Wednesday evening February 17, the Living Legends of Auto
Racing held their huge annual banquet in Daytona. This year
the one and only Bentley Warren was recipient of the
"Tribute to the Early Days."
It was an honor to make
The winner of this year's
TRIBUTE TO THE EARLY DAYS is Bentley Warren. He's a little
different. Let me explain.
The Warren Family was
Boston Brahmin, arriving from England in 1690. Bentley Wirt
Warren, born in 1865, was an attorney, president of the
Boston Bar Association and the Boston Symphony. His son,
Bentley Wirt Warren Jr. became a Williams-educated
investment banker and real estate entrepreneur. Then, in
1940, along came Bentley Wirt Warren the third. The world
was not quite ready, but he became the most famous Warren of
Young Bentley was handsome, wired, sharp as a
tack, but an unstoppable scamp, especially when it came to
the fairer sex and faster cars. Soon the police chief came
by his home and suggested he go into the military rather
than a less pleasant place. Like everyone, the Chief liked
Bentley. He appreciated his joy of life.
service, Bentley became an obsessed jalopy racer. He wrapped
himself in ripped blue jeans and tee shirts rather than
tweeds, and junked cars tirelessly to support his passion.
A God-given talent, he was soon racing Supers. He was
off the wall. One afternoon he ran a roadster up in New
Hampshire, then loaded up and took off to Connecticut for a
USAC show that night. A poor bloke named Albert Stevens rode
with him in the pickup hauling the trailer, while the crew
followed in a car. Bentley drove like Ben Hur down the Mass
Pike, 130 miles an hour, the trailer swaying like a reed in
the wind. Albert was terrified and yelled "stop!" Bentley
took his hands right off the wheel, turned to him, and said,
"Don't you realize you're in good hands with Bentley
Warren?" Apparently Albert didn't. Bentley dropped him off
at the side of the turnpike and Albert was still standing
there white as a ghost 15 minutes later when the car with
the normal people came along and picked him up. ONLY BENTLEY
In the 1960s his success was meteoric. He won
all over the Northeast - at Thompson, CT; Pocono, PA;
Oswego, NY. The more the countless highway miles, the more
the beer flowed and the happy legend grew.
married and starting a wee trucking business, Bentley had
worked his way to Indianapolis. Despite a horrid crash in
Argentina with serious burns, he had five successful years
When back in Massachusetts, he was back in
Supers, sometimes driving some rag-tag stuff of his own.
Early one morning Wilbur Drew, a racing official, was coming
down a highway near Boston on his way to Oswego. There was
commotion in the breakdown lane, and he couldn't believe his
eyes. There was Bentley's Super stuck half way through a
highway sign about 20 feet off the ground. The crew was
scurrying about trying to get it down before the Staties
arrived. ONLY BENTLEY WARREN.
Bentley masters the dirt of
the Syracuse mile.
(Rick Nelson Photo, North
East Motor Sports Museum Photo Collection)
In the early 1980s, Bentley joined with Tom and Doug
Heveron, debuting in victory circle at the Oswego Classic
the day after Jim Shampine died. Wins in great rides
followed with Ed Bowley, Mike Mazur, Brian Allegresso, Paul
Dunigan, and most recently Vic Miller. He compiled seven
Oswego championships, four with ISMA - and even snatched a
When many his age had retired in the
'90s, Bentley was on down the cheerful road, winning the
Little 500 twice with Glen Niebel and doing the Silver Crown
trail with the Seymour #29.
As Bentley approached his
seventies, he combined his lifelong thirst for suds and
motorcycles by opening Bentley's Saloon in Arundel, Maine.
It fired up like nitrous oxide, a booming, joyful success.
On a good summer weekend, Bentley and his comely
partner, Lisa Zatalova, entertain over 1000 bikers. And
guess what the Saloon's logo says? "Who has more fun than
us? We do!"
Now, remember what I told you about
Bentley's rather upper-crust family background? Listen up.
Dick Berggren is building a formidable Museum at the New
Hampshire Motor Speedway. On NASCAR cup weekend last fall,
all donors of 25,000 dollars or more were given a silver
shovel for the ground-breaking. Bentley had given $40,000,
but he couldn't attend the event.
Turns out the
Secret Service wouldn't let him. You see, that same day,
President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, who live
one town up in Kennebunk, Maine, wanted to come to the
Saloon for lunch.
I asked Bentley what happened. He
said, "Oh, they're such nice people."
I said, "Come
on Bentley, I've known you for 40 years. What happened?
First question: How many beers did the President have?"
Bentley responded, "He had a Bentley nitro and two Coors."
Then Bentley paused and said, "And then I had a moment with
My heart sank. "What happened, Bentley?!"
"She looked up on the ceiling and saw all the bras
hanging down and asked me, 'Bentley, if a woman comes here,
does she have to wear two bras?"
ONY BENTLEY WIRT
WARREN THE THIRD COULD GET AWAY WITH THAT!
will that one and only, joyful barkeep from Arundel please
approach the podium.....
(North East Motor Sports Museum Collection)