1985 Year in Review
During the off-season, Jack Arute, owner of the Stafford Springs (CT) Motor Speedway, signed a 3-year lease with owner Harvey Tattersall Jr to take over the day-to-day operations of the Waterford Speedbowl. Under the promotional team dubbed 7A Productions, Arute also brought a NASCAR sanction and the weekly divisions would now compete under the Winston Weekly Racing Series banner. The track staff was overhauled as well: Ed Yerrington served as Vice President, Dan Pardi was the new Race Director, Leo Waters became the Chief Steward and Dexter Burnham took over as Public Relations Director. Stafford’s Pit Stopper also became the Speedbowl’s official weekly track program.
There were two significant renovations to the facility in 1985: An electronic scoreboard was installed on the backstretch – it was the first time the track had any type of scoring visual for the fans in the grandstands. After two nasty wrecks at the turn 2 gate early in the season, the 7A team created the turn 4 pit gate. Cars would now enter the track from the pits thru this gate, while they would now return to the pits via the existing turn 3 pit gate. Some of the other cosmetic improvements included bleacher and armco barrier repairs, fresh paint around the facility and renovations to the midway concession stands.
The most significant change to the weekly format was the inclusion of Stafford’s upstart SK Modifieds® as the premiere open-wheel division. Their features would be 35 laps each week as compared to the previous years’ 30 lap events for the weekly Modifieds. The Mods returned during 2 NASCAR Winston Modified Series events and now would compete only as a touring series division while the SK’s have continued as the headlining division into the 21st century, not only at the Speedbowl but all current Connecticut short tracks. The Super Stock division mirrored Stafford’s Super Stock division and competitors often ran both tracks with the same car.
For the second year in a row, the premiere division ended with 2 drivers tied atop the final point standings. This season it was Rick Fuller and Jerry Pearl who finished deadlocked. Pearl, who also won the 1985 Stafford SK title, fell short of the Speedbowl title when Fuller was awarded the championship by virtue of the newly implemented wins-tie-breaker format. Fuller had the edge 5-1. Rick’s victories included the 85 lap Blast Off event and a 50 lapper in August. Pearl earned the Gatorade Circle of Champions Award, which combined SK Mod points from both Stafford and Waterford tracks, and collected a $10,000 check for the title at season’s end. Second-generation driver Ed Flemke Jr won the mid-season Winston SK 100 for his first career feature win in any division at any level. Dick Ceravolo won the Finale 100. There were 13 different winners during the SK Modifieds® debut season at the Speedbowl.
4-time feature winner Phil Rondeau beat out defending champion and 5-time winner C.J. Frye to win the first of his record-tying 6 Waterford Speedbowl Late Model Championships. 1983 Champ Art Moran Jr, who tied for 3rd place in points, led the division (and the track overall) with 7 wins. Winners of the extra-distance 30 lap events during the season included Moran, Frye and Dave Gada.
The Speedbowl’s Modified time trial record time was broke twice when Leo Cleary posted a 15.674 time trial lap during qualifying for the NASCAR Modified M.J. Sullivan 100 in June. Carl “Bugsy” Stevens then beat that mark in August when he qualified for the NASCAR Busch 100 in August with a 15.629 lap. 1979 Modified Champion Rick Donnelly won the June event over several of the region’s best Modified drivers. He became the first driver to win a Modified and SK Modified event at the Speedbowl in the same season. Veteran Ray Miller won the August NASCAR event.
At the annual Race of Champions event at Pocono (PA) International Speedway, Mike Lovetere, who elected to forgo weekly racing at the Speedbowl to compete in more regional events, won his qualifying heat and finished an impressive 4th in the 54 car Street Stock feature event. Defending Speedbowl Modified Champion George “Moose” Hewitt started 16th in the Modified event, but finished a disappointing 43rd.
The Speedbowl schedule included an off-week for the weekly divisions on Sept. 7 to not conflict with the Stafford 200 NASCAR Modified race. In it’s place, the first Enduro event ever held in the State of Connecticut was scheduled at the Waterford Speedbowl. An event drew an incredible 268 cars and a reported crowd of close to 8,000 people attended. The inaugural event was won by Mike Calder – his only career victory at the Waterford Speedbowl.
The New England Antique Racers (NEAR), a non-profit organization founded in 1981, held their first exhibition race at the Speedbowl during the NASCAR MJ Sullivan event in June. The race, featuring restored race cars from previous eras, was won by Pete Penfield in the #77 modified coupe entry.
The NEMA Midgets continued to include the Speedbowl on it’s schedule. This season’s lone event was won by Nokie Fornoro.