Tuesday January 14, 2014

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Waterford Speedbowl held their 2013 Awards Ceremony this past Saturday evening at Groton Inn & Suites to celebrate the past season’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and other Saturday series track champions despite the fact that storm clouds are brewing over the Route 85 track. Keith Rocco won his third championship in the track’s headline SK Modified® division. He also won the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division title to become the first driver in track history to claim both in the same season.

Joining Rocco as repeat champions were Corey Hutchings, who won a second Street Stock division title and Ken Cassidy Jr., champion in the Mini Stocks for a track record fifth time. Randy Churchill Jr. was a first time champion in the SK Light Modified division. Rounding out the 2013 Saturday Series champions included Dylan Izzo and Anthony Marvin who took honors in the INEX Legend Cars and Bandoleros respectively, as well as Jon Porter in Super X-Cars and Brad Voglesong in the X-Car division.

The Norwich Ct Bulletin reported that William McCoy from the law firm of Heller, Heller and McCoy in Uncasville, stated that a date will likely be set for the foreclosure sale of the Waterford Speedbowl in New London Superior Court. McCoy represents Rocco Arbitell and Peter Borelli, creditors who helped bail Waterford Speedbowl owner/promoter Terry Eames out of a similar situation with Washington Mutual Bank in 2007.

According to the Bulletin, Eames still owes Arbitell and Borelli $1,090,000 from that deal, a sum that will be recouped from the sale of the land that the track sits on unless Eames and his 1080 Hartford Road LLC group can come up with the funding to stop it. In addition to the money owed to Arbitell and Borelli, McCoy said Eames owes smaller creditors nearly another million dollars. The court has estimated the land that the Speedbowl occupies to be worth $3,075,000. According to Arbitell, Eames approached him recently with a plan that will keep Eames at the helm of the track through the upcoming season with the foreclosure sale pushed back to October.

But Arbitell said he is not in favor of that plan and would rather see the earlier date, April 12 according to McCoy, be enforced. "I don’t know if it’s a big concern as to whether the facility is operating as a race track or not," said McCoy. "There’s a limited market for those interested in buying small stock car facilities in New England. We believe the primary value of the land is that it is commercial and we’re seeking the earliest possible date (for the sale)."

McCoy, who is obviously not a fan of auto racing, said the only way he sees the track continuing to operate as a race facility this season is if someone comes to the table and convinces the judge that it makes more economic sense to do so rather than selling the property. If the decision is made in favor of the Speedbowl operating, McCoy said Arbitell and Borelli would like to see a court-appointed receiver placed in charge of the facility. "We would like to see a receiver put in place to assure the payment of bills," McCoy said. "We want to see someone operate it in a reasonable fashion so people will get paid and it won’t be only for personal gain."

Arbitell said on Thursday that he still wants to see racing continue at the Speedbowl and he still believes Eames may find a solution. Eames told the bulletin, "We’re continuing efforts to put new financing in place and we’re confident that we will operate this season,"
As it is, there are problems that have to be addressed prior to the first race of the season, according to Arbitell. Tops on that list are the grandstands, many of which were covered with tarps and yellow tape, unusable by the end of the 2013 season.

Meanwhile at the annual banquet, Rocco posted one of the most successful seasons in track history, led by 10 victories on his way to a third SK Modified® championship. He was also the division champion in 2010 and 2011. Rocco jumped on the competition early, winning the season opening event and three of the year’s first five races to set the tone. He trumped Todd Ceravolo, his father-in-law, in the final standings. With the title, Rocco earned his first championship owner’s trophy.

Not to be overshadowed, Rocco amassed 12 wins during the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division season to capture that crown. He teamed up with car owner Scott Fearn for the title run and won the class’s first two events in 2013, never looking back. In addition to becoming the first driver to win both division titles in the same season, Rocco’s 24 total victories at the track over the year set a new single season record, besting the previous mark of 23 set by legendary Speedbowl racer Don Collins in 1960. Rocco plans to defend both championships in 2014.

Numerous special awards were handed out. Picking up hardware for Top Rookies included third-generation racer Corey Coates of Ledyard in the SK Modifieds®, Chris Garside of Waterford in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models and Ryan Waterman of Danielson in the Street Stocks. Shelton’s Jeff Fialkovich won the honor for the SK Light Modifieds and Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott was the winner in the Legend Cars. There were no eligible rookie drivers for the Mini Stock class.

Sportsman of the Year Award recipients were Ed Puleo of Branford in the SK Modifieds®, Rich Duranti of Quaker Hill in the Late Models, Larry Goss of North Windham in the SK Light Modifieds and Paul Kusheba of Monroe for the Legend Cars. Waterman received the honor in the Street Stocks and Cassidy was the Mini Stock winner.

Taking home the Most Improved Driver honors included Craig Lutz of Miller Place, NY in the SK Modifieds® while Ray Christian III of Norwich and Phil Evans of Uncasville won the award in their respective Late Model and Street Stock classes. Chris Ivory of Oakdale was named for the Mini Stock division and Victoria Bergenty of Plainville in the SK Light Modifieds, the latter becoming the first female to win a NASCAR sanctioned event at the Speedbowl during 2013. Salem driver John O’Sullivan Jr. won it in the Legend Cars.

Pit Crew of the Year went to Kyle James’ Ashaway, RI based KJR Team in the SK Modifieds® while Jason Palmer’s J & J Racing Team was given the award in the Late Models. The teams of Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks and Garrett Denton in Mini Stocks took home the honors, while Churchill’s championship team was recognized in the SK Light Modifieds. Giovanni Giarratana’s team won it for Legend Cars.

Before we know it the 2014 racing season will begin. NASCAR Sprint Cup teams will be testing at the Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the season opening Daytona 500 which will be run on Sunday, Feb 23. The count down to Speed Week continues. As of this coming Friday, Jan 16, four weeks remain before the engines roar at New Smyrna on Feb 14 and at Daytona on the 15th.

For the 48th annual running of the World Series at the Florida half mile, track officials have opened up Modified rules to allow for more engine combinations and cars to compete.
The speedway sent out a news release to competitors last week stating steel-head engines will be allowed to compete with the Tour-Type Modifieds at this year's World Series with a restrictor plate insert. The addition of the steel-head engines is one of several instituted in order to open up competition to Modifieds from throughout the Northeast.

"Our goal was to have level competition with now series rules package dominating the World Series," said New Smyrna Speedway owner and promoter Robert Hart in the release. "NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars will not have to change anything than the gear ratio to compete at NSS. VMRS (Valenti Modified Racing Series) and RoC (Race of Champions Modified Tour) will have to perform minor changes to compete. Teams competing at the World Series can be assured that they will be treated fairly and by the book."

All Tour-Type Modifieds competing in the World Series must follow 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Whelen Southern Modified Tour, RoC or VMRS series rules with several exceptions and additions released last week.

"We wanted to create a rules package that would be as cost effective as possible," said New Smyrna Speedway owner and promoter Robert Hart in the release. "The rules package created by our Competition Director, Ricky Brooks, and Modified Director, Mark Tanner, was compiled with assistance from Tour Modified Competitors." Track officials sought the opinions and input from several experts in the Modified community to develop the rules package beyond competitors, as well.

"Assistance and input was received from a technical official with 20-plus years of experience, a Whelen Modified Tour championship-winning crew chief and car builder, an engine builder who supplies engines in the RoC, VMRS and Whelen Modified Tours and a Whelen Modified Tour car owner," added Hart.

Entries for the 2nd annual NASCAR Modified Battle at the Beach have begun to arrive at the Daytona International Speedway. Last years race was a total dis-credit to the Modified division. Hopefully this year will be different. Last year 15 northern tour entries were in the field, This year it looks like less than 12. Ted Christopher has notified Boehler Racing that he will not be in the mighty no.3 and chances are will not be going. After being booted out of the lead in the closing moments last year Mike Stefanik wont be back.

Tickets for the second annual UNOH Battle At The Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 18, part of Budweiser Speedweeks 2014 at Daytona International Speedway, are now on sale. Ticket prices start at $25 and can be purchased online at or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

On a sad note, Margaret A. Gaudreau, 68, passed away in her home in Norwich, CT on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, after a brave battle with ALS. She was born on Jan. 29, 1945, in Cooperstown, N.Y., the daughter of the late John Rude and Esther (Erickson) Rude. Margaret is well known in the auto racing community. She was one of the first women involved in racing and owned the famous "Buddha's Bullet" that won five modified championships at the Waterford Speedbowl during the 70s. She moved to Wauregan, CT as a young child and graduated from Plainfield High School in 1962. She was the beloved wife of Albert Gaudreau, having celebrated their 50th Anniversary prior to his death in 2013.In 1976, Margaret and her husband opened Al's Quality Auto and Marine Electric in New London, which they ran until they retired in 2005. Throughout her life, Peg (as she was known in racing circles) loved to go to the races and visit with her lifelong friends.

On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.22 to 34,90 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.13 to 19.81 while Dover Entertainment went up 0.01 to 2.46. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 2.66 to 25.99 while NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.48 to 9.46 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 1.49 to 53.94. The car makers had a positive week. Ford went up 0.56 to 16.07, General Motors went up 0.46 to 40.03 and Toyota went up 0.30 to 120.81. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.73 to 49.68 and Home Depot went up 0.12 to 82.01. The big team sponsor’s stocks showed little for the week. Coca-Cola went up 0.21 to 72.47 and Fedex went up 2.58 to 142.63, Dupont dropped 0.24 to 63.54, Target dropped 0.87 to 62.62 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.58 to 28.97.

Television coverage is beginning to heat up:
1/15 Wed 4:00 PM 5:00 PM NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year on FS2
1/16 Wed 12:00 PM 1:00 PM NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year on FS1
1/16 Thurs 5:00 PM 6:00 PM NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year on FS2

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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