Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 15, 2013


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Volume 5, Number 20                                                                                    New Column Every Wednesday

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

Today its a few varied images culled from our files (plus a few classics from our old pal JoJo Farone). We offer sincere condolences to the family & friends of former Plainville Stadium modified racer Larry Crighton who passed-away on April 29th. He was 69 years-old. As-always, a big thanks to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby for getting “RTT” posted each & every week! We’ll keep the opening comments short & sweet this week & let the photos do the talking….. Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another Mid-Week Lap Around The Oval…

It’s the 1970s at Joe Tinty’s former (& much-missed), Plainville Stadium in Connecticut and captured through the lens of our friend Phil Hoyt is the late Larry Crighton leading in his familiar #4 coupe. A journeyman modified competitor at the tough ¼-miler for a number of seasons, Larry passed-away on his 69th birthday at the Highlands Health Care Center in Cheshire, CT. on April 29th. Sadly, the attrition rate continues to rise for our “Saturday Night Heroes” of the past; keeping their memory alive is vitally-important for the future fans of our sport. (Phil Hoyt Photo).  

Here’s a dandy of a 50s-era victory lane shot of the late Eddie Flemke Sr. when he was driving for the Garuti Brothers team (that’s Richie to Eddie’s left, and Ray can be seen peering over Harvey Tattersall Jr.). The former Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts is the locale. 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 rather-than 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. Deservedly-so, Flemke, the Garuti’s, and Tattersall are all members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. For more on their careers, visit www.near1.com (Shany Lorenzent Photo from JoJo Farone Collection).

Known early-on as “The Kid from Fitchburg” the guy seen here went from collecting checkers in cars like this Camaro-bodied modified to winning the NASCAR Winston Cup Talladega 500 during his rookie season in 1981. Ronnie Bouchard began his career at age-14 at the old Brookline Speedway in New Hampshire. Before going Cup’ racing in 1981, he’d scored over 200 victories in the modifieds, becoming one of the dominate drivers during what many consider to be the most-competitive era of the division. Bouchard was among the first drivers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (John Grady Photo).

Captured here at Waterford on June 26, 1976 is the late Marvin Chase. Known by local fans as primarily a ‘Bowl competitor, he also tasted success at the storied Norwood Arena in Massachusetts; an easy feat by no-means. After hanging-up his helmet, Marvin became involved with the New England Antique Racers, heavily contributing his time to the club. Every year, a NEAR member is presented the “Marvin Chase Contribution Award” in honor of the late racer. Fondly remembered, “Marv” had many friends at the shoreline oval, including this scribe. (Rene Dugas Photo, Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).

One of New England modified racing’s first legitimate “Super Stars” the late Moe Gherzi found his niche in the management-side of the sport after hanging-up his helmet. He went from driving to organizing in later years, accepting a post working for Joe Tinty as Race Director at the late Plainville Stadium, a position he held for years. This decades-old Speedbowl image captures Moe in the early-50s during the height of his popularity when he was driving for the Garuti Brothers team. Usually nattily-attired on race-night, he was one of the true Showmen of his era. A successful racer at virtually every venue in New England during his career, Moe joined the Garuti’s as a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. (Shany Lorenzent Photo from JoJo Farone Collection).

Here’s a timeless John Grady victory lane shot of one of the most-memorable driver/car combos to ever grace a Northeastern speedway. The brainchild of Potsdam, New York’s Ed Close, the “Hemi-Cuda” was as much spectacle, as it was thoroughbred race car. Powered by a Chrysler Hemi that produced monstrous amounts of horsepower, it was no-doubt a handful for its driver, the great Jean Guy Chartrand of Canada. (John Grady Photo).

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 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 with his memorable Studebaker Hawk at what we believe to be New York State’s Fonda Speedway. (John Grady Photo).

We couldn’t resist running one-more shot of one of the greatest talents to have ever emerged from the early days of New England modified racing. Seen here following another victory while chauffeuring the much-feared Garuti Bros. coupe at Riverside in the early-50s is the great “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi. He earned his nickname via a penchant for claiming some of the biggest purses of the era. (Shany Lorenzent Photo from JoJo Farone Collection)

The late Donald “Hank” Stevens drove them all during his long career, modifieds, midgets, cut-downs, it truly ran the gamut. Nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank” for his determined driving style, he was particularly successful at the Waterford Speedbowl as seen-here while behind the controls of Barney Tiezzi’s Hudson coupe. As proof of just how tough this guy was, he overcame a positively-devastating Speedbowl wreck in the 1950s in-which he received life threatening burns to return as a winner. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

Modern-day fans recall the now-retired Jerry Pearl as a multi-time Connecticut SK Modified Champion. Back when this shot was captured at Stafford in April of 1976 during a special event simply titled “The Race” he was wheeling this nifty coupe, a ride that served him well. Following a short break from the sport in the early-70s, he successfully campaigned a Daredevil entry at the Waterford Speedbowl in a car vacated by Bill “The Southern Gent” Grainger (a mammoth 57’ Plymouth no-less, with a giant Rebel flag across the roof). From there, it was back to the open-wheel wars, and the rest is history. Jerry is the dad of popular Jeff Pearl, a former Speedbowl SK champion. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

BONUS SHOT: Like so-many others, Mark Geer was a local kid who at a young age became seduced by the sites and sounds coming from race night at 1080 Hartford Turnpike, Waterford, CT. and it wasn’t long before he became part of the action. He’s seen here with one of the many different rides he wheeled during his career. In later years, Geer continued his association with the Speedbowl as an official. (Rene Dugas Photo).

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