Ernie McLean

Ernie McLean on the left, congratulates John Shirtliff on his win at the inaugural River Glade International race in 1965.

Inducted 2000

Stock car racing in New Brunswick was literally invented, nurtured and propped up by this dynamo of a promoter. Originally from Chatham, N.B. Ernie got into racing in Ontario when he started hanging around the Pinecrest Speedway in Toronto. He bought his first jalopy-type stock car from Jim Hallihan. Like many people behind the scenes Ernie realized his talents lay in other areas. Taking his wife and family back to the Maritimes, he settled in River Glade N.B. There was no racing in New Brunswick at the time; so Ernie put up posters and held meeting to gauge interest in Moncton and other locales.

As a result, he plowed out a quarter-mile track behind his barn on his River Glade property and River Glade Speedway was born in 1964. In 1965 he paved the place and thus was born the first asphalt oval speedway in the Maritimes. His extra-distance “International” was born in 1965 and many a Canadian and U.S. driver has claimed this race as their first “big win,” among them Earl Ross, Junior Hanley and Don Biederman. As other tracks opened, Ernie responded to the competition by bringing in the NESMRA supermodifieds and other attractions.

As other tracks fell into disrepair or neglect, Ernie stepped in to rescue them – among them Miramichi Speedway, Fredericton’s Brookside Speedway, Bathurst’s Danny Speedway and Riverside Speedway near New Glasgow, N.S. Due to the unwavering work of Ernie, those tracks continue to flourish today. Ernie was instrumental in forming the MASCAR touring series.

He also brought the NASCAR North and American-Canadian Tout to Maritime ovals. Not one to sequester himself in the racing fold, Ernie also sponsored courEt1ese local hockey teams from kids to old-timers. He was twice honoured by Toronto’s Promoters Workshop, once with the Achievement Award for Dedication to Racing Promotion and a second time as Promoter of The Year. In short, Ernie introduced a sport to an area of the country where none existed, he initiated hundreds of drivers to this sport, he gave thousands of fans the opportunity to enjoy the sport.

His nickname, “Father of Maritime Canadian Stock Car Racing”, is richly deserved.

Image via Petty International Raceway

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