Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 12, 2012
   

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Volume 4, Number 37                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Remember, coming-up quickly, it’s the Fourth Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion which takes place on Saturday, October 13th from 10am – 3pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located at 430 Beckley Road, East Berlin, CT. The event is presented by the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club World of Wheels. Simply-stated, it’s the perfect opportunity to mingle, and perhaps get an autograph from the personalities that made Joe Tinty’s much-missed Connecticut oval so-special. Many former Stadium competitors including Don Moon, Dave & Fred Alkas, the colorful Tony “Jap” Membrino, Richie Galullo, Danny Galullo, Jr. 1963 Champion George Hotchkiss, two time Champion George Lombardo, Don Spazano, Jo-Jo Farone, Bill Harman, and a host of others are expected to attend. Previous versions of the affair have been wildly-successful; it’s become one of the regions most-anticipated racing reunions of the year! Extra-special thanks go out to our Webmaster & pal Tom Ormsby for again digging-deep into his archives for some of this week’s historical images, and also to our longtime friend & frequent “RTT” contributor James Scott Haag for the use of some of extraordinary shots. As always, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com 

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

More Mid-Week Meanderings Modified-Style!

Simply-stated, this guy was one of the best during his days as a top New England stock car jockey. Seen here behind the controls of an absolutely-classic coupe owned by the late Bucky Membrino is the late Tony Mordino. A leading member of the legendary “Waterbury Gang” that also included guys like the late Danny Galullo, the battles he waged with established UNITED stars such as Billy Greco and Johnny “King” Cambino at West Haven are stuff of regional racing legend. He later conquered Plainville and Riverside Park; certainly two of the toughest bullrings in the Northeast. Tony retired following the 1975 Thompson 300, an event in which raced to a top-10 finish after having started 50th in the field. Big thanks go out to Tony Jr. for providing this special shot of his dad for all of us to enjoy! (Shany Photo Courtesy Tony Mordino Jr.).

Courtesy of our friend & frequent contributor James Scott Haag comes this terrific shot of the late Pete Brockett Sr. captured at Joe Tinty’s much-missed Plainville Stadium in Connecticut. Recording many early career successes at the West Haven Speedway and spending over three-decades behind the controls of a modified, his later efforts were centered on the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl where he also became a winner. His ride known as “Brockett’s Rocket” Pete was always a crowd-favorite, especially at Waterford. (Hoyt Photo, Haag Collection).

Captured here at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts, Charlie Centenaro was a big winner within the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club. In the days before NASCAR entered the New England scene, United was the most powerful & influential sanctioning body in the region, holding-court at a large number of speedways. With the passing of time, many modern-day fans are unaware of that. Charlie was also very successful at Connecticut’s West Haven Speedway, another immensely-popular facility ruled by United. (Shany Photo)

We really like this shot. If you look at records from the early days of the sport, you’ll find this guy’s name just about everywhere, dirt and asphalt. From the legendary “big circle” at Langhorne, Pennsylvania to the local bullrings of New England, Frankie Blum excelled at all of them. Truly one of the Northeast’s pioneering racers, Blum experienced victories while driving for some of the best teams of his era. Historically-speaking he remains somewhat-underrated. (Shany Photo).     

The late Ted Stack was absolutely one of the real heavy-hitters of his generation. Though he scored heavily at several other New England raceways, it was probably the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl that garnered him the most success. A multi-time champion (1961 in the Modifieds, and 1957 & 60 in the Non Fords), Stack accumulated a combined total of 71 feature victories at the shoreline oval. This early-1960s shot captures him ready to go at the shoreline oval in the company of Johnny Thompson in the #122, and that’s Russ Foote (brother of the legendary Red Foote), in the #8x. (Shany Photo)

Here’s a nice one from Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium courtesy of our pal & Webmaster, Tom Ormsby. The young dude you see seated behind the wheel of this nifty period-perfect coupe from the early 1970s is Elliott Beverige. Once one of the top drivers at Joe Tinty’s racy little ¼-miler, Elliot now serves as crew chief on his old friend Frank Manafort’s (also a graduate of the Stadium wars), NEMA midget team. Just a coupe of weeks-ago they scored a stunning NEMA Lites victory at Waterford with hotshot modified shoe Keith Rocco behind the wheel – his first time driving a midget! (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection).

Speaking of Keith Rocco, here’s a nice shot of his dad, multi-time Plainville Stadium track champion Ronnie Rocco. Starting in the Novice class, Ronnie was a quick-study when it was time to trade-in his fenders for the open-wheel wars. A big success at “Tinty’s Place” before its unfortunate closure at the dawn of the 1980s, he later became a successful and popular racer within the ranks of the SK Modified division. (Hoyt Photo, Haag Collection)

We admittedly don’t know a lot about this driver, but we do know that it’s Plainville, and his name is Ernie Olsen. In consulting with our Webmaster Mr. Ormsby, he tells us the following about the shot; “This #99 driven by Ernie Olson was built & owned by the late Sandy Rocco, Ron's father & Keith's grandfather.” It seems that the Rocco family has quite a long history at the late Connecticut ¼-miler. Neat-looking coupe for-sure! (Faust Photo, Ormsby Collection).

Captured here at Riverside Park Speedway is 1951 track champion, Benny Germano. Once the flagship speedway of the all powerful Tattersall-governed United Stock Car Racing Club, Germano competed against the very-best in the business to garner his title. Names like Krebs, Tappett, Flemke, Maggiacamo, Dixon, & Humiston come-to-mind. It was indeed, a star-studded field each & every week. To win a United championship in 1951 meant accomplishing something truly-extraordinary. Germano scored a career-total of 17 Riverside feature victories, the first in 1950, the final in 1959. (Shany Photo).  

Just a nice image from the days before things got so-damned expensive & complicated in our sport. Back in the early-70s when cars like this neat little pre-war coupe were campaigned by weekend warriors like Bobby Knox at places like Plainville (where Phil Hoyt captured this image), you could actually afford to race AND pay your mortgage! Salvage yards supplied the raw material, and the builder’s ingenuity provided the rest. Knox was a consistently-fine racer who called The Stadium home for a number of seasons before moving on to the dirt at Lebanon Valley Speedway. (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection).

BONUS SHOT: This one captures veteran Merle “Spud” Cray behind the wheel of his 5-window coupe at Plainville. Sometimes a driver and occasionally assuming the role of car owner, among the other racers to wheel this machine was our friend, longtime Stadium chauffer Bobby Mickulak. Our Webmaster Tom Ormsby recalls this ride very-well also. He says, “Spud was the first car owner I ever drove-for. I later bought the car for $700.00 which became my #VO.” Imagine-that, less than thousand-dollars for a race-ready modified….! (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection).


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

This Weeks Comments
(4 days ago) Bob G. said:

I know this might be a long shot, but I would love to see a photo of the Late Paul Veracka in his modified. Paul raced at Norwood in the 50's.

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Thanks for the kind-words, folks. "RTT" is put-together a few days before it's posted and we didn't know it at the time, but it should be mentioned that Tony Mordino is among the racers slated for induction into the HOF this year!

(6 days ago) mike a. said:

congrats to thr mordino family.
great pix of rocco and brocketts rocket. i liked that car when i first saw it at wet haven speedway.

(6 days ago) Linda Watson said:

Great column again this week. Boy this sure tests the memory bank and brings such fun times back to the present!! Thanks Tom & David.........

(6 days ago) NELS said:

GREAT PIC OF PETE BROCKETT

(6 days ago) John Perry said:

More great pics from
yesteryear

 
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