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Stafford Motor Speedway Connecticut Racing

(860) 684-2783 fax-(860) 684-6236
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Stafford Motor Speedway

Stafford Motor Speedway

by Stafford Speedway staff

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Stafford Motor Speedway is a semi-banked 1/2 mile paved oval located in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. It is part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Throughout its history, the Stafford Motor Speedway has enjoyed a reputation for the innovative. Known as the Stafford Springs Agricultural Park, this 100-acre facility was developed to showcase the area’s Agricultural Heritage.

When the Park opened in 1870, patrons from the “big city”, nearby Hartford, would travel directly to the entrance gate aboard the newest form of mechanized transportation…a trolley!

Quickly Stafford’s reputation grew. The largest Agricultural events in New England called Stafford home and a half-mile horse racing facility drew crowds interested in horsepower instead of fertilizer! Trotters and Pacers tested the Stafford track up to the end of World War II when the return to peace and prosperity brought a new type of racing to Stafford. Park officials reasoned that Americans were ready for faster action. They saw the popularity of Automobile racing in other regions of the country and the horse gave way to motor racing.

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Midgets, Sprint Cars and an occasional new form of racing from the South called stock cars made Stafford a regular stop on a circuit that saw names like Bill Schindler, Johnny Kaye, George Flemke and Joe Ciski take checkered flags.

Bill France, Sr. unveiled his Daytona Speedway in 1959 and Stafford Speedway saw France’s vision. They entered into a long-term agreement with France’s organization called NASCAR and have hosted weekly NASCAR events ever since.

 

 

 

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Initially, Stafford remained a dirt track where Ernie Gahan captured one of his National titles. The track embraced stock car racing and a division known as modifieds. (pre-war coupes souped up with post-war engines) . Midgets and Sprints for the most part still garnered most of the racing enthusiasts attention, but the excitement of Bill France’s Modifieds attracted a new fan and the exploits of Lee Petty, Joe Weatherly and Curtis Turner in the South were rivaled by the exploits of their Northern counterparts; Pete Corey, Ernie Gahan, Bill Wimble, Frankie Schnider and a youngster named Eddie Flemke.

In 1967, Stafford’s dirt was replaced by asphalt. With the new coat of pavement came a reputation that the track enjoys to this day. While other area tracks had joined the NASCAR Tour, their pavement was laid out for high speed and featured banking that would imitate (on a smaller scale) the Southern Superspeedways. Mal Barlow owned the Stafford track and had fielded cars in the South. He reasoned that banking made a track easy to drive. Barlow figured that once that type of track was conquered by a driver, he would move on and test his abilities elsewhere.

If Barlow was going to lose drivers to other tracks, he reasoned that they should take with them, a heritage. So, when he paved over the horse track that was first built 97 years before, he opted for slight banks and a track that would put a premium upon handling rather than horsepower.

NASCAR Modifieds remained the featured attraction and names like Sonny Hutchins, Ray Hendrick, Donnie and Bobby Allison knew that if they hoped to take the national title they had to run Stafford. Many did run Stafford, but the weekly regulars were often too tough for the outsiders. National Championships came to drivers at Stafford with as much frequency as the Boston Celtics won the NBA title. Bugs Stevens, Fred Desarro, Jerry Cook, and Richie Evans all won at Stafford and all took NASCAR National Modified Championships.

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Some drivers never won a National title but also earned recognition for Stafford and it’s demanding brand of competition. Pete Hamilton left the Connecticut half-miler and one year later put a Petty Enterprises Plymouth into Daytona 500 Victory Lane. Denny Zimmerman answered the call of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and captured the Indy 500 “Rookie of the Year” honors.

 

 

 

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Stafford’s on-track reputation as a proving ground for stars was well established. But, a sea of red ink on the business side threatened the track’s future. Mal Barlow could no longer justify the costs associated with the track’s operation and in June of 1969 announced to his employees that on July 11th he would shutter the track forever. Were it not for a former driver at the track and an owner that was at the time competing at Stafford, the track’s story would have ended.

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Bill Slater, a retired modified driver whose reputation was established when he bested a stellar field at the one-mile Langhorne Speedway was Barlow’s racing director. Despite being a year short of a pensioned retirement at his primary employment, Slater approached Jack Arute with an offer. If Arute would purchase the track, Slater would leave his regular job and work full time at the track.

Jack Arute, Sr. was a Lifetime member of USAC and enjoyed Modified racing as a hobby and a welcome respite from the demands associated with running his family’s road construction business. Arute took Slater up on his offer and took title to Stafford. On that same July 11th that was to mark the end of Stafford Motor Speedway, another era began. In what is to this day considered a true racing “moment”, Arute’s car co-owned by Ray and Rich Garuti took the first checkered flag under his track ownership with Eddie Flemke aboard.

1949-newspaper

Below is an ad that appeared in the July 19, 1949, issue of Illustrated Speedway News for Stock Car Races at Stafford Motor Speedway. Thanks to Adam Higgins of Tolland for sending these images to the Speedway.

 

 

 

iRacing at Stafford


by Stafford Speedway staff


contact e-Mail markarute@staffordspeedway.com
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Phone (860) 684-2783 fax-(860) 684-6236
Address 55 West St,
City Stafford Springs
US State Connecticut
Zip 06076
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