Former NASCAR National Sportsman division champion Rene Charland died Monday, Sept. 30 at the Wilkinson Residential Care Facility in Amsterdam, N.Y. He had resided there for several years due to a variety of health problems. He was 84.
Charland, who was born in Chicopee, Mass., on Nov. 13, 1928, served in the US Marines and Merchant Marines before settling in Agawam, Mass., and embarking on his racing career. He eventually relocated to upstate New York in the 1960’s.
Equally talented on asphalt and dirt surfaces, Charland was NASCAR’s National Sportsman champion from 1962 to 1965. He was also known as one of the original “Eastern Bandits,” along with Eddie Flemke, Red Foote and Denny Zimmerman, with the group traveling and winning on asphalt tracks along the eastern seaboard, but especially in the Mid-Atlantic region. He was also a member of the All-Star League for many years.
“The Champ,” as he was known far and wide, was a member of the New England Antique Racers (NEAR), DIRT Motorsports, Riverside Park, Fonda Speedway and New York State Stock Car Ass’n Halls of Fame. Charland was also named as one of NASCAR’s Top 50 Drivers at Stafford Motor Speedway.
Known as much for his ever-present cigar and endless pranks, Rene loved to tell everyone at the Utica-Rome Speedway that he was promoter Joe Lesik’s brother-in-law and thus would be favored with up-front starting positions and other favors.
Funeral Services will be private. Condolences can be sent by visiting the online guestbook at www.gloversvillefuneralservice.com.