VOLUME 1, NUMBER 6                                                                                                                                 

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Featuring Stories, Results, Photos and Articles From Northeast Racing's Past

VINTAGE RACE RESULTS

Don Rounds Victor At New London Speedbowl-1951
Don Rounds of Rhode Island today took the Main Event here at “speedy” New London Speedbowl. On a nice warm Sunday afternoon for racing, 3500 race fans came to see the boys of the United Stock Car Racing Club put on the third Stock Car Race’s here at the Speedbowl.
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Mordino, Hill Win At Plainville-1971
Tony Mordino and Bob Vivari tied for first place honors in the 50 lap madcap at the Plainville Stadium Saturday night. Both drivers accumulated a total of 34 points for the two 25 lap races that makeup the madcap.
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New Breed Strikes At Stafford Springs Again - 1972
The Stafford “New Breed” struck again Saturday night. Ray Miller pushed his ’68 Ford Mustang into victory circle in the 30 lap NASCAR modified main.
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Billy Harman Goes Home To Speedbowl And Takes Checker-1975
It was “Home Town Night” Saturday at the New London Waterford Speedbowl, as nearby Niantic and Waterford drivers captured both feature races at the oval!
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By Tom Ormsby

Driver Profile: Billy Harman

n Sunday April 15, 1951 a 7th grader watched the first ever race at the New London /Waterford Speedbowl. That 7th grader was also attending his first race. Bob Swift would go in the record books as the first winner at the new racetrack. Young Billy Harman would become hooked on racing after that first race, never to miss a Wednesday or Saturday race for many years to come at the Speedbowl. Like many a youngster after attending their first race, Bill knew he wanted to be a race driver.

In his sophomore year of high school Bill would build his first race car in the high school’s shop class, a 1938 six cylinder Chevy Coupe. After school Bill would take the 38 Chevy to the Morgan Farm, about a mile from the Speedbowl. There were some weekdays Bill would drive the car from the farm to the Speedbowl and sneak on the racetrack. Bill recalls, “This was my first opportunity to drive the race car”.

In 1956 you needed to be 18 years old to get in the pits and 21 to drive a racecar. Bill being 18 put Dick Foster behind the wheel as his driver. Bill says, “I had to disguise myself with sunglasses and a cigar to get on the track during practice”.

In 1959, now 21 years old, Billy would start an over two decade racing career purchasing an old Dick Beauregard car. A Modified Ford with a 312 engine. “I was finally racing with drivers I watched for the past 8 years”. “There were some great drivers at the Bowl at the time, including Bill Slater, Don Collins, Billy Greco, Ted Stack, Johnny Thompson, Charlie Webster, Rene Charland, Red and Russ Foote, Beauregard and many more”.


Billy at the start of his career.

1959 also saw Billy gain “Rookie of the Year” honors and several heat race victories.

Sunday September 4, 1960 would bring Billy the first feature win of his career in the Speedbowl’s “Labor Day Special”. Bill says’ “I remember being congratulated by Bill Slater and Red Foote.


Bill with the L&M at an Open Show at Seekonk Speedway in 1964.

Bill would continue racing at “The Bowl” until 1964, taking in some Open Competition shows along the way at Seekonk, Westboro and Thompson. “It was then I realized I wanted to race three or four nights a week. Billy won five features at the Speedbowl including the extra distance July and August Championship races that year.

Billy’s wish of racing more than once a week would become reality when he received a call from car owner and builder Roland Ballinger, who shared a garage with the legendary Eddie Flemke, to go NASCAR racing in 1965. 

A typical schedule back then included Friday night racing in Old Bridge (N.J.), Saturday night racing in the old Norwood Arena south of Boston and then on to Utica-Rome (N.Y.) on Sundays. Harman also mixed in some features in Beltsville (Md.) along the way, traveling between 1,200 and 1,500 miles on some weekends.

Bill continued his career driving as much as possible for many car owners through the years competing on tracks from Canada to Miami Beach and as far west as Ohio, racing at 54 different racetracks. “In the late 60’s to the mid 70’s I regularly ran Thursdays at Catamount, Vt., Fridays at Albany-Saratoga, N.Y., Saturdays at Plattsburgh, N.Y and Sundays at Utica-Rome, N.Y. or Thompson Speedway, taking down championships at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. and Thompson Speedway”.


Billy's first foray in the NASCAR ranks came in this Roland Ballinger #302.

He even moved to Malta (N.Y.) for five years in the late 1960s in order to compete in Catamount (Vt.) on Thursdays, Albany-Saratoga (N.Y.) on Fridays, Plattsburgh (N.Y.) on Saturdays and Utica-Rome or Thompson on Sundays.

Billy’s racing career also had some dark days with the loss of friends Don MacTavish, Joe Csiki, Dick Dixon, Red Bolduc, Fred DeSarro and Richie Evans to racing accidents and his closest friend Georgie Pendergast to natural causes.


Bill at Norwood. The next day Dick Dixon would perish behind the wheel of the 01.

One incident that particularly stands out to Bill was the 1967 death of Dick Dixon. Billy was the regular driver of the Andy Anderson owned #01 at Norwood Arena on Saturdays and Thompson Speedway on Sundays. Bill would drive the car Saturday at Norwood, but had a prior commitment to race at Utica-Rome, N.Y. on Sunday. Dick Dixon filled in for Bill at Thompson, loosing his life that Sunday afternoon.

Bill’s racing career would end where it started after a violent 1980 wreck in the Joe Zenga owned 06 Vega at the Waterford Speedbowl.

“I spun going into the first and second turn trying to avoid an accident,” he explained. “I was stopped on the track when out of the back another driver came full throttle, caught a rear wheel when he finally saw what was happening ahead of him, and went airborne right into my passenger window.”

Harman suffered a broken scapula and several ribs, but said, “I should have had my head taken off. ... I was that lucky.

“At the time, I was a single parent with two young girls and decided it was time to give it up. At (42), it was not what I wanted to do, but felt I had to do.”

These days Billy and his lovely wife Donna split time between homes in Niantic, Ct. and Port Orange, Fl., where he can be found on any given day on the golf course with friends Leo Cleary, Jerry Dostie, George Summers, Gene Bergin, Ron Bouchard or Bill Wimble.
     
Bill Harman Photo Gallery - CLICK HERE

 

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