[Somewhat] WEEKLY COLUMN/BLOG PAGE
BILL’S BACK IN TIME
By Bill Ladabouche
Strapping Into Some Catamount Thoughts
Former driver and regular columnist in the Caledonia Record, Biggy Bigelow, once did a reflective piece on Catamount Stadium some time in the 2000’s. He spent a lot of space talking about who had what records at Catamount and about the accomplishments of its best – known drivers [particularly those from the latter part of the Catamount lifespan].
I think he did a great job, but it awoke some feelings in me about some of the events and circumstances that I find either really interesting or really irritating about the track’s history. Big writes: “Catamount Stadium opened on June 11, 1965. The Sportsman Coupes were the premier division. On that first day, 20 of them showed up with Mack Miller winning the first heat race and the $25 that went with it. Jean-Paul Cabana won the second heat and later the main event. Miller was second, Andre Manny was third. Dick Nephew and Charlie Trombley rounded out the top 5.”
Bob Mackey Photo Courtesy of John Rock
It was good to see Biggy give some attention to the
under-funded and determined Mackie Miller.
INTERESTING: Jean – Paul Cabana [who was clearly still playing somewhat of a second fiddle to Manny in 1965], managed to win not only the first feature ever run at Catamount; but, also, the final one. Manny apparently had more consistency, as befitted his greater experience, and that got him a track title.
IRRITATING: Some friends and I made the lengthy trip up to Catamount in its first season, from where we lived, and we found an elaborate, state – of – the art track [the likes of which we had never seen]; but it was struggling to get cars. They ran the same cars in more than one heat.
Biggy goes on to say: “The Flying Tigers began in 1965 as a hobby class. Nine guys were in the pits for their event. Jim LaFountaine won. He was followed by Harmon "Beaver" Dragon and Bob Brunell. At the end of the season the car count grew to more than 20 cars. Among them were Tom Tiller, Mike Beattie and Tom "T-Bone" Curley.”
Courtesy of Cho Lee
The forerunners of the Flying Tigers, the B Class, were hairy. Here, at Thunder Road, Dickie Southworth rides the wall as Larry Demar, rarely seen in a Chevy looks on at close range.
INTERESTING: Tiller went on to run in a career that had two distinctive parts: the 1960’s and 70’s, and another in the 1990’s. Beattie went on to own and operate Groveton, NH’s Riverside Speedway; and, of course, we all know what Curley did later. Beaver always said that LaFountaine was the toughest competition he had in those early hobby days.
IRRITATING: When I finally graduated from college and signed a contract to teach in Milton, Vermont; I arrived in 1968 to find all of the storied modified coupes had vanished during that summer. All that was left was a bunch of beat – up late models called Flying Tigers. Many of them did turn out to be good friends and great drivers.
Courtesy of Phil Butler
When I got there in August of 1968, all that was left were these things called Flying Tigers. Above – Ed Fenwick’s Tiger started out looking OK. But, by the time it ended up with Johnny Malone, a few years later - not so much [Below] The sledge hammer in the foreground is appropo.
Biggy’s column states: “Other first guys under the checkers were Stub Fadden (4), Randy Lajoie (3), Beaver Dragon, Aube, Claude LeClerc, Chuck Bown and Mike Barry, who all had two. Single wins went to Dick McCabe, Kevin Lepage, Steve Poulin, Joey Kourafas, Paul Richardson, Ron Barcomb, and Tom Glaser”.
INTERESTING: The unassuming and often – unfast Claude LeClerc outdid the likes of McCabe, Lepage, and Barcomb in this time period. He is a wonderful person with an unbelievably long career; but, those guys were all far better drivers. The Glaser win was one Hollywood couldn’t have scripted. He won with a car that young Ricky Crouch was supposed to drive, for his debut. Crouch was killed in a highway accident; and the heretofore winless Glaser forced it to victory in tribute to the Crouch family.
The C.A. Crouch 12, likely the one Glaser drove at Catamount that day, sits in the pits at Oxford during the 1985 250 Week. Below – Paul Richardson, at Catamount, in one of those #!@%%! plastic cars
Courtesy of Mike Cain
IRRITATING: That the damned plastic car era did not begin after Catamount was not around to see it. That was how Richardson gets in there, and the holder of the track all – time lap speed ended up being Russ Urlin, who only ran there once. That is probably the thing that eats at me the most about Catamount.
One of the Bigelow facts is: “The NASCAR North started in 1979 and Catamount hosted 51 events before the track closed after the 1987 season. Robbie Crouch and Jamie Aube qualified for 50 of those 51 events”.
INTERESTING: This was only the tip of the iceberg for these two guys. Crouch kept going with his winning ACT ways until he was partly derailed by the carpetbagger, Junior Hanley. Aube eventually jumped the ACT ship and became a two – time NASCAR Busch Grand National North champion.
Crouch, in his heyday, flanked by L&W car owners
Lamberti and Wright.
IRRITATING: These are both great guys and I like to number as friends in my “old boys” club from the old days. It was difficult watching Robbie struggle in the Thunder Road Thursday programs a couple of years ago, and it is sometimes hard to see Jamie struggle now [although lately has been pretty good].
Big mentions this: “Crouch and Beaver Dragon's 28 top 5s lead the way. Fadden had 27. Dragon's 37 top 10s top that list. Crouch earned $85,935 in prize money. He led 1,227 of the 6617 laps run there.”
Courtesy of Lloyd and Greg Gilbert
It is appropriate that hometown Beaver Dragon holds records for accomplishment at his beloved Catamount Stadium.
INTERESTING: This seems like a big advantage in performance of Beaver over younger brother, Bob. We have to remember that Bob left when the ACT was formed and missed an entire season. It is remarkable to me how well Beaver did considering he was older than many of the guys he was competing against.
IRRITATING: This smothering Crouch dominance in that time was getting a little old – and it continued for some time to come. Not his fault, but leading almost 20% of the laps in an eight year period can get a little monotonous if one is not a dyed – in - the – wool Crouch fan.
Lastly, Bigelow [who was apparently too young to join older brother, Bob, as a driver at Catamount, states: “A Ford never won a NASCAR Tour event at Catamount. Neither did a Dodge or a Mercury.”
Courtesy of Rich Palmer
Mopars had their day at Catamount in the earlier 1970’s at Catamount, in hands of drivers like Don Bevins [above] and Moe DuBois. But they didn’t score in the more modern late model era that ensued.
Courtesy of the Quintin Family
INTERESTING: Seemingly unbelievable when you consider how much Dave Dion liked banked tracks. Mopars and Mercs were simply out of the picture – except in the very – diverse New Tigers division. Consider that Crouch’s L&W cars were all GM products and that almost no one was running Fords then.
IRRITATING: The fact that there was so little variety in the Tours at that time, and that money was really telling the story. At least the tire crap had not begun yet; but, I do understand why ACT does what they do with tires today.
Courtesy of Doug Farrow
Gordon Fitzgerald, the least known of the Catamount founders, stands at left with legendary driver John Gammell.
Big gives props to the founding fathers [“Ken Squier came up with the idea of building a third-mile race track in Milton. Others involved in the planning were Jack Dubrul, Gordon Fitzgerald, John Campbell and the Cooley brothers, Ray and Reginald (Spade). Archie Blackadar was the original Chief Steward.”], which is always good. What we must bear in mind is that today’s racing – particularly that centered around Thunder Road, is a direct result of those last Catamount years.
Look at some of the names in the support divisions alone: Joey LaQuerre, Dave Whitcomb, the Caron brothers, Blair Bessette, Clem Despault, and Greg Lyman were all still driving some in the 2,000’s, as was at least one Lanphear. There are legions of those guys who are front and center in the late model and Tiger Sportsman teams today. Just a few include Paul Donahue [John Donahue’s father]; Larry Hebert [James Hebert’s dad], Greg Blake [Cody Blake], and Randy Therrien [Bobby and Tom] are just a few.
Paul Donahue, with his “New Tiger” at Catamount in 1986. He is parked next to Dale Shaw’s hauler. In 2012, Dale recalls flipping his Monte Carlo off turn one that day.
Thanks for dredging up a lot of serious thoughts and good memories, Biggy.
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: email@example.com . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.
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