The Zanardi Files
From time to time you will find award winning journalist Pete
Zanardi's vintage stories on this web site. Pete has written for
numerous auto racing publications over the years including National
Speed Sport News, Speedway Scene, Stock Car Racing Magazine,
Trackside Magazine, besides covering
Auto Racing & Baseball for the old Hartford, Ct. Times and later the
New Haven, Ct. Register.
Pete has also served as Media Coordinator for Stafford Motor
Speedway & The Waterford Speedbowl and currently handles Public
Relations for the North Eastern Midget Association (NEMA). In 2008
Pete was inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame.
This is the very first auto racing article Pete Zanardi wrote. It
was in the August 22, 1963 “The New Era,” a weekly newspaper in Deep
River, CT. Zanardi, between his junior and senior years at Boston
University, was a summer intern.
What Makes A Race Car Driver?
Chester’s Joe Tiezzi Explains
August 22, 1963
By Pete Zanardi
Those who like it usually love it and, after a while, it becomes an
obsession, a way of life. Those who dislike it usually hate it, many
without ever having seen it.
The sport is auto racing. In the last five years the sport has
made great gains in this area. The new popularity, however,
isn’t confined to our area.
Joe Tiezzi in his Uncle Barney's #230 in the
The sport has continued to gain since the end
of World War II and today ranks just behind horse racing as the No.
2 spectator sport in the nation.
Within our area there are a number of outstanding race cars and race
drivers. From Haddam comes Barney Tiezzi’s 230; Putt Maffi and Walt
Kensel of Chester [with] the very successful 53; Westbrook Garage
owns the oft victorious 716 and Bob Vitari and Vic Bombaci’s V-8 is
one of the outstanding cars in the Northeast. Ron Narducci of East
Haddam and Joe Tiezzi of Chester are two of the area’s drivers.
“Racing Bug” Bites Hard
The growth of racing, here and throughout the nation, has been
marked by two factors. The racing bug has bitten an increasing
number of people and has affected another group in the exact
negative. While many ask for more, many ask for none at all.
A description of auto racing can be difficult. The shop talk of
camshafts and crankshafts, of roll bars and nerf bars or mag wheels
and racing slicks isn’t such that it will be acquired overnight. A
much better description is a look at the people who are active in
it… people like young Joe Tiezzi…
Ask Joe to describe racing and he will tell you, ‘It’s bumpy,
heartbreaking and sometimes it drives you right up to the limits.
You know, like striking out with the bases loaded. But it’s worth it
and when you do a good job, nobody has to tell you [because] you
know it. It’s a good sport; put it this way, it’s my sport.”
Joe drives the 230 at Waterford [Speedbowl] every Saturday night and
anything else he can get anywhere else. Racing at a track were most
drivers have been active for at least 10 years, 22-year old Joe has
won the plaudits of many for his work with the 230…He admits to
being “a little green’ but the record shows Joe has improved with
The Inevitable Question
There seems to be a favorite question directed at race drivers.
Why?…The usual answer in quite similar to the mountain climber who
explained his activities by answering, “because it is there.” It is
much more rewarding to seek the answer with another approach. What
makes the race driver?
A racing family helps. Adelmo Tiezzi, Joe’s uncle, became active in
racing during the latter half of the 1940s. His interest pre dates
that. His adopted name, Barney, was acquired from Barney Oldfield.
Known for his fondness of the Hudson Motor Car, Barney went to work
and built himself a race car, the D-1, a Hudson, of course.
“Things were pretty bad for a while, I mean tough,” Barney
remembers. “We carried her home a good many nights.” Things got
better. By 1956 Barney, with a new number, 230, and driver Benny
Derosier, were top contenders [at the Speedbowl]. He has remained a
contender at Waterford and has raced at Daytona Beach, Fla., the
fastest track in the World, at Seekonk, Stafford Springs, Riverside
[Park in Agawam, MA] and [Eastern States Exposition].
The 1950's and Benny Derosier behind the
wheel of the Barney Tiezzi 230.
[This year] marked Barney’s first … without his treasured Hudson.
The power this year is a Chevy…Progress has been slow. The car is
new and the driver is young [but] Barney looks ahead…
An interested and understanding father also contributes. Joe’s
father Arthur dates his interest in auto racing with Barney’s. He
finds the efforts put into a racing engine to be a rewarding
accomplishment. He accepts the long hours, late nights and sore eyes
as part of the sport.
“Joe wants to be a race driver,” he says. “I don’t think it odd to
want to help my son. It’s not an easy sport and it takes a lot of
hard work. I like to make sure the car is fast but safe for him. Joe
has the hardest job. Good drivers are not made in one race. It will
take a lot of laps with a lot of bumps and spins.”
Will Joe make it? Arthur first frowns [at] such a question then
answers with an optimistic smile.
Then there are the opinions and well wishes of his friends, the
other drivers. Hank Stevens, a very successful racing veteran from
Portland, watched Joe during a heat. “He is going to be a tough
one,” Hank said. “He does alright now, but it takes time.”
Hank offered his views on the education of a driver: “time is the
vital factor,” he said. “A driver, before he has the machine, must
have a combination of head and guts. A driver without that
combination is nothing.”
Does Joe have the right combination? ”Yep,” Stevens replied and
climbed into his car to race against Joe.
What makes a race driver? The answer lies with the man himself. What
are the qualities one must have? They are like those needed for
success in any sport.
Love Of Competition
raced into the 1970's, this Gremlin in the mid-70's.
Love of competition must be counted. Joe’s love for sports does not
end with racing. He was active in Little League and Intermediate
League [baseball]. “I threw one pitch that moved so slow the catcher
could have read a book by the time it got up there. [I was] Chester’s
Stu Miller.” He smiles about his short career as a left-handed
shortstop and his home run against Old Saybrook.
He is always ready for a pick up game of touch football and thinks
himself quite apt [at] horseshoes. He admits to a fondness for the
Giants, both in baseball and football.
Optimism is a vital point. It takes loads of this to rebuild after a
mix up, to continue after a spin, to forget food and sleep in the
rush of building and planning.
“Often, a race driver is left only with a hope for the next race. I
guess it sound mushy ,” he said, ‘but it you don’t think you can
win, then there isn’t much sense in going out is there?”
The most important quality is dedication. You don’t look for a quote
here. There is none. Dedication in racing, or anything else, is
observed. You see it late at night. It reflects off Joe’s goggles in
a tight turn; it’s around in the quietness after the race when the
spectators have gone home.
An early Barney Tiezzi creation. This one
was also driven by Benny Derosier.
It’s Joe’s promise to himself that he would be a race driver when
still in his early teens. The first time he had a car on the track
he sought out the fastest car. His first regular ride was a bomber
he built himself and drove at Stafford Springs Speedway.