One of the most legendary tracks in Ontario is definitely Pinecrest
Speedway. Most of the big names in Ontario racing ran there at one
time or another. Drivers such as Jim Hallahan, Vic Parsons, Don
Beiderman, Ross Howes, Jack Cook, Norm Lelliott, George Reuffer
and Tom Milligan battled at Pinecrest over the years. Talk to almost
any Southern Ontario stock car fan over the age of 40 and they will
have fond memories of Pinecrest.
First, a little history about the property that Pinecrest occupied
and the various tracks that have been there. Charlie Greenly built
a half-mile dirt track on his property which was located on the
south-east corner of Highway 7 and Jane Street. This track opened
in July of 1948 and was named Pinecrest Speedway. It was renamed
for the 1949 season to Speedway Park (not to be confused with the
Speedway Park in Stoney Creek, Ontario which operated in the 1960s
and 70s). This track closed at the end of the 1949 season and a
new Speedway Park was built on the property next door and operated
from 1950 - 1954. Back on the original property, a new version of
the half-mile dirt track was built about 100 yards to the east and
opened as Pinecrest Park Speedway in 1951. This track was operated
by the Toronto Racing Drivers' Club and only lasted until about
mid-year. A new owner built a quarter-mile dirt track with lights.
This track only operated for the last part of the 1951 season. (Thanks
to Dave Boon for this info)
The era that this article deals with
began in 1952 when Joe Cappy and Norm Smith bought the property
for $28,000 and built a quarter-mile paved oval on the 28 acres.
Previously, Cappy and Smith had operated Oakwood Stadium, located
at the corner of Oakwood and St. Clair, in 1951. The track had operated
without city permission all season and was fined regularly. Eventually
the City of Toronto won out and Cappy and Smith were forced to close
Oakwood at the end of the 1951 season.
in 1952 - Derek Middleton is the #71
The last edition of Pinecrest Speedway
opened in May of 1952. It was a tight quarter-mile track with both
an inner and outer wall and was surrounded almost completely by
covered seating. It ran Wednesday and Saturday nights in the early
years. Admission that first year was $1 for adults and 50 cents
for children. Since Oakwood was a success for Cappy and Smith, they
often advertised the track in 1952 as "Oakwood Stadium presents
Pinecrest". The success of Oakwood carried over to the new
Pinecrest for Cappy and Smith as crowds were often between 2500
and 4000 spectators.
Some of the top drivers in the early years were Ivan Moore, Jack
Cook, Jack Burbridge, Glenn Schurr, Ben Lalomia, Tony Occhino and
Ted Hogan. The 1953 season was dominated by Ivan Moore who won 10
features in a row on his way to winning $1000 as the Carling Points
Champion. Cappy and Smith changed the track surface to concrete
for the 1954 season and claimed it as "Canada's only all-weather
track". Hurricane Hazel rolled through Toronto in 1954 and
it hit Pinecrest, destroying about 400 feet of the west grandstand.
There were various special events - Ladies Races (called Powder
Puffs), demolition derbies (Wreck-Um Races as they were often called),
city races where drivers from one city would compete against drivers
of another city, the Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevils and Midget races.
The tight track led to a lot of big wrecks as roll-overs were a
very common occurence. Usually the drivers were not hurt but some
were not so lucky. Bill Clemons of Mashawaka, Indiana was badly
burned in practice for the 1957 International when his throttle
stuck, slammed the wall and his car burst into flames. Clemons died
a few weeks later.
By the late fifties the cars became known as modified stock cars
and were the beginnings of the modern supermodified. Some new drivers
entered scene in this era: Jack Greedy, Norm Mackereth, Jim Hallahan,
Mac Bound, Dave Stephenson, Bill Cromb and Jerry Watson.
Hallahan in the #33 shows how the cars had progressed by the
late 50's and early 60's.
Part way through the 1959 season, the
CNE drivers were kicked out of the CNE track on Tuesday nights to
make way for the Toronto Argos. This began a tradition at Pinecrest
for the next few years that brought the CNE drivers there on Tuesday
nights after the football season started. CNE regulars such at Ted
Hogan, Don Fleming, Charlie Greenlaw, John Shirtliff, Howie Scannell,
Jimmy Howard and Norm Mackereth. Mackereth had previously left Pinecrest
to race at the CNE.
1960 Pinecrest was purchased by Gerry Bisson of Ottawa. Bisson had
been operating Lansdowne Park Speedway in Ottawa and later built
Capital City Speedway in Stittsville. Go kart racing was also added
The 1962 season came to an early end when the Vaughan Township revoked
Pinecrest's license due to not meeting some previous agreements.
Things were sorted out in time to run the annual International race
Scannell in the 1970's
The 1963 season saw a big change at
Pinecrest as the modified division was dumped in favour of Late
Models. The modifieds (or super modifieds) were not completely gone
though - once again the CNE drivers moved into Pinecrest on Tuesday
nights once football season began. The CNE had not made the switch
to Late Models yet. With the switch to Late Models, some new drivers
moved to the front at Pinecrest while some veteran drivers stayed.
This era saw Jerry and Bob Watson, Phil Zampino, Vic Parsons, Jim
Hallahan, George Reuffer, Ross Howes, Gord Dolphin, Ray Gullison,
Jack Cook and Norm Lelliott as the top drivers.
Another change in ownership for 1963 saw two familiar faces return
- original owners Joe Cappy and Norm Smith had taken over again.
The west grandstands were built for the 1963 season and seated approximately
racing was added for 1964. Pinecrest had an claiming rule in the
mid 1960s. It was originally $500 for the whole car minus the tires
and was later changed to $375 for the engine minus the carburator,
clutch and housing.
The 1968 season opened with $10,000 in
improvements to Pinecrest including a new 3 foot outside wall and
better pit lighting. The purse that year was $1700. A driver who won
all 3 of his races would take home $300. Also for 1968, the claming
rule was dropped.
Another ownership change at the end of 1969 season when Norm Smith
sold his share of Pinecrest to Joe Cappy who in turn,
sold the track
to the DiCarlo family in February of 1972 for around $600,000. Rocco
DiCarlo became the track promoter.
Aerial photo by Ian K. Woods
The final years of Pinecrest saw the big dollar Export "A"
Championship as a regular visitor. In addition, Carling Breweries
sponsored the Red Cap points fund as they had for many years. The
Carling O'Keefe Championship made four visits in 1975. The crowds
continued to be huge, often in the 10,000 - 15,000 range. Wednesay
night racing returned in 1974, in addition to Saturdays. Special features
in those years included demolition derbies, stuntman Ken Carter, The
Trans-Canada Hell Drivers, the Can-Am TQ Midgets, media races and
ladies' races. The Stocker Division was added in 1972 for older cars.
The dominent drivers in the final years included Don Biederman, Tom
Milligan, George Reuffer, Tom Cuzzilla, Doug Warnes, Bill Zardo, Phil
Zampino, Norm Lelliott, Howie Scannell and Junior Hanley. Some of
the top drivers in the Stocker division were John Fletcher Sr, George
Simms, Lambert Yake and John Buchanan.
In early August of 1976 it was announced that the races on Aug 14
would be the last at Pinecrest. The land had been sold for about $2,000,000
and would be redeveloped for commercial uses.
At the time, Rocco DiCarlo had plans to spend $600,000 to build a
half-mile track at Jane and Rutherford (near what is now Canada's
Wonderland) but nothing came of it despite rumours for several years
(even as late as 1980).
Tom Milligan won the last-ever feature at Pinecrest and was also the
1976 Track Champion. The Pinecrest drivers scattered to other tracks
in Ontario such as Flamboro, Sunset and Westgate (now Peterborough
Speedway). The closing of Pinecrest was the end for stock car racing
in the Toronto area for fourteen years, when racing briefly
returned to the CNE in 1990.
The track surface was ripped up and the grandstands torn down in the
early spring of 1977. Today the site is covered with industrial buildings
and nothing of the track remains. The name "Pinecrest" was
still in use in the area for many years by way of the Pinecrest Restaurant
and Truck Stop (now closed), Pinecrest Motel and Pinecrest 2000 Auto
Sales (also closed).