Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday February 2, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 5                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

We begin this week with a get-well wish sent out to our friend Cho Lee of the New England Antique Racers (NEAR). Cho was stricken with a serious illness on the eve of last Sunday’s 2011 New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, and was sorely-missed at the event. I’m sure that I speak for all of us in the racing community in wishing him a speedy recovery. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, congratulations go out to all of this year’s inductees, and kudos to NEAR for yet-another great edition of the event. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com               

Another Slice Of The Past….        

This was a sight often witnessed by fans of New England Super Modified racing in the days that NESMRA reigned-supreme at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway. That’s the legendary “Big Daddy” Don MacLaren on the inside, and the equally-celebrated Ollie Silva on the high-side. Both Don & Ollie are gone now, “Big Daddy” having passed just recently, and Ollie in 2004. The intense duals waged between these two Hall of Famers remains the stuff of legend. (R.A. Silvia Collection).   

Here’s another one from Star Speedway. Captured here in a dramatic action-shot is Jerry Wall piloting his famous (and hugely-successful), “Yellow Jacket” NEMA Midget. Quite revolutionary for it’s time, the car was a huge departure from the more conventional “uprights” that had long been the standard of Midget racing in the Northeast. Wall was a longtime star on the NEMA circuit, recording 14 feature victories during his career. (R.A. Silvia Collection).    

Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl has long been considered one of the best venues in New England for Midget racing, and the place weighs-heavily in the history of the division. Seen here during the 1960s at the “shoreline oval” is Len Thrall. One of the Northeastern Midget Associations most prolific winners during the early days of the club, he scored a total of 17 feature victories between 1956 and 1970. (Shany Photo).  

Here’s a nice pitside shot of one of the Speedbowl’s more consistent competitors of the late 1960s & early 70s. Don Phaneuf campaigned this little “square-roof” entry during the waning-years of the “coupe era” at the Connecticut 1/3-miler. Though he never notched a feature victory, he did score several qualifying heats and a number of top main event finishes. (R.A. Silvia Collection, Dugas Photo).          

As one of the real heavy-hitters in the early days of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, the late Charlie Webster had a large & very-loyal fan base. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). Like fellow Bowl’ standout and New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don Collins, Charlie retired from driving at the dawn of the seventies, thus ending the career of one of Waterford’s finest chauffeurs. This shot captures him in the potent Simons #9 shortly before hanging-up his helmet. (Shany Photo).      

Another “coupe era” standout at the Speedbowl was this guy, Win Barrows. Also a competitor at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, Win was a close-associate of multi-time Waterford Modified champion the late George “Moose” Hewitt. Like the aforementioned Dan Phaneuf, he recorded several fine finishes during a relatively-brief stay in the headlining Modified division. (R.A. Silvia Collection, Dugas Photo).          

“Daring Dick” Caso may have never won any popularity contests with track officials at Waterford, but he had more than his fair-share of fans among the Speedbowl’s grandstand patrons. A nickname well-earned, his driving style was of the “no-holds-barred” variety and when in his prime, a Caso-drive to the front was itself worth the price of a Saturday night ticket. In terms of finance, he was a low-bucker that got the ultimate out of equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. Nicknames were big during Caso’s tenure, as he was also christened “The Cromwell Comet” by the late, great John Small, one of the grandest announcers in Speedbowl history. The moniker was of course, a nod to his hometown. (R.A. Silvia Collection, Dugas Photo).

Larry Lamphear was a local kid who literally grew-up going to the races at the Speedbowl. When it came time to start his career, he purchased a coupe from his friend the late Terry Peabody, and went-racing. This entry was one in a long-line of entries that he campaigned at Waterford for many seasons. He was a popular and exciting competitor during his years behind the wheel, last visiting victory circle in 1988. His sponsor, the “Liquid Lite Cafe” is long-gone, and Larry is now out of the racing game. (R.A. Silvia Collection, Kennedy Photo).              

Seen here during his days as a competitor in Waterford’s Daredevil Division, Jerry Lilliquist went-on to enjoy a residency in the headlining Modified division. As a support class, the Daredevils were one of the most popular in Speedbowl history. Full-fields and often A & B main events were often the case, and merely qualifying for the feature was an accomplishment. Lilliquist was a multi-time winner in the division. As a side-note, the correct spelling of this driver’s first name is actually “Jari” rather than “Jerry.” (R.A. Silvia Collection, Dugas Photo).   

Another shot from the Speedbowl “Daredevil Files,” meet Bill Lavoie. Captured here early in his career, his mount was typical of the entries in the division. For all intent & purpose, the class was ruled by “Tri-Five” Fords & Chevys. Lavoie raced right-into the 1970’s when the class became known as “Grand Americans” before being discontinued prior to the start of the 1980 season. (R.A. Silvia Collection, Dugas Photo).

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

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