Ask most retired drivers what tracks
they raced at, and you might get the name of one, two or maybe a
half dozen tracks. Ask Leo “The Lion” Cleary and you had better have
some time to listen. Leo competed at the Medford Bowl, Lonsdale,
Norwood, Catamount, and Westboro. Among active tracks, he raced at
Thompson, Seekonk, Stafford, Martinsville, Oswego, Waterford, and
New Smyma, along with several others.
In his 44 years behind the wheel,
Cleary took down 14 track championships, including the Norwood
Arena, Seekonk, and Thompson. These championships have come behind
the wheel of jalopies, cutdowns, full coupes, modifieds, pro-stocks,
and mini modifieds.
At age 58, when most people are
busy planning their retirement, Cleary was busy planning his season
at Seekonk, where he took down the 1986 pro stock championship. The
next year, the 59 year old Cleary switched to mini modifieds, again
winning the Seekonk Championship. When Aetna Insurance transferred
Cleary to Florida in 1988, most people, including Leo himself,
figured that was the end of his racing. That’s when Vic Kangus
convinced him to hop into his Florida modified, which he drove until
1993, when, at age 63, he suffered four broken ribs, and hung up his
helmet for good.
Leo Cleary’s career spanned six
decades. He has progressed from the early stock jalopies to the
modern mini mods, pro stocks and modifieds.