1991 Year in Review

1991_Phil Rondeau_LM_Champ (Dugas)
‘Farmer’ Phil Rondeau won his 5th Late Model
title at Waterford in 1991 (Rene Dugas photo)

Phil Rondeau won his 5th Late Model championship in the last 7 years by edging out 10-time winner Tom Fox in the final standings by 25 points. Fox won the 50 lap season opener and 4 of the last 5 events to close out the season.  Jerry Young, brother of SK Champ Ricky, won a 75 lapper in September. Crowd favorites and former track champions C.J. Frye (1984) and Mike Daignault (1973) returned to weekly competition – finishing 5th and 6th respectively in the point standings – with each capturing victories during the season as well.  Defending Champion Jay Stuart won 5 times, but left weekly competition in August after a dispute with Speedbowl officials related to his disqualification from the July 27th event.

1991_Ricky Young_SK_Champ (Canney)
Ricky Young earned the 1991 SK Modified
Championship (Frank W. Canney Jr photo)

Ted Christopher led the SK Modifieds in wins with 6 including the Waterford 200 portion of The Showdown over Labor Day weekend.  It was the last 200-lap event at the track until the Modified Nationals events would begin in 1997.  He also won a 75 lapper in May.  17 different SK drivers visited victory lane during the season – including one-time winner & eventual ’91 track champion Ricky Young.  The Gada brothers Dave, Mike and Dennis would visit victory lane in the same season for the first time – a feat first accomplished by their father Bob and his brothers Pete and Larry in the Sportsman Sedan division during the 1971 season.  The second generation brothers would repeat the collective trifecta in 1994 and again in 1996.  Dennis’ win was the 91 lap Blast Off season opener.  Donny Fowler won the 60-lap SK event as part of the Chill Out event in late September.  2-time winner Jerry Pearl battled atop the point standings for most of the season before finishing 2nd to Young.

Potter_wreck-1 (Maureen Sheppard)
The #31 car landed on all 4 tires on the pit access
road (Maureen Sheppard photo)

The May 11th modified event had one of the more unique accidents in track history as Bob Potter ended the night’s festivities after flying over a track wall on lap 4 of the modified feature.  While riding in the middle of the pack early in the race, Potter was among many who checked up after the leaders made contact coming out of turn 2.  Moving to the high groove in hopes to avoid any pile up, Potter’s Ceravolo #31 hit Mark LaJeunesse’s right side tire and sent the 6-time champion airborne over the backstretch wall.  Fortunately he went directly into a catch fence and the car landed on all fours on a dirt embankment.  Amazingly, Potter walked away from the wreck unharmed, but severe damage to the fencing and cables forced the remainder of the night to be postponed.  Ted Christopher won the held-over event the following week.

Defending Strictly Stock champion David Blain won the very 1st 100-lap event for the Strictly Stock division.  Billed as the New England Championships under an open competition format, the supporting division was given the track to themselves on the Saturday before the traditional season opening Blast Off event.  37 cars took the green flag including visiting competitors from tracks as far away as Monadnock, NH.  2nd generation driver Mike Holdridge, who won 3 times (including the 25-lap SS portion of the Blast Off), went on to win the Strictly Stock track championship.  Bob Bruce led the division with 5 wins.  Joe Coates and Mark St. Hilaire also won 3 times. There were 14 different winners in the Strictly Stock division.

Promotional ad for the 1st Legends of the
Speedbowl exhibition race
(Alan B. Coull design)

Waterford held it’s first ever Legends of the Speedbowl race on September 21st.  The exhibition was a variation of the popular Powder Puffs & Officials races – this time putting retired drivers in Strictly Stock cars.  The 20-lap event was won by 1962 Bomber track champion Ed Moody while driving Tracy Kernozek‘s #33.

Time trial events were held for all three Busch Racing Series divisions throughout the season.  Jimmy Broderick set the SK Modified lap record with an 15.000 qualifying effort during Blast Off ’91.  It was the first time trials for the SK Modified division at the Speedbowl.  The Strictly Stock division also had their first ever time trial qualifying event as part of the late season Waterford 200 – The Showdown.  Charles Bailey III held the inaugural record after a 18.460 fast time.  Jay Stuart set a new Late Model lap record after turning a 16.980 during Blast Off qualifying.  Ted Christopher (SK) and Kevin Debbis (LM) set respective fast times (although not record times) during the Waterford 200 – The Showdown in September.

The Sunday Enduro schedule was expanded and drivers were now awarded points with track champions crowned at the end of the season.  Mark Lewis won the 8-cylinder title while Bruce Thomas won the 4-cylinder championship. 

In 1991, Connecticut governor Lowell P. Wiecker cut the state budget, reducing the amount of DMV positions for non-essential jobs which included the DMV officials used at auto racing facilities. Prior to the July 4th weekend of events, Wiecker approved that DMV officials could work at the Speedbowl although they would be paid by the track directly, not by the state. This essentially marked the end of the Department of Motor Vehicles presiding over auto racing events at the Speedbowl.  They had previously done so since the track’s inception in 1951.

The local residents continued to challenge the Speedbowl operation in many areas – from noise ordiance compliance to non-conforming use guidelines.  In response, the K Corporation made muffler systems on all race cars mandatory.  1991 was the first season in track history that included a mandatory muffler rule.


Segment on the night in 1991 when Bob Potter crashed into the catch fence in turn 2