September 17, 2012
 

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Moon Still Takes Pride in Plainville Stadium

Don Moon during his heyday at Plainville Stadium. Phil Hoyt Photo

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

Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby
 SpeedwayLineReport.com 

When Don Moon was a youngster growing up, he told his mother he would one day drive one of the race cars that would flat tow by his house on Queen St. in Southington, as they were headed to Joe Tinty’s Plainville Stadium. And in 1960, he proved his youthful promise correct.

Moon was, like many drivers in his generation, a person who built everything on the car, from the motor to the rear end. And according to Moon, that is how he knew what a car could do.

“I certainly didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning but I had two uncles who helped me. My cars always seemed to handle pretty good. I lost my first ever race by about six inches,” Moon said from his auto repair business in Plainville.


Don Moon with one of his many Novice Division victories.
 Frank Faust Photo

While Moon toiled in the novice division (beginners) a few years, he later moved up to the modified division and that is where learned under the tutelage of Eddie Flemke, Sr.

“I traveled around with Eddie for a couple of seasons running the NASCAR circuit. I learned a lot from Eddie, as did a lot of other drivers. He knew how to set up a car and he knew when he had to go in a race.”

After running Plainville Stadium, he left there and ran four seasons at the Danbury race track driving for John Spada but then he returned “home” to Plainville Stadium.

Moon will always be remembered for driving the No. 9 modified at Plainville and regardless of how the car ran; it was always in meticulous condition.

“I took a lot of pride in not only how well we ran but how the car looked. Bill Bailey did all the numbering and lettering on not only my car but many others at Plainville.”


One of Reggie's 10 wins in 1975. Phil Hoyt Photo

While Moon was always a pretty good “shoe” in his days, in 1975 he suffered a broken arm and was sidelined the rest of the year.

“My father in law said ‘you can’t just have the car sit there you need to put someone in it,’” Moon remembers. “I took my car to Plainville that night and looked around to see who didn’t have a ride and Reggie Ruggiero didn’t have one that night.”

That decision changed the lives of two people, Moon and Ruggiero, as the latter would go on to record 10 wins at the tough, flat quarter mile and the beginnings of propelling Ruggiero to national fame as a driver.

“I had watched Reggie drive other cars and you could tell there was something there. The cars he ran were OK but not great.”

That year of 1975 would see Moon’s car in victory lane a total of 12 times with Moonie winning one, Ruggiero 10 and Stan Greger, another young driver won an open competition at the always competitive Stadium.

The following year, Ruggiero was hired to drive for car owner, Mario Fiore and with his cars and Ruggiero’s driving ability propelled that team to one of the most potent teams not only at Riverside Park Speedway but other New England speedways and Moon went back to driving his own car.

But that would be the last year he raced as he bought an auto repair business and, as he said, “I didn’t need a race car taking my time and money away from the business.”

When asked about one of the toughest drivers to race against at Plainville, Moon without hesitation said “Dave Alkas. He was just so tough and knew his way around the track. You always had to worry about Tony ‘Jap’ Membrino because you never knew what he was going to do. Stan Greger was another very good driver as was Ronnie Wykoff.”

Just like all race teams there are more than the driver that helps get the car on the track and he credits Tom Zenobi, Elliott Beverage, Jimmy Wilson and Dave Tracy as a few of the people who helped him over the years.

While Moon has long been retired from racing, he is one of the people instrumental in the reviving Plainville Stadium as he again is on the committee for this year’s fourth annual Plainville Reunion.

“We talked about it a long time ago, maybe 10 or 15 years, but we always thought it would be too expensive to put on getting a hall but then Dave Tracy, Dave Alkas and Gary Bienkowski worked to get it at the Berlin Fair grounds and it has grown from there. This past summer, the Plainville Historical Society recognized Plainville Stadium and what it meant to the town,” Moon said with a lot of pride.

Moon said while a few changes are planned for this year’s reunion, he said it will basically remain the same.


Don is again being instrumental in putting together this years Plainville Stadium Reunion.

“We will still have the cars, the memorabilia, photos and other Plainville Stadium items as well as the drivers, owners and the fans that enjoyed the racing at Plainville. It has grown since the first year and we hope it continues to grow.”

This years Plainville Stadium reunion will be held on Saturday, October 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Moon is helping keep the tradition of Plainville Stadium alive along with many other drivers and owners.

 

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