Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday March 7, 2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we have a little bit of everything from dirt to asphalt culled from a group of shots that yours-truly had in long-term storage and recently rediscovered. Many of these images have not seen the light of day since the mid-90s when they were featured in the first version of “Racing Through Time” as a part of the Waterford Speedbowl weekly track program. Enjoy! In-closing, condolences are sent to the family of Staley Trask who passed-away on March 2nd. Staley was an integral part of the Trask race team which was headed-up by his late father Bill at the Waterford Speedbowl for many seasons during the much-heralded “coupe era.” Email reaches me at  foreveryounginct@gmail.com                         

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A Little Of This, & A Little Of That….       

1975 ushered-in a season of change at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. Gone from the scene was the Independent Racing League replaced by the United Stock Racing Club when Harvey Tattersall Jr. purchased the facility from its longtime ownership team. With that, a number of United regulars began competing at the shoreline oval weekly. Bobby Bard Jr. was one of Harvey’s Riverside Park drivers to make the Speedbowl his Saturday night destination that year. Seen here is his #2 Gremlin after a tangle with longtime Waterford regular, our pal Jim Torok. A violent chain-reaction pileup on the front-chute, it also involved Ormie O’Hara in his #24 though he’s not seen in this shot. Torok, who’s now heavily involved with the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), nearly cleared the roof of Bard’s mount; it was a nasty wreck! (Shany Photo).

Another angle shows just how-much altitude Jim’s coupe caught. I was there that night and recall it taking quite a bit of time to clean-up this mess. Following some long evenings in their garages, both Bard & Torok returned to the Speedbowl that season. (Shany Photo).                  

We really like this pitside Waterford shot. 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 serious 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 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 as seen here. 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).              

Captured here at the late Riverside Park Speedway behind the controls of Bebe Zalinski’s potent M6 coupe is the late Dick Dixon. A member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, he was a top modified competitor in Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Club in the 1950’s and 1960’s, also competing in their Grand American class. One year, he won all-but two GA features run by United. He earned several wins on the old Big E racetrack in both the coupes and the late models. Dixon raced in several Grand National (Sprint Cup) events, including races at Charlotte, Lime Rock, Daytona, and Islip Speedways. Sadly, Dick lost his life in 1967 while competing at Thompson Speedway in a car normally driven by fellow New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Grady Photo).          

Seen here at Massachusetts’ much-missed Riverside Park Speedway is the late Dan Rocke, one of the United Racing Club’s best. Says our Webmaster & friend Tom Ormsby who often competed against Dan at both Riverside and Plainville Stadium; “Dan was a multi-time winner at Riverside beating the higher-powered Modifieds, as he ran a Sportsman which ran with the Modifieds. He was a perennial winner of the Sportsman Bonus for the first Sportsman over the line, which if I remember-right was about $300.00. I remember he won at least one Sportsman championship, it may have been more.” Sadly, Dan who had been a resident of Florida in recent years, passed-away in March of 2010.  (Grady Photo).    

Here’s a shot of a guy who went-on from these humble beginnings to become one of the brightest racing stars in the Northeast. Our friend Ray Miller was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, and for good-reason. Growing-up around racecars, his father paired with Red Lataille to own the #1 Lataille/Miller Offy, running out of the Miller's garage in East Granby, CT. The team ran the ARDC circuit, often racing 7 nights per-week in the 1940’s and 50’s. Ray started his career at Plainville Stadium in 1965 in his own #a pictured here when he was known as Wally Miller before progressing to NASCAR haunts like Stafford and Thompson. A winning driver at the highest-echelon of New England modified racing for many seasons, he retired in the 1980s, but not for-good. Recently he’s returned to the wheel again to pilot a midget on the USAC Dirt Midget Association circuit. (Grady Photo).          

It was rumored to have been the most-successful weekly short track operation in the United States, and judging by the massive crowds that were present on the few lucky occasions I was able to attend in the 1970s, I’d have to agree. Though it was shuttered forever at the conclusion of the 1981 season (to make-way for ANOTHER Shopping Mall; just what we needed right?), Connecticut’s Danbury Racearena packed em’-in right up until its final laps. Home of the Southern New York Racing Association, one of the tracks most popular stars was Nick Giardina who’s captured here celebrating a feature victory in 1974. (Mannion Photo, Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).











Here’s one from the early days of the pavement at Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. The driver is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Dick Watson. Starting his career in 1953, Dick competed at tracks across New England including; West Haven, Plainville Stadium, Lonsdale, Seekonk, Langhorne (dirt & paved), Norwood Arena, Thompson International Speedway, & Stafford Motor Speedway. Watson quickly carved a name for himself, winning first in 1954 at Plainville Stadium with his own car, and continued the tradition for owners like John Lasier of Middlefield, Ct. Notable Waterford Speedbowl rides included the John Barnett #7-11 “Gold Scorpion” and the Condon's #76. One of his most well-known rides was the Bob Garbarino V-4 “Mystic Missile” (as seen here), which he ran at Waterford winning the Connecticut State Modified Championship in 1965. The next season the team joined the NASCAR Modified Division. They moved up in a big way, winning the Thompson Speedway 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 modified drivers of the era. Dick competed in several Grand National (Winston Cup) races, in a car owned by E.J. Trivette out of Atlanta, GA. 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 Watson turned back to Waterford Speedbowl driving Norm Kies’ #21 and Fred Beaber’s checkerboard #716. His career concluded following a violent crash during a qualifying heat at Waterford Speedbowl in 1976, where he suffered a concussion, lower back injuries, and several broken ribs. (Photographer Unknown).                      

Popular legend dictates that it was fellow competitor, the great Kenny Shoemaker that dubbed him the “Crescent Hillbilly” after an on-track altercation left “The Shoe” stammering for the proper choice of words. It’s also been said that the late Pete Corey rather-enjoyed the moniker that was a nod to his geographic origins in the capital district of New York State. In actuality, Corey and Shoemaker may have waged many battles on the track, but there was a vast degree of respect shared between the two legendary racers. This classic John Grady image captures Pete following a feature victory aboard his familiar #3 coupe at what we believe to be New York State’s legendary Fonda Speedway where he was simply one of the best-ever. (Grady Photo).     

Captured here with an absolutely-classic coach (the car was a winner), is our friend, “Fast Finch Fenton” (known in mere-mortal terms as Lew Boyd). As 1/3 of the “Jewish Lighting” racing team which also included our old pal Bruce Cohen (note the writing on the rear-quarter), and also Dick Berggren (at the controls of the coupe in the background), this trio tasted much-success on the dirt ovals of the Northeast. As the proprietor of Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com Boyd brings to us the best in racing-related reading, video, and artwork. Following a successful career in business, Cohen is now the Executive Committee Chairman of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Continuing a long & successful racing media career, these days the popular Berggren serves as a color commentator covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the Fox Network. (Boyd Collection).

BONUS SHOT: If you look forward to the latest edition of “Racing Through Time” going live each and every Wednesday morning, please say thanks to this guy….. Our friend Tom Ormsby is not-only a Wiz at all-things related to the computer and the Webmaster of this site, the New England Antique Racers site www.Near1.com and his own www.speedwaylinereport.com , he was also a pretty darned-good Modified shoe at Plainville Stadium. This one captures him in 1975 behind the controls of one of his Pinto-bodied creations. Tom always had nice-looking equipment as this sharp little number attests-to. (Kennedy Photo).   

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

This Weeks Comments

(1 days ago) stan cogdill said:

Beebe Zalenski was my uncle. I live in Seattle WA. The M-6 was based out of Walker Motor Sales on Main St. in Palmer MA. until in 1963 when my uncle had a beef with Len Walker and left the dealership. I knew Beebe took the car to a garage in Monson--owned by a construction builder named Jurzik (sp) Can Mr Pincince give me more of an address where that garage was? Thanks

(5 days ago) Mike Ray said:

Good stuff as always!Thank you gentlemen!
(5 days ago) Lary Pincince said:

M-6 out of Monson Mass,remember driving by Zalinsi's garage off of main st with my Dad on the way to my aunts house, it put a smile on my face!

(6 days ago) Mare Harlow said:

Thank you - to Dave Dykes AND Tom Ormsby for all you do on RTT! <3

(6 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Pete, Ray's a great guy and a good friend. I love this shot of him - he looks like a kid! This summer I plan on making it to at-least one of the dirt midget races.....

(6 days ago) Pete Burhans said:

I was probably in the pits with 'WALLY RAY' this night at Plainville Stadium in 1965 - still go with him to Bear Ridge Speedway with his midget - he is still getting it done - looks like he fell asleep at the beach!

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