Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday August 29, 2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

We begin this week with sending Get-Well wishes to our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman who’s recently been stricken with some pretty tough health issues. Long a close family friend of this scribe, and one of the best-ever to strap-in behind the controls of a Modified, cards of cheer reach Billy at 3 South Cobblers Court, Niantic, Ct. 06357. In other news, it was learned from friend & frequent RTT contributor Mal Phillips that former car owner Lou Young recently passed-away. Among his drivers were the late “Wild Bill” Slater who ran Lou’s #33 at Stafford, and also Don Seger who wheeled his #42A at the Waterford Speedbowl. Our sincerest condolences are offered to Lou’s family and many friends. Also we have another video from our Webmaster and friend Tom Ormsby. In other news, there are two big events on the horizon that are can’t-miss affairs for those of us in the vintage racing community. On Saturday, September 15, NEAR Hall of Famer Ron Bouchard hosts his annual NEAR Barbeque & Show at his Nissan dealership at 490 Old Union Turnpike in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Things get underway at 10:00, and as-usual it’s expected that many Hall of Famers will be present as-well as the mobile New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame exhibit. Then, on Saturday October 13, the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club World of Wheels presents the Fourth Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion. The event takes-place from 10am – 3pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located 430 Beckley Road, East Berlin, CT. Until next-time, have a great week! As-always, 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.

Another Mid-Week Trip Down Memory Lane……

Here’s a great image of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman culled from the files of our Webmaster & pal, Tom Ormsby. One night in the 1950s at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, Billy won a $10.00 bet in surprising everyone in attendance by racing in the tuxedo that he’d worn to the wedding of his sister-in-law earlier in the day! Things were certainly more carefree during the early days of the sport as this shot attests-to. As mentioned above, our old friend Billy is presently recuperating from some pretty serious health issues. Cards reach him at 3 South Cobblers Court, Niantic, Ct. 06357.  GET WELL SOON, BILLY! (Shany Photo, Ormsby Collection).

To those of us interested in Northeastern racing history, this is a truly-classic image on just so-many levels. 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. (John Grady Photo).

We ran a shot of this driver just a few weeks-ago, but really like this image also. Here’s another early shot of Springdale, CT. native, the late Dick Eagan. Starting in midgets during the bust post-war years, he also experienced great success within the emerging popularity of stock cars. He was second in United Stock Car Club points (then the premier sanctioning body in New England), in 1949 but it was on the dirt racing midgets where he really shined. He was a dominant at Stafford Springs in the early 1950s and then took to the road scoring victories from the Carolinas to Canada. His record also includes 6 NASCAR Grand National starts. Injuries sustained in a crash at Vernon, NY ended his career. A resident of Florida in later years, Eagan passed away at age 88 in May of 2007 only months following his induction into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Shany Photo).

Here we have a nice shot of Lou Carangelo one of the best-ever, particularly within the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club which was at one-time much bigger than NASCAR in New England. A modified racing standout for years, Lou was one of the most popular drivers of his era. In addition to being one of the top-runners at all of the UNITED tracks, he also nailed-down a championship at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium in 1961. He recorded a total of 7 Riverside Park feature victories, the first in 1966, and his final in 1974. (Grady Photo).        

Here’s a nice one of Troy, New York racer, Phil Spiak. Well-traveled and long a mainstay on the Northeastern modified trail, Spiak recorded multiple feature victories in the division during what many people consider to have been the “Golden Era” of the modifieds. He also successfully competed in the former Grand National East series. (Grady Photo)

The late Keith Armbrust drove for a number of seasons at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl (as captured here), recording a singular Modified victory on Sept. 19, 1966 beating Walt Dombrowski & Newt Palm to the checkers. Keith was a close associate of multi-time Speedbowl Modified champion the late George “Moose” Hewitt early-on, along with guys like the Craig Kirchoff (who later owned cars campaigned by both Moose, and Gordon Page), and of-course, George Brennan who was there all of the championship years. (Shany Photo).    

Here’s another treasure from our Webmaster, Tom Ormsby. He states; “I've had this photo in a scrapbook for years, and always thought it was Charlie Glazier. I took it out of the book to scan, and noticed that on the back it’s written “Moe Gherzi, 1980.”  Took a closer-look to be sure, and it is Moe. Not sure if he was just taking it around in practice, or was racing that day at Stafford.” The late Gherzi of-course, was one of the real pioneers of out sport, and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

It’s the season-ending awards banquet in 1968, and on the left receiving the big hardware for winning the first of his two modified championships at Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium is Bob Vivari. Always one of the drivers to beat at the tough little nutmeg state ¼-miler, Bob repeated in 1972. On the right is promoter & owner of that much-missed track, the late Mr. Joe Tinty. Special thanks to our friend Chuck Grimes for contributing this great image! (Photo Courtesy Chuck Grimes).

This is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Leo Cleary, aptly nicknamed “The Lion” owing to his fearless style behind the wheel of “ground-pounders” like early this Bob Garbarino “Mystic Missle” coupe. It was more than one chauffer that became uneasy when they had a mirror-full of Cleary – he was one tough competitor. Leo competed at the Medford Bowl, Lonsdale, Norwood, Catamount, and Westboro. Among active tracks, he raced at Thompson, Seekonk, Stafford (as seen here), Martinsville, Oswego and Waterford, along with several others. In his 44 years behind the wheel, he took down 14 track championships, including the Norwood Arena, Seekonk, and Thompson. The winning-ways continued until he was 63 and finally retired in 1993. Like his former driver & friend Leo, Bob Garbarino is also a member of the Hall of Fame. (Shany Photo).

Captured here at Stafford in the Ray Stonkis #19A (special thanks to our pal Bruce Cohen for identifying Ray as the car owner), we have the late Bobby Santos, fondly recalled as the “Frito Bandito” in New England racing circles. Yet another driver that traces his roots back to the Norwood Arena where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the 1950s, he went-on to become a dominant force in the modified wars. Driving for renowned car-owners such as Stonkis, Art Barry, Bill Simon, and Joe Brady among others, he was a threat to win on any given night. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. However, the Santos racing legacy continues through his grandchildren. Bobby III and Erica are both active and successful drivers. As a sidenote, check-out the grill & hood ornament on this little coupe - it’s from a Mercedes-Benz1 (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: For all intent, “Rapid Rick” Donnelly’s Modified career started at the late UNITED-sanctioned Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. In 1975, he followed Harvey Tattersall down to Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl when the shoreline oval became yet-another acquisition of the once-powerful UNITED dynasty. That year he was awarded Rookie of the Year honors, and by 1979, he was crowned track champion. His title year was particularly spectacular – he won 10 of the 14 events, a season that was plagued by an unusually-high amount of rainouts. This shot captures him away from his Waterford digs at a Plainville Stadium mid-week open show on Wednesday evening, June 29, 1977. (Kennedy Photo).    


Remembering Johnny Georgiades




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

This Weeks Comments
(3 days ago) Bob Georgiades said:

Tom, you probably thought the 32 car with Moe in it was Glazier because Bob Stefanick drove a white monza bodied 44 for Mario Fiore at the park and Roger Rule must have bought the car at the tail end of the season and put a 32 on it and Glazier drove it. Any pictures of that car?

(4 days ago) NELS said:

LEO THE LION!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT GUY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(4 days ago) Anonymous said:

Pretty sure Art Whitbeck raced the #30 and #3 orange Vegas around 1977 thru '78. Germano raced this car at Waterford a couple times after Plainville closed. Ronnie Rocco joined him with the #13 Coupe!

(5 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

You're all-set, Denny....

(5 days ago) Denny Zimmerman said:

Test Test

(5 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Rich, it's def. Moe as confirmed by several sources. As Tom states, we're 99% sure that it was just for some practice laps; very unique photo to say the least! Thanks for writing! - Dave.

(5 days ago) RICH FALLIS said:


(5 days ago) Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

It's Dave's car, but it's Moe behind the wheel. I believe he was just taking it out in practice. Moe & Dave where good friends.

(5 days ago) RICH FALLIS said:


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