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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
LEW BOYD DECEMBER 10 COASTAL CLAUS
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By Dave Dykes CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE
This week we
present a selection of photos from a variety of New England raceways
including the former ½-mile dirt of the Kingston, Rhode Island
Fairgrounds. Once-again, thanks to our pal Racing Historian R.A. Silvia
for digging-deep into his archives and pulling these rare images for all
of us to enjoy, and also, much-appreciation to our Webmaster & friend Tom
Ormsby for getting the site posted each & every week! On a sad note, we
learned that our longtime friend Tony Leckey lost his mom last week. Many
of you who frequent this site know Tony, as he’s served in several key
positions at area tracks over the years including Starter and Race
Director. Our sincere condolences are offered to Tony and his entire
family. Lastly, Hall of Famer Billy Greco will be hosting a NEAR Racing
Movie Party to benefit the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on this
Saturday evening December 8, 2012 at the Polish-American Club on 194 West
Spring Street in West Haven, Connecticut. Doors Open at 6:00 PM. Raffle
donations are currently being sought. Visit
www.near1.comfor directions and more details on this event.
To all, have a great week! Email reaches me at
Yet-More From TheR.A. Silvia Files….
Shots like this can be
rare, but R.A. Silvia comes-through with the goods again! What you’re
viewing is a nice overhead image of the former Kingston Fairgrounds
dirt half-miler located in North Kingston, Rhode Island. The track
didn’t have a really-long life in terms of auto racing, active only
from the late-1940s to the early-50s. However, records reveal that
some of the biggest names in the sport competed there during its short
history. It was typical of the rudimentary dirt tracks of the era,
complete with a covered grandstand. For whatever-reason, statistics on
this raceway seem somewhat hard to find. One it’s earliest sanctioning
bodies was an outfit called the “Speed Corporation of America.” The
entire facility was leveled in 1958 to make-way for the construction
of an Industrial Park. (R.A. Silvia Archives).
Here’s a nice action shot from the Kingston
Fairgrounds illustrating the pedigree of the
machines that competed there regularly. Coaches
always seemed to be a popular choice among dirt
track chauffeurs, and this one looks not-unlike one
of the rides you might have seen competing in early
dirt action at Connecticut’s Stafford Speedway, or
one of the of the many NY/PA tracks of the era.
Unfortunately, we’re unsure of the identity of the
driver. (R.A. Silvia Archives).
It was pretty gritty stuff at Kingston as
illustrated in this image of a typical pileup on the
expansive ½-miler. That’s the pre-war tin of
longtime New England modified star the late Bob
Sprague #40, and looking like his ride got the
worst of it was New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame
member the late Hop Harrington #11. Sprague
and Harrington were just two of the big-name New
England drivers that lapped the old fairgrounds oval
during the early days of their careers. (R.A.
Frank “Rebel” Mundy,
one of the biggest stock car racing stars in the early
days of the sport also paid a visit to Rhode Island to
compete at Kingston as-seen here. He won-big in AAA,
USAC, and NASCAR competition. In addition to his stock
car racing endeavors he also attempted to qualify for
the 1954 Indy 500, just missing the cut. A decorated
veteran, Frank served as the personal driver for General
George S. Patton during World War II. One of the more
personable fan-friendly drivers of his time, Frank
passed-away at age-90 in 2009. (R.A. Silvia Archives).
Here’s one from Kingston that holds an unfortunate
distinction for fans of Connecticut’s Waterford
Speedbowl. When he was wheeling this coupe on the Rhode
Island dirt, Jack Griffin was already an
experienced competitor having achieved good results
racing in Massachusetts including a track championship
at Westboro Speedway in 1949 and also many victories
campaigning throughout the East Coast and Canada. On
Saturday evening August 12, 1954 at the Speedbowl he was
driving in the Sportsman feature (a particularly-messy
event that had already experienced 2 red flag periods),
when another accident occurred directly in-front of him.
He tried to avoid the wreck, but clipped the wheel of
another competitor and rolled several times. Sadly, he
died of his injuries in the early hours of the next day
at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, CT. It
remains the saddest chapter in the history of the
Speedbowl. (R.A. Silvia Archives).
Here’s another famous name in the history of the
Kingston Fairgrounds dirt. A native of Trenton, New
Jersey, Wally Campbell
began his stock car career at Flemington Fairgrounds in
New Jersey in 1947. By the end of that season he was the
champion of the newly formed American Stock Car Racing
Association (ASCRA). He finished 6th in points in 1948,
then won the title in both 1949 and 1950. 1951 brought
the NASCAR Modified title and in 1952 he finished second
in points to Buck Baker in the NASCAR Speedway Division.
In 1953 he won five AAA sprint car races after getting a
late start in August. He attempted qualifying at
Indianapolis in 1954 but was sent home to get "more
experience". He made two AAA Champ Car race starts later
that year at Langhorne and Darlington, but failed to
finish in either. Sadly, Campbell perished while
practicing for an AAA Midwestern Division sprint car
race at Salem, Indiana on July 17, 1954. He was one day
past his 28th birthday.
(R.A. Silvia Archives).
OK, we’ve covered a bit of Rhode Island racing history
and we don’t want to forget her neighbor, Massachusetts.
Captured here are a couple of early machines circling
the 1/3-mile asphalt of the former Medford Bowl
which was located on the Revere Beach Parkway in
Medford. Another New England speedplant that endured a
short but very-racy history, it was torn-down following
the 1954 campaign to make-way for the construction of a
drive-in movie theatre. Like Kingston, Medford hosted
some very famous names, many of-which are members of the
New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (R.A. Silvia
Here’s a nice early image of late Carroll Sleeper,
one of the more-noted New England racers of his
generation. The location is Hudson, New Hampshire, and
fortunately for all of us, the Hudson Speedway is still
chugging-along today (you really need to visit this fun
old-time “roots” track if you’ve not already). Sleeper
was proficient on both dirt and asphalt recording a
number of victories during his career. Ya’ gotta’ love
these coupes! (R.A. Silvia Archives).
Short caption, but the photo kinda’ does the talking.
This is just another nice action image from the banks of
New Hampshire’s great Hudson Speedway. We’ll take
all of these photos we can - thanks Mr. Silvia! (R.A.
Caught here in the aftermath of a 1959 pileup (an
unfamiliar spot for this driver), at Massachusetts’
former Pines Speedway is the #24 of New England Auto
Racing Hall of Famer, the late Jerry Dolliver.
An excerpt from his HOF biography; Jerry was born in 1929 in
Melrose, Mass., and as a young man, set up
automotive shop in Kingston, N.H. He never ventured
far. Instead, he was always there, steady as the
morning sun, always warming customers with a
smile. His Sunoco pumps were the epicenter of town
talk for decades. Jerry's racing was the same:
nearby, competent, reliable, fan-friendly. It all
started in a hulking wire-wheeled ice machine in
1949, and just five years later, he defeated Ollie
Silva and Oscar Ridlon's finest to become Champion
at The Pines Speedway. Eight championships were to
follow, along with scores of victories at more than
15 New England venues. There were cutdowns,
modifieds, supermodifieds, sprinters, and midgets.
Probably Jerry's most telling accomplishment,
though, was his unparalled success with one engine -
a flathead built by Hall of Famer Bill Welch. Ever
so smoothly, Jerry coaxed that old-time power plant
along to over 100 feature wins, right when the
vastly lighter and more powerful overheads were
sweeping the pit area. (R.A. Silvia
BONUS SHOT 1:
And here’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame
member, the late Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell
following a win at Hudson while aboard the Ed Bowley
Flyin’ 5. This driver had a long & distinguished
career in a myriad of classes, everything from
Midgets, Sprints, Supers and Modifieds, to the
NASCAR Grand National Series (now known as Sprint
Cup). He won championships all-over New England and
was a Canadian/American titlist as-well as annexing
the 1960 Empire State title. During one of his best
seasons, in 1956 he took an astounding 56 wins.
Three-years later he was inducted into the Oilzum
Hall of Fame, one of the most prestigious honors of
the era. Were these early Supers the very-
definition of “brutish” or-what? (R.A.
BONUS SHOT 2:
Yeah, yeah, we know – we’ve ran a lot of shots of
him, but the career and life story of this New
England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member continues to
fascinate us. Meet the
late Oscar Ridlon, once a very-influential
figure within the realm of New England auto racing,
and especially in the formation of a class that
would eventually become known as the Super Modifieds.
A former big car & midget racer of epic proportions
(as-seen here), he later became the owner & promoter
of the former Pines Speedway in Groveland,
Massachusetts, and also New Hampshire’s Hudson
Speedway. At one time, his URDC circuit was one of
the most successful of sanctioning bodies, producing
talent that would become household names in our
region. Guys like Hall of Famers Ollie Silva, Don
MacLaren, Bentley Warren and Paul Richardson in
naming just a few, all raced for Ridlon early in
their careers. Also at the helm of Maine’s Arundel
Speedway for a time, Ridlon was the personification
of an old-time promoter, ruling his tracks with an
often-controversial “Iron-Fist” mentality.
Some of the stories told by the drivers that raced
for him are truly the stuff of our region’s racing
folklore. Oscar passed-away in 1973, but not before
making several important contributions to the sport
he was involved-with for decades. For more history
on Oscar and the URDC circuit pickup a copy of our
pal Lew Boyd’s great book “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers”
www.coastal181.com(R.A. Silvia Archives).
I'll tell you guys, this was a fun installment of the
website to-do thanks to R.A. & Tom making-it-possible. I
learned a LOT about Kingston after borrowing the shots
from R.A. Sadly, I was never able to attend any of the
tracks posted this week - wish I could have!
Dave Dykes said:
Actually, I forgot about Hudson - I DID go there several
times in the 70s & early 80s. Cool little track....
bruce b cohen said:
Bill Welch's race car shop and home is located about 1/4
mi from my Ranch 112.
Bob Paine said:
Those are REAL racing cars.
George Libby said:
Just look at the amount of people that are in the stands
in these early pictures, then look in the stands at any
NASCAR Sprint race in the last couple of years. That
should tell anybody why it was so popular. Hell, you or
your neighbor could have afforded to get out there on
the track and have fun. Sad days these are. Thanks for
the memories Dave. I look forward to Wednesday nights
Dave Dykes said:
You guys are all very-welcome. I consider myself
very-blessed to have a good friend like Tom Ormsby as
Webmaster and also to have you guys as readers. As-long
as you like "RTT" we'll keep doing it. Many, many thanks
to those of you that take the time to write-in, we
appreciate it! - Dave.
Dave Dykes said:
Guys, thanks for all the nice comments this week. Thanks
to R.A.(and of-course Tom), I guess we hit a sweet-spot.
One of the images that amazes me the most is the Hudson
shot of Boutwell - look at the crowd in the stands! I'm
sure today's promotors would KILL for a grandstand that
Mike Harelik said:
Dave, I always enjoy the great old shots you come up
with every week and the interesting commentary that you
include with the pictures. Thanks for the effort....
ron d said:
kingston fair grounds was in kingston r.i. not north
Thanks, Mike - I appreciate your comment. Mistakes are
made sometimes (as in the case with Kingston). Different
sources list the Fairgrounds track as being located in
West, East, and North Kingston! Not-really-sure where it
was, but as racing columnist Phil Smith states, American
Power Corporation sits there now. It's a tough place to
find info. on, but thanks to our friend Mal Phillips, I
did come-up with one-more santioning body; Interstate
Stock Car Racing Association.
Denny Zimmerman said:
I remember Burt Brooks telling stories about Wally
Campbell they called him Crazy Wheels Campbell.
Phil Smith said:
American Power Conversion sits on the site of the former
Fairgrounds.I went there as a young kid with my dad many
times. Tom Fenley in the Flying Zero was one of the top
dogs too along with Hop,Sprague and Don Rounds