Loss of a Legend

All of us at NEAR  wish to express our deepest sympathy to the family, friends, and fans of Modified legend Ted Christopher. The racing community has lost it’s most vibrant personality, and mentor to many.

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.

 

Cards Requested/Needed

One of our own NEAR members from our northern contingent has a birthday on September 18th! He’s having a bit of a rough time lately, so it would be nice if folks could send him a birthday card to cheer him up. Please send them to:

                 Lloyd Hutchins

                 P.O . Box 752

                 Barre, VT. 05641

Thank you all in advance for your kindmess!

New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame Announces 20th Class

Contributed by Justin St. Louis

 

 

 

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.

HOF TICKET FORM 2017

September NEAR upcoming Events!!

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Thanks to Bill Henry for the article and picture selections.

 

First on the calendar is the yearly trip to Claremont Speedway ,  282 Thrasher Rd, Claremont, New Hampshire. The New England Antique Racers are due to sign into the pits starting at  3 P.M. this Friday, Sept. 1st .  This is a running show, please be prepared to show the spectators that we have many  excellent running vintage race cars. Come out and enjoy the show!  Remember, given the cool week we have just had,  to bring a sweater or sweat shirt as it does get cool in the evening in the White Mountains.

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On Sunday September 17th,  there is the traditional Danbury Reunion show. Again this year,  sign in is from 8 am  to 10 am and the show runs from 10 am  to 3 pm. This is an inside venue so it will be held rain or shine  at  the Danbury P .A.L. Building located at 35 Haynestown Road in Danbury, CT.  This is always a well attended show with race fans from the day with their children and near 1Danbury 2016 006grandchildren in tow. Food will be available for purchase along with numerous souvenirs.  There is an autograph session with many drivers and legends  present to satisfy the desires of the fans. There is live music that just replicates the feel of the Danbury of old.  Come and support NEAR and the HOF truck. Tickets will be on sale for the HOF banquet to be held on November  12th,  2017,  as well as forms to renew your membership for 2018.  Follow the signs from route 84 to this most pleasurable event.

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On Saturday September 23 the Plainville Reunion Committee will be holding the annual Plainville Speedway reunion.  The event is held on the grounds  of the Berlin Fair on Beckley Road.  This year’s event is the first to be held previous to the weekend of the Fair . The members do an excellent job with Plainville 2013 004signs to direct you in from Rte 9  or tthe Berlin Turnpike.  This event draws many of the former drivers who will be on hand to sign autographs and talk about the tight ¼ mile track that challenged many a driver. It is a great day for car owners and fans. The show runs from 10 to 3.  There will be food and gift items for sale.  

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2017 Riverside Reunion Scheduled

 

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The  2017  Riverside  Park  Speedway  Reunion, presented by Teddy Bear Pools, has  been  scheduled  for  early December.  This  year’s  reunion  is  part  of  the  New England  Racers  Auction  and  Trade  Show  on  Saturday December 2, 2017  at  the  Mass  Mutual  Center.  With  the help  of   NEAR – New  England  Antique  Racers, this  year’s reunion  will  include  antique  race  cars,  drivers,  photos, autographs  and  old  videos  by  KGM  Video.  The  event  is open  to  the  general  public  and  offers  free  nearby parking .  The  cost  of  admission  is  $10.00  for  adults. 
For  more  information  and  announcements  please visit  www.neracersauction.com 
Anyone  wishing  to participate,  show  a  car,  sign autographs,  help  sponsor  the  event,  etc. Please  contact Don  at  413-246-8452

 

 

2 Events for NEAR on Saturday, July 29th, 2017

               Waterford  Speedbowl

               Rte. 85, Waterford, Ct.

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. finds the southern New England contingent of NEAR gathering for both a static and running event. The NEAR Hall of Fame Truck will also be in attendance. Waterford always runs a fine, fun filled event, with many fans perusing all the cars on display. Come on down for a great day!

 

                   Speedway 51

    78  Craggy Road, Groveton, N.H.

Saturday, July 29th at 3:00 p.m. finds the Northern New England contingent of NEAR participating in a running show at Speedway 51 in New Hampshire. Always a good time to be had with the fans from up north, make this show if you are in the area.

 

NEAR HALL OF FAMER/ NESMRA CO-Founder Ken Smith Passes

KENDALL CRAIG SMITH

(February 16, 1939-February 11, 2017)

Kendall embodied the essence of these inspirational words; “A Winner Never Quits and a Quitter Never Wins …” one of his cherished quotes. He used them often to motivate anyone that needed encouragement. In fact, many of Mr. Smith’s quotes are embedded in this tribute fallowing his passing caused by respiratory disease.

Born in Haverhill, MA, February 16, 1939, the only son of the late Clifton and Gertrude Smith, he was predeceased by his younger sister Susan Craig (Smith) Silva (1998). Raised in Groveland, MA, by his single mother, Ken had to quickly learn the importance of hard work at an early age, to help provide for his mother and sister. This set the stage for a life of determination, perseverance and generosity; and he never quit. It was this winning and encouraging spirit that touched so many lives. Mr. Smith and his family resided in Kingston, NH for the past forty years.

Family Ties

Kendall met his wife, Evelyn Mae (Ralph) Smith, as they both graduated in 1956 from Georgetown’s Perley High School. In October of 2016, they were married for 55 years. Together, they have two children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Family members are; daughter, Kimberly Craig (Smith) of Chagrin Falls Ohio and son, Craig William Smith and wife, Mary-Teresa (Johnson) Smith of Roswell, Georgia. Grandchildren are; Tyler Craig Shea of Kingston, NH, Colby Amelia Shea of Charleston, SC, Logan Oliver Shea of Chagrin Falls, OH, Kyle William Smith of Athens, GA and Austin Craig Smith of Roswell, GA. Mr. Smith had one great granddaughter, Kendall Rye Cunnington, of Charleston, SC, as well as two-goddaughters, Julie (Holbrook) Lichtman of Windham, NH and Sarah (Ralph) Stockbridge of Groveland, MA.

“Work Hard…Don’t Give Up”

After earning an Associate’s Degree in 1958 from Bentley School of Accounting in Boston. Mr. Smith began his 52-year banking career at the former Merrimack Valley National Bank, in Andover, MA. Starting in the basement floor, processing checks by hand in the Proof Department, his hard work ethic didn’t let him down as he rose through the ranks. When the bank became Bay Bank Merrimack Valley, Mr. Smith was appointed Vice President until 1982, when he was hired by Granite State Bank in Somersworth, NH, as its Vice President. On March 5, 1984, Mr. Smith was hired as Executive Vice President of the Pentucket Bank in Haverhill, MA, where he would work for the next 26 years. He was brought to the bank by then-President Ed Cote, who started his career on the very same day with Ken in 1958.

Mr. Smith went on to become the President of Pentucket Bank, Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Board of Investment. Under his leadership, Pentucket Bank grew to become Greater Haverhill’s leading financial institution, owning the largest market share in the region. Pentucket Bank continuously earned a 5-Star superior rating from Bauer-Financial, Inc., the nation’s independent banking research firm. Mr. Smith retired as President and Chief Executive Officer in June of 2010. He continued serving as Chairman of the Board, Trustee, Corporator and Advisor.

Charity Champion

One of Ken’s favorite quotes was this; “Some people think it’s nice to be important, but I think it’s important to be nice.”

Kindness, loyalty and generosity were the very fiber of Ken’s character, which started at a young age. Mr. Smith’s volunteer time and charitable contributions benefitted numerous charities throughout the Greater Haverhill Community.

His many honors and awards recognized selfless acts serving the needs of people from various ages and all walks of life. Kendall, and his wife, voluntarily served as the Sanborn Regional School Treasurer for over 25 years (1969-1994). In 1999, he was chosen Salvation Army’s, ‘Man of the Year.’ The following year, Mr. Smith was honored with the American Red Cross ‘McCallum Humanitarian Award’ given to individuals whose efforts make our community a better place to live and work. Ken lived by The Boy Scout Motto: Be prepared; Do your duty; and Do a good turn daily. Perhaps this helped him earn the Boy Scouts of America, “Distinguished Citizen Award” in 2002.

During 2003-2004, Mr. Smith was the Haverhill Rotary President, under which he led a fundraising drive to build a stone sign for Winnekenni Castle. For these efforts, he earned the “Paul Harris Fellow Award” presented by The Rotary Club to a member who has contributed selflessly for the betterment of their community. In 2005, The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce presented Mr. Smith with the “Business Person of the Year” award.

Along with Pentucket Bank, Kendall was a yearly participant and financiaJ donor to Haverhill’s annual VFW Santa Parade as well as an on-site participant in the Haverhill Gazette Santa Fund ‘Hole-In-One’ event. Mr. Smith was on the Board of the Veterans North East Outreach of Haverhill, MA. He was awarded the Liberty Bell Plaque in 2010, annually given by Haverhill’ s Bar Association to a “non-lawyer in recognition for service to the community.” He was a member of the NECCO Foundation Board and participated in the Mayor’s Breakfast. He was an Advisory Board Member of the Greater Haverhill Foundation, Inc. and contributing member of the Groveland Historical Society. Mr. Smith made numerous radio appearances over WHAV on the “Open Mike Show” with Tim Coco, discussing racing, banking and history of his beloved Greater Haverhill.

When Nothing Goes Right…Go Left

A lifelong passion for auto racing eventually landed Ken in the New England Racing Hall of Fame in 2006. He devoted much of his life to racing. Starting once again from the bottom up, he sold popcorn and programs at The Pines Speedway. He was a soap box derby champion in Groveland and even drove cars in the woods behind his house. He had a brief race driving career and wrote his own racing column for The Haverhill Gazette.

It was in these early years where Ken became a devoted fan of the late racing legend Ollie Silva, also a racing Hall-of-Famer. He developed a friendship with Silva and was best man when Silva married Ken’s sister, Susan, in 1972.

Ken’s zest for racing led him to join dear friend and colleague, Russ Conway, of Haverhill, MA, as well as the late Charlie Elliott. Together with car-owners and drivers, they formed the New England Super-Modified Racing Association (NESMRA) in 1965. Ken was its only General Manager and guided the group to become a highly recognized racing organization. The group traveled from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Hialeah, FL, operating over 1,000 racing events and over 10,000 actual races between 1965-1999. Over the years, NESMRA paid out more than $6 million in prize money.

Cars with Flames go Faster than Cars Without

Among the “Home” speedways that Ken and NESMRA operated were; Star Speedway, Epping, NH; Lee Raceway, Lee, NH; Hudson Speedway, Hudson, NH, Lee USA Speedway, Lee, NH, and Canaan Fairgrounds Speedway, Canaan, NH. Along the way, his wife and kids would support him whether it be selling in the ticket booth, or taking tickets at the gate. Eventually, Ken managed to turn a few of his
grandchildren onto to the sport as well. NESMRA operated numerous car shows as well as snowmobile races, concerts and boxing events. Mr. Smith was co-founder of the Florida Winter National Series, Yankee All-Star League for Modifieds, the Canadian Super-Modified Tour. In 1970, NESMRA reorganized the annual “World Series of Speedway Racing” with Thompson Speedway owner, Don Hoenig.

Each year, Ken was a highly passionate, active organizer and donor to the annual Pines Speedway Reunion in Groveland, MA. He participated as a Selection Committee Member and this past October was elected as an Honoree himself. Ken was a long-time member of the New England Auto Racers Inc., and the Senior Tour Auto Racers.

Mr. Smith was a founding member, major contributor, Treasurer and Executive Board Member of the North East Motorsports Museum, a new 10,000-square foot home for historical race cars, memorabilia and decades of racing history. The building is located at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in Loudon, NH. Opening ceremonies for this special museum will be in June, 2017.

A Fun Way of Life

“That’s the trouble with the world, too many people grow up…” -Walt Disney’s line was another Ken favorite. Mr. Smith adored children. He was never shy to tell an animated story that he would make up on the spot. Children would gather around and be mesmerized by his voices and tales that often included their names.

A well known love of Ken’s was the magic of Mickey Mouse and Disney. Arriving with his wife and children at Walt Disney World the first year it opened in 1972, Ken was fascinated with that wonderment started by just a mouse, a dream and an imagination. From that time forward, Ken had an affection and passion for anything Disney.

Visiting Disney World numerous times over the years with his wife and family, wearing Mickey Mouse lapel pins on his business suits on a daily basis. He purchased two six-foot stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse figures that sat in his Pentucket Bank President’s office. He would be seen wearing oversized white gloves with three fingers, just like Mickey. While participating in many local parades, Ken would decorate his 1974 Corvette, pump up the music and wear a Mickey Mouse costume while his teen-aged children, their friends, other family, bank or racing helpers volunteered to wear many other Disney costumes.

Keep Learning and Practice

Mr. Smith believed education opened the doors to people of all backgrounds. He considered the key to success was education and placed a high value on it. Mr. Smith often said that if he did not pursue a career in banking, he would have liked to have been a teacher. In fact, his mother, sister and daughter all worked for school systems in Greater Haverhill. Mr. Smith frequently invited the school children of Haverhill to take field trips to Pentucket Bank to learn the importance about money and savings. He often treated classes to lunch after touring the famous Pentucket Bank Vault. In April 2006, The Haverhill Foundation for Excellence in Education held, ” An Evening to Roast and Toast Ken Smith,” as a fundraiser, with 300 people in attendance.

Respect, Responsibility, Reliability

Family time often included sound advice to the youngest of ears that were listening to Ken. He never missed an opportunity to instill a value to his children, grandchildren or any young face that was listening.

For 51 years, Ken and Evelyn took their family to their annual beach retreat at Jenness Beach, Rye, NH. Ken was affectionately known as the Mayor of Jenness Beach, where he sat atop his ocean-front perch. Friends and beach-goers would find a smiling pal with quick wit and humor. He would share his many stories, quotes, jokes, lessons learned, business facts, racing statistics, open-minded knowledge, opinion and lectures. He treated everyone he met fairly, with respect and with an open mind. He believed, no matter how educated, talented, wealthy or cool you were, how you treat people tells everything about your integrity.

Do Great Things …But Stay Humble

Mr. Smith was a proud man. Proud of his devoted family, his dedicated employees of the Pentucket Bank, his loyal racing peers and fans, his charitable colleagues and faithful friends. Whether he was making good turns daily on the track of life or making left-hand turns on the race track, Kendall personified a larger than life, magnetic character to all that knew, admired, loved and adored him.

Memorial Services: Calling Hours, Tuesday, June 6, 2017 between 2-4pm and 5-Bpm at the Paul C. Rogers Family Funeral Home, 334 Main St., Haverhill, MA.

A Celebration of Life will be held Wednesday, June 7, 2017 between 4-8 pm at DiBurro’s Function Facility in Ward Hill, MA.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Mr. Smith’s honor, may be made to the following:

*Emmaus House Inc.- Attn: Gretchen Arntz, P.O. Box 568, Haverhill, MA 01831

*Kendall Craig Smith Scholarship Fund- Attn: Tracy Parker, Haverhill High School, 137 Monument St., Haverhill, MA 01832

*The North East Motorsports Museum- Attn: NEMSM, 7 Bayview Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938

*The Northern Essex Community College Foundation- Attn: Jean Poth, 100 Elliott St., Haverhill, MA 01830

*The Pines Speedway Reunion- Attn: Claire Walsh, PO Box 178, Groveland, MA 01834

*Rotary Club of Haverhill- Attn: Bill Kleuber, P.O. Box 808, Haverhill, MA 01831