Photos by Bill Henry
Article and Photos courtesy of Bill Henry
September 17, 2017 found the New England Antique Racers at the P.A.L. building for the annual Danbury SNYRA Reunion. This always popular show brought out the crowd, even though the morning started out with clouds, mist, and fog. By noon, the weather had cleared and we were in a summer sweat down. Fortunately, this event is inside. The hot weather had little impact on those shining up their cars. They all displayed well and received the admiration of the masses.
In addition to the cars, the Hall of Fame Museum was also in attendance. This traveling catalog of racing memorabilia was, as always, a hit with those who toured.
It is hard to believe that after 36 years race fans still come out to view the cars, and obtain autographs from their drivers. Many take pictures of cars which now only race in their memory. Some are still on the track at vintage events where some tracks allow NEAR to participate. These are demonstrations. not at top speed and racing, as set forth in our bylaws. If you have not been to a facility where NEAR actively takes to the track, you have missed the sounds of open exhaust, the smell of rubber being ground into the track, and the scent of hot oil. The 2018 schedule is under construction as this is being written. Please check the website and make plans to support NEAR at a local race track. Come show your support for the facilities, and the members who do this as a labor of love for the sport.
Also for the fan’s viewing delight were late models, modifieds, dirt cars and go karts from the surrounding area. They all came out to support the reunion. Outside the facility a good number of street vehicles made the trek to strut their stuff for the pleasure of the attendees.
On behalf of NEAR and the Danbury Racearena Reunion Committee, I would like to thank the following: Don Moon, George Cleveland, Don Lajoie, Pete Ballard, Dale Cote, Bill Kemp, Jojo Farrone and Angie Bullock. Your efforts were paramount to making the show happen by bringing your cars and donating your time. Much appreciated.
A big tip of the hat goes to Steve Zukowski. Steve drove the HOF truck from Rhode Island to Danbury and back so that it was available to the fans.
On to The Plainville Reunion!
Article by Justin St. Louis
The New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame has named two longtime stock car racing journalists, Brian Danko , left, and Tom Herzig, right, to receive the 2017 Mitchell-Ratta Media Award.
Bearing the names of respected motorsports writers Charlie Mitchell of the Norwalk (Conn.) Hour and Jack Ratta of the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, the annual award recognizes reporters dedicated to racing in the region. Past recipients include writers Chris Economaki and Mark “Bones” Bourcier, and radio host Dave Moody.
Danko and Herzig will be honored at the NEAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, November 12, at Maneely’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, Connecticut. For more information including placing a ticket order, visit the official NEAR website at www.NEAR1.org.
Southington, Conn., native Danko is an open-wheel asphalt Modified racing authority, having covered the ground-pounders for over 40 years. Disappointed by a lack of coverage in his local newspaper, Danko took it upon himself to begin documenting the races at Plainville Stadium in the late 1970s for the New Britain (Conn.) Herald. He soon branched out to Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway, and Riverside Park, and eventually covered races from Maine to Florida to Indianapolis.
Danko has spent the last 30 years covering the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for Area Auto Racing News, and has also worked at the last 20 Daytona 500s. He recently recalled a colorful experience sitting between Charlie Mitchell and Jack Ratta in the press box at Daytona International Speedway years ago: “Ithink they believed I needed some looking after,” he fondly remembered. “They were both great writers and personalities.”
Herzig, a native of Charlestown, N.H., has been a respected racing journalist and publicist for 20 years with prolific contributions to some of New England’s most recognizable daily newspapers, including the Manchester Union Leader and the Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times Argus.
While writing columns and covering races for print, Herzig also served in public relations for promoter Tom Curley in 1997-2004, working the busy American-Canadian Tour circuit, Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedbowl, and New York’s Airborne Park Speedway. He gave 10 more seasons at Airborne under promoter Mike Perrotte, and then spent one year as the DIRTcar Northeast Communications Director in 2015.
The well-traveled Granite Stater first cheered on his father, driver Ken Herzig, as he raced against NEAR Hall of Famers Sonny Rabideau and Roy Forsythe at the Cheshire Fairgrounds and at Claremont Speedway in the mid-1950s. Herzig pitched to future Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk in high school, is an accomplished blues musician, and has also covered horse racing and high school and college sports for many years.
NEAR has already named eight new members for its Hall of Fame: Drivers Russ Wood, Bobby Gahan, Gardiner Leavitt, and brothers Jeff and Rick Fuller, crew chief Steve Bird, car owner Tom Dunn, and promoter and media man Ben Dodge Jr.; still to come are selections from the Veterans Committee. For more information, visit www.NEAR1.org.
Grand Prize of $1000 Phyllis Wolstenhulme
Second Prize of $250 Cheryl Reilly
Third Prize $125 John Rodolewicz
Fourth Prize 2 tickets 2017 HOF Banquet Norman Cyr
Fifth prize 2 tickets 2017 HOF Banquet Lou Kelley
Sixth Prize 2 tickets 2017 HOF banquet Barbara Teal
Seventh Prize 2 tickets 2017 HOF banquet Paul Jacques
Eight Prize 1 2017 HOF t shirt Sydney Sullivan
Ninth Prize 1 2017 HOF t shirt Bruce Mackinnon
Tenth Prize 1 2017 HOF T shirt Cliff Polacek
Eleventh Prize 1 2017 HOF T shirt Dave Beribeoulk
Twelve Prize 1 2017 HOF T shirt Marion Gararneau
Thirteenth Prize 1 2017 HOF T Shirt Bill Seward
Fourteenth Prize 1 2017 HOF T shirt Ted Palmer
Fifteenth Prize 1 2017 HOF T shirt Jojo Farone
Tribute from Bailey Funeral Home Website
“First tap is telling you I’m here. Second tap is telling you to pick a lane. Third tap, I’m picking the lane for you.”
Ted “TC” “The King” Christopher #13
NASCAR driver, business owner and beloved husband, son, brother, uncle and friend, Theodore “Ted” “TC” Christopher, died following a tragic airplane crash in Guilford Saturday.
The celebrated 59-year-old driver, a Plainville native who recently moved to Southington, left behind both a legend and a legacy. His life was full of energy, swagger, intelligence, generosity and kindness that together contributed to the essence of a man whose greatness went far beyond the race track.
In 2001 Christopher won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title and in 2008 the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour Crown. With 13 combined championships, he was the winningest driver at both Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
Christopher, whose “Three Tap” rule reflected his aggressive, signature racing style, was named one of the top 25 drivers in NASCAR’s weekly series in 2006, when the series celebrated its 25th anniversary. In 2008, Stafford named a section of its grandstand in his honor. Despite his age, Christopher had not lost any of his edge. So far this season he had racked up six wins at Stafford with his most recent just two weeks ago.
A fan favorite whose ability was respected by his racing peers, Christopher won hundreds of awards and accolades throughout his racing career. And while most knew him because of his racing celebrity, his biggest successes in life went far beyond the tracks he raced on.
A well-regarded and hard-working businessman who owned M & T Enterprises in Plainville, Christopher’s roots in his community ran deep. A 1976 graduate of Plainville High School, he was a sports enthusiast who was captain of his high school wrestling team. In 2013 he was inducted into the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame. He rooted for any football team that was winning, especially if the team was beating his wife’s Dallas Cowboys, but could care less about the Red Sox or the Yankees. He was an avid reader, loved rock and roll music, was a classic car collector and a guy who couldn’t imagine life without his German shepherds, including puppy Maverick. His friendships with his gang of longtime friends were precious, respected and far reaching. An accomplished cook, he never missed the Wednesday night Outback dinners “with the boys” followed by Pralines ice cream on his way home. Morning oatmeal from scratch with a side of “Let’s Make A Deal” was a must.
He was generous to his community, sponsoring many children’s recreational activities and quietly contributing to non-profit efforts because he wanted to help. As a son and sibling, he was devoted. As an uncle, he loved knowing that the party never really began for delighted nieces and nephews until a boisterous, grinning and mischief-making “Uncle Teddy” arrived.
Nothing in his life however, was more important than his wife, Quinn Wazorko Christopher, and the treasured life and home they had built together. It reflected an unshakeable bond of love and trust and teamwork that he valued much more than his rooms full of trophies.
Christopher was a true man of merit, one who lived every day of his life to the fullest and whose life ended too soon. He will be missed more than words can explain.
Besides his wife he leaves his mother Lucy (Graziano) Christopher; his twin brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Jen Christopher of Wolcott; his sister and brother-in-law Joe and Judy Christopher Mannix of Longmeadow; his mother-in-law MaryEllen Fillo Wazorko of Southington and Delray Beach, Fl ; his brothers-and sisters-in-law, Christopher and Raegan Wazorko and Justin and Tabitha Manafort, all of Plainville; his nephews and nieces, Michael and Nicole Christopher, George and Jacob Mannix, Olivia, Lillian and Amelia Wazorko , and Samantha, Justin, and Tommi Manafort. He also leaves many aunts, uncles, cousins and treasured friends who shared his love of life both on and off the racetrack and dearly treasured him. He was pre-deceased by his beloved father, William Christopher.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Matthew Church, 120 Church St., Forestville. Friends are asked to meet directly at church. Calling hours will be held Monday from 3 to 8 p.m. at Bailey’s Funeral Home, 48 Broad St Plainville .There will also be a race program memorial at Stafford Speedway in Stafford Springs on Oct. 1 where his #13 car number will be retired.
It is said “The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.” His life was one of love, sass, compassion, honesty and adventure. His legacy is all that and much more.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Ted Christopher Memorial Fund, care of Farmington Bank, 117 East Street Plainville Ct 06062 Attn. Bree Pirog. To leave a condolence go to www.bailey-funeralhome.com
Ted Christopher Memorial Fund
117 East Street, Plainville CT 06062
Our thoughts and prayers are with Quinn, Michael, and the family.
Rest In Peace Ted , you were the one everyone wanted to beat, because you were the best. Godspeed.
Thank you all in advance for your kindmess!
Diverse group of eight to be inducted in November
SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – The New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame has announced that it will induct eight new members into its Class of 2017 – the 20th year for the region’s most prestigious honor roll. A wide-ranging group of drivers, car owners and builders, one crew chief, and one multi-faceted contributor will join the NEAR Hall of Fame, raising the total to 225 members enshrined.
Steve Bird, Ben Dodge Jr., Tom Dunn, Russ Wood, Bobby Gahan, Gardiner Leavitt, and racing brothers Jeff and Rick Fuller will be formally inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 12, at Maneely’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, Connecticut. For more information including placing a ticket order, visit the official NEAR website at www.NEAR1.org.
A native of Salem, N.H., Bird made a lasting impression on the national NASCAR trail as an elite crew chief. After getting his start in the 1970s with barnstorming NEAR Hall of Fame driver Pete Fiandaca in the Modified ranks, Bird graduated to travel the coast-to-coast Winston Cup and Busch Series circuits for more than 20 years.
“Birdie” was a crew member for Ron Bouchard’s 1981 Cup win at Talladega, and then later as a crew chief he prepared winning cars for Busch drivers Steve Grissom, Kenny Wallace, and the late Robbie Moroso; Bird and Moroso won the championship together in 1989. Bird dominated in 1995-97 when he won three consecutive Busch titles and 12 races with BACE Motorsports drivers Johnny Benson Jr. and NEAR Hall of Famer Randy LaJoie.
Ben Dodge Jr. enters the NEAR Hall of Fame for his work as an announcer, race promoter, track manager, and media personality. Dodge got his start on the microphone at Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass., in 1973 at age 19, and his voice quickly became well-known and respected. Dodge became more deeply involved at ‘The Park’ when he became the promoter in 1982 and held that position for 15 seasons; during that time, Dodge helped transform the speedway from a flat 1/5-mile oval into a racy, banked 1/4-mile under NASCAR sanction.
The Vernon, Conn., native was later a key player at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway in 1997-98 and again from 2005 to 2012, where he was the announcer and part of the management team. Dodge hit the television and radio airwaves, too, producing and anchoring 325 episodes of “Raceweek” on the New England Sports Network (NESN) starting in 1981, “NASCAR New England” in 2005-07, and hosting the syndicated “This Week In Racing” radio program from 1979-96. Dodge also owned a Modified team and collected a handful of victories.
Wrentham, Mass., native Tom Dunn was a prolific winner both in straight lines and on short tracks. He began drag racing in 1953 and at one point enjoyed an incredible five-year undefeated streak; his top victory came in an NHRA national event at Lebanon Valley (N.Y.) Dragway in 1964. Dunn went oval racing as a car owner in 1971, briefly running Late Models before switching to Modifieds and Pro-4 Mini-Modifieds.
Fielding the famous No. T-5 Pinto wagon, a who’s-who of Modified stars drove for Dunn including Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens, George Summers, Ollie Silva, Mike Ordway, Bentley Warren, and others. Championships came with drivers Fred Schulz, Leo Cleary, and Jeff Fuller, and Cleary and Dave Lind won titles in Dunn’s Pro-4 cars. Dunn was also revered as a master engine builder, working with Modified, Mini-Modified, and Midget teams.
Russ Wood of Pelham, N.H., is a legend in Supermodified racing. During his time with the International Supermodified Association (ISMA), he collected 54 race victories – second on the series’ all-time list – and a record eight ISMA championships from 1991 through 2011.
Wood was the track champion at Star Speedway in 1988, 1989, and 2000, and at Lee USA in 1996; he missed the title at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway in 1994 by just 12 points. His best season was in 1997 when he won 14 of his 28 total starts and never finished worse than fourth place, and among his total 111 career wins are a record eight Star Classics and four wins in Ohio’s Sandusky Classic.
Lee, N.H., native Bobby Gahan piled up incredible records as a weekly “Saturday night” racer on a tight budget. Following in the footsteps of his legendary father, Ernie, Bobby started racing in 1968 at age 19. Gahan is celebrated for his efficiency, longevity, and versatility, winning for nearly 40 years in open-wheel Modifieds and full-fender Late Models and Pro Stocks.
Gahan won a total of 13 track championships at Lee USA, Star Speedway, and Hudson International in his home state, as well as Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway; his three consecutive Modified titles at Beech Ridge came on dirt in 1985 and on asphalt in 1986 and ’87. Gahan was the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series New England Region champion in 1998 and won nearly 200 feature races during his career.
Gardiner Leavitt is perhaps the sentimental favorite in the Class of 2017. While not a frequent winner, “The Geezer From Kezar” – as in, Kezar Falls, Maine – has been a significant contributor and a favorite among fans and drivers alike since his 1951 debut behind the wheel. The expert chassis builder and parts dealer called Beech Ridge home and did manage to win several races including a 200-lapper.
Leavitt and his wife, June, hit the road in the 1970s and ran with NASCAR North and later the American-Canadian Tour until his retirement in 1988; his stat line includes a fourth-place finish in the 1979 point standings. After taking on the role of car owner, his familiar No. 1X cars carried Brad Leighton, Glenn Cusack, and Steve Knowlton, and won an ACT race at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway with Kelly Moore aboard in 1989.
For the first time in NEAR history, two brothers will be included in the same Hall of Fame class, as Auburn, Mass., products Jeff and Rick Fuller will join the club. Jeff Fuller won the 1992 championship on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and his 31 career wins rank him fifth on the all-time list, with victories at 10 tracks including Martinsville Speedway, Nazareth Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Oxford Plains.
Jeff Fuller scored two major wins in full-size stock cars in 1996, earning a NASCAR Busch Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway in August and a Busch North Series win in the Thompson Speedway 300 the next month. Jeff drove Tom Dunn’s No. T-5 to the Westboro (Mass.) Speedway Modified championship in 1979 and 1981, and also won the 1982 Westboro Late Model title.
Rick Fuller owns 20 NASCAR Modified Tour victories (eighth all-time) and succeeded his older brother as the champion in 1993. Rick finished 17 of his 18 full-time seasons running the Tour inside the Top 10 and ranked third or better six times. He was voted the series’ Most Popular Driver in 2000.
Before his Tour years, Rick Fuller was a big winner in weekly competition, taking countless feature wins and Late Model titles at Westboro in 1980 and Thompson in 1982, as well as Modified titles at Thompson in 1984 and the New London-Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl in 1985. Rick later won a NASCAR Busch North Series race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in 1998.
The NEAR Hall of Fame awards dinner will be held at Maneeley’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, Conn., on Sunday, November 12. Still to be announced are Hall of Fame selections from the Veterans’ Committee and the winner of NEAR’s annual Mitchell-Ratta Media Award. For more information, visit www.NEAR1.org.