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1991 Year in Review

1991_Phil Rondeau_LM_Champ (Dugas)
'Farmer' Phil Rondeau won his 5th Late Model title at Waterford in 1991 (Rene Dugas photo)
Phil Rondeau won his 5th Late Model championship in the last 7 years by edging out 10-time winner Tom Fox in the final standings by 25 points. Fox won the 50 lap season opener and 4 of the last 5 events to close out the season.  Jerry Young won a 75 lapper in September. Crowd favorites and former track champions C.J. Frye (1984) and Mike Daignault (1973) returned to weekly competition – finishing 5th and 6th respectively in the point standings – with each capturing victories during the season as well.

1991_Ricky Young_SK_Champ (Canney)
Ricky Young earned the 1991 SK Modified Championship (Frank W. Canney Jr photo)
Ted Christopher led the SK Modifieds in wins with 6 including the Waterford 200 portion of The Showdown over Labor Day weekend.  It was the last 200-lap SK Modified event at the track until the Modified Nationals events would begin in 1997.  He also won a 75 lapper in May.  16 different SK drivers visited victory lane during the season – including one-time winner and eventual '91 track champion Ricky Young.  The Gada brothers Dave, Mike and Dennis would visit victory lane in the same season for the first time – a feat first accomplished by their father Bob and his brothers Chris and Larry in the Sportsman Sedan division during the 1971 season.  The second generation brothers would repeat the collective trifecta in 1994 and again in 1996.  Dennis' win was the 91 lap Blast Off season opener.  Donny Fowler won the 60-lap SK event as part of the Chill Out event in late September.

The May 11th modified event had one of the more unique accidents in track history as Bob Potter ended the night's festivities after flying over a track wall on lap 4 of the modified feature.  While riding in the middle of the pack early in the race, Potter was among many who checked up after some cars up front made contact.  Moving to the high groove in hopes to avoid any pile up, Potter's Ceravolo #31 hit Mark LaJeunesse’s right side tire and sent the 6-time champion airborne over the backstretch wall.  Fortunately he went directly into a catch fence and the car landed on all fours on a dirt embankment.  Amazingly, Potter walked away from the wreck unharmed, but severe damage to the fencing and cables forced the remainder of the race to be postponed.  Ted Christopher won the held-over event the following week.

Potter_wreck-1 (Dugas)
Bob Potter's car after flying over backstretch wall (Rene Dugas photo)
Potter_wreck-1 (Maureen Sheppard)
The #31 car landed on all 4 tires on the pit access road (Maureen Sheppard photo)
Potter_wreck-2 (Maureen Sheppard)
Barrier fencing was heavily damaged after this wreck (Maureen Sheppard photo)

Defending Strictly Stock champion David Blain won the second 100-lap event for the 8 cylinder stock division (Ed Yerrington Jr – '79 Street Stocks) and the first since the division's rebirth as the Strictly Stocks in 1988.  Billed as the New England Championships under an open competition format, the supporting division was given the track to themselves on the Saturday before the traditional season opening Blast Off event.  37 cars took the green flag including visiting competitors from tracks as far away as Monadnock, NH.  2nd generation driver Mike Holdridge, who won the season opening 25-lap portion of the Blast Off, went on to win the Strictly Stock track championship.  Mike's cousin Larry Barnett won his 8th career feature in the division – at the time, 3rd best career total behind Allan Wohlstrom (13) and 5-time 1991 winner Bob Bruce (9)

Time trial events were held for all three Busch Racing Series divisions throughout the season.  Jimmy Broderick set the SK Modified lap record with an 15.000 qualifying effort during Blast Off '91.  It was the first time trials for the SK Modifieds at the Speedbowl.  The Strictly Stock division also had their first ever time trial qualifying event as part of the late season Waterford 200 – The Showdown.  Charles Bailey III held the inaugural record after a 18.460 fast time.  Jay Stuart set a new Late Model lap record after turning a 16.980 during Blast Off qualifying.  Ted Christopher (SK) and Kevin Debbis (LM) set respective fast times (although not record times) during the Waterford 200 – The Showdown in September.

Above is a video from one of the many Match Race exhibitions the Korteweg's held during their intermission segments prior to feature racing.  This one pairs up two of the best ever in the Speedbowl Late Model division:  Tom Fox and Jay Stuart.

9-21-91_Speedbowl_Legends_AD
Promotional ad for the 1st Legends of the Speedbowl exhibition race (Alan B. Coull design)

Waterford held it's first ever Legends of the Speedbowl race on September 21st.  The exhibition was a variation the popular Officials' Race concept – this time putting retired drivers from the Speedbowl's long history in current Strictly Stock competitors' cars.  The 20-lap event was won by 1962 Bomber track champion Ed Moody while driving Tracy Kernozek's #33.  In another example of the bonds formed throughout our racing community, the Moody and Kernozek families, who first met just prior to this event, remain friends to this day.

The Sunday Enduro divisions were revised and points were awarded and track champions were crowned for the first time.  Mark Lewis won the 8-cylinder title while Bruce Thomas won the 4-cylinder championship.  In our research, we start the Mini Stocks statistical history with this first year in 1991 even though they weren't officially called Mini Stocks until 1992.  The 8-cylinder division would be renamed Pure Stocks.  Women on Wheels debuted as well as the track held women's events twice for each enduro division during the season.

In 1991, Connecticut governor Lowell P. Wiecker cut the state budget, reducing DMV positions for non-essential jobs which included the DMV officials used at auto racing facilities. Prior to the July 4th weekend of events, Wiecker approved that DMV officials could work at the Speedbowl although they would be paid by the track directly, not by the state. This essentially marked the end of the Department of Motor Vehicles presiding over auto racing events at the Speedbowl.  They had previously done so since the track's inception in 1951.

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