Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday June 5, 2013


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Volume 5, Number 23                                                                                    New Column Every Wednesday

Updated 4-24-13


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This week we again feature a wide assortment of shots from some of our friends, and a couple from the “RTT” archives. Special thanks go out to R.A. Silvia, Roger Liller, and of-course, our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for sharing images from their personal collections for all to enjoy; it’s sincerely appreciated! We’ll make the intro short n’ sweet this time so we can get-on with the show! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Celebrating New England’s Racing Past (Again)…

Though he’s usually primarily associated with Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, the truth-is New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don Collins actually competed at a number of other venues in the region during his long, successful career. He’s captured here during the 1960s in one of his signature #106 coupes at Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway. Collins was a multi-time champion at the Speedbowl, scoring the Modified crown in 1955, 57, 60, 63, and 1969. He took his place as a member of the prestigious Hall of Fame in 2005. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

The yearly UNITED events on the former oval located on the grounds of Massachusetts’ Eastern States Exposition Center once attracted racers from all over the Northeast. To witness a race at the “Big E” guaranteed a peek at the absolute “cream of the crop” in modified racing. Pictured here early in his career during a 1950s outing is Milford, Connecticut’s Charlie Glazier, the 1974 Riverside Park Speedway champion. One of the more well-traveled drivers of his era, Charlie hit the surface of just about every track in the region during his long career. Somewhere in the files we have shots of him at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson, Waterford, and even Plainville. This guy got-around a LOT! (Grady Photo, Tom Ormsby Collection).

And here’s yet-another New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the late Dick Dixon behind the wheel of one of celebrated car owner Jarb Beaudoin’s many creations. Looking at the list of drivers that wheeled the mighty #500’s over the years is indeed, impressive. At this point Jarb’s cars were Hudson-powered, once a powerful form of motivation in New England short track racing. Sadly, Dixon lost his life in a crash at the Thompson Speedway in 1967 while still very-much in the prime of his career. (Grady Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Like Collins, Dave Humphrey experienced great success at Waterford. In-fact, he was that tracks first-ever Sportsman class champ (before they were known as modifieds) back in 1951. Also a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, this one captures Dave behind the controls of an early coupe at Seekonk. From his HOF biography; Dave Humphrey has competed with, and beaten, the best. He’s raced sprint cars against men like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Johnny Rutherford. In midgets, he’s run with Lew Duncan, Gary Bettenhausen, and John Andretti. In supers, he’s competed against Eddie West, Howie Brown, and Ollie Silva. Driving stock cars, Dave has run with Ed Flemke, Fred DeSarro, Bugs Stevens, Richie Evans, Ron Bouchard, and Leo Cleary. Dave’s first race was at the Seekonk Speedway, in 1947. The next year, 1948, he won his first feature, driving a stock car. By the time he retired, Dave had won championships at Seekonk, West Peabody, Norwood, and Waterford. The Waterford championship came in Waterford’s first year, 1951. He beat “Moneybags” Moe Gherzi by two points, in what is still the closest point battle in Waterford’s history. Humphrey’s accomplishments in racing are many. He has run a Grand National (Winston Cup) race at the Thompson Speedway. He competed in URC, where he drove sprint cars to 10 feature wins. In 1958, in his first visit to Claremont, NH, Dave took down the feature win. Running midgets in NEMA, he won 6 championships between the years 1967 and ’78. His 72 NEMA feature wins is second to only Drew Foronoro on the all time wins list.” (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

One of the more accomplished and popular drivers of his era, Schenectady, New York's Link Pettit drove this flawlessly-prepared coupe to many successes during his career. This one captures him in-action during the 1950s at New York State’s Empire Raceway, which was a hotbed of modified racing at the time. A quarter-mile paved oval located in the town of Menands, Empire operated from 1947 to 1963. The track also did business under the name of “Menands Raceway.” (Photographer Unknown).

His name familiar to fans of the rich history of New England auto racing, this shows New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Art Rousseau at the former (& much-missed) Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts. Inducted in 2001, here’s a selection from his HOF biography; Art Rousseau began racing an old Model A Ford on a frozen lake in Swansey,, NH in 1937. When the ice melted in the spring, the sixteen-year-old Rousseau and his friends would take the chains off the tires and “run those mug buggies in a field at some guys farm.” It was during this time that Art began racing at the Cheshire Fairgrounds, next door to his hometown of Keene. Soon, Art was venturing out to New York tracks, and then to Langhorne, PA. Rousseau was known as a hard charging driver who enjoyed the competition and the friendships that grew from that competition. It wasn’t always fun, though. The sprint cars that Art raced were extremely dangerous. Art teamed with his brother, Harvey in those early years. Later on, he drove for several owners, including Frank Campanelli, Bill Boudreau, and Bob Oliver. It was Oliver’s flathead powered cutdown coupe, the #621 that Rousseau is probably most remembered for. He drove the car to victories in the Stafford ¼ mile paved track, and also the bigger dirt track surrounding it, and took the car north to Keene, where he also put the #621 into victory lane. While in his early 70s, Rousseau was visiting the relatively new New Hampshire International Speedway, when a man approached him and asked if he was, in fact, Art Rousseau. When he admitted that he was, the stranger introduced himself as Vic Yerardi. He had an old AJ Foyt car, and wanted to know if Art would be interested in taking a few laps.” (Shaney Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).

Last week’s photos of the late D.D. “Rebel” Harris proved to be enormously popular with our readers, and thanks to the efforts of our friend Roger Liller we have another one to enjoy. About this image, Roger related the following; “This photo comes from the collection of the late driver "Curley" Walt Schubert and shows Harris at Arlington NY. in Walt's #B4 late model in either 1958 or '59. Walt told me that his nemesis in those days was Roger "Rip" Riley, and that Riley would show up with either a coupe or a late model. Walt would bring both and would race the opposite type of car that Riley was driving because of Arlington's small racing surface. He lost the 1958 track championship to Riley on the last night of racing, but ran away with all the laurels in 1959 winning 12 out of 17 features. Harris drove Schubert's spare car and did quite well for himself.” (Photo Courtesy Roger Liller From The Collection Of The Late "Curley" Walt Schubert).

We admittedly know very-little of this driver’s history, but we do know that this shot was captured at the former Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts, and that his name was Kenny Torrent. Research reveals that he was a winner in the Tuesday night “Jalopy” division during the 1952 season. If anyone has more information on his career, please feel-free to write! Special thanks go out to our friend Ken Meisenhelder of KGM video www.kgmvideo.com  for helping us to identify a number of vintage prints from Riverside and elsewhere that recently became a part of the “RTT” archives. (Shany Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).

Captured here at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway during the height of his brilliant career is Raymond “Hully” Bunn, a native of New Britain, Connecticut. First climbing behind the wheel at the late Plainville Stadium in 1949, within two-years he had become one of the premier short-trackers in the country. In 1951, he emerged victorious in the first-ever Race of Champions at the storied Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania topping a field of over one-hundred top-notch Modified-Sportsman competitors. Friend & fellow competitor the late Dick Eagan drove relief for him during a segment of the event, a testament to just how grueling the early Langhorne shows were. A frequent winner from coast-to-coast, Bunn retired in 1965 following a serious crash at Lebanon Valley. Both Bunn and Eagan are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Shany Photo).

Rhode Islander Fred DeSarro was one of the truly-gifted racers of his era. Seen here when he was wheeling the Sonny Koszella “Woodchopper Special” in 1970, he was a top New England modified shoe for what seemed like eons. The racing media had a field day with the much-publicized “driver-switch” in 1971 when the great Bugs Stevens took the wheel of Koszella’s car, and Fred climbed aboard Bugs’ vacated Lenny Boehler “Ole’ Blue”. Truth-be-told, there were no hard-feelings. Fred and Bugs were great friends and remained-so until Fred’s death following a tragic 1978 Thompson Speedway crash. Both are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, as are Boehler and Koszella. (Fred Smith Photo).

BONUS SHOT: What has to be said about this photo? It’s 1971 and both the car and the guy holding the checkered flag should be easily-recognizable to anyone with even a remote knowledge of New England auto racing history. The driver is legendary New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke, and the car is one of the many potent coupes that fellow Hall of Fame member the late, great, Richie Evans fielded during his long, storied career. The arrangement between these two superstars on this evening all those years-ago obviously worked-out well! (Grady Photo).

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