2012

James "Jay" Lestorti, Former CEO of LesCare Kitchens, Racing Sponsor Passes At 53: Mr. James C. "Jay" Lestorti, 53, of Boca Raton, Fla., passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Waterbury. Jay was born in Waterbury on April 17, 1959, son of the late Louis A. and Marie Helen (Verraster) Lestorti. As a youth, Jay won the American Quarter Horse Youth World Championship. He was a graduate of Sacred Heart High School and Providence College. After graduation from college, Jay went to work in the family business, and later was named CEO of Lescare Kitchens Inc., an international leader in the production of frameless kitchen and bath cabinetry. His vivacious personality drew him to many celebrity and race car personalities. As CEO of Lescare Kitchens, he sponsored many NASCAR races including a Winston Cup Race at Watkins Glenn driven by Teddy Christopher, Stafford Motor Speedway's "Winningest" driver.

New York Racing Legend Don Diffendorf Passes at 83: Donald J. Diffendorf, Sr., 83, passed away on April 21, 2012. He was predeceased by his parents, Marchie and Beatrice Diffendorf; and sisters, Betty Jean and Shirley Louise Diffendorf. He is survived by his loving wife, Shirley; his children, Sharon Murray, Susan and James Brigham, Beatrice and Timothy Goff, Margaret and David Pitel, Donald Diffendorf Jr. and Michelene, and Steven Diffendorf; 9 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren; stepchildren, Susan and Michael Agati, James and Kerry Bopp; 3 step-grandchildren; brother and sister-in-law, William (Sr.) and Dorothy Diffendorf; sisters, Doris Hedges, Beverly Rounds, Betty Lou Kelly, and Virginia Pompeii; and several nieces and nephews; his pets, Mackenzie and Andre. He was the owner of Diffendorf Trucking. Don was a well-known modified race car driver (Grey Fox) competing in races all up and down the East Coast with his famous S/360, having won many races and earned countless achievements on dirt and asphalt tracks. He enjoyed his trips to Tioga Downs and Mohegan Sun.

Hall of Famer Billy Harman's Wife Donna Passes At 68: Donna M. Harman, 68, of Niantic and Port Orange, Fla., passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., after a courageous battle with cancer. Her husband of 28 years, William, was by her side throughout every stage of her illness and when she gently slipped into the arms of God. Donna was born on Sept. 15, 1943, in New London, the daughter of late Herbert B. and Katherine C. King. She graduated in 1961 from New London High School. On May 23, 1983, she married William Harman on Valencia Island, County Kerry Ireland in the presence of the cousins she had never met. Donna retired in 2002 from The New London Day Publishing Company after 30 years of loyal service. She was a former member of The New London Country Club in Waterford and together with her husband, served as club historian. She was a member of River Bend Golf Club, Indigo Lakes Golf Club, and The Moose Club, all of Ormond Beach, Fla.

Dave Myers Crew Chief of the Late Jay Miller 09 Modified & Son of Former Car Owner Bill Myers Passes: Dave Myers died Saturday night when his car struck a utility pole on Saturday April 14th in East Granby at 6:30 P.M. Dave was the Crew Chief on the late Jay Millers 09 Modifieds and his father Billy is a former Modified Car Owner and Builder of the #7 driven by Ray Miller, Jay's father. We send our condolences to the Myers family. Dave Myers died Saturday night when his car struck a utility pole on Saturday April 14th in East Granby at 6:30 P.M. Dave was the Crew Chief on the late Jay Millers 09 Modifieds and his father Billy is a former Modified Car Owner and Builder of the #7 driven by Ray Miller, Jay's father. We send our condolences to the Myers family.

1971 Norwood Arena Late Model Champion Les Rose, Sr. Passes At Age 71: In Worcester, February 12, 2012 Leslie Rose, age 71 passed away following a brief illness. Leslie was the husband of the late Sandra (Cataloni) Rose. He was born in Taunton to his late parents William & Amy (Rego) Rose. Leslie was educated in Taunton schools. He was a former NASCAR champion driver who also was the crew chief for his son Leslie Jr. when he was champion. Leslie also enjoyed fishing and spending time with family. He is survived by his children; Leslie Jr. and his wife Robin of Southbridge, Andora Hamilton & her husband Greg of Franklin, Cindy Ellis, Kim Soares, Lynne Sheehan, Tammy Carey and the late Corinne Coleman. His siblings; Richard Rose of Tuscon, Arizona, Margaret Dutra of Needville, TX, Audrey Caron of Taunton, David Rose of Taunton and the late Nancy Winders and William Rose Jr. Leslie also leaves his twenty grandchildren and four great grandchildren and his beloved nephew Anthony Mendoza of Taunton.

Former Racer & Son of Legendary Driver Bentley Warren Passes at 52:  James "Jimmy" W. Warren, 52, of Fernald Street, Gloucester died Saturday, January 28, 2012 in the Kindred Hospital North Shore Boston in Peabody following his cancer reoccurrence. Born in Gloucester July 11, 1959 he was the son of Bentley W. Warren of South Daytona Beach, FL and Bonnie Lee (Jacobs) Warren of Gloucester. Raised in Gloucester he was a 1977 graduate of Gloucester High School where he trained as a mechanic. Following graduation he went to work with his father's racing pit crew later becoming employed by Bentley Warren Trucking Company as a heavy equipment mechanic. During these years he joined his father in the profession of auto racing becoming an award winning racer of the "V6 Supers' and 'Street Stocks."

Pioneer Racing Promoter C.J Richards Passes: Charles James “C.J.” Richards, 74, of Rutland and a former resident of Fair Haven, died Thursday evening February 9, 2012, at his residence following a long illness. He was born on July 17, 1937, in Rutland, the son of Leon and Marion (McGuire) Richards. Mr. Richards grew up in West Haven on his family’s farm where he attended local schools, graduating from the Fair Haven High School. He attended Ithaca College and Castleton State College. He established the Champlain Valley Racing Association (CVRA) in 1960, first leasing the Fairmont Speedway in Fair Haven, then during the winter of 1966 he built the Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, opening it in 1967. In 1977 he leased the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y., prior to purchasing the track.

Whelen Modified Car Owner Passes, Roger Hill Fielded Cars For More Than Two Decades: Mr. Roger Dale Hill, 64 of Westfield, NC passed away Thursday at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston Salem. He was born in Patrick County on April 9, 1947 to the late James Alvin Hill and Virginia Gray Hill of Westfield NC. Roger was the proud owner of Hill Enterprises for over 25 years and a W.M.T. series race car, known as “Hillbilly Racing”. He loved racing second only to his family. His other hobbies included maintaining corn hole champion status with his friend, “Yankee Jon” and collecting “Roger’s menagerie of animals” which included but was not limited to horses, donkeys, llamas, emus, miniature horses and donkeys, and peacocks.

2011

Pennsylvania Legend Johnny Grum Passes at 82: Area sprint car and late model driving legend, John Grum, 82, passed away Friday January 30, 2012 at Altoona Regional Health System, Altoona Hospital campus with his family at his side. Known to many as “Johnny” or “Grummy”, he was considered one of the best of his craft during his driving career that spanned over 40 years. Grum grew up watching his father, John J. Grum, race on the area country speedways and fairgrounds tracks in west central Pennsylvania. The elder Grum also participated in racing events at the famous Altoona Speedway board track. It wasn’t until 1950 when the future hall of famer started his own driving career at the Tipton Speedway in a car he shared driving duties with his father. He later drove for car owners Dick Burkey and Buddy Sechler on the former Penn Western Racing Association circuit tracks at Jennerstown, Ebensburg, Houtzdale, Mahaffey, Windber and Tipton. He also made infrequent starts on the sister Penn Central circuit speedways at Port Royal, Snow Shoe and Reedsville.

Multi-time Speedbowl Late Model Champion Bill Sweet Passes at 81:  Bill Sweet, Sr. was a multi-time Waterford Speedbowl Champion Fondly-remembered as the “Norwalk Nightrider” to a legion of veteran Waterford Speedbowl fans. Bill copped the Daredevil division title for 2 consecutive seasons in 1967 & 68. Along the way, he scored a total of 40 feature victories in Daredevil, Sportsman Sedan and Grand American competition, the first in 1966, the final in 1975. He ranks first on the list of all-time Daredevil feature winners, with 31 trips to victory lane. Sweet was one of the real movers & shakers in the early days of the Daredevil division, a class of full-bodied race cars that was started in 1965 at the shoreline oval to replace a fading Bomber division. Bill’s grandson Brent currently pilots an SK Modified at the Speedbowl, his late grandfather having been one of his most-dedicated fans. Sincere condolences are sent-out to the entire Sweet family and all of Bill’s many friends on this somber occasion.

NEAR Member Cho Lee Passes At 58: Cho Lee passed-away on Saturday, December 10. Cho was a good friend to all involved in the preservation of New England auto racing history, and was a walking-encyclopedia on racing in the Northern region. He was an active member of the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), and served on the Veterans Selection Committee. NEAR and its members send their sincerest condolences are offered to Cho’s family & many friends. Cho's Obituary follows. Cho E. Lee, 58, of Clifton Street passed away unexpectedly en route to his passion, which was racing, a banquet on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, in Topsham. Born in Barre Feb. 15, 1955, he was the son of the late Cho Kong and Eva (Wheeler) Lee. Cho attended Barre schools and was a graduate of Spaulding High School, class of 1972, and continued his education at Norwich, graduating in 1977 as a cadet. After his schooling, he was a teacher at Twinfield School in Marshfield. His last employment was at the Barre Food Bank in Websterville. In 1981, he married Susan Carbonneau in St. Monica Catholic Church in Barre.

Former Car Owner Joe Palmieri Passes at 80: Joseph A. Palmieri, 80, went home to heaven on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 at Hartford Hospital, He was the beloved husband of Josephine (Majewski) Palmieri for 55 years. He was born in Southington on May 11, 1931, the son of the late Joseph and Theresa (Latino) Palmieri. In addition to his wife he is survived by his loving children, Joseph E. Palmieri, Theresa Palmieri both of Southington and Maria Palmieri of Rocky Hill and grandchildren, Joseph.and Cateri Palmieri. Joe is also survived by his sister Rose and husband Toby Soriero of FL, sisters-in-law Lea Bednarcyk, Helen Maurice, Mary Ann and Mike Lata, many nieces, nephews and cousins. Joe was the last class to graduate Old Lewis High School in 1950 and became a US Army Veteran of the Korean War. Prior to his late retirement, he owned and operated the Mobil Gas Station on West Street, Southington, for the majority of his life where he owned his race car, “VO”. Joe was a proud and faithful parishioner of St. Thomas Church. He had a passion for Red Sox, music, western films, casinos, boats and the peaceful ocean.

Walt Renner Racing Journalist Passes At 90, Recipient of NEAR Hall of Fame Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award: Walter H. Renner, 90, of Holyoke, was called safely home on Wednesday, November 16, 2011. He was born in Chicopee, son of the late Daniel and Bertha (Gerhardt) Renner, and lived in Chicopee before moving to Holyoke, where he has resided for the past 67 years. Walter was a 1939 graduate of Chicopee Trade High School, upon his graduation he immediately began working as a machinist at B.F. Perkins and Son in Willimansett, and remained there for 47 years until his retirement. Walter was a United States Army Veteran of World War II, a member of American Legion Post 353 in Willimansett, and a charter member of Edward Drake Chapter 41 of the Disabled American Veterans of Holyoke. He enjoyed music, and was the manager of his daughters all girl rock band The Timbres. Walter was an avid racing fan, who along with his late wife Ronnie, worked as representatives with Chris Economaki's National Speed Sport News, Riverside Park Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway, and Thompson International Speedway. He contributed articles about races at all of the New England tracks which were later published in Speed Sport News.

Kathleen LaJoie, 71, NASCAR Mother, Grandmother Passes: Kathleen “Kathy” Brady LaJoie passed peacefully into Our Lord’s arms Saturday October 15th, one day before her 72nd birthday, following a valiant 2 year battle with liver cancer. Born and raised in Norwalk, Kathy is survived by “The Love of Her Life” Donald LaJoie, whom she met while in high school. Don and Kathy have been married for 53 years. Kathy, passionately referred to as “Memere”, loved her time as a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Parochial School throughout her children’s early school years. Kathy LOVED being a Mom, not only for her own children but to so many others as well. Kathy was the ultimate lifelong cheerleader for her husband’s auto racing career then her son Randy’s NASCAR career and most recently her grandson Corey’s.
Two Time Waterford Speedbowl Modified Champion Dick Beauregard Passes Word has arrived that Waterford Speedbowl Icon Dick Beauregard passed-away this week in Hesperia, CA. One of the biggest names to have emerged from Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl during its early history, in a relatively-short Speedbowl career of only a decade he notched pair of Modified titles along with 45 feature victories. In the Non-Ford division he annexed the checkers on 20 occasions. Both controversial and immensely-popular at the same-time, he retired in 1962 as a Modified champion. This Shany Lorenzent captures him in one of his more recognizable rides, the Black Panther #1. Arrangements are incomplete at this time.
New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer "Sonny" Rabideau Dies at Age 82: Moran H. Rabideau 1929-2011 BRATTLEBORO Moran H., "Sonny" Rabideau, 82 of Walker Place died unexpectedly early Tuesday morning, August 9, 2011 at his home following a period of failing health. Mr. Rabideau was born in Brattleboro on May 16, 1929 the son of Henry and Lena (Burdo) Rabideau. He was raised and educated in town and had attended Saint Michael's Parochial School. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Army during the Korean War stationed in Austria. He returned home to Brattleboro following his honorable discharge from active service in 1951. Mr. Rabideau had been employed as a machinist working at Tri-State Automotive where he retired from following 42 years of faithful service with the company.
New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Raymond "Hully" Bunn dies at 91: BRISTOL, CT – Raymond “Hully” Bunn of Bristol died at age 91 on August 25 at Bristol Hospital after an illness. Bunn won more than a hundred Stock Car races in a career that lasted from 1949 to 1965 and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001. Bunn was motivated to get into racing by a medical diagnosis he received when he mustered out of the Armed Forces shortly after World War II. The examining physician took him aside and told him that he had a bad heart and needed to take it easy. “I thought, what the hell, if I’m going to die soon any way I might as well enjoy myself, so I started racing,” Bunn recalled. His first race was during the 1949 season at Plainville (CT) Stadium. His biggest win may have been the first 100 Mile Langhorne National Open for Modified Sportsman Stock Cars (now known as the Race of Champions) at Langhorne, PA on October 14, 1951 with relief from his friend and colleague Dick Eagan.
Long Time Modified Veteran Frank L. (Skip) Zeigler Sr. Passes At 75 Loved to race and build cars: Terryville- Mr. Frank L.(Skip) Zeigler, Sr, 75, died Sunday morning, July 31, at St. Mary’s Hospital. He was the husband of Linda J. (Hartt) Zeigler. Mr. Zeigler was born January 11, 1936 in Waterbury son of the late Frank O. and Ruth F. (Weeks) Zeigler. He was raised in Thomaston and was a graduate of Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington. He had worked for 38 years as a mechanic for the former George’s Service Station in Thomaston. He was a race car enthusiast and raced and built modified race cars for twenty years, in 1966 he was track champion at Plainville Stadium. Skip started racing at Plainville, CT in the late 1950's and was a regular until the track closed. His trade mark was the red and white coach bodied number 126. The last three seasons he ran his brother Gene's Flying 0 coach. Skip also raced at Riverside Park, Stafford, Thompson, Lebanon Valley, and a few other tracks in Up-state NY.
Shirley Yerrington, Wife of the late Modified Great Ed Yerrington Passes at 79: Shirley J. Yerrington Died - July 16, 2011 Norwich - Shirley J. (O'Rourke) Yerrington, 79 of 31 Trading Cove Circle, beloved wife of Edwin F. Yerrington, Sr., entered eternal life after a brief illness. She was predeceased by her husband, parents; Morris and Helen O'Rourke, and brothers; John and Maurice O'Rourke. She is survived by her children; Edwin F. Yerrington Jr., and Bonnie Lee Yerrington, grandchildren; Danille Docouto, Charles Beal, Jennifer and Erin Yerrington, and six great grandchildren. A Calling Hour will be held Thursday from 11 till Noon with Funeral Services at Noon at Church and Allen Funeral Home in Norwich.
Racing Champ Smith Succumbs To Illness: Jimmy Smith, a Norwalk native who became one of the top drivers of all-time at the old Danbury Fair Racearena, died Sunday in North Carolina after a prolonged illness. He was 71. The 1961 rookie of the year at Danbury, Smith went on to capture five track championships with his smooth, consistent driving style. He won 20 feature events -- which left him tied for fifth on the track's all-time career win list. "We raced against each other fair and clean, it was always that way," said Don Lajoie, who, like Smith won five Danbury championships. "He was good." A mechanic by trade, Smith became interested in racing as a teenager and went to work at 16 at Hyatt & Wood, the Norwalk repair shop that earned a reputation as Norwalk's center of auto racing. For several years, he spent most weekends at race tracks with his bosses, learning all he could about building and driving a race car.
Former Modified Driver Billy Knight Passes At 56: William M. Knight, 56, of Unionville, beloved husband of Joanne (Muszynski) Knight, passed away peacefully Sunday, (June 5, 2011.) Born in Hartford, June 8, 1954, son of the late Thomas and Emily (Knibbs) Knight, he was a lifelong resident of Unionville. Bill was a Heavy Equipment Operator and Mechanic for WW Manchester Construction in Bristol, Stamm Construction in Newington, and most recently Troy's Trailer Sales in Farmington. He was a member of the Tunxis Hose Co. #1 in Unionville for over 20 years, having served as Chief of the department and was active with the muster team. He was a member of Uncas Council #32 K of C in Unionville. In his younger years, Bill ran the Modified Series at Riverside Park, MA, Stafford Motor Speedway and Plainville Speedway with car #98. Bill was an avid fisherman, enjoyed New York trips to Lake Ontario, and was a longtime NASCAR fan.
Hall of Fame Car Owner Richie Garuti Passes: Richard Garuti Sr., 83, of Kensington, passed away Monday afternoon at Hospice in Branford with his loving wife of 57 years, Rose (Daddabbo) Garuti by his side. Born in New Britain, the son of the late Joseph and the late Julia (Catabrigga) Garuti, he graduated from New Britain High School, served in the US Army in Korea and in the Connecticut National Guard, and was part-owner of Ray's Garage with his brother for 40 years before his retirement in 1989. Inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame, he and his brother were considered New England auto racing pioneers, and were known throughout New England for building midget and stock cars. They built their first stock car for Plainville Stadium in the early 50's and continued to construct winning cars for the next two-plus decades, scoring on both the United Stock Club and NASCAR circuits at Riverside, Cherry Park, Agawam, Thompson, Stafford Springs, Waterford, and many other tracks. He enjoyed traveling, watching football and basketball games and automobile racing, and was a great lover of dogs, especially his boxers Duke and Sarge.
New York Modified Star Dick Emerson Passes:  Canandaigua, NY: Richard Emerson, 80, of Cascade Park, passed away, Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at his home. Dick is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Donna; his children, Cindy (Ken) Emerson, Louis (Barb) Emerson, Brenda (Kevin) Batzel, Gail (Raymond) Glather, and Marci (John) Emerson; nine grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and loving canine companion, Maddie. An avid race fan, Dick was a former stock car driver. He also enjoyed rooting for the NY Yankee's. Friends may call Thursday May 5, from 2-4pm and 6-8 pm at Fuller Funeral Home, Inc. 190 Buffalo St., Canandaigua. A 10 am funeral service will be held Friday, May 6, at the funeral home. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery.
NEMA Stalwart Jimmy O’Brien Passes: The Northeastern Midget Association lost one of its most dedicated competitors and contributors Monday with the passing of Jimmy O’Brien. As a car owner and officer, O’Brien helped to write over four decades of NEMA history. O’Brien, a NEMA member since 1970, said his greatest moment came in 1990 when son Matt jumped into his #16. That relationship carried into this season. Introduced to the Midgets by his father, O’Brien got involved back in the early 1950s. After two years working with others in NEMA, he joined the owner ranks with the Ray Kelly #33. He always referred to Kelly, a NEMA legend, “as my mentor.” Chuck Daniel and Len Thrall also played key roles in O’Brien’s early career. A member of the NEMA Hall of Fame, he built his own cars and motors for almost his entire involvement with the club. His drivers included Johnny Evans, Hank Stevens, Doug Cleveland, Steve Eldridge, Paul Stoehr and Roy Daniel. Cleveland and Evans won in O’Brien equipment; Stevens won the 1975 dirt track title.
Legendary Driver Gene Bergin Passes:: Gene Bergin passed away early this morning February 27th after suffering a major stroke in June. He had been hospitalized since June. Arrangements are unknown at this time. Gene Bergin was one of the most versatile drivers in New England auto racing history, having driven Modifieds, Midgets, Sprint cars, Indy cars, and Grand National cars in his career. Bergin first started racing in the early 50's at the Riverside Park Speedway collecting many feature event wins and the 1962 Modified track championship. He then in 1964 moved on to the Stafford Motor Speedway winning several features on the still dirt surface driving Sharkey Gaudiosi's #44, and also holds the distinction of being one of only two drivers to win a feature event on both the dirt and asphalt surfaces at Stafford, ( The other being Ernie Gahan). Gene also holds the honor of being the first Modified track champion on the asphalt surface at Stafford when he drove Beebe Zalinski's M6 to the 1967 crown.
Hall of Famer Don MacLaren Passes at Age 75: Donald F. MacLaren, age 75, a longtime Tewksbury businessman and Hall of Fame driver, died Wednesday, January 12, at Lowell General Hospital following a brief illness. He was the fiancé of Lorraine Reiss-Campbell, with whom they had planned a spring wedding. He was born in Tewksbury, May 19, 1935, a son of the late George and Myrtle (Flint) MacLaren. He lived in Tewksbury for most of his life. During the Korean War, he enlisted into the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Tewksbury- Wilmington Elks Lodge 2070, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He founded and continued to operate 5 D's Welding Company in Tewksbury. Don's passion was stock cars, specifically the super modified class stock car. He built and drove dozens of them during his long history of racing. He earned numerous titles and championships during his racing career, highlighted by his induction into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002.