Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 22, 2010

 Volume 2, Number 35                                                                                      New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Unfortunately, this installment of “RTT” begins on a somber note, as it was reported that multi-time Danbury Fair Racearena champion, the popular Kenny Webb has passed-away. Our sincere condolences are offered. In happier news, Saturday, Oct 9 is the date for the 2nd Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion and it promises to be another “cant-miss” affair. With that, it’s on to another week!
Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com    

A Danbury Champion Passes, And More Vintage Views…      

Sadly, it was learned that multi-time Danbury Fair Racearena champion Kenny Webb passed-away last week. Kenny ranked 3rd on the all-time SNYRA winners list at Danbury. He was a fan-favorite for years, and remained very popular with fellow competitors during his long career at the ultra-competitive Racearena. This shot captures him following a victory during the tracks flathead era. Sincere condolences go out to the Webb family and all of Kenny’s many friends on their loss. (Mannion Photo, Ormsby Collection).  

We really like this Phil Hoyt shot of a guy that’s absolutely a pivotal figure in the history of one of New England’s most-missed short tracks. If there was ever a “King of Plainville Stadium” Dave Alkas held that title. A many-time champion, and the Connecticut ¼-milers all-time Modified winner, this one captures him in the 1970’s in his longtime ride, the Roland Cyr Vega. Dave, along with fellow Stadium great Don Moon, and Gary Beinkowski are the prime movers behind the 2nd Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion slated to take place in a few weeks on Oct. 9. Fittingly, Mr. Alkas was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. (Hoyt Photo).      

Speaking of Don Moon, here he is at Plainville in one of his most fondly-remembered cars. This little coupe was as fast as it was sharp-looking, and Moon’s skill behind the wheel guided him to many feature wins at Joe Tinty’s little palace of speed. Moon also traveled extensively in the 1960s, and for a period, was a member of the SNYRA at the Danbury Fair Racearena scoring multiple feature victories at that venue. Today, Don campaigns a restored version of his #9 Pinto on the NEAR circuit. (Hoyt Photo)          

Now something for my fellow Midget racing fans…. It’s Saturday July 17, 1977 and the guy behind the controls of this potent-looking little number is the much-celebrated Johnny Mann. A multi-time Northeastern Midget Association champion, Mann scored heavily with multiple New England Midget sanctioning groups, and ranks 5th on the all-time NEMA winners list. However, on this day at Speedbowl, it was Johnny Coy Sr. taking the 25-lap feature. (Kennedy Photo)

Here’s a nice late-1960s paddock area shot of one of the Waterford Speedbowl’s unsung heroes of the Modified division. Meet Mystic, Connecticut resident, Marvin “Spud” Shaw and crew. Though he never experienced great success within the ranks of the shoreline oval’s premier division, “Spud” was a standout in the old Bomber division recording multiple checkers in the once wildly-popular class. Ya’ gotta’ love this little coupe. (Dugas Photo).

The late Ted Stack was absolutely one of the best of his time. Though he scored heavily at several other New England raceways, it was probably the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl that garnered him the most success. A multi-time champion (1961 in the Modifieds, and 1957 & 60 in the Non Fords), Stack accumulated a combined total of 71 feature victories at the shoreline oval. This 1960’s shot captures him ready to go at the Speedbowl wearing his old-style “Cromwell” helmet (affectionately referred-to by racers of the era as “Brain Buckets”). (Photographer Unknown).       

Norwood Arena in Massachusetts was an absolute hub of activity for the “Mod Squad” in the 1960s. To win a feature at the high-banked ¼-miler was an indeed, an accomplishment considering the level of competition. The best-of-the-best ran there, guys like multi-time champ “Wild Bill” Slater, Leo Cleary, Bugs Stevens, Pete Hamilton, Fred DeSarro; it’s a roll call too long to list here. Norwood opened in June of 1948 with Johnny Bernardi copping the feature, and closed at the conclusion of the 1972 campaign. Many cite a switch to the Late Models as headliners as the key factor in the track’s untimely demise. For a more detailed look at the history of this historically-significant New England raceway, visit www.norwoodarena.com (Grady Photo)            

Introduced in 1965 to fans at the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, the Daredevil division was an immediate hit. Plenty of cars and a slam-bang show to-boot, it was grassroots novice racing at its absolute-best. Consisting of mostly “Tri-Five” Chevys & Fords, there were a number of sharp-looking entries fielded through the history of the class and this was one of them. Seen here in 1966 is Johnny DeLong and his #31. Though victory lane eluded him that year, he was always in the thick of the action scoring several fine finishes (he’d have to wait until the next season to score his first-ever feature). Roy Lee won the title that season. (Dugas Photo, Roode Collection).  

In 1967, Gary Ryan fielded this entry in the Daredevil division at Waterford. By then, the popularity of the class had skyrocketed to the point that on some nights, both an “A” and a “B” main event had to be run. At this time, the cars were still as close to “stock” as you could get (barring alterations for the basic of safety features), and served as a great alternative to the costlier headlining Modifieds. (Dugas Photo, Roode Collection).     

Flash-forward to 1970 and things were getting a tad-more complicated in the Speedbowl’s Daredevil class. Suspensions were getting a bit lower, engines were pumping-out more horsepower, and the cars were circling the shoreline oval at a brisker-clip. Though mid-50’s Chevys & Fords remained the most- popular canvas for builders, these were starting to become full-blown race cars. By 1971 the division had even outgrown their old name becoming known as “Sportman Sedans.” Seen here is Bobby Chappelle and his #0. (Dugas Photo, Roode Collection). 

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

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