NEAR Hall of Fame Inducts 25th Class
April May Preston-Elms is honored and pleased to announce the 2023 NEAR Hall of Fame Class. The landmark 25th class for the region’s most highly regarded motorsports shrine was formally inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame on Sunday, November 5, at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Ma. A wide-ranging group of drivers and car owners joined the Hall of Fame, raising the total to over 270 members enshrined. A star-studded line up of inductees and presenters were on hand for the sold-out event consisting of a very impressive list of who’s who of former inductees, selection committee members, ex officio, board members and officers, “car guys and gals” and of course the family and fans of all the highlighted names of the day.
Dave Baribeault announcer for Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl was the Master of Ceremonies. Commanding the podium, he opened the day by introducing President April May Preston-Elms. Preston-Elms, who welcomed the attendees to the Log Cabin acknowledging that the group was less than 15 miles from where the first Hall of Fame ceremonies were held in 1998. She noted “a person either loves racing or truly loves racing, this room is filled with those that truly love racing. Our legacy is why we are here. The present is our responsibility to preserve that legacy while at the same time working to keep our future relevant.” She looks forward to working with the club members to ensure that NEAR is still relevant for the next forty years to be able to continue to celebrate together the history of auto racing in New England with these annual prestigious events.
The festivities started with the presentation of each of the Hall of Fame members who have been inducted who were present. The parade of twenty-one former inductees spanning the years of 2001 to 2021, two widows of former inductees, the 2023 veteran and class of 2023 set the tone for the day.
In addition to the HoF inductees several special awards were presented to very deserving recipients. Up first the Ron Bouchard Award, for lifetime achievements in Auto Racing in New England, was presented to Rick Raducha by Ed Flemke Jr with a very emotional speech. Raducha is the epitome of a race fan and has worked with several teams in New England to obtain sponsorship with the establishment of Driver Connection.
Mark Alden, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee co-chair presented the Frank Maratta Award for outstanding contributions to Auto Racing in New England to lifetime NEAR member Lloyd Hutchins Jr. Hutchins has been on the selection committee for several years and is the Vermont/New Hampshire car events scheduler working in conjunction with Vice President and Director of Competition Rich Goucher. Hutchins was unable to attend the event, due to illness, ex-official Doug Farrow accepted the award on his behalf.
Alden then presented the Ratta/Mitchell Memorial Media Award, for outstanding media coverage of New England Racing to the dynamic duo Cary Stratton-Boyd and husband Lew Boyd. Lew, the face of Coastal 181 was quick to give the credit to his wife as the one who has kept it all together as he loving said “This is her company. She lets me write books.” Costal 181 has produced more books about New England auto racing than any other with stories about Bentley Warren, Dave Dion, Ed Flemke and Bugsy Stevens to name but a few.
The two veteran committee selections were next on the stage. John “Chip” Pettengill, a HOF Selection Committee member was honored to induct Veteran Al Hammond. South Paris, ME native Al Hammond became legendary at the nearby Oxford Plains Speedway, racing there for nearly a half-century in the black & gold #1 cars. Hammond’s longevity was as much his trademark as his ability; his first win came in 1965, and his final win was some 41 years later in 2006. He won championships in the track’s top-level Sportsman division in 1970, ’73, and ’74, and the prestigious Triple Crown title in 1968, ’70, and ’75. Hammond passed away in 2014. His induction was accepted by his widow Deloris Hammond.
Alden returned to the podium to present the second Veteran Joe Howard with his induction. Howard won a championship in his first season of racing, taking the Novice title in 1970 at Westboro Speedway with a homebuilt Ford engine racing against mostly Chevrolets. The Worcester, Ma., racer then moved to Riverside Park Speedway, winning a pair of crowns in the Grand American class. In 1979, he was the Small Block Modified champion at Thompson Speedway, beating NEAR Hall of Famers George Savary and Ron Bouchard. His career was cut short by a bad crash in 1982, but not before more than 50 feature wins in just a dozen years of racing were recorded for him in the record books.
President Preston-Elms presented the Charlie Stebbins Award, for outstanding contribution above and beyond his duties to NEAR. This year’s winner was Mark Alden. Alden has been a member of NEAR for over twenty years. He has been active in the car events and long-standing member of the selection committee. His dedication to the organization runs deep as was evidenced when he was asked to step in as the chair of the selection committee, when the former chair stepped down suddenly. Alden stated at the time “I was dying of the flu and didn’t know if I was going to make it, so I called Pete Newsham and said I will co-chair with you, but you will have to drive this one as I am just too sick.” From there he made a full recovery and the duo have chaired the committee for several years.
Pete Newsham selection committee co-chair and longtime member of NEAR presented the final specialty award of the day, the Dan Pardi Award, for the outstanding dedication and contributions to the success of the NEAR Hall of Fame. Through the years, NEAR has recognized deserving individuals who emulate this Herculean effort. This year’s recipient of the 15th annual award was President April May Preston-Elms. The last few years, on her way to becoming the first female President of this organization, April Mays has taken on tremendous responsibility. All involved with this HoF process have seen April May assume ownership displaying the same dedication and uncanny effort that Dan did. No one in recent years has done more to improve and highlight the NEAR Hall of Fame. Our future looks bright under the leadership and tenacity of this impressive lady.
The final six presentations were held for the class of 2023. First up was the induction of Manchester, Conn.’s John Stygar. Vice President and Director of Competition Rich Goucher was given the honors. Stygar was instrumental in the growth of NASCAR’s Modified division in the early 1960s. Fielding a popular coupe-bodied car with a dollar sign on the doors instead of a traditional number, Stygar and his driver, Ed Flemke, were a force everywhere they went – especially in the south. One of the “Eastern Bandits” he dominated at tracks in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas for three seasons in 1961-63, while also moonlighting occasionally in New England and New York. After a few years of limited activity, Stygar returned full-bore in the 1970s to win more up north with Flemke, Ron Bouchard, and Bugsy Stevens in his cars. Stygar passed away in 2020, his sister Marion Howard accepted his plaque.
Speedway Illustrated Publisher and last year’s winner of the Ratta/Mitchell Memorial Media Award Karl Fredrickson had the honor of introducing Old Lyme, Conn.’s Ted Marsh into the HoF. Marsh spent a half-century as a prominent team owner in a variety of motorsport disciplines including local stock cars and internationally famous sports car road racers. His roster of drivers included Boris Said, Billy Harman, Ted Christopher, Rick Fuller, Sonny Whelen, Ken Bouchard, Steve Park, Andy Santerre, and Ryan Preece, among others. His teams won an SK Modified championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, SCCA World Challenge Series championships, and high-profile NASCAR Busch North Series races.
Justin St. Louis co-creator, co-host and art director of Uncommon Deeds Motorsports Podcast took to the podium to induct Mike Ordway Sr. Ordway made a name for himself in open-wheel Supermodifieds, running from his Fremont, N.H., home to victory lanes from Florida to the Canadian Maritimes. Ordway started at Star Speedway, winning the 1984 track championship before heading 400 miles west to become an elite driver at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway. There, he won the 1991 track championship, the 2003 International Classic, and racked up 30 wins. He was also a star on the International Supermodified Association (ISMA) tour, winning 36 races and championships in 1995 and ’98 during the tour’s most competitive era.
Rollie Lindblad Class of 2009 for his cutting-edge race car fabrication and his “Badger” which revolutionized midget racing in the 1970s and selection committee member had the honor of inducting one of his drivers Mike Weeden. Weeden began to open eyes in racing in 1977. The Haverhill, Mass., native built his own engine, chassis, and suspension, and he drove it to the Modified track championship at Westboro Speedway. When money got short Lindblad was there to offer him a ride to get him through. After battling competitively with the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Richie Evans and Jerry Cook, he moved to full-fender Pro Stocks and Late Models. He won races on the NASCAR North Tour, NASCAR Busch North Series, and the American-Canadian Tour, while also winning championships at Star, Lee USA, Oxford Plains, and Thompson Speedways. In 1995 he won titles at Star, Lee, and Thompson – all with the same car and engine.
Dr. Dick Berggren NEAR class of 2008 is worldwide known for his NASCAR pit road commentary on MRN, ESPN, CBS, and Fox Sports. In 2012 Berggren began an effort to build a museum that would capture New England’s motor racing history. The museum opened in June 2017. He has been inducted to nine auto racing Halls of Fame and won the NASCAR Hall of Fame Squier-Hall Award for Media Excellence. Berggren glowingly introduced the legendary Brad Leighton. Leighton was quick from the start, winning in his second start at the Nor-Way Pines (now Legion) Speedway at age 18. The Center Harbor, N.H., native won often at Lee USA Speedway, Oxford Plains Speedway, and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, where he was the 1990 Limited Sportsman champion. He graduated to the American-Canadian Tour, taking the 1995 championship, and was later the NASCAR Busch North Series champion in 1999 and 2000. He mastered the “Magic Mile” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, winning there eight times. During his career he won features at nineteen different tracks from Canada to Florida.
The final inductee had the honor of being inducted by the voice and name synonymous with American
motorsports. Mike Joy has been a racing television broadcaster since the 1980s. His face and voice have been heard on ESPN, CBS, TNN, and TBS. He worked in Formula 1 for FOX, and he has been FOX’s NASCAR anchor since 2001.
In 2019 Joy was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame. Joy will say he was the privileged one as he, with his memorizing voice of flair, presented Andy Santerre “Downeast Maine” native of Cherryfield as the final 2023 inductee. Santerre is one of the very few New Englanders to have earned measurable success in the national leagues of NASCAR, but he is best known and beloved for his efforts in the Northeast. Just two years after lying temporarily paralyzed in a hospital bed, at the age of 19, he was the 1990 Super Street champion at Speedway 95. He won NASCAR Busch North Series Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 and was later hired to move south to race in the NASCAR Busch (Xfinity) Series. He won another rookie crown on the national Busch Series in 1998 and rebounded from a badly broken leg in a terrible crash at Daytona to win at Pikes Peak in 1999. He returned to Busch North in 2002, winning a record four consecutive championships and four Most Popular Driver awards before becoming a successful car owner and team manager. After retiring, he fostered the careers of several future Cup Series stars as a car owner and crew chief. Following his own exit from ownership, Santerre was hired by the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program and Rev Racing to oversee the development of young talent in the former Busch North Series, renamed the K& N Pro Series East, where he stayed for two seasons. He finished his career in 2012 with Hattori Racing Enterprises. His career record shows 48 victories including 23 in the NASCAR Busch North Series, of which he was named #1 on NASCAR’s official list of all-time great drivers in the series’ history in 2011. Andy Santerre won at 19 tracks in 10 states up and down the east coast.
The New England Auto Racers are proud and honored to welcome this prestigious group to the Hall of Fame. Images, clips and full video of the festivities will be found shortly on our social media sites and webpage. For all the highlights be sure to check them often. www.newenglandautoracers.com and facebook.com/newenglandautoracers