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The Final Lap

A Farewell to Riverside Park Speedway

RIVERSIDE OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE FINAL YEAR OF RACING
On June 17th, Riverside Park confirmed that 1999 would be the final season of auto racing at the park due to plans to redevelop the speedway area and incorporate it into the main theme park beginning in 2000. Full Story

As the "Final Lap" at Riverside Park Speedway is nearing, we are giving our fans a place to voice there thoughts about the 51 years the speedway did exist. Opinions, and ideas fans may want to relate to the rest of us.

Please send any comments you would like to have added to this page to Jeremy Davidson (email address no longer valid) or Jim Cannamela (email address no longer valid).

A new page has been added with information about where you may find your favorite Riverside Park Speedway driver in 2000.

Here's what people are saying:


It's bad enough you guys have to take the most historical part of Riverside Park Speedway. (the racetrack) Why dont you take out a couple of rides instead of the racetrack. Most people come to see cars race, but after this they will not even be able to. The racetrack is the most popular part of Riverside. If your going to take out the racetrack for a new rollercoaster. You probally will not get as much people after a while. I personally like the racetrack best because when I come to Riverside I love watching the races. The races are the most exciting part of Riverside because you never know what's going to happen as in rides you know what's going to happen. You might think the rides are fun, but you always know what's going to happen so it is not as much as the Speedway, That shows why the track sholdn't be taken out from Riverside Park Speedway.

Frank Rivera
#40 Sportsman
AGE 9


I hate to see a place that I grew up at go away. Riverside Park Speedway was where I started my racing career with Charlie Pasteryak. It was a place that gave us young people a place to start in Nascar. This is a place that will truly, deeply, sadly, but sincerely be missed by many Northerners now making it in the Southern states.

Sincerely,
Donnie Tarantino
Spears Motorsports Nascar Craftsman Truck Series


Who would have though that after 51 years of Racing tradition,Premier park would yank the Race track out from underneath us like a magician with a Table cloth.....POOF its gone.

I have been a competitor at the "PARK" Since '93 when I started out in the enduro division like so many others have before. I then moved on to the Super Stock division while owning a Figure 8 car that a friend was driving. In 1999 my team and I decided to try our luck in the sportsman. And in the year 2000??? well who knows because like so many other competitor in all the divisons at the "PARK" our cars are unique to the speedway and required many many changes to move to another track, changes that some people do not have the resources to to make.

HOWEVER the park is about Much much more than racing it is about people and friendships! Take a walk around the Stafford, Thompson , Waterfords pit areas after a race, Its just not the same as the "PARK". Where else can you find Barbques complete with Corn on the cob,soda ,and beer after a race??? NO WHERE because the people , like the racing machines they drive, are Unique to the "PARK"!!!!!

I would like to wish each and every Racer and their teams that compete at the "PARK" the best of luck next year ..Where ever you may end up. And Lastly to Premier Parks...i want to say shame on you for RUINING 51 years of friendships, traditions , and racing history with one mighty stroke of a pen.

Best of Luck to All
Mike Bernardi
#40 Sportsman


While my family has been involved in racing for many years,I cannot tell you how saddened I was to hear that the track was closing. From my fathers cars of the #82 modified of Jim Vece also the #99 of Bill "Kahuna" Yuris, to the #44 car driven by ''the Regg.'' If the track have not closed this year I would have been competing myself in a tour-like modified.Though it may be gone in my families eyes it will always be there, and will never be forgotten.

Sincerely,
JJ Vece
Wallingford, Ct


I, like many, have great memories of going to the races Saturday night at Riverside. Whether watching from the stands or in the pits, the highlight of my week was hearing and watching the cars as my favorite drivers raced for the checkered flag.

My family and I moved to Florida to last year, and it really does sadden me to know that Riverside won't be there for me when I come back to CT for a visit, and the great racing tradition will not continue.

It still baffles me that management would close the track, rather than capitalizing on the enthusiasm that is spreading for the sport. Even Disney has recently built a race track (Disney International Speedway) as part of their amusement park complex!!!! Does the new Park management know something that the Disney folks don't know?? I highly doubt it.

Good luck to all.
Gloria Jourdanh


I originally went to your web page looking for information about the closing days of the Park.

However, I had no idea that there would be such a feeling of loss when I got there. It seems to me such a sad state of affairs seeing what is happeing in racing in general and the "Park", in particular. It would be so much nicer to see corporations put their money into preserving short track racing, rather than add to it's demise.

When are they going to pay attention to what the masses want. If we didn't love racing we wouldn't stand in the rain hoping for a break in the weather, stay plastered to the weather channel for it's updates on the week-end, count the days from the end of the season to the first race of a new one, and on and on.

When the general public is being lead to believe that stock car racing is the largest spectator sport in the country, I have but one question to ask. Why is it that short tracks seldom receive recognition?

To all of you folks who have left your hearts and souls, the pools of laughter, whether be it from joy of triumph or sorrow of defeat. To the fans, competitors, owners, builders, staff and management. You all did a great job and did it with pride. We bid you farewell and watch as you leave with great pain in hearts by the void that remains.

Good Luck to everyone
Ginny Perry
Promotions
Seekonk Speedway


As a race fan who attends auto races at Long Island's last race track, Riverhead Raceway, I am saddened to hear that another Saturday night short race track will be closing. My understanding is that the property is owned by Six Flags - A company in the entertainment business. Let me just say this: In all my life, I have never experienced better entertainment than the fun I had growing up watching short track stock car racing at the now defunct Islip and Freeport Speedways. I also had fun going to Great Adventure and other amusement parks, but today the memories of local short-track racing are among the fondest of any from my childhood and teen years. I can't think of a better way for families and friends to spend a summer evening out then to watch great competition on a local race track. Short track stock car racing is every bit a piece of Americana as is Baseball or Football. It is the training ground for tomorrow's big league race drivers, or a place where local weekend racers can become legends in their area, and heroes to kids and adults alike. Short track stock car racing lets ordinary folks be larger than life for a few hours a week. They get to have fun themselves and generate a lot of joy for fans - especially the kids. It provides the stuff for family memories that are far more lasting, far more meaningful than having 6 different variations of the same thrill ride at an amusement park.

The loss of short track auto racing in America is not good. We would never tear down ball fields in this country to use the land for other purposes and not replace those ball fields. In an era when big-time auto racing is flourishing, it seems ironic that small race tracks are closing. As a form of entertainment, short -track auto racing is fantastic. It provides thrills and excitement, while promoting sportsmanship and responsibility. Kids learn many things from auto racing. They learn about competition, fair play, and safety. They learn respect for the awesome power of automobiles, and become cognizant of the dangers that exist. They learn about scientific principles of physics - and get to marvel at the great achievements of the men and women who engineer and design automobiles, and those that can make them into racing machines. They also get to watch talented drivers who thrill them year after year. And they can go meet them after the race - look up to them, be inspired by them.

Finally, short tack racing is not just of interest to those who work in the automotive trade. It is a sport enjoyed by all types of people. It is part of one of the oldest, richest, and truly great sports in the world - part of America's fastest growing spectator sport today. American short tack auto racing is part of our history - an important part that helped build the automotive Industry and make the U.S. the world economic leader. I for one think it should be preserved as much as possible.

-David Wilson
Bellmore, NY


I am deeply saddened to see "The Park" close this season. It seems to me that few places today provide young people with something positive and exciting to do. To lose any of them is a shame. "The Park" is where I came of age. Instead of getting into trouble, I would spend all week working on a Street Stock and on Saturdays I would be at "The Park", just as my father had done twenty five years earlier. It is also the place where I ran my first races. My fondest memories are of the camaraderie in the pits. Competitors helping each other out, parties in the parking lot after events. Even the rain outs are memorable to me. It is a shame to me that a place that is such a large part of so many lives will soon be gone, all in the name of "progress".

Tom Topping, Jr.


I would just like to say thank your for the best forty years of my life. As I sit here at the computer thinking about all the Saturday nites that I have spent at the Speedway since I was seventeen, I have tears in my eyes, after reading all of the final shows that are coming up. I wish Ed Carroll had never sold the park, but I know it was in his best interest to do so. I do hope that we will meet again soon at another place real soon, and in Massachusetts.

Sincerely
Ethel Hunt, Amherst, Mass


I can not believe that the park is closing. And it is being closed for a ride that no one will even like after a couple of years. My family has been going to the races at Riverside since Billy Greco was competing there. Its an absolutely terrible loose to the racing world. The park is known all over and has brought many drivers up through the ranks into the highest levels of NASCAR. The races there are the most competitive and cleanest races I have been to at any other local track. Some people may have bad things to say about the park but everyone know that they love the park and always will love it. I highly doubt the management that has made this decision has even seen the races. And they have little knowledge of the tradition that exists. There has got to be some other way to keep the track going. Buy more property in the vicinity, its not like there isn't property available and you don't have the money to do it, there is no need to kill our tradition

A racing family


I am a new fan to racing and the Riverside Park Speedway. It saddens me greatly to read the letters posted here by the fans and to hear about the memories of my new friends being scattered to the wind by the useless destruction of this racetrack. This speedway makes Riverside unique and it should not be torn down. There is a special atmosphere that surrounds this track - a wonderful family atmosphere - where people of all ages come together for friendly competition, to reminisce of the great drivers of the past and to hope for tomorrow's stars. It's a place where families can enjoy time together, which is so important in today's world.

At a time when the popularity of NASCAR and racing events has shifted back to the sport, is when you should be capitalizing on this upswing and making the Speedway a more integral attraction to the Park. Now is the time to make improvements and changes to the track to BRING THE FANS BACK...it is not a time to destroy several decades of fun and excitement for so many people.

Have your consultants even done an analysis of the increased percentages in racing fan clubs and ticket sales to top NASCAR races and other racing events over the last few years? Are you even aware of the evidently noticeable endorsement deals being offered and done by professional racers and the increased airtime of races shown on national television stations? Have you considered instead of using the acreage in your ownership for another theme section of rides to use the land to make the track bigger, better and faster? You certainly have the capacity to expand the track. In doing so you would bring more events, top drivers and a huge fan base back. Why not make Riverside one of the best, or THE BEST track in the Northeast? In addition, I'm also sure you would find it would be less expensive to do a track expansion versus adding new park rides. Why not close the track temporarily for renovations - that would truly then be the celebration you are advertising (rather insensitively, I might add).

I encourage anyone who reads these final lap messages - old and new fans, drivers, crew members and Park employees - anyone who cares, to please write in also. Tell family and friends to do the same. OUR VOICES CAN AND SHOULD BE HEARD - WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!

Thank you,
Fan of #35


We've all seen great speedways come and go, but I was shocked and saddened by the announcement. The first modified race I ever attended was at Riverside Park. It was 1977, I was 6. My racing idol was Bob Polverari right from the start.

I'm 29 now and live in Illinois. I haven't been to the track in 13 years, but the memories of sitting in the press section with my Mom and Dad, cheering for Polverari, Evans, the Rosati's, and a figure 8 driver named Jerry Marquis are fresh and clear.

My life long hero, my dad, past away in 95'. In 1999, my racing hero, Bob Polverari will complete his final lap around Riverside. I hope I can be there with my wife so she can witness at least one night at the speedway I grew up at. I'll miss you Riverside Park Speedway. We'll all Miss you, but won't forget you!

Here's to Polverari and a sixth and final Championship! Ya Gotta Believe!

Thank You!
Jared Echo
Effingham, Illinois


Hey what a great idea here for Western Mass.... I think Riverside should get TV 22 to televise the last race featuring the tour type modifieds.... What a way to go out.... To be on TV for the final lap........... I used to work on a modified for 12 years and boy what a tribute it would be to see the mods on TV 22 or even ESPN . Officials from Riverside should look into this as they owe it to the fans who really followed Riverside all these great years...

Thank you and good luck.....
Shaun James
Easthampton ,Mass


I too would like to add my thoughts to your Farewell page. I started going to the races when I was in high school. It was a Saturday event. I then met my future husband there. His name was Ray Robinson. He was working on a car driven by Bob Taucher. He then went on to work on the 24 car driven by Charlie Centinaro. During this time (1956) we got married. Ray continued to work on cars finally owning a modified of his own. Some of his drivers were Lou Tabone, John Lobo, Sr. and finally Ed Kennedy who now drives the #00 on the Mod Tour. During these years our family grew but Saturday was always Park night. Our family grew, married and the tradition continued with grandchildren coming, Ray gave up ownership and became a NASCAR Official. He loved the Park and it was his life. He died doing what he loved and now the tradition ends. 3 generations and 46 years of Saturdays at the Park are about to end. My family and I want to say Thanks for all the great memories, but I hope the owners of the Park can somehow justify a new roller coaster in place of generations of families with memories of a fun place to be with your family on a Saturday to be replaced with something that only gives pleasure to a small age group. I realize this is a bit long, but so are the years of memories.

May all our memories live forever,
The Family of Ray Robinson


This sucks! I assumed it would happen when the park changed ownership, but prayed it wouldn't. We live only 10 minutes from our local track but would drive 2 hours to see the racing at the "Park". Enough said.


What a huge loss of the park. I attended races there in the 60's following my uncle Buddy Krebs race. Missing a Saturday nite at the park was unheard of back then. I have so many memories that it is impossible to pick any. From the days of Billy Greco, Buddy Krebs etc. to the great Gary Colture days, Bob Stefanik, Bob P. and so on I remember the nites of Geoff Bodine Jimmy Spencer tour shows. The place was so addictive that I ended up driving a Late Model there for years and will always know first hand the battles at the park. Living in Daytona Beach now will not stop me from attending the final show. Losing the park is a tragedy to the history of short track racing. Living in Agawam most of my life makes it worse. Good bye!!!!!!

Phil,
Daytona Beach, Fl.


I've been taking my son and his friends to the speedway for 8yrs now. I was devastated to hear of the track closing! We especially love the Pro-Stock and the Modifieds, there is no other setting that let's you get that close to the action. There are always drivers available to sign autographs and other incentives to make the kids feel welcome, this is truly special and we're going to miss it. I remember seeing Ed Flemke Sr. race at the old Plainville Speedway in Ct., and was quite disappointed when that track went under! The thing I'll miss the most is watching the young talent develop like Mike Stefanik, look where he is -- NOW ! I can't believe that the opportunity for young racers to put together a garage car and race it locally in front of family and friends will be gone forever! My son and I plan to attend a few more races and hope some of the great names "The Reg", Mike Ewinisko, Tom Carey, Dave Dion, and others will be able to fit a farewell race into their busy schedules. In the past after the racing programs are over we would go into the park and spend a little more money on the attractions while the traffic cleared out; I can assure you that after the Speedway closes I will never return to Riverside or Six Flags or whatever you plan to call it.

Thank You,
Steve Rossetti
Windsor Locks,Ct.


I wonder if the racers at the big track in the sky like Richie Evans, Corky Cookman, Ed Flemke, Charlie Jarzombek and others are just shaking their heads! I think the memories, pictures, programs, videos, and race conversations about the 'PAHK will outlast an amusement park! I hope Premier gets what it rightly deserves for this decision : not a single Riverside Park racing - related person ever setting foot on its land ever again after the last checkered flag falls!

Mark


I started going to Riverside Park Speedway in 1972, when my family and I followed Tony "Jap" Membrino from the Plainville Stadium. It didn't take long for me to get addicted to RPS. I remember how excited I was to see so many Vega, Pinto, and Gremlin bodies, as well as the coupes. Bob Stefanik and his car were awesome; I loved the 'Screaming Yellow Zonker '; and I quickly became an ardent Bob Polverari fan. I also remember that almost every Saturday night was a sellout, and if you left your seat for any reason, you took a big chance that someone would grab it before you got back.

The friendships that I have made at RPS are priceless. I am fortunate enough to be involved in a race team this year, and have become acquainted with a few competitors and crew members. I can honestly say that 'race people' are the best....friendly, helpful, dedicated....and a lot of fun.

I don't think that I've really accepted that RPS will be gone. I'm still hoping for a miracle. But if this is it, I will always remember and sadly miss more things than I can list here, but some would be: the characteristic smell of exhaust, rubber, and fuel.....the indescribable sound of those engines....the barbecue pit , with those awesome burgers, at the top of the stands near Turn 4... walking around the pits and catching a breeze off the river...heck, I'll even miss the bugs and the occasional downpours. Most of all, I'll miss the racing...like nothing I've ever seen. There will never be another Riverside.

- Linda Maher


I feel it is an absolute travesty that the track is going to be closed. Although I my self have never been able to make it to Riverside speedway, I know very well the tradition behind the track. This is one of very few tracks that the regular drivers and car owners at my home track ( riverhead raceway ) would ever try and attempt to conquer, based solely on the competition and tradition at the track. why would the owners decide to sell such a wonderful and nostalgic place for racing. I mean come on folks your gonna bulldoze 51 years of great racing and history for a amusement park. the drivers and car owners should be rewarded for even sticking by for the remainder of the season, as they could have already packed up there equipment and gone racing somewhere else. This just shows how loyal your drivers and car owners are to the track, now why don't you be loyal to them and keep the track open. I guarantee you those drivers and car owners have spent more time and energy in designing fabricating and maintaining there racing machines, then any amusement ride company has ever with one of there thrill rides. THERE IS NO BIGGER THRILL THEN SEEING TO CARS SIDE BY SIDE BATTLING IT OUT, AND THEN IN THE END THEY CAN GO OVER AND CONGRATULATE ONE ANOTHER. YOU CANNOT GET ANY CONGRATULATIONS OR FRIENDSHIPS LIKE THE ONES THAT DEVELOP AND HAVE DEVELOPED OVER THE YEARS AT A TRACK LIKE RIVERSIDE, FROM SOME AMUSEMENT PARK WHO IS ONLY CONCERNED ABOUT MONEY!! thank you for your time, I hope you reconsider and keep the track.

DANIEL BRAZEZICKE


I was really disappointed to hear that the speedway is closing. I just started going to Riverside park Speedway about four years ago and this year I started helping out a friend who races at the speedway. I think this is a great dissapointment for the drivers espically because they have put some much time and effort into racing at Riverside. Although this is a great loss for the fans at Riverside I just think it is hard for the drivers.

I really wish I didn't have to right this but it will be a disappointment when next March comes around I am not packing up blankets to get ready to go to Riverside for the first race of the year. I can't speak for everyone but I know I will miss all the great racing that I have seen at Riverside for the past couple of years.

Thanks for all the great races and also to all the drivers that made all of these great races happen.

Kathy


sorry to hear of your closing. if you ever rebuild another track please do so south of the boston and if you ever need a model track to copy check out monadnock speedway..high banks are the way to go. and don't forget to bring the modifieds with you!!!! I need racing close to home!!!

Douglas Feldman


Its a same taht you are going to take out the race track. Before in the 80's my family and I thought that the park was going to go out of bussness because the everyone was at the races. My dad said that he would teach me how to race and I would race at Riverside first. I am 13 and I can't make my dream come true. Please reconsitter the keep the race track open. If you do I might consitter to race there somehow. I know that you are trying to enterain everyone but most of the adults love the tracka nd my parets won't take me there because they usually leave me and my friend to do what we want while they watch the races. I really hope to be the next Renee DuPre but i don't know if that will happen or not. I am wondering where all the drivers will go because alot of them only like Riverside speedway. Please reconsitter the race track over the roller coaster. Alot of my friends think that the races are the best because they are new each week. You never know whos going to crash or whos going to win. Thats where I found the thrill in you park. Please please reconsitter the speedwat over the roller coaster. Thank you for you time.

Sinceraly, Nicole Frost Age:13


I am 48 years old, and my family and I have been going to the races since I was a small child. This track is the most exciting one that I have known. We will all be sorry to see it close and quite honestly I think the decision is a big mistake. Auto racing has grown tremendously in the past few years and the track at Riverside is an asset that you will soon realize was a bad decision to discard. The track and the fan facilities should have been improved instead of closed.

Will sadly be missed.

Monica Fontaine


I hope Premier will see to it that this web site remains active as a tribute to the "park".They have an opportunity to build or sponsor a Riverside Park Speedway virtual museum, which is something we never had when other area tracks closed. If they must take the track, then please find a way to keep its memory alive.That way, we can continue the hall of fame with on-line balloting, build a photo, or possibly, a video library, chat with former competitors and keep "racing" in some way. Perhaps there are others out there who would consider building driver, car owner, United, closed-track or other historical tribute pages that can be linked. There are so many of us who still remember the way it was, and the way "progress"is going we'll soon have only our memories and TV to keep us involved at all. The internet presents a unique opportunity to preserve our racing heritage in the Conn. - Mass.area. I hope you will consider this, and will post this message.

Why not start a favorite driver of all time poll ? It would be fitting to create this award and present it at the final banquet. If the driver is deceased, perhaps a family member would be honored to accept. Name the top 50 drivers from the poll and create a plaque that can be displayed somewhere in the Park with their names on it. Considering the number of people these guys brought to your Park every week, they deserve it.

My favorite memory is the Triple crown 300 lapper of 1968 because I was in the pits as a 15 year old, and around all my heroes. Billy Greco won in the 500. Danny Galullo was 2nd in the duece. The car I gophered for was the 07 driven by Lou Carangelo. He finished 6th. They say you always remember your first time. I can picture it like it was yesterday.

Ed Pannoni

Note from the webmaster...

I like Ed's idea about the favorite driver of all time, we will try to encorporate this somehow.


i cannot believe it. it goes to show you who the owners of the park are loyal to, themselves. i have been going to the park all of my life(36 years).i wanted to start bringing my 5 year old son this year, and get him into the tradition of going to the races at riverside. to me riverside is and will be my favorite track. it makes me very sad to think that there will be no more visits to "the park" as i so fondly call it. i'm sorry to see it go.

lenny


I don't know that you are the person to address this issue with, but I need to get this issue off my chest. If you are not the right person, please forward this to the appropriate authority. I am sorry that the park management has decided to close the racetrack. I obviously have no visibility for the business case that justifies this change but I wonder if the management fully realizes the implications of this change. Once a racetrack closes, there is no track to replace it and racing in that area is essentially gone forever. We in southern Connecticut went through the loss of the Danbury Fair speedway and again, we will never see racing in this area of the state. As time passes, we continue to lose places like fairs and racetracks and I feel that we are worse off as we lose a part of the American lifestyle.

I don't know what the incremental revenue from closing the speedway might be but I can tell you that the intangible loss to race fans, racers and Agawam Massachusetts is huge.

Would anyone like to reconsider??

Gary Saunders


what would the old racers say about getting rid of the track. danbury race track was remembered one day for the old racers. chick racer was there. I spoke to him after and he was so happy thier was somone who cared about the races. I guess he was wrong cause you guys are taking the races away for more rides. People love the races and loved going It would mean so much to the people to have the track thier one more year at least for the year 2000 to remember racing and the drivers.

kx80ace


My family and I have enjoyed the races for many years now. It's very sad to see them end. It's one of our families most favorite outings together. It's been a tradition for us to go see the races every year, and a tradition for other families as well. We would really hate to end that tradition, and hate for you to stop the races. Many children love going to see the races with their fathers, in some cases that's the only real quality time they get to spend with their fathers. For these poor kids please keep the races going. We break a tradition that you've had and families have had for many years and will have for many years to come if you keep the races going.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, Ms. Fahy


Hi. I used to go to the track in around '64 to '67 or so. I recall it being 1/5th mile and still remember cars and drivers etc. Sorry to see the final season arrive. I have fond memories and remember many drivers that didn't necessarily win all that much. The racing in those years was terrific.

I am here in Chester Ct. I worked with a fella that grew up in Mass. just down the road from the track. His family and I would go from work (Stop 'N' Shop in Old Saybrook, Ct.) on a Saturday and it was fast and furious racing. I always remembered the Riverside 500. Great race.

Thanks for the memories.

- Rudy