Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday January 29, 2014


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Freddie Beaber’s checkerboard #716 creations remained a winning mainstay on our regions modified trail for decades, particularly at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. His drivers over the years reads like a “Who’s-Who” of some of the absolute-best including several members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Names like Bob Potter, Dick Watson, Billy Harman, Charlie Webster, Jerry Glaude and Johnny Thompson rank among the more notable. On a more-local level, there was John Brouwer Jr., Rick Donnelly, Ed Reed Sr. and countless other talents. All were exceptional shoreline oval chauffeurs. From his shop in the Connecticut River Valley, he helped make stars of many of those that wheeled his finely-crafted machines. Certainly one of the sports most well-liked individuals, it’s been few teams that weren’t affected by Fred’s pleasant & easy-going demeanor and a willingness to share his knowledge. Though some of the images featured this week have been seen in prior editions of “RTT” we felt it a fitting tribute to one of Connecticut’s most-accomplished racing personalities. Lastly don’t forget; the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) are presently offering a DVD tracking the clubs history from the “cageless era” to the contemporary machines of today. Containing 322 images, it’s simply a must-have for the New England open-wheel enthusiast. Cost is $25 each with all proceeds going directly to NEMA to help carry-on the rich traditions these early pioneers built. Payment can be made through PayPal to rewindles@sbcglobal.net or by sending a check or money order (payable to NEMA), as well as your name and address to Bill Van Slyke, 23 Horsestable Cir., Shelton, Ct. 06484.  This effort is fully-endorsed by “RTT” – it’s a great deal, folks! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Racing Review: Freddie Beaber & The Checkerboard # 716….

Contained in a parcel of photos we received as a Christmas present last month, we really like this image. It captures Freddie Beaber helping his new driver Jerry Glaude adjust his shoulder harness in the mighty #716. Jerry had just taken over the ride from his cousin New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Bob Potter, who had moved to another team. This was shot by our friend longtime racing photographer Rene Dugas, who along with Potter was present that evening in Freddie’s shop. Great stuff… (Rene Dugas Photo).

The decision to hire Jerry Glaude to wheel his coupe following Potter’s departure was indeed a successful endeavor for Freddie, as the team tasted success almost immediately. Seen here after grabbing a feature victory, the popular (but somewhat historically-overlooked) Glaude recorded a combined divisional career total of nineteen feature victories before quietly retiring from the sport. Note the absolutely-packed grandstand on this long-ago Sunday afternoon. The sixties & early-seventies were indeed, very-kind to the Speedbowl. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

And here we have a little action shot from the former Norwood Arena in Massachusetts. Wheeling Freddie’s coupe, Johnny Thompson finds himself tangling with none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the late “Wild Bill” Slater. The much-missed Norwood was once one of the most-revered modified haunts in the entire region. While their “home track” always remained the Speedbowl, the #716 team did compete at other venues. (Photographer Unknown).

In the old days, you weren’t seemingly obligated to spend a ton of money to get your racecar to the track – a simple open trailer would suffice even for top teams like that of the #716. A young Freddie is seen here in-front of his shop ready to roll. We’re betting that like all of his other equipment, Freddie built this trailer with his own two-hands and a healthy dose of Yankee ingenuity. (Photographer Unknown).

Here’s an early-career image of Johnny Thompson at Connecticut’s “New-London-Waterford” Speedbowl when he was wheeling Freddie’s coupe. A winner at several different New England raceways during his long career, Thompson was particularly-good at Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he was a champion during that track’s most competitive era. His association with the #716 team was also a successful affair. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).  

Captured here during an appearance at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway behind the controls of one of Freddie’s most-recalled entries is the late Charlie Webster. This pairing experienced a lot of success. Truthfully, Charlie was one of the guys that literally helped put the Waterford Speedbowl on the map. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). He shocked the local racing community with his decision to retire at the dawn of the 1970s while still very-much in his prime. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

It’s an era when coupes were still the chosen livery, and here we have New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member and 6-time Speedbowl Modified champion, Bob Potter when he was driving for Freddie (seen second from left). As we all know, Bob’s ultra-smooth style behind the wheel garnered him hundreds of feature victories and multiple championships at Waterford, Stafford, and Thompson. As for Freddie, God only-knows how many victories his fondly-remembered checkerboard #716 creations took at the shoreline oval! (Rene Dugas Photo).

No feature on the career of Freddie Beaber would be complete without mentioning this driver, our much-missed friend New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Dick Watson. Teamed with Beaber, Dick went-on to win many, many races during the 1970s wheeling this Corvair-bodied version of the #716. Personally-speaking, this was one of my absolute-favorites of all of Freddie’s cars. Great driver + great car owner = hard-to-beat! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

In later years, Freddie had abandoned his open trailer in-favor of this classic “wedge” hauler. At the time, he’d renumbered his racer to #7 and had employed the services of seasoned Speedbowl veteran & former track champion Rick Donnelly. It was another successful pairing during a time in-which the sport was rapidly-changing. Cavalier sheet metal was the popular style by then. (Photographer Unknown).

It’s the team’s final years at the Speedbowl and we believe this to be one of the last in a long-line of #716 creations coming out of the Beaber shop. A smiling Freddie is seen here with his longtime friend “Little Joe” who was an integral part of the organization for many seasons. It’s hard to express just how-important dedicated teams like Freddie’s have been to our sport. Present week-after-week, they remain the very foundation of the entire thing. This is simply a nice image that nicely conveys the Speedbowl and its rich history in the realm of New England modified racing. (Rene Dugas Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER #1: Here we go-again with a couple of mysteries for you veteran New England race fans to try & figure-out. This week’s offering are from Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl and the late Plainville Stadium. Seen here at the shoreline oval seated behind the controls of a modified coupe typical of the late-60s to early-70s is…? (Rene Dugas Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER #2: And, here we have specimen #2 of this week’s “Motorsports Mystery Personalities.” This Plainville Stadium driver & car looks vaguely-familiar to us, but not-enough to guess at a positive ID. Remember, there are literally hundreds of these images in the “RTT” archives, so any assistance we get is very-valuable! Care to take a guess? As-always, email reaches us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com   (Phil Hoyt Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

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

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