For All They’ve Done, Champions – And All Racers – Deserved Better From Speedbowl

Local racer Keith Rocco has had plenty of history making days in the past few years at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Sunday at the shoreline oval was another one of those types of days for the Wallingford driver.

After a very controversial finish of the 80-lap SK Modified feature Sunday evening, Rocco was declared champion of the division.

It was his seventh SK Modified championship at the track. The feat tied the record for championships in the division held by Dennis Gada. Rocco also matched Gada’s record of five consecutive SK Modified championships at the track.

It’s fair to say these are accomplishments that track officials should have been very publicly celebrating Rocco for.

The reality is, just winning a championship at the track, any championship, at any track, for any driver, should be a feat noted, celebrated and publicized. And in 2017 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, that fact should stand with even more emphasis than ever before considering all that racers did to support a facility facing immense hardship and troubles.

But, as of Wednesday evening, nearly three full days since the conclusion of racing at the Speedbowl for the 2017 season, public relations silence has been the only trumpet call of celebration for Rocco. And the same stands true for all other champions who worked tireless and toiled loyally and weekly at the track this year in support of the facility, while chasing their own success.

On the track’s Facebook page there was no mention Sunday, or even since then, of Rocco even winning the championship, much less the historic nature of what it meant in the track record book. Neither was there any mention on the track’s Facebook page of Charles Canfield, who won his first Mini Stock championship at the track.

On the track’s website, there’s nothing publicizing Rocco’s championship. Nothing celebrating Canfield’s title. No story of Chris Meyer winning his first Limited Sportsman division title. As a matter of fact, on the track’s website there’s no story mentioning anything that happened at the track Saturday or Sunday as part of finale weekend. Not a story about the teams and drivers that showed up, put on the show, won the races and made it so there could actually be an event there.

After every event this season the track posted a press release to their website and to their Facebook page with a written rundown story of the action from their racing cards and also with results from each division. After the biggest event of the year, where champions were crowned after a season of hard work chasing titles, and so many winners celebrated victory, no press release was posted. Zero recognition of what any competitor did all weekend at the Speedbowl.

The travails of the 2017 season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl have been well documented. In March it seemed very likely the season would be lost after the arrest of track owner Bruce Bemer. In early April NASCAR terminated its sanction with the track and cancelled a scheduled Whelen Modified Tour event at the facility.

And then in early June it was announced that Legends car team owner George Whitney  – who also raced at the Speedbowl in the 1990’s under the name George Dorothy – would be leasing the facility and serve as general manager.

On June 24 the track opened for weekly racing. And despite all the issues and questions and wonderment, teams showed up. Some showed up reluctantly, admittedly not feeling comfortable with the situation, but deciding to participate simply in the hopes that the track wouldn’t go away.

The fact is teams stepped up to support the management team and what they were doing. Since then public relations missteps have been glaring and many since the track opened for weekly racing.. Too many to list here.

After an event on September 23 at the track, it was written in a track press release that Al Stone III had been battling for the lead in a Mini Stock feature. Stone never drove a Mini Stock event at the track this year. Stone is actually the winningest Limited Sportsman driver in track history and a four-time champion in the division. In late September track management overseeing the producing and distribution of press releases still weren’t aware enough of who was actually competing at the track they were operating to know that Stone – one of the most well known competitors at the track – didn’t compete in the Mini Stock division.

On Facebook Wednesday Stone called it “A shame” that drivers weren’t recognized in any way after this weekend.

“All those guys deserve better as hard as they worked all year and deserve the recognition,” Stone wrote on Facebook.

What happened this week in fully ignoring any publicizing of track champions or winners was a huge slap in the face to all the teams and drivers that worked to support the track, support the management team and strive for their own accomplishments.

Rocco and the other champions at the track raced this year for a championship trophy. No point fund. No bonuses. No NASCAR recognition. They did it for a trophy and to hopefully be recognized for their accomplishment by the track they competed at.

And they should be glorified for the championships they won by the track they supported and helped to keep in business. A business should celebrate things like that. You celebrate the accomplishments of the people that helped you to open the gates every week and sell tickets.

There’s no excuse for it not happening. No excuse for why someone involved in management couldn’t take five minutes to post something on Facebook, or post a simple congratulations to champions and winners from the weekend on the track’s website, even if it didn’t come with a full blown press release.

To close the gates on Sunday night and call it a season and then fully ignore the accomplishments of those who did so much to make the season reality was just a grossly horrible way to end a painful season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Editor’s Note: At 7:12 p.m. on Wednesday, 40 minutes after this story was published on RaceDayCT, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Facebook page was updated with a post congratulating 2017 champions at the track. 

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Comments

  1. darealgoodfella says:

    Can’t wait to see what Doug has to say.

  2. Stuart Fearn says:

    Well I completely agree with Shawn on this one. How can anyone argue these facts? Very poor job by the Speedbowl staff (probably one or two people to blame not everyone) for dropping the ball here.

    Waiting this long is ridiculous and putting anything out now will just be embarrassing. Shawn called them out as he should. I believe he hit the nail on the head as far as teams and the fans are feeling right now. Just sad and too bad .

    On to Seekonk

  3. Thanks for the story. I have been checking the website and Facebook since the weekend to see if Rocco was the champ I had no idea. What an accomplishment to be the champ of all three CT tracks. Shame on the Speedbowl for not updating their website or Facebook page…

  4. Another example of why the bowl will always be a second-rate track. Anyone who showed up to race there this year deserves much more recognition. Almost every year in recent memory, someone has to pull the bowl out of the ashes, this year the race teams did it.

  5. Just Wondering says:

    Shawn, how about an article about the Speedbowls plans for next year? I have heard rumors of new grandstands, new concessions, same old management, new management, new owners etc… etc….etc.. How about reaching out to those involved and let us know. Last winter there was no info whatsoever and understandably so, but now that things seem to have settled down I would think it would be in the best interest of the racers, fans and the Speedbowl to announce a plan for 2018 if they have one.

  6. darealgoodfella says:

    The 🚽 really could have shown some appreciation for those that supported the facility.

    What do you expect?

    Bigly SAD!! Believe me.

  7. Racer butch says:

    And the battle begins. Smart move NLWS escorting a certain media member from the track. You asked for this..

  8. That’s why it’s nicknamed the “Toilet Bowl”.

  9. Just Wondering,
    If plans were set in stone for 2018 they would certainly be announcing them publicly and I’m sure trying to drum up interest from competitors who stayed away this year on a the wait and see plan. What we’ve seen is things are done day-by-day, event-by-event. Yes it would be in their best interest to announce what is happening for 2018, but let’s get them to announce the 2017 champions first.

  10. darealgoodfella says:

    Just Wondering, you want 2018 plans???!?!??! LOL!!!!!! 🤣

    The ‘bowl runs in a minute-by-minute mode, and you want plans for 2018????

    Look at how the ‘bowl treated those that supported it, and wake up.

    Just look at the NLWSB website for all future plans. Can you believe them?

  11. PR has been a weak point since the owners changed hands in my eyes.
    A few years ago I get a call the week before the finale asking if I planned on racing, knew there’s an entry fee and that I missed the deadline.
    This is just another thing that’s gone awry, and the list has grown the last 3 years.
    There shouldn’t be people asking me, to this day if the Speedbowl opened, when we just had the finale.
    It was a seemingly successful year, but the way information gets out needs to be handled better.
    “If you build it they will come” won’t hold up forever, everyone can’t hide behind a hashtag meant for devastation, and I certainly don’t want to see my home track go to the wayside.

  12. Seems to me racers race and if there’s a track open and they can compete that’s the main reward. Trophies, articles on blogs and social media are nice but not the reason to compete keeping in mind most don’t win, like ever. Accolades and adulation are honors but also promotion for what follows. As we kick off the 2018 Speedbowl speculation maybe the crickets from the track are the first message. The current management is exhausted and glad it’s over and have no plans for a second go around with the alligator that took off an arm the first time they wrestled.

  13. Jerrypopadom says:

    There has been press releases by The Racing Times/Alan Piquette for most of the season. Seems he is the one who has been doing the write ups for both Saturday and Wednesday shows for the track. The question of why wasn’t it done should fall on him as that seems to be his job. Instead he creates a poll on facebook to see which media site people turn to for their racing news (Raceday or Mod Squad). As for the question of whether there will be racing in 2018 or not it was heard at the Wednesday night show banquet that george will be back next and so will racing.

  14. Sad to see says:

    What a disgrace the people running the track look like right now. The media guy who created the mess for them is now posting polls about raceday and weird things about sharing someone’s phone phone number and adress on Facebook? George Whitney get a hold of this mess, this is ridiculous.

  15. darealgoodfella says:

    In this day with easy access to media, there’s no excuse for not having immediate coverage.

    The track wants support? It had better show some appreciation for those that supported it.

  16. I have some inside info on predictions for the 2018 season by noted prognosticator darealgoodfella:
    1. NLSW grandstands will not get approved by the town
    2. The track will not open
    3. If it does open, no cars will compete
    4. If it does open no fans will attend
    5. Hillary Clinton will be elected president in a landslide

  17. I’m just happy we had a place to race this year!! Hopefully a place to race next year. We got paid for every event, would like to thank everyone that made this season happen, it’s a lot of time and hard work by everyone… congratulations to all the champions!!! The results are on the web site (I have been told) JMO

  18. I am so OUTRAGED the Speedbowl took so long to update their website. If I knew that was going to happen i would have preferred the track stay CLOSED! As a protest I will sell my racing team and never go there again! Take THAT Speedbowl management!!!!!!!!!

  19. Racers will race. How many times did they get screwed by Eames with bounced checks ect. and they still came back year after year. Funny how daidiot remains basically silent all season about the bowl and all of a sudden he’s in all his glory with this story. For a guy that doesn’t go to the track he sure has a lot to say when it’s something bad about the place. Makes you wonder what the track may have done to the poor guy in the past. Oh well, he’s got all winter to make his dumb predictions that I’m sure everyone will believe…

  20. https://www.race-monitor.com/Results/Section/2
    These folks had the results almost immediately if anyone cares.
    Simplest thought in the string Steve and possibly the best.
    375 Pro Sportsman tour, possibly an SK Light Tour series, a new modified tour, will the existing tours survive and where will they appear, will the Speedbowl have a season next year, what will Staffords schedule include?
    This is going to be a mega interesting off season to follow local circle track racing.

  21. Never mind the sword measuring contest thats been going on between Shawn and the “bowl pr staff” a shovel better be in the ground after this coming weekend to replace the stands, bathrooms, etc because the town supposedly signed off on them for the last time.

  22. Oh don’t forget Rocco will remain a off off off off off off off off off off off off off Broadway driver.

  23. Geoff Nooney says:

    I think having gone through all the trouble earier this year, the Speedbowl did a good job, like stated above everyone got paid, they added Chris Forester as the new race director, and are making progress. Just be thankful to have a place to race and watch races. I had fun, had a part failure in the finale but theres always next year, fun track, fun times.

  24. Isn’t this the second time it’s happened to him? I thought it was another track a few years ago.

  25. Maybe mine is not a popular point of view, but I’m reading all this negativity about press releases and such when I believe the people who raced there and attended there should be greatful they actually had a place to race given how things looked in March. So no big media coverage over a local 1/3 mile bull ring that no one cares about unless they race there or attend races there. It’s not like these are national champinships with name recognition beyond those who are regulars at the track. Do the winners deserve accolades? most definitely . But given the sad state of affairs at this track year after year, if I had to chose between having a place to go race or worrying about press releases and social media coverage, guess which one I’d pick. This track has been week by week for several years now. But somehow there manages to be race cars on the track evey year. If you’ve been around as long as I have you’ve seen too many tracks close and even Thompson has scaled back to what – 7 races a year . In fact if you go way back in history this track probably would have closed in 1975 if Tattersall didn’t get thrown out of Riverside in favor of NASCAR and come to the Bowl with United. So be happy you had what you had this year and hope you still have it next year because sooner or later this cat called Waterford is going to have spent all its nine lives.

  26. There was for sure favoritism towards Keith Rocco from the start of the year; they should acknowledge all the top 5 drivers in each class and not just the champions. The race directory was horribly inconsistent with his calls and should be replaced.

  27. Deputy Dog says:

    Considering all the legal issues involving the owner of the track, maybe someone should have done a background check on on the media guy they hired. He’s a pretty bad hombre with an extensive police record.

  28. Good string. A lot of different perspectives from drivers, owners and fans.
    Essentially the article is about failing of one facet of the tracks duties in managing a race schedule…. communication and public relations. Comments by others including Ed P make it clear other priorities are on fans and drivers minds like simply holding the events and drivers being paid.
    On 10/12/17 Shawn wrote this in the comment section in response to a statement about the media being locked out of the track:
    “Former Car Owner,
    I don’t think any media was told they could not be there. I can’t speak for others, but I have my reasons for not covering there on a weekly basis, though I don’t think those reasons need to be shared publicly at this time. But it has nothing to do with being pushed out by anybody.”
    I guess when it came to the Speedbowl more then one person had their own reasons for not being at their best. Maybe in the end it didn’t make any difference as long as fans and participants are mostly satisfied.

  29. Fast Eddie says:

    To all the real race fans, please be happy and thankful the Speedbowl opened and there was racing! Yes, there were problems and shortcomings. Yes, there is room for improvement. BUT IT DIDN”T CLOSE!! We all know tracks don’t reopen when they close in New England. I think any racing is certainly better than none! I was only able to get down there twice this year, but bottom line, I had a good time! To Mr. Whitney and crew who put a 1/2 season together on short notice… THANK-YOU!!
    To all the racers that competed and had some good racing… THANK-YOU!!
    And to the fans that came out and supported the track… THANK-YOU!!

  30. darealgoodfella says:

    I don’t agree with all this “be thankful for what you have” in Waterford sentiment. Public relations, promoting, advertising, sponsors, exposure, visibility, mindshare, etc. is crucial and critical for track survival and thriving.

  31. Dennis T. says:

    I can’t believe I’m going to say I actually agree with goodfella. I don’t understand why so many people keep saying everyone should just be alright with things that are done wrong and just be happy the track is open? I’ve been going there for nearly 30 years and I love the place, but I’m also a paying customer spending my money there. Obviously I want to see the track stay open because it is a place I love, but as a customer if I’m going to spend my money there I want to see a business that’s trying to improve. I didn’t see improvement this year. The same issues I expected a new staff to have in June were issues every week right up until last weekend. But as long as people spending money there keep saying “we are just happy the track is still open” the people running the track are going to continue to make no effort to improve. Why should they try to improve if the customers are all saying as long the place is open they’re happy no matter how bad it is run?

  32. Fast Eddie says:

    For the record, I’m not saying I’m happy with the problems at the Speedbowl. I’m just saying I’m glad it was open and not closed. They now have the off-season to work on the issues that existed this season and be better prepared to improve with next season.

  33. Oldbutspry says:

    Man your read some of he comments about conditions over the months and you’d think the place was falling down. Then you go there and it looked great. Stands are wood, painted and seem fine. Rest rooms old school but it’s not like they’re used every day. Concessions, really. How can you screw up a hot dog and a beer. Most important thing the track surface. It’s great. Especially compared to what it was 20 or 30 years ago when it was more of an obstacle course with railroad tie walls and rusty fencing. Outside groove even works for cars that handle good. Scoreboard sign was on showing numbers. Track lighting weak and old but adequate. If things aren’t run perfectly what’s that make it. Like what every track was like when we first started going to races. Quirky, vintage and pretty cool.

  34. darealgoodfella says:

    If the ‘bowl opens next season, all that will change is the prices going up.

  35. So after months of bad PR for the place because the track owner got arrested on awful charges, the guy leasing the place hired an ex-con to do PR for the track? You really can’t make this stuff up. Only the Speedbowl.

  36. Rhea LeVasseur says:

    I’m glad the speed bowl opened. I really enjoy the races there. As far as the press releases on their website, I rarely go to any of the tracks websites. I get my info right here on race day. Thank you Shawn for keeping me informed this racing season. Congrats to Keith and all the winners. Most importantly, thank you to the drivers for giving us a great racing season.

  37. Mike Serluca says:

    PR should be a priority next season. Stop putting people in place who clearly aren’t doing what they were hired to do. I offered to help. For free. Egos and grudges is why the PR is what it is. Cut the fat and get people in there who have the SPEEDBOWL’s best interest in mind and not their own personal glory. George Whitney is a great person and I believe he will make the needed changes. He has already made some important ones. Getting reliable, accurate information out to the public consistently is a HUGE job that needs to be taken more serious than it has been. Just my 2 cents….

  38. Mike Serluca is one of only a few sane people that comment on this site.

  39. What do you mean if? Don’t you know what’s going on next season? For someone that doesn’t go to the speedbowl you sure seem to know everything about the place. Whatever keeps you amused I suppose.

  40. darealgoodfella says:

    rich, how many false starts happened last Spring? Lots can happen, ‘if’ seems appropriate.

  41. Is that place in usa
    Waterford london ???

  42. sour grapes of wrath says:

    I think even for free no one was going to hire Mr Serluca based on the alcohol fueled rant that appeared on social media regarding the track and a drivers spouse…..don’t be part of the problem be part of the solution.. just calling it how I see it… I am sure everyone has great ideas on how to improve the track. the reality is those in charge will make those decisions ….good, bad or indifferent.. I don’t see the track opening next year unless the bleachers are repaired. I could actually feel them sway (not kidding) this will require substantial funds .will people sit in new bleachers if Mr Bemer`s money pays for what we hope are continued improvements ??? only time will tell .the bowl could be a really great race track with continued improvements and the right management/promotion. I do agree people should be happy that the track opened this year ..

  43. I actually feel safer in the Speedbowl stands than I do at Thompson. Both tracks need new seating installed.

  44. I am very happy the Speedbowl opened and operated this year.Only a moron would wish ill will on any racetrack in New England.Sure there were a few shortfalls(PR,personnel changes etc.),however we weathered an incredible storm of controversy only to enjoy a reasonably successful racing season capped with a fantastic finale weekend.There will always be work to do keeping an active race track alive adjacent to a large community.Voice your support for the Speedbowl,not your sour grapes.Shawn,you are right about the PR shortfalls.Thanks to every driver,owner,fan, track staff and management for another season of local racing.

  45. Wow, over 6 months to go and the speculation is at fever pitch. How do observations on priorities get any more diverse then PR to stands replacement.
    I can’t say I felt them sway but wasn’t in them with a lot of other people at the time. My only gripe being a geezer is no hand rails where I was. Of all the question marks for next year the stands would be one of the few knowns I would think. Given the critical nature there must be a complete analysis by a structural engineer and the weaknesses and needs documented. Short of a racing fairy spreading powerful ground unicorn horn magic dust over the track over the winter stands replacement is highly unlikely. If that is the number one priority to racing next year I’d definitely hold off on freshening up my motor if I had a car racing there.

  46. If you’ve noticed, there are plenty of morons here.

  47. I think it’s, in case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of morons here. If you had noticed you wouldn’t have needed reminding.

  48. darealgoodfella says:

    450Mike, nobody is wishing ill will on any track. The tracks are doing to themselves. The bad management that leads to all the problems, bad race directors, dangerous bleachers, etc. is not a result of any fan wishing ill will.

  49. I’m pretty sure what I said also makes sense. I’m not going to get into a grammar argument with you though. I didn’t go to college. 😃

  50. darealgoodfella says:

    The status of the 🚽 will leak out over the next few months.

    More on that later.

  51. At this stage the horse that everyone thought was dead got up and ran the race and did well. Some are happy for the horse. Some can’t believe their prognoses of the horses ailments being terminal was faulty and are hoping it drops dead now so they can kick it some more. But the race is in the record books nonetheless.

  52. Speedbowl just posting their schedule for opening weekend. Your thoughts please. And no we don’t need to know about any vomiting.

  53. Just Wondering says:

    Its great to see there will be a 2018 season. Having this info posted so soon is a pleasant surprise considering all the upheaval in 2017. Also glad to see the Modified Racing Series being part of the opening show and not the MTS. Looks to be a great opening weekend with the MRS on Saturday along with the other touring series and the Speedbowl Regular divisions running on Sunday. A smart move IMO this way should weather cause any issues on Saturday they can still get the touring divisions in on Sunday and then anything that may not get in on Sunday as part of a regular Saturday night event later in the year. Hopefully this info will bring many of the cars and teams back home to the Speedbowl that left to race elsewhere in 2017. Maybe we will see the return of the Gada’s as they were surely missed last year. One can only hope.

    Now it would be nice if the Bowl could release some additional info if George Whitney will be continuing on leasing the place with his current team or does Mr. Bemer have something else in the works. Also would be nice to hear about any planned off-season renovations such as grandstand replacement that has been such a hot topic of discussion on this and other forums going back as far as the old days of Terry Eames.

  54. Not exactly a schedule. More like “this is what we’re thinking about”.

  55. darealgoodfella says:

    That’s deja vu all over again, and again, and again…

    Trick question… how many opening weekends did the Speedbowl schedule for the 2017 season?

  56. Trick question…did the speedbowl open last season

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