Riverside Park Speedway was built in 1948.
For 50 years auto racing was held there, and many prominent drivers got their start at Riverside including NASCAR drivers Richie Evans and Geoff Bodine.
Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser sat down with some of those associated to relive some of the memories at Riverside Park Speedway.
This story originally aired on May 6, 2015. Find more stories of western Mass places that are “gone but not forgotten” here.
Read the Full Transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Riverside Park Speedway was built in 1948. For 50 years, auto racing was held there and many prominent drivers got their start at Riverside, including NASCAR drivers Richie Evans and Jeff Bodine.
Connecting Point producer Dave Fraser sat down with some of those associated with the track to relive the memories that were created at Riverside Park Speedway.
Bob Polverari, Riverside Park Speedway: Well, I kind of got into racing once I got my license at 16, I decided to bring my own car over there. So I started running a number 7-11.
I picked up that number from my dad, used to take me up to Springfield Plaza. They had the GB planes, they had a little dice on the side and seven number 7-11 and I, I don’t know why I picked up that number and started racing Riverside in 54.
My high school years I spent a total of $700 in two years and that was a lot of money at that time.
I’ll tell you, when you jump in that race car and it’s just like sitting in your your chair in the living room, I mean, I am so comfortable in there.
Once in a while, I mean, you get slammed in a – I remember Ray Miller once hit me so bad in the back, my, my helmet – my helmet must’ve been too loose it went down over my eyes.
I couldn’t believe it. We laughed about it after, but, you know, he didn’t mean it.
Whatever you’re doing and we had some good years at Riverside Park.
Gary Danko, Riverside Park Speedway: Well, I grew up going to a short track up Plainville Stadium, and then my brother – my brother, and I, and my father, we ended up starting to go to Riverside Park in 1975.
I heard the voice come on up and up in the broadcast booth. Mike Joyce Hey, good evening and welcome to Riverside Park Speedway. My name is Mike Joyce and I says, That’s something that I would like to do.
I never wanted to be a race car driver, loved racing, but I love the broadcast side of it.
It was in 19 – beginning of 1994, Ben Dodge was running Riverside Park Speedway, and he gave me the opportunity to to announce at Riverside and from there I went on to other short tracks, and Riverside was a fun, short track, a lot of good competition there.
My job was in the beginning of the day, go down through the pit area and get my notes and find out the sponsors on the racecars, if sponsors change from the previous week.
Sometimes I would do some pit reporting. I was the eyes back in the pit area to let the fans know what was going on were they couldn’t see the race cars and maybe talk to crew chiefs or drivers and and brought a lot more to the fans.
So it made them feel more like they were actually in the pit area with me.
Bob Polverari: Some guys had different names and the reason they did it, they didn’t want their bosses to know they were driving or they were under contract.
Some of the guys in the service and and one of the guys sitting on this panel right here, right now did such a thing.
I don’t know why, but he had a he had a came in under a different name, huh?
Al Fini, Riverside Park Speedway: Yeah. In my situation it was regarding a bank loans.
You used to have to sign a disclosure if you had for business purposes to have a line of credit, etc., that you signed the thing, you would not fly a private airplane, you would not race cars, several different things that you had to sign off on.
So but the name I chose a lot of people.
It was a fun name.
Bob Polverari: They they spelt the name carr, Right? Carr, Red Carr.
It was kind of kind of neat and at the time myself, even racing then I didn’t realize it was Al Fini who I know, knew, you know.
Al Fini: Through business, we knew each other.
Bob Polverari: Well. That was kind of interesting.
Al Fini: The fans tended to be very passionate.
You had your supporters sitting in one section, you know, close together as possible, and the next section might be somebody from a person that was maybe less like like a Jap Membrino, you know, he had a section and and all all the two drivers had accidentally touch each other on a track and the place went crazy.
So many racetracks have gone out of business and just closed and basically you went back to next year and there was no racing.
One thing I’ll say for Six Flags, we knew that October 17th was going to be the last race and we got ready for it.
And we had nights ahead of time and we had a Hall of Fame rendition, so we were prepared for it.
I was psyched for it and it turned out to be a great night.
Gary Danko: Here I was a young kid as a fan of Bob Polverari, and then being on the broadcast side, I got to announce Bobby at the final race of Riverside Park Speedway, which was in October of 99.
Bob Polverari: I remember the sun was setting and you looked up there and you knew it was the last night.
And then, like he says, it wasn’t my night to win a race.
I was going to come in third and and Eddie Flemke Jr and Brad Hietala got tangled about probably five laps to go.
And and, and for some reason I won that race and it wasn’t mine to win.
But, but because of all the years we were at the park, I guess it was just meant to be, but it was kind of nice.
I’ll never forget it.