SEEKONK, Mass. — The entire New England racing community lost another icon on Tuesday morning. Leo “The Lion” Cleary, who is a New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member and a Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame member, passed away at the age of 88.
In his over 40 years time in racing, Cleary won multiple races and championships at various different tracks in New England. He started his career at Seekonk in 1955 and it continued all the way through the late 1980s, when he won his final championships at the third-mile oval.
Cleary scored the Pro Stock championship in 1986, then was able to capture the title in the Mini Modifieds division a year later in 1987. Not only was Cleary was a four-time champion (also won a title in 1972 & 1979) at Seekonk, but he won a total of 14 championships in his racing career in New England, according to the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame website.
In New England, Cleary also raced at Thompson, Stafford and New London-Waterford Speedbowl and also took his talents to the south on many occasions. At the age of 63, Cleary suffered an injury while behind the wheel and decided to end his career in 1993. He was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame just six years later in 1999.
Cleary was inducted into the Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame in 2016, but wasn’t able to make the induction ceremony due to personal reasons. Rollie Lindblad accepted the honor in his name.
Sources: Seekonk Speedway