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1976 Year in Review

1976_Bob_Potter_Modified_Champ (Dugas)
Bob Potter behind the wheel of Art Barry's #14 Modified in victory lane.   (Rene Dugas photo)
Bob Potter won the first of his 6 Modified Championships in 1976 driving 5 different cars total during the season, 4 of which he put in victory lane.  He won 4 of the first 6 races of the year in the Coventry Racing Enterprises #11RI, but motor problems stalled their season.  The point leader at the time, Potter then teamed up with Art Barry in June.  He drove Barry's #14 Vega to victory lane on July 10th, but blew the motor in practice the next week.  Later that same night, Billy Harman, who was nursing a shoulder injury, offered Potter his ride in the Joe Zenga #06 for the night.  Potter won the heat and then the feature later that night.  He returned to the Barry #14 for the rest of the season, winning the 100 lap Mid-Season Championship on July 31st and the 75 lap portion of the Grand Slam Series events in late August.  He was also named that series' overall winner for the second year in a row.  He ended the season with his 9th victory of the season in a non-point 25 lapper on September 18th driving a Dick Ceravolo #17 team car.

Potter ended Dick Dunn's streak of consecutive Modified titles, while Dunn's car owner Peg Gaudreau won her 5th consecutive owner's championship in the Modifieds. Carl "Bugsy" Stevens won the Blast Off 100 and Riverside Park Speedway star Bob Polverari won the Fall Stinger 100.  Dunn won the two other 100 lap events held during the year. Mike Beebe was declared the Sportsman Champion.

The Yankee All-Star League returned for a second season.  This year's Speedbowl 50-lap events were won by two NASCAR Modified Champions Carl "Bugsy" Stevens and Fred DeSarro.  It was Bugsy's 2nd modified win of the season at the 'bowl while it was the late DeSarro's only career win at the shoreline oval.  Geoff Bodine was declared the 1976 Yankee All-Star Champion. For more information on this unique series click here.

Donnie_Bunnell-318
Donnie Bunnell won the 1976 Bicentennial 200 Modified event in his familiar #318 coupe (uncredited photo)
On Saturday July 3, the first 200 lap Modified race in Waterford Speedbowl history took place.  Called the Bicentennial 200 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence the following day, the winner's purse was $1776 and at the time, the event was billed as the Greatest Race in Speedbowl History.  The race featured a mandatory fuel pit stop on lap 100 and was won by Speedbowl regular Don Bunnell in his familiar #318 coupe.  A mild upset at the time considering that by 1976 most of the modifieds were now Pinto, Mustang, Gremlin or Vega style machines, not coupes (like Bunnell's #318) which dominated the landscape in the 1950's or 60's. Another interesting moment during the event happened during qualifying when Dave Weber went into an end-over-end flip after riding over Larry Lamphear's tire.  Weber was taken to the hospital, but released later that night with only minor injuries.

Donny Fowler, who won 4 features for the second year in a row, repeated as Grand American Track Champion.  Unlike previous seasons, there were no extra distance events for the supporting division this year – all features held were 25 laps.  There were 9 different race winners during the season.

Outside of the Yankee All-Star events, the only touring division to visit the shoreline oval were the NEMA midgets.  Armond Holley won the 25-lapper in June.  A 2nd NEMA race in August was rained out and not rescheduled.

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