Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday October 19, 2011

 Volume 3, Number 40                                                                                     New Column Every Wednesday


Click On Link

Updated Hourly


Semi-Monthly Racing Commentary with


Previous Tearoffs


By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

This week we take a look at Oscar Ridlon’s pioneering URDC circuit, once very-much a part of the racing scene in New England. When I first started researching this subject a few years-ago, it seemed there were very-few resources to learn the story on the URDC circuit, and particularly on the former Pines Speedway which was located in Groveland, Massachusetts until the early 1970s. Fortunately, a few years-ago our friend Lew Boyd of Coastal 181 Publishing penned a stellar book on The Pines (it also contains histories on Westboro & Norwood), entitled “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers.” The book is still available, and remains highly-recommended reading. Visit Lew at www.coastal181 to obtain a copy. A very-special thanks goes-out to our old pal, esteemed New England Racing Historian R.A. Silvia for donating this week’s images. As-always, enjoy! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com            

Remembering Oscar “Cannonball” Ridlon’s URDC Circuit….     

Meet the late Oscar Ridlon, once a very-influential figure within the realm of New England auto racing, and especially in the formation a class that would eventually become known as the Super Modifieds. A former big car & midget racer of epic proportions, he later became the owner & promoter of the former Pines Speedway in Groveland, Massachusetts, and also New Hampshire’s Hudson Speedway. At one time, his URDC circuit was one of the most successful of sanctioning bodies, producing talent that would become household names in our region. Guys like Hall of Famers Ollie Silva, Don MacLaren, Bentley Warren and Paul Richardson in naming just a few, all raced for Ridlon early in their careers. Also at the helm of Maine’s Arundel Speedway for a time, Ridlon was the personification of an old-time promoter, ruling his tracks with an often-controversial “Iron-Fist” mentality. Some of the stories told by the drivers that raced for him are truly the stuff of our region’s racing folklore. Oscar passed-away in 1973, but not before making several important contributions to the sport he was involved-with for decades. (R.A. Silvia Collection).    

A big star on Oscar Ridlon’s URDC circuit, captured here early during his celebrated career is Hudson, New Hampshire’s Lee Allard. A top-notch racer as well as a master craftsman in the art of car construction, after hanging-up his helmet he went on to field cutting-edge modifieds for some of the best drivers in the business including most-notably, New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Geoff Bodine. (R.A. Silvia Collection).               

Though URDC standout Billy Murphy is captured here piloting an overhead V-8 creation, Lew Boyd wrote in his great book “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers” that “Billy Murphy stuck with the flatheads longer than most. He was aggressive – the type that would grind you, but not actually bang you. Don MacLaren considered Ollie Silva and Billy Murphy his biggest competition.” (R.A. Silvia Collection).   

Ronnie Bouchard is but one of the New England racing greats that did some time lapping the URDC-sanctioned ovals of the late Oscar Ridlon. Certainly one of the best drivers that New England ever produced, the winner of the 1981 Talladega 500, and among the first to be inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, he’s captured here during the very-early days his stellar career. (R.A. Silvia Collection)     

By the time this image was captured, Bedford, New Hampshire’s Al Riley had gained a well-deserved reputation as a clean and smooth driver, one of those guys that you could race wheel-to-wheel with without worry. More-significantly, he was a winner. As noted by our friend Lew Boyd in “Hot Cars, Cool Drivers” he started his career in the A division in 1956, forgoing the rigors of the often untamed action of the support classes. Riley was a crowd favorite at the Pines Speedway and captured his fair share of Ridlon’s URDC checkered flags. (R.A. Silvia Collection).          

As one of the younger of the drivers on the URDC circuit, Artie Rousseau hailing from Ipswich, Massachusetts proved to be a quick-study in the art of hustling a hulking bomber-class entry like this coupe around the demanding ¼-miler known as the Pines Speedway. The experience gained in the support classes would pay big dividends in subsequent years as he became an A class champion. (R.A. Silvia Collection).        

Another star player on Oscar Ridlon’s ovals was this guy, Whitey Hoyt. Starting in the 1950s and seen here behind the controls of one of his self-constructed creations, he was a winner in a rather “low-key” manner as noted by Lew Boyd. He later went on to great success at New Hampshire’s Lee Speedway. (R.A. Silvia Collection).

Seen here following another URDC victory is the late Don “Big Daddy” MacLaren. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, he captured over 500 feature races from Canada to Florida. His wheel-to-wheel battles with the equally-legendary Ollie Silva are still talked-about today. Don passed-away earlier this year at age-75, but not before leaving an indelible stamp of admiration on a legion of New England racing fans. That’s much-respected URDC starter the late Kenny Small on the left. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).    

A resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, Red Sequin was another of the racing greats of his generation that spent some time touring the ovals of Oscar Ridlon’s URDC circuit. Tragically, his young life was cut-short in a grinding crash at New York’s fabled Oswego Speedway on August 19, 1961. It was the first fatality ever recorded at the track known as the “Home Of The Supermodifieds.” Red is seen here celebrating a victory behind the controls of an Ed Bowley creation. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).        

What would a piece on the history of Oscar Ridlon’s URDC circuit be without an image of this driver? For a generation of New England racing fans, watching Ollie Silva compete in either a Super or a Modified was in-itself, worth the cost of an admission ticket. Shown here during his early tenure on Ridlon’s circuit, he claimed over 500 feature triumphs from New England to Florida during his career. Though he staged a brief comeback in 1980, his career effectively ended in 1978 following a devastating crash at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway that resulted in life-threatening injuries. Silva, a pioneering star of both the URDC and NESMRA and a New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, quietly passed-away of natural causes in 2004 at age-75. (Photo Courtesy R.A. Silvia).

That's it for this week. Email me at:

Copyright © 2009-2011 www.VintageModifieds.com, www.SpeedwayLinereport.com and Dave Dykes' www.RacingThroughTIme.com
All Rights Reserved. Photographs are copyright of the original photographer and may not be used without permission.