Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 26, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 18                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we open with a story about a former Connecticut racing photographer that’s proven to be incredibly generous. Phil Hoyt shot weekly at Connecticut’s Plainville Stadium from the late 1960’s until the tracks closure in 1980. Via the popular social networking site Facebook, he’s made hundreds of examples of his work available to all. Also on the site are several historical Plainville shots contributed by others, most-notably our webmaster Tom Ormsby. Having recently got permission from Phil to reprint some of his work here, from time-to-time we’ll be telling the stories behind the photos. Again, sincere thanks go out to Mr. Hoyt for his efforts in making these classic images available! Be sure to visit his site at www.facebook.com/pages/Plainville-Stadium Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com    

Mordino Has A “Smashing Night” At The Park’ Along With More From The Archives….         

This classic shot comes to you from our Webmaster, the honorable Mr. Tom Ormsby. We’ll let him tell the story; “This is the infamous Riverside Park incident involving the late, great Tony Mordino,” states Ormsby. “For whatever reason (I don’t remember), the starter threw him out, and he parked his car on the front straight. Harvey Tattersall then ordered the payloader to haul him off. Tony started the car and kept ramming the front of the payloader in the process absolutely destroying its radiator. Harvey banned-him until he paid for the damage, which I was told, cost around $800 to repair.” Mordino was one of the toughest, most-determined competitors of his generation and his talent resulted in an untold number of checkers during his long, storied career. Truth-be-told, promoter Tattersall needed Mordino, as his name sold a ton of tickets at Riverside. Remember, this was an era before the sport was whitewashed for the masses by the “proper etiquette” of the NASCAR Cup Series. Guys like Mordino made Saturday nights truly-exciting, “Heroes & Villains” were all part of the game! (Shany Photo).  

As a legendary and very popular “Coupe Era” dirt track chauffer, Ed Ortiz won races and championships at nearly track in which he competed. Also proficient on the paved ovals of his period, he was a constant threat at the big Modified events such as those held at Langhorne and Trenton. After being away from the sport for a number of years, he returned in 1998 to run in the Pro Stock class at Ransomville, New York. In typical fashion, he was able to claim a feature win. A Foar Score Hall Of Fame inductee, this black & white shot captures him early in his career during the late-1950’s with a car that he’s often identified-with, the B & M Speed Shop #0 Coupe. (Grady Photo).  

Captured pit-side at Lancaster Speedway in 1969 (where he was a 4-time track champion), is arguably one of the greatest combined asphalt/dirt racers ever. Sanborn, New York’s Merv Treichler notched titles at a myriad of Empire State haunts during a career that began with Coupes like the one he’s pictured-in here. Also included on his resume are wins at the Race of Champions, Daytona, and 2 victories at Super DIRT Week in Syracuse.  An inductee of both the FOAR Score & DIRT Hall of Fames, he also competed in what’s now known as the NASCAR Nationwide Series, scoring several top finishes from 1984-87. (Reinig Photo).     

Here’s another shot from New York’s Lancaster Speedway. The year is 1971 and the driver is Ted Renshaw. Scoring multiple successes on the ovals of the New York State region as-well as Canada (most-notably Cayuga Speedway), Renshaw was always-known for campaigning ultra-sanitary creations like this Coach-bodied entry. (Reinig Photo).     

One more shot of a driver noted for his accomplishments in the Empire State region, this-time from the 1974 campaign. Seen here is Don Diffendorf. Well-traveled, and not-unlike the aforementioned Treichler, “Diff” also excelled on dirt and the big Modified shows of the era such as those events held at Langhorne & Trenton. As an aside, it was a shot of his positively wild-looking and well-known #S/360 Coach that graced the promotional poster for the first-ever Spring Sizzler at Stafford ran on April 16, 1972. (Reinig Photo).   

From its beginnings in 1947 the late Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts was envisioned as a track constructed to court the then wildly-popular Midgets. Though stock cars later took-over as the headliners, the track remained one of the East Coast’s best (and most-demanding), Midget venues. Seen here ready to go at the high-banked ¼-miler is one of the division’s best, Bill Randall. Born in North Reading, Massachusetts, he started his career before WWII. He raced sprint cars and midgets, winning the Eastern USAC Sprint Car title in 1957 and finishing third in the ARDC Midget Championship in 1961. In Champ Cars he raced at Daytona in 1959 in the USAC event driving a Kurtis 500C Offy, finishing 14th. He tried to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1961 but was unsuccessful. In 1962 he qualified for a race at Trenton driving a Kuzma but went out with a broken throttle. In other series he enjoyed considerable success winning races in events sanctioned by NEMA, BSRA, UCOA, ARDC and USAC. Sadly, Randall lost his life in an ARDC Midget show at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park road course in July 1963. On the first lap he collided with Len Thrall and Bert Brooks and rolled, sliding over 100 feet up-side-down. One of Midget racing’s brightest stars died four days later at age-47 from his injuries. (Photographer unknown).      

Race track owner and promoter, respected local businessman, and showman – the late Joe Tinty was all of these. Though running the weekly races at his much-missed Plainville Stadium in Connecticut (along with a bit of help from his Race Director “Moneybags” Moe Gherzi), no-doubt kept him busy, Joe always found a little time to entertain the crowd. This shot captures him with his beloved Palomino named “Sugarfoot” doing a little “horsing-around.” It could have been intermission on race-night, or it could have been one of the many circuses that he booked into the track over the years. Joe Tinty was truly a unique individual. (Phil Hoyt Photo).                 

When top Plainville Stadium Modified shoe Don Moon (right), broke his arm in a work-related accident in the 1970’s, he picked a young upstart and fellow competitor by the name of John “Reggie” Ruggiero to wheel his potent #9 Pinto. “The Reg” responded by winning a record fourteen feature events that year. The next season, storied Riverside Park car-owner Mario Fiore invited Reggie into the seat of his #44 to replace Gary Colturi who had tragically perished in a motorcycle accident and the rest is history…. (Phil Hoyt Photo).                

Seen here in the early-70’s is the late Matt Jones behind the controls of an entry typical of those found in the old full-fendered Waterford Speedbowl support class known as “Daredevils.” Created in 1965 to bolster a sagging car-count in the Bombers (another support division), there were a TON of these things competing once the class got-rolling. Consisting of mostly “Tri-Five” Chevy’s & Fords, it was a bang-up show and very popular with fans of the 1/3-miler located on the Connecticut shoreline. Jones was closely-associated with the Gada family team, who still compete weekly at The Bowl’. (Dugas Photo).

By 1977, the Daredevil class had gone through a couple of name-changes, ending-up known as “Grand Americans.” For the most-part the 50’s-era sheet metal was gone, replaced by more contemporary stuff like this 1965 Chevelle piloted by Tucker Reynolds Sr. Already an experienced-hand having driven Modifieds in previous seasons, he notched many fine finishes piloting this mount. Years-later his son Tucker Jr. emerged as a winning Modified driver. The Speedbowl has always had some of the best support-division action to be found anywhere in New England! (Kennedy Photo).

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

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