PROCTOR — There is a piece of stock car history in a most unlikely place. Mike LaFond has one of Vince Quenneville Sr.’s cars in his shop, LaFond’s Auto in Proctor, where he is lovingly restoring it.
Quenneville had a legion of adoring fans and LaFond was one of them. He remembers watching Quenneville race when he was about 9 years old at the old Fairmont Speedway in Fair Haven and later at Devil’s Bowl.
There was an outpouring of adulation for Vince Quenneville Sr. when he was burning up the stock car tracks in the Northeast and Canada. Dubbed “The Flying Frenchman” by track announcer Howard Cameron, Quenneville was dominant wherever he raced but many fans in this area remember him as the track champion at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in 1968 and 1969.
LaFond had been aware that one of Quenneville’s three cars was just sitting there in Florence. When he had a chance to get it, he jumped at it.
This week, the frame sat in one part of the Proctor shop and the body in another. Putting it all back together is a labor of love for LaFond.
LaFond doesn’t believe Quenneville ever raced this particular car. It was the one among the three that did not see the track.
Nonetheless, simply being Vince Quenneville Sr.’s car makes it a cherished piece of racing history and LaFond is excited to bring it back to its original state and display it.
LaFond recalled one event he attended at Devil’s Bowl when the lights went out right in the middle of the race. Eventually, the lights were fixed and the race was completed.
“Vince said that he had won a lot of races but this was the first time he had ever won one in the dark,” LaFond said.
The lights went out for the stock car community on a mid-July night in 1987 when Vince Quenneville Sr. was killed in an accident on the New York Interstate. He was the victim of a driver who had been going the wrong way.
He won the Fourth of July Modified feature at Devil’s Bowl only 10 days before. Now, he was gone.
LaFond was devastated.
“Everybody was,” he said.
There was a memorial race that was put together that year in a matter of days. It took place at the West Haven track on July 19.
Just as Vince Sr. wrote his name all over the record books, so has his son. Vince Jr. is a three-time Devil’s Bowl track champion, has collected three track titles at Bear Ridge Speedway and is a two-time NASCAR Vermont state champion. One of his most meaningful victories was claiming the feature in the Vince Quenneville Sr. Memorial Race in 1990.
There is a poignant photograph of Vince Sr. in his racing suit walking with Vince Jr. trackside. It is part of a booklet titled “Vince: A Tribute To A Vermont Racing Legend.” Under the photograph are the words, “You’ll never walk alone.”
Today, Vince Jr. continues to carry on his father’s name with his own success at the track.
Soon, there will be another tribute to Vince Sr. — a restored race car that once belonged to the late driver and his race team.
LaFond plans to display it for nostalgia purposes, something to keep the legacy of one of his boyhood heroes burning.
“I will let the Quenneville family take it for nostalgia shows. They are the only ones I will allow to take it,” LaFond said.