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Rene Charland
Born:
November 13, 1928
Home: Agawam, MA

Rene Charland, whose career began and ended on dirt, with an amazing stint on asphalt in between, is a 1996 inductee into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame and and an initial inductee into the NEAR Hall of Fame.

The cigar chewing New Englander of French decent began his career in 1950 at age 21. Charland's no. 3 was a consistent winner on the dusty bullrings of Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, during the 1950's.

  It wasn't until about 1960 that Charland began to gain national prominence as a member of the "Eastern Bandits."

The Bandits, as they called themselves, were a group of New England drivers that found the pickings were a little easier in the mid-southern states then back home in the Northeast. Members of this loose knit bunch included Charland, Denny Zimmerman, Ed Flemke, and Red Foote. They traveled together and spent much of the week at small blacktop tracks in the Virginia-Maryland area, as well as New York.

Racing as much as five times a week, the Bandits devastated the locals, often sweeping the top five and carrying the lions share of the prize money home to New England.


As an Eastern Bandit, Charland entered about 80 to 100 shows a year from 1961 through 1966. Because most of the tracks which he and the Eastern-Bandits invaded were NASCAR-sanctioned, Charland began accumulating valuable NASCAR sportsman-modified points.

In 1961 Charland finished fifth in the NASCAR national standings and announced that winning NASCAR's National Sportsman title in 1962 was his goal. Indeed, 1962 became his breakthrough season. He won 21 features that season and handily won the NASCAR title.


He repeated as NASCAR Sportsman National Champion in 1963, 1964 and 1965 and probably would have won the 1966 title too, but for being sidelined by injuries and burns sustained in a near fatal mid-season crash at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Rene Credits Ed Flemke for saving him that day. Flemke, reached through the flames and pulled the 3-times bigger Charland from the burning car.  That mishap is what Rene and racing history called the "French Barbecue." That René could joke about his own near-death experience only helped to build his legend.

            
In the early 1960's Charland's pursuit of NASCAR points took him to Fonda Speedway twice a year for double point races. He fell in love with the place. And when he stopped running for NASCAR points, Rene decided to make Fonda his adopted home. The results: Charland was Fonda's winningest driver in 1967 and the track champion in 1970. Rene is also a 3 -time Utica-Rome Speedway Champion, winning the title in 1961, 62 and 64.


Rene also won 4 races at the Riverside Park Speedway in his native Agawam, Mass. between 1954 and 1958, plus 2 races on the Stafford Motor Speedway dirt in 1962.

Charland's rebirth as a dirt tracker continued throughout the early 1970's. His upset victory in the 1974 Lebanon Valley 200 capped his illustrious career.

In all Charland won an estimated 250 career features. He drove a variety of cars numbered 3, but he is also remembered for successful stints in the Cziepel no. 888, Russ Betz no. 59 and Platt brothers no. 99.
Over the years Charland acquired a number of nicknames, but is best known as "The Champ", due to his string of NASCAR titles.

Charland The Champ

Rene Charland’s extraordinary career spanned 35 years starting with his first race at Riverside Park in 1949 and ended at Fonda Speedway in 1984. During that time it is estimated that he won over 700 races. He raced with ease on either dirt or asphalt often running alternate nights on different surfaces with the same car. He was mostly closely identified with the Number 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Known everywhere as “The Champ”, Rene won an unprecedented 4 NASCAR National Sportsman championships from 1962 through 65. His quest for a fifth title ended as he was seriously injured in the famous fire crash Memorial Day weekend at Malta in 1966. He was forced to sit out the rest of the season but at that point he had already earned 5700 points, enough for a third place finish.

A member of the famed “Eastern Bandits” he won track championships at Stafford, Ct,(2), Norwood Arena, Mass., Millers Falls Mass., Keene N.H., Brattleboro Vt., Islip, N.Y., Manassas, Va., Fort Dix, N.J., and Utica Rome, N.Y. (3). In addition he won 4 Canadian National championships.

Rene had just 9 NASCAR Grand National starts. In a Grand National race at Islip he finished third behind David Pearson and Richard Petty.

Besides his racing success Charland was best known as a cigar chomping prankster. Stories about the “Champ” and his pranks continue to today.


The
Albany-Saratoga Speedway fire known as the "French Barbeque".
A John Grady Photograph from the Donn Cote Collection

Some of the Hall of Fame members that were on hand for the opening ceremonies were asked about their number one
racing memory and here is what they had to say:
John Grady – “Unfortunately it was Mr. Rene Charland’s French barbeque at Albany Saratoga. That led to the story
of the bravest thing that I have ever seen in my life when Eddie Flemke, who weighed all of 125 pounds at the time,
ran into a big ball of fire that was Charland’s car and pulled Rene from the flames. I have never seen anything
like it in my whole life. Afterwards Flemke shrugged it off and said well Rene would have done it for me to which
I jokingly replied don’t count on it.”


                                    

1967 ARCA 250 Daytona Results

Fin. pos / Car # / Driver / Car Model / Laps Completed

1. - #29 - Ralph Latham - '66 Plymouth - 100 laps
2. - #30 - Iggy Katona - '65 Dodge - 100 laps
3. - #41 - Dorus Wisecarver - '66 Ford - 100 laps
4. - #68 - Andy Hampton - '66 Ford - 100 laps
5. - #69 - Bill Kimmel - '66 Plymouth - 99 laps
6. - #12 - Gil Hearne - '64 Ford - 99 laps
7. - #19 - J.T. Putney - '66 Chevrolet - 98 laps
8. - #04 - Coo Coo Marlin - '65 Chevrolet - 98 laps
9. - #4 - Shad Wheeler - '66 Ford - 98 laps
10. - #38 - Rene Charland - '64 Dodge - 95 laps
 

 

 

The Later Years
Legends Autograph Session

Rene, 2nd from the left

 

The famous cigar .....



 


                                   
The Famous Czepiel "888"

New England Auto Racers
HALL of FAME: 1998 Inductees


L-R Front Row: Bugs Stevens, Ernie
Gahan, Rene Charland, Florence
Tattersall,   Pete Hamilton.
Back Row: Bill Slater, Tara Evans, Ed Flemke Jr., Paula Flemke Bouchard, 
Gene Bergin, Ron Bouchard, Harvey Tattersall III

More Photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


                                             "Mr. Charland" on the roof.......

Rene Charland Grand National Statistics

Year

Age

Races

Win

T5

T10

Pole

Laps

Led

Earnings

Rank

AvSt

AvFn

1964

35

1 of 62

0

0

0

0

9

0

100

119

19.0

16.0

1965

36

2 of 55

0

0

0

0

26

0

1,005

108

38.5

38.5

1966

37

5 of 49

0

1

1

0

452

0

1,590

83

22.6

25.0

1971

42

1 of 48

0

0

0

0

33

0

100

 

12.0

31.0

4 yrs

 

9

0

1

1

0

520

0

2,795

 

24.6

27.7

 

Some History From 1964:

Track Champion:
Rene Charland (NASCAR Sportsman)
Date
Laps
Winner
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
4/26
30
Rene Charland
Jerry Cook
Jerry Humeston
Denny Zimmerman
Bill Wimble
5/03
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Ed Ortiz
Jerry Humeston
Jim Luke
5/10
30
Ernie Gahan
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Bill Wimble
Lou Lazzaro
5/17
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Jerry Humeston
Bill Wimble
Bob Ziegler
5/24
30
Rain Delayed To 5/31
5/31
30
Bob Ziegler
Rene Charland
Lou Smith
Ed Ortiz
Lou Lazzaro
30
Lou Smith
Ed Ortiz
Jim Luke
Lou Lazzaro
Rene Charland
6/07
100
Ed Flemke Sr.
Gene Bergin
Fred Harbach
Fats Caruso
Bill Slater
6/14
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Lou Lazzaro
Jerry Cook
Bill Wimble
6/21
30
Jerry Humeston
Bob Ziegler
Jim Luke
Jerry Cook
Ed Flemke Sr.
6/28
30
Lou Smith
Bill Wimble
Jerry Cook
Ed Ortiz
Lou Lazzaro
7/05
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Tom Kotary
Elton Hill
Ed Ortiz
7/12
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Rene Charland
Ernie Gahan
Jerry Cook
Ed Ortiz
7/19
30
Lou Lazzaro
Rene Charland
Jerry Humeston
Ed Flemke Sr.
Jim Luke
7/26
30
Bill Wimble
Jim Luke
Fats Caruso
Jerry Cook
Ed Flemke Sr.
8/02
150
Rene Charland
Gene Bergin
Fred Harbach
Bill Slater
Robbie Kotary
8/09
30
Lou Smith
Gene Bergin
Rene Charland
Jerry Humeston
Bob Ziegler
8/16
30
Rene Charland
Bill Wimble
Tom Bourget
Tom Kotary
Jerry Cook
8/23
30
Rain
8/30
30
Ken Meahl
Jerry Humeston
Bob Ziegler
Ed Flemke Sr.
Lou Lazzaro
9/06
200
Ed Flemke Sr.
Fred Harbach
Fats Caruso
Rene Charland
Lou Lazzaro
Twin 200's
200
Ed Flemke Sr.
Robbie Kotary
Rene Charland
Bill Wimble
Lou Lazzaro
9/13
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Lou Lazzaro
Rene Charland
Jerry Cook
Ken Meahl
9/20
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Bob Ziegler
Tom Kotary
Rene Charland
Jerry Cook
9/27
30
Rain
10/04
30
Ed Flemke Sr.
Elton Hill
Rene Charland
Jerry Cook
Tom Kotary
 
Total NASCAR
Sportsman Wins
Driver
Wins
Ed Flemke Sr.
11
Lou Smith
3
Rene Charland
3
Ernie Gahan
1
Bob Ziegler
1
Jerry Humeston
1
Lou Lazzaro
1
Bill Wimble
1
Ken Meahl
1
9 Drivers
23 Events
 
NASCAR Sportsman Points
 
Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Rene Charland
920
2
Jerry Cook
866
3
Ed Flemke, Sr.
786
4
Jerry Humeston
754
5
Jim Luke
754
6
Bill Wimble
618
7
Lou Lazzaro
614
8
Lou Smith
610
9
Tom Kotary
600
10
Bob Ziegler
578

Many Thanks to VintageModifieds.com for background info. Click Here For More


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