Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 7, 2009

Volume 1, Number 40                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

The big-news in New England is this weekend’s much-anticipated Plainville Stadium Reunion which goes-green on Saturday October 10th from 10am – 4pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located at 430 Beckley Road in East Berlin, Ct. (raindate is Sunday). Many former stars of the much-missed ¼-miler are expected to attend. For more information visit www.speedwaylinereport.com In-honor of the event, this week we present a few more Stadium’ images culled from the RTT archives. See you all this Saturday!  Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com 

Turning Back The Clock On Plainville Stadium Part II    

Captured here during June of 1977 is journeyman Stadium’ competitor, Larry Babbit. This car was wheeled by Bill Harris (note the “Bill or Larry” on the roof, no-doubt a nod the duo’s racing partnership), at the Waterford Speedbowl to many a fine-finish during the earlier-years of the era. When Harris was at the shoreline oval, the neat little Coupe wore a gleaming-white coat of paint and carried the #17. (Kennedy Photo).

And here we have one Jimmy "Doc" Robinson ready to take the green in 1973. Typical of the rides of the time, Robinson’s pre-war Coupe sported a stock production frame, and components that were the result of the builder’s ingenuity and a lot of long-evenings in the garage. Not a lot of “store-bought” stuff on this car, and it certainly was a more-affordable sport for the “average-guy” back-then. Also note the mufflers – Plainville was among the first tracks in the region to mandate the sound-suppressing devices. (Kennedy Photo).

Coupes seemed to remain popular at Plainville long-after many area Modified haunts had abandoned them for the more contemporary stylings of the Pinto/ Vega/ Gremlin onslaught (one of the things your author always admired about the place). Seen here in another classic image captured by fledgling racing photographer Steve Kennedy is Elliot Beveridge, one of the ¼-milers star performers. In the foreground, that’s Bob Vivari in the Chevy II-bodied mount, and Don Moon in his signature #9 Pinto. Expect to see “Moonie” at the Plainville Stadium Reunion this weekend. Note the vintage Fire truck manning the infield – a classic in-itself! (Kennedy Photo).

Before becoming a regular at Plainville, the well-traveled Sherm Saunders was one of the top-performers at the UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway. Seen here in one of the Berndt-families North End Auto Parts cars, Saunders was a winner for the team. It’s believed that this shot is from 1974. (Kennedy Photo).   

The good-times only last so-long. By the late-seventies, the Coupes & Coaches of old were on the way-out even at the Stadium’, and most top-running teams had switched to more-modern equipment. See here with a slick Vega Notchback in July of 1978 is Tony Papale. Tony’s surrounded by members of a prominent Plainville racing family in this image. That’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, multi-time champion, and all-time Plainville winner Dave Alkas to the inside, and Dave’s brother George (himself a formidable competitor), in the #64x. Dave will definitely be at this weekend’s Reunion, as he’s been instrumental in helping to put the event-together. (Kennedy Photo).

Honestly, I have little information on this driver, Jack Proulx. Graduating from the Novice Division where he was crowned champion in 1965, he ran this classic-looking Modified Coupe in the early-seventies (this shot is from Saturday evening, August 18, 1973). Records (sketchy as they are for Plainville), indicate that he was in-fact a winner, and remained one of the Stadium’s top-drivers for many seasons. It’s a great photo, and really illustrates what it was all-about during the much-heralded “Coupe Era”. That’s the infamous “Checkered Flag Announcer” AMC Gremlin of Paul Tremain sitting in the infield.  (Kennedy Photo).  

Nicky Porto remains one of the best to have ever-competed at Plainville Stadium. Another driver that spent the formative years of his career competing at West Haven Speedway where he snared multiple victories, his reign at Plainville was nothing-less than spectacular. Leaving the local scene for a brief period in the mid-70’s, he headed to Riverside Park during what was arguably one of that track's most-competitive eras becoming an almost instant feature winner (May 17, 1975 to be-exact). Porto later returned-home to “Tinty’s Place” picking-up where he’d left-off as a winner. This shot captures him on Wednesday June 29, 1977 on the evening of one of those great 100-lap open-comp shows that used to draw capacity-crowds to the Stadium’. (Kennedy Photo)

As with the aforementioned Jack Proulx, the RTT archives are rather-unclear as to the career-accomplishments of this driver, Loren Trombley. Though Plainville remains among the most-difficult tracks to document, with the aid of several old trade papers we managed to determine that Loren was, in fact, a multi-time feature winner during his reign at the Stadium’ (an admirable-feat considering the level of competition during the mid-seventies). This is another shot from the open-comp 100-lapper on June 29, 1977. New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Ed Flemke Sr. piloting the John Stygar-owned Pinto bested a star-studded field to win that night. (Kennedy Photo).  

Clearly one of the best to have-ever emerged from the Stadium’. Though he’s often-identified as a “Plainville Racer”, the career accomplishments of Elton Hill are much, much, more. As a racing prodigy of the late, great Ed Flemke Sr., he traveled extensively during the 1960’s, picking-up feature victories at places like Riverside Park as well as Utica-Rome in New York State (once a hotbed of NASCAR Modified competition). This John Grady image captures “Elty” during one of his Utica-Rome sojourns. Elton will be among the personalities taking-in the Reunion this Saturday! (Grady Photo).

Most-certainly a star at Plainville Stadium, but also one of the best in New England, period. Ronnie Wyckoff remains in this scribes opinion, one of the most overlooked and underrated drivers in New England Modified racing history. In addition to his many triumphs close to home at Plainville, he’s a multi-time co-winner of the Riverside Park Speedway’s 500-lap contests. Always in-demand with the top car owners of his era, the teams that the affable Wyckoff drove-for during his long-career reads like a “who’s-who” of the sport. As captured here during an early Plainville triumph, he always did it with a smile – he remains the same today. Ronnie is another former-racer that’s expected to make an appearance at the Plainville Reunion. Make-sure you stop & say hello – you’ll be glad you did! (Hoyt Photo).

Lastly, here is another bonus photo taken Saturday September 26th at the Waterford Speedbowl of New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Ray Miller on the starters stand. Ray was the Grand Marshal and Guest Flagman for the evenings events. Ray got his start at Plainville Stadium in 1965 and will be one of those in attendance at the Plainville Stadium reunion. (Steve Kennedy Photo)   

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

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