Driving Force: Former Standout Modified Racer John Anderson Passes

John Anderson celebrating a victory at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Courtesy Stafford Speedway)

It’s seemingly inevitable when tales come up of the great battles on track during the rise of the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway and across Southern New England short tracks.

There’s talk of battles involving names like Ted Christopher, Bo Gunning, Jerry Pearl, Bob Potter and Mike Christopher.

And inevitably there’s always the talk of John Anderson.

Anderson, a longtime Modified racing standout, and one of the greats of the SK Modified division at Stafford Speedway, passed away Friday. Anderson was 66 years old.

“He had a lot of charisma,” longtime racing journalist Bones Bourcier told RaceDayCT. “I mean charisma to burn. He was just one of those kinds of people.”

Anderson sits 11th all-time on the Stafford Speedway SK Modified win list with 16 career victories.

He got his first victory in the SK Modified division in 1984 and his last win in the division came on June 24, 1996. One of those victories was the SK Modified feature at the 1994 Spring Sizzler. He also won the 100-lap event for the SK Modifieds that same year at Stafford.

“He was in that group that brought the SK’s out of being just a primarily Stafford division,” former journalist and New England racing historian Pete Zanardi told RaceDayCT. “He helped make them just a standard division running everywhere. They had different names at other places. But he was a big factor in that group that led to getting the SK’s accepted. Originally they were Jack Arute’s child … and John Anderson was part of that group that made them the division in Connecticut.”

Anderson, a Waterbury native, arrived on the Modified racing scene racing at the former Plainville Stadium and also became a standout at the former Riverside Park Speedway.

“What people sometimes miss when it comes to John is that he ran at Plainville and then he ran at Riverside and he was the kind of guy that could grab a feature win here and there,” Bourcier said. “Always ran up front. … He obviously had a lot of talent. Probably from about [1978 to 1982] he didn’t do much of anything. … To come back after sitting out and resume in the SK’s and win races, that always showed me something. I always think “What if?” with John. What if he had been able to race all those years.

“… A lot of us who remember John in his [SK Modified] days remember what a fiery guy he was. But Riverside took a lot of patience. To win races there and set fast times there really spoke for what kind of raw talent the guy had. I think he had great raw talent, but never got to refine it.”

Said former driver Tony Membrino Sr.: “He was probably one of the classiest drivers I’ve ever known. … I couldn’t every repay him for how he helped us in racing.”

During his time in the SK Modified at Stafford Anderson was briefly a teammate to the track’s eventual all-time winningest driver, the late Ted Christopher. The pair raced for the Jim Galante owned Mystique Motorsports team in a stable that proudly carried the moniker of “The Bad Boys.”

“Teddy was the best Modified driver ever as far as I’m concerned,” Membrino told RaceDayCT. “But I’ll tell you what, when John Anderson showed up, Teddy [was nervous] because he knew what he was up against. If anybody made Teddy shiver in his boots, it was John Anderson. That’s how good he was.”

Bourcier memorialized Anderson Friday on Facebook by saying: “There are people who sleepwalk through life, and there are those who live it. Those of us lucky enough to have known John Anderson knew a guy who really, truly lived. He was a terrific racer, a successful businessman, a loyal friend, and a guy with a bottomless capacity for fun.”

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  1. Rest in Peace John Anderson.66 years young,much too early.

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