Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 25, 2012

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Volume 4, Number 30                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                             CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This time-around we present a true assortment of images from a few of the best racing venues here in New England. With an introduction short & sweet to today’s offerings, enjoy the images & above-all have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

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

Yup, Another (Very) Varied Assortment….

Captured here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford Speeedbowl of the early 1950s is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Ralph “Hop” Harrington. Long one of the mainstays on the eastern Modified circuit, Hop began his career in 1948 at the Kingston Rhode Island Fairgrounds piloting a nearly-stock 1934 Ford Coupe. From those humble beginnings came an estimated 300 victories, along with championships at places like Norwood Arena, Lonsdale, Kingston, and Westboro in naming just a few. A master car-builder also, he was instrumental in the success of Geoff Bodine’s winning reign while piloting the modifieds of Dick Armstrong in the 1970s. Harrington retired from driving in 1969, but stayed busy in the sport as the builder of Armstrong’s “Nu-Style” Jewelry entries. (Shany Photo).

Bobby Santos, fondly recalled as the “Frito Bandito” in New England racing circles is seen here on the dirt of Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway during the earliest days of his career. His roots tracing back to the Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the early-fifties, he went-on to become a dominant force in the Modified wars. Driving for renowned car-owners such as Art Barry, Bill Simons, and Joe Brady among others, he was a threat to-win each time he donned the Nomex. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, sadly, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. However, the Santos racing legacy continues through his grandchildren. Bobby III and Erica are both active and successful racers. (Burnham Photo).

Seen here at Stafford, this guy was one of the absolute-best racers during the “Golden Era” of Modified racing in the Northeast. He’s a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, and more important to us on a personal-level, we’re pleased to say that we consider him a good friend. Growing-up around racecars, Ray Miller’s father paired with Red Lataille to own the #1 Lataille/Miller Offy, running out of the Miller's garage in East Granby, CT. The team ran the ARDC circuit, often racing 7 nights per-week in the 1940s & 50s. Ray started his Modified career at Plainville Stadium in 1965 before progressing to NASCAR haunts like Stafford and Thompson. A winning driver at the highest-echelon of New England Modified racing for many seasons, he retired in the 1980s only to start another phase of his career recently, quite-successfully competing with the USAC Dirt Midget Association. Go here www.dmracing.org for more information on this great series. (Burnham Photo).

New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer “Dangerous Dan” Galullo was one of the brightest stars of the once powerful United Stock Car Racing Club headed-up by the Tattersall family. Pictured here following a victory at Massachusetts’ former (and greatly-missed), Riverside Park Speedway in Don Spazano's $, he won the 1962 Grand Championship, a feat recorded by winning at the many UNITED-sanctioned tracks that once dotted New England. A multi-time Riverside Park titlist, he also recorded feature wins at Plainville Stadium, Waterford Speedbowl, and Cherry Park in Avon, Connecticut among others. He competed in at-least one documented NASCAR Grand National event (now known as the Sprint Cup Series) at New Jersey’s Old Bridge Stadium in 1956. Following a serious heart-attack, Galullo retired from driving while still in his prime. He passed-away in 1974, but not before witnessing the racing accomplishments of his sons, Richie and Danny Jr. (Shany Photo).               

Here’s a nice one for all of you Waterford Speedbowl “Coupe-Era” aficionados. The guy behind the controls of this neat coupe is longtime shoreline oval competitor, Bob Tatro. 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).   

If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you probably already know who this NEAR Hall of Fame member is. Seen here at Stafford is Rhode Island’s Fred DeSarro, simply one of the best New England Modified drivers in history, period. Before his untimely death following a horrendous crash at the Thompson Speedway in October of 1978, he’d captured the NASCAR National Modified Championship in 1970 along with several other significant wins including Stafford’s inaugural Spring Sizzler in 1972. He also notched the Stafford title that season, repeating in 1976. Also proficient at Thompson, he won four consecutive championships starting in 1974, taking down an incredible 14 features that-year. The same season, he took the prestigious Race of Champions at Trenton, New Jersey – then “THE” event for the Modified troops. (Burnham Photo).  

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 at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl behind the controls of one of his earliest of modified coupes. (Shany Photo).     

Another-one from Stafford, meet Mr. Bob Melnick. Long a staple of our region’s modified wars; Melnick was one of the top-tier racers of his era. He was particularly proficient at the storied Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he recorded several victories and was a track champion. We really like this shot; it illustrates the waning-days of the fondly-recalled “Coupe Era” very nicely. (Burnham Photo).

Winner, mentor, and innovator, few individuals meant more to New England modified racing than the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke pictured here during the notorious “Cut-Down” era. Starting during the emerging popularity of stock cars during the post-war years, it’s estimated that he won over 500 feature events during a career which spanned 3-decades. Along the way, he helped many young drivers get their starts, including Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton, and Indy 500 veteran Dennis Zimmerman. As an expert car builder, he designed the “Flemke Front End” a chassis component that remained the standard in Modified construction for years. Ed was among the first inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. This is simply a great photo! (Shany Photo).  

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 (as seen here). This shot captures the ‘Bowl legend following a victory when he was wheeling the potent Simons Bros. #9. That’s Don 3rd-from-right, and car-owner Simons 4th-from-right. (Shany Photo).  

BONUS SHOT: Seen here (left), picking up some end-of-the-season hardware at a UNITED awards banquet in the 1950s is the late Tony Mordino, simply one of the best-of-the-best. A leading member of the legendary “Waterbury Gang” that also included guys like the late Danny Galullo, the battles he waged with established UNITED stars such as Billy Greco and Johnny “King” Cambino at the old West Haven Speedway are stuff of legend. He later conquered Plainville and Riverside Park; certainly two of the toughest bullrings in the Northeast. Tony retired following the 1975 Thompson 300, an event in which raced to a top-10 finish after having started 50th in the field. Car owner Bucky Membrino is on the right, and the guy in the middle is none-other than the late Harvey Tattersall Jr., head of United and a New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member. (Shany Photo).


New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 8
An Interview with Hall of Famer Rene Charland




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

This Weeks Comments

(4 days ago) Mike Ray said:

Thanks guy's another classic,love the video's!

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Tom, your penalty is 50 lashes with a wet noodle!

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Guys, thanks for writing. Ed began his Waterford career driving a Non-Ford in approximately 1960 (last year for the class). He quickly progressed to the Bombers, and then on to the Modifieds. He'd actually started his career in 1952 at the Royale Speedway in Virginia while in the US Navy at Norfolk. This is a 50s-era shot of Hop during one of his rather-rare Waterford appearances.
(6 days ago) Tom Ormsby said:

My mistake on Ed Yerrington, put the wrong photo in. Thanks for pointing it out. Sometimes you look at something 10 times and don't see your mistakes.

(6 days ago) Bob said:

Yea, same guy built the car too.

(6 days ago) Jackb said:

Dont want to seem critical but Hop Harrington looks a lot like Ed Yerrington.

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