By Bill Ladabouche



            Recently, when Rob Trombley [son of Airborne legend Bob Trombley] began sending me some of his father’s keepsakes and photos, one of the documents was a copy of the final 1955 points totals for both the sportsman cars and the hobby division. By 1955, the second – year track had begun attracting some of the biggest names in racing in the Northeast.

Bob Mackey Photo
Bill Wimble won the track title with the Gaylord Rowe T-800.


            The highly – competitive lead division, whose official name was not described [I called it the sportsman class], was won by Lisbon, NY’s Bill Wimble – a future two – time NASCAR National Sportsman champion. Wimble, after a first year of driving his own equipment, had teamed up with the Rowe Brothers Ford team and its potent 1946 Ford, the T-800.  The T-800, named after a Ford truck model, was drilled full of large holes to take weight off its originally – quite – heavy body. The car also had the door posts cut out. It was similar to the Vermont – based “cutdowns” that Wimble would lampoon in his autobiography decades later.

Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock
Bob Bushey, described as an “alpha male” at Airborne by Wimble, set a record for feature wins that
still stands in 2012. Wimble had a few less complimentary descriptors for Bushey, as well.


            The top twenty for Airborne, that year, was a veritable who’s who of racers in the Vermont / New York region in the mid 1950’s: 1.) Wimble, would be a hall of famer and national champion; 2nd place Steve Danish, Cropseyville, NY, was arguable the most legendary driver in the post – modern era; 3rd place Bob Bushey, Burlington, VT, still hold the all – time record for feature wins at the track; Ernie Reid, George Baumgardner, and Earl Maille were all top notch hired guns in the 1950’s; Jim Luke, Buck Holliday, and Jeep Herbert were all famous, successful sportsman drivers; and Ken Shoemaker had won almost innumerable features and rated a book written about him.

Photos Courtesy of Jo Towns via Otto Graham
Popular Howard “Jeep” Herbert [left] and veteran George Baumgardner [right] drove Henry Caputo’s hemi – powered Plymouth coupe at Airborne in 1955, joining Earl Maille [below]

Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock


            Beside these names, some of the other finishers were an interesting lot. Fourth place was a surprise, in the person of Burlington, VT’s Harlan “Red” Dooley, a familiar figure in the burgeoning stock racing scene in Chittenden County, Vermont. Dooley, however, was not considered to be that hot of a shoe. 11th place finisher Jackie Peterson, a Vermont native living in Plattsburgh, NY, had been a Vermont state champion, had raced sprint cars, and was as close to a professional driver as you got in 1955. he traveled all over the northeastern US and southern Canada with his stock cars.

Courtesy of Rick Reome
Jackie Peterson would have been driving the Dutcher Construction D8 team car at Airborne in 1955.


            Fifth place finisher, Al Plummer, is a man whose name appears in results in the early 1950’s in northern New York; but, to date I have seen not one photo of the man [and I have more Airborne shots than anyone else]. Hank Schmidt, who tied with Reid for sixth, ran extensively in New York in the 1950’s before becoming a track official for C.J. Richards and the Champlain Valley Racing Association. Johnny Perry, a journeyman from Troy, NY ran mostly at tracks like Ashland Park Speedway, Warrensburg, NY; Whites Beach, Ballston Lake, NY, and the like. Perry also did field a NASCAR – legal sportsman; and this was what he drove at Airborne.

Dooley Family Photo
Red Dooley, a surprising fourth place finisher in points, strikes a daring pose
by one of his cars at the Malletts Bay Raceway.

            Cliff Barcomb, who finished 17th, would go on to be a very well – known car owner in northern New York, fielding cars for such greats as Buck Holliday and Clarence “CD” Coville. Howard Rock, one of the large group of drivers from the Ellenburg area, finished 8th in the sportsman points and managed a top twenty finish, as well, in the hobby division results.

            The remaining top 20 included a group of drivers all who had their own little distinctive stories: Ken Spillman, Frank Hart, and Charles Beshore. In terms of longevity, the names of Shoemaker, Holliday, and Wimble are among those who managed to perform on an elite level for many years thereafter. In succeeding years, Spillman, Beshore, and Plummer were the names that seemed to not re-surface in any significant way.

Bob Mackey Photo via Rob Trombley
Charlie Trombley, the hobby champion, poses with one of his first cars. Below – All
three Trombley brothers raced in 1955: Bob, Charlie, and Ron.

Bob Mackey Photo via Catamount Stadium History Program


            Perhaps more fascinating than the lead division, was the hobby class. It was loaded with names that would sparkle at Airborne and – in a few cases – on the national stage. The 1955 Airborne champion was Mooers Forks’ Charlie Trombley, who would go on to track championships as well as some high finishes in the NASCAR national point standings. Trombely’s brother Bob, who missed some races that year, managed to finish third behind Keeseville’s Howard Spring. Fourth place man, Fred Ratta, did not go on to be a household word, but the man who finished behind him did. Dick Nephew, yet another driver from that Mooers Forks/Ellenbug area, went on to several track championships before and after his 1961 season when he tied Wimble for the NASCAR National Sportsman championship.

Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock

Dick Goodelle, an ace mechanic for the Rowe business, would leave his T2 hobby
car after 1955 and run the powerful T-800 for his employers.


            Other noteworthy hobby drivers in 1955 included 7th place Dick Goodelle, another Ellenburg  driver, who would go on to the seat of the Rowe T-800, which was vacated by Wimble after that one championship season. Wimble would go on to the newer Rowe Ford, the 26, which turned out to be an ill – handling ride. Wimble would go on to Dave McCready’s S33 team and begin running tracks around Fonda. The 26 would be run for a spell by Bob Trombley before he put it out of its misery at Bouvrette Speedway in St. Jerome, Quebec in the later 1950’s.

            Thirteenth place Rex Shattuck, a Burlington, VT driver curiously listed in the point standing as being from Moonachie, NJ, was avery successful driver. He later would excel as a car builder – right up to the early 1970’s, when he won a Hurricane Division race at Catamount Stadium with a car he built for Paul Robar, Jr.. There was a third Trombley brother appearing in these final points in 1955. According to Bob, Ron Trombley only tried his luck in about six races, but he managed a tie for 15th place with popular Airborne runner Dick Gushlaw.

Bob Mackey Photo via
C.J. Richards
Rex Shattuck, a New Jersey transplant now running out of Vermont [with Bushey,
Peterson, and Dooley] could be quite a smooth – talking operator.

            The rest of the best of the hobby class that year had several names I have never seen before. Shorty Carmichael, a Hudson enthusiast from Florida did finish 10th; Bill Guynup was the patriarch of a large racing family that seemed to favor Fords; and Lev Egglefield would go to his family’s Ford dealership and become a big supporter of the track as a sponsor. Tall driver George Bridges would drive, on and off for two more decades, including the ice races in the winters of 1958 through 1960.

Bob Mackey Photo via Bucko Branham
The bruised hobby car of racing patriarch Bill Guynup sits, muddy, in the Airborne infield in
the 1950’s. Looks like Bill had a rare overhead V-8. Below – Wally Russell leads a field in the 1950’s.

Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock


            A few hobby guys did run in the headline class at Airborne. Don Hayes would do that, before becoming a track official. Wally Russell would drive, himself, and offer his gas station as a staging point for dozens of local racers. Most of those other names are absolutely unfamiliar to me. It is likely that both the sportsman and hobby divisions had a few more important participants who just did not race enough that year to be in the top points standings.

Bob Mackey Photo via John Rock
It doesn’t get much more significant in the 1950’s than featuring Steve Danish. This was shot in 1955.


            Perhaps a measure of how significant were the drivers in those point standings in 1955 would be the 1963 NASCAR record book, which reflects the 1962 season. Six of the top twenty sportsman drivers in the nation were in those standings – either the sportsman or the support class: Wimble, Nephew, Shoemaker, Luke, Danish, and Luke. Five of these also appeared in the top 20 in New York state. Oddly, Nephew did not. He apparently relied on the bonus points he got from his Speedweeks participation to be in the national top 20. Shoemaker, Wimble, and Nephew joined George Baumgardner and Ernie Reid in the Vermont state standing s that year.

Bob Mackey Photo via Gary Nephew
Dick Nephew, shown with an early car, was one of two 1955 drivers who went to a national championship.

    Many times, the stars of the 1950’s did not carry over to the following decades; but, the 39 drivers mentioned in the 1955 final point standings at Airborne Park Speedway, in Plattsburgh, NY, included track champs, national champs, state champs, and numerous winners of headlining stock car races – especially in the 1960’s. Arguably, the most successful of these was Wimble, a northern New Yorker. Nephew and Trombley were not far behind. This is one of the reasons that people in this region of the North Country revere their past so much and why Legends Night at Airborne is as important as it is.


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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