1940s (1946-1950)

What has become of the nation’s most recognized short-tracks was a vision of Anthony Venditti, and that vision quickly became a reality when the first gates opened in May of 1946. World War II was in the rear-view mirror, the economy was turning around and D. Anthony was ready to showcase his dream, taking the family chicken farm and designing it into a race track instead.

Seekonk Speedway was built, and the first race took place on Memorial Day, a Thursday in late May. The track was originally built as a quarter-mile oval, with seven-foot banking in the corners and 60-foot wide turns. There might not have been a ton of grandstands, but it quickly grew into something fans from across New England would come to love. More than 10,000 people were on the property on opening day. The original design of the track was built for Open Wheel Midgets, and in the first race, it was Oscar Ridlon rolling his midget around into Victory Lane.

Along with Anthony, his wife, Irene Venditti, was one of the pioneers of Seekonk Speedway. It was with her help that her husband was able to create the track that has become a fan and family favorite for many. Anthony was the youngest promoter in all of the country in the track’s debut year, and had a family that was behind him from day one. He would pass in the early 1990s, while Irene would operate the facility until her passing years later. Now, the track is still family operated, with Francis Venditti and grandson David Alburn running operations.

It wasn’t long before the “Fastest Track in the East” became the “Action Track of the East” — a name that still stands today. The first year of competition lasted through mid-October, with names like Joe Sostilio, Bill Randall and Bob Blair winning. However, it was Eddie Casterline who dominated the opening year, winning what is believed to be a third of the races (10) in year one. The track didn’t record an official champion, but it was clear Casterline was the top contender.

The second year was marked by the loss of three competitive racers, including Casterline, who lost his life just one day after a crash at the age of 32. Casterline won the New England Midget Championship in 1946, and was one of the earliest speed demons in track history. Victories in year two were spread across countless drivers, including names like Chet Gibbons, Sostilio, Frank Simonetti and Llyod Christopher.

It was 1948 when the cement walls went up and the banking was extended. A drivers strike started the year, and racing didn’t begin until June, when Bill Randall opened the season in Victory Lane. There might not have been as many races in ’48, but by ’49, a full year of racing took place, with names like Nick Fornoro, Ralph “Hop” Harrington and Dave Humphrey victorious for the majority of the season. By then, a Stock division that had been introduced to competition, but the Midgets hadn’t gone away. Harrington seemed to be the dominant car heading for the start of a new decade and Humphrey wasn’t going to be far behind.