Women at the Speedbowl
SK Light Modified feature winner Victoria Bergenty watching heat race action from her pit stall in 2013
FEMALE HISTORY AT WATERFORD
This post is about women competing in events with mostly male competitors.
CLICK HERE for more info & stats on female-only events like Powder Puff Derbies and Women on Wheels.
Over the years, auto racing has been a male-dominated sport. The history of the Waterford Speedbowl is no differernt, yet there have been several notable achievements by females both on and off the track over the years. It’s important to remember that for the first two decades, women’s involvement was relegated to Powder Puff Derby exhibitions. In fact, those events were the only time women were allowed in the pits, a rule that remained enforced until the mid-1970’s.
One of the first prominent female figure in Speedbowl history was Peg Gaudreau. Peg was the car owner for the #3 car that Dick Dunn drove to 4 consecutive Modified Championships from 1972-1975. The car was called “Buddah’s Bullet” as a nod to her husband Al Gaudreau who built and maintained the car. In 1976, Gaudreau won a 5th consecutive Car Owner Championship (Bob Potter won the Drivers Championship) – a record matched only by Harry Wyant (1999-2003) and Keith Rocco (2013-2017). For a majority of Dunn’s dominant streak on the track, Peg was not allowed in the pits and watched from the grandstands. In fact, Gaudreau was one of the first who finally gained permission to enter the pits from track owner Harvey Tattersall Jr in the mid-1970’s.
On the track, the first woman to qualify for a feature event racing amongst the men was Rae Ann Williams in 1980. Like Peg Gaudreau, Rae Ann’s story is a reflection of how times have changed, as car counts for the Super Stock division in which Rae Ann competed attracted 30-40 competitors attempting to qualify on Saturdays. Qualifying for a feature was much more of an accomplishment than it is today.
While Rae Ann’s qualifying for a Super Stock feature was unprecedented, she did not fair well in the feature and never captured a feature victory in the handful of seasons she competed. In fact, it would take almost 26 years still until a female would win a feature event at the Waterford Speedbowl competing against male competitors.
During that span however, there were still several all-female exhibitions. Originally called Powder Puff Derbies, by the early 1990’s, they were called Women On Wheels and ran a bi-weekly schedule as part of the Sunday Stocker Series that existed from 1991-1994. One of the most accomplished in those events was Emma Coates. Emma is matriarc to one of the Speedbowl’s most accomplished families. Her husband Bob “Ink” Greene, sons Allen & Joe Coates, grandson Corey Coates, brother Philip Evans, nephew Phil Evans and grand-nephew P.J. Evans have all won features at the Speedbowl.
The destinction as the first female to win a non-WOW feature event goes to Talya Orleans, who won an Allison Legacy North Series event during the season-opening Budweiser Modified Nationals event on April 2, 2006. It was just shy of 26 years after Rae Williams first qualified for a feature in 1980. At the time, Talya was also the youngest feature winner in Speedbowl history at 12 years old. Talya won 2 more ALNS features at Waterford in 2006-2007.
In the 2010’s, there were more and more females competing weekly amongst the men, especially in the Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday divisions. Taylor Martin and Rachel Forte both won numerous Bandolero races from 2010-2012 while 3rd-generation driver Taylor-Marie Moran won 2 Super X-car features during the 2010 season. While the list of female feature winners grew, by the end of the 2012 season, no female had yet to win a feature in any weekly Saturday division at Waterford.
Then in 2013, women broke through the Saturday ranks in grand fashion. First, during the annual Mid-Season 300 event in July, Victoria Bergenty (daughter of former competitor John Bergenty), set fast time for the SK Light Modifieds during time trials. She became the first female to set fast time in track history. A few months later, on September 21st, she won the SKL feature, becoming the first female to win in any modified-type division and the first to win a NASCAR division feature. A couple hours later, her good friend Nichole Morgillo held off Ted Christopher to win the SK Modified feature. Nichole accepted the marraige proposal from her boyfriend Shawn Thibeault in front of the Speedbowl crowd earlier that night. Watch our Sid’s View webisode “Ladies Night” about this historic day below.
There have been several Women on Wheels Champions crowned at various time during Speedbowl history, but the only females to win championships competing primarily against males has come in the Bandolero division where it’s happened several times: Taylor Martin (2010), Rachel Forte (2011-2012) and Maddie Harkin (2018).
Off the track, in 2014 long-time scorer/handicapper Julie Winsor was named Assistant Race Director. She became the highest ranking female track official in Speedbowl history. Today, you can walk around the pit area at the Speedbowl and not only see women as drivers, but crew members & spotters as well.
There have been numerous females involved in successful race teams as well. Jennifer Mingo (Rob Janovic Jr & Tony Macrino), Brittany Meyer (Chris Meyer & Ryan Morgan) and Lori Aquilina (Jack Aquilina) are 3 of the women who have received a Pit Crew of the Year/Mechanic of the Year award for their success as crew members.
FEMALE FEATURE WINNERS LIST
Below is the complete list of female feature winners in Waterford Speedbowl history. Remember the events below are when the females came out victorious against mostly male competitors. Listings in bold indicate the first female winner in that respective division or series at the Speedbowl.
|April 2, 2006||Talya Orleans||Bud Modified Nationals||Allison Legacy North Series|
|October 8, 2006||Talya Orleans||Finale Weekend||Allison Legacy North Series|
|April 28, 2007||Ginny Quinones||Saturday weekly event||USAC Ford Focus Midgets|
|September 22, 2007||Talya Orleans||Finale Weekend||Allison Legacy North Series|
|May 12, 2010||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|May 19, 2010||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 16, 2010||Taylor-Marie Moran||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Super X-cars|
|June 16, 2010||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 30, 2010||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 28, 2010||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 2, 2010||Taylor-Marie Moran||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Super X-cars|
|April 2, 2011||Taylor Martin||Saturday Showdown Series||Bandoleros|
|April 9, 2011||Taylor Martin||Saturday Showdown Series||Bandoleros|
|April 30, 2011||Melissa Fifield||Saturday weekly event||Allison Legacy North Series|
|May 11, 2011||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|May 14, 2011||Taylor Martin||Saturday Showdown Series||Bandoleros|
|May 18, 2011||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 8, 2011||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 29, 2011||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 20, 2011||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 27, 2011||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|August 10, 2011||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 21, 2011||Taylor Martin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|October 8, 2011||Emily Packard||Finale Weekend||Allison Legacy North Series|
|May 16, 2012||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|May 30, 2012||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 4, 2012||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 12, 2012||Rachel Forte||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 21, 2013||Victory Bergenty||Saturday weekly event||SK Light Modifieds|
|September 21, 2013||Nichole Morgillo||Saturday weekly event||SK Modifieds|
|October 6, 2013||Bethany Stoehr||Finale Weekend||NEMA Midgets|
|May 31, 2014||Robin Berghman||Four-Cylinder Fury||Pro-4 Modifieds|
|August 20, 2014||Shelby Donovan||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Mini Cup Series|
|September 27, 2014||Taylor Bowser||Saturday weekly event||Mini Cup Series|
|June 27, 2015||Cassandra Cole||Saturday weekly event||Legend Cars|
|August 27, 2015||Hayley Desaulniers||Thursday Night Thunder||Bandoleros|
|June 4, 2016||Robin Berghman||Saturday weekly event||Pro-4 Modifieds|
|June 25, 2016||Robin Berghman||Saturday weekly event||Pro-4 Modifieds|
|July 28, 2017||Ari Jencik||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 28, 2017||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 13, 2017||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|September 20, 2017||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|October 21, 2017||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|May 23, 2018||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|May 30, 2018||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 13, 2018||Emma Monahan||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|June 27, 2018||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 4, 2018||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 11, 2018||Emma Monahan||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|July 18, 2018||Emma Monahan||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|August 29, 2018||Maddie Harkin||Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday||Bandoleros|
|August 22, 2020||Nichole (Morgillo) Thibeault||Saturday weekly event||SK Lights|