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Volume 4, Number 16 New Column Every Wednesday
COLUMNS & FEATURES
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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
APRIL 18 RACE TRACKS
By Dave Dykes CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE
we again delve-deep into the “Racing Through Time” archives to bring back
a few fond memories of what many consider to be the “Golden Era” of
Modified racing in New England. Special thanks go out to our friends JoJo
Farone, Chris Langer, and R.A. Silvia for contributing some great images
for all of us to enjoy!On a two sad notes our webmaster & friend Tom Ormsby called yesterday
April 17th to let me know our mutual friend Donna Harman passed away that
afternoon in Florida. Donna is the wife of our good friend Hall of Famer
Billy Harman who has been featured in this column many times. It was also
learned that Dave Myers passed-away from injuries sustained when his car
struck a utility pole on Saturday April 14 in East Granby, CT. Dave was
the Crew Chief on the late Jay Miller’s #09 Modified and his father Billy
is a former Modified car owner and builder of the #7 driven by Jay’s
father Ray to many successes. We offer our sincere condolences to Myers &
Harman familys & their many friends.As-always, email reaches
NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of
the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.
If you’re at all familiar with New England Modified racing, not much
has to be said about this fellow. As a driver, the late Ed
Yerrington was a big winner, and in later years as an official
became one of the most-respected figures in the sport. He’s captured
here ready-to-roll at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway.
Yerrington drove for several different teams during his career; we’re
not sure who owned this little coupe. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).
Captured here at Stafford in the early 1970s, the
late Ernie Gahan’s 28-year racing career
started during the post-war stock car racing boom of
1948 at New Hampshire’s Dover Speedway. By the time
he’d hung-up his helmet, he’d amassed over 300
career victories. Perhaps his greatest achievement
in the sport was being the first New Englander to
win a NASCAR National Modified championship in 1966.
He was equally successful on both dirt and asphalt.
He won a record 21 features on the old dirt at
Stafford Speedway in the late 50’s and early 60’s.
He had eleven starts in Grand National (now Sprint
Cup), series competition, recording two top-ten
finishes, one of which was in the 1962 Daytona 500.
In 1963 Gahan along with Tiny Lund was credited with
saving the life of Marvin Panch by pulling him out
of a burning race car at Daytona. For his courage he
won the Shuman Award and the Carnegie Medal for
Bravery. He was among the first drivers inducted
into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in
1998. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
Rhode Islander Fred DeSarro was one of the
truly-gifted racers of his era. Seen here with the
Sonny Koszella “Woodchopper Special” he was a top
New England Modified shoe for what seemed like eons.
The racing media had a field day with the
much-publicized “driver-switch” in 1971 when the
great Bugs Stevens took the wheel of Koszella’s car,
and Fred climbed aboard Bugs’ vacated Lenny Boehler
“Ole’ Blue.” Truth-be-told, there were no
hard-feelings. Fred and Bugs were great friends and
remained-so until Fred’s tragic death following a
1978 Thompson Speedway crash. Both are members of
the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, as are
Boehler and Koszella.
(Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
The career of Fred Schulz ran the gamut from the
days of the notoriously dangerous “Cut-Downs” to the
modern Modifieds of the 1970s as seen here. Fred won
just about everywhere in New England and truly was one
of the pioneers of the sport in this region. He’s
captured in a Chevy Camaro-bodied mount on the Stafford
Springs half-mile in this image.(Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
Seen here during an outing in the Freddy Doolittle coupe at
Stafford, many fans don’t realize-it, but before switching
to competition of the 4-wheeled variety the late George
“Moose” Hewitt was a champion motorcycle racer. He was
particularly-successful at the Waterford Speedbowl, where he
claimed five Modified championships between 1977 and 1984.
Worth mention is the fact that the fiercely-independent
Hewitt was one of the few shoreline oval competitors that
during an era of “store-bought” cars later in his
career, continued to craft machines of his own design at his
shop in nearby Uncasville, CT.
(Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
Here’s a really early Plainville Stadium shot of our old
pal, Don Moon.
In addition to his long residency at that much-missed
Connecticut ¼-miler, Moon competed at a number of other
Eastern modified haunts during his long career,
compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of
the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association
at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in
1966, including the Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An
admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping
jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a
broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’
season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his
potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the
young upstart. These days, Moon campaigns an immaculate
version of his former Pinto Modified on the NEAR
(Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
Few New England Modified drivers had more going for them
than the late Don MacTavish. Starting his career
at the age of 15 racing at the much-celebrated Norwood
Arena, he quickly gained popularity as one of the
regions brightest young upstarts. In 1963 he progressed
to NASCAR’s Sportsman Division and in 1966 took the
NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, his closest
competitors being Ralph Earnhardt, "Wild" Bill Slater
and Rene Charland. During his Daytona debut on February
22, 1969, “Mac” lost his life in a horrific crash during
the Permatex 300. To say this regions racing community
was stunned and saddened is an understatement. He was
posthumously inducted into the New England Auto Racing
Hall of Fame in 2001.
(Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).
Captured here with his familiar #27 at what we believe
to be Stafford, 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.” Theconsummate 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).
Wayne “Mr. Mysterious” Smith
claimed most of his Waterford Speedbowl success in the
support-division classes, his full-fender endeavors
being of the championship variety. As this shot
illustrates, “Mr. Mysterious” also turned some
laps in the Modified wars at the Connecticut 1/3-miler
affectionately known as the “Shoreline Oval.” This
little coupe was one of his earliest efforts in
Waterford’s premier division (Shany Photo).
Even future track champions have an off-day on occasion.
Seen here at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, a place
that he would dominate for a period in the late-70s &
early-80s is the late George “Moose” Hewitt. It’s
the 1960s, and it looks as if he was involved in a
vicious rollover incident while piloting his #11 coupe.
That’s Moose on the left in the driver’s suit surveying
the damage. Also among those pictured is the late
Johnny Whitehouse (next to Moose wearing a cap).
Whitehouse of course, was the longtime Director of
Racing at the Speedbowl.(Shany Photo).
If there was ever a “King of Plainville Stadium”
this guy was the man, and we never tire of running
shots of him. See here is Dave Alkas, 5-time
track champion, and the former (& much-missed)
Connecticut ¼-milers all-time Modified winner. This
image captures him behind the controls of the
much-feared Roland Cyr-owned coach. When Dave pulled
out on the track in this rig, his fellow competitors
knew that they have their work cut out for them!
Fittingly, Mr. Alkas was inducted into the New
England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Photo
Courtesy Chris Langer).
This Weeks Column is Dedicated
to Two Friends
Donna Harman & Dave Myers
(Photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby)
Zetti Shookus, Donna Harman & myself
Plainville Stadium Reunion
Dave Myers (left next to Jay Miller
Keith Cyr Photo-Race Dog Photography