1952 Year in Review

The Speedbowl opened on April 13th to begin its second season. This was the first of many seasons under the original ownership group that began on Easter Sunday.  The season would continue on Sunday afternoons until Saturday May 21 when the Saturday & Wednesday night racing events would begin.  Wednesday nights were considered “Trophy Races” where each feature winner would receive hardware. As would become the norm, the schedule would revert back to Sunday afternoons in late September once the weather became colder at night.  In 1952, all of the late-season Sunday races were non-point events. John Whitehouse, the Speedbowl’s Race Director during it’s first season, left United Stock Car Racing Club during the off-season.  United president Rex Records would take over as Race Director at the Speedbowl for the 1952 season. 

Dick Beauregard drove the #5 car to the 1952 Speedbowl Modified Championship

3-time winner Dick Beauregard was declared Modified Champion after driving several different cars to the driver points title.  The night Beauregard was honored at the track as Champion he received a trophy, a television set, a watch and a cake in front of the Speedbowl crowd during pre-feature ceremonies.  However, the night ended with Dick and Moe Gherzi having a post-race scuffle on the backstretch.  Gherzi spun out while racing with Beauregard and Don Collins for position during the feature.  As the cars lined up to go back into the pits after the race, Gherzi hit Beauregard’s car with his own car from behind, the two then got out of their cars to confront each other.  The verbal confrontation drew a crowd, with some pushing & shoving and possibly some punches thrown, but little else was reported in The New London Day’s report on the race the following day.  Fred Luchesi led the division in wins with 9.  Don Collins had 7 feature wins including a 50-lapper in June.  Cy Yates (3), Ray Delisle (2), Mike Ward and Jim Holt won the other regularly scheduled 50 lap Modified events.

The Speedbowl was part of the UNITED racing sanction in the early 1950’s

There were finishes to a few events that resulted in unusual declarations of feature winners during the 1952 season.  The first of which happened during the June 11 when rain halted the Sportsman Stock 25 lap feature event after only 10 laps were completed.  The remainder of the race was not rescheduled and it was officially declared “incomplete” – Wes Kingsley was the leader when the rains came.  During the August 13 event, Cy Yates and Fred Luchesi crossed the stripe side-by-side at the checkereds, leading the track officials to declare a “photo-finish tie” and credit both drivers with a victory.  However, this was a Wednesday trophy race so the hardware would be up for grabs via a 3-lap match race between the two the following week.  When that event started on August 20, contact between the two down the backstretch on the first lap broke Yates axle and Luchesi initially was awarded the hardware, however in an act of sportsmanship, Luchesi insisted on running the event again the following Wednesday so they could settle it on the track.  So on August 27, a 5-lap match was held with Luchesi beating Yates in a hotly contested duel for the August 13 Trophy.  Ironically, during that night’s regularly scheduled 25 lapper Yates & Luchesi once again battled for the lead but this time Luchesi would wreck, barrel-rolling into the infield.  He was taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for abrasions to his hip and shoulder, but was released hours afterward.  Yates went on to beat Dick Beauregard for the feature win.

Johnny Sandberg was co-champion of the Claiming Car division in 1952

Track Management continued to incorporate new ideas to the racing cards.  During July, the first Modified Team Race was held.  Winner of the inaugural 150 lap combined event was the team of George Clark and Mike Ward after Ed Flemke was declared not to have completed all 150 laps.  Flemke’s team had 2 cars, but he was the only driver.  The Speedbowl officials reviewed the lap counts after the event was finished and it was determined that Flemke completed only 149 of the 150 scheduled laps.  Although Flemke went through the initial post-race ceremonies as the winner, victory was later declared to the Clark-Ward team.  During early September, the first ever Mad Cap event was held.  Formatted as two 50 lap segments with an overall event winner based on best avg finish between the two declared.  Cy Yates and Ray Delisle won the 2 segments while Yates and Dick Beauregard were declared co-winners as the both finished with the same amount of points.  

Claiming Car Co-Champion Harold ‘Curly’ LeMay piloting the #20 car (Shany photo)

The AAA Midgets returned for the second straight year – a 50 lap event won by Johnny Bernardi on June 18.  The Late Model event also returned in August billed as the New Car 100.  George Clark, co-winner of the Modified Team Race, took home the winner’s trophy. Other events included a “back-up” race among junk-yard cars which was run on July 29th, but ruled too dangerous afterwards and never held again. 

The Claiming Car division continued to grow and by early June their events were permanently increased from 15 to 20 laps.  Bud Matter led the division in wins with 9, including a streak of 3 in-a-row late in the year.  Johnny Sandberg (8 wins) and Harold “Curly” LeMay (4 wins) were honored as co-Claiming Car Champions.  Sandberg’s 8 wins came in 4 separate sets of back-to-back victories.  The division had 15 different winners during the year, one less than the 16 different drivers winning in the Sportsman Stock (Modified) class.