Speedbowl Race Director Tom Fox resigned after the 2010 season. Scott Tapley, a member of Matt Kobyluck’s 2008 NASCAR Camping World East Championship team and assistant RD under Fox, was announced as new Race Director at the 2010 Awards Banquet in January. The Saturday series structure had some revisions for 2011. The Truck division was discontinued after a two year experiment and the Late Models returned to a weekly Saturday division. The X-Modified division from Wednesdays was revamped to incorporate SK Modified Lights, which had become popular at the Stafford Motor Speedway over the previous few seasons. The Speedbowl allowed both SK Light and X-Modified cars, although the division was referred to as the “SK Lights”. They ran a limited 7-race schedule on Saturday nights sprinkled throughout the season. Paul French was the inaugural SKL Champion at Waterford. The Budweiser Modified Nationals event was moved for a second year in a row. This season the annual SK 150 was held on Labor Day Weekend as part of the Thunder on the Sound event. The Late Models, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks were all given a 50 lap events on a night where their divisions were highlighted. The Legends Cars once again ran their 50 lap INEX National qualifier. The Finale event returned to a point event for all divisions, and 4 of the 6 divisions had their championships decided during the event.
Keith Rocco, started the season the same way he had the last two – by winning the first two events. He won in back-to-back weeks twice, won a record-tying 5 straight features during the summer and ended the season with 3 straight victories. His 13 victories broke his own record set the previous season for the SK Modified division. He also won 3 of the 4 long-distance events: the season-opening Blast Off 61 lapper, the mid-season speedbowl.com 100 and the Finale 50. However, despite all his wins, Rocco was challenged throughout the year for the point championship. On separate occassions early in the season, both Nichole Morgillo and Tyler Chadwick tied Rocco for the point lead. Jeff Pearl, who finished runner-up for the title, held the point lead for about a month in the middle of the season before Rocco’s 5-race win streak put him back in the lead for good by August. Woody Pitkat scored his first Speedbowl victory in the Budweiser Modified Nationals $5,000 SK 150 in the Jimmy Paige #00. Former champ Todd Ceravolo led the race for over 100 laps, but ran out of gas during a caution period with only 17 laps to go.
The Late Model Championship hunt was a 3-team race for most of the season between 3-time Champion Bruce Thomas Jr, Jeff Smith and Rich Staskowski. Bruce led the division in wins (the 5th year in a row he’d done so), while Smith and Staskowski both had 3 victories. Staskowski wrecked during the final Saturday night show, leaving Smith and Thomas to battle it out during the Finale for the title. Thomas battled for the lead during most of the 50 lapper, but Smith stayed close enough behind to capture his first championship by 10 points over Thomas. Vin Esposito won the Blast Off 50 lapper while a couple of visiting competitors, Ray Parent Jr and Wayne Helliwell Jr, won 50 lappers during the summer. Helliwell competes regularly at Lee (NH) Speedway where he has 9 overall Track Championships, including one in their Super Modified division in 2011. Keith Rocco won the 50 lap LM finale to go along with his 50 lap SK win. He became the first person since Moe Gherzi in 1954 to win a Modified and Late Model race on the same day at the Speedbowl. There were 9 different winners in the Late Models during 2011 which, along with the Mini Stocks, was the most in any division.
The season had a dismal beginning for veteran street stock competitor Ed Puleo. He crashed during qualifying for the Blast Off SS 30 and destroyed his brand new car. He competed in the feature (and the next few weeks) in Shawn Monahan‘s #31 car and scored a win during that stretch to gain the point lead. Puleo led the rest of the season, scoring 6 wins, never finishing worst than 6th and was within the Top-5 in all but 3 events. He edged out 2-time Champion Al Stone, who had 8 wins, by 12 points at season’s end. Stone became the SS Career Wins leader (31) during the season and also broke the time-trial lap record during the speedbowl.com 300 qualifying. Puleo won two 50-lappers during the summer, Stone won the Finale SS 50 while Josh Galvin won the season-opening Blast Off SS 30. Galvin, a 4-time winner, was the only other point leader than Puleo during the season. At season’s end, both Puleo and Stone announced their intentions on moving up to the SK Modified division for the 2012 season.
Engine builder and part-time competitor Glenn Colvin returned to the Mini Stocks full-time for the first season since he won the MS Championship in 2004. Colvin, once again behind Charlie Andrade’s #39 car, was the model of consistency. He scored 3 wins, including the Finale MS 50, and never finished out of the Top 10. After finishing 9th and 8th in the second and third events respectively, he never again finished outside the Top 5. 3-time Champion Ken Cassidy Jr won 6 times, but finished 17th and 15th in the first 2 events and was never able to pull close to Colvin in the point standings. Phil Evans also returned full-time to the Mini Stocks, won twice and finished 3rd in points. Veteran Chris Williams won 4 times and finished 4th in points.
The Speedbowl was represented very well in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series. Keith Rocco once again challenged for the National title, before finishing runner-up to Philip Morris of Ruckersville, VA who won his 4th NWAAS National Championship since 2006. It was the 5th year in a row Rocco finished in the national Top-5 and the 4th year in a row he was NASCAR’s Connecticut State Champion. Former mini-stock competitor Randy Churchill Jr won NASCAR Connecticut Rookie of the Year honors. Ken Cassidy Jr (2nd) and Glenn Colvin (3rd) were National Finalists in the Division IV standings. It was the second straight season Cassidy finished in the national Top 3.
After back-to-back seasons when one driver dominated the field, the Legend Car of 2011 featured one of the fiercest rivalries on the track between Dana DiMatteo and Dave Garbo Jr. They each won 5 times on Saturday, while Garbo won 7 more times on Wednesday. Garbo had more overall wins (12) than DiMatteo (10), but DiMatteo won both the Wednesday and Saturday championships. He finished 16 points ahead of Garbo for the Wed title, and beat out 2-time winner Paul Kusheba IV for the Saturday title. DiMatteo actually broke his arm during a huge pile-up during a mid-season Saturday night event, but returned to the track the next week in a cast and won the race. There were 7 different winners overall between both point series.
The Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday series had some fierce championship battles. 3-time winner Pete Zaikarite Jr edged out 2-time Champion Brad Voglesong by 7 points to win the X-Car Championship. Voglesong led the division in wins with 5. Frank Alessio seemingly finished second to Mike Maskell II after the final Super X-car event, but Maskell’s engine was deemed illegal during post-race inspection handing the win and the championship to Alessio. 2-time winner Ed Ryan also jumped Maskell in the final standings to finish runner-up. Among the 11 different winners in the division was 1996 Late Model Champion John Brouwer Jr, who came out of retirement to capture 2 SX victories.
The touring series that competed at the Speedbowl in 2011 were the Valenti Modified Racing Series, ISMA Super Modifieds, NEMA Midgets, Pro-4 Modified Tour, New England Truck Series, Allison Legacy North Series and the Northeast Mini Stock Tour. See the 2011 Special Events tab for the complete list of winners.
The 4th annual Wings N’ Wheels event continued as one of the tracks premiere annual events. Todd Bertrand (NEMA), Chris Perley (ISMA), Jerry Marquis (MRS) and Keith Rocco (SK) were the feature winners that night. For Perley and Rocco, it was the 2nd straight year they won their respective events during Wings N’ Wheels. Marquis, the former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion, had been retired for years but was asked to qualify the #25 car driven by Rowan Pennink for the Valenti Modified Racing Series 100 lap event while Pennink was competing in a NASCAR event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. When Pennink was unable to make it back to Waterford in time for the feature, Marquis got behind the wheel and went on to capture the surprise victory. In the Speedbowl Record Book, Marquis is now tied with “Magic Shoes” Mike MacLaughlin for the most Tour Type Modified feature wins (3).
The INEX Bandolero division ran more frequently in 2011. Composed of young drivers (some as young as 8 years old), there were 10 different winners between their events on both Wednesday and Saturday events. Taylor Martin and Ken Morin Jr led all drivers with 7 victories each. 4-time winner Rachel Forte won the Wednesday Championship. Martin won the Saturday Showdown Series, which was the most accumulated points from the races held on Saturdays. The Showdown Series also included the X-cars and Super X-cars. Patrick Williams (XC) and Frank Alessio (SX) were the champions. Alessio was the only one who won both the Wacky Wed and Sat Showdown title.
Below is a excerpt from our 2011 Year in Review banquet video