Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 25, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we’ll keep the opening comments short n’ sweet, as we’re sure that with the holiday upon-us, you’re all (rightfully-so), reserving this special day to spend with friends & family. One thing we would like to mention however is that our friends at the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) are presently offering a DVD tracking the clubs history from the “cageless era” to the contemporary machines of today. Containing 322 images, it’s simply a must-have for the New England open-wheel enthusiast. The cost is $25 each with all proceeds going directly to NEMA to help carry on the rich traditions these early pioneers built. To get your copy, payment can be made through PayPal to rewindles@sbcglobal.net or by sending a check or money order (payable to NEMA), as well as your name and address to Bill Van Slyke, 23 Horsestable Cir., Shelton, Ct. 06484.  This effort is fully-endorsed by “RTT” – it’s a great deal, folks! Till’ next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@yahoo.com

To All, Have A Merry Christmas !!!!!!!!!!

Seen here during an outing in the Freddy Doolittle coupe at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway many fans don’t realize-it, but before switching to competition of the 4-wheeled variety the late George “Moose” Hewitt was a champion motorcycle racer. As a stock car competitor, he was particularly-successful at the Waterford Speedbowl where he claimed five modified championships between 1977 and 1984. Worth mention is the fact that the fiercely-independent Hewitt was one of the few shoreline oval competitors that during an era of “store-bought” cars later in his career, continued to craft machines of his own design at his shop in nearby Uncasville, CT. (Rene Dugas Photo).

Here we have another classic image donated by our friend, New York State Racing Historian Roger Liller. We’ll once-again let him provide the commentary. States Roger about this one; “The Christmas season is upon us and as promised, I'm sending a very rare photo. It's from our friend Bob Ellis, and depicts a short-lived, but very interesting chapter in New England Racing history. The car is Pete Poodiak's '37 Chevy coupe which was driven by Morrie Waters but the track is not Danbury, it's another Connecticut oval, Candelite Stadium. The Southern New York Racing Assn. raced Sunday afternoons at Candelite in 1954, the year before it was sold to make a drive-in movie. Bob tells me that Chick Stockwell was the circuit champ that year and Ev Pierce took the laurels at Danbury. Morrie had 4 feature wins at Danbury and ranks 27th on the all-time win list.” As-always, a big thanks to Bob & Roger for this one! (Photo Courtesy Bob Ellis via Roger Liller).

This is simply a classic shot harkening-back to the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s true glory days. Captured here is racer par-excellence Ray Moran. The car is the potent #76 of fabled shoreline oval team owner, the late Bill Congdon. Moran was quite a shoe, having scored a total of 18 feature victories in both modified & Non-Ford competition between 1954 and 1960. A fondly-recalled crowd favorite, he was voted one of the Speedbowl’s “50 Favorite Drivers” in 2000 during the track’s 50th Anniversary celebration. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

New York State produced some of the short track racers to ever turn a wheel, and Maynard Troyer was one of them. Along with multi-time NASCAR Champions Richie Evans and Jerry Cook, Troyer was part of the “Big Three” of the region during his era as a driver. Widely regarded as a master craftsman in the art of race car construction, his rides were always immaculately-prepared (check-out this pristine full-bodied creation), during a time in the sport when most teams subscribed to the old adage that “Pretty Don’t Go.” Though he’s long-retired from active-competition, his Troyer Race Car Shop (founded in 1977), continues to provide state-of-the-art machinery for today’s Modified racers. (Gordon Reinig Photo).

Seen here at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the 1970s, the late Ernie Gahan’s 28-year racing career started during the post-war stock car racing boom of 1948 at New Hampshire’s Dover Speedway. By the time he retired, he’d amassed over 300 career victories. Perhaps his greatest achievement in the sport was being the first New Englander to win a NASCAR National Modified championship in 1966. He was equally successful on both dirt and asphalt. He won a record 21 features on the dirt at Stafford Speedway in the late 50s and early 60s. He had eleven starts in Grand National (now Sprint Cup), series competition, recording two top-ten finishes, one of which was in the 1962 Daytona 500. In 1963 Gahan was credited with saving the life of Marvin Panch by pulling him out of a burning race car at Daytona. For his courage he won the Shuman Award and the Carnegie Medal for Bravery. He was among the first drivers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (Rene Dugas Photo).

Pictured here during the twilight of a brilliant career, the late Lou “Monks” Lazzaro raced an incredible six decades on dirt and asphalt on tracks from Canada to Daytona and amassed 250 plus feature wins. He was extremely versatile and would successfully race and win with the same car on the dirt and pavement with only minor changes. His Saturday night home track was Fonda Speedway, where he amassed 113-career feature wins over four different decades and four track championships (1964, 1969, 1977, and 1978). Lou's final Fonda Speedway feature win came on May 15, 1999, less than a year before his untimely death. A lifetime guaranteed starter at Fonda, he was described many times as “The Embodiment of Fonda Speedway.” His greatest win was Orange County Fair Speedway's Eastern States 200 in 1978. Lazzaro was also track champion at Victoria Speedway (1962, 1964), and Albany-Saratoga Speedway (1969). He was New York State NASCAR champion once in the Sportsman division (1964) and three times in the Modified division (1969. 1971, 1972). He also won the prestigious All-Star League title twice (1968, 1971). One of his favorite tracks, besides Fonda, was the Utica-Rome Speedway, where he won 27 career asphalt modified features and three track championships (1963, 1970, and 1971). He was a three-time winner of the prestigious New Yorker 400 (1963, 1968, and 1969) race held on the old Utica-Rome asphalt track. In addition, Lazzaro has two career Utica-Rome dirt modified feature wins, the first being the first ever dirt race held at Utica-Rome. (John Grady Photo). 

And here’s a nice Rene Dugas shot of Preston, Connecticut’s Art Moran Sr. (right). A steady & capable competitor at his home track of the Waterford Speedbowl for many seasons, he recorded a number of feature victories. As a side-note, he was one of the first racers in ‘Bowl history to successfully employ power-steering, a feature of the memorable #66 Coach that he campaigned during the 1970s. Art’s family remains a presence at the Speedbowl today, with both his children and grandchildren having become winners. (Rene Dugas Photo)     

If you frequent this website, you should already know a bit about this driver’s career, and if you don’t, shame on you! Here’s our late friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, “Wild Bill” Slater during his heyday as the chauffer of the legendary V8 coupe. Slater was simply one of the best racers to have ever emerged from New England, period. When he retired from driving, he stayed involved with the sport for many seasons as a respected official at both the Thompson & Stafford Speedways. Also seen in this 1960s Stafford image is Doug McCarthy in the #98 and Hall of Famer the late Booker Jones in his familiar #27. (Lloyd Burnham Photo).

Meet our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member George Summers who’s captured here taking in a show at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. Ranking high on his list of accomplishment, he’s the most-winning driver in the history of the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts where he visited victory lane on over one-hundred occasions. Summers was actually one of the top-drivers in all of New England, enjoying a career that lasted over three-decades. Fittingly, he won the last event he entered before retiring, taking–down the 1983 Thompson World Series Modified event driving for fellow Hall of Famer, legendary car owner Art Barry. George is undoubtedly one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet in this sport, and that’s a fact. (Rene Dugas Photo)

George Rettew was a winning coupe-era star, and he’s seen here following a feature victory aboard one of the memorable “Holiday Magic” team coaches. The location is Malta NY. A 2-car stable, handling the driving in the other almost-identical entry was “Red Carr” which was actually the alias of current New England Antique Racers (NEAR), president Al Fini. By the time of this photo, the youthful-looking Rettew was already a seasoned competitor having tasted success at a number of the region’s speedplants. (John Grady Photo). 

Multi-Time West Haven Champion Johnny "King" Cambino is pictured at the former West Haven Speedway in Connecticut. A hotbed of action for the then all-powerful United Stock Car Racing Club, seen before you is a Mopar coupe typical of the fare offered-up at the tricky little fifth-miler that was situated within the confines of a baseball stadium known as Donovan Field. The car was owned by Bob Siebold and Marshall Carboni who owned Marshall's Garage. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED PHOTO #2: Lastly this week we offer a shot from the very-early days of what was then officially-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl in Connecticut. Operating continuously since 1951, the shoreline oval is presently readying for the 2014 season. With the “RTT” archives brimming with early ‘Bowl images, we really would like to identify some of these pioneering racers. Again, if you have any idea as to who this early-50s era driver-is, don’t hesitate to contact us at at foreveryounginct@gmail.com! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

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

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