Images of Car race and children on bicycles at the Lonsdale Sports Arena racetrack, c. 1945. This venue operated from 1947-1956.
Lonsdale Sports Arena was a 1/3 mile high-banked paved oval located two miles north of Pawtucket, Rhode Island on Mendon Road in Cumberland, Rhode Island, on the banks of the Blackstone River. The track operated from 1947 to 1956. Ironically, its location near the river would prove a key factor in its ultimate demise. The Stop & Shop plaza now occupies where Lonsdale was. Several unique things occurred at this tricky track during its short life span. Built for Midget racing, the asphalt race track hosted the quick open-wheeled machines during its inaugural season, within its inaugural 1947 season, Midget racing was king with Bill Schindler and his #2 taking down a season-high 4 features. Other winners that year were Lloyd Christopher, Joe Sostillio and Ted Tappet. Running mostly on Wednesday nights, the midgets also ran twice on Sundays and one Friday back in '47. The season finale for Lonsdale served as a bellwether for the future of motorsports in the next decade as well as today. The MOA sanctioning body hosted the first-ever Stock Car race in the North on Sunday, October 26, 1947 with Fonty Flock capturing the 30-lap victory. The MOA sanctioning body was the predecessor to a new and well-known brand of racing called NASCAR. Bill France, Sr. and other stock car entrepreneurs tested the waters at Lonsdale to see if this stock car thing had longevity. Nearly six decades later, these visionaries have proven their worth as NASCAR is the premier form of auto racing in the United States today. A showcase for the Midget race cars, Lonsdale's role in the post-war Midget boom would come to an end. The debate over Offenhauser (Offy) and non-Offy powerplants was a part of the escalating costs of fielding a Midget racer and contributed to a great divide within the ranks. A cheaper form of racing was just down the pike. That stock car experiment at Lonsdale proved to be right on. Stock cars soon replaced Midgets at Lonsdale for good in the late 40s or early 50s. The stock cars (also called Jalopies or Modifeds) were a godsend to the track operators. The cars were cheap, provided lots of racing thrills and most importantly, the drivers and fans could not get enough of these stock cars. It was truly great racing, watching the stock cars test the high banks drew massive crowds to a facility with grandstands that encircled the entire track. Lonsdale met its ultimate demise because of the Blackstone River. Its location on the banks of the river proved problematic when the river crested, flooded the track and undermined the grandstands. The subsequent dwindling crowds did not allow the owner to rebuild the grandstands. Lonsdale's last race saw the same racing that started Lonsdale end its tenure on the racing circuit. An ARDC-USAC Midget feature on September 30, 1956 Cliff Riggot brought the curtain down with a victory in his Wozniak Offy. The final champion at Lonsdale was the venerable Fred Luchesi, who also won championships at Seekonk Speedway, Norwood Arena Speedway, Waterford Speedbowl and Westboro Speedway during this rough-and-tumble era. New Jersey's Wall Township Speedway was patterned after Lonsdale.Source: Lonsdale Sports Arena: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaSee also:
Department of Economic Development - Videotapes, Tourism, 1977-1992Development Council photographs, circa 1945-1980The Book of Rhode Island, 1930This is Rhode Island, 1972