|LITTLE GUYS IN
THE RACING WORLD
They Showed Up and Supported Race Programs Without Much Fanfare
FIRST CLASS OF INDUCTEES
Wild Bill Stevens
I first saw Wild Bill Stevens at the opening of C.J. Richards' Fairmont
Speedway in May of 1962. Stevens, from West Sand Lake, NY., had been in
Vermont to race once before - winning a heat race at Otter Creek
Speedway near Vergennes in 1961 [see photo at left]. Thanks to photos from his
devoted daughter, Connie, I have been able to figure that Stevens began
at tracks like the Pine Bowl and Empire Raceway, using the number 858.
Then S29 became his signature number.
Photos Courtesy of Connie Sanders
|Perley Densmore had his
entire career run in anonymity to everyone in the racing world except
for those in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and in northwestern New
Hampshire. Beginning - like most of that region - at the crude Webster
Flats track near Lyndonville, Perley
raced at Northeastern Speedway in Lower Waterford, VT and at Thunder Road. Arguably,
the single event that is most known in connection with Perley is that time at Northeastern
when wife, Mabel, was nearly killed driving in a powder puff race.
Photos Courtesy of Cho Lee and Paul Zampieri
Leo Howland is another man I first saw at the opening of C.J. Richards'
Fairmont Speedway in May of 1962. Howland, from Keene, NH., had raced a
bit near home at the nearby Cheshire fairgrounds before doing most of
his racing at Claremont Speedway. Howland, who surfaces on Google as a
local kid who hung around Bill Haley before the Keene native became a
famed rock artist. One of Howland's best cars was the Curt Dragon 31
Photos Both By Ladabouche
like Henry Jarvis, of Morrisonville, NY formed the backbone of the
storied Airborne Park Speedway, in northern New York. Jarvis was not
without his share of success
at Airborne, especially with an overhead V8 coupe in the 1960's. A very unassuming, quiet man,
no one has ever been heard to say anything but nice things about Jarvis. He began his career supported by the local A&W, and ended with a good sponsorship from Bill Santa Chevrolet.
Bob Mackey Photos Courtesy of Mike Watts, Sr. and John Rock
Jim "Dizzy" Dalzell
|I don't know much about
Jimmy Dalzell except that he ran at tracks in the neighborhood of
Claremont Speedway. Like so many others there, he may have began at
tracks like Brattleboro Speedway, Safford Park [Cheshire Fairgrounds],
or Rhythm Inn, Millers Falls, MA. This meant he rubbed fenders with some
of the greats of Northeast racing in that era [such as Rene Charland and
Ed Patnode]. Dizzy
appears to be at Brattleboro in the photo at left.
Photos Courtesy of the Davis Family
Honest John Knighton
|Obviously, John Knighton
was a colorful character when he raced. The moniker of Honest John and
the car numbered as "One Lap Lena" attest to this. From what I can tell,
at the Pine Bowl, in Snyders Corner near Troy and at the more - sophisticated Empire Raceway in Menands. I don't think Knighton ended up in too many halls of fame, but he was
very likely a crowd favorite. They chose him to pose with Miss WTRY [photo at left] -
not one of the hotter shoes.
Photos Courtesy of Joe Grossetti and Dan Ody
|Apparently, Jacques "Jack"
Lessard began his Quebec driving career in 1960 - as that year is his
first photo. Competing at ovals like Quebec Moderne Speedway and
Autodromes Ste Therese,
Val - Belair, and Quebec - he ran his own cars. The fact that he was once tabbed to drive the prestigious #35 "Le Canadien" coupe of M. Paul LaBerge attests that he was a good driver.
Photos Courtesy of Denis LaChance and Christian Genest
SECOND CLASS OF INDUCTEES
last name hints of Italian royalty, but he struggled to afford racing in
the 1960's. His signature orange and white 001's were often second hand
rides from others, but he
got in there and raced - first at Ashland Park, Warrensburgh, NY. Later he ran Fairmont Speedway, Devil's Bowl and the Valley. The photo below shows him with loyal crewman George Cambrellis. The other photos shows son, Mike [rt], standing with his 2nd generation counterpart Tony Cambrellis. [That's pretty cool !]
1st 2 Photos Courtesy of Visconti Family Ladabouche Photo
|Starting out around 1972
as "Milton Wright, the Streaking Street Comissioner from Hardwick", Milt
graduated from the support class to drive his familiar little blue Nova
fir several seasons in support of Tom Curley and his beer tours. Ever
loyal, Milto converted to one of the plastic bnodied Camaros when the
American - Canadian Tour was foun,ded in 1987 [someothing I doubt he
could afford all that well]. Not rich in feature wins, Milt Wright
represents all that goes with loyalty and racing cleanly and fairly. As
shown at left, he was awarded with the highly - prestigious Don
Both Photos Courtesy of Cho Lee
Harold "Bugs Bunny" Betts
|In one of my first visits
to Fonda, heard announcer Mike Valchovic intone in usual nasal way
"and the 48, Bugs Bunny, of Cobleskill." Well, that was Harold
Betts, who was mujch more a regular at MIdstate Speedway, at the Morris,
NY fairgrounds: but, he did venture to Fonda at times. Many of Fonda's
NASCAR drivers had racing names because NASCAR didn't want them racing
at the then - unsanctioned Victoria track in Dunnsville. As cute as some
of the other pseudonyms were, it was Betts' moniker that stuck. The last
time I think he spent much time at Fonda was when he and pal Bob
Deming had a '54 Chevy in the new late model class.
Left Photo by Otto Graham; Right - Cavalcade of Auto Racing
|Skip Cahill is at least as
well - known in Maine for his tire stores as for his racing. He arrived
on the scene during the era of Tom Curley's beer tours, always driving a
Ford late model sportsman. Skip never lit the world on fire, but he was
always there, usually making the fields in those highly - competitive
races. He always reminded me a little bit of Jerry Cook. It took strong
commitment to haul down from Bath, Maine every week to some farflung
NASCAR North race location.
Left Photo from Andy Boright; Right - from Rich Palmer
|Speedy Williamson was
basically a 50's [and maybe early '60's] racer who particiapated at
tracks kin his area like South Seneca, NY and later, Watertown, NY.
There was also a Clarence Williamson who raced at places like Flemington
and other NJ venues - but they are not the same people. I like the
photo of Speedy with that old Hudson from Watertown. Does anyoine elsae
think these 2 photos might be different guys ? There are nearly ten
years difference in the two shots.
Left - Timeline Photos; Right - Midstate Club
|Like so many others from
his home track, Donnie Drown was doing just fine at Devil's Bowl [thank
you very much] when management decided to hook up with that NASCAR
outfit up North, at Catamount and Thunder Road. Ans, like so many
others, he felt forced to try late model sportsman cars or just not race
at all. Using Mopars exclusively, he tried with two different bodies
[maybe different cars] without much luck. When he returned to the Bowl
later, the Salisbury, VT driver did find some success with Cliff
Left Photo via Andy Boright; Right via Mike LaDuc
|Paul Donahue came from
Graniteville, just about in the shadow of Thunder Road. He emerged in
racing at the time when Northern NASCAR introduced the six cylinder
Grand American division, and he always raced a Mopar. The first Valiant
gave way to more exciting - looking cars: first, either a Barracuda or a
Challeger; then, a stunning Volare. The longer he raced and the better
thecars got, the more success Paul had. But, perhaps his greatest
accomplishment is lineage: Son, John is a superstar in the Thunder Road
late models, and grandson, Stephen, just won the Road Tiger Sportsman
crown this year.
Left Photo by Ladabouche; Right - by Earl Vierling
THIRD CLASS OF INDUCTEES
Steady Tony Provencher
In the first racing I ever got to watch, we
had something to really cheer for. Our neighbor
[and a really nice man}, Tony Provencher, was there - at Pico Raceway - with a car. He soon developed the nickname Steady Tony because, well, he didn't usually go too fast. But, when he started racing at nearby Fairmont Park Motor Speedway in Fair Haven, he was faster. He did better but ended up wrecking the red and white Chevy coupe there.
Photos Courtesy of Debora Danforth
The Grand Old Man of Racing, Albert Luleck
Although son, John appeared as a racer
first, his father, Albert Luleck became
a fan favorite at Devil's Bowl Speedway - a few years later. An incredible physical
speciman for his age, Albert became an instant folk hero despite not necessarily
posting superstar results. Using numbers 197, 97, and 77, Al raced in the
late model division at the track for many years.
Photos Courtesy of Marty Kelly, Jr.
The son of a central New York racing pioneer,
Skip Roots started appearing at
Fonda Speedway with a car number his father, Herb, had used with driver
Doc Blanchard in the late '50's. The tall, lanky Roots had a three window coupe
popular with the kids because it was painted up to resemble a skunk. While
an accasional heat winner, Skip never won a feature in his brief career.
Russ Bergh Photo Ladabouche Collection
|I saw Bob around
Catamolunt before I ever saw him perform as one of the
loyal supporters of Bear Ridge Speedway. Around Bob Curtiss's potent LMS
Chevelle, we called him "Bradford Bob" because he was always talking about
the backwoods track he frequented. When I visited the track around 1980, I was
surpised to see the generous - sized Rushford squeezing into one of the track's
tradmark flat heat coupes. They thought the world of him over there. [So did we].
Courtesy of Cho Lee
Curt "Metal Man" Giventer
|Seen in the photo at left,
grinning broadly out of his restored sedan, Weissglass Stadium veteran
and current Airborne Speedway Renegade driver Curt Giventer gets his
nickname from two angles: he has a salvage yard [to go with a towing
business] and he claims half his skeleton is held together with assorted
hardward from assorted injuries. He seldom finishes much better than
second to last, but his attitude is that every day you wake up alive --
is a good day !
Weissglass Stadium Photo Giventer Collection
|Art and his faithful
crewman were a couple of 'ol boys who moved up to Rutland, VT from
Connecticut. Apparently having raced down there, LaBelle soon fielded a 1937 Chevy at
Fairmont Speedway. He had his ups and downs, but gave it a go for a couple of seasons.
I think he may have moved. There was no evidence of car work at his place by 1965.
|Bomoseen, VT's Vern Hall
was a man who would drive about anything, anywhere to
race. I recall him first at Fairmont Speedway, driving a 1941 Ford coupe, cigar sticking
out through the two missing front teeth. Then he ran the Blackmer brothers' 777 late model
and was actually quite a forc in the hobby class. His final effrot seemed to be in a
#57 Ford in the earliest days of Devil's Bowl. He made the most out of what he had to drive.
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