NEAR Announces 2014 Hall of Fame Class
July 29, 2014


Welcome to the New England Antique Racers and New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame






Slide Show of Vintage Race Cars

The New England Antique Racers Club is a non-profit organization that supports the history of New England auto racing. NEAR has been in existence since 1981 and has a growing membership of approx. 350-400 members and 80 antique race cars. Members live throughout New England and are available, on a no charge basis, for exhibition events at  local race tracks in New England and several tracks in the New York area, with both original and historical replica race cars.

Since 1998, we have inducted 185 individuals into the New England Auto Racers Hall Of Fame, which is administered by the New England Antique Racers. Some very notable inductees include Richie Evans, Ron Bouchard, Bugs Stevens, Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton, Fred DeSarro, Ed Flemke, Sr. and Billy Greco.

NEAR Meetings are Scheduled for the
3rd Tuesday of Each Month

Monthly Meetings are at:
Triple A Restaurant
1209 Main St. (Rt. 5)
East Hartford, CT
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NEAR Riverside Reunion Committee Report
(NEAR Riverside Reunion, August 31, 2014, click here for flyer)
August 6, 2014

The NEAR Riverside Reunion Committee is excited to report that
planning for the event is on schedule.

The following drivers have indicated they will be attending:

Bob Polverari, Billy Greco, Ed Flemke Jr., Dan Avery, Tommy Fearn,
Ray Miller, Skip Matczak, Rick Summers, Marty Radewick

and we are still contacting past competitors.


**August 6th UPDATE** 

Popular driver Marty Radewick is attending; he won ten modified features at the Park.

Some members of a local model car club will be displaying their recreations. They will be entering our model car contest in the "expert" division; also there will be a class for kids.

We have received word that one of the Park's most iconic cars will be on display. Pete Penfield will be bringing an original Czarnecki Bros. #20 coupe that Bobby Stefanik drove to a championship while winning a 500.

Any Riverside type race car will receive two free admissions per car. All cars to be displayed must arrive by 9:30am in order to get everything arranged before the 10'clock opening. The cars will have to remain in the display area until the event is over.

We will have a separate parking area for special interest cars driven to the event such as hot rods, customs and classic cars.

We will have face painting for the kids. One color one design per child is free. There will be a charge for multi-colored or complex designs.


**July 28th UPDATE** 

Ray Miller and Skip Matczak are planning to attend the reunion. Skip will be bringing the Allyn Tool #7  sprint car. Ray still has the #7 coupe in his barn and he hopes to have it there. Rick Summers posted on FaceBook that he is planning to make the trip,
probably on his Harley with his new bride.

Riverside announcer Mark Wiernasz will be there with his son, journalist Matty. They won't be winning a prize for the farthest travel as they live less than a mile from the Polish Club. Other former track officials who have indicated their intention to come
are Bob Stromberg and Lenny Blews

Fred Ciavola is considered Riverside Park historian. He has compiled all the race results and he will bring 50 notebooks (one for each year) of articles and pictures. He also has four books devoted exclusively to Gene Bergin and he is willing to share all of that for the day with the fans.

Please pass the information of the reunion to your friends even if you can't attend.


We have lined up three food trucks:

Moe's Donuts will be serving fresh hot Apple Cider Donuts on site
along with fresh brewed coffees.
Mary from the Herban Grille will be serving breakfast sandwiches,
hot dogs, burgers, and pulled Pork wraps.
The Moolicious Ice Cream truck will come by after 12 p.m.
We have taste tested these items and all are delicious with very reasonable prices.
Drinks including beer and wine will be sold by the Polish Club.
People may bring their own food but not bring any alcoholic beverages.
(This is a strict Polish Club policy)
We have some amazing attractions besides a display of vintage racers
belonging to NEAR membrs
Matt Provost will bring a restored antique Model T type car that was part of the kiddie rides for over 50 years. The car runs and will be giving rides if space and safety concerns are met.
The NEAR Mobile Museum will be on display.
We plan on having an autograph table set up sometime during the day.
If we have enough entries, we will have a model race car contest so dig out your old self made models now. Both adults and kids divisions.
We are seeking donations for a large raffle of racing related items.
KGM videos will be showing and selling Riverside videos all day.
Scott Nichols will be selling his racing photos.
Keep checking back every week and we will update every Monday.
All types of Riverside memorialibilia are welcome.
Any questions or suggestions contact finiplants@aol.com
New England Antique Racers' Hectic Schedule
for the Next 30 Days
August 6, 2014

August of 2014 is a busy month for the New England Antique Racers with eight events taking the club all over New England with both still displays and running shows.

First up is the August 14 event at Thunder Road in Barre, VT. The sign in time for this show is 11am which means plenty of track time. This is a Thursday evening show, so make plans on where you will be sleeping.

The following evening, Friday August 15, we will be traveling to Devils Bowl another running show. Sign in time is 3pm and Devils Bowl is located in West Haven, Vermont on Route 22 A. Get some rest, as there is a Saturday still show on tap next day.

On Saturday August 16, the Berlin Fire Department is holding a "Touch a Truck" celebration at Sage Park, Suranna Drive, Berlin, CT.  The sign in time  is 9am and the show starts at 10am on Zipelli Field. See the schedule for contact information and the rain date information.

On Wednesday August 20 the "still" point show is on the Colchester Green in Colchester, CT. The NEAR Mobile Hall of Fame Museum will be there in support of the Cruise on the Green. The show starts at 5pm and runs 'till 9pm. They promise a large selection of hot rods, customs and a great time. If you need more, info check the schedule and contact Ted Grey.

Saturday, August 23 sees NEAR traveling north again to Bradford, VT, for Bear Ridge Speedway. This running show has a sign in time of 1pm. A great track to see some classic coupes and coaches, some still powered by the famous Ford flathead V8.

On  Saturday August 30 the trip is back to the coast to the "Cement Palace". Seekonk Speedway on Route 6 in Seekonk, MA, is the site of the next to the last running event of the year. This track has been in the circuit forever with the touring cars; and allows NEAR plenty of track time and a good time for all. Sign in time is 2pm...get there early because the racing is great...and fast...and they get a capacity crowd so the good seats go early. Stop by the Mobile Hall of Fame Museum and say hi to R. A. and Ric.

Sunday August 31 we travel to Agawam, MA, "Home of the Park"; Riverside Park & Speedway 15th Anniversary Reunion. It has been 15 years since cars have graced the bank of the Connecticut River track. The asphalt maybe gone but the memories will live on for years.

The public comes in at 10am so if you have a vintage race car or a car that ran the Park, have it off the trailer and ready to display at the Polish Club located at 139 Southwick Street (Route 57), Rolling Hills, MA, by 9:30am.

Bring a vintage or Riverside Park car and you and one guest will be admitted for free. This is NEAR's annual fund raiser to support the Hall of Fame Banquet in November. Food, raffle, model car contest, items for sale, face painting for the kids, family friendly fun sharing great memories and stories. Hall of Fame drivers will be there to sign autographs.  Admission is $7.50  for adults, $5.00 for NEAR members with a current card and children under 14 admitted FREE.

The Mobile Hall of Fame Museum truck will be there and NEAR gear will be available for sale and or to order.

Just added to the program, without full details, is Sunday September 7th, an afternoon running at the Waterford Speedbowl on Route 85 in Waterford , CT. As soon as I get more information it will be put on the web.

Hope the see you at many of these events.

By Bill Henry

NEAR Member Profile this week is for Rich Belmonte
August 5, 2014

Steve Kennedy Photo

The Moose Hewitt Cavalier #19 vintage race car found a new home in the garage of Rich Belmonte in 2009. Rich is currently campaigning the race car in NEAR events bringing back memories of racing in New England to many race fans.

Belmonte began his career of racing in 1976 at the much talked about Plainville Stadium with his own modified coupe. In 1977 he prepared and wrenched the #74 Late Model at Waterford Speedbowl. Then in 1978-79 Belmonte drove the George Buffington owned #123 Street Stock/Super Stock at Waterford Speedbowl and Thompson Speedway. Belmonte, missing the modified division, had a chance to return to his first passion -- he prepared and drove the (former Boehler #3) #14 Chevette SK Modified at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1983 before leaving the sport for twenty-five years. Click here for full story

Race Cars Sought For Display At Colchester on the Green,
Cruise Night
(Colchester, CT)
August 5, 2014

New England Antique Racers (NEAR) member, Ted Grey, is still seeking both antique and current race cars for display at the “Colchester on the Green” cruise night on Wednesday evening, August 20th.

Revered as one of the most popular & widely-attended automotive cruise night events in Eastern Connecticut, it takes place monthly during the summer on the park-like Green of historic Colchester. 

As-always, a wide-selection of the area’s most distinctive street rods, special interest, and antique vehicles will also be present for viewing.

Race cars will be granted priority parking in-front of the gazebo. Things get underway at 5pm. For more information, contact Ted Grey at sadiegrey@snet.net .

NEAR is a non-profit organization that supports the history of New England auto racing. NEAR has been in existence since 1981 and has a growing membership of approx. 350-400 members and 80 antique race cars. Members live throughout New England and are available, on a no charge basis, for exhibition events at local race tracks in New England and several tracks in the New York area, with both original and historical replica race cars.

Since 1998, we have inducted 185 individuals into the New England Auto Racers Hall Of Fame, which is administered by the New England Antique Racers. Some very notable inductees include Richie Evans, Ron Bouchard, Bugs Stevens, Rene Charland, Pete Hamilton, Fred DeSarro, Ed Flemke, Sr. and Billy Greco. Join us on the Web at www.near1.org.

By Dave Dykes

New England Antique Racers remembers Charlie Mitchell
August 5, 2014

On Saturday July 26, 2014 during Nostalgia Night at the Waterford Speedbowl, NEAR recalled the memory of one Charlie Mitchell. For those who do not know, Charlie was a writer for the Norwalk Hour and covered the auto racing scene before the big news of NASCAR and the media hype. Charlie was a family man and a gentleman to all who raced whether they were leading in the points or the racer who scrapped along week to week faithfully coming to the track.  He set the standard high and mentored many of those who later followed in his footsteps. His three sons, Chuck, Jimmy and Dennis, were present to issue the call of "DRIVERS START YOUR ENGINES". His grandson Ryan was the honorary flagman to start the race.

As part of the memorial ceremonies there was a round robin discussion involving three outstanding NEAR members who had known Charlie and his wonderful human understanding of the race car driver. Matt Buckley, the track announcer, lead Hall of Fame driver Don Lajoie, Jim Torok, currently an active driver with NEAR and event coordinator, along with Dave Dykes, Board member of NEAR and award winning author of the weekly web column www.DaveDykesRacingThroughTime.com, in a 15 minute discussion of how Charlie impacted them and racing in southern Connecticut.

At the conclusion of a hotly contested 35 lap main event for the SK modifieds Don Lajoie presented Keith Rocco with the winner's trophy in victory lane. Jim Torok, in the Corky Cookman #04, was the victor in the NEAR feature event for the evening holding off Rich Belmonte and Gerry Blanchette in an action packed race. George Cleveland debuted his new #5X machine and commented afterward that he was very satisfied with the performance of the new machine. Look for him to return stronger in late season competition once he gets ‘her’ dialed-in.

Also appearing at the show in running status was the #36 coupe of  Gary Gilson, the #15 coupe of Spanky Bancroft, the #85 coupe of Ron Carlson, the #318 coupe of Don Murphy, the #0 coupe of Barry Roy. In the later styled machines, in addition to Rich Belmonte in the #19 was Gerry Blanchette in the #49 and the Benicasa Brothers racing machine #42, their father Carmine’s last ride.

Presented for viewing all evening on the mid way was the #711 of Don Lajoie, the #43 Pinto of Bill Greco, the #87 of Jim Splettstoeszer, the yellow canary #5 of Jack Proulx and the famous #14 coupe now owned by JoJo Farone. These fine machines were joined for part of the evening with the running cars which totally excited the fans who brought pens and cameras to capture the moment. Some of these activities were made possible by the behind the scenes efforts of Megan and Rhonda Blanchette who assisted with the drivers meetings and staging of the cars for the practice session and the feature event.

By Bill Henry

NEAR leaves the Track and Takes to the Airwaves
July 31, 2014

On Monday night at 7pm Gary Danko, host of SpeedwayLineReport, will be discussing the upcoming Riverside Park & Speedway Reunion. Sponsored by New England Antique Racers (NEAR) as a fund raiser for the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame Banquet. His guests, live and in studio, will be Hall of Fame Car Owner Mario Fiore and Mare Harlow, Secretary of NEAR. They will speak about The Park, their memoires and what Riverside meant to them.

Fiore and Harlow will also be encouraging you to partake in the event held at the Polish Club of Agawam, 139 Southwick Street, Route 57, Feeding Hills, MA, on Sunday, August 31, 2014.  Gary’s weekly show can be heard on WATR 1320 AM or on computer @ WATR.com. If you miss the show, you can always hear a rebroadcast by accessing the www.SpeedwayLineReport.com on your computer.

This year marks the 15th year since ‘The Park’ was closed to make room for more amusement rides at Six Flags.  Displaying at the reunion, will be vintage race cars that raced at Riverside with some very special expertly done restorations. All Riverside cars are invited. All vintage race cars are welcome. This is a rain or shine event as there are pavilions to avoid the sun. We know it will not rain…

There will be a small admission charge with a discount to current NEAR members; you can become a member by joining at the event. All children 15 and under are free. Food will be available for purchase and there will be face painting for the youngsters.

Bring your family, this is a day to celebrate ‘The Park’ and recall our good times. There will be Hall of Fame drivers to sign autographs - and have your picture taken with them for old time’s sake. See our poster on the website and tell your friends to visit NEAR1.org online. If you missed the Greco picnic last year, you do not want to miss out two years in a row.

By Bill Henry

NEAR Announces 2014 Hall of Fame Class
July 29, 2014

Drivers Deke Astle, Jim Martel, Mike Rowe, Fred Schulz, Ron Wyckoff, drag racing icon Bob Tasca, historian R.A. Silvia and car builder/mechanic Dave Tourigny make up the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame’s class of 2014.

They, along with the still to be announced pioneer class, will be inducted at NEAR’s 16th Hall of Fame banquet  Sunday, November 16th, at The Lodge at Maneeley’s  in South Windsor, CT.

Banquet ticket information will be announced shortly and will be posted on the New England’s Antique Racers’ website (NEAR1.org) in the near future.

Part of one of New England’s foremost racing families, Astle, a Westport, MA resident, was a champion at both Seekonk and Lakeville Speedways. Noted for his adaptability, “The Little Man with the Big Cigar” was also a major force throughout Eastern New England, most notably at Westboro and Thompson Speedways in addition to Seekonk and Lakeville.



Martel, of Ipswich, MA, won in cars ranging from Cutdowns to Supermodifieds over four-plus decades of competition.  A two-time NESMRA Late Model champion, his resume includes a Late Model win at Fredrickson in the Canadian Maritimes and a Supermodified win at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. He has victories at over a dozen tracks.


Turner, ME resident Mike Rowe continues to compete, adding to a list of accomplishments that includes over 200 victories and 13 championships. Starting in 1968, Rowe, a three-time Oxford 250 winner,  has won, in addition to seven Oxford crowns, NEPSA (1999), ACT (1994), PASS (2006), BRMS (2013) championships and has ruled at Wiscasset (1991) and Beech Ridge (2009).

Noted for an intense competitive zeal, Schultz’s championships at Norwood (1969) and Westboro (1978) figure among a list of accomplishments over a career that began in the post-World War II “cutdown” era. Also part of a racing family, Schulz, who passed away in 1999, and car owner Jim Susi won 14 straight at three different tracks in 1959.






Wyckoff, a Southington, CT resident, was a major winner at Plainville Stadium and Riverside Park Speedway and a force everywhere else in the 1960s and ‘70s.  A winner of three-straight Riverside 500s, the Florida native rarely sat idle, testimony to both his ability to take care of equipment and his standing among his fellow competitors and the fans.


Working with the Koszela family, Tourigny designed, built and maintained an impressive list of Modifieds. They included the legendary Woodchopper coupes and Vegas, the Logroller Corvair and a revolutionary Ford-powered Pinto that the likes of Fred DeSarro, Bugs Stevens and Mike Stefanik drove to a host of victories and to a half-dozen championships.  

"A Dave Tourigny Masterpiece"

A Providence-area Ford dealer for 55 years, Tasca came to drag racing in the late 1960s, seeing it as a boom to his business. He quickly became a major power. Starting with a ’64 Ford Fairlaine, Tasca moved to Funny Cars and full-blown “fuelers,” bringing New England into the national spotlight. Tasca died in 2010.

Silvia has emerged as one of New England’s premier auto racing historians and preservationists.  “The man to go to” for those seeking historical clarification or a photograph, he has served promoters, competitors, media and fans alike for over three decades out of his home in Warwick, RI. From a historical standpoint, his impact on New England racing is immeasurable.

Nostalgia Night at Waterford Speedbowl
Charlie Mitchell Memorial Race

July 29, 2014

Writer Shawn Courchasne and NEAR’s Dave Dykes and Jim Torek  join the Mitchell family before the running of the SK-Modified Charlie Mitchell Memorial race Saturday as part of Nostalgia Night at Waterford Speedbowl. NEAR played a key role in a successful evening.

Vermont Racing Pioneer & New England Auto Racing
Hall Of Fame Member Johnny Gammell Passes At Age 86

July 10, 2014
(click on photo for full size)

It’s been learned that 2008 New England Auto Racing Hall Of Fame Inductee John “Johnny” Gammell passed-away peacefully at his home in St. Johnsbury, Vermont on Friday, July 4th following an extended illness. 

Enjoying an extraordinary career that began in 1949 and concluded in 1972, he was twice a Vermont State Champion. 

Scoring feature triumphs at virtually all of the tracks in his region, one of many career highlights came in 1969 when he won the prestigious Milk Bowl at Vermont’s Thunder Road wheeling the memorable “Hawaii Five-0” entry owned by Joey Laquerre.

The entire New England Antique Racers family takes this opportunity to extend its sincerest condolences to Johnny’s family and many friends on this somber occasion. Click here for full obituary.

By Dave Dykes