By Bill Ladabouche


One Picture Can Be Worth A Thousand Words II

     Quite some time ago, I put out a similarly – titled column back in the days when there was still a Racin’ Paper being sent out. That one came quite unexpectedly, whereas I had been planning a similar article for some time before that. As trite and over-used as that saying is – it is particularly true in the world of auto racing photographs. I had picked some out – probably in 2007 – and now it’s time to look at them again.


Courtesy of the Bob Bushey Family via Jack Anderson
In the shadow of the roofless judges’ stand at Walter Barcomb’s Malletts Bay Raceway, a group of folks have gathered to cast
a wary eye over the car #SPUD 19 of Burlington’s Bob Bushey. No wonder, he was winning a ton at the time.


     One such photo was taken by someone associated with the holder of Airborne Park Speedway’s all – time record for feature wins in a season – Bob Bushey, of Burlington, Vermont. Bushey [at the time] was driving a car called the “SPUD 19” partly because the number 19 had been claimed by fellow Burlingtonian Rex Shattuck and partly because Bushey’s car owner was a wholesale potato dealer.

Courtesy of The Bushey Family via Jack Anderson
At a private practice session at Harvey Moody’s sandy 5/8 mile track in Colchester, a crewman talks with
Ralph Bushey's driver at the time, Gordy Owen. Check out the “canvas roof”.


     Ralph Bushey, Bob’s rotund car owner, was absolutely no relation to Bob. Ralph and Bob had, at one point, secured a very competitive car from Wolcott, VT driver Allen Maskell. The car had been built by Erwin Bettis, a Middlesex, VT salvage yard operator, and it was unbelievably fast, for whatever undisclosed reason. Bushey and Bushey never re-numbered that particular car; but; they apparently learned a lot from it.

Courtesy of Allen Maskell via Cho Lee
The Erwin Bettis – built car that Allen Maskell sold to the Busheys as the team’s second car. Even then, racing photos included a racin’ babe.
Below - Bob and Ralph Bushey, at their headquarters at the garages of the Ralph Bushey Wholesale Potato Co.

Courtesy of the Bushey Family via Jack Anderson

     The SPUD 19 in this story was apparently built in Burlington by the Busheys, with help from local garage man Mac McDurfee, whose ad would adorn the rumble seat cover on the back of the car. Running at the Malletts Bay Raceway and at the newly – opened Airborne Park Speedway in South Plattsburgh, NY, Bob Bushey was blazing a path of feature wins across the North Country that was attracting the attention of all folks involved in the sport up there.

Courtesy of the Bushey Family via Jack Anderson
The rear of the most successful SPUD 19 [shown here at Mallets Bay] bears evidence that Mac McDurfee was involved in one way or another.
That is Mac confering with Bob in the center of the shot. Below -  Bushey, the Trayah brothers, and Junior Graves convene at the SPUD 19.
 Carl Trayah's car is the 100.

Courtesy of the Bushey Family via Jack Anderson

     It’s not that Bushey was alone in his success – particularly at Airborne. The Vermont contingent which included Bushey, Frank Hart, Gordy Owen, Jackie Peterson [recently moved from South Burlington to Plattsburgh to work on the massive Plattsburgh Air Force Base construction project], Harlan “Red” Dooley, Wayne Chandler, and the rambunctious Trayah brothers all journeyed across Lake Champlain weekly to make life miserable for the Plattsburgh area locals and the handful of teams coming down from the St. Lawrence Valley Speedway in Canton, NY.

     The Bushey team’s first project, around 1950 or 51, had involved a cruder car, much like so many others of that early period. The first car, while not having the external roll cage that so many of its counterparts were sporting, did lack a roof, necessitating a canvas being hitched to the top of the cage to pass as a roof. At that time, Ralph had the veteran, Gordy Owen driving that car. They ran the car at such farflung venues as Malletts Bay Raceway; Green Mountain Speedway, Colchester; Green Mountain Speedway, Sheldon; Dog River Speedway, Northfield, the track at the old fairgrounds in Sheldon; and many others.

Bushey Family Photo Courtesy of Jack Anderson

The original Ralph Bushey entry is seen here at the old Northfield fairgrounds, the Dog River Speedway,
in 1951. This would be just prior to Bob Bushey taking over.

     Finally, Owen had purchased a Rex Shattuck car and gone off on his own program that included several forays into Quebec. Ralph Bushey settled on a Burlington youngster who had been around, showing interest in the Bushey Wholesale Potato racing group; and, the rest is history. To return to the photo, two years [and two cars] into the Bushey / Bushey merger, the team really began to fly. This subsequently attracted a lot of attention to the SPUD 19 machine and what might be the big secret.

     Undoubtedly, there was some great secret – there almost always was in those early days of racing. Early drivers had told me of using rock blasting liquid and ether in their racing fuel, and of shaving weight off from flywheels and such. The Busheys never let on why the car was so good. That information died with Bob around 2011. I am sure part of “the secret’ was just that Ralph had found an exceptional driver in the diminutive Bob.

Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of Mike Watts
Bill Wimble sits in the roof of his Rowe #26 and watches a race. He might have been scoping out Bushey.
He is at far left, with Ben Nephew [on the red car].

     Twice NASCAR National Sportsman Champion, Bill Wimble, tells of his first encounter with Bob Bushey. “The alpha dog was Bob Bushey. He was Vermonter, king of the cutdowns, but a true woodchuck with a chew of tobacco in his cheek at all times. He would slide over to me at the pit meeting and whisper in my ear, “I’m gonna roll you over.” I’ll never forget looking at him or watching him while we raced. You see all of him there in a tiny lightweight seat, working away at that steering wheel, He was good.”

Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
“I’m gonna roll you over.”

     With all of that lore and with the SPUD 19 team in the midst of their winningest season, it is not hard to imagine that the team’s pits would attract a throng of gawkers almost everywhere they set up shop [much like Dave Dion and Bob Dragon, in those seasons in which they were winning races, hand over fist]. Eventually, by Airborne’s second season [1955] the New York drivers began to get enough experience to hold their own with the Vermont drivers. Then, as the teams from the Fonda Speedway area discovered Airborne, both the local Plattsburgh crew and the Vermonters had a much harder time getting checkers.

Courtesy of the Bushey Family via Jack Anderson
Ralph and Bob with the last SPUD 19, a spiffier but less dominating affair. It is not the car Bobn set the feature records
at Airborne with. Below – The Bull Amoco 586, a real show car. This was their earlier LaSalle coupe.

Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock


     Bob and Ralph would eventually replace that multi – winning [but tired] SPUD 19 with another, newer one made from a newer 1937 Ford coupe. Bushey continued to be a winner but not with the dominance he had once enjoyed. Stock car racing was beginning to be more technical and expensive. Bob would also have a stint running the car #586, the first being a LaSalle – bodied car. This was apparently owned by the Bull brothers, who had a garage in Panton, VT near the city of Vergennes, VT.

     Bob would attend the first week of racing at the rural Saranac Lake Speedway and – from what can be seen in old 8MM films of that car – was hauled off the track on a wrecker. There is some evidence that the team also ran at Airborne, although the bigger teams from New York were now taking the lion’s share of the wins. The last Bushey or the 586’s were heard from, he had brought a big old Hudson Terraplane #586 down to C.J. Richard’s record – setting show at the 1962 Rutland Fair. Bob got the behemoth crossed up in turn two in the dust and blinding sun and had caused one of the huge pileups that everyone remembers when thinking of that show that set attendance records for a Vermont sports event.

Courtesy of Ed Fabian

The huge 586 [newer version Hudson] sits sideways in the front of a massive pileup at the Rutland Fair.
Below – The LaSalle sits on the track at Saranac Lake in 1959 just before expiring.

From Danny Ody’s 8MM Old Speedways DVD

     By the middle 1960’s, both Bob and Ralph Bushey were no longer involved in racing, nor were most of their rivals from the old Malletts Bay days. A few of the old Bay runners did run at the short – lived half – mile Otter Creek Speedway near Vergennes; and it is almost certain Bushey would have tried the track. But, very little was heard about him after 1962.

     When one sees a photo of one particular stock car with a ton of onlookers checking it out, chances are that 1.) it is a darned good car; and 2.) that there is a story behind it. I had four other photos to go in this article; they will have to wait for another day.

Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Bob strolls by innocently, eyeing Royce Tucker's new entry. By now, Bob had the Sullivan/Bull 586
and fellow Vermonter Tucker was just beginning a brief but successful ownership stint with various drivers.

     Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street,Swanton, Vermont 05488.


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