Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 22, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 48                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Today we present another varied selection of “racin’ history” with an emphasis on my old haunt, Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. A big round of appreciation goes out to our pals R.A. Silvia, Rusty Sage, and storied New England car owner Mario Fiore for donating some of this week’s images. I’d like to take a moment to wish all of our “RTT” readers a joyous holiday season, and send a special thanks to my friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby for making it possible for me to do this site every week. His help is truly appreciated! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com      

Wishing A Merry Christmas To All !!!!!!      

Here’s another rare image from our friend Rusty Sage. We’ll let him give the details; “This Waterford Speedbowl Daredevil class entry belonged to Eddie Bunnell and he raced it for a few weeks in 1965 while simultaneously running in the Bomber division. The class started-in I believe, September of 1965. The shot was captured then at the Bunnell shop. Because of Eddie's commitment to the Bombers, Roger Bonville drove it for the remainder of the season.” Bunnell of course, went on to convincingly score the last-ever Bomber championship in 1966. (Photo Courtesy Rusty Sage).

Gary Colturi was on the fast-track to success when news of his tragic death in a motorcycle accident both stunned and saddened the New England racing community in 1973. He was extremely popular with both fans & his fellow competitors. Teaming with legendary car owner Mario Fiore later in his career, he raced to much-success at Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway. Courtesy of his friend & one-time car owner Mario, we’re able to present this shot of Gary behind the controls of his first-ever race car at Riverside in 1962. (Photo Courtesy Mario Fiore).       

We’re not really sure what to think of this vintage “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl image of “Uncle Don” Steiner, but it sure-is interesting! Though he successfully raced Modifieds, Steiner enjoyed most of his shoreline oval success while behind the controls of full-bodied Daredevil, Sportsman Sedan, and Grand American entries. Here, Don’s Chevy looks to be an entry from one of the aforementioned classes decked-out for competition in the Modified ranks; perhaps an open-comp show? (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia)

By the time Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo posed for this Speedbowl victory shot in May of 1976, he’d already established himself as a Waterford winner having taken his first checker in 1971 as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. In 1988 his career reached its zenith, as he and longtime racing associate Dana Gerry waltzed-off with the championship. A surprise to everyone, Ceravolo then promptly announced his retirement, going-on to oversee the racing career of his son Todd. Like-father, like-son, Todd became a Waterford Modified champion in 1997. (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).   

In later years, hometown driver Terry Peabody gained notoriety as a top motor-builder via his successful “Peabody Performance” endeavor. When this 1974 Speedbowl paddock area shot was captured, he was wheeling his sharp self-constructed coupe. The local motorsports community was saddened when the popular Peabody passed-away at a relatively young-age just a few seasons-ago. Immediately to Terry’s right in this shot is his friend Mark Geer, who during a long career drove Modifieds as-well as serving as a Speedbowl official. As a side-note, this is the car in-which another local modified star began his career, that being Larry Lamphear. (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R. A. Silvia).

John Ferrell (right), remains one of racing’s true “Nice Guys.” John was a staple on the NEMA Midget tour for a number of seasons, serving as one of the club’s steadiest competitors. When this vintage shot was captured during the Waterford Speedbowl’s “Coupe Era” he was wheeling this neat little modified stock car entry in the tracks premier division. Proving the old adage “The apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree,” John’s daughter Kelly is also a successful racer, excelling in the ranks of New England Midget competition. (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Admittedly, on occasion I run-across a photo that I’ve never viewed-before. This is one of them. The driver is Art Michon, a talented shoe who during the 1970’s recorded a number of fine modified finishes at Waterford. I recall this car, and distinctly remember really-liking the way it looked. Until now, I’ve never had a shot of it! (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Here’s a nice 70s-era Stafford Springs Motor Speedway shot of our good friend & New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy Harman. Here’s some highlights of Bill’s long & successful career courtesy of his HOF biography; “At age 21, Billy Harman began racing a modified 312 Ford at the New London-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. Today, he and his lovely wife Donna divide their time between homes in Connecticut and Florida. (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).   

Captured here pitside at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl decades-ago, Walt Perkins sported an eye-catching paint scheme on his coach-bodied modified, and it was as fast as it was flashy. Before the days of assembly-line race cars, it seemed that each ride had its own unique “personality.” Walt’s creation really stood-out, and on a personal note I can recall really liking the way it looked when I was a kid sitting in the grandstands with my late parents. Racing machines could be pretty colorful back in Walt’s day! (Dugas Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).  

Seen here early in his career behind the controls of one of his signature #732 coupes is Fitchburg, Massachusetts’ Reino Tulonen. He competed in big cars, midgets, sprint cars, jalopies, coupes, modifieds and super modifieds. In 1951 he drove the Custom Auto Body Henry J in 4 NASCAR Grand National (now know as the Sprint Cup Series) events. His many accomplishments include winning the 1951 New England Championship and the 1951 Seekonk Cutdown championship. Known as "The Flying Finn", he built, owned, drove, and worked on his own cars. Later in his career, he was successful making the transition to supermodifieds and NASCAR modifieds, winning the 1964 Westboro, MA. title. Fittingly, Reino was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005. (Grady Photo, Courtesy R.A. Silvia).                

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

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