Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday Aug 8, 2012
   

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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

In this installment of “RTT” we continue with several early gems from the portfolio of pioneering New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzent. Waterford, Riverside, and even a few images from the “dirt era” at Stafford, they’re all here. Keeping it short-but-sweet, until next-time have a great week! Thanks to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for providing Part 11 of the 2003 NEAR Nostalgia Weekend video. This week is an interview with our friend the late Dick Watson. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

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Another Dose of Mid-Week Memories…….

Captured here with his team (and a Beauty Queen complementing the proceedings), the grinning guy in the plaid shirt who’s just nailed another “New London Waterford” Speedbowl feature in the storied L&M coupe is our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy Harman. From his HOF biography; “At age 21, Billy Harman began racing a modified 312 Ford at the Waterford Speedbowl. He won a feature in his first year, as well as taking down Rookie of the Year honors.  He continued at the Speedbowl for the next 7 years, recording many wins and holding four different track records, including the fastest 10 lap heat, 25 lap feature, 50 lap feature, and non-stop 100 lap feature. He dominated there, especially in 1965 and 1966, driving the famed L & M Coupe. Following 1966, Bill felt it was time to move on to more and bigger challenges. He went on to win races for many car owners, including Freddie Beaber in the 715 and 716, Tuck Hoffman and Kevin Coan in the 73, and Bob Judkins in the 2x.  In 1971, driving the #55 for Ted Marsh, Billy finished 6th in the National Modified Championship.  He raced from Canadian tracks in the North, to Hollywood Speedway in Miami Beach, Florida. He raced as far West as Ohio, competing at 54 tracks, and winning at 14 different speedways.  From the Race of Champions in Trenton and Pocono to the Oxford Plains 250, Harman thrived on the ‘big’ races.  He also competed in the 1st Thompson 500 ever run, running 2nd to Fred DeSarro in Ted Marsh’s 55 with only 10 laps to go before blowing a motor.” Bill retired in the late 1970’s, following a successful stint behind the controls of the Joe Zenga Vega. (Shany Photo).

Here’s an 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’s a wonderful portrait image of the late Al Keller, one of the post-war era’s greatest open-wheel stars. In 1949, he also began competing occasionally in NASCAR’s Strictly Stock (later Grand National) division. From 1949-54 he ran in 29 races, winning twice. In 1954, Keller turned his complete attention to the AAA & USAC Championship Car Series. He raced Champ Cars, Sprints, and Midgets over the next several seasons, and also competed in the Indianapolis 500 scoring a best finish of fifth in 1961. Sadly, later that year he perished in a fiery crash at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The attrition-rate was often of staggering proportions during the early days of open cockpit racing (Shany Photo).

Captured here during the heyday of the United Stock Car Racing Club at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts for which was probably an All-Star League Show, few New England modified drivers had more going for them than the late Don MacTavish. Starting his career at the age of 15 racing at the much-celebrated Norwood Arena, he quickly gained popularity as one of the regions brightest young upstarts. In 1963 he progressed to NASCAR’s Sportsman Division and in 1966 took the NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, his closest competitors being Ralph Earnhardt, "Wild" Bill Slater and Rene Charland. During his Daytona debut on February 22, 1969, “Mac” lost his life in a horrific crash during the Permatex 300. To say this regions racing community was stunned and saddened is an understatement. MacTavish was posthumously inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001 (Shany Photo).                  

This one’s an absolute- classic, and a shot I’d been trying to find for eons. Pictured here is Ray Brown, the 1950 Riverside Park UNITED champion. He was also the titlist that same year at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium back in the days when one could race 7 days a week. Brown was a resident of White Plains, NY and posted an impressive New England racing resume during the formative years of the sport. He was also an occasional competitor at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl located on the Connecticut shoreline. (Shany Photo).     

Like so-many of the racers from his generation, the late Maynard Forrette saw no boundaries in the difference between running on dirt or asphalt. A big winner on both, he’s probably most fondly-remembered for his stunning dirt-slingin’ drives on the daunting Syracuse Mile where during the later stages of his career, he often bested competitor’s half-his-age. A master mechanic and innovative car builder, Forrette also ran Northern Speed Supply, a haven for racers seeking to get the most out of their equipment. This shot captures the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Famer during the dirt era at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. (Shany Photo).  

And here we have a nice Riverside Park shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Chauncey "Jocko" Maggiacomo. From his HOF biography; Chauncey "Jocko" Maggiacomo won the first race he started, driving a motorcycle in Milbrook, N.Y., in 1931. In 1937, he drove his first midget, then switched to stock cars when he returned from serving in World War II. Jocko was so successful that in 1948, his first year back to racing, he won over $13,000. In the 1950’s racers had few of the safety features available for today’s stock cars. In a NEARNEWS interview in 1995, Jocko recalled strapping into his racer with an extra wide leather belt, while wearing a leather helmet that “wouldn’t do much more than hold my hair in place.” Finding that milk delivery tires were more durable than standard passenger tires, Jocko ran them until tires were made specifically for racing application. Jocko was equally successful on both dirt and asphalt. He achieved great success on the 1/5 mile asphalt bull ring at Riverside Park Speedway where he was an early winner. He is credited with winning 31 Saturday night features and three championships in 1952, 53, and 55. He was also very successful in the late model Grand American division of Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club. Most of his wins came while driving cars owned by Gordon Ross, Bob Oliver, and the Garuti bros. He retired as a driver after competing in the 1965 after winning the Riverside Park 500 lap team race with another Hall of Famer, Billy Greco. (Shany Photo).  

This coupe-era shot sees the late Kenny Shoemaker and the Wright/Zautner #24 mount ready to roll on the dirt of Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. To list the number of victories and top car-owners that he drove for during his heyday would simply take more space than this weekly column allows. “The Shoe” is justifiably an inductee of several stock car racing Hall of Fames. Kenny passed-away in 2001 leaving-behind a huge legion of fans and fellow competitors that recall him as one of the most exciting drivers to have-ever graced a Northeastern speedway, dirt or pavement. For an in-depth look at Kenny’s storied career, visit our friend Lew Boyd’s Coastal 181 Publishing at www.coastal181 and pick-up a copy of “They Called Me The Shoe.” (Shany Photo).

This guy is a Hall of Fame member of the following; The New York Stock Car Association, Fonda Speedway, Dirt Motorsports, Eastern Press Association, and of course, was a 2002 inductee of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of Daytona's Living Legends of Auto Racing – no minor accolade. The career of the much-celebrated Bill Wimble began during the early-fifties in New York State. The winner of the 1960 NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, like many of his contemporaries he maintained a super-hectic schedule. During 1967-alone, Wimble competed every weekend at three New York tracks, Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga, and Fonda. Amazingly-enough, he was crowned track champion at all of them! Also a force to be reckoned-with in Connecticut, Seen here at Stafford, Wimble was particularly-successful on that track’s former dirt-surface. (Shany Photo)

Captured here at Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway celebrating another victory aboard his signature “8-Ball” coupe is the late Dick Dixon. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, he was a top modified competitor in Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Club (that’s Harvey on the left), in the 1950’s and 1960’s, also competing in their Grand American class. One year, he won all-but two GA features run by United. He earned several wins on the old Big E racetrack in both the coupes and the late models. Dixon raced in several Grand National (Sprint Cup) events, including races at Charlotte, Lime Rock, Daytona, and Islip Speedways. Sadly, Dick lost his life in 1967 while competing at Thompson Speedway in a car normally driven by fellow New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: We’re not-sure of the year or why the armed services member is presenting the trophy, but we do know that it’s Waterford and the winning driver is Joey “Pops” Trudeau. Looking quite-youthful here, Joey was a fan-favorite at the Speedbowl for decades, and his winning reputation kept him in-demand with all of the shoreline oval’s top teams. After coming-close to notching the championship on several occasions, he finally scored the coveted title in 1971 wheeling Gene “Big Smitty” Smith’s #11 coupe. Curiously-enough, Trudeau took the title without the benefit of a single feature triumph. (Shany Photo).  

 

New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 11
An Interview with Hall of Famer the Late Dick Watson

 
 

 

 

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

This Weeks Comments
(5 days ago) Jack VanDelft said:

I remember seeing "Jocko" Maggiacomo in a 1956 "Grand National" race at Thompson Speedway. That was back when "stock" meant stock and he won a race that featured Tiny Lund and other well known drivers of that era.

(5 days ago) Bill said:

Thanks For the Ray Brown photo,
I worked for him pumping gas in the late '50s early '60s

(5 days ago) Anonymous said:

GREAT SHOT OF DON MACTAVISH DAVE! AND LOVED THE INTERVIEW PIECE WITH DICK WATSON! RIP.

 
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