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Semi-Monthly
Racing Commentary
with
LEW BOYD

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com


(Howie Hodge Photo - John Grady Collection)


3/23/11

THINKING OF GENE BERGIN

There were thousands and thousands of racing photos on display at Gater Racing News’ Motorsports Show in Syracuse a week or so ago. The one above, however, sparkled bright as a diamond in John Grady’s booth.

That’s the late Fred “Sharkey” Gaudiosi’s trademark pink and white #44 being towed up the long hill on the Massachusetts Turnpike west of Springfield in the 1960s. Sharkey’s distinctive creations, always Plymouth-powered and now almost mythological in stature, were gritty but lightning fast. And Sharkey, a Northeast Auto Racing Hall of Fame owner, always had the best in class behind the wheel.

No question one of Sharkey’s most star-crossed linkages was with another Hall of Famer, driver Gene Bergin. Bergin, popular and colorful as they come, has been much in the mind of the Eastern racing community since he passed away this February 27th. It is said that he died from complications from a stroke last summer. What actually happened may be much sadder. Gene’s wife Lucy, the love of his life, had died eight years earlier, launching him into a deep depression from which, friends contend, he simply never recovered.

Gene’s blues were hard to watch, as he had been such an animated, energetic, joyful and athletic type throughout his life. How many times was he seen ambulating through the pit area on his hands rather than his feet? And out on that track he was always on the gas, completely devoid of fear. He won a lot – and he had his mishaps. The one pictured below, on the dirt at Stafford Springs, CT, in 1965, was in a Sharkey-mobile. Bergin was about as busted up as the #44 and he was done for the rest of the season.
(Tom Ormsby Collection)

Everyone who was ever around Gene Bergin has a story. Master-owner Skip Matczak, for whom Gene drove sprinters, recalls that “he was one incredible athlete, but he was no engineer. When he’d bring the car in from warm-ups, I’d send him off for coffee so he wouldn’t get all confused about what adjustments we were going to make. He came from that old Fats Caruso school – they had no clue about the mechanics of the car, but they sure could go out and find the fast groove.”

Another Northeast Hall of Fame driver, Billy Harman, thinks his buddy Gene won so much because “he was so agile and coordinated and because, frankly, he wasn’t so good a businessman. He just worked construction and raced, but he had a nice, growing family with kids and he really needed that purse money.”

Legendary shoe Bill Slater summed up his thoughts about Bergin with classic crispness. “He was so good I could give you a whole list of guys I would rather race against.”

I have my own memories of Gene. That top photo may well have been taken on a Sunday in 1969, Sharkey on his way to Lebanon Valley (NY) Speedway for one of their wildly racy Sunday night 100-lap open competitions. If it’s the night I recall, I started the feature right behind Gene who was in that #44. I was thrilled. We were just getting going on the dirt, and I admired Gene tremendously. I figured I could follow him closely and observe how to get around those high banks like one of the big boys.

It didn’t quite work out that way. When the green flag flew, Gene went way upstairs and clouds of dust billowed up. That pink sedan was out of sight – gone. Gone for about three laps, that is, until he went roaring by, lapping me on the outside. Oh well.

Here’s to you Gene – and Lucy, and Sharkey, too.


Gene Bergin drove anything and everything well, even Indy cars.
(Lloyd Burnham Photo from Dick Berggren Collection.)

© 2011 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

3/8/11 - Sprint Car World Record?

2/21/11 - Dinner at Daytona

2/10/11 - The Call Him 1/4ley

1/28/11 - Doc's Beard

1/15/11 - Reconsidering Generalizations

12/31/10 - Powerful Passion

12/19/10 - Tearoff at Yuletide

12/6/10 - Indy in December

11/21/10 - Mutt and the Brutal Ballet

10/29/10 - The Johnny Bensons and Their Supers

10/13/10 - Anatomy of an Accident

9/28/10 - Maybe Marty

9/14/10 - Push Refresh for Speedway Illustrated

8/23/10 - An Ode to Senior Supers

8/6/10 - Adrian and the Deep Water

7/20/10 - Holdout in Yuppieville

7/7/10 - The Wins are Gustin

6/16/10 - Racin' Kid, Racin' Dad

5/28/10 - The Monk and Matty D.

5/15/10 - Bluebird

4/27/10 - Catching Up With Steve Arpin

4/11/10 - The Song of the Fifties

3/22/10 - Davey!

3/8/10 - Restart!

2/21/10 - Miracles of the Rock

2/8/10 - Roger The Remarkable

1/21/10 -  Shane's Sensational '78

12/28/09 - The Flying Finn and The All American Boy

12/12/09 - Hello Wall

11/29/09 - Once More for Ernie

11/15/09 - Ernie's Excellent Chase

11/1/09 - In The Zone

10/19/09 - Rough Week in the Midwest

10/1/09 - Common Starts, Uncommon Comebacks

9/4/09 - South Dakota Chris

8/15/09 - Facial Exposure

7/31/09 - Dying in the Pits

7/9/09 - Barn Rat's Last Race

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2007-11 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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