Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 13, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 38                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

On the heels of the ultra-successful second annual Plainville Stadium Reunion, we present another selection of photos from Plainville, along with a few other assorted New England speedplants. Again, special thanks goes-out to regular “RTT” contributor Mal Phillips and former Plainville Stadium official track photographer Phil Hoyt for adding to this weeks offerings. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com    

Making Time Stand Still (Again)…..       

I really like this shot. If you’re a regular visitor to this website, than you probably already know who this driver-is. It was indeed a sad day in New England when Rhode Island’s popular Fred DeSarro passed-away from injuries suffered in a crash during warm-ups at Connecticut’s Thompson Motor Speedway in the fall of 1978. Long a fixture on the modified circuit, Fred became a multi-time champion at the regions toughest venues, garnering the national championship in 1970. At a time when big-dollars were funneling into the sport, he was teamed with the late Lenny Boehler personifying a low-buck image with their shabby-looking but ultra-fast entries. DeSarro was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1999, Boehler in 2004. (Kennedy Photo).





Here’s another great Phil Hoyt action shot from Connecticut’s late Plainville Stadium. The gentleman you see here is Buddy Rouleau. Following this neat coupe, he campaigned a sleek Vega-bodied creation that was considered quite-radical for the time. In addition to his Stadium endeavors, he also occasionally ran at Waterford and Thompson. Though not evident in this black & white print, Buddy’s cars always carried a striking black & gold color combination. (Hoyt Photo)     

Plainville was never exactly a “walk in the park” for drivers that didn’t compete at the tricky ¼- miler on a frequent basis. Seen here in a rather comprising position during an open competition show in the early 1970s is Waterford Speedbowl regular Seabury Tripler. A big winner at the shoreline oval, “Trip” obviously found it tough-going at Joe Tinty’s little oval. (Hoyt Photo).            

Action at Plainville was often of the multi-groove variety as this shot illustrates. Seen here hugging the inside is the late Harvey Vallencourt in his familiar coach and Dave Germano, now the Assistant Principal of Southington High School followed by Don Moon in the #9. Sadly, Harvey passed-away following a lengthy hospitalization resulting from what looked to be a minor accident at Plainville during the 1970s. He was a multi-time Plainville feature winner, and also experienced success at Riverside and West Haven. (Hoyt Photo).  

Typical Saturday night action at Plainville in the 1970’s finds a neat little coupe looping-it in a ball of smoke and two oncoming competitors hoping that he doesn’t shoot-back onto the racing surface. We’re not sure who it is in the #6X Vega (perhaps Loren Trombley?), but we know the chauffer of the #1 Pinto pretty-well. That’s none-other than our Webmaster, Tom Ormsby! (Hoyt Photo).

Seen here at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway in 1967 is the late Leo “Ace” Hill. A popular and accomplished driver at area tracks for many seasons, Leo once shared a garage in North Stonington, Ct. with another past-legend, his friend and Norwood Arena Modified champ, the late Johnny Thompson. At their modest digs, the duo would often compare notes and share secrets in crafting their race cars. Leo notched a number of feature victories during his career at a variety of Northeastern raceways. (Burnham Photo).            

Another shot that we really like, and thanks to our pal Mal Phillips, we were able to add it to the “RTT” archives. Sparky Belmont (real name Michael Belmonte), was a Plainville track champion, and a big star on Harvey Tattersall’s UNITED circuit. After a convincing victory in a 100-lap contest at Plainville in 1968, he collapsed during the post race celebration, and passed-away on the spot. “Sparky” had been a star on the post war Midget circuit before switching to stock cars. Though we could be incorrect, we believe this image to have been captured on the small inner-oval of Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Speedway during that tracks early dirt era. (Shany Photo, Mal Phillips Collection).                     

And here we have the late Bobby Santos. Yet another driver that traces his roots back to the Norwood Arena where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the early-fifties, he went-on to become a dominant force in the Modified wars. Driving for renowned car-owners such as Art Barry (seen here second from right), Billy Simons, and Joe Brady among others, he was a threat to-win each time he donned the Nomex. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. However, the Santos racing legacy continues through his grandchildren. Bobby III and Erica are both active and successful drivers. Bobby III has victories in ISMA Supers, NEMA Midgets, PRA Big Cars, and USAC. Erica has proven to be a fast and consistent NEMA competitor as well, showing that the Santos legacy of success is secure. (Photo Courtesy Mal Phillips)                   

Arnie Harris was at the “New London-Waterford Speedbowl” from the beginning, and was a huge star in the Non-Ford class recording a string of victories during the 1950s and 60s. Also a winner in the Modifieds, this one captures him behind the wheel of an early Mopar-powered Non Ford entry at the track fondly known as the “Shoreline Oval.” Judging from the pristine condition of Arnie’s Coupe, it must have been early in the season! (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips)      

With an impish grin and a practical joke waiting for anyone who happed to be in spitting-distance, the late George Pendergast was one of the really good-things about the formative years of our sport. Not to be portrayed as simply a “Character”, he was a skilled and accomplished racer as-well. George won at virtually all the tracks in New England, including places like Norwood Arena which was one the venue for the NASCAR Modifieds. This shot captures him at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950s. If you ever want a firsthand account of just-what it was like to be around George in his heyday, just look-up his good pal, NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Harman. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Mal Phillips).     

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

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