Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 8, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 46                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


Once again we present another dose of “golden oldies” from the “RTT” archives. Short-but-sweet, we’ll waste little time in getting to the photos, but not without a big thanks to our pal Mal Phillips for contributing some of this week’s gems. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com    

It’s Wednesday; Time For More “Old Stuff”….      

This shot captures Irwin Fox following a victory at Connecticut’s late West Haven Speedway. Fox was one of the top competitors at the track fondly recalled by locals as “The Rock” (a nod to the adjacent Savin Rock amusement park). It was an oddly-shaped 1/5-mile oval set within the confines of a baseball stadium and one of a number of raceways sanctioned by the once-powerful United Racing Club led by the Tattersall family. Like so many other New England speedways that flourished during the years following World War II, West Haven succumbed to rising property values and the urban renewal movement of the 1960s. (Shany Photo).         

Like Fox, Ralph “Zippy” Zullo called West Haven Speedway home for a number of seasons. His #88 entry is typical of the machinery campaigned at “The Rock” which featured Non Ford & Novice division fare as the regular weekly attraction for most of it’s existence. Following the untimely closure of the track, Zullo campaigned at a number of other tracks in the region including Plainville Stadium and the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. (Shany Photo).  

Unlike the coonskin cap-wearing hero of American folklore, this Davy Crockett became famous (albeit on a more localized level), wheeling machines like this sharp coupe at the West Haven Speedway. He was an extremely popular chauffer that grabbed starter Lou Reed’s checkered flag on a number of occasions during the height of his career. (Shany Photo).

And here’s “Little Dan” Gaudiosi who was certainly one of West Haven’s best-ever. He claimed the 1957, 60, & 64 championships. Along with NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Greco, he remains the only other driver to have claimed 3 titles during the tracks 17-year history of running modifieds. Dan of-course, went on to still-more success following his run at Savin Rock, and was particularly good at another former Connecticut oval, the much-missed Plainville Stadium. (Shany Photo).        

Another driver that experienced early career success at the West Haven Speedway was this guy, the late Pete Brockett Sr. Spending over three-decades behind the controls of a Modified, his later efforts were centered-on the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl where he also became a winner. His ride known as “Brockett’s Rocket” Pete was always a crowd-favorite, be it “The Rock” or the ‘Bowl. (Shany Photo).

Captured here in 1965 is legendary Eastern open-wheel racer, the late Len Duncan. Starting his career in 1928, he was an extraordinary talent. He was an AAA Champion, as well as the winner of 8 ARDC midget titles from 1955-67. A multi-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 and a member of the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Duncan retired in the 1980’s after 7-decades behind the wheel of a race car. None other than the great Mario Andretti credits Duncan on having a profound influence on his career. (Photographer Unknown).               

Seen here during the 1950s on the old dirt surface of Mal Barlow’s Stafford Springs Speedway in Connecticut is John Coon in one of NEAR Hall of Fame member Art Barry’s early creations. Typical of the era, it was of the self-built variety and most components were truly-stock. Like his contemporaries, car owners like Barry could construct a coupe like this relying mainly on grassroots mechanical ingenuity rather than the thickness of their wallet. Major changes throughout the coming decades would begin to place a high price tag on the pursuit of competing weekly at your local short track. Special thanks to Mal Phillips for providing all the info. on this shot. (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection).

Here’s one for all you fans of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. It’s the “Dynamite Special” and the guy behind the wheel of this ancient 1950s Shany Lorenzent image is Don Segar. Pretty clean for the era, I’d have to assume that Segar’s creation was one of the prettier rides of the early days at the track fondly known as the “shoreline oval.” (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection).

This guy’s name remains synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division at that track than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. While he drove for a varied list of top teams, this 1950’s shot captures him behind the wheel of his self-owned “Little Jewel” #106. (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection)            

Here’s a neat early 1970s victory lane shot of Plainville Stadium competitor, Bob Vivari with car owner Bruce Sperry. A track champion and big-winner at the The Stadium’ for many seasons, he was one of the first at the late Connecticut ¼-miler to successfully campaign a Modified sporting “late model” sheet-metal. As seen here, Bob’s mount sports a Chevy II body, rather unique in a field that overwhelmingly consisted of the more traditional Coupes n’ Coaches of the day. (Phil Hoyt Photo).                

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

 
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