Legendary New England Racer Ron Bouchard Remembered By Family, Friends Locally

Ron Bouchard (Photo: New England Antique Racers)

Ron Bouchard (Photo: New England Antique Racers)

As he fought back tears in remembering his brother-in-law Ron Bouchard Thursday morning, Ed Flemke Jr. went back to a story of a young race fan at Stafford Motor Speedway in the early 1980’s.

Bouchard, a legend in the Northeast ranks of racing, went on to find success also as a star in NASCAR’s top level Sprint Cup Series, then known as the Grand National division.

His lone Sprint Cup Series victory came at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 2, 1981.

Flemke described Bouchard, who passed away Thursday morning, as a man who never forgot where he came from or the fans that helped him reach the pinnacle of stock car racing.

“He was just getting some notoriety in the Cup cars and this was after he won at Talladega I believe,” Flemke said. “He was back running a special show and he was in Lenny Boehler’s No. 3 car and he was running at Stafford. Before all that there was this little kid who was a Ronnie Bouchard fan and he would always seek Ronnie out and get his autograph. Later on when Ronnie was Ronnie and he was the superstar that he was becoming, this little kid was at the fence again. Again Ronnie took the time to not only take the kid’s rolled up Pit Stopper [program] through the fence, and not only does he autograph but he gets down on his knees and talked to the kid.

“He was a nine-year old kid and I’m sure in Ronnie’s head he was only doing what he did to make a nine-year old kid happy and give him a thrill and make his day. He didn’t realize the kid was fighting cancer and he passed away before he was 10. I know it sounds simple, but it’s so ironic. Did he know? Did he sense it? That’s the kind of guy he was. He just took the time.”

Bouchard arrived at Stafford Motor Speedway in the early 1970’s as a name on the rise in the Modified ranks.

“When my family took over the racetrack it was all about Bugsy Stevens and Fred DeSarro,” said Jack Arute Jr. “And shortly thereafter this young kid showed up and his name was Ronnie Bouchard. He was the first guy to legitimately take on DeSarro and Bugsy and beat them consistently. And he did it the most difficult way possible. He patented the high side. He ran up where no man would tread.

“He was destined for greatness. You knew it when you watched him. And what a great personality.”

Local racing historian Pete Zanardi remembered a driver that was as smooth on the track as he was off.

“He was one of the most natural race drivers I remember seeing around here,” Zanardi said. “In the same league with like a Gene Bergin. I thought Gene was the most natural racer I ever saw. But Ron Bouchard was in that league. And probably getting around the old Stafford Speedway – before they changed it – there was no one better. There was no one better riding that outside rim. There was nobody better than Ron Bouchard doing that.

“He was really a great talent and an extraordinary guy. He had the knack of knowing what people expected of him, the media, the fans, whatever. And he responded. He always responded and was good with the non-racer or non-competitor. I think that was one of the keys to the position he held in racing.”

Bouchard’s upset victory at Talladega proved to be what his racing career was most remembered for. Bouchard won driving for New England car owner Jack Beebe and New England crew chief Bob Johnson.

“Certainly that Talladega win was one of the major events in the development of New England racing,” Zanardi said. “He did it for a New England car owner and a New England crew chief. That was just an incredible deal then. It put everybody on a whole new level, Jack Beebe and Bob Johnson. It was a whole new level for us in New England. We had never experienced anything like that in racing around here.”

Said Arute: “They didn’t win it on fuel mileage. They didn’t win it because there was a late race caution. They put their foot on the throat of everybody, [Richard] Petty to [David] Pearson on down and the beat them. I got to enjoy Ronnie at Stafford and then when I moved down south, who shows up? Ronnie and Jack Beebe.

“To see what they accomplished in Grand Nationals was just phenomenal. I would dare say that Ronnie – more so than Geoff Bodine – Ronnie was the first northerner that was welcomed with open arms in the south.”

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Comments

  1. David Dube says:

    Sad to hear of the passing of Ronnie – the absolute shame of his big win back in 1981 was the coverage feed went out that day and I don’t believe anyone on TV got to see the win – we just heard it and saw pictures – maybe replays of it. He was one of us and helped paved the way for the Northeast guys down south – The OLD 47 fighting the good fight – What a legend! Godspeed Ron – thanks

  2. Barbara Parrillo, Ronnie Bouchard’s Fan Club President says:

    I ran Ronnie’s Fan Club for many years I am over the loss of a wonderful man.. I love Paula and Ronnie and the wonderful personalities they both shared, he loved her more than himself. she was Rosie to him, and she stood by him no matter what it was he wanted to do. I remember the first time I went racing at Seekonk with my husband I was fourteen years old and hated it. Until one night a Red and White Camano came out and everyone was cheering for this man.

    In the middle of the race he was in an accident with the wheels hanging off the front of the car and I thought to myself he is all done for the night. The than flag man Al Cunha gave three yellow flags he held up in the air to give all drivers time to return to the track. AL was about to start the race and the pit gate was closed and all of a sudden the Red and White Camano of Ronnie Bouchard was at the gate and wanted out on the track. His team not only fix the car but won the race that night, I was so impressed I just had to meet this man.

    I went to the pit area after the races to meet this man and went up to a very nice looking nineteen year old gentlemen and said; could you please tell me where I can meet Ronnie Bouchard. He said; I am Ronnie Bouchard, I said; no way he’s an older man and drives this car right here. I didn’t believe him until he showed me his Massachusetts Drivers License.
    From that day on we became best friends with Ronnie Bouchard, and it was a great pleasure to call him friend. He was always smiling and everyone he meant instantly like him. I will miss him, but he will always be in my heart.

    Barbara Parrillo
    Ronnie Bouchard’s Fan Club President

  3. Barbara Parrillo, Ronnie Bouchard’s Fan Club President says:

    Anyone wants’ to see Ronnie’s Talladega Win can Google it and see it all.

  4. My most sincere condolences to the Bouchard family. My fondest memories of Ron are from the Seekonk days with the Red and White Movers Special # 35. A great guy who touched everyone in New England racing.

  5. I’m frustrated and sad. I thought the world of Ronnie and have had such respect. He did things with such charisma and care…and fascinated me with his driving. I know we all will leave one-day…but why..so early for Ronnie and others who do so much for others?

  6. mare harlow says:

    RIP Ronnie. You will leave a huge void in the racing community. My sympathy & condolences to Ron’s family, friends & fans throughout…
    I was lucky enough to have known Ron through the New England Auto Racers, and will forever cherish my memories.
    No matter how far he went in NASCAR – he always retained his “new england roots” and remained down-to-earth.

  7. Bob Freeman says:

    As a young boy at Seekonk Speedway, Ronnie was my first favorite driver. RIP Ronnie and my condolences to all those who love him — I know it is many people!

  8. This is one of those that takes your breathe away. New England lost a racing legend today. Thanks for all the great memories.

  9. doris laffond says:

    R.I.P. Ronnie we remember you from Monadnock Speedway in Winchester NH was Always your fan

  10. Moe bisceglia says:

    May you rest in piece you were a great friend There’s not enough words what agreat human being you were
    My prayers go out to the Bouchard family

  11. kevin stimpson says:

    So sad to hear of rons passing always enjoyed watching him race mods my condolences to all of his family

  12. Anne Wheeler says:

    My condolences to Paula and all those touched by his passing. He will be missed by so many. RIP Ronnie.

  13. Sorry to hear about his passing, RIP.

  14. I’m so saddened to hear of Ronnie’s passing. He was one of New England’s crown jewels both on and off the racetrack. From the first time I saw him at Westboro Speedway as a car owner to his visit at our LLOAR museum in Daytona last year he never changed. A perfect gentleman sharing his time with friends and fans talking about racing and life in general. You will be missed but never ever forgotten.

  15. Ron was the real deal on and off the track.made New England racing fans proud with that great win at talladega.Sad day for his family and race fans ….

  16. You were a gentleman on and off the track. I watched you drive some of the best racing equipment in the sport of modified racing and you will be missed. Rest in piece.

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