Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 9, 2013
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

The New England Midget racing community lost one of its true pioneers last Wednesday when multi-time champion Lou Fray passed away at age-88. A stalwart midget competitor across four decades, he scored victories in ARA, ARDC, NASCAR, Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) and the Super Midget Racing Club (SMRC) competition. He won races at Albany-Saratoga, Catamount, Oxford Plains, Quebec City, Stafford, Westboro, and West Haven. He finished 10th in points on the NASCAR Midget circuit in 1958. He was co-champion of the NEMA Midgets in 1970 with Dave Humphrey. Our condolences are offered to his family and many friends on this sad occasion. Lastly, extra-special thanks go-out to all that have written in regard to our weekly “unidentified” photos. Rest-assured, your efforts are deeply appreciated and going a long-way in adding more accuracy to the “RTT” photo archives! Remember, this Saturday October 12th, it’s the Fifth Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion. To be held at the Berlin CT. Fairgrounds, the event is presented by the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club. On the agenda is a day of fun for the entire family that includes a vintage race car display, an autograph session with the stars of Joe Tinty’s much-missed ¼-miler, and some great Kart racing on New England’s only WKA Dirt Master Track. The event runs from 10am-3pm with a rain date of Sunday October 13th. Family-priced, admission is only $5.00 with children 12 & under admitted free. Again, this is an event that we never miss! Also don’t forget, Drivers Stan Meserve, Brian Ross, Drew Fornoro, Ralph Nason, the late Bob Stefanik, Bill Eldridge and Bob Sharp and car owner Ron Berndt will be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on Sunday, Nov. 10 at the Lodge at Manelley’s in South Windsor, CT. Tickets are priced at 45.00 each and the doors open at 11:00 a.m. with dinner served at Noon. Ticket order forms and more information are available on The New England Antique Racers/Auto Racers Hall of Fame website at www.near1.org  Till’ next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

More Mid-Week Memories….

Our friend Dave Alkas won at Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium for a very, very long time as evidenced by this really-early victory lane shot when he was still in the Novice Division. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, he so-dominated the proceedings at his home track after advancing to the Modifieds that trade-paper scribes began referring to him as “The King of Plainville Stadium.” Never an easy-place to conquer with its tight-turns and ultra-competitive fields, Alkas teamed with owner Roland Cyr to capture five championships and is the track’s all-time winner. Dave of-course is one of principles responsible for staging this weekend’s Plainville Stadium Reunion at Connecticut’s Berlin Fairgrounds. (Faust Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Here’s a really early Plainville shot of our old pal Don Moon, another primary organizer of the tracks yearly reunion. In addition to his residency at the much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler, Moon competed at a number of other eastern modified haunts during his long career, compiling a stellar record of triumphs. As a member of the “closed-club” Southern New York Racing Association at Danbury Fair Racearena, he notched two victories in 1966, including the Conrad Memorial Trophy event. An admired car-builder, he’s also credited with helping jump-start the career of a young Reggie Ruggiero. With a broken-arm putting a premature end to his Stadium’ season, Moon placed “The Reg” behind the wheel of his potent #9 in 1975 resulting in ten feature wins for the young upstart. These days, Moon campaigns an immaculate version of his former Pinto Modified on the vintage racing circuit. When attending the Plainville Reunion this year, be sure to stop-by & chat with Don - tell him Dave sent you! (Faust Photo, Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Nate “Smokey” Boutwell raced – and won in just about everything. Be it Modifieds, Supers, Midgets, or Sprint Cars, chances-are that “Smokey” wound-up in the winners circle during his celebrated career. Among his accomplishments were championships at Connecticut’s Thompson and Stafford Speedways, Pines and West Peabody Speedways in Massachusetts, and titles at Menands, NY. and Hudson New Hampshire. 1956 was a high-water mark, the year yielding fifty-six feature victories. He’s captured here on the high-banks of Massachusetts’ much-missed Westboro Speedway following a feature victory in a big-block rail Super. Think this thing was a handful, or what? (Balser Photo).

Another Westboro Speedway image, this one sees Bob Fagan with the checkers following a hard-fought Class A feature victory. This shot was captured during the 1960s. Not unlike Connecticut’s former Danbury Fair Racearena, Westboro stuck with the flatheads for longer than many of the other tracks in the region. It worked for them, and starting fields were abundant when track photographer Bill Balser captured this shot. (Balser Photo).     

Here’s a nice early shot of the much-accomplished Brian Ross, Starting his career at New York State’s Albany-Saratoga Speedway during the 1960s (an era in-which the track was an absolute hotbed of action, routinely attracting the best racers in the business), he was long a top-driver on the New England modified circuit recording many victories. He was also known as one of the most innovative car builders of his generation. Ross will be among the drivers inducted into New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame on November 10th. As stated in this weeks opening comments, the ceremony takes-place at the Lodge at Manelley’s in South Windsor, CT. Ticket order forms and more information may be found at www.near1.org  (Grady Photo)  

We don’t have a lot of information on this driver, but we knew that we just had to run this image of a positively-cool AMC Javelin creation. With that-said, we’ll provide an excerpt from our Racing Historian friend Bill Ladabouche’s great Catamount Speedway site at www.catamountstadium.com Bill writes the following about driver Jack “Blackjack” DuBrul; “Among the most involved and loyal participants in the history of stock car racing in Northern Vermont was Burlington, Vermont entrepreneur Jack DuBrul. At the time of his first involvements, DuBrul ran a speed shop called "Speed and Race Engineering" in the Burlington area. He also was the proprietor of a nightclub called "The Cave.” True to the name, most of DuBrul's equipment was black. In the earlier days, he had a team of two cars - an early 1930's flat-topped coupe #11 that ran Thunder Road, and a Royce Tucker-built NASCAR-legal sportsman coupe, #7. Traditionally, the DuBrul cars would have a motto on the side "Built in The Cave by Cave Girls” but in reality, he used some of the best help he could find in the area during the early 1960s to construct his cars, which were transported on a shiny black flatbed 1950 Chevrolet truck lettered up with the name of the speed shop, the numbers of the two race cars, and the saying "This truck hauls the best damn race cars in Vermont" [which may or may not have actually been the case]. Most money invested? Probably….” (Photographer Unknown)

Bud Crotty was among the pioneers of New England Supermodified racing, and the record book reveals that he tasted success at a number of the regions tracks, including New Hampshire’s Hudson & Star, Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway, and the former Pines & Westboro Speedways in Massachusetts. Also know to frequent New York’s Oswego Speedway during his heyday, he’s captured here following a feature victory during the 1960s on the high-banks of Westboro. (Balser Photo).

Here’s a great shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Tony Mordino posing before an absolutely packed-house at Connecticut’s much-missed Plainville Stadium. One of the absolute-best during the stock car boom of post-war New England 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 as seen here, 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. (Faust Photo, Courtesy of Tom Ormsby).     

The former Westboro Speedway’s Class B division yielded some pretty-unique creations, and this is one of them. The class was also known for its abundant starting fields and lots of slam-bang action. Rudimentary safety features and high centers of gravity provided for some gritty-stuff. Seen here celebrating a feature victory in a hulking straight-8 powered Hudson is one of the more popular “B” competitors, Buzz Leavens. (Balser Photo).       

Seen here at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the1950s, this NEAR Hall of Fame member needs little introduction to those of us who recall the true “Glory Days” of New England short track racing. From his HOF biography; Fred Luchesi’s career in racing started in the late 1940’s, and lasted until his retirement in the late 1960s.  During that career, Fred drove coupes, modifieds, midgets, and late models.  He competed against nationally known drivers like Fonty Flock, Red Byron, and Ted Tappett, and raced against local drivers like Moon Burgess. Fred is modest when asked about championships. “Oh, I dunno. Three at Westboro, 2 or 3 at Lonsdale, 1 at Norwood, oh, and 3 at Waterford”, Fred recalls.  One year at Lonsdale, Fred "Lead Foot” Luchesi took down every main event of the season but one, finishing 2nd to NEAR Hall of Farmer Dave Humphries in that race. Fred recalls those early days in racing, when he’d load up his car with race tires, tools, and his two man pit crew, and drive the race car from Pawtucket, RI. all the way up to Victoriaville in Canada for that day’s race.  Another early memory is those Sunday mornings driving the race car to Thompson to compete.  He would roll the car down Slater Street in Pawtucket, and fire it up at the bottom of the hill, in front of the St John the Baptist church.  It wasn’t until sometime later that a friend informed Fred that every Sunday, when he fired up the car, the service would be halted, and the priest would take time to “bless that race car out in front of the church”. (Shany Photo, Courtesy Ted Grey).

UNIDENTIFIED PHOTO OF THE WEEK: From our “Stafford Dirt” files comes this neat infield “team shot” from the really-early days of the famed Connecticut ½-miler. While this was scanned from a rather-rough hard-copy image, as time permits we’ll be running a number of shots converted from the original negatives in our collection, the majority of-which are from Stafford. As-always, if anyone has any information on this driver, please feel-free to contact us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com (Shany Photo).

 

 
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