Taking A Look At Northeast Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 25, 2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

It’s Wednesday, and once-again it’s time for that little cyberspace mid-week break from all of the hustle & bustle of life in the present. Keeping it short, here’s wishing everyone a GREAT rest-of-the-week!  We end again on a Sad Note as we found out New York Great Don Diffendorf passed away at age 83. As-always email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com  

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It’s Wednesday Again (More Old Stuff…!)      

Captured in the pit area of Connecticut’s famed Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the early 1970s is our old friend and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Bob Potter. The Taftville, CT. native started his career at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl in 1962 behind the controls of a Bomber class entry. Never officially retired, Potter went-on to win multiple Modified championships at Waterford (where alone, he claimed close to 100 career victories), Thompson, and Stafford. (Rene Dugas Photo).

His name synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer remained one of the most beloved figures of the shoreline oval many-years after his retirement from the sport. Known as a skilled & steady chauffer, “Fuzz” was another of those guys that you seldom saw in any trackside-trouble. Though his long career yielded feature victories seemingly low in-number (four), at-least one of them was a major-event. On August 20, 1966, Baer topped a field of Waterford’s best in snagging a 75-lap Championship race. This shot from July of 1980 captures him when he was driving for the team of fellow Speedbowl veteran, Mark LaJeunesse. Though it was late in his career, he recorded a number of outstanding finishes in this car, which had been previously chauffeured by longtime LaJeunesse associate & former drag racing standout, Howie Nye. (Steve Kennedy 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 nice Steve Kennedy image captures Glynn at the shoreline oval during the 1981 campaign. (Steve Kennedy Photo).   

Make no-mistake, even-though it was only a flat, ¼-mile bullring, Connecticut’s former and much-missed), Plainville Stadium could produce some hairy crashes as evidenced in this great Phil Hoyt image of a pileup on the back chute. Among the cars involved on this night was the #59 of future New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Reggie Ruggiero, and the #27 of Bobby Knox. To the right of the policeman is our friend and standout Modified racer Don Spazano who seems to be surveying the damage. “Tinty’s Place” could be a tough little joint! (Phil Hoyt Photo).                 

Here’s a shot of one of New England Modified racing’s longest-running performers. Dale Holdridge’s career lasted over 3-decades. Known as a gentleman on & off the track, he was one of those drivers that you seldom ever saw involved in any controversy; just a good, steady shoe that fellow competitors enjoyed racing wheel-to-wheel with. This one captures him behind the wheel of his Pinto at Waterford in 1981. Proving the old adage “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” rings-true in our sport, Dale’s son Mike is also an accomplished racer, most recently tasting success in the tough Valenti Modified Series. Dale’s nephew Larry Barnett (a star performer within the full-bodied ranks over the years), has also recently joined the Valenti Modified Tour. (Steve Kennedy Photo).  

Seen here during a 1975 outing at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium is Fred Alkas behind the controls of a Pinto-bodied mount owned by George "Pete" Saunders (we have no-idea of who “Julio” was…). Along with his older brothers Dave (a NEAR Hall of Famer), and George, Fred enjoyed considerable success on the ovals of New England. He was particularly good at his home track of Plainville, recording a bevy of feature victories during his long career at the fast ¼-miler. Look-closely at this shot and you’ll notice a #4x motoring-down the back chute; that’s our Webmaster Tom Ormsby! (Phil Hoyt Photo).                           

George Allum was an absolute terror at Waterford in this neat little coupe during the early-70s, and was a serious contender to break the stranglehold that Dick Dunn seemingly had on the era’s Speedbowl track championships. In addition to taking several weekly features as seen here, he also defeated a stellar field of outsiders to take the checkers in the open-competition Hott Wheels 100 on Sunday afternoon April, 22, 1973. George was another of the many racers that hailed from nearby Norwich, a town which was once a veritable “Gasoline Alley” for successful Bowl’ teams. (Shany Photo).                   

We really like this Plainville Stadium shot of former track champion Gary Membrino, captured during the evening of a 100-lap open comp show on Wednesday, July 15, 1978, but then-again, we’re kinda’ partial to anything related to that much-missed Connecticut bullring. This guy had a lot to live-up to considering the feats of his legendary Uncle Anthony “Jap” Membrino, who for decades was one of the top Modified racers in New England. Gary did-so in fine style, becoming for a time one of the best drivers at Joe Tinty’s little palace of speed. (Steve Kennedy Photo).    

As a 70s-era rookie Modified racer at the Speedbowl, Lou Herman had quite a season wheeling this ex-Marvin Shaw Mustang. The freshman sensation scored an impressive feature victory against some of the shoreline oval’s best on the evening of June 15, 1974. By the end of the season, he’d also scored an impressive string of top-5 finishes. The great Dick Dunn wheeling the potent Peg & Al Gaudreau “Buddha’s Bullet” coupe reigned as champion that year. (Shany Photo).

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. Captured here following an early victory at West Haven, 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, Waterford Speedbowl, and Cherry Park in Avon, Connecticut among others. He competed in at-least one documented NASCAR Grand National event (now know 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: Here’s Richie Galullo making an appearance at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway during the era in-which he was a top New England Modified competitor. A “chip off the old block”, Richie inherited a lot of skill from his late father Hall of Fame member Danny Galullo, and experienced many fine runs while behind the controls of this coach-bodied entry. Brother Danny Jr. was also an accomplished racer. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

This Weeks Column is Dedicated to New Yorker Don Diffendorf who Passed Away at 83.
Condolences go out to "Diff's" Family and Friends.

Don Diffendorf


As one of the premier Northeastern coupe-era racers, Don Diffendorf became widely-recognized as the driver of the legendary # S/360 coupes & coaches. A big winner for many decades at on both dirt and pavement, “Diff” also Excelled at big Modified shows of the era such as those events held at Langhorne & Trenton.

Photo From The John Bisci Collection
(Courtesy of Tom Ormsby)

Photo From The John Bisci Collection
(Courtesy of Tom Ormsby)

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

This Weeks Comments
(6 days ago) Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Julio was a nickname for Fred. I believe Pete Sanders gave it to him, but I don remember the particulars.

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