Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday September 11, 2013


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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

As-relayed last week, within the “RTT” archives are a staggering number of images that are filed in the “Unknown” category. These shots are from virtually all-over the Northeast, with a heavy emphasis on the very-early history of Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, New London-Waterford Speebowl, Cherry Park, and West Haven. Also in the mix is a large dose of Riverside Park in Massachusetts. Each week we’ll be running 1 or 2 of these shots. Please feel-free to email us if you’re sure of the identities of the racers in any of these pioneering early images. In doing-so, you’ll be assisting in our continuing efforts to record the history of our sport in New England. And as-always, a sincere thanks to all who contributed images this week; it’s appreciated! Lastly, don’t forget, on 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! Till’ next time, have a great week! As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com

Rolling-Along On Another Wednesday….. 

We ran a couple of these early Stafford Springs Motor Speedway photos last week & folks seemed to enjoy them, so here’s another. Seen here ready to do battle in one of the early creations of longtime car owner Norm Kies is Manchester, Connecticut’s Gene White. As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that White later hooked-up with the ownership duo of NEAR Hall of Famers Bob Vitari & Vic Bombaci to become the very-first driver of the storied #V-8 coupe before another Hall of Famer, the late “Wild-Bill” Slater began his long & ultra-successful reign with the team. (Shany Photo).

The location is New Hampshire’s former Brookline Speedway, a ¼-mile oval that operated during the 1950s & 60s. The driver? It’s none-other than New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Eddie West celebrating an early-career victory. From his HOF biography; Edward E. West began racing in 1961, and competed at tracks up & down the East coast, from New Brunswick, Canada to West Palm Beach, Florida. He competed regularly at Hudson, Oswego, Dover, Lee and Epping. He also ran at Thompson, Seekonk, Stafford, and Westboro. Eddie is well known behind the wheel of his own #61 jr. Supermodified. Vic Miller’s #11, Frank Barthell’s #55, and Buster Taylor’s #91 are only three of the cars that he drove during his career. Eddie won the final Supermodified races run at both Westboro and Vero Beach, Florida. He took down the Can-Am Classic at Lee in 1966, then at Star three times in 1966, 1973 and 1975. West won the track championship at Pines Speedway in Groveland, Mass. in 1963, then repeated in ’64. He also took down the Hudson championship the same year. Eddie is a six time track champion at the Star Speedway, winning titles in 1969, 70, 73, 74, 75, and 80. “Westie” became a charter member of the New England Super Modified Racing Assoc. in 1965. He ranks second in all time NESMRA feature wins with 106. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

We didn’t have a lot of information on this driver, but we knew that we just had to run this great John Grady image. 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 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….” (John Grady Photo)  

We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again; there was once a glorious time in New England modified racing that that bred ingenuity & the way to the winners circle was to construct the “better mousetrap” rather than simply opening your wallet. All the cars looked-different and were an expression of the builder’s originality….  Such is the case here with the positively wild-looking fuel injected Ford Falcon of one Dick Elliot. Captured at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, think this thing was a handful to drive, or what? (Tom Ormsby Collection).       

A multi-time track champion at Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium, Bob Vivari was one of the drivers to beat at the tough little Nutmeg State ¼-miler. He’s captured here behind the controls of an-absolutely neat coupe in the early 1970s. Bob remained at Plainville right-up until its untimely closure at the dawn of the 1980s. Our good friend Phil Hoyt took a lot of great shots at “Tinty’s Place” during his days as the official track photographer, and this is certainly one of em’…. (Phil Hoyt Photo).    

Seen here in 1956 at Massachusetts’ much-missed Westboro Speedway during the height of New England’s notorious cut-down era is Freddie Borden (aka “The Nashoba Valley Rocket”). A multi-time titlist and one of the most popular & respected racers at the ultra high-banked ¼-miler, Borden’s final accomplishment at Westboro was annexing the 1967 championship aboard the potent Falconi #10 Chevy Corvair-bodied mount. He stunned attendees at that year’s season-ending awards banquet by announcing his retirement while still in his prime. As with so-many other speedways in the region, the facility succumbed to the march of progress and increasing property values, closing its gates forever in 1985. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

Captured here at Massachusetts’ storied Pines Speedway, Joe Deveau was a competitor on the late Oscar Ridlon’s former United Race Drivers Club circuit. The organization was supremely-influential within the realm of northern New England auto racing, and especially in the formation a class that would eventually become known as the Super Modifieds. At one time, the URDC circuit was one of the most successful of all sanctioning bodies, producing talent that would become household names in our region. Guys like Hall of Famers Ollie Silva, Don MacLaren, Bentley Warren and Paul Richardson in naming just a few, all raced for Ridlon’s circuit early in their careers. Sadly, the Pines Speedway located in Groveland, officially closed its doors in 1977. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

There since the beginning, Westboro Speedway’s popular veteran Porky Kinsman started in the bawdy days of the early coupes & cut-downs (as seen-here following a feature victory), and concluded his career in the track’s full-bodied UNITED Grand American class on a supremely-successful note. In 1969 he quite-handily swept all three of the season-ending championship events. As-relayed in Lew Boyd’s excellent book “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers” fate would not be kind to the aging Porky, as he was said to have later taken a fall one winter evening suffering head injuries in-which he never recovered. (R.A. Silvia Collection).   

The legendary high-banks of Westboro Speedway could be daunting to say-the-least, and the smart drivers approached them with a liberal dose of respect. The place was fast – real fast. Seen here negotiating the late Massachusetts ¼-miler is legendary New England racing veteran Henri “Red” Barbeau in the #44, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late Sparky Belmont in Ronnie Berndt’s #54 (Ronnie will become a HOF member later this year), and that’s Joey Trudeau, one of the true-greats of Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl rounding-out the trio in HOF car owner Art Barry’s #909 square-top. We don’t know the identity of the unfortunate soul on his roof….. (R.A. Silvia Collection)    

Quite honestly, we don’t know much about the career of this driver, Bill Gurney, other than the fact that he was a top-tier 60s-era competitor at the late Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts, recording one modified feature victory on May 14, 1966. If anyone has any background on Bill’s career, do feel-free to shoot us an email. Another really-great Shany image from our files, we couldn’t resist running this shot. It’s just got “Riverside” written all-over-it! (Shany Photo).

UNKNOWN DRIVER #1: As started in the last installment of “RTT”, we’ll be running a coupe of shots each week for our “unidentified” file. This week our first photo is from Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl of the early-1950s and it’s a dandy! Looking like it’s culled from the early-stages of the cut-down era, this coupe is impressive in a primitive sort of way. Anyone care to take a guess on the identity of the driver? If so-inclined, email us at foreveryounginct@gmail.com (Shany Photo).

UNKNOWN DRIVER #2: Another image produced from one of our original Shany Lorenzent negatives, this time it’s a jaunty “full-coupe” from the early days of the UNITED reign at the former Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts. The Park’ always had great-looking cars; this one was no exception. Anybody know who this 1950s throttle jockey-is? If so, do-tell…. (Shany Photo).

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