Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 2, 2013
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This time (our first new installment of 2013!), it’s another varied assortment of some of our favorites from New England’s one & only “Mod Squad.” Special thanks to contributors Roger Liller, R.A. Silva, JoJo Farone, and also our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for adding to this week’s batch of great images. Until next-time, have a great week! As-always email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

More Weekly Wanderings…Modified-Style!

Captured here behind the wheel of the “Big Red 1” in a 70s-era Stafford Motor Speedway shot is our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member George Summers. As the most-winning driver in the history Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, he visited victory lane there on over one-hundred occasions. Seekonk record-aside, Summers one of the top-drivers in all of New England, enjoying a career that lasted over three-decades. Fittingly, he won the last event he entered before retiring, taking–down the 1983 Thompson World Series Modified event driving for fellow Hall of Famer, legendary car owner Art Barry. (Tom Ormsby Collection).

Seen here flanking his familiar #27 Pinto at Stafford, anyone that was around during what’s widely considered the “Golden Era” of New England Modified racing is sure to recognize this guy. The late Booker T. Jones joined the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Upon his induction, award-winning racing journalist Bones Bourcier commented that “He drove NASCAR Modifieds around the Northeast for what seemed like a hundred years, and yet when he passed at the age of 74, it was not his racing you remembered. It was his friendly smile, his big right hand shaking yours. He was everybody’s buddy.” The consummate low-buck operator, Jones made-due with equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. He remained a popular figure at New England raceways long after his days behind the wheel were over. (Tom Ormsby Collection).

Captured here during the early-days at the Connecticut shoreline’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl is our late friend, “Wild Bill” Slater. The car is one of the Congdon Bros. entries out of Salem, a small burg just up the road from the Bowl’. The team experienced unparalleled success at the track during the early days, enlisting the talents of only the most proficient of Waterford chauffeurs. Slater, a charter member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame later went-on to national success as the pilot of the famed Vitari-Bombaci V-8. Read more about Bill’s legendary accomplishments in the sport at www.near1.com (Shany Photo, Roger Liller Collection).

Our friend Roger Liller has lately been sending us a number of early gems from the track formally-known as the “New London-Waterford Speedbowl” (later shortened to simply “Waterford Speedbowl”). Captured here at the venerable old Connecticut third-miler during the 1950s is Darwin “Bud” Matter. Notching an astounding total of 15 feature victories on-route to the 1953 Non-Ford title, he scored an impressive total of 26 main event triumphs during a relatively-short career behind the wheel. (Shany Photo, Roger Liller Collection).

Just another 70s-era Saturday night at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium….. Few were tougher at Joe Tinty’s demanding little bullring than this guy, Bob Vivari. Piloting Bruce Sperry’s #6X (that’s Bruce on the left), he captured a boatload of feature victories. He was also a multi-time modified track champion, scoring the 1968 & 1972 titles. The young guy on the right offering Bob a hearty congratulations? That’s none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Reggie Ruggiero. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

We really like this Phil Hoyt shot of former Plainville Stadium track champion Gary Membrino, but then-again, we’re kinda’ partial to anything related to that much-missed Connecticut bullring. This guy had a lot to live-up to considering the feats of his legendary Uncle Anthony “Jap” Membrino, who for decades was one of the top Modified racers in New England. Gary did-so in fine style, becoming for a time one of the best drivers at Joe Tinty’s little palace of speed. (Phil Hoyt Photo).  

The RTT archives are rather-incomplete as to the career-accomplishments of this driver, Loren Trombley. Though Plainville remains among the most-difficult tracks to document, with the aid of several old trade papers we managed to determine that Loren was, in fact, a multi-time feature winner during his reign at the Stadium’ (an admirable-feat considering the level of competition at Joe Tinty’s ¼-miler during the mid-seventies). We believe this shot to be from the 1978 season, a year in-which Ronnie Rocco scored the track championship. (Phil Hoyt Photo). 

By the time Dick “Dickie Doo” Ceravolo posed for this 1979 team shot while seated at the controls of his Pinto modified, he’d already established himself as a Waterford winner having taken his first checker in 1971 as a top shoe in the full-fendered Daredevil class. In 1988 his career reached its zenith, as he and longtime racing associate Dana Gerry (left), waltzed-off with the championship. A surprise to everyone, Ceravolo then promptly announced his retirement, going-on to oversee the racing career of his son Todd (seen here second-from-right). Like-father, like-son, Todd became a Speedbowl modified champion in 1997. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

We receive a lot of requests for photos, and images of this driver are right near the top of the list. Perhaps no driver in the history of the place is more synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl than the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer. There from the very-start in 1951, “Fuzzy” along with his dad and crew-chief “Pops” started in the days of those ramshackle coupes, completing his career in a contemporary Vega creation in the 1980s owned by his close friends, the LaJeunesse team. When in good equipment, Fuzzy showed everyone that he could still get it done during those later years. This shot captures him during the early 1970s when he and his dad were fielding a neat coach-bodied creation. This ride served them well for many seasons. (Dugas Photo).

Captured at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway while aboard Bob Judkins potent #2x coupe, few individuals meant more to New England modified racing than the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke. Starting during the emerging popularity of stock cars in the post-war era, it’s estimated that he won over 500 feature events during a career which spanned 3-decades. Along the way, he helped many young drivers get their starts, including Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton, and Indy 500 veteran Dennis Zimmerman. As an expert car builder, he designed the “Flemke Front End” a chassis component that remained the standard in modified car construction for years. Both Eddie and Judkins are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (JoJo Farone Collection).

BONUS SHOT: Seen here as the subject of a really-unique image captured at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, he was simply one of the greatest to ever sit behind the controls of a race car, and more than a bit mysterious to the average fan; the guy simply had an “aura” about-him. The late “Dynamite” Ollie Silva was both a huge winner, and one of the most-admired competitors in all of short track racing. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Silva recorded over five-hundred feature victories over the course of a career that started in 1949 at the long-shuttered Dracut, MA. Speedway and concluded in 1980. He was victorious in Modifieds, Supers, Sprint Cars, and Cut-Downs. Etched into the record books of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl is an absolutely-dominating win in the 1974 Hot Wheels 100 in which Silva simply destroyed an all-star field of the regions top modified stars. To this-day, the locals still talk about it, this scribe included. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

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

Comments

bruce cohen said:

Keep these great Shany and Hoyt pix coming! Thanks for sharing them!!!!!

Denny Z. said:

Ooops

Anonymous said:

Fred in the 2x?

Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Denny, My Boo Boo. That's what happens when I'm in a hurry and don't proof read.

Dave Dykes said:

Believe me, if Tom didn't proof-read my ramblings there would be many more boo-boo's...lol.

Rich Belmont said:

I believe Dan Gaudiosi was the 1968 Plainville champion.

Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Danny was Champion in 1967, Bob Vivari in 1968.

Rich Belmont said:

Sorry Bob.

Rich Oloff said:

These pix and site bring back so many happy memories. Thanx to everyone whom make it possible for all of us to enjoy

[delete] steve k said:

Vivari was champ in the 1970s too - 1972, I think - the year this photo was taken and Riverside was enlarged. He racked up a bunch of wins,then sold the Nova to Cliff Cyr and went with the 95 sedan, then a 6X coupe, not as many wins with the coupe.

dan gaudiosi said:

still have that flag signed buy all the drivers that night

 
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