1966 NASCAR NATIONAL MODIFIED CHAMPION AND SO MUCH MORE


Frank Simek Photo [Obviously]

           Dave Dykes wrote about Ernie: "For decades, our late friend Ernie Gahan remained one of the nation’s top Modified drivers. Virtually a one-man show for a good part of his career, the winner of the 1966 NASCAR National Modified Championship started racing in the 1940s at New Hampshire’s old Dover Speedway. Well-before the days of the much-heralded “Eastern Bandits” he won over three-hundred features on a well-traveled road that stretched from his home state of Maine, to the coast of Florida. A multi-time NASCAR Grand National (now the Sprint Cup Series), starter, his resume also includes two top-10 finishes, one in the Daytona 500. It was during his Grand National days in 1963 that he was credited with saving the life of Marvin Panch by pulling him out of a burning race car at Daytona. For his courage he won the Shuman Award and the Carnegie Medal for Bravery – that’s the type of racer Ernie Gahan was. This coupe-era image captures him following a win on the early dirt of the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, a facility where he grabbed the checkers on twenty-one occasions. Ernie retired from driving following an event at Thompson in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998."

           Ernie had two distinctive careers: early and the NASCAR phase. As Dave said, Gahan came out of Dover, and first ran at tracks right near him. These tracks included the old Dover track, Sanford Speedway, and the early Beech Ridge track. Eventually he began to venture out, to places like Safford Park [the old Cheshire County fairgrounds] near Swanzey, NH, Rhythm Inn, Brattleboro Speedway, and others in that busy corner of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Masschusetts.  Ernie was successful at track like Safford Park, near Keene, NH. In this time, he ran with a tremendously - impressive group, many of whom went on to join him in various halls of fame.


Source Unknown
Very early on, Ernie drove in the potent Stoney's Diner at local tracks like Dover, NH; Sanford, ME;; and Beech Ridge,
Scarborough, ME. He always kept the number 50 and a similar scheme with his cars.

Walt Perkins Photo
An early win with the Stoney's Diner 50 , at Safford Park, Keene, NH.

MVRCA Photo
An early win with he Stoney's Diner 50 at Sanford, Maine.
 
Ladabouche Collection
JackTeehan Photo
Keene Sentinel Photo

Ernie is pictured after races at Keene, NH for the old Mondadnock Racing Assoc.
 
Don Monahan Photo
An early finish at Safford  with the Stoney's Diner car.
       

                    He began to become more involved in the NASCAR sportsman division by the end of the 1950's, running anywhere from Fonda, to Victoria, to the old Stafford Springs dirt track, and more. During this earlier NASCAR time, he hooked up with New England owner Sonny Koszella, driving Sonny's 15 CT cars while also keeping his his own 50NH cars. In his earlier NASCAR phase, Ernie would leave home for a wek of racing, having every possible cent to his wife to run their household. It would be up to him to finish well enough [and stay in one piece] several times a week to make a living. Running a sportsman until 1966, he managed to make a living fine, getting to drive South regularly.


Source Unknown
Ernie [ctr] getting his national championship awards on stage with Don MacTavish and David Pearson.


              Ernie ran regularly at at least four tracks and had top ten finishes - including a second at Fonda. Those tracks only supplied half of his 6,000+ points he earned that year; the rest must have come from special appearances and Southern appearances such as the Permatex races. Coincidentally, Gahan [Dover, NH] won the modified title while MacTavish [Dover, MA] took the sportsman. Ernie would be a charter member of the All Star Stock Car Racing League in 1967 as member of the title - winning Fonda team. He would race modifieds out of the coupe era and into the next era, which involved such as the Pintos. He was a familiar figure at reunions and halls of fame activities until his passing.

 
Courtesy of Ken Moeller
Ken Moeller found this newspaper item that shows one of Ernie's earlier NASCAR sportsman. A Ford was rare for him. 

Russ Bergh Photo
Ladabouche Collection

That same Ford
at Victoria around 1966.
 

Russ Bergh Photo
Cavacade of Auto Racing

Another Ford - this time Koszella's
at Fonda around 1964.
 

Courtesy of Rick Gosney
Ernie in one of Sonny Koszella's logging - themed sportsman coupes around mid '60's.  This is the Woodchopper.
 
Ladabouche Photo
Ernie arrives at Fonda with one of Sonny Koszella's
logging - themed sportsman coupes around mid '60's. This is the Logroller.
 
Shany Lorenzet Photo
Ernie in one of Sonny Koszella's logging - themed sportsman coupes around mid '60's. The Logroller at Stafford.
 
John Grady Photo
Ernie with a mid '60's 50NH. It might be the one
he bought from the Drellos team.
 
Russ Bergh Photo
Ernie with  the one
he bought from the Drellos team.
 
John Grady Photo
Ernie with a mid '60's 50NH. This 3 window coupe was one of his last coupes.
 
Ladabouche Collection
I remember these two women would often sit in front of us at Fonda with those sweaters on.
 
Frank Simek Photo
Ernie with a well - behaved mid '60's win at Fonda.
A well - deserved one
Considering how outsiders were treated there.
 
Neal Davis Photo
The well -used Koszella
15 at unknown track.

Gahan Collection via Lew Boyd
This is the famous "Erine" car. The sign painter
screwed up his name. When restored, they left it that way. [See right]
 
Ladabouche Photo
The restored car
complete with Erine on the side - when it was owned in the Plattsburgh, NY area.
 
Ladabouche Collection
NASCAR National Champions meet at
Fonda: Gahan [mod]
MacTavish [sportsman]
for 1966.
 
Bob Mackey Photo
via John Rock

Ernie and Marcel
Godard pace a talent - laden field at Airborne around 1965.
 
HAMB Chat Site
I think this is Stafford,
dirt era with a young
fan in Vic. Lane
 
Ron Wetzler Collection
Ernie, borrowing the
M3, usually driven by
Bob Leach - at Stafford.

Sandy Clark Photo Coll.
via Lew Boyd
Lining up beside Fats Caruso at Stafford with the 3 window coupe.

Courtesy of Dave Dykes
The 15 is said to be Ernie
at Norwood in late '50's.

From Dan Ody's 8MM
Old Speedways DVD's
At Malta, mid '60's.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
An early win with the Koszella car - maybe the first. [Stafford]

Frank Simek Photo [Obviously]
The 3 window coupe, at
speed, at Fonda.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
An early race action shot with the Koszella car - Stafford.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
Another early win with the Koszella car.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
The Drellos car at Stafford before being re-lettered. Sorry about the quality and angle of these. We were off to the side, snapping them off a projector screen.

Frank Simek Photo [Obviously]
The Woodchopper coupe, at unknown track.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
The Woodchopper at Stafford .

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
The Log Roller at Stafford . Same angle.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Andy Fusco
The former Drellos
car at Stafford .

Frank Simek Photo [Obviously]
The 3 window coupe, at Fonda.

Source Unknown
Ernie with one of his 29
cars. I don't know much about these. A rare shot of him with his All Star
League helmet.

Mike Shaub Photo
A mysterious 50. Apparently a temporary arrangement with a Rhode Island owner.

Ladabouche Photo
The arrangement Ernie used in the early 1970's. This is the All Star League race at Catamount around 1971.

Shany Lorenzet Photo
Lined up in the three window coupe beside Shoemaker - likely at Stafford.
 
Getty Images
A pose with the
Koszella Woodchopper
around 1964 or 5.
 
Shany Lorenzet Photo
via Dave Dykes

Another view of the
early Stafford win with
the whole Koszella crew.
 
NASCAR Site
Closeup of Ernie with the
three window coupe.
 
Source Unknown
Later color portrait.
 
Source: Jalopy Journal
Ernie with one of his 29
entries, this one being red instead of gold.
 
Courtesy of Midstate Club
Ernie with one of his 29's
in its gold version.
 
Stock Car Racers' Reunion
This a later graphics
version of what may be the Drellos car.
 
Source : Dave Dykes
A night shot of the Koszella Woodchopper.
 
Courtesy of Cho Lee
Ernie is said to have
occasionally driven this unusuakl Marty Hartyy car at Thunder Road.

  
Source:Norwood Arena Site
A mixup at Norwood with the earlier Koszella car.
  
Source: Jalopy Journal
Another shot with
the 29. Anyone know who owned it ?.
 
Source:Norwood Arena Site
Arriving at Norwood with the familiar Koszella car.

Source: Jo Jo Farone
Another version of the
more technically advanced 29 car.
 
Courtesy of Jalopy Journal
The Woodchopper on
an unknown track.

Courtesy of Jalopy Journal
The Logroller on
an unknown track.
Both UNK tracks may be Stafford.

Courtesy ofFonda Book
Ed Feuz Collection

The
famous "Ernie From CowHampshire" phot in the Fonda book.

Courtesy of Fonda Bool
Russ Bergh Photo

A different photo of the
two NASCAR national champs meeting at
Fonda in 1967.

Courtesy of Mark Austin
An autographed fact sheet.

Courtesy of Mike Anop
A relaxed moment in the 3 window coupe.
 
Courtesy of Mike Anop
The gold 29 coupe
at Malta.
 
Courtesy of Mike Anop
With the car and motor home he was using in the early 1970's.
 
Courtesy of Mike Anop
A different color scheme for the 29.
 
Courtesy of Robert Clock
On some UNK in the 3 window coupe.
 
Source: Jalopy Journal
Around 1971 or 2 -
with what must have been
one of his last rides.
 
  
Courtesy of Phil Smith
Another of what must have been his last rides - the famous Simons 9.
 
Courtesy of Ken Moeller
An article about Gahan
mentions the Woodchopper.
 
Courtesy of R. C. Hunt
Another pose in one of the 5 window coupes.
 

Ladabouche Collection
In a mixup at Fonda with
an earlier Koszella car.
 
 
Frank Simek Photo
 Ernie was unloading at Fonda when Frank Simek snapped the Corey coupe.
 
Ladabouche Collection
Ernie joins  Andy Romano, Ron Narducci, and Bill WImble with trophies at Fonda. The official might be Ralph Oudekirk.
 
Courtesy of Blackjackracing
Piling into a mess that also involves Steve Danish at Fonda.
     
Bob Farley Photo
via Bob Burd

 Ernie sits beside
Rene Charland in the early 1960's.

 
From Dan Ody's 8MM
Old Speedways DVD's

 Ernie sits beside
Ed Flemke in the %
at Malta.

   

RETIREMENT AND NASCAR BIG LEAGUES 

 
Norwood Site
Ernie in a Gran
National car in the
1960's. Sonny Koszella bought it from Jim Reed
  
Getty Images

Gahan drove this Rocky Hinton - owned, Holman Moody prepared Ford in some GN races in the early 1960's..

Source Unknown
Posing with Marvin Panch and two of his associates after their having rescued him from a fiery crash the season before> Ernie is 2nd from right, next to Wimble..

 
Ladabouche Photo
Ernie, at one of the reunions at Ron Bouchard's in Fitchburg, MA.
 
Ladabouche Photo
Ernie's plaque at the DIRT HOF, Weedsport, NY.
 
Ladabouche Collection
The reunion of the 1967 All Star League Champion team, Fonda Speedway: Ernie, with Bill WImble and Ron Narducci.

Ladabouche Collection
Another earlier reunion of the 1967 All Star League Champion team, Fonda Speedway: Ernie, with Bill WImble and Ron Narducci.
 
Ladabouche
Photo
The reunion at Ron Bouchard's around 2006. Ernie talks to Buddy Bardwell with Don Rounds in background. 
       

 

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