Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 20, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 28                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Happy Wednesday! That means the work-week is on the run, and it’s time to offer-up another varied selection of photographic treasures courtesy of the “RTT” archives. This time we venture into some unfamiliar territory, as we highlight the former Danbury Fair Racearena and the great Southern New York Racing Association. Admittedly, I’m not as familiar with Danbury history as I should be, as I didn’t get to attend the Racearena as much as I would have liked during my early days as a fan. It’s something that I greatly regret today. With that-said, please forgive the rather short commentary with some of this week’s images. Hopefully, the photos will do all the talking! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com   

Connecticut’s Much-Missed Danbury Racearena; The Early Years…..

Here’s a shot of a real Danbury hero that I DO happen to know a bit-about. When you think of Charles “Chick” Stockwell, your mind immediately conjures-up images of overwhelming success as the all-time winner on the ultra-competitive surface of the late SNYRA-sanctioned Danbury Fair Racearena in Connecticut. Nine championships, 207 victories, and a stint as “Most Popular Driver” for six-years (1976-1981), are bound to sew-up his association with what was once considered one of the most-successful short track operations in America. Sadly, we lost Danbury at the conclusion of the 1981 season so a Mall could be constructed on the property. Like we needed another mall in Connecticut, right? (Mannion Photo).       

Here’s a nice pitside shot of Lou Funk Jr. from 1962. Along with his dad Lou Sr., they were a formidable duo at Danbury winning a boatload of features. Lou Jr. experienced great success at the Racereana in later years wheeling a Chrysler Kit Car modified. If Lou’s coupe looks ultra-sanitary for the era, I’m told that there’s a reason. Apparently the SNYRA had an “appearance policy” within their rulebook mandating that all of their competitors keep their equipment pleasing to the eyes of the fans. The SNYRA was really ahead of it’s time in many ways. (Mannion Photo).      

And here we have the always-popular Kenny Webb following a 1962 feature victory. He was one of the Southern New York Racing Association’s all-time best and a multi-time Racearena track champion. He ranks 3rd on the track’s all-time winners list with a total of 32 feature triumphs. A pioneering racer that really helped make Danbury one of the most-successful short track venues in the entire country, Kenny passed-away in 2010 at age-79. (Mannion Photo).                  

Even champions have an off-night on occasion. This image captured during the 1962 campaign shows the #2 of Kenny Webb on-top of the #47 of Freddie Forshay. Danbury was always know for intense action, and at-times, they could really stack-up these old coupes! (Mannion Photo).

                            

Apparently saddled with the dubious nickname of “Snerd” this one captures one Jim Mortimer behind the controls of his coupe in 1960. See that ultra- packed covered grandstand in the background? It was business-as usual at Danbury; the track routinely drew some of the largest crowds of any short track in the country. Gotta’ love the wide-white on the left-front! (Mannion Photo).                

Another one from 1962, this paddock area shot captures Nick Giardina ready-to-roll with his “Purple People Eater” entry (indeed, the sport was seemingly more of a carefree endeavor back-then). You gotta’ appreciate Nick’s leather-sided “Cromwell” helmet and the tow-bar affixed to his front bumper. Enclosed hauler for this team? Naw, just hook your coupe up to the back of a pickup or station wagon & off you go to the races! (Mannion Photo).            

Here’s a super shot of Bob Ellis with his Chrysler-powered coupe from 1962. If you’re seeing a trend here regarding the engines of the Danbury competitor’s rides, you’ve noted that all of the cars in this week’s installment of “RTT” are flathead-powered. The SNYRA held-on to the flatheads long-after virtually all other racing venues in New England had abandoned them for the overheads. In fact, overhead V-8’s did not become legal at Danbury until 1973. (Mannion Photo).

Seen here in 1958, Ernie Marshall left Danbury and the SNYRA season following the 1965 season to compete on the dirt of New York’s Lebanon Valley Speedway where he would become a 2-time point champion. However, his departure did not occur before he wrote a significant page in Racearena history. In 1964, Marshall and the late Dick Barlow figured in the closest point chase-ever. When the checkered flag waved on the '64 season, Barlow was champion with 882 points. Marshall was second with 880. Former Norwalk resident and five-time champion Jimmy Smith was third with 822 points. (Mannion Photo).                                       

Now we go waaaay back. The year is 1954, and the gentleman you see here is Ev Pierce who like Chick Stockwell, was one of the earliest of Danbury’s true superstars. He ranks 5th on the all-time SNYRA modified feature victory slate. Note the racing surface; Danbury was a dirt track until 1958. In later years, Ev’s son Denis also became a successful modified shoe at the Racearena. (Mannion Photo).

We admittedly don’t know much about this driver (remember, we’re a bit weak on Danbury history), but thought we’d include this photo simply because we like the car! Pictured here is the #100 driven by a Kenn Keeler. The year is 1954, and the SNYRA were still competing on the old dirt surface. Note the “screen” on the front of the car. (Mannion Photo).    

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

 
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