Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 11, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Here we are in the midst of another Wednesday, and that means more images & commentary direct from the “RTT” archives and its cast of frequent contributors. We’ll keep the opening comments at a minimum this week, but would indeed like to direct another big THANK YOU! to our Webmaster & longtime friend Tom Ormsby for getting this site updated fifty-two times a year without fail. Tom’s been a bit under-the-weather lately, and we hope he’s starting to feel better! Anyway, until next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Racing Through A December Wednesday…..

Here’s an absolute classic submitted by our good friend Warren Sentinvany. It’s 1960, and picking-up their hardware from Harvey Tattersall Jr. at Riverside Park Speedway’s 1960 United Stock Car Racing Club awards banquet are from left-to-right, Jerry Humiston, Gene Bergin, Dick Dixon, and that season’s modified champion, Buddy Krebs. All New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members, these drivers represent an astounding total of 96 modified feature victories and 7 championships at the much-missed Agawam, Massachusetts oval. Also a member of the HOF, Tattersall presided over United, the most-powerful sanctioning body in all of New England before NASCAR played any really significant role in the region. All of these men have passed-on, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the history of New England short track racing. (Photo Courtesy Warren Sentivany).

Personally-speaking I always enjoy running shots of this racer as he and his family have been my close friends for what seems like eons. Anyway, seen here at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1970s is Norwich, Connecticut native Mark LaJeunesse. Making the weekly trek down Rt. 395 to the shoreline oval for decades, he began his career as a youth in the quarter midget ranks. Following a return from the armed forces, he started a modified career that spanned over thirty seasons. The first victory came in 1974 with many-more following including a triumph in the Speedbowl’s 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Under the Tattersall UNITED sanction of 1975, he garnered the Sportsman Modified title. Flanking Mark in this shot is another then-youthful racer that called the shoreline oval home for many seasons, the late Terry Peabody. Following his driving days, Terry became a talented racing engine builder. (Shany Photo).

For decades a dynamic force on the New York State modified trail, the Treichler family trio consisting of brothers Roger and Gordy along with cousin Merv grabbed a lot of headlines as a result of their winning ways. While I’m admittedly not very savvy on the New York scene (so please forgive any possible errors on this one), I’d gander to say that this image captures the trio at Lancaster Speedway. Just a nice photo from the days in-which a coach-bodied creation could be the hot setup! (John Bisci Photo).

Before NASCAR ‘Cup racing became the holy grail that it remains today, the greatest drivers in the nation dreamed of making into the starting field of the Indianapolis 500 each Memorial Day weekend. It was simply the pinnacle of American motorsports, and even attempting to qualify was a huge deal. New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer the late Johnny Kay (real name John Kapustinski), attempted to take the green flag four-times between 1953-59 and was close on occasion but never made it. Still, a huge accomplishment! Back in his native New England, his deeds in the open wheel ranks are legend. As a winner on both the NEMA & ARDC midget circuits for many years (along with forays into AAA and USAC Indy & Champ Car competition), he was long-considered one of the best during a career that was unfortunately, compromised by a serious crash while still at the top of his game. As a side-note, after retiring from driving he became a talented racing photographer, staying close to the sport he loved.  This one captures Johnny and his crew at Indy in 1955. (O’Dell Photo).

Another old pal of ours, John Bunnell is a member of one of the Waterford Speedbowl’s premier racing families (a cousin to Bomber champ Ed, and Modified standout Donnie Bunnell), and this shot captures him behind the controls of a Daredevil division entry during the early years of his career. After a residency within the support division ranks as seen-here, he later became one of shoreline oval’s top modified pilots. A body-man by trade and now retired from racing, John presently has his own auto body business. (Shany Photo).

His name simply-synonymous with Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, our late friend Fred “Fuzzy” Bear remained one of the most beloved figures at the shoreline oval many-years after his retirement from the sport. Known as a skilled & steady chauffer, “Fuzz” was another of those guys that you seldom saw in any trackside-trouble. Though his long career yielded feature victories seemingly low in-number, at-least one of them was a major event. On August 20, 1966, Baer topped a field of Waterford’s finest racers in snagging a 75-lap championship race. This 1970s shot captures him behind the controls of one of the many #121 creations that he and his late father “Pops” campaigned at the Speedbowl for decades. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

Before today’s “cookie-cutter” cars became all the rage within short track racing, each machine was a decided expression of the builder. Yes, they all looked-different, every one seeming to possess its own unique “personality.” Seen here with his winning coach-bodied creation is longtime New York State-area modified shoe, popular Mike Loescher. We believe this to be Lancaster Speedway in the early-1970s. Coaches, by-the-way once rivaled coupes in terms of popularity as the choice of tinwork for the “Mod Squad.” (John Bisci Photo).     

This is another rare-one from our old friend John Grady….Captured here at some Eastern modified haunt during a break from his USAC Indy Car endeavors is the late, great Jim Hurtubise. A ten-time starter of the Indy 500, “Herk” was a truly-versatile racer, successfully competing in a myriad of different divisions during his long, storied career. Regarded as a true underdog when he was racing at the nation’s highest-rung of competition, he was a crowd-favorite, especially when behind the controls of his front-engine Mallard Roadsters. It was a time when the rest of the Indy-set had long-abandoned the design in-favor of the more technically advanced rear-engine cars. Sadly, Jim passed-away from a heart-attack in 1989 at age-56. As a side-note, we also have a shot of our Hall of Famer friend Ray Miller in this car – we’re not sure who the owner was. (John Grady Photo).

As-stated in a previous edition of “RTT”, we have a lot of shots of this Speedbowl coupe-era driver on file, but it was a while before we learned a bit about him. Waterford modified veteran and friend Mark LaJeunesse put the puzzle-together for us. He says; Dave Roselund was a pal of the late George “Moose” Hewitt, having owned the #111 Bomber that Moose started his career-in. Dave himself later drove this modified, which was associated with the Hewitt stable of cars. The number is a throw-back from his early days with Moose and his Bomber class entry. At that time, Dave weighed 111-pounds, and that’s how they came-up with the number.” Thanks for the information, Mark! (Shany Photo).

Another timeless victory lane image from our friend John Grady, here we have a shot of the late, great Charlie Jarzombek in his memorable right-hand drive coupe. A Long Island phenomenon, he was absolutely one of the best in the business. Sadly, he lost his life in an accident at Martinsville, VA. during a modified event in March of 1987. Deservedly-so, Charlie is a member of both the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the Long Island Sports Hall of Fame. (John Grady Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK #1: Judged by the volume of messages received since we’ve began this “unidentified” series, there’s a bunch of folks out there with a whole-lot of knowledge on the subject of New England short track racing and that’s a great thing! Our first entry this week captures what we believe to be a Bomber division warrior at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford Speedbowl of the 1960s. Being somewhat of an antique car aficionado, I’d gander to say that it was a Dodge or Plymouth that was sacrificed to build this rig. Any idea of who the driver is? If-so, shoot us a message at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

UNIDENTFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK #2: Looking very-much like an early Non-Ford class entry (another early Speedbowl support division), this one has us in a state of curiosity. Note that on the roof where customarily the drivers name would appear, it states “Jerry-Bill.” That, in-itself lends an air of mystery to the photo. We also have a shot on file that has the late, great Speedbowl champion Charlie Webster in the seat of this car. Again, if any of you racing history sleuths have got a clue to this one, email us!

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

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