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 #78 from My
LOOKING INTO EARLY RON BARCOMB
Anyone who live or grew up around the Greater Burlington, Vermont area in the 1960’s, and who followed sports at all probably knew that Winooski High School had graduated one of its sports stars into the ranks of the Flying Tigers support division at Cataamount Stadium, just up the interstate from Winooski. It was a logical course of action for a kid who had grown up in a family that had raced and which owned Malletts Bay Salvage, a lucrative used car parts business.
Uncle Leonard “Bulldozer” Barcomb was one of the racing relatives young
Ron wanted to emulate. [Courtesy of John Rock]
Ron Barcomb had seen the old Colchester - Bayview Speedway operated by his uncle, Walter, and which was located just one lot over from the salvage yard [across the drive-in theater] to the west. Too young to drive while that track was in existence, he was anxious to follow his father and uncles into the stockcar driving business. Ernie and Leonard Barcomb had driven extensively in Vermont and over at Airborne. Ron’s father, Herb, had driven some, but his eyesight limited his success.
Ron, with the 57 Chevy with dad, Herb [black sweater]. Herb had the biggest
hands I ever saw. [Courtesy of Terry LaFerriere]
By 1965, Ronnie Barcomb was a rambunctious graduate from Winooski, a familiar figure in the Burlington, Vermont night life for the very young. While not being exactly of age, he was well known at places like the upstairs night club called The Red Dog, on Lower Church Street. Hence, the nickname Red Dog Ron Barcomb was in use at the very beginning of his career.
Ron Barcomb always had good financial resources behind him – more than many of his older competitors. The team eventually blossomed out with a nice – looking two – tone 1957 hardtop convertible, numbered 09. The car, nicknamed “The Misfit” appeared at Catamount Stadium and Thunder Road – by the latter part of the 1960’s. Barcomb had managed to land a good sponsor in Gene White Firestone, and he was one of the few to run
those tires back at a time when a team could still opt for what brand of tires they chose to run.
Red Dog Barcomb and Misfit. Yes, folks, Ronnie once had hair. Catamount co- owner
Jack DuBrul's Red Dog night club has an ad on the hood. [Courtesy of Cho Lee]
Barcomb stuck with the Chevy through 1968 and 1969, but a serious wreck at Thunder Road towards the end of the 1969 season spelled the end of that car. Showing he had some backbone, Barcomb was back in a slightly – wrinkled version of The Misfit a week after he was carted off from T Road on a stretcher. The car coughed and sputtered through the feature, that week, but he persevered until the end – for points.
The following year, 1970, was a defining year for a still – young Ron Barcomb. The Dragon brothers had split from Catamount for Devil’s Bowl, after a major run-in with Northern NASCAR management over a controversial flagger’s error in the last race of the year that cost Bob Dragon a title. With the 1970 season featuring cars called “limited sportsman” instead of the traditional Flying Tiger label, Barcomb made the move to Ford, fielding a 1961 Ford, the body of which had previously been a dragster. More importantly, he also landed Coca – Cola for a sponsor, one of the best on the circuit.
The wrecked Misfit, moments after the crash. There was a photo in
the next day's Burlington Free Press showing Ronnie
being taken off on a stretcher.[Courtesy of Terry LaFerriere]
That year, the circuit saw the advent of the Mopar – powered car, which many teams tried out. Barcomb’s was one of the few Fords. Many of the cars were simply the same Flying Tigers they had been the year before, but most remained competitive. Ron outpaced Maurice “Little Mo” Dubois, who drove both a Dodge and a Chevy in his 1970 campaign. Barcomb was crowned the 1970 Vermont State Champion, a source of pride even to this day. He had to outlast the newly – arrived and highly – financed John Rosati team, as well as all of his old rivals except the Dragons. This was also the season that introduced George Horn’s thundering 409 C.I. 1961 Chevy.
The following year, Barcomb and the team knocked everyone’s socks off with a beautiful, full-bodied Ford Torino, fashioned by Ray Lasnier. Barcomb appeared on Channel 3 News, before the season started, announcing that he and others expected to exceed 100 M.P.H. on the straightaways at Catamount. They also built a backup Ford, a 1963 Fairlane. The second car was run by a number of drivers, the most regular being Lee Carpenter, a Colchester, Vermont neighbor who had worked with the Barcombs for years.
Part of the Barcomb crew, including sometime driver Buckshot Seguin [left], Wally
LaFerriere, and Roland Duquette at right. [Courtesy of Terry LaFerriere]
Buckshot Seguin, an oil truck driver and another friend of Malletts Bay Salvage, drove the backup car a few times, as well. Barcomb didn’t need the backup car much. The Torino, while not as spectacular performing as it looked, was very dependable. One night, for some reason, Barcomb could not drive the Torino, and the low-budget Ford genius from Hardwick, Larry Demar, was put in the car. Demar had never driven anything as powerful or fast as the Torino. He didn’t want to get out. Ironically, another week, Demar was in another borrowed car when Barcomb stalled on the entrance to the pit ramp at Catamount. Demar, looking over to turn tow as most drivers did, ran directly into the stalled Torino and almost killed most of them. Demar can laugh at it now, but no one thought it was too funny back then.
In one of Catamount’s bigger events of the early 1970’s, NASCAR Grand National star Bobby Allison made the first of several visits to the track. He drove the backup Ford and wowed the crowd, including pit observers, when he avoided a turn two pileup by pitching the Fairlane into a full 360 degree spin, stopping inches from the mess while most of the local talent piled into it. Barcomb would run the Torino until the end of the 1973 season, but he was finding his smaller backup car – a Fairlane 500, of more interest by 1974. Running Firestones and Banjo Matthews chassis’s made the Ron Barcomb the unique man on the circuit.
Eventually Ron went with the smaller Fairlane on a Banjo chassis.
[Courtesy of Chris Companion]
Ron Barcomb would go one to return to Chevies, by the mid 1970’s and his cars – while always being beautifully prepared were no longer unique. Circuit drivers had to conform, to some extent, even in the 1970’s. Barcomb would hook up with Steve Hibbard and have some very fast, tricked-up cars until the end of 1986, when drivers had to choose between the metal cars [and NASCAR] or the plastic cars [and the new ACT]. He chose neither and dropped out of sight, in terms of racing. After running a number of businesses and suffering some health setbacks, Ron Barcomb is not seen much at races any more. One thing is clear, his mark on the sport, up in the North Country, is indelible.
Ron, at the 2007 Milk Bowl, interviewed by Ken Squier [Ladabouche Collection]
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