1978 Year in Review
The 1978 season saw a changing of the guard when one-time local car owner Dick Williams leased the track from Harvey Tattersall Jr for the upcoming season under his new Coastal Racing Association. A tireless promoter during the height of his career into the early 1980’s, Williams served as both the promoter and Race Director. 2-time Speedbowl Modified Champion Bill Slater came aboard as a Special Advisor. Car counts and fan attendance increased during 1978 and by season’s end, Williams was celebrated around the racing community for breathing new life into the Speedbowl. Even with all the accolades, Williams could not come to agreement with Tattersall for the 1979 season, so he left the Speedbowl after just one season and moved his Coastal Racing operation to Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire.
The Modified division was revamped under the Coastal Racing sanction. Williams held a competition meeting prior to the season with drivers and car owners. As a result of that meeting and according to a press release in the Speedbowl Scene track program that season: “In the Modified ranks, the stock cylinder head and tire rules have been dropped, and standard 366 cubic inch small block rules adopted.” This rules amendment also meant the end of the Sportsman point system that was implemented from 1975-1977. Stan Gregor set a new Modified track record with a 16.290 lap during the Spring 100 – the new name for the Blast Off during Williams’ tenure in 1978.
Moose Hewitt won a division best 5 features – 4 of which came on consecutive Saturday nights in late June and was capped by a 75 lap Race of Champions qualifier victory on July 1st. His 5th win came on Labor Day weekend. He took the points title by 25 over 4-time champ Dick Dunn to claim his second consecutive Modified Championship at the shoreline oval. Ron Bouchard won the first 3 races of the season, including the Spring 100. Dunn won the next 3 races including a 50 lap event on Memorial Day weekend. Bugsy Stevens won the season ending NAPA 50 lap open competition event.
The Yankee All-Star League was revamped in 1978 to include 7 tracks from 3 states: Massachusetts (Westboro, Seekonk), New Hampshire (Star, Monadnock) and Connecticut (Stafford, Thompson, Waterford). Each track would host a single 100 lap event. In the Waterford event on August 9th – as was the case for every Yankee All-Star race that year – Geoff Bodine took the win. His clean sweep of the entire series clinched him the ’78 YAS title unchallenged, in what turned out to be the series’ last season.
Don Fowler and Dick LaFlesh were declared co-champions in the Grand American division when the both finished with 368 points by season’s end. For Fowler, it was his 3rd championship in the last 4 seasons. It was LaFlesh’s only career Speedbowl Championship. In 1978, there were no tie-breaker rules for points. Bob Gada led the division in wins with 5, including the season ending NAPA 50 lapper, and was the point leader going into the final point race. But Gada was involved in an accident mid-way through the event that resulted in a DNF. Fowler & LaFlesh both finished in the top 5. In the final standings, Gada finished just 10 points behind the co-champions.
The Street Stock division continued to grow in popularity. With car counts increasing weekly, 9 different drivers won features during the season. Ed Reed led all drivers with 4 victories in route to the Street Stock Championship. Reed, who finished 8 points ahead of Scott Piorier in the final standings, also won the Most Popular Driver Award. Fred Sentell won a 25-lapper on July 22nd – at the time, it was the longest race in the division’s history. Then, starting with the August 19th event and due to the rapidly growing car counts, the Street Stock features were increased to 20 laps for their weekly point events.
Len Boyd and Johnny Mann won the 2 NEMA Midget events. A new touring division called the New England Mini-Modified Association debuted at the Speedbowl this season. The 4-cylinder open-wheel series is now known as the Pro4 Modified Tour. Their inaugural event at the Speedbowl was a 35 lapper dubbed the “Connecticut State Mini Stock Championship” and was won by Bob Hackel.
SPEEDBOWL DOC SERIES
3 combined segments on Dick Williams’ Coastal Racing Association from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.
Segment on the Yankee All-Star League from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.