Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday February 23, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 7                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


We’ve returned! Following a well-deserved Daytona vacation by our Webmaster Mr. Ormsby, we’re back on-track with the customary batch of vintage offerings. This week it’s a real mixed-bag, even featuring a couple of shots from deep in the files that I’m hoping someone can identify. Special thanks go-out to all the folks that emailed & called during the week to make-sure that I was still alive n’ kicking after the column didn’t appear last Wednesday morning; it was truly appreciated! Remember, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com   

And The (Vintage) Beat Goes On…..          

Captured here in the pit area of Connecticut’s high-banked Thompson Speedway is one of my favorite rides of all-time, the Rambler-bodied modified of the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. It’s 1973, and he was making an infrequent visit to the “Big T.” With its body crafted by the late Owen Bowen, the little Dodge-powered AMC really stood-out in the field. It was in this car that “Wild Bill” scored his final career victory which took place at his home track, the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl on Easter Sunday of 1974. (Photographer Unknown).    

We have a ton of “unidentified” shots like this one in the files, and have found that publishing them here can sometimes solve the mystery. The locale is Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium, and the machine you see here was typical of the machines that frequented the ultra-competitive ¼-miler during the late 60s & early 70s. This one even stumped our Webmaster Tom Ormsby, who has a vast knowledge of the place where he was once a weekly modified competitor himself. Any suggestions as to who’s behind the controls of this #70 coupe? (Hoyt Photo).      

Same deal with this Phil Hoyt image; it’s another of the dozens of photos we’ve managed to amass over the years with the identity of the chauffer remaining unknown. At any-rate, this shot is illustrative of a period in New England modified racing when the cars all harbored their own distinct personality (with a nod to the builder’s ingenuity). Plainville had some really neat-looking rides! (Hoyt Photo).       

Last in our mini-series of “mystery drivers” comes this Corvair-bodied mount courtesy of our pal, veteran racing photographer, Steve Kennedy. The place is the Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford Speedbowl”, another New England short track that had some really-unique creations circling its third-mile circle of asphalt. The Speedbowl was my home-track while growing-up and this one has me stumped also. Any aficionados of the “shoreline oval” know who this dude is??? (Shany Photo).                

Though his career was reasonably-brief by conventional standards, this guy had a huge-impact on the early history of Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Twice a Modified titlist (1952 & 62), Dick Beauregard’s flamboyant driving-style won-over a legion of fans, along with a few detractors. A true “stand-on-the-gas” competitor, his retirement in 1962 after only a decade yielded 62 victories in both the Modified & Non-Ford divisions. This shot captures him behind one of the many different coupes he wheeled at the shoreline oval. (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection)

By the time White Plains, New York native Ray Brown arrived at Waterford, he’d already carved a niche for himself as one of the best short track drivers in New England. Winner of the 1950 track championship at both the UNITED stronghold Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts and Plainville, Ct. Stadium, he bought an impressive resume to the shoreline oval. As with many racers of his generation, he was a winner on both dirt & pavement. (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection).          

The track is Agawam, Massachusetts’ Riverside Park Speedway of the 1950s, and the driver is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo. A huge winner during a relatively-brief career, he recorded a boatload of modified feature victories in what many railbirds consider to have been the most competitive racing era in our region. He was particularly-tough at the late Plainville Stadium where he was twice a track champion. This car was built & owned by longtime campaigner Norm Kies. (Shany Photo).    

Here’s one of the immortal Melvin “Red” Foot from his days on the high-banks of Daytona in 1963. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, here’s an excerpt from his biography; Melvin “Red” Foote ran his first race in 1948, at Kingston, RI. Carl Morrow and Ralph LeGendre co-owned Foote’s first car, a silver #1 coach. It wasn’t long before the “racing bug” bit Foote, and he was competing at Norwood on Thursdays and Saturdays, and Lonsdale on Sundays, with regular visits to Westboro when time allowed. He won championships at the Waterford Speedbowl in 1953, and again in 1958. He also took down a championship in Plainville in the 50’s, competing in the United Stock Car Racing Club. The 60’s found Foote racing with NASCAR, winning races from New England to the Carolinas to Daytona. It was during this period that he became one of the “Eastern Bandits”, along with fellow “bandits” Ed Flemke and Rene Charland. Red took down a championship in North Carolina in 1965. (Photographer Unknown).                 

In a division populated by mostly General Motors products, cars like this stood-out in 70s-era support-class action at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Along with fellow Ford aficionados the Gada clan, Keith Eves took an unconventional route in fielding one of Henry’s creations. Having started his Grand American career in this Mercury Cougar, he later progressed to a Ford Torino. This car was a winner, and Eves was a popular chauffer in the shoreline oval’s “full-fender” brigade. Within a few years, the once-affordable class had disappeared, escalating costs contributing to its demise. (Kennedy Photo).         

Few drivers have had more of an effect on the record books of the Waterford Speedbowl than this guy, Bob Potter. Yet another New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame alumnus, his career accomplishments read like a history of the shoreline oval. For nearly 4-decades, Potter was in the thick of the action, recording nearly 100 victories and 6 championships at the historic Connecticut third-miler. Add-in titles and multiple victories at Stafford and Thompson, and you have one of the most accomplished careers in all of New England modified racing. This one captures a young Bob ready to go at the ‘Bowl during the 1960s. Flanking the car are Pat Doherty, John Mackenzie, Al “Buddha” Gaudreau, and Pat’s dad, Ed Doherty. Both the Doherty’s and “Buddha” remained ultra-successful New England car owners for many seasons. (Dugas Photo).

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

 
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