Prior to this season, Harvey Tattersall Jr sold the right to purchase the track to an investment group called Waterford Sports Center, Inc. One of the partners was George Korteweg, who formed the K Corporation with his two sons Dan and Wayne and leased the facility from Tattersall for the 1988 season while the sale was being finalized. The new regime immediately made their impact on the facility with various renovations. The most significant of which was repaving the track, which eventually gave the shoreline oval its unique two-groove racing surface which continues to provide exciting side-by-side action to this day. Other improvements included installation of a Armco barrier around the track’s perimeter, paving the pit area, renovated restroom facilities, new PA tower and refurbished concession stands.
The Kortewegs did not continue the NASCAR sanction, ending the affiliation after only 3 seasons. Their events were sanctioned independently as the Busch Racing Series. The rules for the headlining SK Modifieds remained the same, however they were referred to as Connecticut Modifieds (or simply Modifieds) as the term SK Modifieds® is a registered trademark of the Stafford Speedway.
The weekly racing format was also revamped as the the new Strictly Stock division was designed to give low-budget racers an affordable opportunity to compete on a weekly basis. The first event (a non-point 25-lapper during Blast Off ’88) had four cars and was won by Hank Green. Their regular feature events were 15-laps, usually last on the schedule and postponed 8 times due to curfew throughout the season. 2-time winner Bruce Adams earned the point championship by 20 points over 4-time winner Larry Barnett. Allan Wohlstrom won the Strictly’s longest race of the year – a 50 lapper during Autumn Excitement.
Dick Ceravolo won his first track championship in the Modified division despite going winless during the year. The popular “Dickie Doo” rode off into the sunset on top as he announced his retirement from racing at the season-ending awards banquet. Ted Christopher led the division with 5 wins including two 50-lappers and the 100-lap SK portion of the Open Wheel 200 non-point event in early November. Richie Gallup won 3 of the first 4 events, including the 88-lap Blast Off event while Harry Rice won the Race of Champions qualifier. Rice’s 3 wins were his first Modified victories since 1982. John Anderson also won 3 times.
Phil Rondeau continued his assault on the Connecticut short tracks. “Farmer Phil” won the Championships at Waterford (and Stafford Speedway) for the 2nd year in a row. He won 11 features at the Speedbowl for the 2nd straight season. The Rondeau and Cote families dominated the Late Model division winning 22 of the 26 events during the season. It wasn’t until mid-August when Ricky Shawn broke the Rondeau-Cote dominance in victory lane. Al Rondeau finished second in both points and wins (5) to his brother Phil. Long-time veteran and 2-time track champion Ron Cote won 3 features (his first at the Speedbowl since 1979) joining his nephews Larry Cote (2) and Conrad Cote (1) on the season win list. The Cote’s also won consecutive features (Larry, Conrad, then Ron) during the month of May.
Tom Bolles set a new overall track record when he posted a 13.478 time during qualifying for the Modified 250 event in November. The 100-lap open competition portion of the Modified 250 was won by Mike McLaughlin. The event also featured a 50-lap Pro 4 Modified race and a 100- lap SK race won by Ted Christopher.
Once again, the Speedbowl Late Models were well represented at the Pocono Race of Champions. Phil Rondeau won a qualifying heat and finished 2nd in the Street Stock event. Ron Cote started 54th in the 57 car field and gained an incredible 43 positions to finish just outside the Top 10 in 11th. Brian McCarthy started 10th and Ricky Shawn 12th after both finished second in their qualifying heats, although neither finished in the top 25. With the SK Modifieds now the premier division at the Speedbowl, Waterford representation at the ROC event was now primarily in the Street Stock event.
Although some individual races would be postponed to later dates when rain interrupted a few events, not one scheduled event was cancelled in its entirety due to Mother Nature throughout the entire season.
SPEEDBOWL DOC SERIES
Segment on the birth of the Strictly Stock division in 1988 from Vault Productions’ documentary series on Speedbowl history.