Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 23, 2013
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Hard-to-believe, but January 2013 is almost over. It seems like we were just celebrating New Years Eve (note to self; that’s because we were, Dummy!). Anyway, another Wednesday of “Racing Through Time” brings some more memorable images from New England’s racing past, and that’s a good-thing, right? Special-thanks go out to our New York Racing Historian pal Roger Liller for sending us a couple of more shots from his state’s former Pine Bowl Speedway, and also to longtime friend Chris Langer for contributing a great coupe-era image from Connecticut’s still-kicking Waterford Speedbowl. Lastly, enough can’t be said in the way of appreciation to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby who gets this site online week-after-week from his digs in the warm state of Florida. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another Week Brings More Racing Memories…..

From our friend, New York racing historian Roger Liller comes this great 1964 shot of Charlie Centinaro picking-up a feature victory at Pine Bowl Speedway which was once located at Snyder's Corners, New York just-east of the city of Troy. Centinaro was one of the most-winning racers of his era, also finding success at venues like Connecticut’s West Haven Speedway, Plainville Stadium, and Riverside Park in Massachusetts in naming just a few. An absolute-standout within the Tattersall families United Stock Car Racing Club, he also ran well in the former United events at the big track on the grounds of the Springfield Exposition Center in Massachusetts. This image comes from the collection of the late Ed Ryan, promoter of 14 different speedways during his career from the 1940s to the late-1970s. (Photo from the late Ed Ryan collection, courtesy Roger Liller).

Simply a gem of an image, we just had to scan this one-in…. From our large file of early Stafford Springs Speedway images comes this great shot of Jim Richards ready to do battle on the former dirt surface of the much-heralded Connecticut ½-miler. Note the old “fairgrounds-style” covered bleachers, so-much a part of the speedway during it’s early years. The popular Richards, an Enfield, CT. resident and former Enfield Fire Chief who passed-away in 2008, ran very-well at Stafford in this classic coupe. He also successfully competed at a number of other venues in the region. As our close friend New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Pete Zanardi says, “Richards raced in some pretty-lofty company regularly competing against guys like Hully Bunn, Dick Eagan, and so-many other of the sports early superstars.”  (Shany Photo).  

This guy definitely left his mark at what was then officially-known as Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Seen here at the shoreline oval after garnering his second of two championships in 1962, is the late Dick Beauregard (second from left). It was his final season behind the wheel, a campaign in-which he snared an astounding 14 feature events while driving the potent Wilcox Fuel #53. Dick ranks 3rd on the Speedbowl’s all-time modified winners list with a total of 45 feature triumphs. He also did very-well in the Non-Ford class with a career tally of 20 trips to victory lane. (Shany Photo).

Here’s one for you aficionados of early Riverside Park Speedway history….. Tom Cook ran this jaunty coupe at Riverside during the early-50s, a time in-which the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club was the premier sanctioning body in New England. Enough can’t be said about just how-important United was to the region during the sport’s formative era following World War II. NASCAR was still a decidedly Southern entity, and had yet to forge a real presence in New England. Cook was a multi-time winner at Riverside Park, and regularly competed at several other speedplants in the area. (Shany Photo).

With an impish grin and a practical joke waiting for anyone who happened 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 was a skilled and accomplished racer as-well. George won at virtually all the tracks in New England, including places like Norwood Arena which was once the venue for the NASCAR modifieds. This shot captures him at the Speedbowl following a feature victory aboard Baldy Simons’ potent #11 coupe (that’s Baldy on the right). If you ever want a firsthand account of just-what it was like to be around George in his heyday, just look-up his good pal, NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Shany Photo).

Seen here following a 1964 feature victory while behind the controls of one of the potent “Sharkey” #44 coupes is “Lil Dan” Gaudiosi. Like this week’s image of Charlie Centinaro, the location is the former Pine Bowl Speedway located at Snyder's Corners, New York just-east of the city of Troy. These pink & white creations coupled with the talent of Dan were responsible for snagging a LOT of checkered flags in New England for nearly 3-decades. Again, special thanks to Roger Liller for providing this great color shot of Dan (who was a Pine Bowl track champ), during his heyday! (Photo from the late Ed Ryan collection, courtesy Roger Liller).

Here’s popular Lou Caso trackside at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl during his days as a modified chauffer. The exact date is Sunday afternoon, August 20, 1969, and it was the late Charlie Webster taking the 30-lap feature before a packed house as evidenced here. Though Lou never scored a main event victory in the Speedbowl’s headlining class, he was a Bomber division standout taking multiple feature wins in the popular support class. Remaining a staple of the shoreline oval scene for many years, he departed the sport as the 1970s began. An interesting feature of this early-season image is that it also captures the #41 of Riverside Park & Plainville Stadium regular Ronnie Mayer in the background.  (Shany Photo, courtesy Chris Langer).

We just love this victory lane shot of the late Ed Yerrington during the height of his long career. As a driver, he was a big winner, and in later years as an official became one of the most-respected figures in the sport of New England modified racing. The locale is Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl (as it was known then), and yup, it was another packed-house! (Shany Photo).

There’s not-much that I can write about this driver that hasn’t already been stated on this site, as he’s been featured here several times in the past. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late “Gentleman Dick” Watson was a childhood hero of mine that in later years, became a valued friend. He was quick on the throttle but smooth-as-silk as a driver; one of those guys that you could trust while running alongside at 100 mph. His was an era of mutual-respect among competitors, a trait that sometimes seems to be in short-supply these days. Dick is seen here during his early career celebrating a feature victory at the Speedbowl. (Shany Photo).

Once-again, it’s Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway of the 1950s, and the driver is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, George Lombardo (the big dude holding the trophy in his arm, and a cigarette in his hand).  A winner all over New England during what would be today considered a relatively-brief career, he was always tough to beat. At the time of this image, he was driving the potent “Red Ram” coupe owned by the late Norm Kies (third from left). As stated-above. George’s career really was an abbreviated affair compared to many of his contemporaries. It leaves one to ponder just how-many more feature victories he would have recorded had he stayed behind the wheel just a little-longer. Check-out the late Harvey Tattersall Jr. (also a Hall of Famer), representing his United Stock Car Racing Club in a suit – always a class act! (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: It’s the 1959 campaign at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, and Tommy Sutcliffe is celebrating one of his 5 feature victories that season in the Non Ford division. A stalwart of the United Stock Car Racing Club, Sutcliffe recorded many victories at places like West Haven Speedway (AKA Savin Rock), Riverside Park, and other United haunts. Tommy may have taken a bushel of shoreline oval checkers in ’59, but it was local sensation the late Charlie Webster that waltzed-away with the championship. (Shany Photo).

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

COMMENTS

(2 days ago) Anonymous said:

Al Perschilli

(6 days ago) Anonymous said:

Great to see the Pine Bowl pix. Many of the Waterbury drivers won there often.

(6 days ago) John Kelley said:

Keep digging those Stafford Dirt photos out!!!!!

(6 days ago) NELS said:

DAVE YOU AMAZE ME WITH PICTURES OF DICK WATSON! I NEVER REALIZED HOW LONG HE HAD RACED!

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

As-always, thanks go-out to all of you for your nice comments on "RTT." As-long as you folks enjoy-it, Webmaster Tom Ormsby and I will keep doing it!

(6 days ago) Eric Marenghi said:

That Godio's 12 really flew at Plainville when Moe Gerzi took over from United. Driven by Lou Carangelo, Lou Toro and Bobby Black tried to catch him, but seldom did.

(6 days ago) joe saccucci said:

keep up the good work, look forward to your column nice to see some pine bowl photos

(6 days ago) Bob Paine said:

Dave, the 1959 photo of Tommy Sutcliffe looks like a car that may have been from Salem. I remember seeing the body of a car on Old Colchester Road and it may have been this one. It was a short distance north and the opposite side of the road from Congdon's Garage.

(6 days ago) chuck grime said:

as always --a great column

(6 days ago) Pat D said:

Hey Dave that is a real neat picture of Dick Watson - John Barnett- 7-11 golden scorpion with gold racing jackets. Remember that car when I first went to the speedbowl as a teenager. The exhaust had a very different sound than the rest of the modifieds of that time. Keep up the good work

 
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