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2001 Year in Review

Dennis Gada continued to be the man to beat in the SK Modifieds, winning his 3rd straight SK Modified championship at Waterford.  In addition to his division leading 8 wins, Gada also had 17 top 10's, 16 top 5's and 14 top 3's.  He beat runner-up Ed Reed Jr by just under 100 points (96).  A group of 'young guns' dominated the Triple Crown events as teenager Eric Berndt won the SK 150 at the Budweiser Modified Nationals, future NASCAR Modified Champion Ron Silk won the 100 lap SK portion of the Pepsi 300 and Ron Yuhas Jr won his 3rd straight Town Fair Tire Finale 100.

Below is the local TV commercial from Speedbowl promoting the 2001 season opening Budweiser Modified Nationals event.

Both NASCAR touring series would have their track lap records fall as NASCAR Modified driver Robbie Summers (13.743) and NASCAR Busch North competitor Dale Shaw (15.006) would set the new fast time track records during qualifying for their respective events at Waterford.  The NASCAR Modifieds expanded to two events at the Speedbowl with Reggie Ruggiero winning the Budweiser 200 and Ed Flemke Jr winning the Left Turn University 150.  Mike Johnson won the Busch North 150.

2001_Champs (Dugas)
2001 NASCAR division champions included (l-r) Bruce Thomas Jr (Mini Stocks), Dennis Gada (SK Mods), Allen Coates (Late Models) and Shawn Monahan (Sportsman) (Rene Dugas photo)

In one of the more controversial championship finishes in Speedbowl history, Phil Rondeau finished tied with Allen Coates for the Late Model point championship, but lost his bid for a record 7th track championship through the most wins tie breaker, which Coates won 5 to 3.  However, many in attendance believed Rondeau should have won the title. Coates came into the event with a 2-point lead and was ahead of Rondeau early in the race, but had to pit for a flat tire. Charging to the front in the late stages of the race, he would lineup 5th behind Rondeau in 3rd on the final green-white-checkered restart with 2 to go. Coming to the checkered flag out of turn 4 on the final lap, 4th place competitor Corey Hutchings got loose and was spinning as his car crossed the stripe. The controversy was whether Hutchings' car was ahead of Rondeau's. If it was, Coates wins title on wins tie-breaker; if it wasn't, Rondeau wins title by 2 points. Hutchings stated in a post-race interview that he couldn't tell where his car was in relation to Phil's as he was crossed-up going over the line. Attempts to review a video replay of the finish failed when the tape was inadvertantly erased before playback. Race Director Bill Roberts then informed both drivers, who were waiting in the infield for the decision. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rondeau. The 6-time Champ never returned to the Speedbowl fielding his own cars since this event. However, it was the 12th season that Rondeau finished among the top 2 in the final point standings. Larry Goss won the 100 lap event. Rondeau won the other 100 lapper in July while Mark St. Hiliare won the season-opening 50 lapper. It was Coates' 2nd LM Championship at the Speedbowl and 3rd overall (1996 Strictly Stock).

Shawn Monahan won the Sportsman track championship by more than 50 points over defending champ Ted Dupre; despite a disqualification in week 4.  He made up for tha set-back with a consistent season which included 16 top 10's, 10 top 3's and a pair of feature wins – the first of which did not come until mid-August when he won his second straight 50 lap SM portion of the Pepsi 300.  His #31 also was the winner during Nostalgia Weekend when Al Rondeau drove it to victory during the Heroes of the Bowl exhibition.  Shawn's brother Diego Monahan won the season opening 30 lapper.  Ed Gertsch Jr ran a limited schedule but won 2 of the last 3 races including the 50 lapper during Finale weekend.

Chris Pasteryak was the inaugural Wild N' Wednesday Legend Car Track Champion at Waterford in 2001 (uncredited photo)
Bruce Thomas Jr claimed the Mini Stock track championship and with it became the 5th driver to join his father on the Speedbowl Track Champions list.  Junior won twice, including the Finale MS 50. Phil Evans won the first two events of the season, including the 30 lap opener. Richard Brooks was seriously burned as a result of a fire at the team's garage the night before opening day.  Brooks was on doctor's orders to remain off the track grounds while he recuperated.  Former Strictly Stock competitor Tracey Kernozek and current Strictly driver Diego Monahan shared driving duties in the #65 until Brooks made his return to the track as a driver in late July.  A few weeks later, Brooks rewarded his team's hard work in his absence with a victory in the 50 lap Mini Stock portion of the rescheduled Pepsi 300.

The new Wild N' Wacky Wednesday series debuted with 3 point divisions and plenty of family fun activities throughout the season.  Chris Pasteryak would win 8 Legend Car features during the mid-week series, including a division record 5 in a row.  He tied Dennis Gada for most overall wins during the season.  He also won the LC points championship.  The enduro divisions were revamped to including restarts and ran for points weekly.  The inaugural Super X-car (8 cyl) and X-car (4 cyl) champions were Will Slivinski and Jason Paquette, respectively. 

Mark Buonomo won 2 of the NEMA midget events, Ryan Possoco won 2 of the ARTS Truck events and George Savary swept the 2 Pro-4 Modified events.

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