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VRG 17th Vintage Celebration 2007
at New Hampshire International Speedway
2007 VRG Vintage Celebration

What perseveres as one of the country’s more interesting vintage racing events, The New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS) Vintage Celebration, surprisingly continues to reside below the spectator’s radar, and remains America’s best–kept secret. The initial brainchild of NHIS track owner, Bob Bahre, and the late, Vic Yerardi, the grand festival commemorated its unprecedented 17th Anniversary this past May 16–20.

Actually, the five–day spectacle is a unique triple–header comprised of various racing disciplines all contested under one roof, and including a small, yet, world–class Concours d’ Elegance on Saturday. And while tradition once again had the vintage bikes and sports cars from the Vintage Racer Group (VRG) closing out the festivities with plenty of trips around the 1.6–mile road course configuration Friday through Sunday, it was the mechanical “stars” of past oval wars that got things started on Wednesday.

Entitled the Vintage Open Wheel Celebration “Vic Yerardi Memorial,” approximately 200 midgets, sprints, champ cars, and numerous classes of stockers wasted no time circumnavigating NHIS’s “Magic Mile” (actually 1.058–miles) of high–speed blacktop.

However, inclement weather not only threatened the entire outing, but did end Wednesday’s opening sessions right before lunch. Fortunately, many of the attending racecars were housed out of the precipitation and nestled safely in the pro garages. This not only acted as the perfect umbrella against the moisture, but, instantly became a dry oasis for all us car nuts to mingle among the wide variety of personalities driving, wrenching or just hanging out, and naturally, marvel at these engineered works of art.

Additionally, weaned on an appetite of sports cars over the years, the unexpected change of plans personally allowed me to wade through the endless rows of exotic racing apparatus new to my palette, too. Soon, the initial foray into this uncharted territory slowly became less daunting as my crash–course exploration through the garages slowly taught me the differences between three–quarter (TQ) midgets, midgets, sprints, and champ cars that have no problem either burning up the asphalt or kicking up of a little dirt.

Sitting at rest were also several Indy roadsters. I know the organizers wished more of these outstanding battlewagons were in attendance, but Bud Taylor’s exquisite “re–creation” of the 1964 Indy 500 Sheraton Thompson Special Watson/Offy driven to victory by A.J. Foyt, waived the disappointment. It was the last front–engine car to win Indy. “Except for the nose color which is slightly off, it’s a true clone of the original,” mentioned, Taylor.

Interestingly, before I was ready to brave my short rain–dodging dance to the next garage flavored with stockers, I came across Andrew Delaney. He stood quietly void of any mechanical partner, but only with a box of memories. Exchanging pleasantries, he proceeded to show me photos, newspaper clippings, and other paper trails regarding driver, “Wild” Bill Randall. “No, he never owned a racecar, but most likely drove everyone of those,” uttered, Andrew, pointing at a few midgets to the right. Andrew would go on to proudly explain that “Wild” Bill won the 1957 USAC Eastern Sprint Car Championship, but sadly died, too early, participating in a midget race at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, in 1963.

“Wild” Bill? He was my grandfather, and I was just hoping to meet anybody who may have known him, so I could get to know him,” said, Andrew. Andrew was born years after “Wild Bill” strapped into a racecar for the last time.

With the sun still refusing to appear, Thursday’s schedule went on as planned with all the groups taking to the track. Peppered among the midgets, sprinters and champ cars, the stockers became a sentimental favorite of mine, quickly erasing the decades and returning me to the time I was a kid watching short track racing at Freeport, Islip and Riverhead on Long Island. Of course, minus the tire chunks mixed in with the cheap hotdogs as I never learned “NOT” to sit downwind.

Powered by Ford Flatheads, small–block Chevys and other iconic American motors, a full gamut of stock cars and modifies whizzed by adorning names like the Twister, Alligator, Bushey’s Garage, Big John, Lil’ Stinker, Goober, and Fuzzy. Naturally, many dressed in hues that would make a Benjamin Moore paint chart jealous.

Several award were dispensed see www.vintagecelebration.com, including one given to Bugsy Stephens by Speedway Illustrated Magazine, this year’s Grand Marshall and three time NASCAR National Modified champion.

Who would have thought that just a couple of days ago my list of favorite racecars would now be amended to incorporate a colorful array of once unfamiliar sizes, shapes and vehicular types. Larry and Jan Pfitzenmaier’s Joe Hunt Magnetos Special (last dirt champ car to enter Indy), 1976 “Dobbins Chevrolet Special” USAC Sprint car driven by Duane “Pancho” Carter, Jr., Dave Schleppi’s San Diego Steel Products 500 Roadster (first Chevy powered roadster to attempt to qualify for Indy), and the quintessential stocker defining an era, the ultra stripped down ’51 Ford named the “Dynamite Special,” have found a permanent place among the Porsche 908, Maserati “Birdcage,” and Corvette Grand Sport.
Walter Pietrowicz

Front Engine Formula Juniors

The 17th annual Vintage Celebration was held at the New Hampshire International Speedway May 18–20, 2007 showcasing antique cars, vintage racing motorcycles and vintage racing cars. The vintage racing car races were hosted by the Vintage Racer Group at the challenging 1.6 mile NHIS road course.

The featured “marque” for the vintage racing event this year was the VRG eligible Formula Juniors and, a separate race for these great cars was scheduled by the VRG. The VRG NHIS event was the first meeting of the “Unofficial and Low Key” race series to be held this year for both front engine and mid engine Formula Juniors.

Formula Juniors Neatly contained within the Group One “Small Bore” cars were the “Its Whats Up Front That Counts” Front Engine Formula Juniors. Unfortunately no mid engine Formula Junior cars registered for this event. The front Engine Juniors were represented by:

  1. Oliver Collins – Toronto, Ontario – Stanguellini – Car #63
  2. Don Dingman – Underhill, Vermont – OSCA – Car #184
  3. Mitch Eitel – New York, New York – OSCA – Car #740
  4. Bill Gelles – Chappaqua, New York – Stanguellini – Car #21
  5. John Kieley – Temple, New Hampshire – Gemini – Car #574
  6. Larry McKenna – Deer Isle, Maine – Stanguellini – Car #722
  7. Victor Pastore – Chester, New Jersey – Gemini – Car #664

The Group One first practice session was run in dry but cold temperature conditions. Larry McKenna’s weekend began with the best lap time of the session. Then the Nor’easter that was sweeping up the East Coast began its three day rain soaking weather. This was the third year in a row in which Mother Nature has drenched this VRG NHIS event. Unnamed participants have begun insisting that the R in VRG refers to rain, while others point out that some VRG drivers request such conditions to work on their race skills!

The Friday qualifying race, the Formula Junior race, all of Saturday’s races and all of Sunday’s races were run in Heavy Rain. The vintage motorcycle races were contested throughout the daily racing schedules. The motorcycles endured the same weather conditions that the cars did but the motorcycles added another dimension to the poor racing conditions by dropping copious amounts of oil on the already slippery racing surface.

The “Unofficial and Low key” series point standings at the end of the VRG NHIS weekend are:

  1. McKenna 50 Points
  2. Gelles 40 Points
  3. Kieley 29 Points
  4. Pastore 21 Points
  5. Eitel 13 PointsM
  6. Collins 10 Points
  7. Dingman 2 Points

Special mention and gratitude is extended to Oliver Collins for trailering from Toronto Canada, to Mitch Eitel for racing his newly acquired exquisite OSCA and to Don Dingman for trying very hard to overcome the mechanical gearbox problems he experienced in his OSCA this weekend.

Our “Old Salt New Englander” Larry McKenna appeared to have an unfair advantage this weekend having grown up sailing in this typical late May weather. His performance has earned Larry the Formula Junior Rainmeister title.

After three days of sometimes extremely heavy weather, the rain may have dampened the track surface but not the competition, the enthusiasm and the enjoyment of the Front Engine Formula Junior Group. We look forward to our second “Unofficial and Low Key” Formula Junior event at the Rolex Vintage Festival at Lime Rock on August 31 through September 3, 2007.
Bill Gelles


2007 Vintage Celebration

Racers with a knack for going fast under wet conditions were in their glory at this year’s NHIS Vintage Celebration. Other than two dry practice sessions Friday morning, steady rain dominated all the road–racing activities of the weekend. There is no way to describe it honestly other than to say it was 2–˝ days of steady, relentless, foggy, “puddles at the apexes,” rain! But it is also absolutely equally honest to report, that, except for the last couple of races, the grids stayed nearly full, and, the wonderful NHIS facilities otherwise kept everyone warm, dry and comfortable.

If it were not for being eclipsed by the weather, the story for the weekend could very well have been – “Largest VRG Event Ever?” or “Formula Jr. Starts 50th Anniversary Celebration at NHIS.”

A total of 113 are on the Pre–Registration list, with several others on the time sheets but not Pre–Registered. As they have done in the past, a nice contingent from VARAC padded the entry numbers, and helped legitimize the “I” in NHIS.

There was a dedicated Formula Jr race on Friday afternoon. Roughly, 4% of all of the front engined Formula Jr.’s ever made found their way back through the “mists of time” to the “mists” of New Hampshire for the inaugural race leading up to a grand 50th year Celebration of the breed next year.

Practicing in the dry Friday morning didn’t do us much good for getting used to what was to come. By the time qualifying races started, the rain had settled in to stay.

Based on practice times in the morning, Larry McKenna (59 Stanguellini) sat on the pole for the Formula Jr race. His plan was to take it easy for the first few corners so everyone could get the feel of the track. That idea was quickly nixed by Bill Gelles (59 Stanguellini) who rocketed by at the drop of the green flag. Larry managed to recover and pass Bill under braking soon thereafter, but they were nose to tail for most of the race. These cars are noted for their predictability, but there were still a couple of spinouts before it was over. It was raining hard at the time, so most folks missed it when Larry McKenna finally got the checkered flag – they were, more than likely, staying dry in the “Checkered Flag” at the time.

After all the “on track” activities were completed F r i d a y , J o e Marko of HMS Motorsport put on an optional safety talk. Such discussions by experts are always eye opening and sobering, if not a little too much like going to the dentist for me. Joe demonstrated how important the little details are when buying and installing safety equipment. He offered to check our cars on an individual basis, and I did observe a number of racers taking him up on it. He also handed out Harness Installation brochures for those who wanted to do their own checklist.

An unfortunate incident involving the Corvettes of Chris Homer and Sim Shortman in turn three resulted in some shattered fiberglass. Although “field” repairs were made, Chris and Sim were Black Flagged for the rest of the event. Too bad for all, because watching, (and feeling), these two great “ground pounders” eat up the track could have been a highlight of the event. Taking things in stride, I noticed that both racers stuck around for the weekend, and Chris worked the grid as a volunteer.

At 5 pm Friday, it was time to make our way to garage #N2 for a little beer, wine, crackers & cheese, and a lot of bench racing. The Kieley brothers John (59 Gemini) and Rich (’72 Dino Ferrari) hosted this “laid back” affair in their garage. Rich, with whom it was especially difficult to keep in a conversation, was constantly excusing himself to top off the snack trays. John Greenwood (Lotus 7) cleared a place for himself amongst the crackers and cheese, and climbed up on a table to invite us to the upcoming VARAC event at Mosport in June. Usually when you notice that a person is suddenly standing on the food table at a party, it is a girl and she has just come out of a cake; but John, fully clothed, was very entertaining in his own right… and he handed out nice posters. (Mosport Vintage Festival, June 22–24, 2007). Next year we understand that the Kieley’s will provide a barbeque for those who wish to bring their own dinner to cook.

After the Saturday morning Driver Meeting, Chief Instructor, Ed Valpey, gave a talk about the best ways to get around NHIS. Practices and races began at 10:30. For all the Saturday and Sunday practices and practice races, those with transponders were lined up based on their times from the previous session, and in front of those without transponders. Since there are not enough trained volunteers for timing and scoring to track every car with a stopwatch, those without transponders had to be lined–up somewhat arbitrarily. Transponders are the future and the future is here –– having one at NHIS makes it more likely that you will be running with your closest rivals all weekend.

A great crowd showed up for the Lobster–Steak and Steamers Saturday night banquet at the Makris Restaurant, just down the road from the track. Thanks again to Rich Kieley for putting this together; great meal, great company and easy to find. The incoming chair of the VRG NHIS event, John Kieley, led a standing ovation for Brad and JoAnn Marshall in appreciation for chairing this event over the years. One of the other highlights of the dinner was a talk by Larry McKenna entitled, my notes say, “The Importance of Formula Jr. in the World Today!” Larry gave us a little history of the formula, and provided some details about the upcoming 50 year Anniversary Celebration.

Sunday brought more rain, and the final races. The Group 1 race found Larry McKenna (59 Stanguellini) at the pole again. (He won every race he was in all weekend!) He managed to, once again, lead every lap in this race, but was helped by the other drivers attacking each other, thus taking the pressure off him. He started getting pressure though, when Dave Sterns (60Abarth) finally got by Bill Gelles’ (’59 Stanguellini) who was blocked by traffic. It wasn’t long after that when the little Fiat started filling Larry’s mirrors, first on the left and then on the right. It was good racing, McKenna stayed in first and Sterns finished in his mirrors for second.

Group 2 final race was shortened to just three laps because my (’62 TVR) left rear axle snapped off during the Pace Lap: at 20 mph, lucky for me. Unlucky for everyone else however, because the time allotted for the race was all used up by my retrieval. Sorry guys! John Faulkner won what amounted to a NASCAR like “green, white, checker” shootout. I guess we should go back to the last full race for this group, which was the Saturday PM race, won by Dan Scully (’59 Volvo). As he points out, in the dry on Friday, he was only 16th, but in the rain he is among the fastest, and pulled off a victory.

Damon Josz (’68 Porsche) brought a borrowed 911 to victory in the Group 3 final. Jim Peterman (’65 Mustang) started at the pole, but the big V8 spun its tires at the start, and Damon, Elliot Shanabrook (’72 Alpha GTV) and Peter Faill (’69 Porsche) slipped by him. Peter and Eliot remained out front until Elliot fell off the pace slightly for some reason, and then it was the two 911s in control. With two or three laps to go, Damon gets by when Peter misses a shift. The only others able to stay on the lead lap with these three were Nick Pratt ( 65 MG Midget) and Joe Ware (66 Mini).

After a quick trip to the auto parts store to solve some cooling problems, Sandy Gilland (’72 Titan) was there at the pole for the Group 4 final on Sunday. Thinking that the unhooking of his sway bars on Saturday hadn’t really helped much, he hooked them back up at their lowest setting for Sunday. That turned out to be a big mistake, as handling was noticeably off during the race. Bill Gaudreau (’72 Crossle) took advantage and managed to stay right up on Sandy, especially in the twisty bits. As they say, catching and passing are two different things, and Bill didn’t make any heroic moves to get by, so Sandy managed to hang on for the win.

Before the final race of the weekend (the “All Comers Race”), we assembled for the Awards Ceremony. This event, Betty French tells us, is the favorite event all season for the corner workers. One reason being, it’s traditional for them to pick the trophy winners. (And this year, under the leadership of Patricia Eastman, VRG organized a feed for them that “they couldn’t believe!”). Their picks are, frankly, purely subjective, but they can be lobbied for a good cause. Winners this year were:

  1. Stefan Wiesen with his very rare and very fast ’63 Elva Courier Coupe.
  2. Sheridan Fahnestock (’69 FV) who, along with his son Adam, came all the way from Washington State for the event. ( They read about VRG in Victory Lane magazine.)
  3. Randy Clark (’62 TVR) who they took pity on for the above mentioned lost wheel episode.
  4. John Greller for his absolutely, drop dead, gorgeous 1970 yellow and red Royale sports racer.
  5. John Faulkner (’59 MGA) for all that he has done for vintage racing.
  6. And, most importantly, Brad and JoAnn Marshall for their tireless devotion to making this event successful over the years.

By the time the green flag dropped for the “All Comers Race,” almost everybody else had already “went.” I watched from the Bowl, barely able to hold my umbrella in the driving wind and rain. It was a Damon Josz (’68 Porsche) and Peter Faill (’69 Porsche) show once again. Mark Palmer and John Faulkner (’59 MGAs) were having a good time going at each other, but then John spun at the top of the hill and Mark didn’t wait for him. With a best time of 1:30.146 in those conditions, Damon, a PCA instructor, put on a clinic.

Running a full weekend in the rain was an education for all of us. Where else could we have gotten so much time on a skid pad that resembled a race course? Looking at sunny side up: there is now a small army of VRG members who are inclement weather specialists!
Randy Clark (62 TVR)