Racing History - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1803454

Racing History

I see in this week’s paper the announcement of the opening of the Nathaniel Rogers House, at long last [“At Long Last, Bridgehampton’s Nathaniel Rogers House To Be Unveiled,”, July 27]. In about the 15th year of a five-year project — but it looks beautiful and well worth the time and effort of many people.

I hope there’s still thought to dedicate an exhibit to motor sports/racing, which for many years was a major activity of and tourist draw to the hamlet: first in 1915, on the streets, then in 1949 to 1953, on different streets, and finally from 1956 until the Bridgehampton Race Circuit closed in the 1990s.

The race circuit, which I ran from 1971 to 1984 with Bill Conlon, was, in the 1960s and 1970s, a major international stop for sports car racing stars like Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney (originally from Manhasset), Carroll Shelby, Roger Penske, NASCAR great Richard Petty, and many international stars, driving for the factories of Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Aston Martin and the like.

Racing is what distinguishes Bridgehampton from other Hamptons and a host of other nearby small farming communities. The very thorough book by Joel Finn, appropriately named “Bridgehampton,” accurately describes those days.

But from their end in 1971, the track survived by providing an venue for amateur sports car and open wheel racing, motorcycles, motocross, and racing schools until its close in the 1990s. Later, Indianapolis stars like Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal, for example, got their training and early successes there.

I mounted an early racing exhibit many years ago at the museum solely from material in its files, plus donated local memorabilia, and it was well-received and appreciated. I hope the plans to enlarge on that effort are still alive; it’s a very special part of Bridgehampton’s history that deserves preserving.

However, anything done should be accurate and balanced. (There have been some persistent local myths and opinions, particularly about the later history of Bridgehampton Race Circuit, that should be guarded against.)

I lived in Bridgehampton until 2017, on and off starting in 1971, and miss it. I was on the board of the museum for a few years, treasurer of the Bridgehampton Fire District and very much involved in the town. The dedication of a beautiful Rogers House is a joy, even from far away. Use it in good health!

Earl Gandel

Studio City, California