Taking A Look At Northeast Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 11, 2012
 


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Yup, yet-another week has passed, and we all know what that means; a dose of oldies from the “RTT” files! This-time around the track we again present a wide selection of the personalities that helped make the sport what it is today. As always, special thanks go-out to Webmaster Tom Ormsby for his work in getting things updated each & every Wednesday, and also to the many readers who have submitted images over the years for all of us to enjoy. 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.

Another Wednesday In The Books…..        

We’re unsure of the location in which this image was captured, but we really like it. Simply one of the greatest to ever sit behind the controls of a race car, the late “Dynamite” Ollie Silva was both a huge winner, and one of the most-admired competitors in all of short track racing. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Silva recorded over five-hundred feature victories over the course of a career that started in 1949 at the long-shuttered Dracut, MA. Speedway and concluded in 1980. He was victorious in Modifieds, Supers, Sprint Cars, and Cut-Downs. Etched into the record books of the Waterford Speedbowl is an absolutely-dominating Modified win in the 1974 Hott Wheels 100 in which Silva lapped the entire field not once, but twice! To this-day, the locals still talk about it. (Grady Photo).           

As one of the premier drivers on the dirt tracks of the Eastern region, Eddie DelMolino enjoyed a long, successful career slinging-mud at joints like Fonda and Lebanon Valley. However, the coach he’s captured here with should stir some interest in nostalgically-minded pavement fans also. Owner “Sharkey” Gaudiosi fielded winning New England pavement Modifieds for decades, employing only the best chauffeurs. Many don’t realize that Sharkey machines also enjoyed a winning tenure on the dirt. (Grady Photo).

Here’s a great shot of our good friend Billy “Gramps” Greco with the fondly-recalled pink version of his signature #43. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master of the short oval, honing his skills at tight little joints like the late West Haven Speedway and the much-missed 1/5-miler at Riverside Park. A darling of the old Harvey Tattersall-led United circuit (once the most influential sanctioning group in New England), in later-years he also became a winner at the ultra-competitive Danbury Fair Racarena. The personable Greco is as popular today as he ever-was, and can really enlighten you on the history of the sport. If you get a chance to chat with him, please do! (Grady Photo).

Here’s a nice coupe-era image of second-generation driver, Bobby Bard Jr. A steady and competent shoe on the UNITED circuit, he had big shoes to fill. His father Bobby Sr. recorded a total of ten Riverside Park feature victories during what many consider to have been that tracks most competitive era. The elder Bard’s resume also includes a victory in the 1974 Riverside 500 in which he was teamed with multi-time winner of that prestigious event, Ronnie Wyckoff. (Grady Photo).

In later years, hometown driver Mark Geer stayed involved with the local racing scene as an official at the Waterford Speedbowl. When this early shot was captured in the lens of noted New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzent, he was a shoreline oval wheelman for veteran car-owner Sonny Brooks. This ride was built and maintained in neighboring New London. Ironically, even though “The Whaling City” is just over the town-line, with few exceptions it was never-known as a hotbed of activity for things-racing. (Shany Photo)          

Few drivers of the much-heralded “Coupe Era” were more traveled than our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy Harman. Growing-up in the shoreline community of New London, Ct. it was only natural for the speed-crazed young kid to get-involved with the happenings at a track located just outside his hometown. After many successes in his backyard, Harman took to the road, maintaining a hectic schedule that rewarded him accolades at venues from coast-to-coast. This 1960s shot captures Billy as the driver of the Dick Brooks #651 at the track where it all began for him, the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. (Shany Photo).                       

Known as the “Norwalk Nightrider” to the dedicated fans of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, few were better in the “fender” divisions than the late Bill Sweet. Seen here during the early days of the Daredevil division, he managed to snag a pair of championships along with nearly fifty feature victories before calling it a day in the seventies. It should be noted that even qualifying for a feature in the class was an accomplishment when this shot was captured. So-many competitors filled the pits, that A and B main events were common. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll see most tracks struggling to even complete a feature starting grid! (Shany Photo).    

On occasion we locate a photo of a driver in our files that we admittedly don’t know a whole-lot about, and this is one of those images. From limited research, we do know that Tommy Bourget was one of the top-tier Modified racers of his era, excelling at places like Norwood Arena, Riverside Park, and Albany-Saratoga where this photo was likely captured. In this game, you learn something new every day, and we’ll be sure to look at Tommy’s career in greater detail in the near-future. At any-rate, we sure do like the looks of his #10X, which is an absolute classic! (Grady Photo).

Enjoying a successful tenure on Modified circuit, Bob Tauscher was widely-regarded as a driver that could get your car toward the front with an understated smooth & steady style of driving. Particularly-good at the UNITED haunts of the day, he scored a total of five checkers at the late Riverside Park during the Tattersall era, taking his last Agawam win on the evening of July 6, 1974. Tauscher was also an accomplished dirt racer and was among the best drivers at New York’s Lebanon Valley Speedway. (Grady Photo).          

Like so-many of the racers from his generation, the late Maynard Forrette saw no boundaries in the difference between running on dirt or asphalt. A big winner on both, he’s probably most fondly remembered for his stunning dirt-slingin’ drives on the daunting Syracuse Mile where during the later stages of his career, he often bested competitor’s half-his-age. A master mechanic and innovative car builder, Forrette also ran Northern Speed Supply, a haven for racers seeking to get the most out of their equipment. This shot captures the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Famer at one of the great UNITED events that were once held every year at the track on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition in Massachusetts. (Grady Photo).   

BONUS SHOT: Pictured here during the early-stages of his long career is our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member George Summers. As the most-winning driver in the history of the Seekonk Speedway, he visited victory lane on over one-hundred occasions. Summers was actually one of the top-drivers in all of New England, enjoying a career that lasted over three-decades. Fittingly, he won the last event he entered before retiring, taking–down the 1983 Thompson World Series Modified event driving for fellow Hall of Famer, legendary car owner Art Barry. Get-well wishes go out to George who was recently hospitalized suffering a bout of pneumonia. Cards of cheer reach him at George Summers, PO Box 8001, Upton, Massachusetts. 01568. (Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).                     

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

THIS WEEKS COMMENTS

(21 hours ago) gary24fan said:

I've been coming to this site for about a year now but this is my first post. All of this stuff was before my time, but I can't stop looking at them over and over, it's like I'm drawn to these old race cars and the guys who drove them, for whatever reason. Keep it coming! Gary in ME

(23 hours ago) Bob Georgiades said:

Nothing could define the word cool more appropriately than "Dynamite" Ollie Silva. The name, the cars (really a super with a body), the looks, and the style. I know he had an eye condition which is why he wore the sunglasses but he also used one of those mid-evil respiraters on his face. I also believe he drove with his left arm on the wheel at about 1 o'clock and his right arm down around 6 or 7 o'clock. He sure was something to watch.
 

(3 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Don, I remember your Uncle Charlie very-well. Back-then. Waterford was truly a "small town" and it seems that everybody knew each other. Growing-up only a half-mile from the Speedbowl kinda' sealed my fate in becoming a fan. My first memories of Mark Geer are from when he was a teenager and friend of my older brother Frank. My dad was a friend of his late father Ray. The midgets? I rarely miss a NEMA race today, no matter how-far I have to travel. Just a great bunch of people who are very-aware of their tradition & rich history (the club's 60th anniversary will be celebrated at Waterford on Sat. May 12th). As with you, racing was a family-affair for us - that's where we were each Saturday night!

(4 days ago) Don Macrino said:

Thanks for another great week of history. Mark Geer Jr. works in the school system. I let him know that you featured his dad. He was thrilled.
As I reflect upon what to me were the golden years at Waterford the names Ted Stack, Dick Beauragard,Charlie Webster, Hank Stevens, Newt Palm, Sal Dee. Ray Delisle, Fuzzy Bear,Kieth Armbrust,Dick Dunn, Don Collins, George Pendergast, Billy Harmon, and Wild Bill Slater come to mind just to name a few. While the cars may have been a bit slower, the racing was just as exciting if not more so. Each car was an individual engeneering wonder with a unique personality. On those hot summer nights under the lights Joe Couillard would line them up. He and Lauren Card, dressed like real flagman, would be down on the pavement, with Bill Haufman in the announcer's booth. Lauren would drop the green flag inches away from the thunderous pack and off they would go.
As a kid,my mother and father would take us to the races on Saturday nights. What a thrill. I would buy a little plastic coupe from Shanny,get a slice of Speedbowl pizza and sit on the fourth turn. My uncle Charlie Pinch was a supernumerary in the pits. He knew all the drivers and introduced me to Ted Stack who became my racing hero. Every once ina while the migets would come. That was an extra thrill. Those beautiful racing machines would put on a show unlike anything we see today. The drives wore silk jackets or bright shirts that would flutter in the wind. The left front tire seldom touched the ground and during the pace lap they would do "the flying crossover" at their started stood in the center of the track and the cars criscrosed in front of him. Wow!

Now, some fifty years later, I still get a thrill from the races at the Speedbowl, but it is the memories of being with my mother and father, seeing my uncle Charlie at the fence separating the fourth turn bleechers from the pits, and experiencing the absolute thrill of stock car racing at its best.

Thanks for helping feed those memories.

(6 days ago) nels wohlstrom jr. said:

ANOTHER GREAT WEEK DAVE! GREAT PIC OF OLLIE. AND I BELIEVE DAVE IS RIGHT. I THINK THAT SHOT OF HIM IS AT POCONO. I REMEMBER THAT CAR.

(6 days ago) Dave Blake said:

the pic of Ollie Silva was I believe taken at Pocono...

(6 days ago) Ed P said:

I remember the pink 43 from 1967 and I was there a year later after Jo Jo Farone bought it whenhe destoryed it and trashed the pit gate at Plainville. Ive heard over the years that it was one of Billy's least favorite cars, and honestly I don't think he won as much with it as some of his other cars. It isn't a Ford or a Chevy body. It almost looks like a Studebaker. What kind of body was used on the car?

 
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