Prior to the 1983 season, track operator Dick Williams hired Ed Flemke as the new Chief Steward. Flemke was one of the most accomplished and respected modified drivers of all time, part of the famed ‘Eastern Bandits’ with Red Foote, Denny Zimmerman and Rene Charland who built a reputation for racing up and down the east coast winning numerous big shows over the years. In 1983, his Race Works shop was also highly successful building cars for several competitors throughout the region. Flemke had recently retired from behind the wheel when Williams approached him about joining the Waterford staff. Although Dick Williams remained Race Director in title, in 1983 it was Flemke who oversaw most of the competition at Waterford in his new role including race procedures and technical inspections.
Bob Potter returned to top form in 1983 – winning 5 times to capture his 3rd Modified title at the Speedbowl. He captured a mid-week 50 lapper in June, the Manchester Oil 100 during 4th of July weekend and his 3rd straight Matco Tools 100 in September. He also scored his only Late Model victory on Super Stock Saturday in a 15-lap event with Modified drivers only competing in the fendered division. Rick Donnelly finished first on the track during the 83 lap Blast Off opener, but he later refused technical inspection, giving Dick Ceravolo his second straight Blast Off win as well as the qualifying spot in the Thompson 300 that went with it. Don Bunnell won a 50 lap Thompson 300 qualifier in August.
Veteran Late Model competitor Brian McCarthy won the first 2 Super Stock events driving Jay Stuart’s #66 car. He then left the Speedbowl to compete in Stafford Speedway’s upstart SK Modified division. At the time, Speedbowl rules stated that Modified drivers were not eligible to compete in the Super Stocks. McCarthy did not compete in the Super Stocks for over 2 months until promoter Dick Williams ammended the rule to prohibiting only ‘active’ Modified competitors from Super Stock events. Since McCarthy’s Stafford race team dissolved after only a few weeks, he was eventually allowed back into the Speedbowl’s Super Stocks. He returned for the August 13th event driving for Howie Blackburn. He struggled early, qualifying for the feature via the last spot in the consolation race. He started the feature in 24th, charged through the field and won the 20 lap event. He won his 4th race in October to lead the division, despite missing half the season. A young Art Moran Jr took the points title without benefit of a single victory. On July 2nd, a young Phil Rondeau won his first ever Late Model feature at the Waterford Speedbowl – the first of the 100+ he’d accumulate over his Speedbowl Late Model career over the next 2 decades. He scored two feature wins and the Rookie of the Year award by season’s end. In a 13 race stretch from late June to early September, there was a different Super Stock winner in each event.
1983 season saw the emergence of many of the the Speedbowl’s upcoming stars. In addition to Rondeau, future Track Champions C.J. Frye, Dave Gada and Tom Fox all scored their first career wins during the year. 1982 Seekonk (MA) Speedway Modified Champion Bruce “Gomer” Taylor won his first Modified event at the Speedbowl during this season as well.
The NASCAR North Shoreline 100 event returned on May 30th, newly sponsored and rebranded as the Stroh’s Late Model Tour. Dave Dion again took the victory in the Shoreline 100. Randy Lajoie, who was a Speedbowl regular last year, now ran the NASCAR North Tour full-time. He started 8th and took the lead on lap 10. He led for 34 laps before Dion got by him. Lajoie ended up with a 6th place finish. He would scored his 1st career win on this tour 4 races later at Catamount Speedway.
Longtime Speedbowl competitor Fred “Fuzzy” Baer Jr, who had competed at the Speedbowl since it’s inaugural season in 1951, was honored at the post-season awards banquet for his 33 years competing at the track. One of the most popular drivers in the track’s history, Fuzzy had 4 career wins in the Modifieds – all captured between 1966-1969. After his father Fred Sr a.k.a. “Pops” passed away, he returned to driving behind the wheel of car owned by Mark LaJeunesse.
The competitive balance amongst the weekly divisions hit an all-time high as both the Modifieds and Super Stocks produced 14 different feature winners. That stat’s even more amazing considering rain cancelled all or part of 6 other scheduled events during the season. The Speedbowl also benefited from excellent car counts this season. The modified division averaged 34 cars attempting to qualify for their weekly events, with a season-high 42 cars for the June 25 show. The Super Stocks averaged 38 cars attempting to qualify, with a season-high 42 cars on both August 27 and September 24.
SPEEDBOWL DOC SERIES
3 combined segments on Dick Williams’ Coastal Racing Association from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.
Segment on Ed Flemke’s tenure as Chief Steward in 1983 from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.