Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday February 20, 2013
 

 

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As you can all see, our latest offering arrives 24-hours early as our friend & Webmaster the honorable Mr. Ormsby is making his way to Daytona to hang-out with all of our racing friends (as-expected, I’m jealous). Special thanks go out to our contributors to this week’s installment of “RTT” including Carolyn Grey, Roger Liller, and Bob Ellis. It’s through the dedication of these individuals that we’re able to feature some truly-rare images! And as-always, it’s our Daytona-bound pal that gets this thing posted to the cyberwaves every week without fail. Lastly, get-well wishes are sent to our good friend Peg Gaudreau who’s been feeling under-the-weather as of late. Along with her husband Al, the duo campaigned the famous “Buddha’s Bullet” modified that the great Dick Dunn raced to super-success for many seasons. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Hey, We’re A Day-Early This Week!!!

From our pal New York State Racing Historian Roger Liller comes this terrific 50s-era New London-Waterford Speedbowl shot. Culled from the archives of our mutual friend Bob Ellis, it captures New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members Don Collins (left), and Fred Luchesi (right), receiving trophies and a congratulations from a pretty young presenter. Both drivers were prolific winners and track champions during the formative years of the Connecticut oval. (Shany Photo from Bob Ellis via Roger Liller).

We admittedly don’t know much about this driver, but the image is a good illustration of just-how stock the coupes of the early days of the sport really were. Seen here is Rhode Island racer Charles "Chuck" Harvey from Rhode Island lined up and ready to go at the Speedbowl on October 12, 1952, the tracks sophomore year of operation. Over the years, entries from the neighboring state have been plentiful. (Shany Photo from Bob Ellis via Roger Liller).

And here’s another Speedbowl image from the Ellis archives. Says Roger about this shot; “This one clearly shows the huge difference between the cutdowns and the full sized coupes. Charles “Chuck” Harvey is in the #190, Carl Holmes is in the #9 and we don't know who's driving the spun out #63.” He states further that “Both Bob Ellis and Joe Saleem have been a great help to me with photos and historical info. These are the kind of guys that make you love to be in the racing community.” I must say that I agree whole-heatedly with that statement. Those that openly share their images and other data from the early days of the sport are the true champions in this game. (Shany Photo from Bob Ellis via Roger Liller).

Last in this week’s images from the Ellis collection is this 1952 Speedbowl shot of Ron Kennedy in his #130 coupe. Captured in the infield of the shoreline oval, the background really captures just-how rural the area was when the Speedbowl opened just a year-earlier. If you look-closely, you can make-out the old “sand safety strip” that used to circle the outer-parameter of the track, and that it was decades-before then-promoter Dick Williams installed the Armco barrier (by that-time, the original railroad-tie wall had taken quite a pummeling). Also notice the vintage ride in the background; then a daily driver, now it would be a valued classic! (Shany Photo from Bob Ellis via Roger Liller).

Simply a classic image and we’re forever grateful to Carolyn Grey for taking the time to scan the personal scrapbooks of her late father, car owner Bill Congdon’s complete career in racing. The team, hailing from Salem, Connecticut were among the true heavy-hitters of New England during the early days of the sport. As relayed here previously, the list of drivers that Bill enlisted to steer his meticulously-crafted machines (in this case a cut-down), reads like a “who’s-who” of the very best racers of the time. Seen here at what was then-known as Connecticut’s “Stafford Springs Speedway” is the late Ray Delisle, a racer that this scribe considers to be one of the most historically-overlooked drivers of his era. It’s Sunday afternoon, March 28, 1954, and he’s about to compete in a CORA-sanctioned event on the storied old fairgrounds raceway. (Shany Photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).

And this was the result of the Congdon team’s efforts on that spring Sunday at Stafford in 1954; Mr. Ray Delisle waltzed-away with another feature victory adding to his already impressive resume. That’s Ray on the left, and car-owner Bill Congdon on the right. In addition to Congdon stable, Delisle drove for a number of other top teams during his career. One little-known fact is that he was also quite-proficient on the dirt, having won at New York’s Lebanon Valley Speedway for Hall of Fame car owner Billy Simons during what was arguably that tracks most-competitive era. At a more local-level, he remains one of the best-ever in the history of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl where he recorded a career total of 22 modified feature victories and scored the 1964 modified track championship. (Shany Photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).

Another classic image from the career of her father famed Connecticut car-owner Bill Congdon, when Carolyn Grey presented us with this image, it bought back a lot of fond memories. As a result of my decades-long friendship with veteran modified racer Mark LaJeunesse and his family I was able to meet the late Dick Beauregard a number of years-ago. He was an engaging guy to talk-with; I only wish that I’d been smart-enough to conduct an in-depth interview, as I’m sure he had some great stories to tell on the early days at Waterford. Captured here following a feature victory in the potent Congdon coupe, during a relatively-short Speedbowl career of only a decade he notched a pair of modified titles along with over-40 feature victories. In the Non-Ford class, he annexed the checkers on 20 occasions. Both controversial and immensely-popular at the same-time, he retired in 1962 as a champion. (Shany Photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).

Here’s a nice shot from Massachusetts’ much-missed Riverside Park Speedway. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Dick Dixon was a top Modified competitor in Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Club in the 1950s and 1960s, also competing in their Grand American class. One year, he won all-but two GA features run by United. He earned several wins on the old Big E racetrack in both the coupes and the late models. Dixon raced in several Grand National (Sprint Cup) events, including races at Charlotte, Lime Rock, Daytona, and Islip Speedways. Sadly, Dick lost his life in 1967 while competing at Thompson Speedway in a car normally driven by fellow New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Grady Photo).

Seen here wheeling a Ford sedan during a UNITED Late Model event during the 1950s at the Waterford Speedbowl is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi. One of New England modified racing’s first legitimate “Super Stars” he found his niche in the management-side of the sport after hanging-up his helmet. He went from driving to organizing in later years, accepting a post working for Joe Tinty as Race Director at the late Plainville Stadium, a position he held for many seasons. Usually nattily-attired on race-night, he was one of the true Showmen of his era. He was a supremely-successful racer at virtually every venue in New England during his career, (Shany Photo).

We really like this shot….Seen here behind the controls of the “Dark Horse Special” coupe at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950s is Sparky Belmont (real name Michael Belmonte). He was a Plainville track champion, and a big star on Harvey Tattersall’s UNITED circuit. After a convincing victory in a 100-lap contest at Plainville in July of 1968, he collapsed during the post race celebration, and passed-away on the spot. “Sparky” had been a star on the post war midget circuit before switching to stock cars. An accomplished and much-admired competitor during the early days of the sport, Sparky was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. (Shany Photo courtesy Roger Liller).  

BONUS SHOT #1: As we all know, this sport has a dark-side and this is one of the most unfortunate chapters in what is the book of New England modified racing. Certainly considered one of Long Island’s premier modified chauffeurs, this one captures the late Les Ley (real name Harry Dominick), when he was wheeling Anthony “Beebe” Salenski’s potent coupe on the old 1/5-miler at the former Riverside Park Speedway. Sadly, it was in this car that he’d perish in a brutal crash before a packed-house during the 1964 season at the popular Massachusetts oval. (Shany Photo)

BONUS SHOT #2: And here’s one more from our friend Carolyn Grey….. Like all short tracks, the Waterford Speedbowl can boast of having hosted some pretty-hairy action in the way of crashes over the years, Among the drivers caught up in this melee during the 1950s was New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins who at the time was wheeling his “Little Jewel” #106, and we also see fellow Hall of Famer the late “Wild Bill” Slater who was behind the controls of one of Bill Congdon’s potent #76 creations. (Shany Photo courtesy Carolyn Grey).

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

COMMENTS

Anonymous said:

Thanks, Clayton. That car became the 10 pins that Buddy Krebs later drove - right?

clayton murphy said:

Ed P, Jocko has much success dury the late 50's & early 60's driving the Center Motor Sales #10 out of Manchester, Ct owned by Bob Oliver

[delete] (5 days ago) clayton murphy said:

Ed P, Jocko had great success at Riversdiae Park in the late 50's early 60's driving the Center Motor Sales #10 out of Manchester, Ct owned by Bob Oliver

Phil Smith said:

Chuck Harvey was a carry over from Kingston. Richard Brooks owned the 65
 

 
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