Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 6, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 13                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

As of late, we’ve been blessed in having some great interaction with our readers. Just last-week, we received several great vintage images from our good friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy Harman. Also sending-along some treasures were Ed Grab, and our pal Pete Zanardi among others. Look for those shots to appear in the near-future. A big Thank You to all for contributing over the last couple of years! Space does not allow me to name all of you, but you guys know who you are. For this week, we’ll run some more shots from our recent visit to the studio of our longtime buddy & former Speedbowl track photographer, Rene Dugas. Also, I’d be remiss if I were not to thank Webmaster Tom Ormsby, as he’s the guy that makes this site possible. Lastly, condolences go out the family of longtime NEMA member Jimmy O’Brien who passed-away early this week. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com         

With A Little (More) Help From Our Friends…            

Flanked by a State Trooper on the right, and “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl Vice President Anthony Albino on the left, this drivers name remains synonymous with the shoreline oval and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division there than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. While he drove for a varied list of top teams, he’s probably best recalled for his accomplishments while behind the wheel of his self-owned “Little Jewel” #106. Special thanks go to longtime ‘Bowl track photographer & friend Rene Dugas for the loan of this classic 50s-era image. (Shany Photo, Dugas Collection).      

Few Waterford racers struck more fear into the hearts of fellow-competitors than this guy did in the 1970’s. Dick Dunn was absolutely “The Man” when behind the controls of the legendary “Buddha’s Bullet” notching 4-straight championships starting in 1972. Though he was a winner piloting self-built creations before pairing with owners Al & Peg Gaudreau (seen here to Dick’s right), the relationship yielded records that to this-day remain unbroken. Also among those in this victory lane shot are New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Harvey Tattersall Jr. of United on the left, and starter Chris Hopkins on the right. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas)   

Our pal Rene Dugas always had a knack for capturing unique paddock-area images, and this one is no exception. Here’s a great shot of the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener during his early-70’s heyday. He notched his final career feature victory with this little AMC-bodied machine, and it was no-fluke on that chilly Easter afternoon in 1974. Completing the top-10 were defending track champion Dick Dunn, NEAR Hall of Famer the late “Gentleman Dick” Watson, Jerry Dostie, Art Moran, Joey Trudeau, Nels Wholstrom, Donnie Bunnell, Mark LaJeunesse, and Lou Herman. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).       

Here’s a nice 1960s pitside shot of one of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s unsung heroes of the Modified division. Mystic, Connecticut’s Marvin “Spud” Shaw wheeled this ultra-sanitary little coupe to a multitude of fine finishes. During the early days of his career the “Mystic Speedster” as he was called, was a standout in the old Bomber division recording several checkers in the once wildly-popular support class. (Dugas Photo).                    

Like every short track, the Waterford Speedbowl has had its share of real “stand on the gas” competitors over the years, and this guy was one of them. Glynn Shafer won a ton of races during his long career which started in the Bomber class and concluded in the Modifieds. As exciting a wheelman as ever witnessed at the shoreline oval, he ALWAYS coaxed the most out of his equipment. This custom Rene Dugas image captures Glynn following a win in the #11 Pinto toward the end of his career. One of the highlights of my former working relationship with Waterford was meeting Glynn a number of years-ago at a “Heroes of the Bowl” event. Watching this guy as a kid was a big factor in sealing my fate as a Modified stock car fan. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).      

Now for a little “Full-Fendered” stuff; seen here at the Speedbowl is Sportsman Sedan pilot Roger Charbonneau. Another of the many competitors that hailed from the Connecticut River Valley area, Charbonneau recorded a number of feature victories at the ‘Bowl before fading from the scene by the mid 70’s. His #26 is typical of the cars that populated the division; now-classic “Tri-Five” Chevy’s & Fords being the overwhelming choice. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).                       

Nicknamed the “The Southern Gent,” Bill Grainger was just-fine with the moniker bestowed upon him by the Speedbowl’s announcing team. Hailing from North Carolina, he’d garnered an impressive racing resume by the time of his arrival in CT. courtesy of Uncle Sam’s Navy. While stationed at the Sub Base in nearby Groton, Grainger (standing), & crew ran this seemingly-massive 1957 Plymouth entry in early-70s Daredevil division action. The car was a winner. With his number a nod to “The King” and a roof adorned with a giant Rebel flag, there was no mistaking the fact that this Southern boy meant business! (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).             

Yet-another neat image from Dugie; seen here at the Speedbowl during the early-70s behind the wheel of the potent Earl Passmore-owned “Spirit of ‘76” Ford is Big Mike Daigneault. Extremely-popular and a huge winner, he handily scored the 1973 Sportsman Sedan title and endeared himself to the fans with the car’s patriotic red, white & blue livery. Mike ranks 7th on his divisions all-time win list with a total of 27 career feature victories. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).     

And here we have the late Bobby Santos celebrating a pitside birthday. Yet another driver that traces his roots back to the Norwood Arena where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the early-fifties, he went-on to become a dominant force in the Modified wars. Driving for renowned car-owners such as Art Barry, Billy Simons, and Joe Brady among others, he was a threat to-win each time he donned the Nomex. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. However, the Santos racing legacy continues through his grandchildren. Bobby III and Erica are both successful racers. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas).             

One of the real heavies of the Harvey Tattersall’s once influential United Stock Car Racing Club, Tommy Sutcliffe enjoyed a long-reign at the front of the pack. Twice a champion as the late West Haven Speedway he was a top competitor all over New England for decades winning a boatload of features. This one captures Tommy taking-in some NASCAR modified action during the 1970s at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. (Photo Courtesy Rene Dugas)                            

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

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