Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 26, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 4                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Today’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for another assortment of oldies for our loyal readers. Special thanks go out to pals Rusty Sage, Mal Phillips, R.A. Silvia and our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for donating some of this week’s images. And don’t forget, this weekend it’s the 2011 New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction to be held on Sunday at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, Connecticut. Visit www.near1.org for more information. To all, have a great week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com             

It’s Wednesday – Time For More Old Stuff !!!       

Starting this week’s edition of “RTT” we have an image of one of the Waterford Speedbowl’s most fondly-remembered combinations; Newt Palm & the L&M Modified. He was twice a champion (1967 & 68), while wheeling the potent little Willys-bodied coupe. Walt Dombrowski also grabbed the title driving the L&M in 1970, cementing the car’s status as one of the more famous cars in ‘Bowl history. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Rusty Sage).  

We admittedly don’t know a whole-lot about this driver and his neat square-roof coupe, but we do know that the car was a real looker! Seen here at the Waterford Speedbowl pitted next to the team of Mike Beebe during the early 1970s is Dick Chapman. Classic coupes like this one remained standard fare at the shoreline oval when this shot was recorded, but teams were starting to look toward late model sheetmetal as evidenced by Beebe’s Ford Mustang-shod mount. (Dugas Photo, Courtesy Rusty Sage).    

Seen here at the Speedbowl in what we believe to be a Non-Ford entry of the early 1950’s is George Crandall. Typical of the NF entries of the era, Crandall’s coupe is essentially stock-appearing. One of the more popular support classes in Waterford history, the division routinely boasted of full fields and served as both a platform for the novice racer, and a proving ground for many drivers would later advance to the speedier Modifieds. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).

A few months-ago, we ran a shot of this driver, and since-then, we’ve had requests for more. George Shaver Jr. hailed from nearby Norwich, CT. and campaigned this little coupe in weekly action of the 1950’s at what was then known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Over the years, the town known as Connecticut’s “Rose City” has produced some of the best-ever to have competed at the shoreline oval. Norwich has always been a place with a lot of race car shops! (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).         

Seen here (2nd from right), in victory lane at the Speedbowl is Hugh McAvoy, the 1961 Speedbowl Bomber champion. Truly a “thinking mans driver”, McAvoy won the title via a route of consistency, rather than sheer victories. During his title year, he snagged only one checkered flag. Ironically, Ed Moody who placed second in the chase won a staggering 16 feature events! (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).   

In this game, “portrait shots” remain elusive prey, being some of the hardest photos to locate. Thanks to our good friend Mal Phillips, we’re able to present a couple of those rare images this week. Sparky Belmont (real name Michael Belmonte), 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 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. This shot originally appeared on a vintage Speedbowl track program. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).          

Before becoming a New England Midget racing legend, Dave Humphrey was a winning stock car racer. In fact, he handily annexed the 1951 title at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl to become that track’s first-ever champion. His list of accomplishments a long-one, the “Quiet Man” from Massachusetts was one of the premier players in the New England circle game for decades. He was honored for his lengthy and successful career with an induction into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000. This is another image culled from an early Waterford track program. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).                             

Seen here at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium, the late Tony Mordino was one of the absolute-best during the stock car boom of post-war New England. A leading member of the legendary “Waterbury Gang” that also included guys like the late Danny Galullo, the battles he waged with established UNITED stars such as Billy Greco and Johnny “King” Cambino at the old West Haven Speedway are stuff of legend. He later conquered Plainville Stadium and Riverside Park; certainly two of the toughest bullrings in the Northeast. Tony retired following the 1975 Thompson 300, an event in which raced to a top-10 finish after having started 50th in the field. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Tom Ormsby).            

As our regular readers know, on occasion we’ll run an image of an “unidentified” driver hoping that someone will write and enlighten us on the subject. Here’s another one of those shots we simply couldn’t resist. We really love the looks of this early “New London Waterford” Speedbowl entry, and would like to know the identity of the chauffer. Any educated guesses? (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).   

For the last shot on this week’s agenda, we fast-forward to the 1970s. Seen here with his team and their immaculate Vega at the Waterford Speedbowl is driver Dave Romano. I recently caught-up with him on Facebook, learning that the former Riverside Park Late Model champ is now residing in Florida. Dave was a quick-study, mastering the fast-way around the shoreline oval in rapid fashion. Modified veteran Blaine Belz also drove this car at the Speedbowl. (Kennedy Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).

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

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