It was 1959; the birth of east coast organized drag racing. In
Montgomery, NY, something was happening and word travelled fast. The
airport was being used to hold quarter mile acceleration races. Drag
racing was clocked by the elapsed time and MPH at the end of 1,320 feet.
Now hot rodders could do what was happening all over the country, in
this area. The N.H.R.A. (National Hot Rod Association) Safety Safari was
helping local organizations and car clubs set up safe, timed, and
So, one weekend, Mark Mastriani, and the Danbury Modifiers took
off to race with a guest. He was Chet Anderson, from Brookfield, CT,
who ran a gas station. Chet rode with Mark in Mark’s 55’ Chevy to see
what it was all about. Mark raced his car but Chet disappeared for the
day. He was “checking it all out”. The very next day, Anderson searched
for a place to build his own track. He had met Frank Marrata, at
Montgomery and asked him to be his partner to do a drag strip in
Connecticut. Frank turned him down, but later built Connecticut Dragway
in East Haddem, CT. Anderson found 144 acres of farmland in Wingdale,
NY, and promptly purchased it. Now he needed the land developed and
cleared. Enter partner Joe Archiere, who had the heavy equipment to do
They opened the track on May 14, 1961. They enlisted the help
of the Danbury Modifiers to be the crew and inspectors. At the gate,
sleeping overnight, to be the first ones in, was a pair, “camping out”
in a 59’ Pontiac. They intended to race. At daylight, someone thumped on
the trunk lid to wake up James “Grover” Grove. Grover became the first
paid customer and still has the ticket. That someone was Mark Mastriani.
The first track manager was Charles Van Muren, known as “Van”.
Then, Tim Hallock took over in 1962. Mark “Smokey” Mastriani was manager
until 1965, then Joe “T” Tanner, managed up until 73'. Then, the last
manager was Christ Swift until closing in 1976.
The original starter was George Hosford, known for his
acrobatics with the flag starts. Al “Popalatis” Svarplaitis came along
Track announcers were Harry “Blue Goose” Loper, followed by
Ralph “Chink” Butera, Gary Teto, and then Dino “Weirdo” Lawrence from
65’ to 72’. Joe Tanner’s son, Charlie took over until closing in 76’.
Frank Rice and Mike Mannion ran and repaired the clocks. Mike
had married Joe Archiere’s niece. The American Legion (Not the Lions
Club) always ran the food concession.
The track was sanctioned by N.H.R.A. for only one year. It seems
the precarious drop off the left side of the shut down area and
inadequate guard rails wouldn’t meet NHRAs insurance standards. Dover
became the place to be for racers from five states.