Riverside Park Speedway

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Riverside Park Speedway was a 1/4 mile oval race track, located inside of Riverside Amusement Park in Agawam, Massachusetts, one mile north of the Massachusetts/Connecticut state line.

To capitalize on the nation's new attraction to auto racing following World War II, park owner Edward J. Carroll demolished the dance hall that had burned down in 1948. In its place rose a flat 1/5 mile oval track, pit area and grandstand alongside the Connecticut River. The first full season of "modified" stock car racing was 1949. International sports car racing star Phil Walters, who raced modifieds and midgets under the name "Ted Tappett", won the season championship. The United Stock Car Racing Club events drew 6,000-8,000 fans every Saturday night.

In the early 1970s "the Park" drew more than 50 Modifieds each Saturday night. Four heat races would each qualify eight drivers into one of two "semi" features. The remaining cars would go into the "B" consolation race. The first eight finishers in each 16 car semi would transfer to the 50 lap feature event. The rest moved to the "A" consi. Four from the "B" would move up to the "A" consi, which would transfer the first four finishers to complete the 20 car field for the feature event. This would be followed by a 30 minute intermission to get the crowd out into the amusement park area. Then, the 50 lap feature would be run, followed by a 20 lap event for reinforced full-bodied cars on the figure-8 track... always plenty of crashes there to the delight of young fans. Many of the drivers, crews and fans would gather in the Park's "beer garden" afterward, until the Park closed at midnight. The Park's family atmosphere made it a longtime favorite of New England race fans.

Each summer's signature event was the "Riverside 500", a 500 lap "tag-team" race with 16 two-car teams. One car would pull into the infield pit area for service, and "tag" his teammate's bumper to go out and replace him on the track.

Each season ended with a "triple crown" series on the first three Saturdays in September. Feature event lengths were 100 laps, then 150 laps, and 200 laps for the finale.

In the 1960s and 1970s a summer Tuesday night program was added, headlined by late-model stock cars that also competed Saturday at United's Westboro (Mass.) Speedway. The Figure 8's were also included, and in the mid-70's a VW beetle class was added.

The track was reconfigured twice over the years, ending up as a progressively banked 1/4 mile oval under NASCAR sanction. The track was used several times for rock concerts, notably Radio 104.1 WMRQ's "Radio 104 Fest" and "The Big Day Off."

The track closed at the end of the 1999 season. Five-time track champion Bob Polverari won the final race, after which participants started digging up pieces of the track asphalt for souvenirs. [1] In 2000 when the park re-opened as Six Flags New England the race track was gone, with the new DC Comics-themed amusement park in its place.



References[edit]

  1. ^ Courchesne, Shawn (June 17, 1999) "Final Lap for Riverside Speedway" Hartford Courant, p.C2

Coordinates: 42°2′17.7″N 72°36′42.96″W / 42.038250°N 72.6119333°W / 42.038250; -72.6119333