Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday November 30, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 46                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

        Apparently, last week’s shots from Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl bought-back a flood of memories for our faithful readers. My email was jam-packed with responses, all favorable regarding our limited jaunt down the shoreline oval’s memory lane. With that-said, this week we present some more images from the ‘Bowl. Extra-special thanks go out to our friends Larry Pont, Linda Watson, and Steve Kennedy for providing this weeks timeless images; it’s sincerely appreciated! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com Have a GREAT week!        

By Request; More Speedbowl Memories….      

Here’s one that’s sure to please longtime shoreline oval fans, and it’s a real favorite of yours-truly (I’ve been trying to get a copy of this print for eons). It’s 1972, and the young guy on the left is our close friend Mark LaJeunesse who at the time was just embarking on a Speedbowl career that would bring many triumphs for 30-plus seasons. On the right is the late, great Dick Beauregard, truly one of the pioneering stars at Waterford. With track championships in 1952 & ’62 along with 65 feature victories, Beauregard is easily one of the best to have ever competed at the Speedbowl. There’s a definitive connection between these two drivers; Mark’s father Al who for years was a tremendous force on his son’s race team, was with Beauregard from the start of his career. Sadly, we lost Dick just this year when he passed-away on September 7. Special thanks to Larry Pont for this gem of an image. (Shany Photo, courtesy Larry Pont).                

Another Saturday night, another feature victory….. Captured here behind the controls of Freddy Beaber’s ultra-potent checkerboard #716 and celebrating one of his many Speedbowl triumphs is the late Charlie Webster. Along with the aforementioned Dick Beauregard, Charlie was one of the guys that literally helped put Waterford on the map. Amassing a career total of seventy-three feature victories in both Non-Ford and Modified competition, he was a champion in both classes (3 Non-Ford titles, and 1 Modified crown). Like fellow Bowl’ standout and New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don Collins, he retired at the dawn of the 1970s. (Shany Photo, courtesy Larry Pont).

The successful racing career of “Jiggs” Beetham is well-documented at the Speedbowl as both a driver and owner, but perhaps one of the things he’s most-remembered for is creating simply beautiful race cars; this early Chevy Corvair edition of his familiar “Golden Hurricane” mount was one of them. He would later hang-up his helmet and team with New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Bob Potter to form one of the most successful Modified teams in the region. (Shany Photo, courtesy Larry Pont)     

The Bunnell family of nearby Montville, CT. was long a staple of the competition at the Speedbowl. Ed Bunnell was the 1966 Bomber class champion, and his brother Donnie later became one of the shoreline oval’s most popular winning Modified division drivers. In 1968 when Shany Lorenzent captured this image, the late “Wild Bill” Scrivener (himself a former Bomber champion), was the driver of the team’s immaculate coach-bodied modified entry. The Bunnell’s always crafted great-looking equipment! (Shany Photo, courtesy Larry Pont).

It’s a Saturday night in 1967 (a year in-which he’d be crowned champion), and Newt “Mr. Lightning” Palm has just captured the feature at the ‘Bowl. Also the modified titlist in 1968 and one of the most-popular drivers to have ever competed at the shoreline oval, his career was later cut-short due to serious injuries received in this car at Seekonk during an open competition event at the Massachusetts oval. During a brief reign (by today’s standards), Palm captured a total of 4 track titles at Waterford, which also included 2 in the Bomber division. (Shany Photo, courtesy Larry Pont).                     

He was known as “Gentleman Dick” Watson and in later years, simply as the “Silver Fox.” Our much-missed friend, the late Dick Watson was one of the most-respected drivers of his era. A fellow competitor that raced against Watson during his heyday once stated that “He was a driver that you could run with lap-after-lap. You simply never had to worry about him doing something that would get the both of you in-trouble.” This image captures Watson & team following a win during the 1965 season in the Bob Garbarino-owned “Mystic Missile” at Waterford. That year, they captured the Connecticut Modified Championship before moving-on to success within the NASCAR circuit. Watson was inducted into the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame in 2003. (Shany Photo, courtesy Linda Watson).

Seen here during the early 1970s at the Speedbowl with the potent G&M coupe is Guilford, Connecticut native Jerry Dostie. Going-on to become a big winner on the New England Modified circuit, he was also one of the pioneers behind the design & use of automatic transmissions in modified racing. Jerry’s retired these-days, but as we all know, the Speedbowl is still going-strong having just concluded a banner 2011 season. (Dugas Photo).                 

Admittedly, we don’t know much about driver Dave Spence, but we sure like his ultra-sanitary little coupe! Seen here during what looks to be the early 1970’s, note that Dave’s car carries a 3-digit number. It was a style practice common to Waterford long-after one & two digit schemes had become the norm at other area raceways. Throughout its early history, the shoreline oval always seemed to march to the beat of a different drummer in that regard. There were an abundance of multi-digit and “letter” cars, such as the Slater V8, the Bunnell #318, Freddie Beaber’s checkerboard #716’s, and the “M” cars of Bill Scrivener & Seabury Tripler. It’s a long-list! (Shany Photo).                  

Another coupe-era shot from what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl captures Bob Tatro trackside at the Rt. 85 oval. Typical of the times, Bob’s racer sported a nifty vintage body, stock frame, and probably 99% of the components used in its construction where products of good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity, rather than a fat-wallet. Sadly, Modified racing has become prohibitively-expensive for many would-be competitors and has also forced many veteran teams out of the sport. It remains a truly-disturbing trend. (Shany Photo).                            

Though the shot was captured upstate at the expansive Thompson Speedway, the guy seen here was definitely a “Waterford Regular” and good-one that that! Shot though the lens of our old pal & longtime expert racing shutterbug Steve Kennedy is one Nels Wohlstrom. A graduate of the old Sportsman Sedan ranks and one of the Modified division’s true “Gentleman Racers,” Nels recorded many a fine finish wheeling this ex-Mike Beebe Pinto throughout the 1970s. Note the yellow “Rubber Ducky” on the roof. It was a lighthearted trademark feature on all of his modifieds….(Kennedy Photo).                              

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

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