HOF Track Owner Bob Bahre Passes

Article thanks to North East Motor Sports Museum

BOB BAHRE

The July 2020 passing of Bob Bahre is a sad time for everyone involved in New England motorsports. Bob’s contributions to racing in New England were huge.

He was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame in 2009. He was also inducted into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Along with others including Vic Yerardi and Al Novotnik, Bob developed and promoted the Vintage Celebration at his New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In its early days, the Celebration was simply spectacular with the garage filled with period correct Indy cars, sprints and midgets.  The noise of their Offy engines exploded into the summer air with their own brand of music and their tart exhaust aroma. Beautifully restored race cars of every type were welcomed and they came and were enjoyed by so many.

               In these divisive times in which we live, back then auto racing had Bob Bahre to bring us together. He had time for everyone from millionaires to the kid looking up at a driver in a white firesuit.

               Along his magical trip to bring top level racing to New England, he bought Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway in 1964. He soon invented the Oxford 250 (originally the Oxford 200) along with weekly racing that was so good that it drew crowds so big Bob added more seats until his track had greater capacity than any other in New England. And on many days and nights, he sold tickets for every one of those seats.  

               His first Cup races were booked when he owned Oxford. Bobby Allison won his first Cup (then Grand National) event there in 1966. Bob promoted two more Cup races at Oxford before the series became too big for small tracks like Oxford.

He saw his future in big league NASCAR which was growing rapidly, so he sold Oxford and began preparing for his greatest adventure:  bringing big league racing to New England for the first time since 1928.

He acquired the Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon, NH along with other adjacent properties with which he created New Hampshire International Speedway. The obstacles he overcame to build the track were monumental. Unable to obtain a permit for suites, when he learned the denial came because the town didn’t have a ladder fire truck that could reach that high, Bob solved the problem. He bought a ladder truck and gave it to the town. In turn, he got the permit to build the suites. He blasted ledge, built a tunnel under the track big enough for trailer trucks and did everything he could think of to ensure the comfort and safety of racing’s fans.

               NHIS opened in 1990 with a Busch race. Bob knew from the beginning that he had to have NASCAR’s top division if his new track would be successful. He petitioned Bill France Jr. for a date who first told Bob his chances “…were somewhere between slim and none.” But, Bob persevered and finally, NASCAR awarded him the track’s first Cup date in 1993. Then, he pulled a brilliant maneuver to bring a second Cup date to his track. New England watched the biggest motorsports series in the country twice each year and we bought every ticket for every Cup seat Bob Bahre ever had at his new track. He achieved sold-out attendance for every top division NASCAR race he ran at NHIS.

               He always loved vintage cars, especially Packard’s. He built a massive two story garage on his property in South Paris, Maine where he lived with his wife Sandra and son Gary. He filled that garage with priceless cars of the past. As such, with a love of old cars, he was one of us. A barn at the upper level included a library, vintage cars and even a horse-drawn carriage. Like NEAR’s membership, Bob appreciated the beauty of the past.

               Each year he opened the collection to all who wanted to see it and donated the money that came from the event to the local library.

               Bob started in business when his mother bought a Sears welder on time so he could learn a trade. With it, Bob built trailers. But, as a young man he moved on to ultimately earn a fortune developing real estate. First there were single family houses, then apartment buildings and then strip malls. What began as a single spec house became a real estate empire. Bob’s hard work and smart decisions resulted in the millions of dollars he used to build New Hampshire International Speedway.

               He bought and sold a local bank located near his office several times. He always bought for less and sold for more. He explained his business success to Speedway employee Cheryl LaPrade saying, “I just got lucky, kid.”

               His success was the result of so much more than luck. Involving his family in the business was part of the story. His had an extraordinary level of common sense. And courage. He built NHIS without a NASCAR promise of Cup series races. He made consistently good decisions and had the tenacity to achieve lofty goals. The reputation he earned as a fair and honest man helped more than this humble man would have ever admitted.

               He was a generous man in many ways, sending annual donations to local churches and other charities. He made sure everyone who came to his track to race went home with money in their pocket, even if they failed to qualify. He was a mentor to many but especially to Cup winner turned TV personality, Ricky Craven.

               Most multi-millionaires learned business at Wharton or Harvard Business School. Bob never finished high school.. From the first shovel that moved dirt on the property, he believed the track in which he was so heavily invested would fail without at least on top level NASCAR date. He built NHIS almost entirely using his own money so the risk was high.

               He loved auto racing and old cars but his first love was his family, his wife Sandra and his son Gary. Both played active roles in Bob’s business life. They built a mansion on Lake Winnipesaukee for he and Sandy and another right next door for Gary. Bob never truly liked the big house and spent his final days in South Paris, Maine in the former home of Governor Hannibal Hamlin, a home built in 1848, where he lived before the lake property was built. Bob was more comfortable in that old house with his car collection just steps away than in the shiny newness of Longview on the lake.

               The man in the kaki pants with the white shirt and yellow sweater was a certified New England treasure. We’ll never see another like him again.

2020 NEAR Hall of Fame Cancelled

2020 NEAR Hall of Fame Cancelled.

The NEAR Board Members and Hall of Fame Executive Committee Representatives met at the ProNyne Motorsports Museum this past Sunday. After much discussion and after holding off as long as possible, we gave in to common sense. The decision was unanimously made to cancel the 2020 NEAR Hall of Fame Banquet.
As hard as this decision was to make, it was the right one. The Covid 19 pandemic has not moved on. Our facility for the event is still not open in Ct. A great number of our membership and honorees are in the highest risk group for infection. In the interest of being as safe as possible, we will regroup and try to have a stellar event in 2021!
Please note that all nominations for the 2020 Hall will be retained for consideration in 2021. We will continue to accept additional nominations until April of 2021. We thank any and all that have had a hand in the planning, sponsoring, and putting on of this event. Please continue to be safe and God Bless.

HOF owner Ray Garuti Sr. Passes



Raymond Garuti Sr., 95, of Southington, passed away on Sunday, May 10, 2020 at Autumn Lake Health Care in Cromwell. He was the husband of the late Irene (Cap) Garuti.

Ray, with his brother Rich, owned and operated Ray’s Garage in Kensington for 39 years. Out of that small garage, the brothers built some of the fastest modified race cars on the East Coast, winning around 150 feature events with such drivers as Eddie Flemke, Smokey Boutwell, Jocko Maggiacomo and Moe Gherzi. The Garuti Brothers were inducted into the New England Race Car Hall of Fame on January 30, 2011. Ray was a US Army Veteran.

Ray is survived by two sons, Ronald Garuti and his wife Libby of New Hartford and Raymond R. Garuti and his wife Naomi Jean “Bunny” of Middlefield; 7 grandchildren, Jennifer, Jaclyn, Jeffrey, Jamie, Beth, Dave and Stephen; 6 great-grandchildren; 1 great-great-grandson and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Richard Garuti and two sisters, Eve Andre and Geraldine Mokalus.

Ray was a loving husband, practical, creative, inventive; a wonderful mentor and always there for his children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, Funeral services will be private. The Della Vecchia Funeral Home, 211 N. Main St., Southington is assisting with arrangements.

For online condolences, please visit www.dellavecchiafh.com

Eddie West arrangements

 

 

Edward Everett West, age 79, lifelong resident of Dunstable, MA crossed his final finish line this past Wednesday evening April 15, 2020 when he passed away at his home.

Born in Ayer, MA on January 7, 1941, Edward was the son of the late Edward Sr. and Julia (Steinholtz) West. Edward was the middle of three children. He graduated from Lowell High School in 1958.

He was fast paced and always on the go, right up until the end of his life. He was beloved and admired by anyone that came in contact with him, and he was recognized everywhere he went across the country to the delight of his grandchildren. A talented super modified race car driver, he won more New England Super Modified Championships than any other driver in history and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1999. Most recently, he was an honoree at the North East Motor Sports Museum Legends Day in 2019 in Loudon, NH.

A skilled mechanic, he owned and operated West Auto Repair for over 40 years. He served his community and leaves behind many lifelong friends. Edward’s greatest joy in life was his family. He never missed an event that involved his grandchildren, which included games, recitals, concerts, and many performances. His eyes lit up when speaking about his cherished grandchildren. Often referred to as the mayor of Dunstable, friends and customers from near and far would spend hours in his office receiving counseling in many areas of life, especially nutrition.

Edward is survived by his two children: Brian and wife Jennifer (Doviak) West of Dunstable and their two children, Sophia and Emma; as well as Jodi and husband David Daron of Londonderry and their five children, Casey, Grady, Killian, Sullivan and Finnegan. He is also survived by his brother Harold and his wife Lorraine (Crooker) West of Dunstable. Along with his parents, Edward is predeceased by his sister Sharon West-Knight.

Edward will be laid to rest privately at Central Cemetery in Dunstable on Tuesday, April 21st at 10AM. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date when the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. To attend Ed’s service on April 21st remotely, please follow the link: http://client.tribucast.com/tcid/36617032

The family would like to express our deepest appreciation to some very special people who have helped us over the years in caring for Ed in numerous ways. The family cannot thank enough Sarah, Frank and Harold for their undevoted love and support for Ed and his family.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Edward’s memory to North East Motor Sports Museum . Donations can be made online at nesmmuseum.com or by sending a check to North East Motor Sports Museum at 922 Rt. 106 in Loudon, NH 03307.

Added at Dick Berggren’s request 4/20/20
 
Ed West will be laid to rest on Tuesday, April 21st at 10AM in the central cemetary in Dunstable, MA.  Due to the social distancing requirements set forth by our government the burial at the cemetary will be private with immediate family only allowed to attend but if you would like to memoralize Ed and show your support for his family we invite you to join us for a “victory lap”.  

After the short ceremony has concluded at the cemetary the Dunstable police will lead us in a quiet lap past Ed’s casket via a parade in our vehicles.  If you would like to participate to memoralize Ed as he is laid to rest please arrive at the Groton Dunstable regional high school parking lot located at 703 Chicopee Rd. in Groton, MA no later than 10AM. 

For the safety of all we ask that you please REMAIN IN YOUR CARS AT ALL TIMES to keep everyone safe.  The ceremony at the cemetary will be live broadcast so feel free to tune in via your phones (here is the link:  http://client.tribucast.com/tcid/36617032)  The police will lead us in a procession to the cemetary where we ask that there be no horn beeping or yelling out instead be respectful and please have your flashing lights on in your vehicle.  Feel free to make a sign to hang on the driver’s side of your car (preferably with a checkered flag decor if you have the supplies at home to make such a thing) in Ed’s memory and to show the immediate family your love and support.  God willing we will have Ed’s 61Jr. be the final car in the parade to go by his casket and family.

These are crazy times that we are living in these days so why not add one more crazy thing to our life … a memorial victory lap around the Dunstable Cemetary to celebrate the life of a Ed West in a safe and proper social distancing way. 

 
 
 
 

HOF Driver Eddie West Passes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story by Mark Bourcier

 

Gutted to learn that Supermodified hero Eddie West has passed. Chatting with Westy at the annual New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame dinners always made that great day even better. Naturally, he was an inductee, part of the NEAR HoF Class of 1999. Some called him “the Golden Bear,” but his coolest nickname was “Goin’ West,” and if he was on the track he was generally goin’ toward the front. Eddie is second on the New England Supermodified Racing Association (NESMRA) all-time win list, with 106 victories from northern New England to Vero Beach, Florida. He was also a six-time track champion at New Hampshire’s Star Speedway, where he won New England’s biggest Supermodified race, the Star Classic, three times. Before Star Speedway existed, Eddie won the Can-Am Classic at nearby Lee Raceway. One last thing: for much of his adult life, Westy suffered from brutal arthritis. There are stories of him popping aspirin as if they were M&M’s just to dull the pain enough to climb in and out of his race car. So anytime you start trying to define what the word “tough” means, consider Eddie West racing in pain, winning in pain, and walking through life in pain, masking it all with grace and a smile. Thinking today of his family, his wide circle of friends, and the entire Supermodified community. There goes a legend. — Bones

2020 Annual Meeting Report-Part 1

The  Annual  Member’s Meeting held on Sunday, Feb. 9th, 2020 was a well attended event. A great showing of members from all corners of New England were on hand to usher in a new season.  Spirits were high as we  got down to the business of the 2019 season ending awards, HOF Truck Committee news, 2020 schedule, Officer Elections, and Special Awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members were greeted at the door and memberships were available from Steve Masse and Valarie and Steve Tucker. Paul Masse had his modified model collection on hand, and he also helped Ric Mariscal man the NEAR t -shirt table. Ric and Pete Newsham teamed up to run the merchandise/memorabilia raffle that raised a little over $200 for the club. The man behind the camera that you never see is NEAR member Brad Cowan, thanks to him for all of our photos.

 

 

 

 

After a delicious luncheon served by Jim and the Thompson Staff, the business side of the meeting began. Current Board officers Rich Goucher,President, Skip Matczak,Vice President, Rob Quinn, Recording Secretary, Paul Masse, Bruce Nichols,and Dick Berggren were elected by popular vote. These officers ran un-opposed. Our open chair for Treasurer/Membership was nominated from the floor, as was another Board member. Elected by the membership by popular vote was April May Preston for Treasurer and Oscar Hancock for Board Member. Many thanks to these two for stepping up and helping our club!!

After being elected as a new Board Member Oscar Hancock, along with Rob Quinn, introduced their vision for the HOF Truck. They proposed that NEAR should authorize a new Hall of Fame Truck Committee. This group will take over fundraising, upkeep, everyday operations and responsibility for events. The truck will remain owned by NEAR and used for NEAR activities. The group displayed a new layout for the graphics on the truck that was very impressive!  They also have a great many sponsors lined up to share the costs involved. A motion was made, seconded, and approved to establish the Hall of Fame Truck Committee. All sponsor, donor,  gift monies and expenses will be run through the NEAR Treasurer’s office for proper book keeping  and reporting. Fantastic job, guys!

Current and this year’s new HOF Truck Graphics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Manafort passes

Frank Manafort,78, passed away peacefully on February 1st 2020 in Stuart, FL. He was born December 7th, 1941 in New Britain to the late Frank and Ida (Orioli) Manafort. Frank is survived by his wife Elizabeth Manafort of Palm City, FL; sister Angela Manafort of Berlin; step daughter Jennifer Hickey of Arlington, MA; daughter Lana Manafort (JR Mancini) of Plainville, CT; son William (Heather) Manafort of Avon; daughter Liza (Nathaniel) Totz of Plainville; daughter Lauren Manafort of Farmington; his grandchildren, Daniel and Devon Nanowski of Plainville, Lola Hickey of Arlington, MA, Olivia and Owen Manafort of Avon and Vincent Totz of Plainville. He is also survived by his nieces, Lorraine Steele of Utah and Shana Manafort (Brian Ely) of Berlin and his great nephew, Brody Ely of Berlin. He also leaves behind his partner in crime “Rusty”. He was predeceased by his twin sister Carol. He also leaves behind many beloved cousins and friends. Frank along with his cousins Jim and Jon took over a small demolition company from their fathers in 1967. Frank was instrumental in forming the Site Work and Concrete divisions of Manafort Brothers which allowed the company to perform a large portion of the civil construction at both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. Frank also began bidding highway work and successfully constructed many of the roads and bridges in Connecticut until his retirement in 2008. He was a generous, loving, loyal and fearless man, in every aspect of his life. A wonderful example was in 1980 when after hearing an explosion he entered a building and saved the life of an injured woman. Frank’s positive attitude and fearlessness was in abundance in his last year of life battling cancer. Frank, with his contagious laugh and beautiful smile, shared his passion for life in everything. He was an avid reader and a man of many “hobbies” and seemed to live his life by the words “go big or go home” in everything he accomplished. He had a lifelong love of boating and most recently enjoyed his voyages with his Grady White Club in FL, traveling throughout the US in his Coach and riding his motorcycles. He had an absolute love of animals both in his everyday life and in raising, breeding (producing many national champions) and showing cattle at his Black Watch Farm in VT where he produced Black Watch Farm beef and was known famously for his Frank’s Franks. He had a lifelong love and passion for both asphalt and dirt racing starting as a teenager with Stock cars at Tinty’s track in Plainville, Legend cars up and down the east coast, until the end of his life with USAC midgets throughout the US, winning many championships along the way. Traveling the world, he experienced a life changing meeting with Pope John Paul. His faith was such an important aspect as to what made him so special, as demonstrated in his more than 30 year relationship with the Marian Fathers. With his partner in faith Father Kaz, he participated in the first and second Apostolic Congresses on Divine Mercy in Rome and Cracow. Through his generosity, guidance and knowledge he assisted in many construction and upgrade projects for the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge MA as well as helping refurbish the Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Eucharist convent in Guadalajara, Mexico. It is with grateful hearts and a sense of comfort and peace that we will celebrate Frank’s life on Sunday February 9, 2020 with calling hours from 3-8 PM at Erickson-Hansen Funeral Home, 411 South Main St., New Britain. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, February 10, at 11 AM at St. Ann’s Church. Burial will follow in St. Mary Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in memory of Frank Manafort Jr. to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy, Stockbridge, MA 01262 and/or to Treasure Coast Hospice Foundation, 1201 SE Indian Street, Stuart, FL 34997-5688.

FRANK MANAFORT, USAC MIDGET CAR OWNER, PASSES AT 78

 (February 1, 2020)………Frank Manafort, whose FMR Racing cars drove to victory lane eight times in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition with drivers Brady Bacon and Jason McDougal over the past four seasons, passed away February 1, 2020 at the age of 78.

Manafort, originally from the northeast, but residing in Palm City, Fla., was the owner of the winning car in several marquee events with the series between 2016 and 2019.  His first victory came with Brady Bacon behind the wheel for a $20,000 payday at the Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. in 2016.

In fact, Bacon accrued six of Manafort’s eight wins as an owner with the series, including a two-night sweep of the Kokomo Grand Prix at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in 2017 and a win in the penultimate round of the season, the November Classic at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway.  FMR and Bacon continued its winning ways in 2018 with a score in the inaugural BC39 at The Dirt Track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

When Bacon stepped back into a part-time role with FMR for 2019, winning remained a constant with driver Jason McDougal capturing his first two career series feature wins at Fairbury, Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway and Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.  Meanwhile, Bacon collected one final win for FMR in the Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway just this last November.

“So sad to hear of the passing of Frank Manafort this morning,” Bacon posted on Twitter Saturday morning.  “Racing for FMR has been a highlight of my career.  Frank was a great friend and great man.  We will miss you my friend.”

FMR Racing was a consistent finisher near the top of the USAC National Midget point standings: 3rd in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 6th in 2019.

Additionally, Manafort won 39 times as a car owner with the USAC DMA Midget series between 2013 and 2016.  His teams swept all 13 races on the schedule in 2016, the first two with Josh Sunn and the final 11 with Adam Pierson.  The 11-race win streak by Pierson in Manafort’s car tied the record for the longest winning streak in USAC history with Billy Boat’s 1995 Western States Midget season.  Together, Pierson and Manafort won three-straight USAC DMA titles between 2014-15-16.