Unfortunately, we again open on a somber-note, as it was learned over the
weekend that longtime modified racer Jimmy Smithage-62, passed-away after being suddenly stricken in the pit area
following his qualifying heat at the Thompson Icebreaker on Saturday. Our
sincere condolences are forwarded to his family and many friends on this
sad occasion. As-for this week’s material, we have a nice selection of
images from Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl and the former Plainville
Stadium. To balance- things-out for dirt racing aficionados, we also
present an image of that segment of the sport’s truly iconic competitors.
Enjoy! As-always, email reaches me at
Your Wednesday Dose Of Short Track Heroes….
this week’s edition we stray a bit from our usual pavement endeavors
with a shot that we find simply timeless.
The late Lou “Monks” Lazzaro raced an incredible six decades on
dirt and asphalt on tracks from Canada to Daytona and scored 250-plus
feature wins. He was supremely versatile and won with the same car on
dirt and pavement with only minor changes. His Saturday night home
track was Fonda Speedway, where he amassed 113-career feature wins
over four different decades and four track championships (1964, 1969,
1977, and 1978). Lou's final Fonda Speedway feature win came on May
15, 1999, less than a year before his untimely death. A lifetime
guaranteed starter at Fonda, he was described many times as "The
Embodiment of Fonda Speedway.” His greatest win was Orange County
Fair Speedway's Eastern States 200 in 1978. He was also track champion
at Victoria Speedway (1962, 1964) and Albany-Saratoga Speedway (1969).
He was New York State NASCAR champion once in the Sportsman division
(1964), and three-times in the Modified division (1969. 1971, 1972).
He also won the prestigious All-Star League title twice (1968, 1971).
One of his favorite tracks, besides Fonda, was the Utica-Rome
Speedway, where he won 27 career asphalt modified features and three
track championships (1963, 1970, 1971). He was a three-time winner of
the prestigious New Yorker 400 (1963, 1968, 1969), race held on the
old Utica-Rome asphalt track. In addition, Lazzaro has two career
Utica-Rome dirt modified feature wins, the first being the first ever
dirt race held at Utica-Rome. (Grady Photo).
Captured here in the lens of our friend Steve
Kennedy at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway World
Series of 1976 is our old pal, Ronnie Wyckoff.
Starting his racing career in Florida, he joined the
Sportsman ranks at Plainville Stadium after moving
North in 1959. Success in the modifieds
quickly-followed with numerous wins at an
assortment of New England speedplants. Included in
those victories are multi-time triumphs in UNITED’s
“Riverside 500” events, once an absolute-benchmark
of the Northeastern racing season. Often-overlooked
historically-speaking, this racer remains one of our
region’s most-underrated competitors and his
record proves that statement. (Kennedy Photo).
His racing roots tracing back to the rough n’ tumble
tarmac of the late Plainville Stadium as-seen in
this great Phil Hoyt image, Stan
“Stash” Greger parlayed that modest start
into one of the most-stellar careers in all of New
England Modified racing. After conquering “Tinty’s
Place” it was on to the ultra-competitive (and
much-missed), Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam.
Massachusetts where he recorded a trio of
championships and nearly forty feature wins. Known
as one of our sports true “Nice Guys” and not
unlike the aforementioned Ronnie Wyckoff, he remains
another of the most-underrated drivers in New
England with a winning history garnered during what
many railbirds still consider to be the most
competitive era in our region. (Hoyt Photo).
It seems as long as there’s been a Speedbowl, there’s been a
member of the Gada clan entering victory lane. Captured here
in the shoreline oval pits with his Grand American entry
during the 1978 campaign is Bob Gada Sr. who still
holds-court pitside every week, making sure things in the
latest version of the family racing effort run smoothly. Few
families can claim more track titles and victories at a
single track than the Gada’s have at Waterford and their
success continues today. (Kennedy Photo).
This one is for our friend, multi-time Speedbowl
In a recent conversation he relayed to me that it was
this driver that sparked his youthful enthusiasm for the
Within a division populated by mostly General Motors
products, cars like this stood-out in 70s-era Waterford
support-class action. Along with fellow Ford aficionados
the Gada clan, Keith Eves took an unconventional
route in fielding one of Henry’s creations. Having
started his Grand American career a couple of seasons
earlier in a Mercury Cougar, he later progressed to this
Ford Torino. The car was a winner, and Eves was a
popular chauffer in the shoreline oval’s “full-fender”
brigade. As for Hutchings, he’s off to a great start in
2013, having handily captured the Street Stock feature
at the Speedbowl’s season-opening Budweiser Blastoff.
Familiar driver, familiar number, and familiar car….
Eddie Bunnell (along with brothers Donnie, Junior,
and cousin John), were around the Waterford Speedbowl
for what seemed an eternity. A former Bomber champion,
Eddie later advanced to the modifieds enjoying a long
career as one of the division’s top racers. He’s seen
here in May of 1981 behind the controls of what had
formally been the #110 chauffeured by among-others, NEAR
Hall of Famer Bob Potter, The entire Bunnell family
remained a vital part of the shoreline oval scene for
many seasons. (KennedyPhoto).
Over-the-years, we’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of
really neat New England racing personalities, and it’s
been an unforgettable experience. From the big-winners
to journeymen drivers, they all rate here at “RTT.”
Pictured here is our pal Bobby Mikulak who was
one of Plainville Stadium’s finest for over a decade in
the 1960s & 70s. Bob owned this nifty coach, but also
drove for other teams, most-notably wheeling the #1 of
Merle “Spud” Cray. Note his fancy racing attire and the
Budweiser beer can screwed to the roof (an item that was
“knocked-off” on more than one occasion according to our
Webmaster & fellow Stadium competitor Tom Ormsby).
Local product Ed Reed Sr. (father of multi-time
track champion Ed Jr.), had long-been involved with the
Speedbowl, spending much of his life around racing. In
1977 when Harvey Tattersall introduced a new
budget-minded division known as Street Stocks, he was
there. The class was a huge success with a banner crop
of cars and plenty of slam-bang action. Bob Faiella took
the title that first season, but Reed rebounded in 1978
as seen-here to claim his first championship.
Interestingly-enough, this modest class eventually
morphed-into today’s ultra-sophisticated Late Model
division. (Kennedy Photo).
No installment of “RTT” mentioning Plainville Stadium
would be complete without an image of this guy, our
friend DaveAlkas. Starting his career in
the Novice division of the early-1960s, before it was
all-over, he managed to win five Stadium Modified
championships, and holds the record for all-time wins.
He was simply a master at getting-around the
slightly-banked ¼-miler, and was still very-much at the
top of his game when the track closed its gates forever.
This action shot captures Dave wheeling his familiar
Roland Cyr Vega in June of 1977. A 2008 inductee into
the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Dave is one of
the organizers the ultra-successful Plainville Stadium
Reunions held every fall at the Berlin Fairgrounds.
If you were lucky enough to be around the sport when
this guy was in his prime, you witnessed one of the
best. On his
www.vintagemodifieds.com site, our friend &
webmaster Tom Ormsby once stated that he was
“Colorful, Controversial, and Popular” all at
the same time. The truth-is, Anthony“Jap”
Membrino helped to sell a lot of tickets during
a stellar career that lasted over 3-decades. While
he experienced incredible success at Plainville
Stadium (as captured here following one of his many
feature triumphs in the 1970s), Jap also won-big at
many other New England venues. (Hoyt Photo).
BONUS SHOT #1:
As we’ve stated several times in the past, before
the onslaught of today’s “cookie-cutter”
modifieds, each ride possessed a look of it’s own
that reflected the taste & ingenuity of the builder.
This neat little Plainville coupe is a perfect
example of that statement. See here in 1974 seated
behind the controls of a vintage 5-window coupe is
Johnny Zeigler. Keeping it in the family, the
car had formally been campaigned as the #26 of
longtime Stadium competitor, the late Skip Zeigler.
BONUS SHOT #2:
Here’s a nice shot of our pal Billy “Gramps”
Greco as captured at Connecticut’s Thompson
Speedway in June of 1975. A New England Auto
Racing Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master
of the modifieds, 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 Racearena. Billy
also has the distinction of being the only
driver to win on all 8 ovals that existed one
time in the State of Connecticut. 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! (Kennedy Photo).