Contributed by: ACT Staff
Short track stock car racing promoter Tom Curley and driver Bobby Dragon have been nominated to the New England Auto Racing (NEAR) Hall of Fame Class of 2009. Curley is President of the American-Canadian Tour sanctioning body and Co-Owner/Promoter of Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in Barre, VT; Dragon is a multi-time champion driver, and is still active in a storied career that began over 40 years ago.
Originally of Maine and now living in Barre, VT, Curley got his start in racing as a competitor, racing in the original Flying Tiger division at Catamount Stadium in Milton, VT in 1965 before a brief stint in the open-wheel Modified ranks. He became involved in the promotional and operational side of stock car racing at Catamount in 1978, working alongside television and radio broadcaster and Catamount Stadium and Thunder Road Founder Ken Squier, a 2002 NEAR Hall of Fame inductee.
Curley eventually partnered with Squier at Catamount Stadium, and created the NASCAR North Tour in 1979, where he earned a reputation as a fiery, controversial promoter. The duo also resurrected the shuttered Thunder Road track in nearby Barre in 1982. In January 1986, Curley broke away from NASCAR to form his own American-Canadian Tour, which has been an innovative and industry-leading Late Model touring organization since, and in 1987 joined with Rex Robbins of the American Speed Association (ASA) and Bob Harmon of All-Pro to form the Stock Car Connection.
Curley’s present-day “spec” crate engine program, Goodyear tire rules, and Koni shock absorber rules have created affordable, exciting racing for fans and competitors on both sides of the U.S./Canadian border. The American-Canadian Tour sanctions the international ACT Late Model Tour, the Québec/Ontario-based Série ACT-Castrol, and weekly events at Thunder Road. Under the ACT umbrella, nearly 360 drivers competed in 2008.
Previously, Curley has been honored as a three-time Racing Promotion Monthly (RPM) Northeast Promoter of the Year, the 1992 Trackside Magazine Promoter of the Year, the 2003 Lowe’s Motor Speedway Short Track Promoter of the Year, and, for his work at Thunder Road, the 2004 RPM North American Auto Racing Promoter of the Year, the industry’s highest award. Curley was also the winner of the prestigious Don MacTavish Award in 1981 for lifelong dedication and service to stock car racing.
Dragon, 62, is still active with the ACT Late Model Tour. At the age of 19, he debuted a Flying Tiger car at Catamount Stadium in his Milton, VT hometown, winning seven feature events his first year. By the time the track closed in 1987, Dragon was the all-time victory leader with 52 wins. Among his Catamount scores were the 1972 and 1974 New England 300s, the 1975 Spring Green, and track championships in 1969, 1972, 1977, and 1980.
Success was not limited to Catamount, however, as he took three track championships at Thunder Road, two titles at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Fair Haven, VT, the 1972 crown at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY, and three titles at the Sanair Int’l Raceway 1/3-mile in St-Pie, QC. Dragon was also Vermont State Champion in 1969, 1973, and 1977, and won the Northern NASCAR Late Model Sportsman circuit championship in 1973, 1977, and 1978.
Dragon was a frequent winner with NASCAR North, and also raced successfully in open-wheel Modifieds on dirt and asphalt in the 1970s. He drove to 14 victories in what is now the NASCAR Camping World East Series, at tracks including the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course and bygone facilities including Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, MA, and Nazareth (PA) Speedway. In 25 career starts in the present-day NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dragon posted top-ten finishes at Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway, Dover (DE) Int’l Speedway, Darlington (SC) Raceway, Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC, and Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway.
Dragon ran a full slate of events with the ACT Late Model Tour in 2008, driving the Waste Management/BG Environmental Chevrolet bearing his familiar #71. His top result was a ninth-place finish in the Spring Green 100 at Airborne Speedway on his way to finishing 22nd in championship standings. He also posted a 100-lap victory in an open-competition event at New Hampshire’s All-Star Speedway in August.
Previous honors for Dragon include several Sportsmanship and Most Popular Driver awards, along with the Don MacTavish Award in 1983. His brother, multi-time driving champion Harmon “Beaver” Dragon, was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame in 2004. Both men’s sons, Scott and Brent, are race-winning competitors on the ACT Late Model Tour.
The New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame will honor its Class of 2009 at LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT on January 25, 2009. Joining Curley and Dragon on the Class of 2009 roster are John Fitch, driver, racing safety innovator, and former general manager of Lime Rock (CT) Park; former ACT and open-wheel Supermodified driver Paul Richardson of Georgetown, MA; Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway Founder Bob Bahre; Beech Ridge (ME) Motor Speedway Founder Jim McConnell; and champion car owner/builders Rollie Lindblad of Northbridge, MA and Art Barry of Glasgow, CT.
For more information, including ticket ordering information, visit the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame website at www.near1.com. For more information on the American-Canadian Tour and Thunder Road, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.acttour.com and www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.