Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday June 13, 2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Another Wednesday is upon-us, and that signals one more rendezvous with assorted images of New England’s racing past. Special thanks go out to those who contributed photos for this installment, and as-always, mucho-appreciation to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for faithfully getting everything posted each & every week. Also in the offerings is the third segment of our popular video series thanks (again) to Mr. Ormsby. Have a wonderful week, and 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.

Let’s Just Call This One… “More Old Stuff”       

Seen here at the controls of the potent GY Offy Midget in 1967 at the former Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Dennis Zimmerman. Parlaying his New England short track experience into a successful career on the USAC Indy Car circuit, he was a self-professed “student” of the late, great, Ed Flemke Sr. He conquered storied eastern Modified haunts such as Norwood, Riverside Park, Plainville, and Waterford before taking-on the ovals of the South, where his accomplishments netted a pair of NASCAR State Sportsman titles. After a stint in URC Sprint Car competition it was on to Indy Cars, then the absolute pinnacle of American motorsport. His best finish in the Indianapolis 500 was 8th, a feat earning him honors as Rookie of the Year in 1971. (Balser Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Here’s a nice 70s-era shot of Bobby Turner at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway. Turner began racing at age-16 at Maine’s Arundel Speedway and Hudson in New Hampshire and during his career, he successfully campaigned NASCAR Modifieds throughout the New England region. As a note of interest, it was Turner sat on the pole position for the original “Spring Sizzler” in 1972 at Stafford. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).

As the proprietor of Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com our pal Lew Boyd brings to us the best in racing-related reading, video, and artwork. Back when this shot was captured by Lloyd Burnham, he was busy wheeling this neat coach at various New England Modified haunts. Written on the back of the photo; “Likable Lew Boyd” will be trying for his third feature win at Lakeville Massachusetts this weekend in the refurbished Jewish Lightning #181 entry.” The “Jewish Lightning” team consisted of Boyd, current New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Executive Committee Chairman Bruce Cohen, and Dick Berggren who recently retired from his long stint as a color commentator covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the Fox Network. The trio promoted the first-ever edition of Stafford’s Spring Sizzler in 1972. (Burnham Photo Courtesy RA Silvia).               

Here’s a nice early-70s “at-speed” image of our old pal Don Moon at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium. In addition to his residency Joe Tinty’s racy little ¼-miler, Moon competed at a number of other Eastern modified haunts during his long career, compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in 1966, including the Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’ season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the young upstart. These days, Moon campaigns an immaculate version of his former Pinto Modified on the NEAR circuit and is one of the organizers of the ultra-popular “Plainville Stadium Reunion” held every fall. (Hoyt Photo).                

Here’s another Plainville Stadium shot, this-time it’s journeyman “Coupe-Era” racer Bill Harris. Also a regular at the Waterford Speedbowl for a period in the mid 1970s he was gone from the scene by the dawn of the next-decade, but not before recording several respectable finishes. Note the street tire on the left-front, and the fact that Bill’s void of a fire suit; it was indeed a simpler time in the sport. (Hoyt Photo).    

The location is again Plainville Stadium, and the mountain of a man displaying that cherished checkered flag while behind the wheel of the Dalena Brothers XD-2 coupe is none-other than our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer George Lombardo. A winner all over New England during the early 1950's before retiring in 1967, he recorded a ton of modified feature victories, and was particularly-tough at Plainville where he was twice a track champion. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).                                           

Classic shot, Classic driver…… The name Bob Potter is synonymous with the Waterford Speedbowl, but his accomplishments within the realm of New England Modified racing actually reach further than his legendary feats at the shoreline oval. Already a big winner by the arrival of the SK Modifieds, he took full-advantage of the class in nailing multiple championships at all of Connecticut’s ovals. When this image was recorded at the Speedbowl in 1969 he was a hired-gun for Norm Kies, who employed only the best chauffeurs to steer his creations. Very deservedly, Bob was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2007. (Shany Photo Courtesy Chris Langer).    

Honestly, we know very-little about this driver, but we sure do like the photo of him that our friend, renowned New England racing shutterbug Rene Dugas captured during the 1967 campaign at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Howard “Tennessee Rebel” Wooton looked to have everything he needed to be competitive that season at the shoreline oval; a little fire engine red 5-window coupe and a color-matching Cromwell-style crash helmet to go with-it! (Dugas Photo).

Here’s a rare-one from Waterford, as this driver seldom found himself in situations like this. Stan Wildermuth may have never been a prolific feature winner, but as a teammate to the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer, he won the respect of his peers as a predictable, consistent chauffer; a guy you could race wheel-to-wheel with, no problem. A back-marker by no-means, Stan was always in the thick of the battle, recording a number of up-front performances during his career. His reputation as a capable racer was an enduring affair, as during the former “Heroes of the Bowl” events (a race where retired drivers climbed into Street Stocks during Waterford’s annual Nostalgia Weekend), he was always in-demand with present-day teams. That’s Stan on the left helmet-in-hand, surveying the damage. (Shany Photo).  

Another classic Waterford shot, here’s Preston, Connecticut’s Art Moran Sr. seated behind the controls of his signature #66. Moran was a steady-competitor at Waterford for many seasons, recording a number of feature victories. As a side-note, he was one of the first racers in Speedbowl history to successfully employ power-steering, a feature of this memorable Coach. The year is 1975, and the track was under the promotion of Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club. By that-time, the entire facility was starting to show its age (note the cracked racing surface). One of the small things that Tattersall did to spiff-up the place a bit prior to the start of the season was applying a coat of white paint to the old railroad-tie retaining wall as evidenced here. (Dugas Photo).  

BONUS SHOT: Here’s a really-early action image from the formative years at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Note that the track surface is narrower, and that the outside is bordered by what was called a “Sand Safety Strip.” Originally engineered as a safety feature to slow-down errant competitors before impact into the railroad ties, as speeds increased it often resulted in the effect of “sucking” the cars into the wall once they got a wheel onto its softer surface. As part of a renovation initiative in the 1960s, the “strip” was paved. (Shany Photo).    


New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia Weekend-Part 3.
Denny Zimmerman an Interview with the 1971 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.




UPDATE: As of June 2012, the 70 year old Denny Zimmerman is competing in this car in the USAC Dirt Midget Division at Vermont's Bear Ridge Speedway.

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

This Weeks Comments:
Mike Ray said:

Thanks as always for all you and Tom do for the sport!The video's are a homerun!

nels wohlstrom jr. said:

great shot of art moran dave!

ParkFan said:

Hey - great interview with Denny! Thanks for keeping the memories alive!


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