Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday November 13, 2013
   

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

In a scenario that’s occurring with alarming frequency lately, we must again report somber news. It was learned late last week that multi-time Waterford Speedbowl champion Walt Dombrowski passed-away on Thursday, November 7th. Also leaving us much too-soon was Jimmy Winks. A Syracuse, New York native, Winks drove Dirt Modifieds, Asphalt Modifieds, Supermodifieds, Late Models, Sportsman and Sprint Cars to many victories during his career. Our condolences are sent to the friends & families of both these veteran racing stars. In good news, the 16th Annual New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held on November 10, and as-usual, it was a grand affair. Entering the HOF for 2013 were drivers Ralph Nason, Stan Meserve, Drew Fornoro, Bill Eldridge, Bob Sharp, Brian Ross, the late Bob Stefanik, and longtime car owner Ron Berndt. For the full story, be-sure to visit the NEAR website at www.near1.org  Till’ next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Our Weekly Installment Of Racing Memories…

We lost an accomplished New England racer last week when Walt Dombrowski passed-away on November 7th. Before graduating to the headlining division at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, he had claimed the 1963 Bomber championship at the shoreline oval. The transition to the speedier modifieds was a smooth-affair, with Walt scoring his first mod checkers in 1966. Having secured a seat in Stan Majewski’s potent L&M coupe for the 1970 campaign, he handily nailed-down the modified title that year. This nice color shot captures him when he was wheeling the late Norm Kies’ coupe at the ‘Bowl. Walt was selected by fans as one of the Speedbowl’s all-time “50 Favorite Drivers” in 2000; a testament to his enduring popularity even after he’d retired from the sport. (Rene Dugas Photo).

Here’s a really unique shot captured by our old friend & longtime racing photographer, John Grady. I’d been exploring some of my old files, and realized that this one hasn’t seen the light-of-day since I published it in the Waterford Speedbowl program while working there in the 1990s. Every week we’d do a “Page From The Past” using a few vintage shots (kind of an early-version of “RTT”). This is Jerry Glaude in the Bill Trask-owned coupe. He was a Speedbowl Bomber class standout that later found success in the modifieds. The location? For years, we thought it was the United Stock Car Racing Club-sanctioned West Haven Speedway in CT. That track was a jaunty little “ballpark-turned-raceway” that along with the accompanying Savin Rock amusement park, fell-victim to the countries widespread urban renewal movement of the 1960s. However, as our friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby states, it could also be either New York’s Albany-Saratoga or Malta Speedways. The Trask team quite-possibly could have been running their Waterford Bomber entry in the Hobby class at either of those tracks. Note the 6-cylinder power. (John Grady Photo).

Here’s one from someone that we’ve not heard-from lately, and it’s great to have him back as a contributor! From our friend New York State Racing Historian Roger Liller comes this absolute gem, He relays the following about this shot; “Highland, New York driver "Handsome" Harry Brazee probably spent most of his career driving Warren Hansen's  "Zero" cars, but drove a considerable time for the Jensen Brothers of Wolcott, Connecticut. He is shown here with their #79 at Rhinebeck in 1957 after copping two of his nine features that season. Harry would also figure prominently in the competition at Connecticut’s Danbury Racearena, but with less overall success.” (Ed Ryan Photo Courtesy Roger Liller)  

We’re unclear on the exact year other-than it’s the early-1950s, but we know that the location is Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. It’s a rather curious image, as the door on this wrecked coupe lists both Loren Card & Charlie Webster as its drivers. Webster, of course, would go-on to become one of the shoreline oval’s most prolific racers, compiling championships and an enormous amount of feature victories. Card on the other hand, took a different route becoming the tracks flagman, a role that garnered him popularity and immense respect & trust from the racers. Take a good-look at this smoldering heap and its rudimentary safety features and you’ll wonder how competitors escaped serious injury or worse during the early days of the sport. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).     

We really like this great shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Tony Mordino that captures him during the latter-stages of his celebrated career in the John Lukosavage-owned #1. One of the absolute-best during the stock car boom of post-war era and a leading member of the legendary “Waterbury Gang” that also included guys like the late Danny Galullo, the battles he waged with established UNITED stars such as Billy Greco and Johnny “King” Cambino at the old West Haven Speedway are stuff of legend. He later conquered Plainville Stadium and Riverside Park; certainly two of the toughest bullrings in the Northeast. Tony retired following the 1975 Thompson 300, an event in which raced to a top-10 finish after having started 50th in the field. This guy simply personified the term “Tough” within the realm of New England short track racing. (John Grady Photo).

Though we’re not sure of the location, seen here in his familiar #98 is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Ron Narducci. During his long racing career, he competed at an estimated 60 race tracks, starting in New York State while he served in the Air Force. Stationed in New York, he took down 17 feature wins and won 2 track championships at Waterloo, NY. Upon returning to Connecticut, he won the Sportsman Championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1958. From 1959-66, he ran with NASCAR, winning multiple championships. 1960 saw him finish 2nd in sportsman points at Norwood, and he finished 3rd in Modified points at Menands, NY. During this time, he won many features, including 6 in 1963 with Sharkey Gaudiosi’s #44. With the paving of Stafford in 1967, he again started running the NY State circuit. He won 5 features at Fonda, his home track that year, including a 100 lap Championship race. In 1967, he joined the All-Star League, becoming a 6 time victor on the Winning Track Team, representing Fonda, Albany-Saratoga, and Catamount Stadium. The final years of his career were spent in the Fingerlakes of NY, where he finished 4th in Modified points at Weedsport in 1975. From that point until his retirement in 1982, Ron ran on the DIRT circuit. On a personal note, it was great to see Ron at last week’s New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. (John Grady Photo)              

Captured here through the lens of John Grady following a feature victory wheeling his classic coach-bodied entry, the late Calvin “Mousey” Kempster enjoyed an immensely successful decades-long career wheeling modifieds in the Northeast. His first race was in 1948 at New York’s famed Islip Speedway. Considered primarily a Long Island driver, like many of the racers of his era he traveled frequently, hitting many of the region’s speedplants for open-competition & long-distance events. (John Grady Photo)..       

Here’s a pair of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame members captured at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1960s when the coupes still ruled-supreme. On the left is car owner Billy Simons who fielded winning modifieds in New England for decades. His driver at the time, Speedbowl Icon Don Collins is on the right. Collins took his place among the greats of the sport in the HOF in 2005, while Simons was inducted in 2010. Gazing at this classic Rene Dugas image, you gotta’ wonder just how-many feature victories these two gentlemen can lay claim-to! (Rene Dugas Photo).

The driver of Jarb Beaudoin’s potent #500 coupe on this evening is none other than our pal, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, Billy “Gramps” Greco. A fixture on the ovals of New England since 1951, Greco established himself in the sport early-on. He took track championships at West Haven in 1955, and again in ’56 and ’58. He won Saturday night titles at Riverside Park in 1965 and 67, and also nailed several Tuesday night track championships at The Park’. His combined feature win total at Riverside is 68 including five 500 lap team races. His success was not limited to just Harvey Tattersall’s United circuit; he was a charter member of the All Star Racing League enjoying success on both dirt and asphalt. In the late sixties he tried his hand with NASCAR. In the closing years of his career he joined the SNYRA to become a winner at the late Danbury Fair Racearena. (John Grady Photo).             

When Howard “Jeep” Herbert passed-away back in 2002, the New York’s famed Fonda Speedway lost one of its most-beloved former competitors. Jeep scored a total of twenty-five checkers at “The Track of Champions,” the first coming in 1953, the final a decade-later. He notched the track title in 1959 and was the New York State Champion in both 1956 & 1957. Compared to some of his contemporaries of that rough & tumble era, Herbert’s career was a relatively brief-affair. With the mid-1960s came great technical-strides in the realm of dirt racing (particularly in the matter of tires). When participating in the sport became prohibitively-expensive, Jeep simply put his helmet on the shelf opting instead to spend more time with his family. Who knows how many more victories would have been scored had he kept at-it? (John Grady Photo).               

UNIDENTFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK #1; OK, here’s another classic Shany Lorenzent image from the files in-which we’re drawing almost a blank with the driver. We’re thinking the locale is Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, and the looks of the equipment places the image to have been recorded during the tracks early dirt-era. Again, this youthful racer looks somewhat-familiar, but we just can’t be 100% sure of his identity. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

UNIDENTIFIED DRIVER OF THE WEEK #2; On this one, we’re absolutely-positive of the location (its Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl), but again we draw a blank on the identity of the driver. As with unidentified image #1, if you know who this racer-is, please do contact us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com In doing-so, you’ll be contributing to a project that involves identifying drivers that appear in a tremendous number of both hard-copy prints & original negatives that reside in the “RTT” archives. (Shany Lorenzent Photo).

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

 
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