John Whitehouse‘s absence didn’t last long as he was back as Race Director after one season away. He again changed some rules, most notably limited Modified motors not to exceed 366 cubic inches. This, in essence, banned the big block modifieds and the Speedbowl would run small block modifieds as their headlining division. Charlie Stebbins, who was Race Director in Whitehouse’s absence in 1971, was moved to the Publicity Director position.
Dick Dunn got behind Peg & Al Gaudreau’s #3 car – affectionately called “Buddah’s Bullet”, and won his first Speedbowl Championship. He captured 4 victories during the season. Dick Caso won the most features, grabbing his 5th win on the last race of the year. Ed Flemke won the season opening 50 lapper and Jerry Dostie won the Schaefer 75 Modified event on Wednesday July 12th. He took home over $1,500 in winnings. Bob Potter once again set fast time during time trials with a 16.530 lap time.
The Sportsman Sedans had one of the most thrilling championships battles in track history in 1972. Going into the final point race on September 9th, Ron Cote, Bob Gada and Jerry Lillquist were all eligible to win the title. During the feature, Cote had problems getting around Michael Buscetto, as Buscetto seemed to be aggressively blocking Cote from advancing through the field. Buscetto was disqualified from the event and suspended for the next three weeks (non-point shows) for rough riding. There were also claims that “Mr Mysterious” Wayne Smith was doing the same to others in the field to benefit Cote. When it was all over, Cote finished the race in 15th place, but it was still enough to clinch the title by just 1 point over both Gada (who finished 5th in the Finale) and Lillquist, who tied for second place. It was the 2nd Championship in 3 years for Cote. The finish and decisions by officials stirred a wild debate between members of both sides for weeks to come. The longest race of the year was a 30-lap non-point event held on October 8th when the Modifieds were off for the Race of Champions event. Dick LaFlesh won the 30 lap feature. There were 15 different winners throughout the season.
One of the track owners, Don Benvenuti, who was a former motorcycle racer himself, spearheaded the effort to build a 1/5 mile motorcycle track inside the asphalt track. Motorcycle racing was held on Friday nights and featured many of the best motorcyclists in the Northeast, including a young 16 year old from Middletown, CT named Jimmy Ellis. Ellis would go on to a successful motorcross career all over the world, culminating with his induction into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2012.
SPEEDBOWL DOC SERIES
Segment on the motorcycle track of the early 1970’s from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.