It’s a highly clichéd statement; but still true: a picture can say a thousand words. In this case, a picture can speak volumes about where a race track might be headed. Looking back now from Spring of 2018, with the discovery of additional materials, that whole story is now a bit larger and more full since this was first written in 2012.


Val Blicarcz Photo via Bob Allard
It is getting dusky, and the Corey crew is loading Pete’s trend – setting Falcon onto what served to be a state – of – the –
art trailer in those days: 1964. Below - The Corey crew rides in, very conscious  of the stir that was created around the
Falcon’s unexpected arrival at Fairmont. The guy in the hat strutted around like a peacock.

Ted Vogel, Jr. Photo

Val Blicarcz Photo via Bob Allard

The picture, in this case, happens to one of several I have from the 1964 visit of Fonda Speedway star Pete Corey, a man whose exploits wee roundly discussed even in rural Vermont. Also, a younger Corey had done some limited racing at the old Fairmont Park Motor Speedway in the early 1950’s. Between the fact that it was Corey and his precedent breaking Falcon – bodied sportsman, and the fact that it was the last race of the year, the visit had caused quite a stir. I don’t recall his winning that day, however.

          With the addition of a set of photos by Dick Britain from that exact day, and simply having heard a lot more about some of the cars since, there a lot more to be known about this remarkable day that certainly had a positive effect on the development of young C. J. Richards' remarkable promoter's career that would soon leave Fairmont Speedway behind but would last for decades, at places like Devil's Bowl, Albany – Saratoga, and Airborne Speedways.

Courtesy of Ron Hoffer

The new Ford Thunderbird of Bob Hoffer, one of the Fairmont drivers, paces the first feature at CJ Richards’
Fairmont Speedway on Memorial Day, 1962. Note how many of the spectators had to stand by the fence.
Hoffer would be killed in that car in Canada in 1964. Beryl Fitzgerald’s F4 would be terminated in a huge
 pileup at the Rutland Fair in the Fall.
John Ballantine rides the inside pole next to Fitzgerald.

The photo tells a number of stories. The deserted bleachers are very rustic, and a hastily – built, unpainted building above them appears to be some sort of press box or photographers’ room that had been added on next to the venerable old announcer’s stand [unchanged since the Fairmont track of 1951 save for the fact it had been moved from the infield to above the bleachers]. The bleakness of the infrastructure speaks to the fact that the owner [in this case C. J. Richards] either did not have enough revenue generated from his shows or that – perhaps more accurately – this was not a permanent venue for him.

It could be regretted that the old covered grandstands from when the venue was a horse racing track called Fairmont Park were still not there. That name, first added to by 1950's promoter Hugh Young [Fairmont Park Motor Speedway] had been trimmed down by Richards; but he had wanted to stay with the familiar and identifiable Fairmont that incorporating the fact that it was both a former fair ground, near Fair Haven, but yet in Vermont.

Ladabouche Photo

This shot shows Roger Gauthier [helmet under arm], Dutch Reed [90A jacket], car owner Tony Villano, Sr,
[by Gauthier] and Tony, Jr. - at Fairmont -on an October afternoon at Fairmont Speedway in 1964. [Ladabouche Photo].
[Below] Rudy Charbonneau, the Fairmont 1964 Vermont State Champion, did not fare well against the
biggere motors that particular day.

Dick Britain Photo

That last race at Fairmont Speedway, that October Sunday afternoon, had drawn a few Fonda cars, much to the interest and delight of the locals. Corey may have brought one or two other Fonda cars with him that day, but I cannot recall. I do know that, in addition to Gauthier and Corey, Dutch Reed, another driver similar to [and friends with] Gauthier, was around the Villano car. As it would turn out Reed drove the Villano car that day in place of regular Jeep Herbert.

             Gauthier appeared in the snazzy – looking but heavy Charles Habreck #53 out of Amsterdam, NY. The year before this, such Fonda teams as Bill Fowler’s 27Jr, with Jollie Ollie Palmer aboard; Villano’s older coupe, with journeyman Wayne Coon subbing for Corey; Allie Swears’ ageless red and white #51, with the driver du jour being Nelson Moore that day; and even the likes of a young Peppy Peppecelli of Schenectady had braved disapproval of NASCAR to sneak in a race at the non – NASCAR Fairmont oval.

            Amsterdam’s Ray Sitterly had visited the track which ordinarily did not allow overhead V-8 sportsman cars to come in and run roughshod over their sixes and flatheads. Even Connecticut sportsman cars, such as Jim Koehler and Bill Hodges had made trips to Fair Haven VT from their usual track, Stafford Springs Speedway. Koehler had also run a few times with more “Fairmont – legal” cars in past seasons, and would re- appear in 1965 once overhead V-8's were legal.

Ladabouche Photo

Ray Sitterly, a second – level Fonda driver, was the first to arrive at Fairmont Speedway with a New York
style sportsman car – in 1963. [Below]
One of Jim Koehler's more Fairmont – legal cars, from 1963.
Locals were amazed by its beer keg gas tank. Check out the shadow of me, hunching over the trusty
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye box camera,

Ladabouche Photo

In 1964, C.J. Richards was still following up his Fairmont seasons with at least one race at the Vermont State Fairgrounds in Rutland. In 1964, that race would be dominated by one Jerry Townley in the Tom Chewins 108. The team, backmarkers at Fonda, had far better equipment than Richards' regulars and won handily. Why they were allowed there that day [before the aforementioned season closer we are discussing] is not clear.
           Richards had staged a few “special” races in his time at Fairmont. One particular season later , he ended the racing at the track with an open race that attracted the great Steve Danish, as well as Jean – Guy Chartrand, from Canada, and a few of the smaller Fonda teams. Chartrand was running away with the 100 lapper when his rear end blew on lap 98 – handing the race to Danish. It was one of the great Danish’s last in a career of hundreds of wins. CJ also had a few “opens” that attracted the likes of his friend, Will Cagle, as well as Pee Wee Griffin, Ken Shoemaker, Ron Narducci, and more.

Russ Bergh Photo via Bob Novak

Sometime - Fairmont regular Roger Gauthier did not win a feature at either Fairmont or Fonda with Charles Habreck’s spiffy red sportsman; but he won a special feature at Victoria with it. . Below – the Habreck car with Gauthier next to Reed in the 37, in a field full of Fonda and Valley car. The exception is Jerry King's 5Aces.

That Autumn afternoon race at the end of the 1964 season must have seemed like a day at Victoria Speedway to the Fonda teams. Victoria, not far from Fonda, had operated as a non – NASCAR track for years, attracting an eclectic field of Fonda cars [mostly running under assumed names to avoid NASCAR fines], Lebanon Valley cars, a few cars who ran almost exclusively there, and a few teams who straggled in from other venues.

On this 1964 day at Fairmont, the Fonda contingent was joined by a Valley group that included John Ryan's 0, a '55 Chevy known for being run by Schooch Schoonmaker; Stan Wetmore and Louie Searing from the Oak Hill Racing group; Carl Moore, from Massachusetts; and Butch Jelley in Ed Winn's Y. This was complemented by a strong field of Fairmont regulars.

Bob Frazier Photo via Ed Fabian
The cars of Pete Corey, Ken Shoemaker, Ron Narducci, and Harold Montayne are visible as the all – star cars
line up for a special Fairmont feature. [Courtesy of Ed Fabian] Below – This shot of a Moore dumptruck gives
 evidence that Valley regular Carl Moore was at Fairmont that afternoon in 1964 [see the 4F in the photo insert].

Dick Britain Photos

It is likely C.J. had declared some sort of “open rules” to attract the New York teams for what was supposed to be “regular” season enders - before they tore the cars down or put them in mothballs for the year. It is also likely that he took close notice of the strong interest the crowds had in these sportsman cars. A few Lebanon Valley cars with V-8’s had come and gone in the interim.

The Fairmont regulars had the usual number of flatheads and sixes; but, cars like Jerry King's 5Aces, out of Rutland, Marty Warner's V-8 sedan out of Granville, and others were particularly strong that day. By 1964, the usually – dominant New Hampshire teams were few in number, perhaps knowing their flatheads would be no match for the invading overheads.

Walter Mateer Photo Courtesy of Joe Grossetti via Chas Hertica

When Valley runner John Ryan brought his late model – bodied sportsman to Fairmont in October of 1964.
Below - the CVRA officials found no fault with the motor; but the rough track broke his suspension .

Ladabouche Photo

        When the 1965 season rolled around, the CVRA rules now were completely open to the overhead V-8 sportsman. In fact, it appeared as though one ought to have an overhead in order to be on any kind of equal footing with the competition. The Corey photo had, in deed, offered clues to what was to come at C. J. Richards’ Champlain Valley Racing Association programs. Richards, always savvy and having an ear to the racing ground, likely knew that overhead V-8's were coming into Catamount and Thunder Road that season. New tracks like Albany – Saratoga Speedway and Catamount Stadium joined older tracks like Claremont Speedway in doing away with flathead engines.

        Ironically, it was Richards who had – at the same time - done a small bit to reduce the existence of the overhead V-8 sportsman car in Vermont. In 1961, when Hi Monroe and Lee Tucker opened Otter Creek Speedway, at Monroe’s farm in Waltham, they had the foresight to grab a NASCAR sanction. This had regularly brought in anywhere from a handful, to several overhead cars in any given program at the bumpy, dusty, long dirt oval near Vergennes.

Bob Mackey Photo via Cho Lee
The 7VT, a Vermont – built NASCAR sportsman, was one of the many such overheads that ran at Otter Creek Speedway
in 1961. By 1963, they were gone. This team, then with driver Dutch Reed and later, with Jack DuBrul, ended up running faraway
Fonda and Victoria Speedways. Below – This shot of Hillside raceway in 1965 shows a mix of C.J. 's cars [V-8's and not], but no NASCAR entries.

Val Blicarcz Photo via Bob Allard


        Richards began to become involved in the track increasingly and – by 1963 – he was running it . While having a couple of special overhead shows, he had run NASCAR out and put in his CVRA running rules [which did not allow for overhead V-8’s]. The few sportsman shows were successful, usually won by Ken Shoemaker, but the track was idle throughout the entire 1964 season – that pivotal year of the Corey Falcon.

       When the 1965 season opened, with many of the CVRA teams arriving with overhead sportsman cars, Otter Creek was supposedly opened under the promotion of former CVRA race driver “Little Joe” D’Avignon, of Cornwall. Richards insists that he was still behind the operation, which was now going by Hillside Raceway. The track saw the same CVRA sportsman cars as did Fairmont [which was enjoying a resurgence of interest that year]; but, none of the old sportsman cars from the early two years of the Waltham track were regulars.

Ladabouche Photo
Connecticut NASCAR regular Jim Koehler began running Fairmont and Hillside Raceway in 1965, before
destroying the beautiful 11CT at Fonda [below]. The background of this shot shows more stands
and a little new paint; but nothing much was added to Fairmont despite the successful season.

Russ Bergh Photo via Gate Racing News

        Richards’ Saturday night shows at Fairmont were going very well. More and more, the fields were predominantly overheads. At the very beginning of that season, a number of the former banner teams from the track’s flathead days tried running their flathead cars against their peers who had made the change and against the many new teams which were now coming in to run under the new rules.

        The former Vermont State Champion team of Frank “Stroker” Smith, from Keene, NH and his driver Moran “Sonny” Rabideau of Brattleboro, VT were the most successful. Rabideau and his black and white cutdown, the 311, would lead many of the features; but, the strain of the gear they had to run to stay ahead of the overheads caused many engine failures. The handwriting was on the wall soon into the season.

Bob Frazier Photo via Cavalcade of Auto Racing

The formerly – dominant New Hampshire contingent would go one of two ways. Roger Canfield’s 8NH became
exclusively an overhead V-8 team, as was the Claremont track. Other teams fought the flathead fight until
 the bitter end with only some success. [Below] - The formerly flathead – powered Vallancourt 333 of
Howard Stevens was tearing up Fairmont in 1965 with an overhead installed.

Ladabouche Photo

        A few of formerly dominant New Hampshire teams came west with small V-8’s crammed into their ’32 and ’34 Ford coupes. Some new teams, like the 8NH car, having been built specially as sportsman cars, began to appear. Rabideau, after disappearing for a bit, re-appeared and bought the points – leading car of his friend, Leo Vallancourt – leaving driver Howard Stevens and the crew hanging out to dry in August. Sometimes, even regular NASCAR sportsman teams would sneak into Vermont to race, often using racing pseudonyms. The Hammond / Strong 56CT car would show up with driver Chet Hunt known as Jim Mitchell.

        As it turned out, Richards had been taking crap from the Town of Fair Haven for years. The small – minded town fathers, while watching revenues come into the town businesses from the race fans who attended Fairmont, complained and railed against the dust, traffic, and extraneous noise attributed to Fairmont Speedway. Hence, C.J. was reluctant to put much money into the infrastructure of the old fairgrounds oval he had leased since 1962.

Bob Frazier Photo via Ed Fabian

The lot of legendary Sonny Rabideau is well illustrated here. [Above] Sonny picks up checkers from Fairmont's
starter Danny Rumpf with the flathead at Fairmont in 1965. [Below] – Rabideau later returned to
Smith and drove the 311 with an overhead V-8 for a spell at Devil’s Bowl.

R.A. Silvia Collection

        After one more [even more successful] season at Fairmont, the Richards operation pulled up stakes, bought some Richards family land up the highway in West Haven, and built the still – existing Devil’s Bowl Speedway. The then – named Fairmont Racing Association would become the more well – known Champlain Valley Racing Association. In 2012, for the first time since, that track opened under ownership under than the Richards family. A careful analysis of what could be seen in that dusky photo of Pete Corey loading up his Falcon might have told the observer that this was coming.
         Never having been accused of having no foresight, C.J. had played the Fairmont thing pretty close to the best, establishing himself in the racing world while not spending a fortune on other peoples' property. He had learned the art of promotion and a philosophy that included a little bit of slipperiness here and there and the more endearing idea that a well -fed race crowd is usually a happy crowd. All of those 1964 photos by various people etched Fairmont [and CJ in the history books for good.

Ladabouche Photo
The 1966 season at Fairmont was almost a dress rehearsal for Devil’s Bowl. The Norm Scarborough – prepared
#24 of Russ Shaw sits in the Fairmont infield, with the 71 of Harry Duffany and John Richmond’s 93 in the background.
Below – Having come out late in 1966, Scarborough's Mustang was one of the few Fairmont cars to actually make it to Devil's Bowl.

Ted Vogel, Jr. Photo

Please email me at 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. For those who still don’t like computers - my regular address is: Bill Ladabouche, 23 York Street, Swanton, Vermont 05488.


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