BRISTOL, CT – Raymond “Hully” Bunn of Bristol died at age 91 on August 25 at Bristol Hospital after an illness. Bunn won more than a hundred Stock Car races in a career that lasted from 1949 to 1965 and was inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2001.
Bunn was motivated to get into racing by a medical diagnosis he received when he mustered out of the Armed Forces shortly after World War II. The examining physician took him aside and told him that he had a bad heart and needed to take it easy. “I thought, what the hell, if I’m going to die soon any way I might as well enjoy myself, so I started racing,” Bunn recalled.
His first race was during the 1949 season at Plainville (CT) Stadium. His biggest win may have been the first 100 Mile Langhorne National Open for Modified Sportsman Stock Cars (now known as the Race of Champions) at Langhorne, PA on October 14, 1951 with relief from his friend and colleague Dick Egan. In that race, Bunn defeated such luminary fellow pioneers as Bobby Myers, Frankie Schneider, Dutch Hoag and Steve Danish. He went back to Langhorne in the spring of 1952 and won another extra distance race, and in the Spring of 1954, he won the first race ever held at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York.
Although he drove in a few Midget races, Bunn found his niche when the Midgets began to fade and the Stock Cars proliferated. He raced- and won- primarily in New England but traveled as far west as Ohio and far south as Florida. Often traveling with his wife, Hully was able to make a decent living as a driver. “In those days, a feature paid two or three hundred dollars to win and a car cost that much or less, so if you won a couple of features a week you could raise a family on your winnings,” Bunn recalled, “and I always raced to win.”
His NASCAR stats show an 11th place finish in what is now the Sprint Cup Series in August 1950 at the Fairgrounds in Altamont, NY in a race that was won by Fonty Flock and included Herb Thomas and Lee Petty.
Bunn cut back on his traveling and started a machine shop in the late 1950’s to provide a more stable environment for his family. But he continued winning as a Modified Stock Car driver, back at Plainville Stadium and other New England tracks.
A hard crash at Lebanon Valley led to his retirement in 1965. “A kid went into the turn with no brakes, rolled me over”, Bunn said in a report published when he was inducted to the Hall of Fame. “It hurt my shoulder….It still bothers me today. I had a machine shop to run, and kids at home, so I decided it was time to retire.”
After a few years, Bunn returned to racing as a car builder and owner. He and his son Ron raced a Midget with both ARDC and NEMA and he closed out his racing career owning a Quad 4 Midget driven by Tony Montesi at Whip City Speedway in Westfield, MA. In 2005, he and Montesi made the trip to victory lane on no less than 10 occasions.
Cutting back on his schedule a couple years later, Bunn said “Racing has just gotten too expensive,” Bunn said. “I had enough money when I quit working, but to be honest, I never thought I’d live this long.”
As for the
diagnosis of a bad heart, it turns out that
the doctor was right: Bunn had a heart
attack when he was 38 years old. “I got over
it,” he recalls. “It didn’t slow me down for
Bunn’s survivors include his wife Dorothy Bunn of Bristol, daughter Holly Bunn and her husband Mark Russo of New Hartford, CT; son Ron Bunn and his wife Celina of Bristol and brother Charles Bunn and his wife Virginia of Bristol.