EAST WINDSOR, CT – Vermont stock car racing legend Johnny Gammell of St. Johnsbury, VT will be inducted into the New England Auto Racers (NEAR) Hall of Fame at a ceremony in East Windsor, CT on Sunday, January 27. A former winner of the Don MacTavish Award (1970) and the Chittenden Milk Bowl at Barre, VT’s Thunder Road (1969), Gammell won countless feature races in northern New England and Canada during a career that spanned more than 30 years.
Gammell was inducted by the NEAR Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee, joining champion drivers George Lombardo of Connecticut and Frank Luchesi of Rhode Island on that short but impressive list.
“It is quite an honor to be in the Hall of Fame with the men that are in there already, and with the class that I’m a part of this year,” said Gammell. “It means a great deal to me to represent Thunder Road and Vermont this way; Beaver Dragon (Class of 2004) and Ken Squier (Class of 2002) are the only other people from our state in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been very fortunate to have won many races and awards, and this is a very special honor for me.”
Also set to be inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame on Sunday are drivers Dave Alkas of Connecticut, Dave Darveau of Maine, and Dick Batchelder and the late Howie Brown of New Hampshire; car owners Joe Brady and Mike Scrivani, Sr., both of Massachusetts; and Connecticut natives Pete Zanardi and Dr. Dick Berggren, each widely known for their services in journalism. Berggren was also a successful driver for many years.
Gammell’s first experiences behind the wheel came at tracks in and around Lyndonville, VT in 1949. After returning from the Korean Conflict, Gammell hit his stride in the 1950s, winning myriad races at Claremont, NH, and Concord and Malletts Bay, VT. He served as President of the drivers’ association for Northeastern Speedway in Waterford, VT, winning the first track championship there in 1959, and was a major factor in the early 1960s at Thunder Road. While driving for prominent car owners that included Gordon Fitzgerald, C.J. Richards, and Joey Laquerre, Gammell took the 1969 Chittenden Milk Bowl victory to follow up his Vermont State Championships in 1964 and 1959.
Gammell competed in stock car races through 1979, when he raced against his son, Harry, in the Mini Stock division at Catamount Stadium in Milton, VT. In his final season, Gammell finished 10th overall as his son captured the championship. Now nearing his 80th birthday, Gammell is a frequent and popular visitor to Thunder Road. He is often seen with his restored #32 Fitzgerald Ford coupe that he raced successfully in the 1960s, and is recognized by race fans for his trademark bright red pants.
Gammell and the NEAR Hall of Fame Class of 2008 will be honored in a ceremony at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT on Sunday. For more information, visit the New England Auto Racers website at www.near1.com. For information on Thunder Road, call (802) 244-6963 or visit www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.