Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 27                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we head-back to my old stompin’ grounds of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Special thanks go-out to our friend and regular contributor Chris Langer for donating some of the choice classic Shany Lorenzent images featured today. Also, a welcome surprise guest at my humble abode last Saturday morning was old friend Bobby Lee who I raced against during my brief & (very) unspectacular ‘Bowl career back in the late-70’s. Bobby, a winning racer who’s been featured on this site in the past, donated a disk of choice vintage Waterford shots that will begin appearing in the upcoming weeks. Thanks Bobby, but most-of-all, great to see an old pal after so-many years! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com  

YET-MORE “Waterford Wanderings”….

This guy’s name remains synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, and we never tire of featuring him on this site. Nobody has more wins in the Modified division at that track than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins. Though he also competed at other venues, Collins spent much of his career at the Speedbowl where he scored more than 100 features in both Modified and Non-Ford competition along with five Modified championships. The first title came in 1955, the final in 1969. This shot is from 1968, and captures the ‘Bowl legend behind the controls of the potent Simons Brothers #9. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).       

Another coupe-era shot from what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl captures Bob Tetreault on a Saturday evening in 1970. Typical of the times, Bob’s racer sported a nifty vintage body, stock frame, and probably 99% of the components used in its construction where products of good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity, rather than a fat-wallet. Sadly, Modified racing has become prohibitively-expensive for many would-be competitors and has also forced many veteran teams out of the sport. It remains a truly-disturbing trend. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).       

If you’re at all familiar with New England modified racing, not much has to be said about this fellow. As a driver, the late Ed Yerrington was a big winner, and in later years as an official became one of the most-respected figures in the sport. He’s captured here ready-to-roll in 1968 at the Speedbowl behind the wheel of one of his familiar #66 creations. That year, he captured the checkers on two occasions. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).                  

Pictured here with one of his earliest open-wheel rides, Mike Beebe remained a faithful Waterford Modified competitor for ages. His winning career spanned a period that saw great technological strides in the sport. While it all started during the much-heralded “Coupe Era” his run as a top Modified chauffer concluded in an age of “store-bought” chassis, ultra high-dollar motors, and contemporary tin-work. He remained a class-act and a threat to win right-up until his retirement from the division. More recently, he’s been involved in Legends racing. This neat yellow Mustang-bodied mount remains one of the most fondly-recalled rides of Beebe’s career (at-least in the opinion of this scribe). (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).                            

And here’s a great shot of the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener following a 1972 feature victory aboard the “Racin’ Rambler.” He notched his final ‘Bowl win with this little AMC-bodied machine in 1974, and it was no-fluke on that chilly Easter afternoon. Completing the top-10 was defending track champion Dick Dunn, NEAR Hall of Famer “Gentleman Dick” Watson, Jerry Dostie, Art Moran, Joey Trudeau, Nels Wholstrom, Donnie Bunnell, Mark LaJeunesse, and Lou Herman. Ron “Boots” Cote won the accompanying Sportsman Sedan feature (his third-straight). Also in the foreground in this shot is longtime Speedbowl Racing Director John Whitehouse on the right, and on the left is Jack Brouwer. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).               

Before graduating to the Modifieds, Walt Dombrowski had claimed the 1963 Speedbowl Bomber championship. The transition was a smooth-affair; with Walt scoring his first checkers in Waterford’s headlining division in 1966. Having secured a seat in the potent L&M coupe, he handily nailed-down the Modified title in 1970. This shot however, sees Walt “in the office” during the 1968 campaign, a year in which he defeated a stellar field in scoring the extra-distance “July Championship” event on 7/20. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).           

Lou Toro (real name Louis Conforte), was a fierce competitor for decades, no-matter what the venue. Like many other racers from his era, running as much as 4-times weekly was commonplace. He was particularly good at UNITED haunts like West Haven and Riverside, but also excelled at the independently-sanctioned “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl as captured here in the late-60s. He was a popular chauffer with both fans and the guys he raced-against. (Shany Photo, Chris Langer Collection).

Admittedly, we don’t know much about this driver, a gentleman by the name of Bernie Deveau. We do know however, that it’s a coupe-era image captured at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, and that we really like the looks of Bernie’s ultra-sanitary ride! If any readers happen to have some information on this car & driver, please feel-free to contact me. (Shany Photo).                                       

In later years, hometown driver Terry Peabody gained notoriety as a top motor-builder via his successful “Peabody Performance” endeavor. When this early shot was taken, he was a Speedbowl wheelman for veteran car-owner Sonny Brooks. The car was built and maintained in neighboring New London. Ironically, even though the “Whaling City” is just over the town-line, with few exceptions it was never-known as a hotbed of activity for things-racing. The local motorsports community was saddened when the popular Peabody passed-away at a relatively young-age just a few seasons-ago. (Shany Photo).  

Last this week, we offer a shot of an early Daredevil class competitor. Pictured here is Henry (sorry, but his last name escapes-us), with his get-this; Pontiac Star Chief creation. Even during the early days of the Daredevil class which debuted in 1965, the field overwhelmingly consisted of Chevrolet & Ford products. Henry, by the way, who was the proprietor of Henry’s Auto Top in Norwich, CT. (note the rose on the side of his car, a nod to his hometown; AKA “The Rose of Connecticut”) catered to the ‘Bowl crowd, having expertly stitched-up a lot of covers for racing seats over the years!  (Dugas Photo).     

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

 
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