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West Haven Speedway

Click on the links below to view some history on this long gone speedway:
                                      West Haven champions.xlsx                                                 West Haven big races.xlsx


        

West Haven Speedway - West Haven, Connecticut

By John Nelson 

Harry “Pop” Ryan built a 1/5-mile dirt track for Midget racing in 1935 at Donovan Park, a baseball field on the waterfront in this western suburb of New Haven.  It was on the grounds of Savin Rock, a seaside amusement park comparable to Coney Island.  The track was paved for 1936 season; according to some sources, West Haven was the first asphalt-surfaced racetrack in the United States.  Midget racing resumed after the war, but in July 1949 Ryan sold his lease to Edward Carroll from Riverside Park.  After remodeling the facility to accommodate stock cars, Carroll opened on August 3 with Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club. 

            Hemmed in by city streets, the track had an odd layout.  From behind home plate, it led southwest down the front straightaway to tightly radiused Turns 1-2.  The backstretch then led to a right-angle turn in left field; another short straight took one to the equally sharp home-plate turn. 

            From 1955 to 1964, Tattersall’s club continued to present Sunday racing in Non-Ford and Novice divisions.  A bizarre finish highlighted the June 24, 1958 New England Non-Ford Championship race. Tony Mordino lost a wheel on the final lap and his machine was bunted across the finish line by another car just as Bill Greco came around under his own power.  Mordino and Greco crossed the finish line at the same instant. After long consultation, track officials ruled that although regulations required a car to finish under its own power, “Mordino’s car had enough momentum to carry it across the finish line”. The main event was declared a dead heat, and Mordino and Greco split the $1,000 prize.             

            West Haven consistently attracted large crowds of spectators and large fields of cars, paying good purses.  Speedway and amusement park remained successful into the 1960s.  Ironically, success did them in.  According to Harold Hartmann, former speedway electrician and curator at Savin Rock Museum, state officials cited Savin Rock for having inadequate sanitary facilities to serve its huge crowds.  The owners, investors who did not care about racing, did not want to spend the money and closed the facility down.  The last scheduled racing meet took place on September 21, 1965; a couple of additional shows were held in October of that year. 

            The site is currently a parking lot and grassy field bordered by Captain Thomas Boulevard on the northwest and Oak Street on the east.  No trace of speedway or amusement park remains.

 

Sources: Illustrated Speedway News, National Speed Sport News; Midget Auto Racing History, Vols. 1 and 2, by Crocky Wright; telephone interview with Harold Hartmann. 

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Fred Voorhees,
Oct 28, 2017, 5:02 PM
Ĉ
Fred Voorhees,
Oct 28, 2017, 5:02 PM
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