Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday February 29, 2012
 
 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we have the honor of featuring photos from the collection of our close friend & noted Waterford Speedbowl racer Mark LaJeunesse. Starting as a youngster in the quarter midgets, his career led to a bevy of shoreline oval Modified feature victories and the 1975 Modified-Sportsman championship. Son Danny followed in his father’s footsteps campaigning an SK Modified at both Waterford & Thompson for a number of seasons before recently taking a break from the sport. With that-said, enjoy this installment of “RTT” as we take another glimpse at the formative years of out sport! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com                       

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Pacing The Past (Weekly)…..      

Norwich, Connecticut native the late Dick Beauregard was one of the absolute-best during the formative years at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Scoring a total of 65 feature victories and a pair of track championships in 1952 & 1963, it leaves one to wonder just how much-more success lay ahead had he not bowed out of the sport following his final track crown. The young fan on the left in this shot is none-other than the guy who provided this week’s images for all of us to enjoy, Mark LaJeunesse, who also went-on to become a shoreline oval success. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).

Captured here at the Speedbowl, with an impish grin and a practical joke waiting for anyone who happed to be in spitting-distance, the late George Pendergast was one of the really good-things about the formative years of our sport. Not to be portrayed as simply a “Character” he truly-was a skilled and accomplished racer. In the 1960s, a win at the famed Norwood Arena in Massachusetts meant that you had really arrived. As relayed in “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers” by Lew Boyd www.coastal181.com the wild revelry in the Pendergast pit area following his first-ever triumph at that fabled speedplant somehow resulted in ole’ George breaking his arm. They simply don’t make em’ like George (or Norwood), anymore. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).                  

Seen here making the scene in a flathead-powered chariot in the 1950s, the late Ray Delisle was there from the start, and was winning early in his Waterford career. Felled by serious injuries sustained in a Speedbowl crash when his coupe was hit from-behind, his old-style “jerry can” fuel tank erupting in-flames, Delisle endured a long, painful recovery before returning to the game. In 1964, his career reached its zenith when he waltzed-away with the Bowl’ Modified title wheeling the famed Simons Bros. #9. A quiet and unassuming man who let his throttle-foot do the talking, he was always in-demand with the top car owners of the day. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).           

The year is 1965, and Joey “Pops” Trudeau was already an established fan-favorite at the Speedbowl, and his winning reputation kept him in-demand with all of the shoreline oval’s top teams. After coming-close to notching the championship on several occasions wheeling coupe-era creations like the one seen here, he finally scored a few seasons-later in 1971. Curiously-enough, Trudeau notched that title without the benefit of a single feature victory while driving the "Smitty's" #11 coupe.(Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).         

Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, “Dangerous Dan” Galullo was one of the brightest stars of the once powerful United Stock Car Racing Club headed-up by the Tattersall family. Twice a Riverside Park Modified titlist, also included in his accomplishments is the 1962 United Stock Car Racing Club Grand Championship, a feat he recorded by winning at the many UNITED-sanctioned tracks that once dotted the Northeast. He also recorded feature wins at Plainville Stadium, Waterford Speedbowl (as seen-here), and Cherry Park in Avon, Connecticut among others. He competed in at-least one documented NASCAR Grand National event (now know as the Sprint Cup Series) at New Jersey’s Old Bridge Stadium in 1956. Following a serious heart-attack, Galullo retired from driving while still in his prime. He passed-away in 1974, but not before witnessing the racing accomplishments of his sons, Richie and Danny Jr. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).

No installment on the early days of the Speedbowl would be complete without a shot of this driver, Don Collins. Arguably the greatest driver to have ever emerged from the shoreline oval he set the standard from his debut in the early-fifties until his retirement at the dawn of the seventies. He was the first driver to amass over one-hundred victories (including both Modified & Non-Ford competition), the first to garner five championships, and perhaps more importantly, he was among the first to set an example in true-sportsmanship and class. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005, his career actually began at the Thompson Speedway in 1948 when he’d built a car for another would-be racer. When the guy didn’t show-up, a young Collins took the wheel, and we all know the rest of the story. His career a relatively brief-affair by today’s standards, it’s anyone’s guess how many more checkers waited had he not called-it-quits in 1970 while still in his prime. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).    

Here we have the late, great Ted Stack, absolutely one of the best of his time. Though he scored heavily at several other New England raceways, it was probably the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl (as seen-here), that garnered him the most success. A multi-time champion (1961 in the Modifieds, and 1957 & 60 in the Non Fords), Stack accumulated a combined total of 71 feature victories at the shoreline oval. This image captures him ready to roll in one of our friend & longtime car-owner Bob Garbarino’s potent “Mystic Missile” entries. As a young fan, our friend Mark LaJeunesse had written on the back of this photo the following; “This photo was taken the night-before Stack won the feature at Thompson on May 16, 1965. It’s a 1935 Pontiac with a 396 Chevy.” (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).        

Simply two of the toughest competitors to ever have competed at Waterford, that’s what we have in this dramatic image. Airborne & sailing into the infamous railroad-tie walls that once encircled the shoreline oval is multi-time Modified champion the late George “Moose” Hewitt. Motoring-by in his familiar #86 (and getting a birdseye-view of Moose’ flight), is Dick Caso, AKA “The Cromwell Comet.”  These two drivers waged some epic battles during their “Coupe Era” tenures at the shoreline oval, and this scribe was lucky-enough to witness most of them. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).                

The well-traveled Jerry Dostie traces his racing-roots back to the much-heralded “Coupe Era” driving creations like this little number that was owned by New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Art Barry. Dostie savored success at joints like Seekonk (as seen-here), Waterford, Stafford, Thompson, Norwood, and going further-North, the high-banks of New Hampshire’s Modnadnock Speedway. A master car-builder as well as an absolute whiz in developing some of our regions first reliable race-ready automatic transmissions, he’s often seen today enjoying his retirement on the golf courses of Florida competing against many old rivals from his days as a top New England Modified shoe. (Mercury Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).            

Here’s another one from Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway (simply a great action-shot, huh?). Captured lapping the track affectionately-known as the “Cement Palace” is Billy Schulz in the #60, Tony Cortes wheeling the “Diamond 4”, and our pal, Billy Harman in the office of the famed L&M coupe. An absolutely-dominating force at the Speedbowl in this car before hitting the road and successfully turning his attention to the NASCAR Modified circuit, Billy was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2004. Schulz & Cortes were simply 2 of the best at the extremely-competitive Seekonk. (Mercury Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).            

BONUS SHOT: Though the image is fading with time, there’s no-mistaking who this is to those of us familiar with early Waterford history. The late Donald “Hank” Stevens drove them all during his long career, Modifieds, Midgets and Cut-Downs; his exploits truly ran the gamut. Nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank” for his determined driving style, he was particularly successful at the Speedbowl as seen-here in the 1950s. As proof of just how-tough this guy was, he overcame a positively-devastating Speedbowl wreck in the 1950s in-which he received horrendous life-threatening burns to return as a winner. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mark LaJeunesse).    

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

THIS WEEKS COMMENTS
 

(1 days ago) Don Macrino said:

I raced with Mark Lajeunesse at Cohanzie 1/4 midget track for many years. These photos capture, in my opinion, the best years at the Speed Bowl. These were our heros. Ted Stack was my favorite. My uncle, Charlie Pinch was a cop in the pits and a friend of Ted's who he always decribed as a gentleman. It was great to have these local guys as heros and great role models.

 

(3 days ago) Mike Harelik said:

Thanks for posting all the memories, look forward to the updates each week

 

(4 days ago) ted grey said:

Great job Dave, keep up the great work that you do in preserving the history of new england stock car racing. Thanks, Ted

 

(4 days ago) Bob said:

The grandstands were well filled in the 80's and 90's also. Note to promoters, you have to get the people in the gates first, then sell them food if they can afford it. Ticket price should be no more than 10 for an adult, 20 for a tour show. This is minor league sports, not big time cup racing.

 

(5 days ago) nels wohlstrom jr. said:

ANOTHER GREAT WEEK DAVE!
 

 

(5 days ago) Scott Musser shared: said:

Brings back lots of memories. Used to go all the time as a kid with my Dad in the 60's & 70's.
 

 

(5 days ago) geri dupont said:

thanks Mark 4 sharing the D car which Ernie Dupont drove before hank drove, great memories!!!

 

 

(6 days ago) Rich Belmont said:

Can't wait to see that cache of photos you recently found. (I'm still looking for a photo of the old '00' Plainville coupe).
Great job, as usual.

 

(6 days ago) Jerry Fascione said:

This site is great, I love to look at the old racing photos. Your right Denny those grandstands are packed, much better times back then.

 

(6 days ago) Denny Zimmerman said:

The pictures that show the grandstands in the background....the stands are just packed with people.

 

(6 days ago) Linda & Brian... said:

Hi Linda, thanks for the compliment. As long as Tom can put up with me, we'll keep doing the site. And Brian is correct! I made a boo-boo on that one & we'll get it corrected (first thing to go is the memory, lol).

(6 days ago) Linda Watson said:

Thanks David for another WONDERFUL

(6 days ago) Brian said:

Love your site, look forward to Pacing The Past every week. I believe a correction is needed this week! Joe Trudeau won the championship in Smitty's 11 coupe (a former Simon's 9) and then went on the following year to drive the Gada's 271.

 
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