THE WESTBORO SPEEDWAY
Upon the conclusion of World War II, Americans were experiencing a feeling of normalcy in their lives. However, blue collar Americans were longing for a weekend activity to become directly involved in or merely as spectators. Auto racing in many forms began to take root throughout New England. While midget auto racing debuted here, later assorted racecar divisions were established with their own unique and distinctive characteristics and quickly became the answer to that need. Oval track racing became a very popular pastime here.
In 1944, Sam DeBoer owner of the DeBoer Farm on the Turnpike, died at age 63. His wife Mary inherited the 110 acre property and continued to operate the farm with the help of farm hands. Then, in 1947 Mary sold 55 acres of farm land located on the south side of the Turnpike. The buyers were not perspective land developers or speculators, rather they were five World War II buddies that formed the Allied Sports Association. They had a vision to build a midget racing track and take advantage of the post war popularity of the latest auto racing crazes that were motoring their way across the country from the west coast.
WESTBORO SPORTS STADIUM
A photo posted with this blog shows an aerial shot of the Westboro Sports Stadium built in 1947. The Turnpike was built with four 10 foot wide concrete lanes and a 30 foot wide grass median that had once accommodated the Boston & Worcester Street Railway. The new facility was ideally located at the crossroads of the Turnpike, Routes 135 and 20 and provided easy access from all points to the new facility.
Westboro was not the first race track site to be developed during this period, as tracks were being constructed throughout the Northeast region. However, Westboro would experience the largest gatherings of people in any single venue any time in its history or anywhere in the area. It was customary for the track to draw 3,000 to 4,000 race fans to a regular event and upwards of 10,000 for special races like demolition derbies, powder puff races and concerts. The new enterprise provided part time employment for concessionaires, police men, firemen, event personnel and owners. Local restaurants and tourists cabins also benefited as drivers, pit crews and racecar groupies traveling from out of state to Westboro took advantage of the local accommodations.
The inaugural race at the new stadium was a 25 lap race on Tuesday August 5, 1947. The event was attended by over 9,000 race fans and was won by Joe Sostilio~Offy. Joe was a veteran dirt track driver and member of the Bay State Midget Racing Association.
Midgets had a 300 to 400 horse power engine and a 1,000 pound body making these racers an all time fan favorite. Midgets raced at Westboro exclusively until 1949. Then monthly until 1957 and returned to a weekly track schedule until 1969. They ran on a monthly basis from April 1969 until the closing September 1985.
The immediate success of the Sports Stadium at Westboro prompted developers to announce a plan to enlarge the facility. The “Westboro Fair” would include a clubhouse, restaurant and a harness race track built around the existing midget track. This proposal never came to fruition.
Midget racing was also not without its early controversy. At the opening of the 1948 race season, 175 members of the BSMRA and seven New England track operators picketed the Westboro Stadium against rival midget organization the American Automobile Association for scheduling rights. Although the demonstration was orderly, it shut down the evening's event and eventually the rivals coexisted by sharing track schedules. But there remained throughout race history a rivalry between established racing organizations.
During the track's 38 years of existence, the Westboro Speedway continued as the premier midget racetrack in New England and offered a wide variety of racecar classifications. Track owners also promoted rock concerts — Aerosmith with Steven Tyler played in 1973 and the Gregg Allman Band in 1983 — powder puff races and demolition derbies. Race promoters were always searching to satisfy race fans and took advantage of the latest crazes in racing. Go carts raced during intermissions around the infield track. Motorcross and Enduro courses were built in the infield for motorcycle races that were always a fan favorite. On a yearly basis, Joie Chitwood Hell Driver Thrill Show entertained thousands. The Track also hosted The Grotto Rodeo, Circuses, Flea Markets and more.
There were a number of compelling reasons for the demise of the Westboro Speedway. The socio economic dynamics of the population was changing from blue collar industrial to a high tech office scenario. This population trend created a diminishing attendance and therefore the profit margins were minimal. There were internal ownership issues and financial problems that resulted in foreclosures. Although there was significant fan support, the overall operating costs were not adequate to continue with the seasonal sport.
The change became evident in the late 1970s when investors and land developers discovered Westborough. As large tracts of desirable land became available, corporate America moved into Westborough along the Turnpike.
The last checkered flag was dropped at the Westboro Speedway in September of 1985. It never reopened. The track property had gone into foreclosure, sold to a developer and was demolished in 1988 and the Speedway Plaza was built.
Today the Westboro Speedway has been memorialized with a Facebook page that every race fan should visit. While two books have been written on the Track and on a yearly basis, reunions are held at the Westborough K of C Hall. This presentation is available in a more in depth history of the Westboro Speedway at the Westborough Library History Room.