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Volume 4, Number 23 New Column Every Wednesday
COLUMNS & FEATURES
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Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with
By Dave Dykes CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE
we present a real potpourri of New England racing personalities from a
number of our regions speedplants. Also on the agenda is the second
installment of our video series which has proven to be a popular addition
to our Wednesday forays into the sports history. Special thanks go-out to
our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for the videos, and also to those who contributed
to this week’s selection of photos. Have a great week! Email reaches me at
NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of
the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.
Pacing The Past Yet Again…..
here at Connecticut’s Thompson Motor Speedway pitted next to his dad
during the 1970s is Ed Flemke Jr. With a father like NEAR Hall
of Famer the late, great “Steady Eddie”, this youngster had
some mighty-big shoes to fill, and thus-far, he’s done a darned good
job of carrying-on the family racing heritage. Much like his late
father, Ed Jr. is viewed by many as a steady-shoe, utilizing
experience to his advantage when required. Also not unlike his father,
he’s a master car-builder. (Tom Ormsby Collection).
Here’s another shot from 70s-era action at the “Big
T.” This time it’s New England Supermodified star
and NEAR Hall of Fame Member Eddie West
behind the wheel of a Vega-bodied Modified. From his
Edward E. West began racing in 1961, and competed at
tracks up & down the East coast, from New Brunswick,
Canada to West Palm Beach, Florida. He competed
regularly at Hudson, Oswego, Dover, Lee and Epping.
He also ran at Thompson, Seekonk, Stafford, and
Westboro. Eddie is well known behind the wheel of
his own #61 jr. Supermodified. Vic Miller’s #11,
Frank Barthell’s #55, and Buster Taylor’s #91 are
only three of the cars that he drove during his
career. Eddie won the final Supermodified races run
at both Westboro and Vero Beach, Florida. He took
down the Can-Am Classic at Lee in 1966, then at Star
three times in 1966, 1973 and 1975. West won the
track championship at Pines Speedway in Groveland,
Mass. in 1963, then repeated in ’64. He also took
down the Hudson championship the same year. Eddie is
a six time track champion at the Star Speedway,
winning titles in 1969, 70, 73, 74, 75, and 80.
“Westie” became a charter member of the New England
Super Modified Racing Assoc. in 1965. He ranks
second in all time NESMRA feature wins with 106.
(Tom Ormsby Collection).
Here’s a great shot of our pal Billy “Gramps”
Greco taken at one of the UNITED Modified events
that were once held every year on the grounds of the
“Big E” in Massachusetts. A New England Auto Racing
Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master of the
short oval, honing his skills at tight little joints
like the late West Haven Speedway and the
much-missed 1/5-miler at Riverside Park. A darling
of the old Harvey Tattersall-led UNITED circuit
(once the most influential sanctioning group in New
England), in later-years he also became a winner at
the ultra-competitive Danbury Fair Racarena. The
personable Greco is as popular today as he ever-was,
and can really enlighten you on the history of the
sport. If you get a chance to chat with him, please
do! (Grady Photo).
Here at “RTT” we continue to get tons of requests for
images of this driver, the late Ollie Silva.
Simply one of the greatest to sit behind the controls of
a race car, he was both a huge winner, and one of the
most-admired competitors in all of short track racing.
Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame
in 1998, Silva recorded over five-hundred feature
victories over the course of a career that started in
1949 at the long-shuttered Dracut, MA. Speedway and
concluded in 1980. He was victorious in Modifieds,
Supers, Sprint Cars, and Cut-Downs. Etched into the
record books of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl is an
absolutely-dominating Modified win in the 1974 Hott
Wheels 100 in which Silva lapped the entire field not
once, but twice! This one captures him pitside at
Thompson in the 1970s. (Tom Ormsby Collection).
Seen here is a young Ronnie Rocco and crew during his
days as a coupe-era pilot at tracks all over New England.
Starting in the Novice class at Connecticut’s much-missed
Plainville Stadium, Rocco was a quick-study when it was time
to trade-in his fenders for the open-wheel wars. A big
Modified winner at Plainville before its unfortunate closure
in 1980, he later became a successful and popular racer
within the ranks of the SK division. Ronnie is the father of
current New England Modified standout Keith Rocco.
(Tom Ormsby Collection).
And here’s one of “Wild Bill”Slater
receiving the spoils of victory from a pretty presenter
at Waterford in 1956 - a year in-which he was crowned
track champion with this “Baldy” Simons-owned coupe.
Though he stuck-around the Speedbowl long-enough to
claim another title (in the potent Vitari-Bombaci #V-8),
his career really took-off upon leaving the local scene.
Success was found at Massachusetts’ storied Norwood
Arena as-well as Connecticut’s Stafford and Thompson
Speedways. He won the 400 mile race at Trenton, New
Jersey four times, and is a 2-time winner of the
Utica-Rome 400 in New York. His biggest career victory
came at the Langhorne Penn. Race of Champions. He drove
in The Daytona Permatex 300 four times from 1963 to 66.
Bill drove his last race at Stafford in 1969 and then
became involved in the promotional side of racing at
Stafford and later Thompson. That’s longtime Waterford
Race Director John Whitehouse on the left, and Simons on
the right. (Shany Photo).
It’s October of 1975, and that’s a young Mark
LaJeunesse in his familiar #33 awaiting track-time
at the World Series of Speedway Racing at Connecticut’s
Thompson Motor Speedway. As a seasoned competitor at the
Waterford Speedbowl, his accomplishments at the
shoreline oval include snaring the United Stock Car
Racing Club’s 1975 Sportsman-Modified Championship, and
scoring a stunning victory in the 2000 Budweiser
Modified Nationals. This is the car that started it all
for the Norwich, CT. native. (Steve Kennedy Photo).
The gentleman you see here is “Big Ed” Patnode,
and his accomplishments in the sport loom as large as
his stature. Seen here during an outing at Connecticut’s
NASCAR-sanctioned Stafford Motor Speedway, his greatest
achievements came within the realm of the United Stock
Car Racing Club where he recorded twenty-seven feature
victories and a pair of championships at the late
Riverside Park in Massachusetts, the flagship venue of
the powerful Tattersall/United promotional dynasty. (JoJo
Sometimes while perusing the “RTT” archives we come-upon
a photo that simply says-it-all about a particular
speedway; this is one of them. Though it was sometimes
undeservedly viewed as a marginal facility by the racing
press, Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium really was more
than that. Quite-simply, it was grassroots New England
short-track racing at its best level. It was a tight,
flat ¼-mile bowl of asphalt that demanded the most out
of its weekly combatants, some of who graduated to
become the best in our region. This Phil Hoyt image of
journeyman racer Rod Andrews in his classic
3-window coupe is typical of the cars that did battle on
Joe Tinty’s oval each & every summer weekend during the
late 1960s & early-70s. Great stuff….. (Phil Hoyt
Racing lensman Rene Dugas has been a friend for more
years than probably either of us wants to admit, and his
photographs remain a very-important part of the “RTT”
archives. One of the outstanding features of Dugie’s
work from the 1960s is the fact that 99% of it is in
color, culled from an era when black & white seemed to
be the overwhelming choice of the pros in the business.
Seen here in a nice “coupe-era” shot courtesy of Mr.
Dugas is one Charlie Jurcik (left), who fielded
this rig at what was then officially-known as the
“New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. (Rene Dugas
BONUS SHOT: Here’s one taken from our
files on the storied Norwood Arena in Massachusetts.
Seen here behind the controls of what we believe to
be an early Bob Judkins creation is New England Auto
Racing Hall of Famer, the late Gene Bergin.
Some are simply born with a knack for driving race
cars, and this guy was one of those gifted
individuals. He saw action in everything from
Modifieds to Midgets, and won in all of them. During
a career that spanned three-decades, he was always
one of the guys to beat whether it was asphalt or dirt. Among his many accomplishments
is the distinction of being the first-ever Stafford
pavement champion in 1967. Deservedly-so, Mr.
Judkins is also a Hall of Fame member. (R.A.
England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Nostalgia
Interview with Ed Flemke, Jr. talking about his
Ed Flemke, Sr.