1977 Year in Review

Dennis Kardos was the first winner in the new Street Stock division

A 3rd weekly division was introduced for the 1977 season; an 8-cylinder stock car division dubbed the Street Stocks. United president Harvey Tattersall Jr was looking to boost car counts. The Grand Americans began to lose weekly competitors due to the escalating costs to be competitive. The Street Stock division debuted on May 7, 1977 with a 3 car, 5-lap race won by Dennis Kardos.  Half way through the season, their feature lengths were increased to 20 laps and by season’s end, they were approaching full fields.  Bob Faiella won a division best 6 times and took the points title by only 4 points over Kardos and 16 over Ed Reed.  Collectively, those top 3 point runners won 10 of the 13 events during the inaugural season. 

The season opening Blast Off ’77 Modified open competition brought many of the region’s best drivers to the shoreline oval – though many endured rough nights during qualifying this year.  Geoff Bodine had a tough night driving Dick Armstrong’s #1.  He crashed in both his heat & the feature.  Ollie Silva crashed violently during his heat – an incident which also involved Ron Bouchard.  Silva was uninjured but done for the night.  Bouchard’s team, however, was able to get him back out for the consolation round.  He not only won that event but went on to capture the 100 lap victory as well in the Judkins #2x Vega – surviving challenges from both Fred DeSarro and Bob Polverari who finished behind Bouchard at the checkereds.

George ‘Moose’ Hewitt won the 1st of his 5 Modified titles at Waterford in 1977

George “Moose” Hewitt won the Modified Championship by 20 points over Joe Tiezzi – both were 2-time feature winners.  It was the first of Hewitt’s 5 Speedbowl Modified Track Championships he would win during his career.  Bill Greco, once considered the King of United Racing for his many victories and championships at other United tracks in the 1950’s & 1960’s, led the division in wins with 3 (including both the Memorial Day and Mid-Season 100 lap events) in his return to weekly Speedbowl competition driving the Joe Zenga #06.  Tiezzi won the prestigious Waterford 200 – the 1st leg of the season ending Grand Slam Series.  Don Bunnell tied Greco for the division lead with 3 wins, including the Schaeffer 100 event held on Labor Day weekend.

For a 3rd and final time, Harvey Tattersall Jr crowned a Sportsman Modified Champion and this season it was young gun Rick Donnelly taking top honors.  Sportsman cars, who competed on the track within the Modified division, had separate points tallied to crown their champion.  Donnelly finished 300 points ahead of Rick Erlandson and Len Podbielski who tied for second place.  Donnelly also finished 5th in the Modified’s overall standings.  At the time considered the most promising young talent in the Speedbowl’s Modified division, Donnelly was a fan favorite as well – winning the Most Popular Driver Award.

Charlie Jarzombek’s only career win at Waterford came in the 1977 Yankee All-Star League event

Yankee All-Star League events were marred by rain outs.  By season’s end, only 1 of the 2 scheduled events at the Speedbowl were actually run.  The 50 lapper was won by “Chargin'” Charlie Jarzombek.  It was the Long Island (NY) Modified legend’s only career victory at the shoreline oval.

“Mr Mysterious” Wayne Smith won his 2nd Championship (1969) by clinching Grand American title by a slim 7 points over Brian McCarthy.  The last point event on September 10th was rained out and not rescheduled.  The championships were determined per the point standings after the September 3rd event and McCarthy’s hopes to catch Smith were over.  Wayne N. Smith, who drove the #5 car (“Mysterious” drove the #70), was the only repeat feature winner as he won the last 2 GA features of the season.  There were 11 different winners over 12 feature events.  All races were 25 laps.

‘Mr. Mysterious’ Wayne Smith was the 1977 Grand American Champion

The July 16th Grand American event was cancelled after the division’s race teams united to strike against the officials when their heats were scrapped for that evenings’ program.  According to the following week’s United Scene track program: ” The Grand Americans sat out the show on July 16th, as a disagreement with the track and competitors developed over the dropping of the heats for the evening.  All apparently has been resolved, however, and the action will return to normal this weekend.”  Harvey Tattersall Jr ran two 20-lap Street Stock features to make up for the lost GA feature.  Those races were won by Bob Faiella and Harry Rice.

Once again, the only touring division to visit the shoreline oval were the NEMA midgets.  This time it was legendary Johnny Coy who won the 25 lapper with a late race pass of Jon Evans for the victory.  At the time, it was considered one of the most exciting NEMA races ever held at the shoreline oval. 

One-third of the schedule was washed out as Mother Nature rained out 6 of the 18 scheduled weekly Saturday events.  Shirley Allard won the Powder Puff Derby in late August.


Segment on the Yankee All-Star League from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.