SEEKONK, Mass. — Track story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Seekonk Speedway photo —
The stars of the past at Seekonk Speedway are once again being recognized in 2016, as part of the Seekonk Speedway 630 WPRO Wall of Fame.
So far, in its three year history, a total of 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 located in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
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 still stands today.
Not only did D. Anthony run auto racing at the track, but he also held a boat race, where he filled the track completely with water at one point. He did absolutely whatever he could to get the place he loved so much packed with fans on the edge of their seats for the whole night. It was a no-brainer for both to be the first ever Wall of Fame members.
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.
Now, with the Class of 2013, 2014 and 2015 already set in stone — voting is open to name the list of inductees for the 2016 Wall of Fame Class.
Below, you can read about the nominees for the Class of 2016 and what efforts they put fourth towards getting a spot in this great list. The biographies placed with each driver were created by the Seekonk Speedway staff.
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.
The 2016 members will be announced as part of the annual awards banquet and celebration on Saturday, November 7 at the Venus De Milo in Swansea, Massachusetts.
Fans are encouraged to vote by clicking here. For more information regarding the Seekonk Speedway WPRO 630 Wall of Fame or the events at the Cement Palace in 2015, fans can visit www.seekonkspeedway.com