Todd Ceravolo and Tucker Reynolds Jr engaged in a summer long battle for SK Modified supremacy. By season’s end, Tucker would collect the most wins in the division (7), one more than Todd, who would win the points championship and join his father Dick as the first ever father-son SK Modified Track Champions. Late Model champion Ed Reed Jr joined his father (’78 Street Stock) on the overall father-son track championship list with the Ceravolos and Gadas Bob (’71 & ’79 Late Model) and Dave (’90 & ’94 SK Mod).
The traditional season opening Blast Off event was revamped after 23 seasons. Renamed the Modified Nationals and originally sponsored by Pennzoil, the 2-day event would showcase SK Modified time trials on Saturday to qualify for Sunday’s 200 lap feature event. The inaugural event had arguably the most notorious qualifying day in the track’s history. For an in-depth look at the controversial day click here. The following day’s 200 lapper was won by outsider Steve Chowansky. Jeff Pearl won the 100 lapper in October while Tucker Reynolds Jr and Jimmy Broderick won the two 50 lap events.
Late Model victory lane was not visited by Phil Rondeau for the first time since 1984. In his absence, a group of young talented drivers amassed 13 victories. Matt Kobyluck led the division by winning 5 features for the 2nd year in a row, while ’96 Strictly Stock champ Allen Coates and eventual Late Model champ Ed Reed Jr each took home 4 main event trophies. Reed piloted the #27 car owned by “Flash” Gordon Rodgers who previously won a Late Model title as car owner in 1984 with C.J. Frye driving his 6x car. Kobyluck and Coates won the two 100 lap events held during the season.
19 different competitors visited victory lane over the 25 events held in the Strictly Stock division. Only the 20 different Modified winners in the track’s first season had more winners in a single season. Ed Puleo led the division with 3 victories, including a 50 lapper in August. Scott Cook won the special 100 lap event held during 4th of July weekend, while one- time winner Chris “Moose” Douton won his first track championship handily over Ed Gertsch Jr.
Bruce Thomas earned his 3rd Mini Stock Track Championship in 1997. He finished 38 points ahead of second generation driver Dennis Perry in the final point standings. He also led the division in wins with 6, including two 50-lap events. 1993 champ Billy Guyette won the other 50-lapper. Al Royce won the season-opening 30 lapper.
Bobby Seymour set a new overall track record when he circled the 3/8 mile oval in 13.401 seconds behind the wheel of his NEMA Midget. The midgets had consistently been the fastest division to race at the Speedbowl since it’s very first season in 1951 when George Tichener set the original overall track record with a time of 17.920 during an American Automobile Association 100 lap midget event.
Kevin Debbis won the most features overall – bringing his truck to victory lane 8 times among 3 different days of the week (All-Star Race Truck events were held on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays). The former late model competitor, who was crowned the 1997 ARTS Speedbowl Champion, won the first 3 events held as well as 2 other sets of back-to-back wins. He won twice as many races as all other winners in the division combined.