2014 Year in Review

P_Williams_RD (Tiesha)
The Speedbowl Race Director
in 2014 was Patrick Williams
(Tiesha DiMaggio photo)

After a year as acting Race Director, track owner/operator Terry Eames promoted former Wild N’ Wacky X-Car Champion Patrick Williams to Race Director for the 2014 season.  Williams was the assistant RD the previous season.  He was the 5th different Race Director in the last 7 seasons at Waterford.  Long-time scorer/handicapper Julie Winsor was named Assistant Race Director, making her the highest ranking female track official in Speedbowl history.

Rocco_2014 (Courchesne)
Keith Rocco his 4th SK Modified Championship at
Waterford in 2014 (Shawn Courchesne photo)

Keith Rocco continued to be a dominant driver in both the SK Modified and Late Model divisions in 2014, repeating as Track Champion in both divisions and winning 11 features in each.  He also won 2 of the 3 Valenti Modified Racing Series events to equal his overall win total of 24 from the previous season.  Rocco was also named NASCAR Connecticut State Champion & finished in the NWAAS National Top-4 for a record 7th straight season.  In the SK Modifieds, Rocco won the 64 lap Blast Off event, the Mid-Season 100 lapper and (2) 40-lap events.  2012 Champion Tyler Chadwick won twice, including the $5,000 Bud Nationals SK 150 event on Labor Day weekend.  Rocco’s teammate Ed Puleo won 3 events, including the Finale SK 50.  Kyle James also won twice.

In the Late Models, Bruce Thomas Jr won 4 times including the Mid-Season 50 lapper, which he also set fast-time for in qualifying.  Jason Palmer also won twice including the Finale 50.  Keith Rocco won the other (2) 50-lap extra-distance events.  Vin Esposito also won twice.  Rocco tied  Dennis Gada for the Most Track Championships in Speedbowl history with 7.

NASCAR Whelen Modfiied Tour - Mr. Rooter 161
Bobby Santos III won the 2014 NWMT Mr. Rooter
161 at Waterford (Darren McCollester/Getty
Images for NASCAR)

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned for the 3rd annual Mr. Rooter 161 event with Bobby Santos III taking the win in the Tinio #44 car.  Donny Lia set fast time (13.869) and led 131 laps.  He lost the lead to Santos on a lap 116 restart but regained it back on the next lap.  Santos made a move inside Lia into Turn 3 and was able to make the pass and lead the final 33 laps to take the win.  During the 7th annual Wings N’ Wheels event, Ted Christopher won the VMRS 100 and Mark Sammut won the ISMA 50 lapper, their only visit to Waterford this season.

Josh Galvin dominated the Street Stock division, tying Dwayne Dorr‘s record of 11 wins in a single season.  Galvin won all 3 extra distance events – the 30 lapper during Blast Off, the Mid-Season 50 lapper and the Finale 30 lap event.  He also won 4 weeks in a row in May – a streak that would have been 6 in a row if not for a DQ from the April 19th event.  2-time Champion Al Stone won 4 times and set fast time in July.  Ryan Waterman was a 3 time winner.  Veterans Ed Gertsch Jr and Bill McNeil both returned to Victory Lane for the 1st time since 2004 at the Speedbowl.

Denton (Caise)
Teenager Garrett Denton was the 2014 Mini Stock
Champion at Waterford (Mark Caise photo)

The Mini Stocks had the most competive battle for the point championship in 2014.  Doug Curry won the opener and led the points for the first half of the season.  5-time Champion Ken Cassidy Jr led the division in wins with 7, including the 50-lapper during the Four-Cylinder Fury event.   But it was 5-time winner Garrett Denton who finished atop the point standings at season’s end, beating out Cassidy by 50 points in the final tally.  Denton won the Mid-Season 50 and Finale 30 in route to the title.  He also set fast time in July with a 17.460 lap.  Ian Brew won the 30-lapper during Blast Off.  Ray Christian III won three times.  Veteran Dave Trudeau returned to weekly Mini Stock competition and won his first feature at Waterford since 2003.  There were 10 different winners in the Mini Stocks in 2014, the most of any division that year.

Mike-Christopher-Jr-w Ted (Caise)
Mike Christopher Jr and his uncle Ted after Junior
scored his first career win (Mark Caise photo)

On April 19th, 2nd generation driver Mike Christopher Jr won his 1st career Legend Car event.  By season’s end, he had set a new Speedbowl Record with 25 overall feature wins for the year.  Christopher won 11 times on Saturday, including the 50-lap INEX National Qualifier in September, and 14 times during the Wild N Wacky Wednesday series (including 8 in a row at one point), easily winning both point championships.  Last year’s champions Dylan Izzo (3 wins on Saturday) and Joey Ternullo (2 wins on Wednesday) were the only other LC drivers with multiple wins in 2014.  Izzo set a new time trial record for Legend Cars at the Mid-Season 300 with a 16.649 qualifying effort.

Barry_2014 (Tiesha)
Corey Barry was the 2014 SK Light Modified
Champion at Waterford (Tiesha DiMaggio photo)

Corey Barry won 6 times in the SK Light Modifieds to clinch his first career track championship at Waterford.  Defending Champion Randy Churchill Jr won 4 times and also set fast time (14.813) for the SKL during the Mid-Season 300 event.  Paul Buzel won 3 times and 2-time SKL Champ Paul French won twice.  Once again, there were no extra distance events for the SK Lights during the season, all features were 25 laps.

Other touring divisions that visited the Speedbowl in 2014 included 4 visits by the NEMA Midgets and 5 visits by NEMA Lites.  The New England Truck Series (4), North East Mini Stock Tour (2), Mini Cup Series (2) and the Pro-4 Modifieds (1) also held events at the shoreline oval.   Collectively those series produced 15 different feature winners.  

The posted foreclosure auction sign
posted roadside in front of Speedbowl late in the 2014 season
(Vault Productions photo)

At the end of the 2014 season, the foreclosure saga of the Waterford Speedbowl finally came to an end, culminating with the property auction on Speedbowl grounds at 12 noon on Saturday October 18th.  While there were over a hundred people in attendance, only 4 people registered to bid, two of whom were lienholders.  Only two parties made bids:  a party represented by majority lienholder Rocky Arbitell and a businessman from Glastonbury, CT named Bruce Bemer.  In the end, it was Bemer who won the auction with a $1.75 million dollar bid.  It was less than the $2.1 million Terry Eames owed to all parties involved, and slightly more than half the property appraisal of over $3 million.  Bemer’s party declared immediately after the auction was finalized that they intended to keep the facility a race track.

However, lienholder Ed DeMuzio was one of the creditors who recieved nothing towards the money he was owed as a result of the auction. His lawyers filed motions and an appeal of the court’s approval of sale (that was eventually withdrawn) in a final attempt to recoup some of his investment.  Over the next several months, the court proceedings held up any ownership changes or progress towards the 2015 race season, but in early February all parties involved agreed to terms that allowed the approval of sale to go through uncontested.  It was the first change in property ownership since Terry Eames bought the Speedbowl in 2000.  Although only 2 months away from the traditional early April season opener, Bemer was optimistic the 2015 season would go off without much delay.


Segment on the entertaining battles in the Street Stock division of the early 2010’s