Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 19, 2012
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

As my good friend & customary traveling partner NEAR Hall of Famer Pete Zanardi and I made our way to Don & Kathy Moon’s annual Christmas party last weekend, we couldn’t help but glimpse over at the former site of Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium, for decades that city’s home to Saturday night stock car racing. Joe Tinty’s jaunty little bullring and its cast of colorful characters were the stuff of local legend to a generation of fans from that area. Shuttered by what urban development planners like to call “progress” at the dawn of the 1980s, things ain’t quite been the same-since for Plainville racin’ folk and that’s a shame. However, thanks to our pal Phil Hoyt who served as The Stadium’s official track photographer for a number of years, we’re able to relive some of the great memories and that’s a wonderful thing! As-always, enjoy! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com  

More Plainville Memories….. Thanks Phil!!!!

See here following one of his many Plainville victories is our friend Don Moon. Among the people that we have to thank for helping to stage the track’s annual reunions, Don was also very-successful at a host of other raceways during his traveling days in addition to his local triumphs at The Stadium. Known as a master craftsman in the realm of car builders, his rides were always super-fast and immaculate-looking. Last weekend Don and his wife Kathy hosted their annual Christmas party and as-usual, a great time was had by all! (Phil Hoyt Photo).  

A pair of Plainville’s best speed down the front-chute….. On the inside is our pal Don Spazano, and up-high is none-other than Mr. Jap Membrino. Don relayed the details of this shot to me at the Moon’s recent Christmas party. Says Don; “It was an open-competition event and this was a heat race. Jap and I ran lap-after-lap just like this, him up high, and me on the inside. We used to race close like this all the time at Plainville and had a blast - it was just a fun place to run!” (Phil Hoyt Photo).

During the early 1970s when Phil Hoyt captured this action shot of Bob Vivari in the Sperry 6X Chevy II bodied-mount and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Dave Alkas in the Roland Cyr-owned #54 coach, this duo was at the top of their game at Plainville. One can only-imagine how many checkers were captured by these two champions during the track’s heyday! Just a great image typical of the close racing that thrilled crowds at The Stadium every Saturday night… (Phil Hoyt Photo).

If you were lucky enough to be around the sport when this guy was in his prime, you witnessed one of the best. Our friend and Webmaster Tom Ormsby of www.speedwaylinereport.com once stated that he was “Colorful, Controversial, and Popular” all at the same-time. The truth-is, Anthony “Jap” Membrino helped sell a lot of tickets during a stellar career that lasted over 3-decades. While he experienced incredible success at Plainville Stadium as captured here, Jap also won-big at many other New England venues. On the left is the late Joe Tinty, the owner of Plainville who just this year was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Coaches seemed to remain in-style at Plainville longer than at any other Connecticut track, and the classic-looking #100 of Bill Brown was a truly a beauty! This former North End Auto Parts #54 is A typical late-60s, early-1970s creation, his ride is a good representation of the machines that called “Tinty’s Place” home every Saturday night during those years. We really like this shot. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

The guy behind the wheel of this neat modified coupe actually got his Plainville start within the confines of that wild n’ wooly support class known as the Novice Division. This is Dennis “The Greek” Chavaris. It was an era when track announcers routinely bestowed catchy nicknames upon competitors often with a nod to ethnic lineage. Spending over five decades in the sport “The Greek” was a multi-time modified feature winner at The Stadium, later enjoying a stint in the SK Modifieds. (Phil Hoyt Photo).   

No installment of “RTT” on Plainville Stadium would be complete without a victory lane image of this driver, our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Dave Alkas. An absolute powerhouse at late Connecticut facility, teamed with car owner Roland Cyr he notched 5 track championships in a 10-year period. Competing regularly against Plainville alumni like Reggie Ruggiero, Don Moon, Stan Greger, and Ronnie Rocco, he routinely bested the field, notching eleven feature wins in one season-alone. He also won regularly during those great mid-week 100-lap open competition shows, beating visitors like Ed Flemke, Sr., Ron and Ken Bouchard, Bob Stefanik, and the late Dick Watson. That’s longtime Stadium flagman Billy Dunn offering-up congratulations. After his stint a Plainville Billy Dunn was the flagman at Riverside Park for over 20 years until its closing. Dunn is retired in Florida living near our webmaster and friend Tom Ormsby and still a flagman at Florida's Bronson Speedway. (Phil Hoyt Photo).  

“Lil Dan” Gaudiosi – the name was magic for what seemed like eons within the realm of New England modified racing. A mainstay of the old Tattersall/United dynasty (West Haven being particularly fortuitous for him), he started winning during the post-war stock car boom, and kept-on collecting checkers after many of his contemporaries had hung-up their helmets. Closely-aligned with the famous pink & white racers of his brother “Sharkey” Gaudiosi, he’s captured here ready-to-roll at Plainville in the 1970s. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Here’s a neat shot that may be somewhat of a mystery….. Upon my first look, I thought this was Nicky Porto, the usual pilot of this absolutely “Plainvillesque” coupe. On a second glance, buddy & Webmaster Tom Ormsby and I aren’t so-sure. Can any readers out-there confirm the identity of the driver? At any-rate, the car is illustrative of the memorable and absolutely-original creations that contributed to making Plainville such a unique place! (Phil Hoyt Photo).

It wasn’t all Coupes & Coaches at the Plainville of the 1970s…. Just like at other tracks in New England, the “Pinto Revolution” had an impact at “Tinty’s Place” and here’s a fine example of the modern tinwork that would quickly become the norm in modified racing all-over the region. Seen here taking a breather during a break in the action is Warren “Elmer” Lee, a popular journeyman racer that called The Stadium home for many seasons. A scan of the tracks archival records show that Lee was a top-runner, always in the thick-of-the-action. (Phil Hoyt Photo)

BONUS SHOT: Here’s another cool one…. It says Frank Moulton on the roof who was a fixture in New England modified racing for many seasons, and was particularly well-known for driving the Walt Cole #33 at Riverside Park Speedway. Our webmaster Tom Ormsby believes chauffeuring this car, Smitty's “Silver 6” coupe is the late Ron Infeld. The car was unique in the fact that it relied on power provided by a thundering GMC 6-clyinder powerplant, rather than an overhead V8 which by the time this image was captured at Plainville in the 70s, was the norm. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

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

Comments

Rich Belmont said:

The driver behind the wheel of the 69 is Nicky's brother, John Porto Jr.
As for Smitty's 'Silver 6", engines were built by Joe Fontana before he relocated to CA.

Dave Dykes said:

Rich, Thanks so-much for the information. Tom and I looked & looked at that shot, and just couldn't convince ourselves it was Nicky. It's such a cool image, I had to run-it this week (Thanks Phil!). Also, thanks for the data on the GMC-6. Lastly, congratulations on your new position as a NEAR Advisor; I know you'll do a great job for the club!

Steve K said:

Hey Dave-
I agree with Rich; that's John Porto. He also drove the #13 at Pville in earlier days. But if memory serves me right, Nicky drove this 69x for a little while though, after his coach was destroyed early in the 1972 season...

mike mordino said:

The picture with jap and his family and also earl pellitier far right jap drove and won in his car im good friends with earl jr

MIKE A. said:

THAT IS JOHNNY PORTO IN THE 69. GREAT PIX OF PLAINVILLE , THATS WHERE I WAS EVERY SAT. NITE IN THE 70'S.

Bob Paine said:

How msny cars did Sharkey run at a time? Ted Stack drove at Waterford, Lil Dan at other tracks - same or different cars? And there was a 4 that I think was a Non-Ford at the Speedbowl.

Dave Dykes said:

Hi Bob, That's a good question! Sharkey was at-it for a long time at many tracks. I have shots of Dan behind the wheel of a #4 Non-Ford at West Haven also...

Rich Belmont said:

Sharkey also ran big-block modifieds at the N. Y. (and Stafford) dirt tracks around the same time. He was one busy guy!

Bill Greco said:

I think it's Dave Furoni

 
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