Exodus: Tom Abele Jr. Leaving SK Mod Division At Waterford; Jeff Rocco Also Pondering Departure

Tom Abele Jr. and Jeff Rocco both left the Waterford Speedbowl Saturday night with mangled racecars and there’s a chance both could be calling it an end to their seasons at the shoreline oval.

Jeff Rocco, who celebrated his first career SK Modified victory in 2012 at the Waterford Speedbowl, is unsure if his team will continue to race at the track.

Abele, said Sunday that he is definitely done competing at the track this season. The Norwich driver has been involved in nasty wrecks in the last two events at the track. He said it cost him $5,000 to repair his car to return to action Saturday night and that another $5,000 worth of damage was done Saturday.

When it comes to his decision to leave, Abele points the finger at track owner Terry Eames, who has taken on the role of race director this season. Former race director Scott Tapley left after the 2012 season to become the series director for the Valenti Modified Racing Series.

Eames and Abele had a heated exchanged in the pits Saturday night after the crash-marred 35-lap SK Modified feature.

“There’s no isolated incident, it’s just a combination of how things have been going at the Bowl,” Abele said of his decision to leave. “I feel like ever since Scott Tapley has left the position of race director, I feel like years worth of work that he did down there just went down the tubes. I feel like Terry is a great promoter at the track and I feel like trying to be race director and promoter and this position and that position it’s just spreading himself too thin.”

Abele said his next event will be an open SK Modified show at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway on June 2. He said after that he will shift his focus to running full-time in an SK Modified at Thompson International Speedway.

Rocco said his team owners, Mike and Mark Pane, are undecided about returning to the track this coming Saturday.

Abele finished fourth in the SK Modified standings last year and Rocco was sixth. Rocco, in his first full-time season in 2012, recorded his first career victory in the season ending event last year. Rocco’s twin brother Keith is a two-time SK Modified division champion at Waterford.

Rocco’s night ended Saturday with his right front wheel assembly careening through the air after he made hard contact with the backstretch wall. The incident happened after Rocco had contact with Ed Puleo in a fight for position near the front of the field.

Rocco said he was shocked Puleo was not penalized for the incident.

“There’s no calls being made, there’s no warnings being made,” Rocco said. “Obviously Terry is in debt and the guy that owns [Ed Puleo’s car, Vin Beedle] is paying his bills and it looks like he got away with murder on Saturday night.

“It’s a glorified demolition derby every week. As far as me being a racecar driver and learning, you’re not learning anything when you do three lap runs. The racing there is being in defense-mode. You’re racing to miss wrecks. It’s not side-by-side, battling hard. They used to have the best show going and I think it’s the worst show going right now. Scott Tapley had things really tightened up last year and in a matter of fives weeks it’s gone to hell.”

Rocco said his team is pondering a move to another track and possibly running a number of Valenti Modified Racing Series events later this year.

Abele said Eames continues to say he’s working on bringing in more officials to better officiate events, but that the same problems have continued through the first six events this year and that officiating continues to worsen.

“There’s a lot of things that are happening on the track that I feel like people are getting away with and it’s frustrating to kind of be on the short end of the stick it seems,” Abele said. “I think [Eames] and his wife, I think they’re more worried about how many hot dogs they sell there than how the racers feel there.

“I consider me and Jeff solid top-five cars down there. From a business point, it’s like having two of your biggest clients or customers tell you to your face that they don’t want to do business with you any more.”

Abele, who has two career victories, was fifth in the SK Modified standings in 2011 and seventh in 2010. He said he is looking forward to joining the ranks as part of Thompson’s Thursday night weekly shows.

“Thursdays are tough for anyone, but I need a change of pace, Abele said. “I’ve raced at the Speedbowl for a few years now, I have a couple wins, we always finish somewhere in the top-five in points. I feel like the track doesn’t even care that we’re there.”

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  1. they can always toss on a restricter plate and go sk lite racing! that’s allowed at the bowl as well.

  2. This owner doesn’t seem to have any respect for anyone there…my brother has worked at Waterford for years for very little compensation…he does it because he loves racing and the drivers…this man shows no care or respect for him either. He’d better be careful though because with each driver he loses, he loses fans as well. Time to open his eyes and start doing the right thing all the way around or he may end up without a track!!!!!

  3. I think some of these driver comments are way out of line. I have been going to the track for years and the racing is just as competitive and exciting as its always been….regardless of who the race director is. I say go race at Thompson where the car counts continue to dwindle….maybe a smaller field will be better for you….

  4. Perhaps the fact that its a bullring and has 30 modifieds every week is an issue…but then again…they have a full field for a reason. The racing is great and the tracks tough. I understand people get pissed off, i do too.

  5. @RaceDayCT
    I had a similar problem with Race director Eames last Wednesday after my sons Bandolero race. He had black flagged him for being to aggressive with his front bumper. We didn’t know this until after the race was over. No flag was displayed by the starter nor was anything said over the race radio (that all divisions are required to have) while the race was on.
    His answer to my son’s question about why no flag or radio transmission about being black flagged was “we’re not playing that way anymore”.
    My son later told me how Scott would always be on the radio with the drivers in control of the race.
    The car count is beginning to shrink in all divisions, I hope it can be stopped in time. #56bando

  6. Frankie Majoriski says

    Everything Abele said is true. Its been a wreckfest almost every week, with NO penalties being given. Eames knows that big wrecks and drama put butts in the stands and sells beers, so he’s okay with that, which is why you can’tan’t have the track promoter being the race director. How many times has the #22 (Tyler Jackson) been on the front row? He’s a rookie who can’t hold a line. Yeah, he’s handicapped, but the track has the final discretion. As for driver’s leaving for MRS, good for them, MRS costs the same when you factor in they don’t wreck for laughs. The true symptom of the SK’s problems at Waterford is their SK Lite program. They’re feeder division for their main draw is dying. 8 cars? Stafford has almost as many Lite’s as they do SK’s.

  7. Sharpie Fan says

    Re: sk lites at Stafford

    Not to digress,but if the 14 year-olds with more money than experience in the sk lite division at Stafford don’t smarten up and learn that you need to hold your line and you can’t rub with an open wheel car then the counts at Stafford are going to go down too. All the veterans will get sick of having to fix their cars every week and in a year or so the 14-year-olds will have moved on to “bigger and better” venues and there will be nobody left.

  8. warren lally says

    for goodness sake!! these two should go off into the sunset holding hands..grow up.!!!! its racing..you think you wont get wrecked.. get over yourselves.. go buy a 1/4 midget or bandalero or perhaps a legends car… oops.. all those cars wreck on occasion too.go ahead to MRS..its still racing .. you could get wrecked ..better stay home watch it on tv.. it will cost ya less money.. leave the racing to the big boys !!! have some cheese with your whine.. what an embarrassment….you should be ashamed of yourselves..

  9. ModFan13 says

    Ok first off, if Rocco has a problem with puleo running him high a bit, then lift on the throttle and don’t lose it into the inside lane. Secondly, on Sids view, abele was noticeably upset and spat at Chadwick, seriously?! Dude, you freaking hit his right rear nerf bar and flattened your own tire so that five grand is on you. Finally, this is a 3/8 mile bowl track with a full field of SK’s if you want to go run Thompson, then by all means go, you’ll finish top 10 every night and when you wreck there you’ll spend a lot more money straightening out the frame with those higher speeds.

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