By Ken Paulsen
George Hay was operating a service station in the rural town of Hardwick, Vermont during the early ‘60s. Racing was not part of his work week until two tracks opened in 1959 and 1960 a short distance away. This was the golden age for racing in Northern New England when they attracted the largest crowds of any sporting event. He decided that building a stock car just might be fun and good advertising for his business.
The first Hay car was a ’36 Ford three window coupe driven by Alton Corey in 1961. Corey had already proven his driving expertise by winning the Vermont State Championship at Northeastern Speedway in 1960. The ‘61 season amounted to a learning experience for Hay and his pit crew of Bob Jones, Jack Morrill and George Valentine. In their inaugural race they started first and finished last. A lot of time was spent examining other cars in the pits to build their knowledge of car set up.
Ray Stygles was the driver for 1962 in Hay’s two-tone blue #68 1934 Ford. Top ten finishes became common until one summer night at Thunder Road in Barre. Coming out of turn four, Stygles crashed into the “widow maker”, a term applied to that portion of the front stretch wall that claimed many a competitor. His car climbed the retaining wall and nearly the cyclone fence before returning to the racing surface in a heap. Stygles was in a coma for two weeks as a result of head injuries he received. Doug Ingerson finished out the season for Stygles once repairs were made and was awarded Thunder Road’s Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.
Over the winter months, Hay decided to field a second coupe, #58, for Ingerson and put Stygles back in the #68 giving him two entries for the weekly battles. Ingerson captured one feature early in the season before winning the Mid Season Championship at Thunder Road.
Stygles year would again be interrupted. Thunder Road did not erect retaining walls on the curves or backstretch. A few stately trees well off the oval were left in place when the track was constructed in 1960. With the field headed for turn three, Stygles was forced wide off the surface, became airborne and crashed head-on into an oak. The crowd was stunned by the violence of the impact. Hay was one of the first persons on the scene and relieved to find that his driver had only suffered a broken arm.
Hay sold his other car at the start of the 1965 season and kept #58, a three-window coupe. He changed the number back to #68 and enlisted Rene Charland as his driver. Thunder Road became a NASCAR sanctioned track that year. To prop up the Coupe class, souped up flatheads were now running against OHV modifieds. Charland, a NEAR Hall of Fame member, had already accumulated three consecutive NASCAR Modified Sportsman titles. By adding Thunder Road’s Thursday night races to his schedule, he picked up enough extra points driving Hay’s car to claim a fourth title.