BILL'S BACK IN TIME COLUMN PAGE
Copies of my column in Mark Thomas' "Racin' Paper"
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
Site Column #57 from My Column 72
A TRULY AMAZING FIGURE IN VERMONT RACING
The first time I ever saw Larry Demar was the disappointing first trip I made to Catamount Stadium in the late summer of 1968. Catamount was thought of in awe, down where I had come from it was modern, NASCAR, paved, and it had all those stars like Don MacTavish, Bill Slater, Lou Lazarro, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland, and many more running there. We also knew that its birth had changed the course of the older Thunder Road, by forcing that bastion of flathead racing to allow in the V-8’s in 1965.
Larry in one of his later Tiger cars] . [Courtesy of Cho Lee]
the disappointing aspect, I had actually signed a teaching contract in Milton
just to be up there with that storied race track that was in its third year of
operation. When I got there, the big stars [and the coupes] were all gone,
having been cut out of the track’s schedule in the summer. All that was left was
a ragtag – looking division called the Flying Tigers – and one of the worst –
looking of those was a primered grey number 1.
I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about this horrible – looking ‘56 Ford, identified as being Larry Demar, from Hardwick. Some very knowledgeable guy standing next me [don’t you always end up next to a very geeky – looking guy in the stands who thinks he knows everything ?] informed me that this was the reigning champion. I couldn’t imagine how the decrepit car could have won anything, until I saw how fast he was.
Here, in a circa 1967 photo, Larry is being awarded a trophy for winning a Flying Tiger feature.
Catamount Pit Steward Archie Blackadar and announcer Ken Squier are on hand. [Courtesy of Cho Lee]
I was familiar with few of these drivers – particularly Harmon Beaver Dragon, who had made one trip down to my local track in 1965. I had heard of Ron Barcomb, the Winooski High School footballer – turned – race car driver, and I also realized that two of the storied Ingerson brothers were actually in the division now. The older flathead drivers who were being displaced at Thunder Road were settling into the division. I noted former Vermont State Champion Johnny Gammell was running, as was “The Frozen Logger”, Henry Montandon.
A dejected Johnny Gammell walks away from wrecking Joey LaQuerre’s
Hawaii 5-0 Chevy. [Courtesy of Cho Lee]
Larry was not an established T Road flathead driver, but he was one of the Flying Tiger division’s established drivers, and did well, despite running on a shoestring budget. Bobby Dragon tells of a time he was in a fast and frantic qualifier at Catamount, in the same race as Demar. As the field tore down the back stretch at The Home of the Brave, he glanced over at Demar, who was actually lighting a cigarette from a match, while running in close formation. Dragon, soon to be a champion, himself, never got over that sight.
highly thought of, he was once approached by the well – to – do lumber mill
owner Ronnie Lamell to drive his #11 car. Lamell wanted to know if his lack of
success was the car or the driver. Larry did some setup and went out. Up to that
point, he had never driven a more powerful car and went from last to first in
seven laps. He got a rock through the radiator and the temp went up to 260.
Fearing destruction of the motor, he pulled in, although he had a win sewed up.
Lamell was upset; he wanted his car to win. Lamell didn’t drive after that, any
[NOTE: It should be pointed out that, since
this article was first printed in Racin' Paper, Ron Lamell asserts that Demar
never drove his car.]
Ron Lamell, at Catamount. [Bob Mackey Photo, Courtesy of John Rock and Bobby Castine]
By 1969, things were changing at Catamount and Thunder Road. Although the cars looked much the same, they were now touted as “limited sportsman later models” – and they were beginning to have a lot more money in them. Demar came out with the usual Ford and had a much harder time being competitive with teams like Moe Dubois and Ron Barcomb, who were putting some serious money into their two-car teams. The Hardwick runner was not going to have any more money to try and keep up; the handwriting was on the Catamount wall [along with the painted lettering “Milton, VT, USA”].
Demar rivals like Moe Dubois were fielding one or two-car teams, with more money in them
than before. This, for DUbois, was one of two brand new cars fro 1970. [Courtesy of Mike Cain]
Larry Demar kind of slid off the racing scene after that, although he was clearly not forgotten. Remembering stories of Demar running practice laps, passing rivals, while steering with his knees and eating a sandwich kept him as a celebrity in the pits. Once, Ron was absent, Demar was placed in the seat of the Barcomb Ford Torino in 1971. Demar, a diehard Ford man, says he never raced anything with that kind of power in his life. He nearly won a feature with the car.
In a strange twist, he ended up out on the track in a junker that came from somewhere on US Route 7 in Milton that same year. Demar fussed around with the car until it was running somewhat well. He was in a qualifier, and – as he always did – was driving along, looking one turn ahead when Barcomb stalled right on the track at the entrance to the pit access ramp road. Larry, who already shifted his line of sight to the second turn, never saw Barcomb as the rest of the field ducked the 09. He pooned Barcomb’s expensive car about as hard as he ever hit anything in his career.
Demar had one more brief flirtation with racing around 1973. A group out of Hancock, Vermont had been trying to run Fords for a while. They were way off the mark. They had built a decent-looking Ford Fairlane 500 and had outfitted it with an actual Holman-Moody engine. The car was like a powerful tank, with no handling. According to Demar, the owners were not particularly open to suggestions from others and had already gone through Johnny Gammell and Beaver Dragon as drivers. Demar tried the car, with not much success. He did say the car went like crazy at Devil’s Bowl, but it won little and he didn’t last the year.
The Holman-Moody powered Fairland tank. [Ladabouche Photo]
So, Demar, whose career spans back as far as Northeastern Speedway, contents himself today to be one of the yearly honorees at Thunder Road’s Milk Bowl festivities, but you can still see the hunger he had as a driver. He chooses not to be around racing all the time, like many of his contemporaries. I think that is due to the frustration he feels at not being able to be out there on the track. He was [and is] a great one !
Sorry about the smallness of this column, but I have just recovered from total computer failure, and there is much to do to undo the damage of trying to carry on without a computer for over two weeks.
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