October 1, 2012



Plainville Stadium Days Live on through Hoyt

Phil and Pat Hoyt at last years Plainville Reunion
Steve Kennedy Photo


By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press

Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby

We have all heard the saying ‘One picture is worth a thousand words.’ If that is indeed the truth, then Phil Hoyt would have turned his pictures into the world’s biggest novel. You see, Hoyt was the track photographer at Plainville Stadium from 1969 to its closing in the early 1980’s.

And the story his photos told were of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Hoyt, who lives in Danbury, started his interest in photography when he was 13 or 14.

“I had a darkroom in my closet and I would develop my own film. I started taking shots at the old Danbury Racearena from the stands.”

Phil and long time racing fan Rick Raducha owner of the Rapid Raceway Slot Car Track in Plainville.
Steve Kennedy Photo

As another old cliché goes, ‘practice makes perfect.’ That would be a good way to describe Hoyt, as he says, “I actually got pretty good at taking action shots. In the beginning, because the cameras weren’t as good as today, I would take them during practice during the day because the lighting wasn’t good at night.”

When he was still learning the ins and outs of taking pictures, he submitted a photo and won a contest to win a trip to the July Daytona Cup race back many years ago.

“I got press credentials, a trophy and it was all presented during the opening ceremonies before the race. It was a pretty big deal,” Hoyt said with pride. “It was after that I thought about getting into photo-journalism. I got Joe Tinty’s name from someone. I told him I would like to take pictures at Plainville and then sell them. Joe said OK but I also had to write up releases before and after the races for the newspapers.

“Joe gave me a little booth where I could sell my photos; my wife would sell them to wives or girlfriends of the drivers. I would try and take everyone’s photos so I would have them if they wanted to buy them.”

The one ‘exclusive’ Hoyt had is that Tinty allowed no other photographers in the infield other than him.

That is how Hoyt would get the scoop on the many crash photos that seemed to highlight the races at Plainville every week.

“I got one of Dave Alkas as his car was in air after getting hit and about to flip over. I also had one of a big fire. I saw it and I would run right over there before any fire trucks or safety personal were there. You could still see the driver trying to get out.”

When asked if any drivers ever gave him a hard time or didn’t want their pictures taken he said no, but said laughing, “I was a little afraid of Jap Membrino at the time. The same with Nicky Porto, that whole Waterbury group, but I liked Jap because he sold me a lot of pictures.”

But Hoyt said, “Once I got to know him, he was a real good guy. I always respected him as a driver but he could be a little intimidating too.”

While some drivers maybe wouldn’t smile for the pictures, some drivers went out of the way to be nice. “Drivers like Don Moon, Dave Alkas and Joe Bubbico were always nice and took great photos.”

Racing Historian Dave Dykes with Phil. Many of Phil's photos can be found on Dave's web site RacingThroughTime.com.

Plainville Stadium was known for its open competition that usually was held once a month and Hoyt would also take pictures of the newcomers ‘‘just in case someone wanted a photo.”

While many photographers have many pictures, some would get rid of the negatives, but with Hoyt, it is the other way around and he is glad of that.

“I kept all of the negatives and have them scanned to my computer. So now when someone wants a certain photo, I can usually find it and get it for them.”

When Hoyt heard a few years back, that a committee was formed to put together a reunion for the people who enjoyed Plainville Stadium, he was thrilled.

“It seems that the people are always looking for old photos. It is really been good for everyone. I have a lot of people asking me if I might have this picture of a certain driver.”

Hoyt said that with today’s technology, it is actually cheaper for him to make photographs today compared to many years ago.

“I would usually sell 4x5’s for $1 back then. It was a lot of work. But today, I can make them and if I’m out of one, I can get it made up for the person.”

Hoyt laughed when he mentioned how Joe Tinty would say to him, “Why do you take and make so many pictures of accidents” and I would reply to him, “Because people want to buy them.”

Not only did Hoyt sell his own photos, but he later branched off into selling other racing newspapers but novelties like checkered flags and other racing related items.

“I had the space so I figured why not. Everything like the newspapers was on consignment so I only paid for what was sold.”

I asked Hoyt if he knew when Plainville would close for the year and he said he never knew.

“You see, Joe never had a schedule. He would see how he did the week before (in September or October) and if he did alright, he’d say ‘put something out, we’re running next week and if we didn’t do good, that was it for the year.’

Another classic Joe Tinty story.

Hoyt has seen a lot of Plainville’s history and thankfully for everyone, Plainville Stadium will continue to live because of and through his photos.

Hoyt will join the rest of the reunion gang on October 13 at the Berlin Fairgrounds and you can be sure he’ll have plenty of pictures.


This is my last column of the year. I want to thank all of the people whom I talked with and shared their stories. Many of them were childhood heroes whom I have gotten to know the past 30 plus years in auto racing. I have been lucky enough to be able to turn a passion of mine into a part time job and to have my work published in many newspapers and magazines across the country.

And none of this would have been able if it wasn’t for Bart Fisher, then the sports editor at New Britain Herald and his assistant, Bill Millerick. They both took the time to edit and teach me and to learn how to ask the right questions. They are still very good friends and I certainly appreciate everything they did. I, like many of the people I wrote about owe a lot to Plainville Stadium. While I have been lucky to attend and write about racing all over the nation, it was the little quarter-mile oval that I will never forget. Brian Danko


Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.


Copyright © 2012 Brian Danko & SpeedwayLineReport.com