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Dwight Clock
11-06-2006, 10:40 PM
One hundred lap races usually brought a few out of state drivers to compete. Back in the early 60's Ed Flemke was a regular at these races. Another New Englander by the name of Tony Mordino made a trip to Islip for the first 100 lap race of the 1963 season in June. His car was a sharp looking '37 Chevy coupe that was purple with a yellow #52 that featured crossed checkered flags around the numbers. While Mordino was a relative unknown to Islip fans he was well known to Islip point leader Rene Charland. Charland was from Agawam, MA at the time and had competed with Mordino on many occasions up there. In time trials Charland set a new track record with a 13.67 clocking erasing the old standard of 13.81 which had been set by Jim Hendrickson the previous year. Mordino was 3rd quickest. At the start Charland took the lead with Mordino in tow. What transpired next was perhaps one of the best two man races ever witnessed at Islip. Mordino dogged the reigning National Sportsman champion pulling alongside many times, even sticking his nose out front on occasion but Charland steadfastly held on to the lead. For 53 laps Mordino tried everything in the book to no avail. On lap 54 he finally made the pass but the race was far from over. Charland was all over Mordino now, pulling even time after time. They continued this way right up to the checkered flag. As they crossed the line Mordino edged out Charland by about a foot. The fans gave both drivers a standing ovation in appreciation of the terrific battle they had seen. When Mordino returned later in the year the rematch was much anticipated. But, alas, it turned ugly. Whether something earlier in the race triggered the incident or whether it was something that had happened elsewhere was never determined. During the feature, as Mordino and Charland came off turn four side by side Mordino inexplicably made a hard right turn into Charland sending him flipping three times down the front straight. Chief Steward Bob O'Rourke and Safety Inspector Harry Hebenstreit both fully witnessed the altercation and determined immediately that Mordino was to be barred for life from Islip Speedway. Charland was unhurt but suffered a destroyed race car. Charland went on to win the second of his four straight National championships that season. Mordino continued to race in New England but lost his ride in the 52 which was taken over by Gene Bergin who steered it to many wins. And many of us have been left to wonder what caused what had been a great rivalry to turn so sour.