New England Racing Hall-of-Famer had a creative 75 year career
He built three new speedways with his own hands and refurbished three more. Some of the greatest drivers in auto racing history thrilled hundreds of thousands of fans on those race tracks, leaving decades of lasting memories.
New England Auto Racing (NEAR) Hall-of-Famer “Charlie” Elliott, 96, passed away in his sleep this week, at his home in Hernando, FL.
Self-educated, his common sense approach, quiet vice-gripe handshake and humor matched by a determined work ethic were his characteristics, building a legendary career from New England to Florida.
He began racing open-wheel open-cockpit cars in 1936 on the old dirt Newmarket (N.H.) Speedway and later became involved in midget car racing. Rather than drive he preferred working on cars becoming a mechanic and expert welder. After working as a submarine welder through World War II at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, he began operating race tracks and building race cars. He built the first rear-engine race car ever to compete on an oval track.
Elliott’s operation of race tracks began in the late 1940’s, first in Sanford, ME and then the former Dover (N.H.) Speedway between 1953 and 1965. He was the originator of the first “Canadian-American” challenge race in 1958, matching top New England “cut down” car
drivers against “invaders” – drivers he personally recruited from Montreal and Toronto.
Nobody actually built more speedways in New England than Charlie Elliott. His vision for new racing facilities coincided with the formation of the New England Super-Modified Racing Association (NESMRA) in 1965. Teaming with Ken Smith and Russ Conway, the trio opened Elliott’s newly built Star Speedway, a quarter-mile oval in Epping, N.H., in early August
of 1967, just hours after the track paving had been completed.
Elliott didn’t stop there. He always had a “project” he was building. Star Speedway became a nationally known short track, home of the annual September “Classic” race drawing drivers from coast to coast as well as Canada.
Another “Charlie Project” developed in 1978 when he purchased the dilapidated Hudson (N.H.) Speedway. Again with his hands and grit, the track was refurbished and returned to life. Along with help from Smith, Conway, and his family, Hudson flourished with successful events throughout the 1980’s.
Yet Elliott looked for more, purchasing the old Lee Raceway triangle track in 1982. He completely redesigned and built a new oval track on the site, Lee USA Speedway, which opened July 4, 1984.
In 1988, he again got the itch to build. His company purchased the dirt Canaan Fairgrounds Speedway in Canaan, N.H. Charlie’s hands and mind were working while he operated a bulldozer, grader and water truck restoring the track. He also built a banquet facility,
rebuilt and purchased the former Benson Animal Farm Merry-Go-Round for the grounds, and then donated a new Little League Baseball park on the grounds to the town.
To make it a multi-track facility, he built a new paved quarter-mile oval speedway at Canaan, only 800-feet from his dirt oval track. That was followed by a motorcycle mountain climb competition trail, also in Canaan.
Home to the Stars
From legendary Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., “Daytona 500” champions Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, and Geoff Bodine, to Hall-of-Fame super-modified icons Ollie Silva, Bentley Warren, Don MacLaren, Nolan Swift, Jim Shampine, to Chris Perley, Russ Wood and many more, they have all raced his tracks.
Elliott was also the first to run winter super-modified races in Florida. Beginning in the late 1960’s, he ran races in Hollywood, FL, a fore-runner of the NESMRA Winter Series during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Born October 18, 1916 in Dover, N.H., he was the son of Fred and Flora (Miller) Elliott. He leaves his caring wife of 30 years, June (Erikson) Elliott; four daughters, Carol Planche and her husband Thomas of Berwick, ME, Joyce Elliott of Portsmouth, N.H., Barbara Allen of Hernando, FL., and Diane Elliott of Dover, N.H.; two sons, Charles of Leland, N.C. and Wayne
of Portsmouth, N.H.; a step-daughter, Donna Drolet and her husband Marc of Manchester, N.H., and a sister Doris Kennedy and her husband Frank of Somersworth, N.H.
He also leaves five grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, his beloved step-granddaughter Angela Cullen and her son Cameron.
He was pre-deceased by his wives, Helen the mother of his children who died in 1996 and Dorothy, who died in 1973.
A memorial service will be held Sunday August 25, 2013 at the Canaan Fairgrounds Speedway where family and friends will gather to celebrate Charlie’s amazing life.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Charlie Elliott’s name be made the Northeast Motor Sports Museum at 7 Bayview Road, Ipswich, MA. 01938.