Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 27, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 29                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

A few weeks-ago, our old racing pal former Waterford Speedbowl Street Stock competitor Bobby Lee presented us with the gift of a disk chock-full of choice vintage ‘Bowl shots. The photos are from the collection of Bobby’s friend, Dave Chapman of Westbrook, Connecticut. With the Speedbowl holding its annual “Nostalgia Night” show this Saturday evening, we thought it would be fun to highlight the “old daze” at the Nutmeg State oval for this week’s installment of “RTT.” Special thanks to Mr. Chapman (and Bobby), for contributing this week’s images! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com     

And The Beat Goes On; More “Old Stuff” From Waterford…

One-third of a brother-act that also included siblings Bob “Allie” Gada and the late Larry “Insta” Gada, Chris “Wally” Gada wheeled this Mustang Mach 1-bodied Modified in ‘Bowl action. Famous for their loyalty to products of a FORD-nature, the team fielded winning entries for years at a track that was overwhelmingly populated by entries propelled by “The General” during their generation. It was no-fluke, as the Gada’s won big. They fielded this car simultaneously with their winning (Bob being a multi-time track champ), full-bodied entries. Following Larry, veteran Joey Trudeau got-behind the controls, going-on to grab the 1971 Modified championship. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection)        

Here’s a really unique shot taken by our friend & longtime New England racing photographer, Taftville, Connecticut’s Rene Dugas. Jerry Glaude was a Speedbowl Bomber class standout that found success in the Modifieds almost immediately. Seen here during the early 1970s aboard his memorable Chevy Corvair-bodied #5, the popular Glaude recorded a combined total of nineteen feature victories at Waterford before quietly retiring from the sport. (Dugas Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).       

Like every short track, the Waterford Speedbowl has had its share of real “stand on the gas” competitors over the years, and this guy was one of them. Personally-speaking, he was one of my all-time favorites when I was a young fan. Captured here at the shoreline oval at the wheel of his familiar #6, Glynn Shafer won a ton of races during his long career which started in the Bomber class and concluded in the Modifieds. As exciting a wheelman as ever witnessed at the Speedbowl, he ALWAYS coaxed the most out of his equipment. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).                     

The late Rick “Sleepy” Knapp was at Waterford for what seemed like forever. Always sporting his signature “Sweet 16” on the flanks of his racers, he was a particularly successful competitor in the full-bodied ranks. Known by fellow drivers as “A guy you could race with” he got the job done with equipment that was often less well-funded than that of his competitors. He later advanced to the headlining Modifieds, remaining a respected racer. This shot captures Knapp at the dawn of the 1970s when the full-bodied Daredevil division was really roaring at the shoreline oval. Weekly fields of over 40-cars were not uncommon. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).                       

Another rough night at the shoreline oval many moons-ago…. Seen here sitting on its roof is the #101 of Walt Perkins, and the other car involved is the #6 of Glynn Shafer. Like any short track, Waterford has always had its thrilling moments (thrilling for the fans that-is; this mess represents a LOT of work for the car owners!). You gotta’ wonder how this one got started. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).                       

Here’s one of the New England region’s longest-running performers. Dale Holdridge’s career lasted over 3-decades. Known as a gentleman on & off the track, he was one of those drivers that you seldom ever saw involved in any controversy – just a good, steady shoe that fellow competitors enjoyed racing wheel-to-wheel with. As evidenced by this sharp and somewhat-radical Coupe, Mr. Holdridge was also a skilled and innovative car builder. The year is 1971. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).             

This one captures the #77 of Dick Harlow after it came to rest following a nasty flip. Fortunately, Mr. Harlow was able to shake-off his flight & return to future competition. Standing near the left-front wheel is driver “Uncle Don” Steiner (left), and a young Dick Brooks (right).This car has a unique history in that Dick had the forethought to save his old coupe following his retirement from the sport. Today, it can be seen on the New England Antique Racers (NEAR) circuit in essentially the same shape as it was when last raced competitively. Harlow is the father of Mare Harlow who serves as the Secretary of NEAR. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).

Another “accident shot” this one sees the ride of “Daring Dick” Caso after having taken a mighty side-shot in his #86 coupe. Also involved in the melee was our late friend, the popular & much-missed Fred “Fuzzy” Baer in his signature #121 coupe. Note the old Speedbowl ambulance and the fact that almost the entire crowd is on its feet to get a better look at the proceedings. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).                                       

Here’s an image captured in the early-1970s of a true Icon within the ranks of the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s support classes. Extremely-popular and a huge winner, “Big Mike” Daigneault handily scored the 1973 Sportsman Sedan title and endeared himself to the fans with his patriotic red, white & blue “Spirit of 76’” Ford entries. Mike ranks 7th on his divisions all-time win list with a total of 27 career feature victories. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).

Lastly, we have a nice shot of Nels Wohlstrom during the early days of his career as a chauffer in the Speedbowl’s Daredevil division. Nels later went-on to become one of the shoreline oval’s top modified drivers experiencing a long and productive stay in the tracks premier division. He also did well at several other tracks in the New England region. A close associate of Mike Beebe, another of Waterford’s premier modified shoes, Nels’ launched his open-wheel endeavors a few seasons after this image was captured with an ex-Beebe modified. (Shany Photo, Dave Chapman Collection).       

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

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