Thursday, July 23, 2009

Northeastern Speedway Reunion Event Recap

WATERFORD, Vermont — Despite a fierce effort by a few neighbors to prevent it from happening, the 50-year reunion celebration at Northeastern Speedway went off as scheduled last Saturday, July 18.
The event was heralded as a huge success by the promoter and race fans alike.
Speedway owner Paul Bellefeuille had worked for 15 months to ensure the event took place, cutting down trees, smoothing the soil, planting acres of grass and meeting with town officials. And although weather forecasts called for heavy rains lasting well into Saturday morning, they moved out earlier than predicted — giving all those in attendance a bright, sunny day to enjoy the variety of cars and large number of former drivers gathered.
“This turned out better than I had ever dreamed,” Bellefeuille said. “I did the best I could to prepare and hoped for the best. What I got was larger than life; the drivers all came, we drew cars from all over New England and everyone had a great time. We wanted to recognize and draw attention to those who made this such a famous track from 1959 to 1966.”
Former drivers and officials on hand for the celebration included 1959 track champion Johnny Gammell; 1960 champion Glenn Andrews; 1964 title holder Denny Dearborn; Charlie Ely, the man who built Northeastern back in ‘59; Skip Easter, Paul Martel (3J), Pete Racine, Russ Ingerson, Junior Coffin, Ken Robinson, Buddy Bardwell, Paul Belknap, Ronnie 'Satch' Hunt, Glen Gadapee, former race director Reg Garand, Alden Aiken, editor of the original Racing News; Charlotte and Alvin Fadden, widow and son of legendary driver Stanley ‘Stub’ Fadden; Pete Blackadar, widow of original flagman Archie Blackadar; and Ricky Marvin, son of former track champion Ronnie Marvin. This group represented the very finest of early short track drivers and race officials ever assembled in northern New England.
“Our driver recognition ceremony brought tears to the faces of many, including my own,” Bellefeuille added. “It was an emotional day I’ll never forget, and I hope we’ll be able to do this annually and help keep those great racing memories alive.”
What fans discovered as they entered the grounds was a pristine old racetrack in amazing shape after over 40 years of neglect. As those fans poured in, restored Coupes from around the northeast rolled in to help reproduce the magic this historic oval once held.
With nice weather conditions and plenty to look at, fans roamed the speedway grounds all day enjoying stories, getting autographs and taking lots of pictures. The Bob Doyle Museum was in the pit area, staffed by Vermont auto racing historian Cho Lee, who knows more than anybody else on the planet about the old Coupes. Lloyd Hutchins was on hand with his beautiful restored cars, drawing attention throughout the day.
They came from northern New Hampshire, Central Maine and even the west coast, all to celebrate the rich history if this 1/5-mile paved oval in the Northeast Kingdom. Ely flew in from California to attend the event, as did Aiken.
For Paul and Lise Bellefeuille, it was the ultimate reward for tons of hard work. But for those old drivers, car owners and their families, it was a show of appreciation and respect they’ll never forget. And neither should any good self-respecting race fan. Without the efforts of the men recognized last Saturday at that tiny little bullring in northern Vermont, short track stock car racing would have never evolved into the true giant it is today here in the northeast. We all owe them a tremendous debt for laying the foundation for the sport we know and love today.