Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday June 12, 2013


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Volume 5, Number 24                                                                                    New Column Every Wednesday

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Another week passes and it’s time for our usual trip to the archives and one-more edition of “Racing Through Time.” The big news here surrounds our recent acquisition of a large lot of original vintage negatives shot by famed New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzent, many of-which are from my home-track, Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. A few of those images are included this week, as well as submissions from our old friends R.A. Silva, JoJo Farone, and our Webmaster, the esteemed Mr. Tom Ormsby. As-always, please enjoy our Wednesday journey into the rich history of New England auto racing! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Presenting A Bit Of Everything This Week….

As one of the real heavy-hitters in the early days of Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, the late Charlie Webster had a large & very-loyal fan base. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 modified crown). Like fellow Bowl’ standout and New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Don Collins, he retired from driving at the dawn of the 1970s, thus ending the career of one of the shoreline oval’s finest chauffeurs. This shot captures Charlie (kneeling), with the Simons #9 team shortly before hanging-up his helmet. On the left that’s car owner Billy Simons who like the aforementioned Collins, is a NEAR Hall of Famer. (Rene Dugas Photo).

We really like this 70s-era victory lane shot of our friends Dave Alkas and car-owner Roland Cyr captured at Plainville Stadium. A longtime standout at the late Connecticut facility, he notched 5 track championships there in a 10-year period. Competing regularly against Plainville alumni like Reggie Ruggiero, Stan Greger, and Ronnie Rocco, he routinely bested the field notching eleven feature wins in one season-alone. He also won regularly during those great mid-week 100-lap open competition shows, beating visitors like Ed Flemke, Sr., Ron and Ken Bouchard, Bob Stefanik, and the late Dick Watson. The most successful modified driver in Plainville Stadium history, Alkas was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Captured here at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the latter-stages of the coupe-era, we NEVER tire of running shots of the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke. From his New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame biography; ”Steady Eddie” Flemke started his driving career in 1948 in the early jalopy races. In the 1950’s he raced at all the United Stock Car tracks and won Riverside Park championships in 1956 and 58. In 1960 with the emergence of NASCAR in New England he became the leader of the famed Eastern Bandits as they raced and won up and down the East Coast. He was never considered a points chaser but he still finished runner-up in the NASCAR National Modified championship in both 1960 and 61.He was known as the best of the big dollar race winners. Among his estimated 500 victories is the 1972 Spring Sizzler, two Utica Rome 400’s, and the 1977 Thompson 300. Flemke was also well known for his chassis innovations and his ability to make a car handle. He obviously developed the Flemke front end. Eddie was very willing to teach and encourage other drivers such as Denny Zimmerman, Reggie Ruggerio, Ron Bouchard and Richie Evans. Pete Hamilton honored Eddie Flemke by inviting him up to the press box after his Daytona 500 win and telling the crowd that he owed his victory to “Steady Eddie.” He was a founding member of NEAR in 1981. He died of natural causes in 1984. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).

We really like this shot from the beginnings of Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Captured here behind the controls of one of his earliest rides, the late Ray Delisle enjoyed a long and successful run in racing, but it was not without a few rough-spots along the way. Felled by critical injuries sustained in a Speedbowl crash when his coupe was hit from-behind and the old-style “jerry can” fuel tank erupted in-flames, he endured a long, painful recovery before triumphantly returning to the game. In 1964, his career reached its zenith when he waltzed-away with the Speedbowl modified title wheeling the famed Simons Bros. #9. A quiet and unassuming man who let his throttle-foot do the talking, Ray was always in-demand with the top car owners of the day. (Shany Photo).

Here’s a nice John Grady image of New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame member, Bernie Miller. From his HOF Biography; “Bernie Miller remains one of the true pioneer heroes in Central New York auto racing. In his early career during the mid 1950s, he raced at the now defunct Vernon (now known as Vernon Downs) and Lafayette Speedways. When Vernon Speedway went to horse racing, the Utica-Rome Speedway was built to replace it and Miller moved into racing there in the Sportsman class, where in 1967 he won the divisional championship. At Utica-Rome, Miller had three career feature wins in the Modified division, and he was one of the most well liked drivers in early speedway history. Miller raced all over the Northeast, chasing NASCAR points at tracks such as Utica-Rome, Albany-Saratoga, and Fulton. Miller’s biggest career victory came in 1971 at Martinsville, Virginia in the Dogwood 500, when he bested some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers of all time. Miller was frequently finishing in the top five in yearly NASCAR points, and he was always one of the most consistent drivers. He retired from racing in 1979.” (John Grady Photo).

Here at “RTT” we really love these early-50s shots captured at the Speedbowl as they remain some of the most-elusive images to find, and the shoreline oval is of-course, still our “home track.” Another of the top-shoes during the early days of New England stock car racing was the ultra-popular Arthur “Red” Bolduc. Captured here following one of his multiple feature race triumphs at the Speedbowl, he actually experienced most of his success at the late Norwood Arena in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that much-acclaimed speedplant would also be his undoing. On the evening of June 18 1960, Bolduc and his coach slapped the Norwood wall with devastating impact. The unlucky Red passed-away the next day from his injuries, thus ending the life and career of one of our regions greatest racers. Life could be very-fragile during the early-days of out sport. Red was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2005. (Shany Photo).

Just a cool “close-up” shot from our pal, former official Plainville Stadium photographer Phil Hoyt. Captured here during the 1970s aboard his familiar coach-bodied modified is Plainville regular Dennis “The Greek” Chavaris. Spending over five-decades in the sport starting in the Novice class, he went-on to become a multi-time modified feature winner at Joe Tinty’s popular Connecticut ¼-miler. Following that track’s untimely closing, he enjoyed a stint in the SK Modifieds. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Captured here at Connecticut’s expansive & ultra-fast Thompson Speedway (historically referred-to as the “Indianapolis of the East”), during the coupe-era, is standout New England racer Jim Martel. Hailing from Ipswich, Massachusetts, Jim enjoyed a lengthy career winning many feature races in the process. He remained a crowd favorite and a driver that was universally well-respected by his fellow competitors for his entire time behind the wheel. Note the old press box in the background; Thompson has undergone many renovations since the gates opened for the first time way-back on Sunday afternoon May 26, 1940.  (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

We’ve ran shots of this driver previously, but the sheer amount of different images we have in the archives remain a testament as to just-how popular he was during his heyday. This one comes courtesy of our friend JoJo Farone. Seen here celebrating one of his many feature victories, Canadian modified star Dennis Giroux was in the throes of a brilliant career when tragedy struck and he was severely injured in a crash at Stafford Springs Speedway during the 1974 season. In a coma for months after the accident, he later recovered, but never returned to racing. Many in New England feel that Giroux would have been the next to follow in the footsteps of former modified success and 1970 Daytona 500 winner, NEAR Hall of Famer Pete Hamilton in making it within the big-leagues of the NASCAR Cup’ Series. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone)

And here we have the final Shany Lorenzent shot for this week. We admittedly know very-little about this driver, but we do know that the locale is the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early 1950s, and Al Perry is celebrating a victory flanked by legendary shoreline oval flagman Loren Card. Judging by the sponsor, Perry’s spiffy coupe looks to be a Rhode Island entry. If anyone has information on this racer, please feel-free to contact us as we’re constantly looking to update our archival database with additional information. (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: Here’s one from our friend, Webmaster, and former modified racer, Tom Ormsby. We’ll let him fill-us-in on the details of this Phil Hoyt shot captured at the much-missed Plainville Stadium. Tom states; “This one shows Bobby Mikulak behind the controls of my old 4x Coupe in 1970. I had sold it to George "Pete" Sanders, and Bob drove it for him a few times.” Like Ormsby, Mikulak who’s been featured here several times in the past, was a longtime Plainville competitor logging many laps at Joe Tinty’s former Connecticut ¼-miler. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

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