Watertown Speedway

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Watertown Speedway was a 1/2 mile dirt oval raceway located at the Jefferson County fairgrounds in Watertown, New York. Located in the Thousand Islands region, it drew competitors and fans from both sides of the Canadian - American border.

History[edit]

In 1955 Howard Rowe and Douglas Atkinson promoted the Star-Lit Park Speedway, a mile and a half European style dirt road course that was built by Fred Kleemeier on outer Washington Street in Watertown, NY. It hosted only one race in 1955 and closed mainly because of severe dust problems. The following year, Rowe and Atkinson turned their efforts toward racing at a former horse track at the county fairgrounds, located on Coffeen Street in Watertown.

In the book "The Legends of Watertown Speedway," author David Stoodley writes: "In January 1956, several prominent Watertown area enthusiasts decided that something should be done about forming an organization to promote the return of stock car racing to Watertown and the north country. In a meeting held on March at the Watertown YMCA, seventeen men gathered and successfully organized the Northern Stock Car Club (NSCC). Officers elected were Douglas Atkinson, president; Howard Rowe, secretary/treasurer and Lloyd Smith, Austin Kilburn and Carl Walts as vice-presidents. [1]

At a later meeting, according to Stoodley, the NSCC became a corporation. Stoodley noted that in April 1956 the NCSS signed a lease with the City of Watertown for $101.50 per week for use of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds track. The first race at the speedway was held on Sunday afternoon on May 15. The races were switched to Saturday night by the end of June. The speedway continued in operation for two decades.

Because of its close proximity to the Canadian - American border, many drivers competed at the Kingston Speedway on Friday nights. The same rule book was used by both race tracks.

Track Champions were Bob Zeigler (3), Dutt Yanni, Dell Crill, Dick May, Frank Andre (2), Neal Tooley, Fred Gibson, Tony Blake, Chubby LaRoux (2), Gary Reddick (2), Guy Robinson (2), and Bud Hinman. Zeigler, May, Andre, Reddick and Robinson have all been inducted into the Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame.[2] Yanni was inducted into the Oswego Speedway Hall of Fame.[3]

May went on to compete in 185 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup division between 1967 and 1985.[4] May’s car owner and crew then began to mentor a new driver, Bob McCreadie, who went on to be inducted into the Lowe's Motor Speedway Walk of Fame, the Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Eastern Motorsport Press Association Hall of Fame.[5] McCreadie is the father of former NASCAR driver Tim McCreadie.

By the spring of 1975, racing operations had moved to the Can-Am Speedway in La Fargeville. Rowe and Atkinson along with fellow area promoters Tom Coughlin, and Bob Thurston were inducted in 1996 into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame for their contributions.[6]

References[edit]

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