Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 15, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 34                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we again feature an assortment of images from some of our friends. Special thanks go out to our Webmaster Tom Ormsby, Dave Roode, James Scott Haag, and longtime New England auto racing lensman Howie Hodge for sharing! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com   

With A Little Help From Our Friends Part II….      

Opened in 1947 and shuttered at the conclusion of the 1985 season, Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts remained a frequent stop on the Midget schedule for decades. A super-fast high-banked ¼-miler, it was a perfect venue for the division. This 1972 shot captures longtime NEMA star Ronnie Evans going-over as Don Keller approaches. If that wooden guardrail looks scary, you’re correct. It viciously bit more than one competitor over the years. (Photographer Unknown, Tom Ormsby Collection).  

Captured here in a pitside image, Bill Bergenty was one of the earliest of the top chauffeurs at Joe Tinty’s late Plainville Stadium in Connecticut. Known as “Wild Bill” to his fans, he shared the track with some of the best Modified drivers to have ever emerged from New England. Often-overlooked historically, the fact remains that just about all of the best racers in this region lapped the tight little ¼-miler during it’s over 3-decade existence. (Faust Photo, Tom Ormsby Collection).      

Last week we ran an early-career shot of the late Tony Mordino. This time we have a shot of him during the later-stages of his reign as one of New England’s top Modified pilots. Here he’s seen at what we believe to be the Thompson Speedway in the 1970’s. You gotta’ love the looks of this car – it’s certainly a far-cry from the “cookie-cutter” machines of today! (Photographer Unknown, Tom Ormsby Collection).          

As one of the best New England Modified shoes of his era, Ronnie Wyckoff never had to do much ride-shopping, The multi-time Riverside 500 winner (among many other accomplishments), was usually considered a hot commodity among the best of car owners. In the 1970s, he was piloting the potent #9 “Excavator Special” Coupe of NEAR Hall of Fame member Billy Simons on a regular basis at Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. The shots here illustrate the low point of that experience. Ronnie took a powerful side-shot inflicted by Don Flynn (the #25 in the photo), and was knocked unconscious. That’s NEAR Hall of Famer and fellow Modified driver the late Booker T. Jones at the back of the car assisting the safety crew. It was a hard crash that put Ronnie out of action for a while. (Adaskaveg Photo, Tom Ormsby Collection)

In shot 2 of the crash, we see a knocked-out Ronnie being loaded into the ambulance. Luckily for all of us, the popular Mr. Wyckoff fully-recovered from the wreck to again record many-more victories on the New England Modified trail. Now retired from competition, these days he’s a frequent visitor to the Waterford Speedbowl. Stop-by the first-turn fence area on Saturday nights and say hi – tell him Dave sent you! (Adaskaveg Photo, Tom Ormsby Collection).

Coupes seemed to remain popular at Plainville Stadium long-after many area Modified haunts had abandoned them for the more contemporary stylings of the Pinto/ Vega/ Gremlin onslaught (one of the things your author always admired about the place). Seen here in another classic image captured by official Plainville Stadium photographer Phil Hoyt is Elliot Beveridge, one of the star performers at the late & much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler. Is this a neat ride, or-what? (Hoyt Photo, Tom Ormsby Collection).      

Ed McAvoy was one of the premier performers at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the 1950’s. A multi-time winner in both the Bomber and Non-Ford divisions, he’s seen here at the shoreline oval in one of his earliest creations. Note the novel graphics and the whitewall tires. It was indeed an era in-which we took ourselves somewhat-less seriously…. (Shany Photo, James Scott Haag Collection).             

The late Leo “Ace” Hill was a premier New England Modified competitor for many years, successfully competing at a myriad of tracks in the region. He’s captured here pitside in the 1970’s during an outing on the high banks of Connecticut’s Thompson Motor Speedway. The tinwork on Leo’s mount is that of a Chevy Corvair, once a popular choice for those looking for something other than the more conventional Coupes, Coaches, Pintos, Vegas, etc. (Photographer Unknown, Dave Roode Collection).

Here’s another Waterford Speedbowl classic courtesy of our longtime pal, Dave Roode. Its 1965 and involved in a 3rd-turn fracas is Keith Armbrust #119, Ron “Top Wop” Narducci #23, Don Collins #106, and overturned is Sal Dee #70. Both Collins and Narducci are members of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, and even-though this shot doesn’t show him in a particularly-advantageous situation, Dee was the Waterford track champ that year (Collins of course, achieved that feat 5-times). A close associate of multi-time Speedbowl titlist the late George “Moose” Hewitt, Armbrust was also a winner in the shoreline oval’s premier division. (Shany Photo, Dave Roode Collection).    

Our friend Howie Hodge recently granted us permission to use a number of his vintage shots, and this one is a classic. Seen here is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member “Wild Bill” Slater behind the controls of the legendary #V8 Coupe. The year is 1967, and we believe the location to be Trenton, New Jersey. Slater and the potent #V8 were virtually unstoppable all over New England for a period in the 1960’s, setting records that will likely never be broken. (Howie Hodge Photo). 

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

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