PROFOUND PIVOTAL PICTURES
SHOTS THAT HAVE A WHOLE STORY BEHIND THEM
This would have made a great column - oh well.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Bill Hickey and the U.S. Bobsled Team
It seems like
an innocent enough photo: the United States Olympic Bobsled team #1
hoisting trophies with their driver, Bill Hickey.... and that should be
all there is to the story. Butthis was the 1960's, with sports hypocrisy
at its height. We still had bull crap like the Boston Red Sox barely
having allowed a black man on thier team; we had NASCAR trying to tell
drivers where they were allowed to race; and we had the ultimate
hypocrisy - international Olympic sports.
While many countries in the world were fielding professinal athletes on their teams, the U.S. stubbornly clung to the concept that no one who had ever been paid a cent for any sport should be allowed on its teams.... and that surely included bobsled. With the vast majority of Olympic bobsled training and activity centered around Lake Placid and Mt, Van Hovenberg, that was where most of the bobsledders lived.
After Aaron Hoyt opened his rustic Saranac Lake Speedway in 1959 or thereabouts, the young driver of the top U.S. sled became an anthusiastic fan. Finally, having forged a friendship with Rod Ritchie of Wilmington, NY, Bill Hickey decided he wanted to take an innocent try at driving one of those stocks; and Ritchie's highly - successful coupe was offered.
After the Olympic Coimmitte found out that Bill had particiapted in such a "professional" sport [Saranac Lake Speedway, are you serious ?] he was summarily banned from any further bobsled participation. Given his level of skill, the worst loser in this whole deal was the U.S. Olympic team.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Bill Hickey posing with the Ritchie car.
Photo Courtesy of Dragon Family
Dick McCabe, Bob Dragon, and Stub Fadden in Victory Lane somewhere on the NASCAR North circuit in 1986.
the Great Rift of 1985 - 86, and Tom Curley's decision to form the ACT
with "plastic" cars in 1986, many drivers stayed with him, and many
others stayed with NASCAR - for various reasons. Some drivers felt a
strong allegiance with NASCAR, while others simply did not think their
budgets could stand tossing out their steel bodies in favor of the new
plastic pony cars of ACT.
While a few drivers headed straight out for the Busch Grand National North Tour in 1987 [Bob Dragon and Dick McCabe among them], others, like Fadden, tried to stay the course with Curley in 1987 and fielded the new cars. Another handful of teams, such as Dave Dion and Robbie Crouch, would try to run some shows in both venues.
After a good try at the ACT cars, and a thorough spanking by the ASA and All Pro teams in the Stock Car Connection of 1987. Perhaps realizing they had too much ground to make up in the pony cars, Fadden and Jamie Aube soon moved over to the NASCAR circuit. Fadden did himself proud and Aube won two tour championships.
Curley's ACT outlasted the BGNN, but he never got any of these three drivers back - for any appreciable time.
Photo Courtesy of Wiscassett Site
This was one of Dick McCabe's cars in the BGNN.
Internet Source Unidentified
Steve Danish, in Victory Lane at Stateline
Speedway with Dee Goodermotte.
Danish was one of those pioneering stock car legends who, perhaps due to
being a little older than many of his competitors, was highly successful
- almost from the outset Couple this with a fanatical attention to
detail and a professional approach that was all but unheard of in the
early 1950's - and you had a man who could completely dominate certain
In a time when people were driving cars drunk, often with little or no attention to safety, Danish had pit uniforms, immaculate cars, matching tow vehicles, carefully managed sponsorships, and he actually worked out before the season. It is small wonder he set a recortd that is yet to be broken at the then - newly - opened Fonda Speedway in 1953.
Although Danish began to concentrate on the big NASCAR tracks, he still occasionally drove at tracks he once frequented such as Stateline Speedway, an oval that straddled the New York / Vermont border near Bennington, VT. When the car he had prepared to run that day broke down or was damaged, he hopped into the much - less - elaborate #58 of Dee Goodermotte and ruled the feature event, much to the delight of the crowd.
Photo Courtesy of Otto Graham
This particular Danish car, shown in the unique way he towed it to the track, is much newer than the one Steve would have had at Stateline - but it wouldn't have looked any different. All his cars looked the same.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
Bob Bushey strolls curiously by Royce Tucker [white T-shirt] and an Airborne Park Speedway official in 1955. Bushey's car, the Sullivan / Bull 586 sits in the background.
Bob Bushey, from Burlington, VT ruled the then - newly - opened Airborne
Speedway in 1954. At that time, Vermont drivers had a leg up on the New
Yorkers because there had, at one time or another in the earliest of the
1950's, been over 25 tracks operating in Vermont. Northern New York had
Bushey's car in 1954, the Ralph Bushey - owned "SPUD 19", was light and fast; and Bob was an
aggressive force behind the wheel. In 1955, he no longer drove for Ralph Bushey [no relation], thus inheriting a La Salle - bodied car fielded by some fellows from Panton, VT.
The 586, while light and fast, did not dominate as the SPUD 19 had mostly because the competition was catching up. Bushey is mentioned in the biography of NASCAR National Sportsman Champion Bill Wimble as a tobacco - chewing woodchuck from Vermont who would saunter up and whisper in Wimble's ear that he was going to roll him over. He never did.
Royce Tucker would go to field some gorgeous sportsman coupes and he would unfortunately die of a heart attack in those same Airborne pits a few years later.
The last Royce Tucker - built sportsman coupe arrives at Otter Creek Speedway near Vergennes, VT. Royce is probably the man on the right behind the car. He would have a heart attack fielding this car later.
Photo Courtesy of Flanagan
Don "The Flying Milkman" Turner plies an early
Flying Tiger car around Catamount Stadium
Don "The Flying Milkman" Turner was one
of four sons of Harold Turner to particiapte in racing at Catamount
Stadium. The track
featured the Flying Tigers, a support division, and - evewn atthat - the
Turner cars were among the least sophisticated ones there. Don,
Sr. never made much delivering milk, but he parlayed a house building
business into a very comfortable living.
Don Turner , Jr. tried racing briefly and eventually went on to become the leader of the Vermont House of Representatives, working behind Lt. Gov. [and famous racer] Phil Scott in Montpelier. Brothers Raymond [the only non - racer in the bunch] and Ernest had children, and one of Ray's sons, David, did race a little, too.
Perhaps the least successful of the original Turners was brother Ira. A huge, powerful man, he never had much of a car to work with. However, Ira's sons, Doug and Richie raced, as did Dan Turner, an active race sponsor. Richie Turner, Jr. has been a champion in the newer Flying Tiger Sportsman class at Airborne Park Speedway.
It's all a lesson in dtermination.
Photo Courtesy of Andy Boright
Don Turner, Jr. may not have led many laps, but
he now leads many Republicans in Montpelier. [By the way, folks, that car is likely the one Leon Gonyo started his career with in 1975.]
Russ Truelove flashes a confident smile
before taking his Mercury out to race on
the Daytona Beach Course in the 1950's.
name, alone could attract legions of female fans, and then
there was that infectous smile
that could sell icne machines to eskimos. He needed all that to gather
the credit and backing to bring a Mercury down South to Daytona in 1954
to race on the old Beach course. He had to talk fast when the insurance
man showed up unexpectedly and a sign painter was lettering up what Russ
had claimed was his family car.
Like so many others, he drove the car down to Florida before making final modifications to race it. With what looks like backing from Mattitiuck Lincoln - Mercury, headed out to win whatever the equivalent to the Daytona 500 was in those days.
But the Beach was not easy to drive on. One straightaway was packed beach sand; the other was US Rte 1A. The turns were loose sand and horrible. Russ managed to catch a wheel and send the new Mercury into a serious of rolls and flips that made several national periodicals. So much for hiding it from the insurance guy.
He and another driver got home by driving some car dealer's recent purchase back to the Northeast. I assume it took quite some time before that Mercury was paid off. Russ stayed in the sport for several more years and is a
popular speaker today at vintage gatherings.
Russ, making modifications to the new Merc.
8 MM Photo Frame from Dan Ody's Old Speedways DVD
A busy gaggle of crude early stock cars ply the
dusty, bumpy surface of Brattleboro Speedway,
West Brattleboro, VT - around 1951.
The grainy photo at left may be
hard to make out but it historically significant. Brattleboro Speedway
was an important cog in the circuit known as the Triangle Racing
Association - which had that track, Rhythm Inn Speedway in
Massachusetts, and the Safford Park track near Keene, NH. Besides the
established stars like Joe Ryan [car X in the photo], Roy Pappy Forsyth,
and Ed Patnode, there was a young ex - Marine making one of his first
drives for owner Leo Matte.
The black and white coupe at left in the shot is the Matte 107, and the young driver is none other than Holyoke, Massachusetts' own Rene Charland. This particular racing program would produce the Charland's first feature win, as fart as anyone can tell. Charland had plenty of competition in that circuit which later included Claremont Speedway. Many of the drivers, including himself, Patnode, Buddy Krebs, and many more would go onto race at paved venues like Riverside Park Speedway, in Agawam, MA and Empire Raceway in Menands, NY.
Unless you were born on Mars, you know how it all turned out for Charland. Four NASCAR National Sportsman Chamionships in a row, and a fifth well in hand before he was hurt in a bad fire at Albany - Saratoga Speedway. And it all started at a track with logs and post - and - rail fences on its sides.
Courtesy of Cho Lee
Charland, very early in his career.
Some very distinctive company in this photo
of Ernie Gahan, Bill Wimble, and Ron Narducci.
would seem to be just another photo of former racing greats, getting
together at some vintage racing reunion.
Well, it is that... but so much more. First and foremost, this is a
reunion of the first championship team ever in the storied All Star
Stock Car Racing League that began in 1967. Narducci and Wimble were in
it from the start, and Gahan joined in somewhere near the
beginning of the season. There was slight confusion, as Ken
Shoemaker started out on the team and then departed.
It was a short - lived team, as Gahan and Wimble were never again League team members anywhere. Narducci, on the other hand, may have been the most loyal League member of all, belonging to no less than four championship teams - Fonda [twice], Albany - Saratoga, and Catamount.
Wimble, of course is best known as the two - time NASCAR National Sportsman Champion [tie in 1961 with Dick Nephew]. Gahan, the consummate race - for - a - living guy, won the NASCAR National Modified Championship in 1965. We have lost him recently.
This was another reunion - probably
in the 1990's.
Andre Chausse Collection
Promoter Gustave Bouvrette [cowboy hat]
and his starting crew in the 1950's.
falls under the "Only in Canada" category. Bouvrette Speedway was a
really quite beautiful horse racing race track in St. Jerome, QC that
operated throughout the 1950's as a stock car track [at least part of
the time] under the direction of owner Gustave Bouvrette, a local maple
The track had nice old covered grandstands.
The amazing thing about Bouvrette Speedway [besides its huge fields of cars and large crowds] was the fact that Bouvrette started the cars with the same vehicle used to release the trotters during a pari-mutuel program. The cars would form up behind the Jeep pickup, the guy on top would reel in the gates, and there would be the worst kind of hog rassle to get out from behind the infernal contraption and race.
South Burlington, Vermont's Jackie Peterson, a friend of mine and a veteran of racing since 1949, recalls starting too fast and wedging a none - too - pleased Quebec driver under the gates. The wrecker had to deal with both the Jeep and the offended car. Probably, in true 1950's fashion, they all posed for a photo in front of the mess first.
Today the grand track is gone; but, there are a couple of racing Bouvrettes running in various divisions in Quebec.
Jackie Peterson, with what is likely the offending car stuffer. He was working on the St. Lawrence Seaway construction then and racing out of Massena, NY.
From a Page on the Midstate Club Site
D.D. "Rebel" Harris pits Joey Lawrence's black AAA
coupe at Langhorne. [Ahead of #2]
Daniel Duncan "Rebel" Harris was
a big name in early racing. I recall seeing him, the the Joey Lawrence
AAA car, a black 1934 coupe, at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, VT in
1961 when Lebanon Valley Speedway staged a program there. Announcer
Uncle Art Stuarts made much of certain drivers; and Harris was one of
them. He had come to the Valley to become a regular after running a
number of other tracks like the Pine Bowl and other tracks associated
Although the body was not used exclusively, the 1932 - 34 Ford was a light body, and therefore, very popular. That car came with a rectangular hole in he roof that was covered with wood and leather during manufacture. Racers would usually weld sheet metal over the hole [or - like Jack Barney] leave it totally open.
In 1963, Harris and Lawrence had taken the car to Onteora Speedway whereupon he was involved in a violent sequence of flips, during which he was ejected through that weak spot in the roof and run over. He died within 15 minutes. After that, NASCAR banned all pre-1936 bodies, which brought about the huge controversy at Fonda. Pete Corey had been winning everything with Bob Mott's famous yellow 3NY coupe. Now, in mid - season, they found themselves with a banned car.
Corey [as was often the case] was furious. Later, Mott built another, later car, but had somewhat less success. A heartbroken Lawrence went on to field cars with Jackie Wilson.
Courtesy of Phil Miller
Bob Mott, with his controversial and fast
little coupe. At this point, he was still
doing his own driving.
Calvalcade of Auto Racing Photo
Gary Balough wins a Hobby Class race at West Palm Beach Speedway in the Sunshine State in 1962.
Palm Beach Speedway was no different than any other track - it had its b
ig names and it had it entry level class. Paul Connors, one of the most
successful Vermont natives to ever race [and the least known] was a
competitor at WPB. One youngster who was pulling in some hobby division
wins was one Gary Balough. he would not stay long in that class, nor did
he stay long at West Palm Beach.
We all know how Balough became a nationally - famous driver in the ranks of late models and modifieds. His fame probably came to its zenith when he and AGreg Weld fielded the infamous "Batmobile", a modified built specifically for the big Syracuse race of 1980. Supposedly a Lincoln Continental body, the car was so far ahead of its time that it was banned after making a complete mockery of that field of America's best dirt mod chauffeurs.
As the story goes, the group that funded the car ended up in trouble with the law for some of that Florida drug dealing. Balough raced and worked on cars for years after - in between prison terms. I got to know him recently; he is nice guy who is having to live with consequences.
Gary, in the Batmobile, at Syracuse in 1980.
Bob Danough Collection Midstate Site
Chuck Kotwica, at Watertown, NY with his famous #88 with the great Native portrait on the side.
Kotwica was an early stock car racer who hailed from Utica, NY. Given
the places he most frequently raced at and that wonderful portrait of a
Native American chief that some sign painter did on his best - known
car, I would venture to guess Chuck may have had some Native blood in
him. He would drive at many of the central and northern New York tracks
in the 1950's, such as Watertown, Canton, and others.
In 1953, there was much fanfare as promoters Ed Feuz and Jim Gage opened a NASCAR - sanctioned racing series at the irregualrly - shaped Montgomery County fairgrounds track at Fonda. Chuck managed a difficult win in Fonda' s first feature, battling terrible track conditions. he would not become a regular there, and ended up selling his #88 car to Utica neighbor Chuck Mahoney.
What made Chuck Kotwica a household name to people in the know wabout New York racing is how famous and legendary the Fonda Speedway became. I don't know much more about Chuck, but the history of Fonda could fill more than the large book already written about it.
Kotwica, running his victory lap after winning the inaugural feature at Fonda in 1953. Paul Brozyna, behind him is having a hard time seeing
where he's going.
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of Mike Watts, Sr.
C.J. Richards' Plymouth Superbird #1 pace car at Plattsburgh International Raceway [AKA Airborne].
C.J. Richards had apparently
landed on his feet
after deciding to pave his beloved Devil's Bowl in 1970. He had blossomed out with [some say] a pair of Plymouth Superbirds to serve as pace car. I only saw this white one. No one said he would survive paving his track in West Haven, VT, in the midst of the most dirt - track - loving population anywhere other than New York.
When Richards paved, he lost most of his regulars, who went off to race at Lebanon Valley or anywhere else they couild escape to. Richards ended up also promoting Airborne Park Speedway, whose name he immediately changed to Plattsburgh International Raceway. That track was attracting some top pavement modified talent, which helped his Bowl.
Perhaps more harrowing than the worries over getting a field of pavement mods and a decent crowd of fans was what happened to his beloved Superbird while the Bowl was still dirt. He used to get a lot of Valley late models to run in his similar division. One Sunday night, Jim Langenback got crossed up, went into the infield, and pooned the valuable white Superbird collector's car. I doubt C.J. paid him that night.
Lebanon Valley Classics
Langenback, still buried into the side
of the Superbird. He may have fled on foot.
Courtesy of the Davis Family
Car owner Henry Merrill. with his hired driver du jour,|
Mike Cody of Keene, NH.
During a severe drought in race
attendance around 1958, my uncle and I journeyed up North to the
Malletts Bay Raceway to see a heavily - advertised race there. We hadn't
seen a race in years. All the way from the Rutland area to Colchester,
we were followed by a car towing a yellow 1932 Ford.
The car turned out to be Henry Merrill's little #33, a car that had an unbelievably long life at a time when cars did not last and pass from owner to owner like they do now. Some guys would go through two cars a year. Merrill's car had been already running for years at the Safford Park Speedway at the Cheshire County fairgrounds near Keene, NH. There, the main driver was George Schnyer.
Merrill went through a period wherein his driver was the veteran Mike Cody, who drive cars all over northern New England. Finally, Merrill settled on Cody's younger brother, Art, who drove it for me to see at the Fairmont Speedway from 1962 to around 1964, when those little flatheads were overcome by the overhead V-8 sportsman cars.
The car never did die. It sat in Londonderry, VT until Art won the Megabucks. It was restored and still occasionally makes appearances with someone at vintage car meets. We lost Art a while back.
Art Cody makes a "pit stop" up the hill - behind the bleachers - at Otter Creek Speedway around 1963.
Courtesy of Andy King
Bruce King receives his trophy on Governor's Cup night
from then - Governor Phil Hoff.
were at least two big surprises in northern Vermont in the 1960's. The
first came when the state elected its first Democratic governor in
decades, when Phil Hoff was swept into office on the tide of Kennedy
hysteria. A second one came in 1967, in Catamount Stadium's third year
The track, which suffered fhrough pathetically small fields of cars in its first season, had seen a big growth in its support class, the Flying Tigers. Franklin County, to the north, was starting to send a lot of competitors down to Catamount by 1967, although most were decided underdogs. One such driver was Bruce King.
King was a stout auto mechanic from Sheldon, and he drove a battered blue #91 four - door Chevy. On the night of the 1967 Governor's Cup, he watched Canadian superstar Andre Manny win the modified/sportsman race. Then King went on and scored a major upset in the Tigers.
We didn't see too much of Bruce after that year. He was probably too involved in his growing car repair business. Hoff would leave office but King's fortunes would grow. Eventually, before his untimely passing, he had built a spiffy new building on Route 78 and had both car sales and repair.
King's name would be indelibly etched in the history of the Governor's Cup.
Courtesy of Andy King
Bruce was close with the Bonnettes, a welding and racing family from St. Albans. His loyalty is evident with
the odd little ad on the front fender of his Tiger. The Tigers were allowed to run one racing slick - on the outside front - and it took a good hub to keep it from pulling off the car in the turns.
Bob Frazier Photo
C.J. Richards' Devil's Bowl program used to have some fun with its readers. Here is a "mystery driver" standing by a sportsman coupe. It was Eddie Allen, of Fair Haven.
By the second part of Devil's
Bowl's first season, they were getting some pretty good fields of
consistently - attending sportsman coupes. Most of these cars had not
been built locally, but rather were purchased from southern New England
or New York state. Eddie Allen's brown 33 was one of these, as was his
next car - a Rene Charland/Czepiel coupe. This trend had started at the
old Fairmont Speedway when Vince Quenneville went to Connecticut and
bought a car from Bob Vivari and Chuck Grime that had run at Plainville
Allen, having bought the Charland car, would sell the brown coupe over to George Ingalls and Cecil Bosworth. This was Bosworth's second stint in something other than a flathead. He and Ingalls would run the car a while and then pull out one of their flatheads and start racing at Bear Ridge Speedway instead.
Between 1965 and around 1969, CVRA tracks saw "used cars" from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York populating its sportsman division. Chet Doaner bougth a potent Pete Corey coupe [minus the fuel injection]; Dave McMahan had a Flemke - influenced Jim Koehler car; Lefty Casey bought Irv Taylor's T&M coupe; and Quenneville found success with Dexter Dorr's old Super 29 [a Vermont - built machine].
By 1969, some of these teams started building their own. Quenneville and new car owner Norm Scarborough would build a nearly - unbeatable coupe the following year.
Vince Quenneville and owner Gael Dundon
may have started the trend with this
Vivari car. [See below]
Courtesy of Wes Moody
The team of Mike Michaels and his trademark
hyphenated car number pose at an undetermined
The first time I ever saw a Mike
Michaels car was at the rustic Otter Creek Speedway near Vergennes, VT.
The bumpy, dusty half - mile track should not have been able to attract
a NASCAR sportsman team that hailed all the way from Oriskany, NY;
but, the track had a NASCAR sanction and the available points were
relatively easy to pick with the small fields of cars.
An informative Fonda Speedway program let it know that the 10 - 10 was owned by Mike Suraske, from Whitesboro, NY [which turns out to be Mike Michaels]. According to Wes Moody, who had a very tempestuous turn at driving Mike's car, the racing pseudonym came because Suraske's wife did not want him driving.
I got a halfway decent photo of the car entering the pit gate at Fonda around 1964, and the numeral had been simplified to #10. The 10 - 10's best - known and most successful driver for hire was the legendary Cliff Kotary of Rome, NY. Kotary drove the car [which looked a lot like the one at left] at places like Fonda, Stateline, and more.
From Moody's description of the very assertive Suraske, it is hard to imagine anyone telling him whether or not he could drive.
Cliff Kotary, with a Suraske car.
Courtesy of Herbert Family
Jeep Herbert receives a cake, with help from his
wife, Dolores and starter Chet Hames. This was in
the Golden Era of Fonda Speedway.
Fonda Speedway started out fairly big
from its very inception in 1953, and it took off to be one of the most
significant tracks in the East within a few years. The track at the
Montgomery County fairgrounds
benefitted greatly from attracting many of the established, mature stars
from the eastern New York state area, as well as several visitors from
other states and Quebec. This corps of older drivers was mixed in with a
number of exciting new talents [such as Lou Lazzaro].
As the mid 1960's came along, some of the older figures at the track began to fall by the wayside. Jeep Herbert would retire, and Steve Danish was soon to follow. Jim Luke had faded away from the track, as had Howie Westervelt. Around this time, Fonda officials found out the colorful and popular flagger Chet Hames, who had been at the track from the beginning, was nipping a bit during the programs. He was dismissed.
We folks in Vermont were used to thinking of Fonda as that storied, faraway place that ended up with Herbert, Hames, and a number of other famous names who had worked at our own Pico Raceway. By the late 60's, they were all gone.
Chet, keeping an eye on an oncoming field of cars.
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