NORTHEAST: Dave Humphrey, Leo “The Lion” Cleary To Be Inducted Into Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame

Kyle Souza Asphalt Modifieds, New England, Northeast, Touring Series 0 Comments

SEEKONK, Mass. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Seekonk Speedway photo —

The Seekonk Speedway held their annual Awards Banquet and Celebration on Saturday evening and the track announced that two former successful drivers at the 1/3 mile oval will be inducted into the Seekonk Speedway 630 WPRO Wall of Fame come the middle of May in 2016.

Dave Humphrey was named as the first inductee and was brought to the stage in front of a standing ovation on Saturday. Dave started his career at Seekonk way back when, and is the track’s first 3-time champion, collecting titles in 1951, 52 and 59.

Even though many of his championships early on came in the Jalopies, he was also an avid open wheel driver. His first open wheel when came in 1949, and he continued collecting checkered flags until October of 1986, when he notched his first NEMA Midget victory. Not only will he now be a part of the Seekonk Wall of Fame, he is also in the New England and National Midget Auto Racer Hall of Fame.

The second inductee announced was Leo “The Lion” Cleary, who was not in attendance because is down at his summer house. However, it was announced that Cleary will be in attendance at the crowning ceremony in May on the frontstretch.

Nicknamed “The Lion,” Cleary never once backed down from any challenge. He won his first race at Seekonk in 1955 and won his last in 1987, just after he won the Pro Stock championship. He is a four-time track champion, winning titles in 1972, 1979, 1986 and 1987. He is also currently a member of the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame — he was inducted there in 1999.

So far, in its three year history, 14 names have been etched in the history books of the Cement Palace. Each of them currently sit on the Wall of Fame, placed on the midway at the 1/3 mile oval.

D. Anthony Venditti, “The Godfather,” and the “First Lady,” Irene Venditti were the first ever inductees. They were the pioneers that began the construction and assembly of the facility that today holds weekly racing on Friday and Saturday night’s.

Other names that are already plastered on the wall include George Summers, a top driver in the all-time track wins list and New England racing icons such as Ron Bouchard and Carl “Bugsy” Stevens. Longtime track photographer Johnny Mercury and former champion and current NASCAR Whelen All American Series Pro Stock car owner Len Ellis also are on the list of inductees.

Norm Holden, Wayne Dion, Ron Manfredo, Don Dionne, Billy Clark, Bobby Sprague and Deke Astle complete the list of drivers and track officials who have been put in shrine on the midway for their efforts on and off the track, in the seventy year history of Seekonk Speedway.

The nominees were announced at the beginning of the summer of 2015 and voted on by the fans over the course of multiple months.

The 2015 nominees to be voted on by the fans were as follows:

NOMINEE 1: Eddie Casterline

Eddie was a fixture in Victory Lane at Seekonk in the opening year, picked up a dozen victories from May of 1946 until May of 1947. In that opening season, an official champion was not declared, but it widely known that Casterline was the top driver of that time, giving him the distinction of being the “Unofficial” champion of that first season. His final win came just one week before he succumbed to injuries sustained at Seekonk Speedway. He was also inducted in 2012 into the New England Auto Racer’s Hall of Fame.

NOMINEE 2: Fred Luchesi

A 13 time winner at Seekonk, the 1956 champion spent his weekends traveling from track to track, all along the east coast. The Pawtucket, RI native won his first race at Seekonk in ‘54, and his final in ‘62. In that time, he could be found behind the wheel of anything he could get his hands on. He was also inducted in 2008 into the New England Auto Racer’s Hall of Fame.

NOMINEE 3: George Smaldone

While unofficially picking up 13 career wins at Seekonk, he became the speedways first 3 consecutive time champion, winning the titles in 1953, 54, and 55.

NOMINEE 4: Dave Humphrey

Dave started his career at Seekonk, and became the speedway’s first 3-time champion, winning the titles in 1951, 52 and 59. While those titles and a majority of his 37 wins came in the Jalopies, he made a career out of racing in open wheels. His first win came in 1949, and he continued to visit Victory Lane until October, 1986, when he picked up the NEMA win. Dave is in both the New England and National Midget Auto Racer Hall of Fames.

NOMINEE 5: Hop Harrington

Hop Harrington was regarded as one of the best drivers at Seekonk in the 50’s and 6o’s. He competed through the first few years of the 70’s, winning his final event in August of 72. Hop is a 1999 inductee of the New England Hall of Fame.

NOMINEE 6:  Manny “Pop” Silvia

Manny picked up his first win in 1962, on the way to the Class B title. He followed that up another in 1964. It was the Mini Stocks where he became well known, picking up half of his 28 wins, along with the 1976 Mini Stock title. He won his final race in June, 1978.

NOMINEE 7: Joe Rosenfield

In May of 1954, Joe Rosenfield picked up the first of his 25 wins, his final coming in 1967. In that time, he sat as Champion 4 times, becoming the tracks first 4-time champion in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963, all in the “A” class.

NOMINEE 8: Leo Cleary

His nickname was The Lion, because he never backed down from a challenge. He first ventured to Seekonk’s Victory Lane in 1955, and continued his winning ways until 1987, just after he won the Pro Stock Crown. A 4 time Champion, in 1972, 1979, 1986 & 1987. Leo was feared wherever he raced. He was a winner at many tracks in the Northeast, but continued at Seekonk until his unofficial retirement after 1988. He was inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1999.

Seekonk Speedway contributed to this report

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The induction ceremony for both 2016 members will be held at the end of May 2016, just before the Saturday night racing begins. For more information, fans can visit www.seekonkspeedway.com

About the Writer

Kyle Souza is an aspiring Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I.  Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.

When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer and press writer, and is also the Media Director for the Tri Track Open Modified Series, managed by Dick Williams and the ‘Long Island Mod Maniac,’ James Schaefer.

Email Kyle at: kylesouza34@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @Kouza34

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