Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 17, 2012
   

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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

With last weekend’s Fourth Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion again a rousing-success, we figured we’d feature some history from Joe Tinty’s much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler as the basis for today’s offerings. Again, a huge congratulations is offered to all involved in putting-together this year’s edition and making it another memorable experience! Also on the agenda and approaching quickly, twenty racing pioneers considered central to the success of the sport in New England during its formative era will be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 18 at the Speedway Clubhouse located on the grounds of the Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, Connecticut. Doors open at 10:00 am, with dinner to be served at 1:00. Tickets are economically-priced at $35.00. Reservations may be made by sending payment to NEAR Pioneer Banquet, Box 172, Milldale, Connecticut, 06467. For additional information, contact NEAR President Val LeSieur at 508.238.7797 or email vallesieur@aol.com. Our condolences go out to our friend NEAR Hall of Famer Denny Zimmerman who's brother Mark passed away Monday. Mark was himself a former Modified driver. More on Mark can be found on the SpeedwayLineReport.com web site. As-always, reach me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Revisiting The Past At Plainville Stadium…..

This is the man that bought auto racing to Plainville Connecticut. Race track owner & promoter, respected local businessman, and showman, the late Joe Tinty was all of these. Though running the weekly races at his much-missed Plainville Stadium in Connecticut (along with a bit of help from his Race Director Moe “Moneybags” Gherzi), no-doubt kept him busy, Joe always found a little time to entertain the crowd. This shot captures him with his beloved Palomino named “Sugarfoot” doing a bit of “horsing-around.” It could have been intermission on race-night, or it could have been one of the many circuses that he booked into the track over the years. Joe Tinty was truly a unique individual, and will join Gherzi as a member of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 18. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

When the Internet was still basically in its infancy, this guy was at the forefront in bringing the subject of vintage New England modified racing to a willing audience. He also happens to be Webmaster of this site, as-well as the popular www.vintagemodifieds.com , www.speedwaylinereport.com and www.near1.com  In the 1970s, our good friend Tom Ormsby was having a ball wheeling this neat Pinto modified at Plainville Stadium. Though he’s since relocated to Florida, he remains a huge contributor to the New England vintage racing community. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

No-matter how many times we run shots of this car and driver, it never gets old. An installment of “RTT” dealing with Plainville Stadium would not be complete without an image of Dave Alkas in the Roland Cyr-owned #54. An absolute powerhouse at the tricky ¼-miler, teamed with Cyr he notched 5 track championships in a 10-year period. Competing regularly against Plainville alumni like Reggie Ruggiero, Stan Greger, and Ronnie Rocco, he routinely bested the field, notching eleven feature wins in one season-alone. He triumphed regularly during those great Plainville mid-week 100-lap open competition shows, beating visitors like Ed Flemke, Sr., Ron and Ken Bouchard, Bob Stefanik, and the late Dick Watson. The most successful Modified driver in Plainville Stadium history, Dave was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Captured here is Bill Brown seated behind the controls of a car that looked not-unlike those that competed all-over New England during what many consider to be the regions true “Golden Age” of modified racing. A typical late-60s, early-1970s creation, his ride is a good representation of a period in-which mechanical ingenuity and creativity played the primary roles in getting a car to the track, rather than the size of ones wallet. Brown was one of the top drivers during his tenure at “Tinty’s Place.” (Phil Hoyt Photo).    

Over-the-years, we’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of truly-unique New England racing personalities, and it’s been an unforgettable experience. From the big-winners to the journeymen drivers, they ALL rate here at “RTT.” Pictured here is our friend Bobby Mikulak who was one of Plainville Stadium’s finest for over a decade in the 1960s & 70s. In addition to wheeling his memorable #78 coach (the one with the infamous Budweiser beer can screwed to the roof), he also sometimes served as a hired-gun for other teams. Al Rhode was the owner of this little “Plainville-Prototypical” coupe entry. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Here’s an action-shot of one of modified racing’s true Nice Guys, and I’m happy to consider him among my friends. Like so-many of the drivers that became premier players within Plainville Stadium’s weekly action, popular Don Spazano traces his “racing-roots” back to the Novice Division. This shot however, captures him in later years as one of the track’s top modified pilots. Ranking high on the tracks all-time winners list, the popular Spazano also competed with success at a number of other tracks in the region including Riverside Park. You gotta’ love this neat-looking coach! (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Here’s a simply timeless image of a driver whose accomplishments in the sport elevated him to a status few will ever reach. From humble beginnings at Plainville Stadium he became simply one of the best racers to ever strap-into the cockpit of a modified. The much-celebrated Reggie Ruggiero is seen here during the 1970s while subbing for the radical Coach’s regular driver, Nicky Porto. By the end of this evening, the New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer was posing for a victory lane shot; never an easy-feat at Plainville. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Plainville was always a great Saturday night venue for the tracks regular fans who wanted to catch a few hours of grassroots New England modified racing at it’s best, but it was Joe Tinty’s ambitious 100-lap Wednesday night open shows that defined the place to a wider audience. They were star-studded affairs drawing from tracks all over the region and showcased the best drivers of the era along with the always-tough “home team.” This image captures New London-Waterford Speedbowl standout Seabury Tripler posing for a smoke-break in his radical “M” coupe during an early-70s edition of one of those legendary mid-week happenings. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Here’s a nice color shot of Tony Dadio culled from the early-1970s. Starting his career during the 1950s at the UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway, Dadio was a winner and consistent front-runner at both Plainville and West Haven (often referred to as “Savin Rock” for the adjacent amusement park). As seen-here, during this period in the sport each car had a “look” of its own. Cookie-cutter “store-bought” creations such as we see today had yet to creep into the sport. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

His racing roots tracing back to the rough n’ tumble tarmac of Plainville Stadium, Stan “Stash” Greger parlayed that modest start into one of the most-stellar careers in all of New England modified racing. After conquering his home-turf, it was on to the ultra-competitive Riverside Park in Agawam where he’d eventually record a trio of championships and nearly forty feature wins. Greger remains perhaps one of the most-underrated drivers in our region, a winning history garnered during what many railbirds still consider to be our segment of the sport’s most-competitive period. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

BONUS SHOT: A huge part of Plainville Stadium history as-well as a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi earned his nickname for claiming some of the most-lucrative purses offered during the formative years of the sport. Not unlike many drivers of his era, Moe also raced midgets during the early days of his career. As stated earlier, he served for years as the Racing Director at Plainville. This shot was actually captured at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl when Moe was in his prime as one of the region’s most noteworthy competitors. (Shany Photo, R.A. Silvia Archives).

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

This Weeks Comments
(19 hours ago) RICH FALLIS said:

JUST A LITTLE MORE TRIVIA ON THE REGGIE 69 COACH THE CAR WAS HARVEY VALLENCOURTS 38 THE COACH THAT WENT OVER THE WALL BECAME NICKYS CAMARO MOD THAT RACED AT THE PARK AND LATER PLAINVILLE

(5 days ago) Tom L said:

What...a segment on Plainville and not one photo by Steve Kennedy? com'on man.... just kidding, great Job Dave! Love the Plainville stuff. My first race there saw Porto flip his coach. I used to get in for free (Thank you Mr. Tinty and my Dad)for like 7 yrs, most every week. Reg was my driver starting with the 59 coupe but I was also partial to Stash, Dave Alkas, Dave Germano, Jap, Sherm Saunders, Bill Brown, Ronnie Rocco, Carl Charette, Elmer Lee,John Bergenty,... and so on. Great memories for sure

(6 days ago) steve k said:

Plainville trivia- that 69 coach (1973) became the purple 00 jr in 1974; the Reg drove it, so did Stanley "Stash" Gregor.

(6 days ago) mike said:

great shots of the cars at plainville. i've seen them all race. boy, those were the days.

(6 days ago) Anonymous said:

Stan Greger was one of the best there was, He probably won with every car he ever drove in his career. He always got the job done! He was also known as the "Consi" king at Riverside Park for always winning the Consi to get into the main

 
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