Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday March 13, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Today we again present our usual-week fare of images from New England’s glorious racing past. Special thanks go out to this week’s contributors Bob Ellis, Roger Liller, and Bruce Riggio for sharing images for all of us to enjoy! And of-course we can’t forget our Webmaster, Publisher & Editor, Tom Ormsby who always goes above & beyond in getting out latest edition of “RTT” up & running every Wednesday! Until next-time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Yet-More Mid-Week Meanderings!

Last week’s photos of longtime Connecticut River Valley racer Joe Tiezzi submitted by our friend & former racer Bruce Riggio proved to be very popular with our readers, as we received several emails regarding those timeless images. Here’s another one from Bruce, and this time it captures Joe ready to go at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl in his Uncle Barney’s #230 during the 1960s. That’s Ted Stack in the potent Maffei-Kensel #53 coupe on the inside. (Shany Lorenzent photo courtesy of Bruce Riggio).

From frequent contributor & friend New York State Racing Historian Roger Liller, comes this ancient Speedbowl shot captured by pioneering New England racing photographer Shany Lorenzent who served as that track’s official lensman from it’s opening in 1951 until the early-1970s. The image comes from the collection of Bob Ellis, who’s been super-accommodating in sharing some of his earliest images for all of us to enjoy. The driver is Ray “Legs” Legary (colorful nicknames were all-the-rage during the sport’s formative era), who was a top racer in the Non Ford division where he scored multiple feature victories during the 1950s. (Shany Lorenzent photo from Bob Ellis collection).

Here’s another great one courtesy of Mr. Ellis. The locale is again Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl and the driver is Ted Dean. A standout Non-Ford division racer for many seasons, he recorded his first of 19 career victories in 1952. He was extremely popular with fans and legend has-it that he was quite a “character” for his time. Appearing clean-shaven here, he would grow his beard until scoring a feature and then shave it off. One has to remember, this was during the ultra-conservative 1950s; long, flowing beards were def. not the norm! (Shany Lorenzent photo from Bob Ellis collection).

During my youth, the two tracks that had the greatest impact on sealing my fate as a lifelong modified fan were Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, and the late Plainville Stadium where this shot was captured. It’s the early 1970s, and the driver is Jack Proulx. An essentially-flat ¼-miler, Plainville placed a premium on handling, and a big-motor didn’t matter if you couldn’t keep the horsepower on the ground. Over the years, the track hosted some of the best-in-the-sport, and the Wednesday Night Opens drew car-counts that would make today’s promoters green with jealousy. It was a sad-day in the early 1980s when the announcement finally came that the gates would shutter forever. A true pioneer in the realm of modified racing in this region, Plainville Stadium owner the late Joe Tinty was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. (Phil Hoyt photo).

Last year we acquired a large collection of original prints that finally surfaced after hearing about it’s existence for many-moons (another of those “right-time, right-place” deals). In the lot are a ton of early Stafford dirt images, and also quite a few shots from the formative days of the Connecticut ½-miler’s pavement era as seen-here. This is the potent Garuti-Arute #28, and behind the wheel is either Ted Stack or Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell (we're not entirely-sure). A big-block with injection, this Chevy II-bodied entry was constructed prior to the wave of “cookie-cutter” race cars we have today. Mechanical ingenuity and originality were truly the paths to the winners circle. Car owners the Garuti brothers Rich & Ray & Jack Arute Sr. as-well as Boutwell, are all members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Lloyd Burnham Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).

Our longtime friend Steve Kennedy is truly a multi-talented guy. By trade he’s an acclaimed artist specializing in museum-quality oil paintings. He’s also a much-accomplished auto racing photographer. Topping-it-all off, he’s a best-selling author (visit Lew Boyd’s www.coastal181.com to get your copy of “Modified Stock Car Racing of the 60s & 70s,” Steve’s latest book). At the Waterford Speedbowl’s season-opening event in April of 1978, he was capturing photos like this unique image of the late Ollie Silva. For a generation of New England racing fans, watching this man compete in either a Super or a Modified was in-itself, worth the cost of an admission ticket. Though he staged a brief comeback in 1980, his career effectively ended the same year the accompany photo was captured following a devastating crash at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway that resulted in life-threatening injuries. Silva, the pioneering star of the New England Super Modified Racing Association and a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame quietly passed-away of natural causes in 2004 at age-75. (Steve Kennedy photo).

It’s the 1972 season at Plainville Stadium and that’s a young Reggie Ruggiero seated at the controls of his self-owned coupe, the ride he’d utilize in his fourth-season on Joe Tinty’s ¼-mile circle of tarmac. You have to wonder if at this point in his career, “The Reg” ever dreamed that he’d become one of the most accomplished and admired drivers in all of New England Modified racing. After subbing for an injured Don Moon one year at the Stadium and winning fourteen features in the process, Ruggiero so-impressed NASCAR Modified owner Mario Fiore that he was pegged to replace the late Gary Colturi in the potent #44. As the old saying goes, “The Rest is History.” Both Ruggiero and Fiore are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Here’s an early-1970s image of journeyman Plainville Stadium modified chauffer Lenny Orfice. A homebuilt ride typical of the times, given a few breaks a guy like Lenny could be competitive on a Saturday night at his local short track without mortgaging the farm. Unfortunately, as our friend Steve Kennedy relayed in an earlier edition of “RTT” Lenny’s career ended in 1973 following a very-violent trip into the first-turn wall after suffering a stuck-throttle. Although it was only an almost-flat ¼-miler, Plainville could take its toll on drivers and their equipment if you got on the bad-side of her. (Phil Hoyt photo).

Here’s a nice pitside shot of frequent “RTT” contributor Bob Ellis when he was wheeling this spiffy-looking coupe at Plainville Stadium. As seen recently, Bob has been sharing with us a number of photos from his collection, two of-which are featured this week. In-addition to his Plainville endeavors, Bob also raced at Danbury during the early days of the SNYRA (see our July 20, 2011 edition). (Phil Hoyt photo)..

Like so-many of the racers from his generation, the late Maynard Forrette saw no boundaries in the difference between running on dirt or asphalt. A big winner on both, he’s probably most fondly-remembered for his stunning dirt-slingin’ drives on the daunting Syracuse Mile where during the later stages of his career, he often bested competitor’s half-his-age. A master mechanic and innovative car builder, Forrette also ran Northern Speed Supply, a haven for racers seeking to get the most out of their equipment. This shot captures the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Famer during the dirt era at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. (Shany Photo).

BONUS SHOT: As a charter member of the “Long Island Gang”, Fred “The Flying Dutchman” Harbach was always one of the drivers to watch whether it was on his home-turf, or at the big invitational modified shows. Competing at venues from Maine to Florida, “Flying Freddie” got the job done in rigs like this timeless-looking coupe for over 4-decades and is part of a select group of drivers that took titles at all-3 Long Island tracks, Islip, Freeport, and Riverhead. He was also successful elsewhere, notching championships at New Jersey’s Wall Stadium, New Egypt and Old Bridge. His career total of feature wins is estimated at over 400. (Grady Photo).

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

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