1987 Year in Review

1987_Bob Potter_SK_Champ (Hodge)
Bob Potter scored his 5th Speedbowl
championship in 1987 (Howie Hodge photo)

The 1987 SK Modified season would end with 75 and 100 lap events – both worth double points.  In the 75 lapper, Ronnie occo had an incredible run.  He qualified thru the consi, then pitted multiple times early in the feature before taking the lead around the half-way mark.  He would go on to the win, while the top 2 point leaders Ed Flemke Jr & Bob Potter both finished several laps down.  Rocco, who went into the event 5th in the standings, emerged tied for the point lead with Flemke, while Potter sat 4 points behind heading into the final event.

In the season-ending 100 lapper, Flemke had the worst luck being involved in 2 separate incidents early in the event that took him out of title contention.  Rocco had a solid day finishing 3rd, but Potter took the win to finish the 2 positions ahead of Rocco he needed to clinch the title.  Potter’s 5th championship tied him with Don Collins & Moose Hewitt for the most ever at the Speedbowl. He again led the division in wins as well with 5 – capping his season with a double point 100 lap win during Finale Weekend.  Rick Donnelly won his 4th Blast Off event and first since it was converted to an SK Modified event in 1985.  Potter, Mark Lajeunesse and Ted Christopher won the 50 lap events.

1987_Phil_rondeau_LM_Champ (Dugas)
‘Farmer’ Phil Rondeau won his 2nd Late Model
Championship in 1987 driving
Jay Stuart’s #66 car (Rene Dugas photo)

Prior to the season, the Super Stock division rules were ammended, giving them racing tires and officially renaming them Late Models.  Except for a brief stint at the turn of the century, the division has been named Late Models ever since.

Phil Rondeau had his most dominate season to date earning his 2nd Late Model Championship driving Jay Stuart’s #66 car and capturing a record 11 feature wins.   Rondeau’s season included 3 separate streaks of 3 wins in a row.  On July 18th, he won 2 features on the same day.  Dennis Gada won two 30 lap features and became the 7th member of his family to earn a feature win.  Bob Greene won the season ending double point 50 lapper during Finale Weekend.

NASCAR presented a new Connecticut Tri-Track series which combined points from all 3 Connecticut short tracks (Waterford, Stafford and Thompson) for the SK Modified and Late Model divisions. Tri-Track Champions were Thompson SK Champion Ted Christopher and Stafford & Waterford LM Champion Phil Rondeau.

Jimmy Spencer was the 1987 winner of the
NASCAR Modified Tour event at Waterford
(Peter Lawlor photo)

MJ Sullivan 100 returned for a third season as the NASCAR Modifieds’ lone Speedbowl event in 1987. 3-time NASCAR Champion Bugsy Stevens broke the Modified track record with a 15.090 lap time in qualifying.  It was the 4th straight NASCAR Mod event where the lap record was broken.  Eventual series champion and future NASCAR Cup star Jimmy Spencer won the 100 lap June event, which may be most memorable for the uncomplimentary comments Spencer made in the post-race interview about the Speedbowl’s racing surface.  It was the only touring series event in 1987 as both the NEMA midgets and New England Mini Modifieds (Pro-4’s) did not compete at the shoreline oval this season.

The Finale Weekend was delayed a month due to inclement weather and scheduling conflicts.  The weekly point division’s seasons finally concluded on October 25th.

After months of speculation that they were going to buy the track from Harvey Tattersall Jr, the 1987 season would be the last for the Arute family operating the Speedbowl. They turned their focus back solely on their own track in Stafford Springs, CT which remains one of the most successful short tracks in the country to this day.


Segment on Phil Rondeau’s dominant run during the late 1980’s