Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday April 3, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

We start this week’s edition of “RTT” on a serious note, as it’s been learned that our friend Al “Buddha” Gaudreau is presently in the hospital facing serious health issues. Al and his wife Peg owned the legendary “Buddha’s Bullet” #3 modified that was driven to unparalleled success at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl during the 1970s. I’m sure that I echo the sentiment of all that know the entire Gaudreau family in wishing Al a full recovery during this trying time. Special thanks to our pal New York Racing Historian Roger Liller for sending us a few great shots via the collections of Les King and Bob Ellis for all of us to enjoy this week. And, we’d be remiss in not expressing thanks to Carolyn Grey who dug-deep into her family’s racing scrapbooks to bring us a duo of great images. Lastly, a big shout-out is in order to our Webmaster & friend Tom Ormsby who’s been busy preparing & posting some great KGM vintage videos for us. Just super-stuff! As-always, email reaches me at  foreveryounginct@gmail.com

More “With A Little Help From Our Friends…”

From our good friend New York State Racing Historian Roger Liller comes this gem of an image featuring the late Chauncey "Jocko" Maggiacomo. We’ll let Roger fill us in on the details; “This is a rather rare shot of Jocko Maggiacomo at New York’s former Pine Bowl Speedway in the early 1950s after winning a feature. As the "shoebox" Ford he's driving is a '49 or '50 model, it might be a late model race.” One of the true pioneers of the sport, Maggiacomo was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000. (McDowell photo from Les King collection via Roger Liller). I believe this is a Gordon Ross owned #19 which competed in the United Grand American traveling division.

Here’s another great early photo courtesy of Mr. Liller. Once-again, we’ll let him supply the details; “This one captures the late Georgetown, Ct driver Billy Darrah at New York’s former Rhinebeck Speedway. Billy is perhaps better-known for his accomplishments at Connecticut’s late Danbury Racearena, but he experienced considerable success at Rhinebeck also, winning many features there in the early to mid-fifties.” (McDowell photo from Les King collection via Roger Liller).

Even-though Connecticut’s former UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway was of the small-variety in terms of the region’s raceways (a 1/5-miler built within the confines of a baseball field which was part of the Savin Rock amusement park), the action was fast & furious. This shot courtesy of former modified competitor Bob Ellis comes to us again, via Roger Liller; “Yesterday I received this picture of 2 cars in a tangle at West Haven from Bob Ellis. The #14 is the 1932 Essex of Jimmy "Cash” Ash (dark blue and white with a red number). Note that piece of railroad track welded to the left side bar.” Roger also stated that he and Bob would love to know the identity of the driver in the #863. If any of you readers happen to know, email us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com (Shany photo from Bob Ellis collection via Roger Liller).

Another race, another feature victory….. Seen here with the checkered flag while behind the controls of Jarb Bedouin’s #500 is none other than our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy “Gramps” Greco. A fixture on the ovals of New England since 1951, Greco established himself in the sport early-on. He took track championships at West Haven in 1955, and again in ’56 and ’58. He won Saturday night titles at Riverside Park in 1965 and 67, and also nailed several Tuesday night track championships at The Park’. His combined feature win total at Riverside is 68 including five 500-lap team races. His success was not limited to just Harvey Tattersall’s United circuit; he was a charter member of the All Star Racing League enjoying success on both dirt and asphalt. In the late sixties he tried his hand with NASCAR. In the closing years of his career he joined the SNYRA to become a winner at the late Danbury Fair Racerena. (Grady photo).

This NEAR Hall of Fame member and Waterford Speedbowl pioneer needs little introduction to those of us who recall the true “Glory Days” of New England short track racing. Seen here at the shoreline oval during the 1950s, Fred Luchesi’s career started during the busy post-war era, and lasted until his retirement in the late-60s. During that time, he raced coupes, modifieds, midgets, and late models. In complementing his local exploits, he also ran against nationally known drivers like Fonty Flock, Red Byron, and Ted Tappett. In addition to multiple Speedbowl championships, he also took track crowns at Westboro, Lonsdale, and Norwood Arena. At the Speedbowl-alone, he scored a career total of 25 modified victories. (Shany photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).  

Simply a classic shot harkening-back to the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s true glory days. Captured here is racer par-excellence Ray Moran. The car is the potent #76 of fabled shoreline oval team owner, the late Bill Congdon. Moran was quite a shoe, having scored a total of 18 feature victories in both modified & Non-Ford competition between 1954 and 1960. A fondly-recalled crowd favorite, he was voted one of the Speedbowl’s “50 Favorite Drivers” in 2000 during the track’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Special thanks to Bill Congdon’s daughter Carolyn Grey for providing us with this shot of one of the many rides so-successfully campaigned by her late father and his team. (Shany photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).

To those of us interested in Northeastern racing history, this is a truly-classic image on just so-many levels. Seen here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford Speedbowl, the driver is the great Rene Charland. His career spanned nearly 4-decades starting at Massachusetts’ Riverside Park in 1949 and ended at Fonda Speedway in 1984. Estimates put his victory total at over 700. He won an unprecedented 4 NASCAR National Sportsman championships from 1962 through 65. His quest for a fifth title ended as he was seriously injured in the famous fire crash Memorial Day weekend at Malta in 1966. He was forced to sit out the rest of the season but at that point he had already earned 5700 points, enough for a third place finish. A member of the famed “Eastern Bandits” he won multiple track championships at a variety of tracks in both New England, and the South. In addition he won 4 Canadian National championships. He had a pair Grand National (now Sprint Cup) starts. In an event at Long Island New York’s Islip Speedway, he finished third behind David Pearson and Richard Petty. Known as “The Champ”, Charland was among the first racers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (Shany photo).

Putting things into perspective, to a certain degree the late George Pendergast gets short-changed when it comes to discussing the racing feats of his generation’s drivers. He was in-fact, a noteworthy winner grabbing checkers all-over New England during the much-heralded “Coupe Era.” Perhaps overshadowing his accomplishments was a fun-loving persona. Ever-the-Rogue (in a good-way), few escaped George’s practical jokes and desire to make racing an absolutely-entertaining endeavor both on & off the track. This shot captures George behind the controls of one of the many different rides he chauffeured in a successful career that lasted decades. (Grady photo).

In taking possession of a very large & diverse lot of early Shany Lorenzent original prints last year, we were pleased to find that the collection contained a liberal number of “profile shots” which are a rarity; this is one of them. The driver presented here holds a prominent place in the history books of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl (fortunately, still going-strong and opening this weekend). Originally opening in the spring of 1951 sporting a problematic crushed bluestone racing surface, the track was paved following only a trio of events. Stu Hellburg pictured here, was the first driver to win a feature event on the shoreline oval’s new asphalt surface. He did the trick on Saturday evening, May 15, 1951. (Shany photo).

Seen here wheeling a Ford convertible during a UNITED Late Model event during the 1950s at Massachusetts’ former & much-missed Riverside Park Speedway  is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi. One of New England modified racing’s first legitimate “Super Stars” he found his niche in the management-side of the sport after hanging-up his helmet. He went from driving to organizing in later years, accepting a post working for Joe Tinty as Race Director at the late Plainville Stadium, a position he held for many seasons. Usually nattily-attired on race-night, he was one of the true Showmen of his era. He was a supremely-successful racer at virtually every venue in New England during his career. (Shany photo).

BONUS SHOT: One-third of a brother-act that also included siblings Bob “Allie” Gada and the late Larry “Insta” Gada, Chris “Wally” Gada was a Speedbowl winner in Daredevil division action before graduating to the headlining modifieds. Note that the ”passengers” in this victory lane shot of Wally are Ed Reed Sr. and Cathy Reed, the parents of former Speedbowl late model & modified champion Ed Jr.  We believe that Eddie Sr. (who was the 1978 Street Stock champion), may have been the car owner at the time of this shot. (Shany photo).

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



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