Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 4, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 17                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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Scott Pruett smoked 'em again at this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  (Brian Cleary Photo -

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Happy Wednesday! That means the work-week is on the run, and it’s time to offer-up another varied selection of photographic treasures courtesy of the “RTT” archives and our readers and friends. Special thanks go out to Mal Phillips, Steve Kennedy, James Scott Haag, and our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for sending-along these superb shots for all to enjoy! Have a great rest of the week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com     

Wednesday Means More Modified Memories…. .              

Starting this week on sad note, word was received that Rochester, N.Y. Modified driver Dick Emerson passed away Yesterday. Dick raced into the mid-1970s at Lancaster (NY) Speedway and Spencer Speedway (Williamson, N.Y.) and also at Oswego, N.Y.  Pictured here in about 1970 is Dick Emerson, a weekly competitor at Lancaster Speedway. It was a Falcon-bodied Modified, and I was used to seeing mostly Coupes at the tracks I frequented with my family. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Emerson or his career, but I sure liked the looks of his Modified! (Gordon Reinig Photo Courtesy John Bisci)

As a 3-time NASCAR National Sportsman Champion, a member of the famed “Eastern Bandits”, and an inductee of both the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame, little has to be said about this driver that hasn’t already been written. Known as “The Champ”, Rene Charland won over 250 features and countless track titles races during a career that spanned 4-decades. He’s seen here with just one of the coupes “The Champ” guided to victory lane. (Grady Photo).                     

Here’s a nice 70s-era shot from Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. The driver is the late Curt Murano, proprietor of Curt’s Lebanon Garage which was a familiar name in local racing circles for many years. Recently discovered after having sat for several years, this car is presently being restored by the Danko family of Norwich, Ct. for participation within the New England Antique Racers (NEAR). In addition to the Speedbowl, Curt campaigned the car at several other New England area tracks including Thompson. (Shany Photo Courtesy James Scott Haag).    

Just a cool action shot! Seen here during a visit to Stafford Springs Motor Speedway during the mid-1970s aboard his familiar coach-bodied modified is Plainville Stadium regular Dennis “The Greek” Chavaris. Spending over five decades in the sport starting in the Novice class, he went-on to become a multi-time modified feature winner at Plainville. Following that track’s untimely closing, he enjoyed a stint in the SK Modifieds. (Photo Courtesy Steve Kennedy).            

Courtesy of our old pal Mal Phillips, here we have a nice early shot of “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl competitor Jack Connell. Affectionately nicknamed the “shoreline oval” by locals, the Speedbowl is still going-strong following six-decades of continuous action. Connell’s little coupe is a fine example of the type of machines that were regular fare at the ‘Bowl of the 1950s. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips).                    

Seen here during an asphalt outing, the late Kenny Shoemaker was one of the best in the sport, period. To list the number of victories and top car-owners that he drove for during his heyday would simply take more space than this weekly column allows. “The Shoe” is justifiably an inductee of several stock car racing Hall of Fames. Kenny passed-away in 2001 leaving-behind a huge legion of fans and fellow competitors that recall him as one of the most exciting drivers to have-ever graced a Northeastern speedway, dirt or pavement. (Grady Photo)       

Unfortunately, like so many of the racers in the Speedbowl photos that Mal Phillips has gifted us with we don’t know a whole-lot about this chauffer, Ray Legary. Mal is a living encyclopedia when it comes to the historical aspect of the shoreline oval, and his collection of vintage images proves that. We simply love the stance of this coupe, which looks like it would have been one of the sharper entries in the old Non Ford division. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips).   

Here’s a neat 1970s image of the immaculate Capri-bodied entry of Roger Hill captured at Martinsville, Virginia. In addition to the Pintos, Vegas, and Gremlins that came to replace the old coupe tinwork, the Mercury Capri was a popular choice. Hill was a winning Southern modified racer for years. Following retirement as a driver, he has stayed active fronting his successful “Hillbilly Racing Team” on both the Whelen Modified Tour and Souther Modified Tour wiht James Civali behind the wheel. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).            

Another image from the Phillips archives, this one captures Tex Pearce ready to go at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950s. Another Non-Ford entry, this one looks to be of the Chrysler-persuasion. Note the old soft-sided “Cromwell” style helmet he’s holding and his “driving suit.” Safety in our sport has made great-strides, and this shot of one of the shoreline oval’s real pioneers goes to illustrate that. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips).              

Here’s the last ‘Bowl entry for this week, again from Mal. Seen here is Wes Kingsley, one of the earliest of stars at Connecticut 1/3-miler. In just 2-years (1951 & 52), he managed to amass 5 Sportsman feature victories, no easy-feat considering the level of competition during the tracks formative years. His initial win came in the 4th of July 35-lapper in 1951, his final on Wednesday evening, June 11, 1952. Both years, he was a top-3 finisher in the point race. (Shany Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips).              

And closing-out this weeks’s installment is an early shot from the old 1/5-miler at the late and much-missed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. Talk to any racing scribe that was active during the sixties and seventies about S.J. Evonsion, and you’re likely to get a favorable response. He remains one of the racers that the media recalls as a guy that was always an informative and pleasurable interview. Well-traveled during his time, S.J. tasted success at many Modified tracks in the New England region, but is perhaps best recalled as one of the top-shoes at Riverside where he garnered the 1972 track championship. (Shany Photo).   

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

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