Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 26, 2012
   

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Volume 4, Number 39                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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Remember, in a few weeks 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 and an event that’s not to be missed! Also 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. Have a great week, and as-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another Very-Varied Selection…..

Here’s a nice portrait image, and one that’s reasonably difficult to find. Pictured is Ray Brown, the 1950 Riverside Park UNITED champion. He was also the titlist that same year at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium back in the days when one could race 7-days-a- week if desired. He was a resident of White Plains, NY and posted an impressive New England racing resume during the formative years of the sport. Brown was also an occasional competitor at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl located on the Connecticut shoreline. Quite-deservedly, Brown is slated for induction 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. Visit www.near1.com for more information. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

Ronnie Bouchard is but one of our racing greats that did some time lapping the URDC-sanctioned New England ovals of the late Oscar Ridlon. Certainly one of the best drivers that the region ever produced, the winner of the 1981 Talladega 500, and among the first to be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, he’s captured here during the very-early days of his stellar career on the inside of Tinker Progen, another top driver from the era. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

Captured here aboard his familiar #27, anyone that was around during what’s widely considered the “Golden Era” of New England Modified racing is sure to recognize this guy. The late Booker T. Jones joined the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Upon his induction, award-winning racing journalist Bones Bourcier commented that “He drove NASCAR Modifieds around the Northeast for what seemed like a hundred years, and yet when he passed at the age of 74, it was not his racing you remembered. It was his friendly smile, his big right hand shaking yours. He was everybody’s buddy.” The consummate low-buck operator, Jones made-due with equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. He remained a popular figure at New England raceways long after his days behind the wheel were over. (John Grady Photo).

Though we’re not-sure (if anyone knows differently please feel-free to write), we believe the guy behind the controls of this positively classic-looking coach modified at Plainville is longtime competitor Bill Brown; we really-like this shot! A typical late-60s, early-1970s creation, his ride is a good representation of the machines that called “Tinty’s Place” home every Saturday night. Coaches seemed to remain in-style at Plainville longer than at most New England raceways. Note the sponsor; the Berndt family’s “North End Auto Parts” has long-been involved in New England modified racing. (Hoyt Photo).    

Before graduating to the Modifieds at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, Walt Dombrowski had claimed the 1963 Bomber championship at the shoreline oval. The transition was a smooth-affair; with Walt scoring his first checkers in Waterford’s headlining division in 1966. Having later secured a seat in the potent L&M coupe, he handily nailed-down the Modified title in 1970. This nice color shot sees Walt “in the office” when he was chauffeuring the potent “Smitty’s #11” coupe at the ‘Bowl. (Shany Photo, courtesy Walter Jablonski).

Another Saturday night, another feature victory….. Captured here behind the controls of Freddy Beaber’s ultra-potent checkerboard #716 and celebrating one of his many Speedbowl triumphs is the late Charlie Webster. This racer was one of the guys that literally helped put Waterford on the map. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). He retired at the dawn of the 1970s while still very-much in his prime. (Shany Photo).  

Once-again, it’s the“New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950s, and the driver is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo. A winner all over the region during what would be today considered a relatively-brief career, he recorded a number of Modified feature victories at the shoreline oval, and was particularly-tough at the late Plainville Stadium where he was twice a track champion. George’s career really was an abbreviated affair compared to many of his contemporaries. It leaves one to wonder just how-many more feature victories he would have recorded had he stayed behind the wheel just a little-longer. (Shany Photo)

Here, we take a Speedbowl-peek at the early-days of one of the true craftsmen of local short track racing. The successful racing career of “Jiggs” Beetham is well-documented at area tracks as both a driver and owner, but perhaps one of the things he’s most-remembered for is creating simply beautiful race cars. Though it’s showing a little wear from a few encounters in a class that was definitely of the “contact-variety”, this early Daredevil entry was no-exception. One of my personal favorites of the Beetham stable of racers was the “Golden Hurricane” Modified coupe created in the late-seventies. The car remains active today on the vintage racing circuit. Special-thanks to longtime “RTT” contributor Rusty Sage for sending this one along. He also included a shot of this beautiful; “tri-five” Chevy when it was brand-spanking new which we’ll run at a future date. (Shany Photo courtesy Rusty Sage). 

Last week, we received a nice message from former Plainville Stadium & Riverside Park modified competitor Jim Woerz. Truly one of the best things about this website for me on a personal-level has been all of the wonderful new friends that I’ve made since we went online back in 2009 (thanks, Mr. Ormsby!). Seen here during his days in Plainville’s premier division, Jim writes the following; Attached is a picture of my #89 I ran for a few weeks at the end of the 1975 season at Riverside in the Sportsman division, and at Plainville. The car is a former Billy Knight #98.  I ran the full season at Plainville in 1976 which earned me “Rookie of the Year” honors. I also drove Fred Murtha’s #49 car for several weeks when he was laid-up with an injury. It was a really nice coupe. I’m pretty sure the car in the background is the VO, and it might be Don Moon's car behind me in this shot. As with many racers, it was the financial burden that halted my short career, but I soon spent a large chunk of change racing quarter midgets with my 2 children for 7 years.  I still follow the Mods daily, and attend some of the Tour shows, but it’s not the same as it was back-then. Thanks for having such a great column weekly. I look forward to it every Wednesday. I also make it a point to attend the Plainville Reunion each year at the Berlin fairgrounds, which is coming on Oct 13th. We look forward to seeing you that day, Jim! (Hoyt Photo).  

This is a great shot; New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer “Dangerous Dan” Galullo was one of the brightest stars of the once powerful United Stock Car Racing Club headed-up by the Tattersall family. Pictured here at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl behind the wheel of our friend & former Modified standout Don Spazano's $, he won the 1962 Grand Championship, a feat recorded by winning at the many UNITED-sanctioned tracks that once dotted New England. A multi-time Riverside Park titlist, he also recorded feature wins at Plainville Stadium, the Speedbowl, and Cherry Park in Avon, Connecticut among others. He competed in at-least one documented NASCAR Grand National event (now known as the Sprint Cup Series) at New Jersey’s Old Bridge Stadium in 1956. Following a serious heart-attack, Galullo retired from driving while still in his prime. He passed-away in 1974, but not before witnessing the racing accomplishments of his sons, Richie and Danny Jr. (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: We just HAD to run this one….. The former and much-missed Lakeville Speedway (AKA Golden Spur), in Massachusetts was many-things to many-people, but most-of-all, it was grassroots short-track racing at it’s finest. A large dirt oval situated within a sea of regional paved tracks, competitors of all-levels ran there; it was a fun-joint! Captured here chowing-down at a Lakeville awards banquet in the early 1970s is esteemed flagman Earl Grant (left), and our longtime friend & Chairman of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Committee, Bruce Cohen (right). Steve Grant carried-on the tradition of his dad becoming one of the absolute-finest flaggers in the business, and Mr. Cohen remains very-active within the New England Antique Racers (NEAR). (R.A. Silvia Collection).


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

COMMENTS
(3 days ago) frank j said:

john is gone.i don have pics of #14. #14 #94 #84 all built by russ stiez.

(6 days ago) DonW said:

I still remember Earl Grant turning his back on the field of cars as it was coming down for the green flag at Thompson when he didn't like the way they were coming to the line. He was the best. A true original.

(6 days ago) Jimmy Pillion said:

Earl Grant one of the finest flagmen ever and Bruce Cohen a clothing entreprenur two of the nicest men ive meet in auto racing

(6 days ago) RICH FALLIS said:

THE CAR WAS THE 64 WHICH LATER BECAME THE 100

(6 days ago) RICH FALLIS said:

I REMEMBER DAVE ALKAS WINNING IN THIS CAR IN 1972

(Sept 25, 2012) Rich Belmont said:

Is John still with us?. Does he or the family (or you) have any photos? You can email me via Dave Dykes

(Sept 23, 2012) frank jackson said:

#14 owned by john kovack of stratford ct.

(Sept 22, 2012) Rich Belmont said:

Yes, That's Sparky at Candlelite Stadium. Don't know who owned the car though

(Sept 21, 2012) Timbo said:

I remember some great racers like dick dunn,the gada boys,ron cote bob potter and the southern gentalman

flag like
(Sept 21, 2012) ed p said:

14 car with Belmont. Was that picture taken at Candleite Stadium?


(Sept 21, 2012) Mike Ray said:

Thinking about skinning the Barracuda for a Southern Ground Pounder but the old Trans-Am body could be 30 years old;gen 3 body style!

(Sept 20, 2012) Steve K said:

Danko had a fuller bodied gray primer version of this #34 coupe in 1971; it was tan/red in 1972-73 before the change to red and a bit more cut off the back of the coupe by 1974...But it does look somewhat like the first VO!

(Sept 19, 2012) mike a. said:

great shots of waterford and plainville. those were the days. new race fans have no clue what real racing action was. to bad, so sad.

(Sept 19, 2012) frank jackson said:

helped build #14car 1952

(Sept 19, 2012) RICH FALLIS said:

WAS THE 34 OF KEN DANKOS CAR THE LIGHT BLUE VO OF RON VANESSES FROM A COUPLE YEARS BEFORE

 
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