Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 11, 2012
   

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Volume 4, Number 28                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

We open this week with get-well wishes sent to our friend Margaret “Peg” Gaudreau who’s recently spent some time in the hospital. As the owners of the Dick Dunn-chauffeured “Buddha’s Bullet” #3, Peg and her husband Al (Buddha), guided their team to multi-time Waterford Speedbowl modified championships in the 1970s. Cards of cheer reach Peg at 136 Hunters Road, Lot #10, Norwich, CT. 06360. As for this installment of “RTT”, we feature images from Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, the track that started it all for this scribe many, many years-ago! This week's video subject is our good friend Hall of Famer Billy Greco. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com Have a great week!    

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

In A “Speedbowl State Of Mind……”.        

Folks, this is when it all started at the coastal Connecticut oval then officially known as the “New London-Waterford Speedbowl.” It’s Sunday April 15, 1951, and about to compete in tracks first-ever feature event is Stan Woods. Note the surface; it’s the original crushed bluestone, rather than the pavement that would be applied within a few weeks. Winning that initial feature event was Bob Swift, but Woods would rally the next week to score his singular Speedbowl victory. (Shany Photo).

Guys like the aforementioned Bob Swift & Stan Woods would visit victory lane during the Speedbowl’s maiden year, but it was this guy, that took the championship. Dave Humphrey, a New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member and a driver long regarded as one of the best in the realm of Midget racing had not yet turned his full- attention to the open wheel wars in 1951. The quiet man from Seekonk, Massachusetts with the undeniably-smooth driving style notched seven feature victories on his way to the title. (Shany Photo).

If you claim to be familiar with the history of the Speedbowl, you should know who this guy-is. Captured here is the late “Dirty Dick” Beauregard. In a career that spanned only a decade, this racer managed to accomplish more than most drivers spending twice-as-much time behind the wheel. Starting in 1952, he went-on to score a combined-total of sixty-two victories in Modified & Non-Ford competition along with two track titles before hanging-up his helmet and relocating to the West Coast. Dick was named as one of the Speedbowl’s “All-Time 50-Favorite Drivers” when the track celebrated its half-century mark in 1991. (Shany Photo).

Seen here is a slice of the type of action that’s been occurring for decades at the track known by locals as the “Shoreline Oval.” Among the coupe jockeys in this early 1950s fracas are New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi in the #438, and Don Collins piloting his trademark “Little Jewel” #106. Both remain towering figures within the annals of Speedbowl history. (Shany Photo).               

“Portrait Shots” remain one of the most sought-after images among those of us that wish to preserve the history of New England auto racing through endeavors such as this website. Quite-honestly they’re very-rare, and this one is a dandy. The guy you see here would reach Icon-status at the Speedbowl during his career, and also did very-well for himself at a number of other tracks in the region. Hailing from Gales Ferry, Connecticut the late Joe McNulty claimed a career-total of 16 Modified division feature triumphs at the shoreline oval. Note Joe’s Brit-inspired “Cromwell” helmet – the standard of safety in the old days…. (Shany Photo)    

There’s not-much that I can write about this driver that hasn’t already been stated on this site, as he’s been featured here several times in the past. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late “Gentleman Dick” Watson was a childhood hero of mine that in later years. became a valued friend. He was quick on the throttle but smooth-as-silk as a driver; one of those guys that you could trust while running alongside at 100 mph. His was an era of mutual-respect among competitors, a trait that sometimes seems to be in short-supply these days. Dick is seen here early during his career at the Speedbowl of the 1950s. (Shany Photo).   

Absolutely one of the best of his time, here’s the late Ted Stack following a victory in the famed Sharkey #44. Though he scored heavily at several other New England raceways (which is often overlooked historically-speaking), it was probably Waterford that garnered him the most success. A multi-time champion (1961 in the Modifieds, and 1957 & 60 in the Non Fords), He accumulated a combined total of 71 feature victories at the shoreline oval. Stack drove for many of the best teams to have ever competed at the Speedbowl and his services were always in high demand. (Shany Photo).    

With an impish grin and a practical joke waiting for anyone who happend to be in spitting-distance, the late George Pendergast was one of the really good-things about the formative years of our sport. Not to be portrayed as simply a “Character” he was a skilled and accomplished racer as-well. George won at virtually all the tracks in New England, including places like Norwood Arena which was once the venue for the NASCAR Modifieds. This shot captures him at the Speedbowl following a feature victory. If you ever want a firsthand account of just-what it was like to be around George in his heyday, just look-up his good pal, NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Shany Photo).

The great Sal “Dee” Delucia remains one of the most fondly-remembered racers of his era. His relatively brief but spectacular career stalled by serious racing-related injuries, had longevity been in the cards, he would have undoubtedly accomplished even more. With roots tracing-back to Waterford as seen-here, Dee won-over a legion of fans undoubtedly fueled by his no-nonsense drives to the front during what many railbirds consider the most-competitive period in New England modified racing history. Winner of the 1965 Speedbowl Modified title, this guy was truly one tough competitor! (Shany Photo).

Yet-another cool shot from the Speedbowl archives….. It’s the early 1970s and the event is one of the yearly awards banquets. From left-to-right is longtime local racing writer Dave Shippee, John Brouwer Sr. who’s family ties to the shoreline oval go all the way back to the beginning (John was a many-year scorer/ handicapper at the Speedbowl), and receiving the hardware is longtime Waterford competitor, the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener. Dig Bill’s bell-bottoms and wide belt; def. the “Age Of Aquarius”!  (Shany Photo). 

BONUS SHOT: Just another “Speedbowl Saturday Night” in 1972….. As a husband & wife team, Peg & Al “Buddha” Gaudreau provided modified veteran Dick Dunn with the horsepower to notch scads of feature victories and four consecutive modified track crowns from 1972-75. They were simply that-good at the shoreline oval! That’s Al second-from left, and Peg is pictured second from right. Get-well soon Peg! (Shany Photo, Walter Jablonski Collection).

 

New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 7
An Interview with Hall of Famer Billy Greco

 
 

 

 

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

This Weeks Comments:

(2 days ago) Walt S said:
Dave, nice piece on Bill Slater RIP, God bless

(5 days ago) Lary P said:
Thanks for another great week!! I have searched the internet for Info/ Pic's of the All Star League Billy mentioned,not mush out there,do you have any photo's/Info? I do remember the series it involved tracks throughout New England, New York, New Jersey.... all the drivers had an AllStar Helmet!

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:
In addition to being one of the greatest racers to have ever emerged from New England, Billy is simply one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:
Thanks, Wayne & Bill.... Yes, the stories about George are endless, and I've had the opportunity to get them first-hand from Billy who's long been a friend of my family. As for that being Brian, it sure-does look like him, huh? - Dave.

(6 days ago) mike said:
billy greco-one of the great stars of yesteryear. i loved watching him on saturday nights at the park. seeing the drivers at the beer stand after the races and listening to the stories are wonderful memories.

(6 days ago) Wayne Mysterious Smith said:
Just another great job! George "Nutsy Fagan" Pendergast was more fun than people!! If he gave you a $20 to by beer with, you always had to look at who's picture was on the $20? Most of the time it was his!!!Guess who ended up buying!!Him and Harman together you had a crime wave!!! LOL Thanks Dave

(6 days ago) bill sweet jr said:
Hey Dave... Is that Brian McCarthy looking over the left shoulder of Dick Dunn. Sure looks like him

 
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