Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday Aug 1, 2012
   

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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

We start this edition of “RTT” on a somber-note, as it was learned late last week that our friend and New England Antique Racers member Harry “Nick” Fountaine passed-away unexpectedly on Friday, 7/27 while preparing to make the Saturday evening trip to “Nostalgia Night” at the Waterford Speedbowl. A frequent visitor to this site and a valued member of NEAR, Nick was a pal to many within our region’s vintage racing community. He proudly campaigned his restored Bob Potter #110 Bonville Bros. coupe with the club. There are no funeral services or calling hours. Varnum Funeral Home, West Brookfield, MA. is assisting the family with arrangements. The entire NEAR family expresses our sincere condolences. Thanks to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for this week's video of the 2003 NEAR Nostalgia Weekend. This week is Part 10 and Lew Boyd intervies Hall of Famer Bill Wimble. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Yet-More From The “Shany File”….

The late, great Buddy Krebs (with trophy), is pictured here following a victory aboard the Jim Jorgensen coupe at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. Our friend Walt Scadden recently penned a terrific book on Jorgensen (seen here second-from right), entitled “Swamp Yankee: The Racing Life of Jim Jorgensen.” One of the greatest racing careers in New England, from the late 1950s to 1969, Jorgensen and his crew crisscrossed the country, racing his innovative stock car, sprint, and Indy Car designs with standout drivers like Gene Bergin, Buddy Krebs, Bill Brown and Denny Zimmerman. Progressing from countless bullrings and county fair tracks to some of the most revered venues in the country such as Langhorne, Phoenix and Milwaukee, and on to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jorgensen made his name and left his mark. To purchase the book, visit Lew Boyd’s Coastal 181 Publishing at www.coastal181.com. Both Jorgensen and Krebs are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Shany Photo).

Another shot from Riverside, seen here in victory lane following a triumph aboard the potent Beebe Zalinski-owned #M6 coupe is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the late Gene Bergin. Driving Beebe’s ride (that’s him on the right), Bergin, a driver that auto racing writer Pete Zanardi (also a Hall of Famer), once referred-to as “The most naturally-gifted & versatile race driver that I’ve ever seen” had a great tenure wheeling the #M6, winning at virtually all of New England’s modified haunts. He also recorded the first-ever Stafford Motor Speedway asphalt championship in 1967. (Shany Photo).

Here’s a great shot of a true “Midget Maestro” during the heyday of a brilliant career; the late Johnny Kay (real name John Kapustinski). As a winner on both the NEMA & ARDC Midget circuits for many seasons (along with forays into AAA and USAC Indy & Champ Car competition), he was long-considered one of the best during a career that was unfortunately, compromised by a serious crash while still at the top of his game. He was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2006. As a side-note, after retiring from driving Kay became a talented racing photographer, staying close to the sport he loved. (Shany Photo).

Here at “RTT” we really love these “portrait shots” as they remain some of the most-elusive images to find, and this one’s a gem! Another of the top-shoes during the early days of New England stock car racing was the ultra-popular Arthur “Red” Bolduc. Captured here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, he actually experienced most of his success at the late Norwood Arena in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that much-acclaimed speedplant would also be his undoing. On the evening of June 18 1960, Bolduc and his Coach slapped the Norwood wall with devastating impact. The unlucky Red passed-away the next day from his injuries, thus ending the life and career of one of our regions greatest racers. Life could be very fragile in the early-days of out sport. Red was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005. (Shany Photo).                 

Here’s an early-career image of Johnny Thompson we believe (like the Bolduc shot), to have been captured at Connecticut’s “New-London-Waterford” Speedbowl. A winner at several different New England raceways during his long career, not unlike Bolduc, Thompson was particularly-good at Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he was a champion during that track’s most competitive era. Note Johnny’s Brit-inspired “Cromwell” helmet, then the absolute-standard in safety protection. Back-then, a lot of the drivers referred to them simply as “brain buckets.” (Shany Photo).    

Make no mistake about-it, the guy you see here (and others like him across the nation), play a hugely-important role in the happenings at your local track every weekend. Meet Mr. Loren Card, one of the pioneers in the art of “waving the flags” at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. A supremely-trusted individual that knew every nuance of the sport, Card successfully started the fields at the Bowl’ for many seasons from the 1950s into the early 1970s. As a no-nonsense member of the shoreline oval’s staff, he was well-liked by both official & fans. These individuals truly remain some of the unsung-heroes of our sport. Theirs is not an easy task, and it represents a huge dose of responsibility. (Shany Photo).  

Though we’re not privy to his record elsewhere, we do know that this driver holds one record at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl that will never be challenged. Captured here on the old dirt surface at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, Bob Swift was the first-ever feature winner at the Speedbowl, defeating a stellar field on Sunday afternoon,  April 15, 1951. It should be noted that the Speedbowl’s racing surface was first made-up a curious mix of dirt & crushed bluestone. It was paved by May of that first season. (Shany Photo)   

Though somewhat historically-neglected, the dirt era at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway is a really interesting period. Many of the top teams of the time competed there, often building cars specifically for Stafford to assure that their primary machines didn’t get too “banged-up” for competition at their primary tracks. Stafford was pretty-gritty stuff in those days, and far-from what the Arute family transformed it into after purchasing the place from Mal Barlow in 1970. Captured here on the old Stafford dirt surface in a neat coach-bodied modified is the late Carroll Sleeper, one of the more-noted New England racers of his generation. (Shany Photo)

Once-again, it’s Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950s, and the driver is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo. A winner all over New England during what would be today considered a relatively-brief career, he recorded a number of Modified feature victories at the shoreline oval, and was particularly-tough at the late Plainville Stadium where he was twice a track champion. As stated-above. George’s career really was a abbreviated affair compared to many of his contemporaries. It leaves one to wonder just how-many more feature victories he would have recorded had he stayed behind the wheel just a little-longer. (Shany Photo)

Captured here on the late Riverside Park’s old 1/5-miler is 1951 track champion, Benny Germano. Once the flagship speedway of the all powerful Tattersall-governed United Stock Car Racing Club, Germano competed against the very-best in the business to garner his title. Names like Krebs, Tappett, Flemke, Maggiacamo, Dixon, & Humiston come-to-mind. It was indeed, a star-studded field each & every week. To win a United championship in 1951 meant accomplishing something truly-extraordinary. Before NASCARS’s infiltration of New England (which for all intents & purposes really began at Norwood Arena), UNITED was king in this region. Germano scored a career-total of 17 Riverside feature victories, the first in 1950, the final in 1959. (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: The location is Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, and the guy receiving the cake in celebration of his 1952 track championship is none-other than the late Dick Beauregard, certainly one of the best-ever at the shoreline oval. To Dick’s left is car owner Mrs. Burke, and on the right holding the microphone is United Stock Car Racing Club official Rex Records. Note the marching band in the background; they certainly did things in a BIG WAY at Waterford in the old days! (Shany Photo).

ANOTHER BONUS SHOT: This driver has been around New England racing for more-years than he’d probably like to admit, and remains one of the sports true Nice Guys. Starting his career at the former Catamount Stadium in Vermont many moons-ago, the ageless Jeff Horn (now in his mid-60s), still gets it around quite-nicely, thank you. As one of today’s top drivers on the NEMA midget circuit, you can always expect him to be near the front at the end of the evening. Long-considered one of the regions top open-wheel stars, this shot captures him wheeling a super at Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire back in 1984. During the heyday of NESMRA, he successfully competed against star-studded fields that included Hall of Famers like Ollie Silva, Paul Richardson, Don MacLaren, Eddie West, etc. Rest-assured, this racer’s trophy shelf is full. Adding to his long commitment to the sport, Jeff recently relayed to NEMA’s Pete Zanardi that there’s also a couple of supers and a dirt midget & sprint housed in the garage at the Vermont home he shares with his wife Carman. A true family-affair, Jeff’s son Mike is an accomplished & popular NEMA competitor. (Special thanks to NEMA’s Cynthia Tebbetts for the photo).

 

New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 10
An Interview with Hall of Famer Bill Wimble

 
 

 

 

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

This Weeks Comments
(5 days ago) Larry Larivee said:

nice pic of gene Bergin. had to be Stafford since Hall of famer Frank Ferrara is there with the checkers. must have been an early Ferrara 100 with his pace car in the back.

(6 days ago) Bob Paine said:

Johnny Sandberg drove a 164 in 1960. It was pink as I recall, and was owned by someone from Colchester.

 
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