Starting in 1952, he went-on to score a combined-total of sixty-two victories in Modified & Non-Ford competition along with two track titles before hanging-up his helmet and relocating to the West Coast. Dick was named as one of the Speedbowl’s “All-Time 50-Favorite Drivers” when the track celebrated its half-century mark in 1991. (Shany Photo).     

While not-sure of the location, (or exact-year), I just couldn’t resist running this coupe-era victory lane shot of the “King of the Modifieds”, the late, great, Richie Evans. A New York State farm-kid who came to the Modifieds after a short-stint in drag racing, Evans set-the-bar in our sport for many years while remaining universally popular with fans and fellow competitors (a rare-feat for any winning athlete). The “Rapid Roman” (a nod to his hometown roots in Rome, NY.), he managed to score nine NASCAR National Modified championships before it all-ended on that bleak fall day at Martinsville in 1985. It’s doubtful the sport will ever see another driver that had the positive impact on Modified racing that Richie-had. He was simply that well-liked and respected. (Bisci Photo).

Local racer Gordon Page ran in the Modified division at Waterford for many seasons. Always fronting a team of modest-means, he was found in the thick of the action every week often competing against those with budgets that were far-above what he had to work-with. As I’ve often relayed in this column, it’s important to remember that it takes more than just a select-few winners to make the sport. Guys like Page are more than mere “field-fillers”. To a degree, they’re the very backbone of the sport. This shot captures Gordon in his familiar Coupe during a spring Bowl’ outing in the early 1970’s. (Shany Photo)

The late Lou “Monks” Lazzaro – the name is magic in the history of Northeastern Modified Racing. He raced an incredible six decades on dirt and asphalt on tracks from Canada to Daytona and amassed 250 plus feature wins. He was extremely versatile and would successfully race and win with the same car on the dirt and pavement with only minor changes. His Saturday night home track was Fonda Speedway, where he amassed 113-career feature wins over four different decades and four track championships (1964, 1969, 1977, and 1978). Lou's final Fonda Speedway feature win came on May 15, 1999, less than a year before his untimely death. A lifetime guaranteed starter at Fonda, he was described many times as "the embodiment of Fonda Speedway". His greatest win was Orange County Fair Speedway's Eastern States 200 in 1978. Lazzaro was also track champion at Victoria Speedway (1962, 1964) and Albany-Saratoga Speedway (1969). He was New York State NASCAR champion once in the Sportsman division (1964) and three times in the Modified division (1969. 1971, 1972). He also won the prestigious All-Star League title twice (1968, 1971). One of his favorite tracks, besides Fonda, was the Utica-Rome Speedway, where he won 27 career Asphalt Modified features and three track championships (1963, 1970, 1971). He was a three-time winner of the prestigious New Yorker 400 (1963, 1968, 1969) race held on the old Utica-Rome asphalt track. In addition, Lazzaro has two career Utica-Rome Dirt Modified feature wins, the first being the first ever dirt race held at Utica-Rome. (Bisci Photo).

It’s 1974, and the driver you see here is one Blaine Belz. A mainstay of the competition at the Waterford Speedbowl for years, he scored many fine-runs in this neat little Coupe. Like the aforementioned Gordon Page, he was never a huge-winner, but was there every week giving it his best-effort. Earlier versions of this car were painted in a brilliant gold scheme (see RTT for 1/14/09). Always known as a steady-chauffer, in later-seasons the popular Belz served as a “hired gun” for a number of different Speedbowl teams. (Shany Photo).

Long-before his exploits in the Waterford Speedbowl’s Super Stock division of the 1980’s elevated him to “Flyin’ Brian” status, Norwich, CT. native Brian McCarthy was a teenaged Sportsman Sedan driver wheeling a hulking 1956 Ford (we’ll save a shot of that car for a future-column). Seen here in his prime during his days as a supreme “broad-slider”, it was in this later Chevelle that McCarthy etched his name into the Bowl’ record books as one of the best-ever in the “fender-divisions” as-well as the 1986 champion. For a time during the Super Stock era (the forerunners of today’s Late Model division), there was nobody more exciting to watch than this guy! (Kennedy Photo).

You simply can’t discuss Northeastern short track racing history without mentioning this guy, Bill Wimble. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, the following is an excerpt from his NEAR biography; Bill Wimble drove his first race at Canton, NY's St. Lawrence Speedway in 1951, driving a '36 Ford that he and his brother bought for $50. They built the racecar on the family farm, working late at night after the evening chores were done. The following year, 1952, saw him take down his first win, at Ottawa, in Ontario, Canada. Wimble won his first track championship at Plattsburg, in 1955. In all, Wimble won 14 track championships at 8 different tracks. Add to his resume 5 New York State Championships, and 2 Connecticut State Championships under the NASCAR banner. Bill progressed to racing in the prestigious NASCAR Sportsman division, where he raced against drivers like Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. It was no surprise when he won the Sportsman (currently known as the Nationwide Series) championship in 1960, then tied for the title in '61. Bill loved racing on the dirt at Stafford. "I used to work in the hayfield till noon on Friday, take a bath, pack and drive 330 miles to Stafford to race. It made a long day but I loved every minute of it." During the 1967 season, Wimble competed at three New York tracks, Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga, and Fonda. In true Wimble fashion, he won championships at all three tracks. Bill dominated at Fonda in the 60's, winning 5 track championships between 1960 and '67. For a great-read and an even closer-look at Wimbles extraordinary career, check-out the book “I’ll Never Be Last Again” available at Lew Boyd’s Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com   (Grady Photo).

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

 
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