Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday March 23, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 11                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we offer-up another varied selection of photographic treasures courtesy of our readers and friends. Special thanks go out to R.A. Silvia, Steve Kennedy, Pat Doherty, Mal Phillips, Chris Langer, and Tony Mordino Jr. for sending-along these supert shots for all to enjoy! Have a great week1 Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com      

Continuing Our Trek Down Memory Lane…..            

Here’s a rare one. Pat Doherty owned winning modifieds in New England for years, employing the services of some of the regions best racers. In this shot, it’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Fred Desarro behind the controls of one of his coupes in November of 1972. What makes this shot particularly-rare is the surface of the track; Pat ran the car on dirt AND asphalt during an era in which purpose-built cars had not yet become prevalent. Lakeville was a wild n’ woolly ½-mile dirt oval that opened in the 1920s as Camp Joe Hooker Speedway (it had previously been utilized as an Army horse training camp named after General Hooker). Also known as “Golden Spur” it closed in 1975, and sadly, Desarro lost his life resulting from a grinding Thompson crash during the 1978 season. The grinning guy on the left in the background is our pal, Bruce Cohen. (Photo Courtesy Pat Doherty).        

Last week we ran a shot of this guy, and it resulted in a lot of email. It’s obvious that, Mr. Ron “Boots” Cote was a popular racer during his era. Seen here during one of the pre-season shows that were held very year, he was a two-time champion in the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl Daredevil/Sportsman Sedan ranks. During the heyday of this division, it seemed as if the shoreline oval was awash with tri-five Chevy’s like this one (along with a few Ford’s of the same vintage). In the earliest days of the immensely-popular class there was often a B-Main due to the sheer number of these things on-hand! Cote was one of the best of the bunch, and also excelled at the state’s two other tracks, Thompson & Stafford. He later made a splash in the modifieds during the mid-1970’s wheeling the Vega-bodied “L&M” of Angie Cerease. (Photo Courtesy Pat Doherty).

Here’s another classic image courtesy of out friend, Pat Doherty. Shot through the lens of veteran New England lensman Shany Lorenzent during the 1968 campaign, the guy behind the controls of this nifty little coupe is Bob Duffy. Serving as a hired-gun for some of the Speedbowl’s top teams, he excelled at the shoreline oval during what many railbirds consider the tracks most-competitive years. In addition to his endeavors in the headlining Modifieds, he was a winner in the Bomber division. (Photo Courtesy Pat Doherty).  

The late Bill Scrivener burst upon the Waterford Speedbowl scene of the early-60s, quickly becoming one of biggest stars of the then immensely-popular Bomber division. Christened "Wild Bill", his driving style was reminiscent of another shoreline oval luminary, the unflappable "Dirty Dick" Beauregard. While he was successful "right out of box" so to speak, his best season was 1965, the year he was crowned Bomber champion. Later advancing to the headlining Modifieds, he continued to frequent victory lane on a regular basis with his final feature triumph coming on Easter Sunday, 1974. He’s captured here in one of his earliest of Modified rides (Photo Courtesy Chris Langer).                   

In later years, hometown driver Terry Peabody gained notoriety as a top motor-builder via his successful “Peabody Performance” endeavor. When this early-70s Waterford Speedbowl trackside shot was captured, he was wheeling his sharp self-constructed coupe. The local motorsports community was saddened when the popular Peabody passed-away at a relatively young-age just a few seasons-ago. As a side-note, this is the car in-which another local modified star began his career, that being Larry Lamphear. (Photo Courtesy Chris Langer).  

Here we have a nice shot of Lou Carangelo at the late and much-missed Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts courtesy of our friend & top New England racing photographer, Steve Kennedy. A UNITED standout for years, Lou was one of the most popular drivers of his era. In addition to being one of the top-runners at all of the UNITED tracks, he also nailed-down a championship at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium in 1961. He recorded a total of 7 Riverside Park feature victories, the first in 1966, and his final in 1974. Hudsons were a big part of the competition during the much-heralded “Coupe Era”. (Photo Coutesy Steve Kennedy).                     

Seen here during his prime, Bob Cahoon was a top chauffer in the former Non-Ford division at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, scoring multiple feature triumphs during the early 1950s. The Non-Fords were a hugely-popular class during their tenure at the shoreline oval, which lasted from 1951 (the tracks first year), until 1960. Many champions in the division went on to become superstars in the Speedbowl’s headlining Modifieds, including guys like Ted Stack, Charlie Webster, and Johnny Sandberg. (Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips).       

As we all know, stock car racing can be a dangerous business, and during its 60-year history, the Waterford Speedbowl has not been immune to tragedy. Pictured here is John “Jack” K. Griffin who holds the unfortunate distinction of being the shoreline ovals singular racing fatality. He was a WWII veteran serving as an air corps crew chief at Westover, MA. air base, and also at Grenier Field in Manchester, NH. Raised in Massachusetts, he had moved to Groton, CT. shortly before his death to work as a burner at the Electric Boat Shipyard. Griffin was an experienced competitor, having achieved good results racing in Massachusetts, including a track championship at Westboro Speedway in 1949 and also many victories campaigning throughout the East Coast and Canada. After settling in Connecticut he decided to race only as a hobby, under the name of P.D. Jackson. On Saturday evening August 12, 1954, he was driving in the Sportsman feature (a particularly-messy event that had already experienced 2 red flag periods), when another accident occurred directly in-front of him. He tried to avoid the wreck, but clipped the wheel of another competitor and rolled several times. Sadly, he died of his injuries in the early hours of the next day at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, CT.  The tragedy effectively ended the “cutdown era” at the Speedbowl, with a return to the full-coupes for the 1955 season. This shot of the ill-fated Griffin was captured at Rhode Island’s former Lonsdale Arena. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).    

Known as “Gentleman Dick” Watson as well as “The Silver Fox”, the late Watson was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Dick began and ended his career at Waterford. From that first race in 1953 until his retirement in 1976, he competed at tracks across New England including; West Haven, Plainville Stadium, Lonsdale, Seekonk, Langhorne (dirt & paved), Norwood Arena, Thompson Speedway, & Stafford Motor Speedway. His first victory came at Plainville Stadium. Among his most notable rides were the Bob Garbarino #V-4“Mystic Missile” and the Congdon #76. In 1966 he moved to the NASCAR Modified circuit, winning the Thompson World Series. He scored top-ten point finishes at Thompson in 1966 and '67, and at Stafford in '67 and '68 competing against some of the very best drivers of the era. He also competed in several Grand National (now known as Sprint Cup) events. In 1969, at the Thompson 200 he was running fifth on lap 180, with eventual winner David Pearson, when a mechanical failure forced him out of the race with an 11th place finish. In 1972 he returned to Waterford, again experiencing great success at his old haunt. Dick hung up his helmet after a violent crash during a qualifying heat at the shoreline oval in 1976, where he suffered a concussion, lower back injuries, and several broken ribs. Dick’s pictured here on the left with the Garbarino team at Thompson in the 1960’s. (Dugas Photo).           

Pileup at Plainville! Take the close-confines of one fast ¼-miler, add several of the best modified drivers New England had to offer, and stuff like this was bound to occur from time-to-time. Captured here through the camera lens of our pal Phil Hoyt back in the early-1970s is a typical skirmish at Joe Tinty’s much-missed little Connecticut oval. That’s Buddy Rouleau behind his” Z”, the late Pete Brockett in the #77, Nicky Porto’s #69, and out of his #54 North End Auto Parts #54 on the extreme right, is the late Tony Mordino. Tough track, tough drivers…. (Photo Courtesy Tony Mordino Jr.).

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

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