NEAR HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2001
The winner of the first Race of Champions and an Indianapolis 500 Rookie
of the Year are part of the New England Antique Racers' Hall of Fame "class
of 2001." The 10-member group represents hundreds of victories throughout the
Drivers Art Rousseau, Bobby Santos, Dennis Zimmerman, Ralph Cusack, the
late Don MacTavish, Hully Bunn, Don Rounds and Chick Stockwell (the latter
three in the pioneer class); car builder Fred Rosner and track
owner/promoter Jack Arute Sr. will bring the NEAR Hall of Fame membership to
NEAR President Al Fini introduced the Hall's fourth class at the
Riverside Reunion Saturday night at the Dante Club in West Springfield. The
group will be inducted on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001 at the La Rennaissance Banquet
Hall in East Windsor, CT.
Ticket information regarding the induction dinner is available by calling
(860) 569-1299. Fini points out the previous induction dinners have been
The "Class of 2001" reads like a history of New England racing.
There is no area in the nation stronger than New England when it comes to
short track activity. Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute has had much
to do with that. Since purchasing the half-mile in 1970, Arute has
established lofty standards for the entire sport, building his facility into
one of the country's premier short tracks.
Coming from a construction background, Arute had a long association with auto
racing as a car owner before becoming a promoter. His participation goes back
to the beach course at Daytona and his association with the Garuti brothers
resulted in one of the great racing teams (G&A) of the 1960s.
Zimmerman, the 1971 Indy 500's top rookie, is the fourth Eastern Bandit
in the Hall, joining the late Ed Flemke, Rene Charland and Red Foote. In the
early 1960s, the group moved up and down the eastern seaboard, winning from
Maine to the Carolinas. It was the Eastern Bandits that brought New England
stock car racing into the national picture.
A soap box derby champion, Zimmerman began racing with the United Stock
car club. It was at Riverside Park he joined up with Flemke and Charland. In
the mid 1960s Zimmerman moved to the open-cockpit cars. After driving Sprint
Cars for a number of years, he reached Indianapolis in 1970..
Rosner was also a member of that vagabond group, building and maintaining
equipment for four-time national sportsman champion Charland. That resulted
in Rosner winning several Mechanic of the Year trophies. A product of the
old United Stock Car Club as well, Rosner later provided winning equipment
for, among others, John Rosati. He then became one of the first of the
independent chassis builders.
Bunn, who began racing after returning from service in World War II, gave
New England its first major stock car win, the 1951 Race of Champions at
Langhorne Speedway. Bunn literally bounced around the northeast through the
1950s, scoring wins in New York State and New Jersey as well as New England.
He was a frequent winner at Stafford during that era. Later in his career,
Bunn found much success at Plainville Stadium.
Rounds also started right after World War II at Kingston Fairgrounds in
Rhode Island and quickly developed a fondness for the dirt. "Roundsie" won
one of the first-ever features at Waterford Speedbowl and soon after became a
standout at Stafford, winning the 1959 Sportsman crown. Also successful at
Keene, NH, Lebanon Valley, Millers Falls, and Morristown, NJ, he raced into
the 1970s at Lakeville Speedway.
Rousseau's career begain in 1939 at Dover, NH. Before it was over, he was
successful in open-cockpit and stock cars. A very busy racer, he was a
standout on the dirt at Cheshire Fairgrounds, Brattleboro, Stateline and
Beech Ridge. In the 1950s he teamed up with legendary car builder Bob Oliver,
winning at Stafford and Keene, NH and on the pavement at Riverside Park,
Plainville Stadium and Seekonk Speedway.
Don MacTavish was on the verge of national stardom when a crash in the
Permatex race at Daytona in 1969 took his life. A demolition derby expert
initially, he started in the "ramp races" at Norwood Arena then moved through
the hobby cars and then into the sportsman division, winning the 1966
national championship. Equally at home on big and small tracks, he was very
busy and posted an impressive number of wins.
Santos also took full advantage of the Hobby division at both Norwood and
Stafford, the latter still dirt. He won championships at both tracks during
the mid 1960s before moving up to the Modifieds. Part of the "Circuit of
Champions (Stafford-Norwood-Thompson) in the late 1960s, Santos joins many
other Hall of Fame members from what some call Modified racing's "Golden
era." Driving, among others, the Paul Clark Ford #41 and the Art Barry #909,
Santos was among the national Modified point leaders throughout the 1970s.
Stockwell ran in an era when "you could run every night. There was
something going on someplace." Between Plainville Stadium in 1949 and Danbury
Raceareana in 1981 he collected a host of wins and championships including
nine at the Raceareana (two of those on dirt). He also won at Rheinbeck, NY
in 1957. He was part of the United Grand American circuit in 1963-64, winning
the sportsman division both years as well as 100 a lapper at Thompson. He
captured well over 100 features, 51 at Danbury alone.
Cusack spent 30 years as a driver in northern New England, but it was on
the dirt at Beech Ridge where he prevailed, winning well over a hundred
features and 12 championships between 1953 and 1980. Known for his easy,
come-from-behind style, he ranks among the best ever in the Pine Tree State.
He purchased Beech Ridge in the spring of 1981 and made it one of New