Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 23, 2012
 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This Wednesday we present a truly-varied selection of images, many of-which were donated by our old friend and fellow NEAR member, JoJo Farone. Once a winning driver at Joe Tinty’s much-missed Plainville Stadium, JoJo has deep roots in the sport, and his photographic contributions to this week’s installment of “RTT” are greatly appreciated. Also, please be sure to take a gander at this week’s “Bonus Shot” as we’re trying to help a veteran racer acquire some shots of his career that due to unfortunate circumstances, have been lost.  With-that, it’s on to another week! As-always, mail reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com                      

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Yet More “Wednesday Wanderings”….       

Here’s a victory lane shot of the guy responsible for providing some of this weeks images from back when he was a Novice Class winner at that much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler known as Plainville Stadium. Looking very-much the part of a teenager (which he was), our pal JoJo Farone was fast right-out-of-the-box in this hulking pre-war sedan owned by his sister Helen pictured here. Member of a Connecticut racing family that also included the late Butch “Seymour the Clown” Farone and standout Stadium competitor Beetle Farone, JoJo progressed from these humble beginnings to wheeling Modifieds in the New England region. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).

Billy Greco was one of the most-respected drivers of his era and for good-reason. In addition to being a huge winner, he was also one of the nicest people in our sport, and remains-so today. You’d be hard-pressed to meet a driver that had a better relationship with his fans. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master of the short oval, honing his skills at tight little joints like the late West Haven Speedway and the much-missed 1/5-miler at Riverside Park. A darling of the old Harvey Tattersall-led United circuit (once the most influential sanctioning group in New England), in later-years he also became a winner at the ultra-competitive Danbury Fair Racarena. The personable Greco is as popular today as he ever-was, and can really enlighten you on the history of the sport. If you get a chance to chat with him, please do! (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).                  

Here’s simply a timeless image of one of the greatest talents to have ever emerged from the early days of New England Modified racing. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame this year and seen here following a Cutdown victory while chauffeuring the much-feared Garuti Bros. #14 at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early 1950s is the late, great, “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi. Already an established star when this shot was captured, he was one of the most-prolific winners during the sports infancy. Often nattily-attired on race night, Moe bought a degree of class to the sport when greasy t-shirts seemed the norm. He earned his nickname via a penchant for claiming some of the biggest purses of the era. After vacating the driver’s seat, he served a long residency as Race Director at the late Plainville Stadium. Quite-flittingly, master car builders Rich & Ray Garuti (we believe that to be Rich on the left), are also Hall of Fame members. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).             

We know, it’s another shot of “Moneybags” but we couldn’t resist; it’s just such a GREAT photo! Seen this time on the old UNITED 1/5-miler at Riverside Park with another potent Garuti Brothers entry is Moe Gherzi. Following a short stint in the midgets, he became one of the drivers that helped define stock car racing in New England during the busy post-war era. With his fancy silk shirts, and requisite “victory salute” following each feature win, he was the consummate showman and goodwill ambassador for a segment of the sport still in its infancy and seeking legitimacy. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).          

Here’s a dandy of a shot of another Garuti Bros. ride, this time chauffered by New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, the late & much-missed Eddie Flemke Sr. The former (and tremendously-missed), Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts is the locale, and “Steady Eddie’s” mount is a “classic” in every sense of the word. Back when Shany Lorenzent captured this image, it was the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club that ruled the roost in New England modified racing, not NASCAR. United once held court at a staggering number of raceways in the Northeast and included in its ranks were the biggest stars of the day. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).

And here’s the last of our friend JoJo’s contributions to this weeks installment of “RTT.” Another Riverside Park “Coupe Era” image, seen here in the Garuti Bros. entry is the late Dick Dixon. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, he was a top Modified competitor in Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Club in the 1950s & 60s, 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 Modifieds and Late Models, and also competed 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. (Photo Courtesy JoJo Farone).                                        

 Simply one of the greatest to ever sit behind the controls of a race car, the late “Dynamite” Ollie Silva was both a huge winner, and one of the most-admired competitors in all of short track racing. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Silva recorded over five-hundred feature victories over the course of a career that started in 1949 at the long-shuttered Dracut, MA. Speedway and concluded in 1980. He was victorious in Modifieds, Supers, Sprint Cars, and Cut-Downs. Etched into the record books of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl is an absolutely-dominating Modified win in the 1974 Hott Wheels 100 in which Silva lapped the entire field not once, but twice! To this-day, the locals still talk about it. (Photographer Unknown).                 

Here’s a nice trackside image capturing one of the Waterford Speedbowl’s more consistent competitors of the late 1960s & early 70s. Don Phaneuf campaigned this little “square-roof” entry during the later-years of the much-heralded “coupe era” at the Connecticut 1/3-miler. Though he never notched a feature victory, he did score several qualifying heats and a number of top main event finishes. (Shany Photo).  

Here’s Preston, Connecticut’s Art Moran Sr. seated behind the controls of a nifty 3-window coupe at the Speedbowl. Moran was a steady-competitor at the track affectionately-known as the “shoreline oval” for many seasons, recording a number of feature victories. As a side-note, he was one of the first racers in Waterford history to successfully employ power-steering, a feature of the memorable #66 Coach that he campaigned during the 1970s. Art’s family remains a presence in local racing circles today, with both his children and grandchildren having become winners. (Shany Photo).

Back in the early days when 3-digit car numbers were all the rage, Nick Dinsmore fielded this sharp coupe at the Speedbowl. We really like this era of New England modified racing. It was a time when getting-involved in the sport was still based more on desire & mechanical ingenuity rather than the thickness of one’s bankroll. Cars like this were constructed entirely by the teams; no “store-bought” stuff here! (Shany Lorenzent Photo).                 

BONUS SHOT: Here’s one that’s somewhat of a departure from our customary offerings, at least speaking in regional-terms. The driver is Elmer Elliot, and the photo comes via his brother Jack who writes “My name is Jack Elliott, the brother of Elmer Elliott, the driver of the # 17 shown in the attached photo. He raced mostly at Ransomville (New York), Speedway in the Sportsman class in his home built car as shown. He did quite-well, winning a few races & even came close to winning the championship. He is now 79 years-old and in poor-health and I’m trying to locate pictures of him when he raced. He lost all of his photos and trophies in a fire years ago, so he has nothing but what he can remember.” If any of our readers can offer any leads on acquiring photos for Jack and his brother Elmer, please contact me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com We’d really like to give the Elliot family some assistance on this if at-all possible!    

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

THIS WEEKS COMMENTS:

(1 days ago) Daye Dykes said:

Thanks, Don. I've very-blessed in having a great Webmaster and a number of readers & friends that contribute many timeless images for all of us to enjoy. As-long as I can find material, the site will continue every week!

(3 days ago) Don Macrino said:

I get great pleasure from your weekly photos and text. Thanks so much.

(3 days ago) Sonny O said:

In 1956 Eddie and Moe won the Riverside 500 team race in Garuti's#28 and#14 team cars Eddie also won the championship for the season that year.

(3 days ago) Pat D said:

Dave another nice job of finding cool and fresh photo' each week. Keep up the good work. I look forward each week to this column Thanks Pat D.

(4 days ago) Dave Dykes said:

Thanks, Nels. Our pal JoJo Farone really came-through with photos this week! Ed P.; not-sure on the "team car" question. Perhaps one of our Riverside experts can comment?

(4 days ago) nels wohlstrom jr. said:

GREAT SHOT OF ART MORAN!

(4 days ago) Ed P said:

anyone know if those were the Garuti team cars that won the 500 in 1956 with Flemke and Gherzi driving? Looks to be of that era.
 

 
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