Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 7, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 24                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


Lately, we’ve been receiving a boatload of requests for some subject-matter from the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. So with that-said, here’s a few from the Connecticut third-miler affectionately referred-to by locals as the “shoreline oval.” As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com        

Waterford Wanderings…..    

In a recent conversation with Bruce Cohen of the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), we speculated that the guy who fielded this #21 was perhaps one of the most underrated car owners in New England Modified Racing history. Norm Kies had some of the best drivers in the region wheeling his machines for decades, Hall of Famers like Dennis Zimmerman, George Lombardo, Dick Watson, Bob Potter, etc. It’s indeed an impressive list. In this early 1970s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl shot, it’s Jerry Lilliquist at the controls, one of the shoreline oval’s premier stars. As a bit of trivia, the correct spelling of this racers first-name was actually “Jari” rather than “Jerry.” It was something that car owners and media of the day never seemed to get correct! (Shany Photo).

By 1974, Kies had pretty-much ended his traveling days, settling-into weekly competition at the Speedbowl. That season he employed a couple of different chauffeurs to pilot his latest Chevy II-bodied creation. Seen here is Jiggs Beetham behind the controls during mid-summer of that year. A sharp new Vega creation followed to be expertly wheeled by NEAR Hall of Famer the late “Gentleman Dick” Watson, a driver who Kies had experienced great success-with in previous campaigns. (Shany Photo).   

The late “Wild Bill” Scrivener is captured here during the spring of 1975. The car is the former “Crown 7” of fellow Speedbowl stalwart, Jerry Dostie. Unfortunately, the past Bomber champion’s association with this team was a short-lived affair. Following a number of impressive early-season finishes, the car was destroyed at a mid-week Yankee All-Star show when Bill was T-boned full-tilt by an errant competitor who’d failed to heed the caution flag. As a side-note, NEAR Hall of Famer Billy Harman had originally signed-on to drive the car at the start of the season, but opted-out of the opportunity after only a couple of runs, deciding that the light-weight construction of the car wasn’t in his best-interest. Injuries-healed, Scrivener returned in 1976 for an abbreviated season before opting for retirement. It was the end of a long career for one of the shoreline oval’s most-charismatic racers. (Shany Photo).    

Here’s a nice color shot from 1971 of 4-time Speedbowl Modified champion, Dick Dunn. Owned by our friends Peg & Al “Buddha” Gaudreau, Dunn reigned supreme during the early-1970’s with 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. Note that this image shows the “Bullet” before the team adopted the distinctive blue & silver paint scheme that became their trademark. (Dugas Photo).

John “Cannonball” Baker had been on the scene at the shoreline oval for eons by the time that longtime Bowl’ photographer Shany Lorenzent captured an image of him in this nifty little coupe in 1970. Though he was never a big winner and was always a low-buck operator, Baker competed with his signature #314 creations from the 1950’s right up until 1974 when he took his final laps before quietly fading from the scene. Guys like this may seem like “field-fillers” to some, but in many-ways they’re the backbone of the sport. (Shany Photo).

Here’s another of those guys that we really don’t know a whole-lot about. At a pre-season practice session in the spring of 1974, Bob Gendron showed-up at the Speedbowl behind the controls of this novel Corvair-bodied entry. Apparently from the Massachusetts-area, the car was owned by a Lloyd Sinclair. If memory serves me correctly, the team was only on the scene for a short period of time. If anyone happens to know more about our latest “mystery” please feel-free to drop me an email. As I’ve stated in the past, every driver is important no-matter what the level of accomplishment, and the more information we have, the better! (Dugas Photo).     

For years, local wrench Sonny Brooks (second from left), fielded cars at the Speedbowl, his list of chauffeurs including New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Bob Potter, the late Terry Peabody, Mark Geer, and a host of others. This shot captures the Brooks’ team when Mystic, Connecticut’s Marvin “Spud” Shaw was the wheelman controlling the potent #1 Corvair. Though he never experienced great success within the ranks of the shoreline oval’s premier division, “Spud” was a standout in the old Bomber division recording multiple checkers in the once wildly-popular class. (Dugas Photo).               

His name was simply synonymous with the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl for decades, as he seemed to be there forever….. The late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer started in the 1950’s, and finished-up at the dawn of the 1990’s. He was there to see the Modifieds progress from their primitive “Jalopy” roots into the low-slung creations of the latter-days of his career. In the 1980’s he stepped into the cockpit of a LaJeunesse Team coupe (as seen here), and proceeded to show some drivers half-his-age the quickest route around the shoreline oval. Our friend racing photographer Steve Kennedy captured this great image of “Fuzz” as he waited in line for some track-time on Saturday evening, May 30, 1981. Fuzzy was a longtime friend of yours-truly, and this shot remains one of my all-time favorites. (Kennedy Photo)

Speaking of Team LaJeunesse, here they are in the Speedbowl pits during the 1979 campaign. It’s a Vega-bodied creation, and as-with all of the cars from this Norwich, CT.-based team, it was skillfully self-crafted from the ground-up. No “store-bought” stuff here during an era in-which money was starting to drive the sport. It remained the same for this team years-later when Mark’s son Danny successfully campaigned a creation of their own design at the Thompson Motor Speedway. (Kennedy Photo).  

Captured here on Waterford’s pit lane on Saturday evening May 30, 1981 is Dave Hill. The car is a former Mark LaJeunesse Vega. Hill, a resident of nearby North Stonington, CT. was no newcomer to the sport. He’d grown-up around Modified racing watching the exploits of his uncle, Leo “Ace” Hill at raceways throughout New England. Unlike his Uncle Leo, Dave’s career was short and rather unspectacular and he was gone not too-long after this shot was recorded by Steve Kennedy. (Kennedy Photo).

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

 
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