Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 21, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 36                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

With the 3rd Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion approaching quickly, we thought we’d place an emphasis on Joe Tinty’s much-missed Connecticut ¼-miler this week. Remember this date; 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 show – I know I’ll be there! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com           

More Oldies (With An Emphasis On Plainville!)…   

We really like this early-70s shot of one of Plainville Stadium’s true “low-buck operators.”  I’d gander to say that our Webmaster and former Stadium’ competitor Tom Ormsby probably raced more than a few laps against the man known-as “Bubblegum Joe” Bubbico. Once a familiar sight all-over the ovals of New England, he eventually moved west and continued his racing career at San Bernardino’s Orange Show Speedway in Southern California becoming a top-competitor in the Late Model class. Still later, he became the Reverend Joe Bubbico, serving the parishioners of “On Track with Jesus” - an independent non-denominational Christian outreach program. (Hoyt Photo).                 

Seen here behind the controls of the Joe Palmeri-owned #VO Coupe at Plainville Stadium during the early-1970s is Ron VanNesse. A big winner at that popular Connecticut ¼-miler, he also occasionally ventured-out to other area speedways such as Riverside, Thompson, and Stafford. From the “Coupe Era” to the newer-generation of Pinto/Vega creations, Ron remained a factor at any track he ran for many seasons. (Hoyt Photo).     

This shot is from one of those great mid-week 100-lap open competition shows that were staged at Plainville for many seasons. The date is Wednesday July 15, 1978, and captured behind the controls of the potent “Sharkey 44” is “Lil Dan” Gaudioso. These pink & white creations coupled with Dan’s extraordinary talent were responsible for snagging a LOT of checkered flags in New England for nearly 3-decades. On the inside of Dan is Ken Bouchard in the #04 coupe, the evening’s feature winner. In the #3 Pinto is Art Whitbeck. (Kennedy Photo).

Just a neat pair of Plainville coaches…. It’s the dawn of the 1970s, and that’s the much-celebrated Don Moon in his familiar #9 leading multi-time Plainville champion & New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Dave Alkas at Joe Tinty’s ultra-competitive Connecticut ¼-miler. Both Don & Dave will be among those present to greet fans at this year’s 3rd Annual Plainville Stadium Reunion in a few weeks. It’s an event you don’t want to miss! (Hoyt Photo).     

Not unlike most short tracks, the action was hot n’ heavy at Plainville Stadium. Close-quarters competition often led to skirmishes like this one. More often than not, the biggest result was a few bruised egos and a little extra-time spent in the garage getting your pre-war coupe ready for another weekend night of action. This was the era before big-bucks entered our sport, and almost anyone with a burning desire to race had the chance to become the next “Saturday Night Hero” in-front of the hometown crowd. (Hoyt Photo).          

Captured in the lens of Phil Hoyt, longtime track photographer at Plainville Stadium, we have a rather-rare image for aficionados of the Waterford Speedbowl. Seen here in the famed L&M coupe motoring down the backstretch during a visit to The Stadium’ at one of Joe Tinty’s fondly recalled mid-week 100-lap open competition shows is 1970 Bowl’ Modified champion, Walt Dombrowski. (Hoyt Photo).

Here we have a classic shot of the late Mike Murphy at the former Pines Speedway which was located in Groveland, Massachusetts. Murphy was a huge winner at the late Oscar Ridlon’s track which first ran as a dirt 1/5-mile prior to WW2 before being reconfigured to a paved ¼-miler and was active until the dawn of the 1970s. Like Plainville, the Pines Speedway will also have a reunion this year (their ninth annual), and it’s slated for Saturday, October 1, 10:00am – 1:00 in Groveland. For more information, contact event organizer Dwight Lowes at oldrustyracer@aol.com or call him at 1-978-420-5030. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).     

Last week’s shot of New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Don MacLaren garnered a lot of attention and an equal amount of requests for a few additional images of the late, great New England racer. This one captures “Big Daddy” ready to roll at Massachusetts’ former Pines Speedway. Cut-Downs, Supers, whatever you wanted to call them, were the pinnacle of sheer brute horsepower and most-certainly a handful. Guys like MacLaren and the other greats of his generation were tough in every sense of the word. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

Seen here following a coupe-era victory at Westboro is popular Johnny Arrigo in his signature XX entry. Sadly, Westboro Speedway is another Massachusetts raceway that today exists in memory-only. Once a thriving high-banked ¼-miler that hosted everything from midgets to cutdowns to modifieds (and just-about every-other division know to man), it operated from 1947 to 1985 under various sanctioning groups including the ARC banner (as in Seekonk’s late D. Anthony Venditti), and the Tattersall family’s United Stock Car Racing Club. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Joe Sostilio won the first-ever event, a 25-lap Midget race on Tuesday night August 5, 1947. As a sidenote, of interest to fans of Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl would be the fact that Jack Griffin was track champion in 1949. Griffin of-course holds the unfortunate distinction of being the Speedbowl’s singular racing fatality; having lost his life at the shoreline oval as a result of injuries sustained Saturday evening, on August 21, 1954. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).   

Last on the agenda this week is one-more from Westboro. High-banked & scary-fast, the danger was magnified due to the track’s rather-frightening retaining wall. Constructed of wooden uprights & planks, it was on more than one occasion that a competitor ended his evening amid an explosion of razor-sharp slivers. The “wall issue” coupled with the brute power of early Supers & Cutdowns as seen here made for some hairy stuff. That’s the late Don MacLaren spinning – an unfamiliar position for the man they called “Big Daddy.” (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

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

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