Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday November 10, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 42                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE


This-time-around, it’s a truly-diverse collection of images, simply a “bit of everything for everybody.” As always, thanks to everyone who contributed to this installment’s selection of shots as it’s truly appreciated. Running a bit-short on time this week, so opening commentary will be brief. ENJOY! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Another (Very) Varied Selection….      

Color racing images from the early 1950s are rather-rare; simply-stated, they’re VERY difficult to find. Thanks to our pal JoJo Farone (himself once a racer of note), we have this little gem. Pictured here with famed New England car owners Rich & Ray Garuti 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. The Garuti’s will be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on January 30th. (Farone Collection).      

Captured here during the early 1970s is Gene Bergin. Some are simply born with a knack for driving race cars, and this guy was one of those gifted individuals. He saw action in everything from Modifieds to Midgets, and won in all of them. During a career that spanned three-decades, he was always one of the guys to beat whether it was asphalt or dirt. Among his many accomplishments is the distinction of being the first-ever Stafford pavement champion in 1967. Bergin was among the first drivers inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (Farone Collection).       

Seen at the Waterford Speedbowl is LaJeunesse Race Team driver, Howie Nye. A former drag racer, he’d been a longtime friend and crew-member on the LaJeunesse team before deciding to construct this neat little coupe to try the “roundy-round” game. Nye’s freshman season garnered him the 1978 “Rookie of the Year” laurels. Constructed in a “classic” style during an era when tube-frames and late model bodies were taking-hold, it occasionally served as a back-up ride for LaJeunesse, and was later the car that Speedbowl legend the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer guided to many fine-finishes during the twilight of his career. (Kennedy Photo, Ormsby Collection).            

This shot is from a special event at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway in the 1970s. Seen here behind the controls of one of the potent “Sharky” #44 coupes is “Lil' Dan” Gaudiosi. These pink & white creations coupled Dan’s talents were responsible for snagging a LOT of checkered flags in New England for nearly 3-decades. During this time, the team was competing regularly at another Connecticut oval, the late & much-missed Plainville Stadium. (Ormsby Collection).    

Meet Nels Wohlstrom Sr. A graduate of the old Sportsman Sedan ranks and one of the Modified division’s true “Gentleman Racers,” Nels recorded many top finishes wheeling this Chevy Monza-bodied creation at tracks all over New England. Note the school bus; it served as the team’s transporter. Now retired from the sport, Wohlstrom now lives in Lake Wylie, South Carolina, presiding over a booming business installing boat lifts and docks. (Ormsby Collection).      

Seen here in the 1970s at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, Joe Tiezzi was a top New England modified driver for many seasons. He was particularly successful at the Waterford Speedbowl where recorded several feature victories. The Tiezzi family had a long history at the Speedbowl fielding the potent #230 Hudson coupe during the early years, with among others, the popular Benny Deroiser at the wheel. (Ormsby Collection).             

It’s the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early-1950s, and the driver is Norwich, Connecticut’s George Shaver, Jr. Flathead-power was still the norm, and the drivers had to contend with the old “sand safety strip” and notorious railroad-tie walls that once circled the outside parameter of the track (both clearly visible in this shot). Note Shaver’s sponsor; the late Chick Caron was the proprietor of a once thriving local speed shop that served many of Waterford’s competitors. (Mal Phillips Collection).    

Winner, mentor, and innovator, few individuals meant more to New England Modified racing than the late “Steady Eddie” Flemke. Starting his career during the emerging popularity of stock cars in the post-war era, it’s estimated that he won over 500 feature events during a career which spanned 3-decades. Along the way, he helped many young drivers get their starts, including Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton. As an expert car builder, he designed the “Flemke Front End” a chassis component that remained the standard in Modified construction for years. Ed was among the first inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998. (Mal Phillips Collection).  .

Another shot from the Speedbowl, captured here is the popular Joe McNulty. As one of the top drivers of the 1950s & 60s, “Joe Mac” recorded victories at a variety of New England speedplants, but was particularly-proficient at the shoreline oval where he claimed a career-total of 16 Modified division feature triumphs (Mal Phillips Collection).              

Lastly, here’s a great shot of the late Tony Mordino following a victory at Connecticut’s former West Haven Speedway. Another of the best that New England had to offer, Tony enjoyed a long, storied career that included many triumphs at places like Riverside Park, Eastern States, Waterford, West Haven, and Plainville. It’s a LONG trail of victories! (Mordino Family Collection).            

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

 
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