Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 28, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 37                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

With this year’s Plainville Stadium Reunion quickly-approaching, we’ll be taking a look at Joe Tinty’s late, great Connecticut ¼-miler for the next couple of weeks. Remember this date; Saturday, October 8th, the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club World of Wheels presents the Third Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion. The event takes-place from 10am – 4pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located at 430 Beckley Road, East Berlin, CT. Many thanks go out to our good friend and my Publisher & Webmaster Tom Ormsby for delving-into his archives and providing us with this week’s timeless images of Plainville Stadium! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com            

Celebrating (More) Plainville Stadium History….   

Here’s a great shot from Mr. Ormsby’s archives and we’ll let him provide the commentary; Pictured is Bobby Nield and the late Eddie Hamel-owned #25. Bobby Knox was the longtime driver of the car, Nield only drove a short time and I don't know much about him except he never raced again after this. The car was distinguished by a small blue light on the roof. Eddie unfortunately was one of the five people hit with shrapnel when my #VO coupe went through the fence. This is a rare photo. I'm pretty sure this is the only shot that captures long-time Track Physician the late Dr. Edmund "Ned" Ziegler (seen in dark coat between the ambulance attendants in the white coats). Plainville was the only track in New England I'm aware-of that employed a Physician at the track and had onsite a fully-equipped first aid trailer. Dr. Ziegler was a former Medical Director for the City of New Britain and for many years was the Head of Emergency Services at Middlesex Memorial Hospital in Middletown before he retired.  (Ormsby Collection).                   

And here’s a shot of the aftermath of the crash that Tom Ormsby refers-to in the first photo from this week’s edition of “RTT.” A stuck-throttle was the culprit that caused our Webmaster and his #VO coupe to crash through the retaining wall during the early 1970s. Luckily, the rudimentary safety features kept our pal from serious injury  and Tom was racing-again the week after his unscheduled flight. As Tom says  surprisingly the front axel came off cleanly, not bending the frame and we burned the midnight oil getting the car ready for the next week, painting the car red and changing the Number to 24. (Ormsby Collection).      

Here’s an absolute classic! Pictured here is Ray Brown, the 1950 Plainville track champ aboard the Ed Weigand-owned #356. Ray was also the champ in 1950 at the Riverside Park Speedway back in the days when one could race 7 days a week. Brown was a resident of White Plains, N.Y. Special thanks to our Webmaster for the info. on this shot, as I’d seen it before but didn’t know details! (Ormsby Collection).

Here’s a neat early-70s color shot of Plainville Stadium competitor, Bob Vivari. A former track champion and big-winner at The Stadium’ for many seasons, he was one of the first at the late Connecticut ¼-miler to successfully campaign a Modified sporting “late model” sheet-metal. Following the Chevy II pictured here, Vivari’s later mount sported a Pinto body, rather unique in a field that overwhelmingly consisted of the more traditional Coupes n’ Coaches of the day. These days Bob and his wife Rox Ann are residents of Daytona Beach. (Ormsby Collection).     

Here we have a nice victory lane shot of Pud Noble. There was a time at the Stadium’ when it was populated by scads of drivers like the colorful Pud; the place was really rockin’ when this image was captured of ole’ Pud in his Novice Class entry. It’s only been in recent years that people have realized just how-important Joe Tinty’s little Connecticut ¼-miler really-was. As I’ve stated previously, it was the first track I ever attended after I got my drivers license and was able to stray from my home base of the Waterford Speedbowl. I loved the place along with its colorful drivers and competition that was second-to-none! (Ormsby Collection).           

Here’s another timeless Plainville image that we really like, and thanks to our Webmaster we were able to add it to the “RTT” archives. The late Sparky Belmont (real name Michael Belmonte), was a Plainville track champion, and a big racing star in New England for many seasons. After a convincing victory in a 100-lap contest at Plainville in 1968, he collapsed during the post race celebration, and passed-away on the spot. Very popular with both fans and his fellow competitors, “Sparky” had been a star on the post war Midget circuit before switching to stock cars. This car is the former George Lombardo driven XD-2 Willys coupe. (Ormsby Collection). 

There’s a neat story tied-in with this one. The racer captured in this image is popular Plainville chauffer, Harry Bliss. Or is it? Here’s the low-down from Tom Ormsby, our Webmaster, former Stadium Modified racer, and historian of all-things Plainville;  “This is the Flying 8 of Harry Bliss in the 1960’s,” states Tom. “His real name was Harry Sargent, and he was a Sergeant on the Hartford Police Force who used the name “Harry Bliss” so they wouldn’t know he was racing. He was always fast and won several features, but didn't run every week, having to miss the events when he had to work. I believe the Hartford Police Dept. had rotating weekends off and Harry could only make the races those nights he had-off. This car is a former V8 driven by Bill Slater” As Tom (a former racing Police Officer himself), attests-to, back-then the local authorities apparently frowned-upon one of their own taking-part in any speed contests, as the powers-that-be considered race car drivers somewhat unsavory characters. It didn’t stop Harry! (Ormsby Collection).         

The gentleman posed next to his ultra-sanitary coupe in this shot is Russ Faust, son of Frank Faust, the man responsible for capturing so many of the very-early Plainville images often seen on this website before Phil Hoyt took over in 1968. Russ was a top-runner during the heyday of Joe Tinty’s fiercely-competitive (and much-missed) Connecticut ¼-miler. (Ormsby Collection).   

If there was ever a “King of Plainville Stadium” this guy was the man. See here is Dave Alkas, 5-time track champion, and the Stadium’s all-time Modified winner. Dave is also one of the guys responsible for the upcoming Plainville Stadium Reunion. This image captures him behind the controls of the feared Roland Cyr coach. When Dave pulled out on the track in this ride, his fellow competitors knew that they have their work cut out for them! Fittingly, our pal Mr. Alkas was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Ormsby Collection).    

Here’s another shot of one of our buddies. 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 as seen here. Riding 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! (Ormsby Collection).     

We liked this photo and the great story that accompanies-it so-much, that we decided to increase our number of photos this week to eleven, rather than the customary ten. States Tom Ormsby; “This is Frank Manafort in the Gene Nicol #76. Frank won many races in this car and several Novice Championships before moving to the Modifieds. Don Moon tells a story about when he was behind Frank during a race and the carburetor fell-off about halfway through the feature. Somehow the car kept on running and Frank won the race. Come to find out Gene Nichols, who was a brilliant mechanic, somehow put a fake carburetor on the car and found a way to hook up fuel injection, which of course was illegal!” (Ormsby Collection).     

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

 
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