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
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”.
at the start of his career.
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
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.
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
first foray in the NASCAR ranks came in
this Roland Ballinger #302.
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.
at Norwood. The next day Dick Dixon
would perish behind the wheel of the
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
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
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.