Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 4, 2012
 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week’s installment of “RTT” really runs the gamut, from “Coupe Era Chargers” to mention of a retired racer that’s planning a full-restoration of his championship-winning ride from the 1970s. As-always, special thanks to the photographers whose work is presented here every week, and also to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for getting us posted to the cyberwaves every Wednesday (along with the special features he adds like our continuing video series). To all, have a happy 4th of July! 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.

Happy 4th of July!!!!! (& More Old Stuff)….        

Here was have a nice of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Bob Potter captured at the Waterford Speedbowl in March of 1980. From his HOF biography; “In Southern New England, mention the number 51 and the immediate response is Bob Potter. Starting at Waterford Speedbowl in 1962, Potter began winning in 1966 and before it was over captured 11 championships an estimated 140 features at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford.  A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95.” This guy truly ranks as one of the best New England modified racers of all-time. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

Our old pal Steve Kennedy also contributed this shot from the late Plainville Stadium. Often, he’ll fill-us-in on the details of his subject. On this one, Steve wrote the following; This is Lenny Orfice in 1973. He demolished the car shortly after I shot this when the accelerator-stuck and he hit the wall hard in the first-turn. He was taken to the hospital and as-far as I know, never raced again.” Although it was only a flat ¼-miler, Plainville could take its toll on drivers and their equipment if you got on the bad-side of her. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

The well-traveled Jerry Dostie traces his racing-roots back to the much-heralded “Coupe Era” driving creations like this little number that was owned by Bob Johnson. Dostie savored success at joints like Norwood (as seen-here), Waterford, Stafford, Thompson, and going further-North, the high-banks of New Hampshire’s Modnadnock Speedway. A master car-builder as well as an absolute whiz in developing some of our regions first reliable race-ready automatic transmissions, he’s often seen today enjoying his retirement on the golf courses of Florida competing against many old rivals from his days as a top New England Modified shoe. (John Grady Photo).

Here’s a nice shot of the late Marvin Chase during an appearance at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. Known by Connecticut fans as primarily a Waterford Speedbowl competitor, he also tasted success at the storied Norwood Arena in Massachusetts – an easy feat by no-means. After hanging-up his helmet, Marvin became involved with the New England Antique Racers, heavily contributing his time to the club. Every year, a NEAR member is presented the “Marvin Chase Contribution Award” in honor of this late racer. Fondly remembered, “Marv” had many friends at the shoreline oval, including this scribe. (Photographer Unknown).               

Another image from Plainville Stadium (always one of our favorite subjects), this one showcases Billy Farone as the chauffer of the #43 coupe during June of 1974. Note that the car has mufflers; Plainville aficionados will recall that The Stadium’ was the first track in Connecticut to mandate the noise-suppressing devices. Billy was one of several members of his family that called Plainville their home track. Our friend JoJo Farone frequently contributes photos to this website for all of us to enjoy! (Steve Kennedy Photo).    

Many fans don’t realize-it, but before switching to competition of the 4-wheeled variety, multi-time Waterford Speedbowl Modified titlist the late George “Moose” Hewitt was a champion motorcycle racer. Captured here (extreme left), with his crew at the shoreline oval, he’d started in the Bombers, scoring multiple feature victories. His venture into Waterford’s premier class proved a success to the tune of five track titles between 1977 and 1984. Worth mention is the fact that the fiercely-independent Hewitt was one of the few shoreline oval competitors that during an era of “store-bought” cars later in his career, continued to craft machines of his own design at his shop in nearby Uncasville, CT. (Rene Dugas Photo).  

The Berndt family has had a long & successful tenure in New England Modified racing, their familiar “North End Auto Parts” rides having been frequent visitors to victory lane for decades. This one captures Tommy Berndt ready-to-roll in July of 1978 at one of the great mid-week open competition shows that once took place at Plainville Stadium. (Steve Kennedy Photo).    

By the time renowned New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzet captured this coupe-era image of Dick Dunn in his lens, Mr. Dunn had already proven himself to be a skillful “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl chauffer with several feature victories on his resume. However, it was a pairing with car owners Al and Peg Gaudreau a few seasons-later that would cement his status as one of the best-ever in the history of the shoreline oval. We’re talking-about pure “Icon-Level” notoriety in what was 1970s Speedbowl action. (Shany Photo).

Seen here during the early stages of his racing tenure, Don Flynn was always recognized for his immaculate race cars, and this ultra-sharp creation was no exception. Enjoying a long New England racing career that stretched from the coupe-era right-up to the days of more-contemporary “modern” machinery, he was a consistent competitor and a feature winner. We just really-like this shot; the coupes were truly-special to us old-school modified folk! (John Grady Photo).

It’s a packed pit area at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, and noted coupe-era star Red O’Keefe has paused for a moment-or-two so that our longtime racing shutterbug friend Rene Dugas can do his thing. As I’ve often said, without the longtime dedication of our sport’s many photographers, historically-based websites like this simply would not be possible. The next-time you see a racing photographer at your local track, take a moment to thank them for what they do. (Rene Dugas Photo).

BONUS SHOT: There’s a story behind this one….. Seen here at the Waterford Speedbowl in 1977 (a year in-which he was crowned Grand American champion), is our friend, Wayne “Mr. Mysterious” Smith. Thanks to the burgeoning social media scene (namely Facebook), I’ve been able to stay connected with several of my racing friends including Wayne. Now retired from the sport, he recently took possession of his old ride from a friend who had it for several years, and is planning a full restoration of the title-winning machine. Great news, indeed! (Rene Dugas Photo).

 

New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 6
An Interview with Hall of Famer Ray Miller

 
 

 

 

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

This weeks Comments:

(9 hours ago) Donna Sentell Sforza said:

Its nice to look back and remember some truly great times.. Thanks .

(4 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Tom, I think I have a shot (not a very-good one), of Dadio in that #38 coupe....

(4 days ago) Cal in clinton said:

Check out Dick Dunn"s safty belt
(4 days ago) Tom Ormsby (mod) said:

Lenny Orfice is the driver of the 38 pictured here. The #38 you are thinking of is a completely different car. The car you are thinking of was a 3 window coupe driven at one time or another by Harvey and Tony Dadio. Harvey later ran a #38 coach.

(4 days ago) Bob Freeman said:

Wayne "Mr. Mysterious," would love to see the 'ol 70 restored!

(5 days ago) Anonymous said:

Thanks Dave
Happy and safe 4th to everyone of us!!

(5 days ago) mike said:

i have the picture of the 38 going thru the plainville stadium first turn wall. i think the driver was harvey vallencourt, not lenny, because harvey is standing in the picture in front of the car.

(5 days ago) Mike Ray said:

Thank you so much for keeping the history of the sport alive!

(5 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

You guys are very-welcome. We really enjoy doing this site and remain blessed to have Webmaster & friend Tom Ormsby helping to make it all possible. Enjoy, and hope everyone is have a great holiday!

(5 days ago) Wayne Mysterious Smith said:

Thanks for the great incentive to keep this "OLD" guy busy! Another great job with a bonus!!! Thank You!

(6 days ago) nels wohlstrom jr. said:

ANOTHER GREAT WEEK DAVE! HAPPY 4TH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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