Bill Slater‘s legendary run in the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8 car owned by Bob Vitari & Vic Bombaci started in 1958, and 1959 marked their first full-season together. Slater had his best season at the Speedbowl, racking up 15 wins – including the New England Championship in July & two other 50-lappers. He earned his 2nd Speedbowl championship by season’s end. Don Collins won 7 times. Joe McNulty won the other 50 lap event. This video tribute to the late Bill Slater here includes the story of the V-8’s beginnings as told by NEAR Hall of Fame journalist Pete Zanardi.
In the Non-Ford division, Charlie Webster won his 3rd championship in 4 years driving the Simons #9 car. He won 11 races for the 2nd year in a row. Ted Stack won 6 times, including the season-ending 50 lapper (their only extra-distance event of the year). Another future “Eastern Bandit” ran at the Speedbowl in 1959: Rene Charland won 5 Non-Ford races. Charland joined the NASCAR circuit soon afterward and would go onto win 4 straight NASCAR Sportsman Championships from 1962-1965.
Dick Beauregard had an interesting season where he competed in the Modified and Non-Ford divisions weekly, winning 7 races total and finishing runner-up in both divisions’ championship points. He also had the opportunity to race a midget, but it didn’t go as planned when he flipped the car over in turn 3 and was thrown from the car. Amazingly, he was not seriously injured.
Newt Palm won his 1st Speedbowl championship driving the Maffei-Kensel #53 car to the Bomber title. Palm won 10 races during the year, including a streak of 4 in a row in August. Turk Hewitt led the division with 11 wins, including a streak of 5 in a row in June.
Bill Randall & Al Pullion won the two NEMA midget events held during the year.
SPEEDBOWL DOC SERIES
Segment on Bill Slater and the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8 car owned by Vic Bombaci & Bob Vitari from Part 1 of the the Speedbowl Documentary Series produced by Vault Productions