Unfortunately Riverside Park Speedway
closed at the end of the 1999 season after 50 years of operation. Their Web
Site which was created and maintained by
also closed. Historical contents of the Riverside site were saved
and are included on these Web Pages.
Riverside Park Speedway was built in 1948, replacing an open air bandstand at
Western Massachusetts' most popular vacation destination - Riverside Amusement Park.
Edward Carroll, Sr., the founder of the facility, took a liking to a sport that was
gaining popularity in the Northeast after World War II, and added auto racing to his slate
of attractions in Agawam.
Photo courtesy of Walt Renner Collection
Dick Shuebruk - Winner of the First Ever Race at Riverside
The original configuration of the track was a flat, 1/5 mile oval with a
dirt surface. Midgets and Motorcycles were the featured events, and the track opened in
grand style on June 2, 1948. A capacity crowd, including many local dignitaries, watched
Dick Shuebruk of Scituate, Mass. drive his Stone #2 Kurtis Kraft Offenhauser Midget to
victory in the first ever 25 lap feature race.
By the 1950's, modified stock cars had taken hold as the prevalent form of
racing in the area, replacing the midgets as the featured division at Riverside Park
Speedway. Drivers such as Ted Tappet, Benny Germano, Jocko Maggiacomo, Jerry Humiston, Ed
Flemke and Buddy Krebs were the drivers to beat throughout the 1950's. Other tracks in the
area - Century Stadium in Springfield, Mass. and the Exposition Fairgrounds in West
Springfield, Mass. - hosted events on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, making it
possible for some of Riverside Parks' early stars to race in the area almost every night
of the week.
The 1960's were popular years for stock car Racing at Riverside Park. Under the
sanction of the UNITED Stock Car Racing Club, Gene Bergin, Danny Galullo, Ed Patnode and
others emerged as contenders, while Krebs and Greco continued to pile up victories. In the
grandstands, loyalties to different drivers became fierce, and where one sat in the stands
was determined by what driver one was rooting for.
Jocko Maggiacomo - was one of the early greats whom competed at Riverside
The 1970's were a decade of change for the facility, as physical and managerial
changes were put into place that made the track what it is today. After a rowdy drivers'
strike, it became clear that UNITED could no longer hold its' own at Riverside Park, and
that organization cleared the path for another popular organization to take charge of the
track. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) began sanctioning
events at Riverside Park Speedway in 1976. The winner of the first NASCAR-sanctioned event
was Bob Polverari.
The tracks' configuration was also changed to a bigger 1/4 mile oval, with
slightly higher banking in the turns. Today's 15 degree banking would not be added until
the mid 1980's. The bleacher seating surrounding the track was also removed to make way
for the 6,200 chair back seats that still exist today. In the 1970's, some of today's top
drivers began to make a name for themselves in Agawam, including S.J. Evonsion, Bob
Polverari, Reggie Ruggiero, Richie Evans, Jimmy Spencer, Geoff Bodine and others.
The 1980's arrived with a track championship for the late Evans, recently named
as one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers of all time. Many stars of racing emerged at
Riverside Park in the 1980's, including Busch North Series star Jerry Marquis, NASCAR
Craftsman Truck Series rookie "Mighty" Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Busch Series
star "Magic Shoes" Mike McLaughlin. Veteran drivers like Polverari and Ruggiero
continued to earn wins and championships throughout the decade.
The last decade has seen more racing stars earn their stripes on the high banks
at Riverside Park, including Marquis, who captured 3 consecutive modified championships
from 1991 to 1993, Featherlite Modified Series star Chris Kopec and NASCAR Winston Cup
star Steve Park. Another exciting development in 1997 was the acquisition of the park by
Oklahoma-based Premier Parks, Inc., the world's largest regional theme park company.
Scott Nickel Photo
Steve Park celebrates a win at Riverside Park Speedway with car owner Joe Brady.
Park has 4 career wins at "The Park"
As Riverside Park Speedway joined NASCAR to celebrate the past 50 years of auto
racing in 1998, a new division was rolled out onto the Speedway. Spawned by the popularity
of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the Teddy Bear Pools Truck division proved to be an
instant success in 1998. Ted Chalmers, a 35 year racing veteran, wrote his name in the
history books as the first ever champion in that divison.
The 1999 season will feature the NAPA Modifieds as the NASCAR Winston Racing
Series feature divison, along with the Serv-U Auto Supply Pro Stocks, Teddy Bear Pools
Trucks, Sportsman, Super Stocks and Figure 8's. The Serv-U Auto Supply Pro Stocks will
also be the feature division in the Winston Shortrack Series by NASCAR in 1999.
Unfortunately Riverside Park Speedway closed at the
end of the 1999 season after 50 years of operation. The commentary
and photos were saved from the closed Riverside Park Speedway Web Site.