Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 10, 2013


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Volume 5, Number 28                                                                                    New Column Every Wednesday


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Billy Greco's NEAR
Fundraiser Picnic

Sunday August 11th


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This week we present a little bit of everything from coupes to the more contemporary modified stylings of the 1970s. For good-measure we’ve even tossed-in a couple of shots from our “full-fender file.” Also included is a real rarity from Bridgeport, Connecticut’s former Candlelight Stadium, once a hotbed of action for the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club. Lastly, don’t forget, Hall of Famer Billy Greco is hosting a picnic & car show on Sunday, Aug 11th at the Polish American Club located at 194 W. Spring Street in West Haven, CT. The event serves as a fundraiser for the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Get your tickets early by contacting Billy at 203-378-7945 or emailing mod43@optimum.net  To be held under the pavilion on the grounds of the Polish American Club, it’s a rain-or-shine affair which runs from noon to 6pm. Tickets will also be available at the door.  As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another (Very) Varied Assortment….  

Here’s that rarity we mentioned in this week’s opening comments and it’s a real gem! Captured here at Bridgeport, Connecticut’s former Candlelite Stadium with his 5-window coupe is a young Reggie Adkins who was crowned United Stock Car Racing Club track champion at the all-purpose sports stadium turned-raceway in 1951. Though the coupes were standard-fare at that point, Candlelite’s earliest years were all-about the midgets. Opening in 1947 hosting the then wildly-popular open-wheelers, the tiny 1/5-mile’s first two seasons were marred by a pair of fatalities claiming the lives of Alvin “Jeep” Colkitt in ‘47 and Mid Marozzi in ’48. In-particular, Colkitt’s demise garnered national attention. He and Dee Toran were in the midst of a rather nasty long-running feud, and one evening Toran put a wheel under Colkitt during a 100-lap ARDC event and he flipped. Colkitt died in the crash and Toran was prosecuted and convicted on manslaughter charges. Candlelite Stadium was sold by its owners the Bridgeport Sportsman's Club in February 1955 to E.M. Loew's Theaters, Inc. of Boston for $110,000 to construct the first drive-in theatre in Bridgeport. (Shany Photo).

We usually don’t make a habit of running too-many “wreck shots” but this one from Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl caught our attention. It’s Wednesday evening August 8, 1978 and the event is a Yankee All-Star League 100 lapper at the shoreline oval. Seen here following some rough action is the Pinto of multi-time ‘Bowl modified champion, the late George “Moose” Hewitt….or-is-it? Moose had long been associated with his friend, local racing personality Craig Kirchoff and the duo often fielded cars simultaneously during the 1970s. Journeyman ‘Bowl racer Gordon Page sometimes wheeled the Kirchoff #23. It could have been Page driving Moose’s renumbered #19 on this night. Oh yeah, NEAR Hall of Famer Geoff Bodine in Dick Armstrong’s Nu-Style Jewelry #1 won the event. Remember him? (Steve Kennedy Photo).

The late, great, Ed Flemke Sr. once told our Webmaster & pal Tom Ormsby that “If you could learn to master Plainville Stadium, you could win just about anywhere-else in New England.” A demanding almost-flat ¼-miler, Joe Tinty’s homespun little Connecticut oval put a premium on handling & tested a drivers ability to negotiate heavy traffic. It was a tough-joint in every-sense of the word. Seen here putting his Pinto through its paces at The Stadium in the mid 1970s is weekly regular Warren “Elmer” Lee. A scan of the tracks archival records show that the popular Lee was a top-runner, always in the thick-of-the-action. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

The late Ray Delisle was at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl from the start, and was winning early in his shoreline oval career. Once felled by serious injuries sustained in a ‘Bowl crash when his coupe was hit from-behind and his old-style “jerry can” fuel tank erupted in-flames, he endured a long, painful recovery before returning to the game. In 1964, his career reached its zenith when he waltzed-away with the modified title wheeling the famed Simons Bros. #9. This image sees him in one of the earliest of his many rides. A quiet and unassuming man who let his throttle-foot do the talking, he was always in-demand with the top car owners of the day. (Shany Photo) 

Long-before his exploits in the Waterford Speedbowl’s Super Stock division of the 1980s elevated him to “Flyin’ Brian” status as seen here, Norwich, CT. native Brian McCarthy was a teenaged Sportsman Sedan driver wheeling a hulking 1956 Ford back in the 1970s. Captured here following a feature win in 1981, McCarthy etched his name into the shoreline oval record books as one of the best-ever in the “fender-divisions” as-well as the 1986 champion. For a time during the Super Stock era (the forerunners of today’s Late Model division), this guy was tough to beat! (Steve Kennedy Photo).  

Recently, we’ve been developing a large number of original Shany Lorenzent negatives that reside in our files and have been coming-up with some real gems, many of-which are unfamiliar car/driver combinations to us; this is one of them. Captured here at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl of the 1950s is Darwin “Bud” Matter who was customarily seen behind the controls of one of his # 99jr. mounts. Notching an astounding total of 15 feature victories on-route to the 1953 Non-Ford title, he scored an impressive total of 26 main event triumphs during a relatively-short career behind the wheel. (Shany Photo).   

The #VO team of the late Joe Palmieri was certainly a successful operation at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium but they also did well at many other tracks in New England such as Waterford, Riverside Park, and Thompson. Veteran modified shoe John Bergenty was behind the controls of Joe’s Vega when Steve Kennedy captured this nice shot at Waterford during the shoreline oval’s “Fall Twin 50” event in 1978. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

Seen here behind the controls of the Buffington family’s famed #123 “Dark Horse Special” is Wes Kingsley, one of the earliest of stars at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. In just 2-years (1951 & 52), he managed to amass 5 Sportsman feature victories, no easy-feat considering the level of competition during the tracks formative years. His initial win came in the 4th of July 35-lapper in 1951, his final on Wednesday evening, June 11, 1952. Both years, he was a top-3 finisher in the point race. (Shany Photo).

Captured here at Waterford following a victory in 1979 behind the controls of the car that guided him to a convincing track title that season (he won 10 of 14 scheduled events), is “Rapid Rick” Donnelly. His switch to a Troyer chassis (the first for a Waterford regular), had yielded big-dividends. The winning also continued in 1980 as Rick scored a trio of victories, including a 100-lapper in June. It was none-other than NEAR Hall of Famer the great Bob Potter that prevented Donnelly from scoring a second-consecutive championship. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

It can be a real pain for any racing historian or collector, but one thing most of us have to deal-with in maintaining large files of photos and original negatives is that old nemesis we refer-to as the “Unknown Driver.” This is amplified when referencing really-early shots, as driver “ride-hopping” seemed more-common then. Currently, our biggest issue is a ton of Stafford dirt-era images & Riverside Park material, but we also keep uncovering a liberal share of Waterford Speedbowl negs that we can’t positively-identify. At-least in the case of this image we know that the driver behind this early coupe at Waterford is a gentleman by the name of Joe Albani, and the year is 1951. However, we have no other information on this racer, which is unfortunate. If anyone can fill-us-in on his career, do email us! (Shany Photo)  

BONUS SHOT: Call em’ Daredevils, Sportsman Sedans, Grand Americans, Late Models, or whatever, when it came to “full-fender” racing, this guy was one of the absolute-best. Plainfield, Connecticut’s Ron “Boots” Cote had few equals when in his prime, excelling at a trio of his home-state ovals. At the Waterford Speedbowl-alone (as pictured here following a win in 1979), he recorded over thirty career-victories and a duo of championships. The driver at the left sharing in the victory lane celebration is our friend Scott Porier who was a great racer in his own-right, notching multiple feature wins at Waterford. Scott currently campaigns a vintage modified on the NEAR circuit. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

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