For Immediate Release
Contact: Ron Hedger at 518-885-7481
RENE CHARLAND #888 NASCAR SPORTSMAN COUPE NOW ON DISPLAY IN “RACING IN NEW YORK” GALLERY
Vintage race car collector Phil Elliston of Southhampton, NY recently made the trek from his Long Island home to the Saratoga Automobile Museum with a fascinating piece of area stock car racing history, the #888 three-window coupe once wheeled at the nearby Albany-Saratoga and Fonda Speedways by the legendary Rene Charland.
Built in Massachusetts in 1966 for competition at Riverside Park’s 1/5-mile asphalt bullring, this 1936 Buick coupe was one of a pair fielded by car owner Dick Czepiel. At the time, ace fabricator Freddy Rosner was building lightweight cars for teams around the northeast and most were instant winners, leading the Czepiel crew to construct what looked at first glance to be a Rosner original.
The car was first wheeled by Riverside legend Danny Gallulo, who drove it to multiple feature wins and the 1966 track championship. Then four-time NASCAR National Sportsman champion Rene Charland took over the “Triple Eight,” racing it at speedways ranging from the tiny Riverside oval to the high-speed Trenton, NJ mile.
During his two-season tenure in the Czepial car, Charland competed on both the NASCAR circuit and with the mid-week All-Star League. Here in New York’s Capital District, Charland scored multiple wins at both the asphalt Albany-Saratoga Speedway and on the dirt at the Fonda Speedway, where the car’s light weight and Charland’s earlier experience on New England dirt were an impressive combination.
In 1969, Czepiel sold this #888 to Springfield’s Jack Mocchio, who put future Riverside Park legend S.J. Evonsion in the seat. The team would go on to claim nearly 50 wins in the next three years, among them the final Riverside Park 500, the last race ever run at the old Westboro Speedway and the inaugural race on Riverside Park’s expanded quarter-mile configuration.
“I put Rene’s four National Championship trophies alongside the car along with his All-Star helmet, so visitors will definitely have their memories jogged when they look at everything,” said SAM racing curator Ron Hedger. “The only negative is that Phil took the other car he had loaned us, the Bobby Judkins 2X that Eddie Flemke wheeled to dozens of wins, home with him. We were all sad to see it go, as it led visitors to recall the exploits of Flemke and others who drove the car over the years. But I’m sure the Charland stories will be great as well.”