Frank & Liz Manafort's
legend still going strong
Frank on his way to winning the 1996 National
|By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press
CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL
Photos Provided By Tom Ormsby's
Frank Manafort has done a lot in
racing. From his days driving in the novice and modified divisions at
Plainville Stadium to winning the national championship for the Legend
cars to running the USAC dirt midgets, Manafort, now 70, hasn’t slowed
When he came into the world “on a day that will live in infamy, ”Pearl
Harbor Day, December 7, 1941, the businessman turned cattle farmer hasn’t
shown signs of slowing.
Manafort, who now lives in Wethersfield, VT, where his cattle farm and
race car shop is, also helps a young up and coming driver get the needed
exposure to move up his driving career.
Frank in his early days of racing was a multi-time
Novice Division Champion.
Frank at his and wife Liz's farm,
While Manafort is busy with his cattle, one night he went to Bear Ridge
Speedway and saw the midgets and was immediately impressed with their
speed and agility and he said to his friend and former crew chief, Elliott
Beverage, “we need to get one of these.”
But it was his start at Plainville Stadium that gave the young Manafort,
whose family ran and continues to run Manafort Brothers Construction
Company his start.
“I remember my cousin, Jon and my uncle Jack were walking in the woods
across from the track, and we heard all the noise and figured we’d go take
a look at what this was all about.”
But one of the saddest days was when Plainville Stadium came down, the
stands, the press box, the hot dog and photo stands, everything, and it
was Manafort Brothers that got the demolition job.
“It was a real sad day for all of us. That’s how we started and that’s
where we grew up,” Manafort said. “I remember buying a 1950 Ford, put a
big front tire on it and went racing.”
Seeing that Manafort was friends with local racing legend, Eddie Flemke,
Sr., he built his next car to look just like Eddie’s down to the Flemke
“Eddie had his shop near the railroad station in New Britain and we’d go
down there and on Monday, after Eddie would get back after racing for
seven nights, we’d listen to him tell stories and there I got to meet Pete
Hamilton (who would go on to win the Daytona 500) and others. Eddie was my
Besides running Plainville, Manafort ran at Malta Speedway in New York on
Fridays and then would run at Islip Speedway on Long Island on Saturdays,
but when his father lost his leg, it was time to step in and help run the
“The business really got going and it was time to get more involved.”
But the racing bug still wouldn’t leave him.
“They were starting this Legend cars series (small versions of 1930’s
cars). Jackie Arute, Jr was involved with them and said ‘you should take a
look at them, you might like it,’” Manafort said.
Stafford Speedway made them part of their weekly divisions at Stafford and
built a small inner track on the infield where they ran, the Manafort’s
helped build it and thus it became the Manafort Mini mile.
Manafort, though, would continue to drive and would end up in 1996 winning
the Legend cars national title.
“We ran 83 races that year, starting out in Florida, running in Alabama,
Georgia, Charlotte, New York, Pennsylvania and New England. Every track
was running them. We were one of the first families up here to buy one and
start racing them.”
Manafort said it was Plainville Stadium that helped him form many
relationships and when he got back in racing with the Legend Cars that he
continued to see old friends now living in North Carolina and Florida.
After getting out of Legend Car racing, Manafort and his wife bought some
land in Vermont and ended up making it a cattle farm.
“I was looking for something else to do. We had a few head of cattle and
now we are showing them and breeding them. I am having a lot of fun with
The farm is named Black Watch Farm and after buying 235 acres, which was
mostly wooded, 88 acres are now converted to pasture. Manafort has won
cattle shows and like racing, this journey has taken him all over the
The majority of the herd are registered Highlanders.
But it was that trip over to Bear Ridge Speedway and the midgets that now
has him once again racing with New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer Ray
Miller as a teammate.
“We are having a blast with it. We are just having fun.”
True legend passes away
This past weekend, “Wild Bill” Slater, one of the true racing pioneers and
legends in the sport of auto racing, passed away. Slater was 83.
He drove his first race in 1949 and for the next 20 years was one of the
most consistent winners in the northeast.
Slater was one of the first drivers to work a weekly job and still compete
on a weekly basis where many drivers like Eddie Flemke, Sr were full time
Bill, after retiring from the drivers’ seat then settled into a management
role at tracks such as Stafford Speedway and the Thompson Speedway.
He was also someone who helped this at the time young reporter get to know
some of the ‘name’ drivers of the day. If you were a friend of Bill’s, you
were all right in the eyes of many of the drivers.
Bill won many of the nations biggest modified races including the Race of
Champions at the Langhorne Speedway, the first year it was paved. He also
drove at Daytona and Charlotte but was best known for his driving days in
the V8 modified at tracks such as Thompson, Norwood and Waterford
||Frank's Racing Years
Chase Dowling in the Manafort USAC Dirt Midget at
Bear Ridge Speedway-2012
Elliott Beverage, Frank's Crew Chief and still Right
Hand man was a pretty good racer himself.