Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 16, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Another week passes, and it’s time for our usual trip to the archives and one-more edition of “Racing Through Time.” Special thanks to all of this week’s contributors, Roger Liller, R.A. Silvia, and, Walter Jablonski. And as-always, the same is offered to our Webmaster & pal Tom Ormsby for getting us online every Wednesday without fail. Being short on other introduction comments this-week, we’ll just let the photos do the talking! To all, have a great week….. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Yet-Another Selection Of Short Track Stormers…

First on the slate this week we have a coupe-era shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Mario “Fats” Caruso. An excerpt from his HOF biography; Mario “Fats” Caruso began racing in 1949, with his brothers Tony and Funzie, and close friends Al Mattress and Vince Abdella. The team’s first car was a Class B Ford sedan. After cutting his racing teeth with this car, Frank White offered Caruso a ride in his Circle 2, a cut down, which he drove to many feature wins, and eventually the NEARA championship. Fats had made a name for himself locally, at tracks like Seekonk, Thompson, Westboro, and Norwood. When he got the ride in the #69 coupe, sponsored by Worcester Sand and Gravel, his career really started to take-off. He began competing at tracks like Old Bridge and Trenton in New Jersey, Utica-Rome and Oswego in New York and Dover and Hudson in New Hampshire. Caruso was a consistent top five finisher, and a regular threat to win wherever he competed. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Courtesy of our pal Ed Liller we present this great shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Gene Bergin. It’s the early 1950s, and the location is Pine Bowl Speedway in Troy, New York. Opening in 1950 during the post-war short track racing boom the track had a rather-short lifespan, shutting the gates forever in 1966. At the time of this image, Eddie Ryan's Mutual Racing Associates were promoting the facility. Quite a few racers from the Connecticut/Rhode Island area ran at Pine Bowl off & on during its brief history. (Bob McDowell photos from Les King, Roger Liller Collection).

Another image from Mr. Liller, this one captures the late Al O’Dell with the checkers at Connecticut’s much-missed Danbury Fair Racearena during the 1954 season. One of the most successful short track operations in the country, Danbury hosted weekly modified racing for decades, closing the gates forever in 1981 to make way for the construction of a shopping mall. Sadly, O’Dell who was a popular and successful chauffer at the Racearena, met his demise at the speedway. Despite having suffered chest pains earlier in the day, he decided to race on the evening of August 21, 1965 and suffered a fatal heart-attack during the feature. (Roger Liller Collection).

Back when Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club was at the helm of Massachusetts’ late Riverside Park Speedway, they held a 500-lap team race every season. To bag one of these races was a big deal and certainly well-worthy of bragging rights. Here’s a nice coupe-era shot of “Desperate Dan” Galullo (right) & Lou Carangelo (left) after they dusted the field in the 1966 edition of the popular marathon event. Both Galullo and promoter Tattersall are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Shany Photo).

Ronnie Wyckoff remains in this scribes opinion, one of the most overlooked and underrated drivers in New England modified racing history. He’s a multi-time co-winner of the Riverside Park Speedway’s 500-lap contests, and recorded victories at just-about every modified track in the region. Always in-demand with the top car owners of his era, the teams that the affable Wyckoff drove-for during his long-career reads like a “who’s-who” of the sport. As captured here in the Bill Zenobi owned % during an early 1970s outing at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, he always did it with a smile – he remains the same today (Shany Photo, Courtesy Walter Jablonski).

Seen here behind the wheel of the late “Iron Mike” Scrivani’s memorable #M-2 coach, Leo Cleary was aptly-nicknamed “The Lion” owing to his fearless driving style. It was more than one chauffer that became uneasy when they had a mirror-full of Cleary; he was one tough competitor. Leo competed at the Medford Bowl, Lonsdale, Norwood, Catamount, and Westboro. Among active tracks, he raced at Thompson, Seekonk, Stafford (as seen here), Martinsville, Oswego and Waterford, along with several others. In his 44 years behind the wheel, he took down 14 track championships, including the Norwood Arena, Seekonk, and Thompson. The winning-ways continued until he was 63 and finally retired in 1993. Both Cleary and Scrivani are New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members. (Photographer Unknown).  

Our friend Roger Liller sent us this nice photograph of New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Charles “Chick” Stockwell during his championship season in 1957 at the former Rhinebeck Speedway in New York State. When you think of this racer, your mind immediately conjures-up images of overwhelming success as the all-time winner on the ultra-competitive surface of the late SNYRA-sanctioned Danbury Fair Racearena in Connecticut. Nine championships, 207 victories, and a stint as “Most Popular Driver” for six-years (1976-1981), are bound to sew-up his association with what was once considered one of the most-successful short track operations in America. However, Stockwell’s accomplishments are much further-reaching than his deeds experienced at Danbury. Racing as much as three and four times a week (a common thread for drivers of his generation), he successfully conquered the New York state dirt ovals of Orange County and Lebanon Valley among others. During the fifties, he also campaigned at Nutmeg State speedplants such as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, Thompson Speedway, Plainville Stadium, and the Stafford Fairgrounds. Extremely versatile, Stockwell was also successful within the full-bodied divisions, annexing the 1963 & 64 United Stock Car Racing Club’s Grand American titles. (Bob McDowell photos from Les King, Roger Liller Collection).

Here’s an early image from Massachusetts’ much-missed Riverside Park Speedway and the driver is our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo. An exceptionally-gifted racer during what would be today considered a relatively-brief career he recorded a ton of modified feature victories all over the region, being particularly-tough at the late Plainville Stadium where he was twice a track champion. As stated-above. George’s career really was am abbreviated affair compared to many of his contemporaries. It leaves one to wonder just how-many more feature victories he would have recorded had he stayed behind the wheel just a little-longer. (Shany Photo).

Captured here at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the early-70s, Don Flynn was always recognized for his immaculate race cars, and this ultra-sharp creation was no exception. Enjoying a long New England racing career that stretched from the coupe-era right-up to the days of more-contemporary “modern” machinery, he was a consistent competitor and a feature winner. We just really-like this shot; the coupes were truly-special to us old-school modified folk! (Rene Dugas Photo).

Here’s a nice color shot of 4-time Waterford Speedbowl modified champion, Dick Dunn. Owned by our friends Peg & Al “Buddha” Gaudreau, this veteran racer reigned-supreme during the early-1970s wheeling this rig which was appropriately christened the “Buddha’s Bullet.” Adding to an already impressive resume, during the four-straight seasons that he was crowned champ (1972-75), Dunn recorded an impressive 18 feature victories including a number of extra-distance shows. If you were a Speedbowl “track brat” like I was in those days, you got really-accustomed to seeing this guy pull into victory lane week-after-week….. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Walter Jablonski).

BONUS SHOT: Opened way-back in 1946, New Hampshire’s Hudson Speedway has proven to be a true survivor. Kind of an industrial-grade throwback to the old days, the place is more “function” than “form.” Luckily for all of us, today she still thrives; just good old New England short track racing every week. Seen here at “Hudson International” wheeling a super modified early-on is standout racer Jim Martel. Hailing from Ipswich, Massachusetts, he enjoyed a lengthy career winning many feature races in the process. He remained a crowd favorite and another driver that was well-respected by his fellow competitors for his entire time behind the wheel. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

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


Ed "chip" gauvin jr. said:

Great web site!! Ihave a question for Tony Mordino, do you still have the model of the VO I gave you at Tintys back in the 60's

Ed P said:

Dave - Happy New Year. I'm pretty sure Pine Bowl closed after the 1966 season and Dan Gaudiosi was the track champion in either 64 or 65. I only went there once but it had to be later than 1963. I know I'm getting old and I could be miss-remembering.

Tony Mordino said:

Hello Chip,
I would love to say that I had any Car Models but unfortunately I don't. After my Mom and Dad split up, things were lost. I remember several hand built, painted models when we lived in Waterbury. I would carefully position them as a kid on the floor like they were racing, Surprisingly my Dad always won those "play" races:-)My cousin Chris even had a red XD-2 Model (that "the villain" G Lombardo drove). The only Model I have seen is of a #78 purple and White Hudson years ago at Billy's West Haven Reunion. Maybe they'll set that Model stand up again at Billy's NEAR Picnic.

sherman said:

Great Photos thanks for sharing.

Gary said:

I always look forward to this site,Dad raced at Pine Bowl in the 50`s,I spent plenty of time in the pits,and was there for the very last show. Great site,and we coupe/coach guys,will never get enough.

Dave Dykes said:

Ed, you're right about Pine Bowl. Our friend, racing historian Roger Liller who has generously been donating photos and history on Pine Bowl & Rhinebeck lately, confirms that Pine Bowl acutally closed for-good in 1966 after running a few unadvertised races. Roger is presently writing a book on Rhinebeck, and is considered one of the "go-to guys" on the orgins of the sport in that part of the country. To you all, thanks for the interest in the site!

nels wohlstrom said:

great shot of dick dunns car dave! i loved that coupe!

PEG G said:


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