By Bill Ladabouche


Beetle Bailey's Buddy Zero

        In the world of vintage stock car greats, difficulty in finding information about them can be the norm – and no reflection on the accomplishments of the man. Today, every time a star driver breaks wind – it is logged, cataloged, put on Twitter, chronicled on fifteen media shows, and otherwise beaten to death; but, in the 1950's, the retrieval and accurate storing of records and data on drivers was spotty, at best.

        A case in point is a very well – chronicled race track – Lebanon Valley Speedway in New Lebanon, NY. They are proud of their track, its thousands of drivers, and records that were set. But, because of the terrible record – keeping of the 1950's [particularly early in the decade], they cannot be sure how many victories some of their earliest stars actually had.

Courtesy of Ginny Ross via Dick Hansen and Otto Graham
Above – Zero. Below – Ray, at an early stock car at the Kingsbridge Armory in 1949. Further Below-
The Armory was big enough for bike racing but lacked the ventilation for cars. Spectators would become
violently ill from the fumes.

Courtesy of Doug Post

        So, when one stumbles across one of the several lists of racing nicknames, one is almost certain to see Ray “Zero” Brown. First impression ? This guy wasn't very good. About like Herman “The Turtle” Beam. You think of the character Zero, in the Beetle Bailey comic strip. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Ray was good at all of it – anything he tried driving.

        This blog is not intended to be a comprehensive bio or look at Ray Brown. I can't find much of anything on him on the internet and – up here on the Canadian border – I am not going to run into to any of his old cronies or writers. So, I am giving my impressions of what must have been an amazing – typical of others of his ilk and time like Frankie Schneider, Ted Tappett, and others who could race almost anything well. I was lucky enough to be apprised of one informational error I had made before this was released; I apologize if there are more.

Courtesy of Doug Post

Ray Brown is tangled up with the T52 of Hank Stephan. Apparently he didn't get tangled too often as
he won three track titles. Below - Ray, with the Henry Strada – tuned $.

McDowell Photo Courtesy of Phil Miller


        I have to assume that the nickname Zero came from the Cromwell style helmet he was often photographed in – and it bore a big 0 on the front. Operating out of White Plains, NY, Brown was running stock cars as early as the late 1940's. He is seen in one photo with a characteristic 0 numbered stock car at the Kingsbridge Armory, in the Bronx, a building that did not host racing much beyond the '40's. He doubtless was influenced by the open wheel racing that was done there, in addition to the stocks.

        Ray ran at a mind – boggling number of race tracks all over the Northeast; but, he is probably best known for what he accomplished at a track near to his home of White Plains. The fairgrounds at Middletown, New York have had various names over the years, and the venue is known for the high calibre of competition it has always enjoyed. Stock car racing began there, in earnest, around 1950.

McDowell Photo Courtesy of Phil Miller
A good look at the earlier version of the 356, probably owned by Andy Santandre. Below - Ray, in action at Empire raceway, Menands, NY.
Competition in this photo includes Al Keller [W.O. Taylor 89], Jokko Maggiacomo [Gordon Ross 19], and Ray in his own 0.

Courtesy of Ginny Ross via Dick Hansen

        Ray Brown managed to win at least 43 features at that most taxing of race tracks. Driving the Andy Santandre 356, arguably his other trademark ride, he won track titles in 1952, 1953, and 1957. In the seasons for which he was not champion, he was still describes as dominant. He also drove the Henry Strada – wrenched $ sign coupe, as well as some runs with his 0.

        Being a top dog at Middletown was not a case of a big dog pushing around a bunch of runts. Victory Speedway, as it was called at one point, was home to the likes of Sonny Strupp, Frankie Schneider, Buzzie Reutimann, Dick Eagan, Billy Deskovic, Bob Malzahn, Otto Harwi, and dozens of other top shelf drivers. Brown is still 6th at the track in all time wins despite basically bowing out before the end of the 1950's, and competing against people like Brett Hearn, Will Cagle, and Schneider.

Courtesy of NE Vintage Mods Site


        I thought Ray also ran a busy schedule at other tracks all over the region. A historical piece on Rhythm Inn, in Millers Falls, Massachusetts lists Brown as the winner of its first program. He doubtless ran at other tracks that joined Rhythm Inn in the Triangle Racing Association: Brattleboro Speedway, West Brattleboro, VT; Safford Park Speedway, Keene, NH; and the Claremont Speedway in Claremont, NH. But, now, it has been pointed out that there was another Ray Brown, from Springfield, MA who was likely the one running at those venues.

        Running his 0 and the Santandre 356, Brown was often seen at the Empire Raceway in Menands, NY. There, he would have to contend with several drivers who would go on to much bigger things. Al Keller, one of the drivers for the W.O. Taylor team, would go on to be a prominent NASCAR official. Ted Tappett would have an open wheel and even a sports car career that led him to Le Mans.

McDowell Photo Courtesy of Phil Miller
Empire offered competitors who were headed for the big time. Above – Jim Reed would go on to a number of NASCAR Short
Track Division titles. Below- Phil Walters, AKA Ted Tappett would advance as far as the big leagues at the Le Mans track.

Courtesy of Ginny Ross via Dick Hansen


        Brown ran regularly for Harvey Tattersall's United Stock Car Racing Club. This meant going up against a virtual who's who of drivers who populate his area: Dick Dixon, Stan Disbrow, Steve Danish, Howie Westervelt, Stretch Van Steenberg, Link Pettit, Joe Messina, Rebel Harris, Ed Flemke, Gene Bergin, Buddy Krebs, Bill Greco, and Jokko Maggiacomo were just some of this list. Every one of these men are in at least one hall of fame.

        In doing research on racing at the Vermont State Fair grounds in Rutland, Vermont, I came across a very minimal entry that claims that the very first stock car race there was won by Ray Brown. I am willing to bet that Tattersall and USCRC had something to do with that as his organization would stage another show there in 1963. Ray ran car numbered 207 on a number of occasions for Tattersall. One 207 was a coupe, and the other was a Ford in what Tattersall called his Grand American Division. It is that division that Tattersall ran in 1963, but I don't recall Brown running there. It is possible that the 207 was another Leo Matte car, from the team that gave a career start to such as Big Ed Patnode, to name one.

Shany Lorenzet Photo via Dave Dykes
Ray ran in the Grand American division for the United Stock Car Racing Club. This shot is at the old Lonsdale Arena in Rhode Island.
Below – The Daubert Brothers' 46, which Ray campaigned at various times.

Rick Duryea Collection Courtesy of Charles Hertica

        The Grand Americans were a poor brother to NASCAR's Grand National division. Almost every one of Tattersall's late model GA drivers was a weekly coupe driver somewhere. Brown's 207 looked to be a 1955 Ford, and the photo we see is from the long – closed Lonsdale Arena, near a factory in Lonsdale, Rhode Island. After running at the tracks already mentioned, Brown would drive a car B-1 at places like the Pine Bowl Speedway, and would appear at places like Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts.

        Eventually, after a victory – filled stint with the coupes, Brown began to move over to the open wheel cars. He had driven the 0 car, the 356, the $, the B-1, and the Daubert Brothers' 46. I don't know much about this last phase of his career except he ran both midgets and sprinters. He apparently had a very successful career in the open wheels.

From Cavalcade of Auto Racing
Ray enjoys a midget win in an ARDC race. Below – Ray, with the Darell – Villa 83 midget which he ran in the same organization.

From Cavalcade of Auto Racing


        Ray Brown, Jr. writes that his father ran a Darell - Villa #83 midget and a #98 offy – powered car that is currently under restoration. He also says that Ray ran a sprint car, as well. He stated that Brown preferred running at Middletown, which is understandable – given his great familiarity with, and proficiency on, that track.

        Scarce photos I have found show Brown in the American Race Drivers Club [ARDC] primarily, and also in the Northeast Midget Association. The ARDC was a tough place to win, running against the likes of ARDC President Dutch Schaeffer, Len Duncan, Tony Bonadies, King Carpenter, Bob Harkey, Tiny Romit, and Jiggs Peters. Carpenter, like Brown, had spent some time running stock cars. He actually took a turn in Bud Messier's 50 at Thunder Road in the early 1960's. Brown's tenure in the ARDC was described as very successful while never quite managing to win a championship.

From Cavalcade of Auto Racing
King Carpenter, known more for midgets, did spend time racing stock cars as did Ray Brown. Below- Joe
Csiki, another famed midget driver who drove stock cars first.

Ladabouche Collection

        After he was done racing, Ray Brown operated a garage before retiring to Florida where he died at age 65. One interesting little anecdote was about the car 356. Brown had eventually owned the car, taking over from Santandre. He sold the car to local driver who was killed in it. Ray, Jr. says he buried the car on his property to keep anyone else from getting hurt in it.

        Ray “Zero” Brown is one of the many highly – accomplished drivers to come out of that area that encompassed much of the Northeast. And like many of the early '50's stock car stars, very few people have any idea of all he accomplished or just how good he was. A terstament to his skills lies in he fact that he was one of a select group of stock car drivers who drove a car for Gordon Ross. That list includes names like Dick Dixon, Jerry Humiston, Doug Garrsion, Jokko Maggiacommo, and others.

Ginny Ross Collection Courtesty of Dick Hansen, via Chas. Hertica
The Zero helmet with the Gordon Ross car.

        Ray had that nickname, for certain; but, he was FAR from a zero.

Please email me if you have any photos to lend me or information and corrections I could benefit from. Please do not submit anything you are not willing to allow me to use on my website - and thanks. Email is: . For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.


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