Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 14, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 35                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Another week, another dose of “Racin’ Nostalgia.” In this installment of “RTT” we offer-up a truly-varied selection of memories. A big THANKS! go-out to those who contributed to this week’s visual treats. Remember, Saturday, October 8th, the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club World of Wheels presents the Third Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion. The event takes-place from 10am – 4pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located 430 Beckley Road, East Berlin, CT. This is simply a must-attend event for those who fondly recall Joe Tinty’s late, great Connecticut ¼-miler. As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com Have a GREAT week!          

It’s Wednesday, So You Know What That Means; (More Old Stuff, Of-Course!)…  

Sadly, it was learned last week that Waterford Speedbowl Icon Dick Beauregard passed-away recently. A Taftville, CT. native and a resident of California since the 1960s, he was one of the drivers that helped lay the groundwork for the traditions-rich racing heritage of the coastal Connecticut oval that continues today. In a relatively-short Speedbowl career of only a decade he notched a pair of Modified titles along with over-40 feature victories. In the Non-Ford class, he annexed the checkers on 20 occasions. Both controversial and immensely-popular at the same-time, he retired in 1962 as a champion. This Shany Lorenzent captures him during the twilight of his career. (Shany Photo)                

 Here’s another great Waterford image from the 1960s donated by our old pal & frequent “RTT” contributor, Rusty Sage. Flanking the absolutely classic-looking coach of the Bunnell family race team is “Jiggs” Beetham. A top Speedbowl chauffer for a multitude of seasons, Jiggs would later hang-up his helmet and team with New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Bob Potter to form one of the region’s most successful Modified teams. The Bunnell family always fielded top-notch equipment, and this ride was no exception. (Dugas Photo Courtesy Rusty Sage).     

“Dynamite” Ollie Silva - what else has to be said? For a generation of New England racing fans, watching this man compete in either a Super or a Modified was in-itself, worth the cost of an admission ticket. He’s captured here following a victory at Oscar Ridlon’s former Pines Speedway in Groveland, Massachusetts. To Connecticut race-goers like yours-truly, one victory stands-alone in illustrating a typical show of “Silva Dominance” when the man was in his prime. At the Waterford Speedbowl’s early-season open competition Hott Wheels 100 Modified event in 1974, Silva lapped the field not once, but twice to take the win aboard his signature #0 Pinto. Though he staged a brief comeback in 1980, his career effectively ended in 1978 following a devastating crash at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway that resulted in life-threatening injuries. Silva, the pioneering star of the New England Super Modified Racing Association and a New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, quietly passed-away of natural causes in 2004 at age-75. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Pictured here in a great Seekonk Speedway shot is our friend, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member George Summers. As the most-winning driver in the history of the storied Massachusetts oval, he visited victory lane on over one-hundred occasions. Summers was actually one of the top-drivers in all of New England, enjoying a career that lasted over three-decades. Fittingly, he won the last event he entered before retiring, taking–down the 1983 Thompson World Series Modified event driving for fellow Hall of Famer, legendary car owner Art Barry. Note that George’s ride is shod with Studebaker Lark tinwork. For a time, “Studes” were popular fare at the “Action Track Of The East.” (Mercury Photo).    

Another classic image from Seekonk; Captured here during the early stages of his celebrated career is a young Ronnie Bouchard, New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer and winner of the 1981 Talladega 500 in his rookie-year in the NASCAR big-leagues. Nicknamed “The Kid from Fitchburg”, he started his career at the old Brookline New Hampshire Speedway as a fourteen year-old. From there, it was onto success at all of the top Modified haunts, places like The Konk’, Stafford, Thompson, Waterford, etc. Bouchard concluded his storybook auto racing career in the late-80s, returning to his native New England where he today runs an ultra-successful chain of auto dealerships. (Mercury Photo).          

From humble beginnings at Joe Tinty’s greatly-missed Plainville Stadium in Connecticut, this guy became one of the best racers to ever strap-into the cockpit of a Modified in New England. The much-celebrated Reggie Ruggiero is seen here at Plainville in the 1970’s following another of his feature victories while subbing for the radical Coach’s regular driver, Nicky Porto. The memories of Plainville Stadium again come-alive on Saturday, October 8th when the Nutmeg Kart Club in conjunction with the Berlin Lions Club World of Wheels present the Third Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion. The event takes-place from 10am – 4pm at the Berlin Fair Grounds located 430 Beckley Road, East Berlin, Ct. I know I’ll be there! (Hoyt Photo).                            

Massachusetts’ Westboro Speedway was a lightning-fast high-banked ¼- miler built in 1947 and remained one of New England’s most successful speedplants until its closure in 1985. Presided-over by the Falconi family during its best years, the track featured everything from Cutdowns, Modifieds, Midgets, Pro-4 Modifieds, and various full-bodied divisions during its long, storied history. The high-banks & equally high-speeds made for some pretty dramatic crashes as evidenced in this early 1970s shot. That’s Waterford Speedbowl Modified standout George Allum in his #87 coupe, and piled-in broadside is the familiar #38 of New England Modified racing stalwart Bobby Sprague. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).     

We really like this photo, as it captures all that’s good about the history of our sport. Seen here in the 1960s behind the controls of an absolutely-classic flathead-powered coach at Westboro Speedway during the early days of his career is “Fast Finch Fenton” (known in mere-mortal terms as Lew Boyd). As the proprietor of Coastal 181 www.coastal181.com Lew brings to us the best in racing-related reading, video, and artwork. This guy has been-around the sport for a long-time, and saw success during his driving days in just about every division in New England, dirt & asphalt. Like our other contributors this week, since the start of this website, Lew has sent-along a lot of images for all of us to enjoy. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Another classic image from Westboro, this one captures the late “Big Daddy” Don MacLaren following another of the many Supermodifed victories of his legendary career. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, he captured over 500 feature races from Canada to Florida. His battles with the equally-legendary Ollie Silva on the former NESMRA circuit are still talked-about today. Don passed-away earlier this year at age-75, but not before leaving an indelible stamp of admiration on a legion of New England racing fans. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

The car lists Joe Bowen as the driver, but the pilot enjoying this victory is none-other than New England Midget racing Maestro and NEAR Hall of Famer, the late Joe Csiki. The open-wheel racer actually won his first-ever feature in a stock car on the 1/5-mile at Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts on May 4, 1957, Before that, he was turning heads as a talented competitor, being named the 1956 United Stock Car Club’s “Most Promising Driver.” Shortly after switching exclusively to Midgets, he was crowned the 1958 NEMA Rookie of the Year. He was the 1961 NEMA Non-Offy Owner Champion, and the ’62 NEMA Non-Offy Driver Champion. He followed up as the 1963 and ’65 NEMA Driver Champion.  In 1964, he was named United Racing Club Rookie of the Year, and he was the ARDC Driving Champion in 1966. Csiki listed two ARDC 100 lap races, one at Old Bridge and one at Wall Stadium, along with a 50 lapper at Trenton in 1966, as three of his bigger wins. Sadly, his life ended tragically from injuries sustained at Bedford, PA Fairgrounds in August of 1967. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

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

 
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