Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday August 17, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 32                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

We begin this week wishing our friend and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Val LeSieur a speedy recovery. Admitted to the “crash house” last week, he’s said to be on the road-to-recovery as this is being written. Special thanks go out to our friend & webmaster Tom Ormsby for donating some of this week’s images, and also to the family of the late Tony Mordino. Until next-time, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com        

Vintage Views; A Continuation….

As stated-above, our old pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Val LeSieur was recently hospitalized. Launching Speedway Scene in 1971, his weekly paper became a “must-read” for anyone even remotely involved in the sport of auto racing in New England. It focused on the sport's people and issues in addition to reporting race results. Full of feisty columns, it was soon required reading across the region. Fans used it to follow their favorite racers, and to help determine their own weekly racing schedules. Promoters alternately loved and loathed its candid commentary. Racers valued the boost it gave their careers. Based on his many contributions to the sport, LeSieur was inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame this year. Though he’s in good spirits, Val could certainly use some cheering-up from his many friends in the sport. He can be reached at his cell at 508.521.3106, or his room phone at 781.297.8570, Room 308, Goddard Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, 909 Sumner Street, Stoughton, MA. Get-well soon, Val! (RA Silvia Collection).             

Here’s a great shot courtesy of our webmaster and friend, Tom Ormsby. The locale is Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium in the early-70s, and the guy seated at the controls of uncle Eddie Mack's -coupe is Dave Germano. Once one of Plainville’s top modified shoes, at the time Dave was an Industrial Arts teacher at Southington High School, today Dave is retired from the sport and earns his keep as the Assistant Principle at Southington, Connecticut High School. (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection)  

How’s this for a trio of New England Auto Racing Hall of Famers? Left-to-right, its “Wild Bill” Slater (AKA “The Connecticut Valley Rocket’), the late, great Eddie Flemke Sr., and Pete Hamilton. The year is 1970, and Hamilton (who was a student of Flemke), was fresh off his win in the Daytona 500, a victory he notched in dramatic fashion wheeling a Petty Enterprises Plymouth Superbird. To learn more about these three giants of New England motorsports history, visit www.near1.com (Ormsby Collection).                      

Long before he became one of New England’s top modified chauffeurs, Ronnie Wycoff got his start in the sport racing in support division entries like this one in Florida. The location is Hialeah Raceway, and the year is 1959. The shot was captured shortly before Ronnie’s move to Connecticut. Even-then, he was a winner! (Ormsby Collection).                            

Seen here seated behind the wheel of an absolutely classic-looking coach-bodied entry at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway is popular Lou Austin. Long one of the premier players during the region’s much-heralded “coupe era” it should also be noted that Lou was quite the multi-talented competitor. In addition to his accomplishments in the modifieds, he also occasionally campaigned within the ranks of the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA), enjoying considerable success. (Burnham Photo, Ormsby Collection).     

Here’s another great early-70s image from Plainville. Jon Manafort is seen seated in a coupe owned by the late John Farone. Both the Manafort and Farone families had long, successful careers at the former Connecticut ¼-miler, earning many checkered flags. Though it doesn’t always get its due historically-speaking, Plainville Stadium was once of the most competitive tracks in New England, and was responsible for jump-starting the careers of some of the best modified drivers in the business. The track’s annual reunion will be coming-up on Saturday, October 8, so watch for information here in the coming-weeks. (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection)                   

Before becoming a modified regular at Plainville Stadium, Prospect, CT. native Sherm Saunders was one of the top-performers at the UNITED-sanctioned West Haven Speedway as seen here in his Non-Ford entry. Saunders had a number of victories at The Stadium’ and sometimes competed at Riverside Park. He also ran-well in the big star-studded shows once held yearly on the 5/8-miler on the grounds of the “Big E” in Massachusetts.  (Shany Photo, Ormsby Collection).     

It wasn’t all-modifieds at Plainville; like most tracks there was plenty of action in the support divisions. Seen here in the late-1970s is a youthful Beetle Farone (brother of JoJo and the late Butch “Seymour the Clown” Farone), who was one of the very-best in the “fendered” classes. The Stadium routinely attracted some of the biggest Late Model/Street Stock fields in New England every Saturday night. In addition to his many successes at Plainville, Beetle was also a Street Stock champion at Stafford. (Hoyt Photo, Ormsby Collection).

We just love this shot of the late, great Tony Mordino and his crew in the Bucky Membrino owned #78 captured at West Haven Speedway in 1958. Another of the best racers that New England had to offer, Tony enjoyed a long, storied career that included many triumphs at places like Riverside Park, Eastern States, Waterford, West Haven, and Plainville. It’s a LONG trail of victories! (Mordino Family Collection).               

Lastly, we have a nice victory lane shot of Andy Montanari at Connecticut’s Danbury Racerena. We’re not sure of the year, as the wildly-successful SNYRA mandated flathead-power for its modifieds long-after the majority of other tracks in the region had went to the overheads. Sadly, Danbury was shuttered in 1981 thus ending the history of one of the most successful short track operations in the country. As with Plainville Stadium, Danbury will be holding another reunion this year, their 10th edition. It’s slated for Sunday, September 25 at the P.A.L. building in Danbury. (Mannion Photo).                                          

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

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