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Harry “Les Ley” Dominick
(RA Silvia Collection).

Les Ley in Beebe’s M-6
(Dick Berggren Collection)

September 1, 2008


It was midsummer 1964, and Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts, was the biggest attraction in western New England. The roller coaster rides were jammed, and the adjacent 1/5-mile asphalt track was packing ’em in on Saturday nights.

There was great anticipation in the days leading up to August’s 150-lapper, the first of the extra-distance “Triple Crown Series.” Fans were focused on multiple winners that season – Dick Dixon, Jocko Maggiacomo, Buddy Krebs, and point leader Ed Patnode. Patnode had recently vacated the chair in the famous Salenski #M-6.

Towering Anthony “Beebe” Salenski always pitted beautiful, well-tooled and growling race cars, but 1964 had been a tough run for him. That year alone names like Billy Greco, Stan Disbrow, and Dick Dixon – as well as Patnode – had been painted above the door. Maybe out of frustration he decided to try something new. Beebe called down to Valley Stream, New York, and hired a Long Island standout known as Les Ley to give the M-6 a go. Ley, whose real name was Harry Dominick, jumped at the chance. He, too, was facing hard times.

Close friend Gary London, the well-known National Speed Sport News columnist, called Harry “a bull of a driver with a compact wrestler’s build.” He was a serial winner on the Island, oft times at the helm of Joe Baccari’s memorable blue and yellow #1 coupe. But by 1964 he had plum run out of rides, and his dad was sick. He needed money. He was on his way up to Agawam in a flash, and the first couple of nights looked promising.

The 150-lapper immediately developed into a dog fight. Greco, Dixon, Patnode, Bobby Bard, and “Les Ley” dueled wildly before lap 68, when the M-6 suddenly veered into the wall at the pit gate. Fence boards flew and crew members scattered, while the mighty M-6 motor screamed wide open after the crash.

The track news release reported that the driver had “hit the pit gate fence, damaging communication lines, but Ley was not injured.”

Not so. Later that week the Daily News reported that Harry had died in the Springfield Hospital of massive head injuries. Gary London claims that his buddy always refused to wear shoulder harnesses and that he had struck the top front roll bar on impact.

There may have been an insidious reason for the track’s inaccurate reporting. The Daily News article describes in depth the horrifying few minutes following the crash. Apparently the starter, Al Parent, and other officials never saw the M-6 careen off the edge of the track. The race continued on for a full eight laps “while the frenzied crowd of 5664 began throwing debris on the track and shouting at Parent.” By the time an ambulance arrived on the scene, Harry had bled heavily and was in bad shape. Another driver, journeyman Riverside Park and Lebanon Valley racer Bill Gurney, was also taken to the hospital but subsequently released.

Parent had to be escorted from the track by police, and old-time promoter Harvey Tattersall used every political trick up his sleeve to calm the crowd. Eventually he succeeded, and Billy Greco won the show.

Folks in Long Island were devastated by the loss of one of their marquee gassers. There were collections and memorials, and Bruno Brackey even towed a late model Harry had driven down to Langhorne, ran a USAC show, and donated the $500 he won to Harry’s widow, Joan.

In the most profound testimony of their affection, however, the drivers at Freeport Stadium honored Harry by burying his helmet right there in the pit area.

Thirty years later, when Freeport was being torn down, that wonderful Marty Himes, curator of all things racing in Long Island, went to the track and began digging. He dug, and dug and dug – and finally found it.

Today Harry’s helmet sits in Marty’s racing museum in Bay Shore, New York.

© 2008 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181


Saturday, October 4, 2008
15 O’Neil Ave
Bay Shore, NY 11706
- A major attraction of the
2009 Speedway EXPO
February 27 - March 1, 2009
The Big E - Springfield, MA

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays

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

7/7/08 - McUnderdog

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried

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

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

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

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

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

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