Setting The Scene: Whelen Modified Tour Mr. Rooter 161 At New London-Waterford Speedbowl

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Ted Christopher (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ted Christopher (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

No NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers have more laps at New London-Waterford Speedbowl than Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco. They’ll rely on that experience in Saturday’s Mr. Rooter 161 with an eye on attaining a long-awaited trip to Victory Lane.

The Whelen Modified Tour’s regular competitors have hundreds, if not thousands, of laps at tracks like Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Stafford Motor Speedway, Riverhead Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. There have only been three races at the Speedbowl since 2006, however, and just four active drivers have more than five career tour starts there.

That’s where the home track advantage can come into play. Not only does Christopher have 16 career Whelen Modified Tour starts at the .375-mile oval, but he’s run weekly there on and off for more than two decades. Rocco has but two tour starts at his home track, but notched his 107th and 108th career wins there last week in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action to become the Speedbowl’s all-time winningest driver.mrrooter1612014

Rocco has won four of the last five titles in the SK Modified Division, the track’s Division I in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Christopher was the track champion in 1992.

Both also carry a little extra motivation into the Mr. Rooter 161. The second-longest winless drought of Christopher’s career currently sits at 44 races while Rocco – despite his tremendous success in SK Modifieds – has yet to register a victory in 23 Whelen Modified Tour appearances. Likewise, both have positive recent experiences that may be encouraging for Saturday as Christopher found Speedbowl Victory Lane on May 18 in a SK Modified while Rocco had a strong run in his first Whelen Modified Tour start with Our Racing last time out.

RACE: Mr. Rooter 161
PLACE: New London-Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl
DATE: Saturday, May 30
TIME: 9 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .375-mile, banked asphalt oval
2014 WINNER: Bobby Santos
2014 POLESITTER: Donny Lia
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 3:35-4:35 p.m., Qualifying 6:30 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 7:45 p.m.
TRACK TWITTER: @speedbowlnews

Fast Facts:
The Race: The Mr. Rooter 161 will be the third race on the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and the lone trip to New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 161 laps (60.375 miles).

The Track: A .375-mile banked oval, New London-Waterford Speedbowl opened for auto racing in 1951. A NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned facility, the Speedbowl contests weekly racing on Saturday nights, and has previously held 20 Whelen Modified Tour events. The facility changed ownership in the offseason and New London was added back to the official name, as it had been originally.

Race Winners: There have been 16 different race winners in 20 all-time events at the Speedbowl, led by four drivers with two victories. Five active drivers have won at the track: Donny Lia (2), Ted Christopher (1), Doug Coby (1), Ryan Preece (1) and Bobby Santos (1).

Pole Winners: There have been 13 different pole winners at the Speedbowl, led by Tony Hirschman’s four. Jerry Marquis set the qualifying record in 2006 at 13.618 seconds (99.133 mph).

Mr. Rooter 161 Notes:
Back With a Bang: The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will transition from its longest layoff of the season to the most-compact stretch on the schedule. There will be 33 days between the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway on April 26 and Saturday’s Mr. Rooter 161, but the New London-Waterford Speedbowl event will also be the first of three in a span of 12 days. The TSI Harley-Davidson 125 will follow next Friday at Stafford and the Mr. Rooter 125 is slated for June 10 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Nothing Attracts a Crowd Like a Crowd: Entries kept flowing in for the fourth annual Mr. Rooter 161, and as the week began there were 35 on the list. The first race of the season at Thompson netted 35 while Race No. 2 at Stafford had 33. If all 35 show it would be the most entries for a Whelen Modified Tour event at the Speedbowl since there were 36 in June 2005.

Get Your Ferry Reservations: Those Saturday morning ferry runs from Orient Point, New York, to New London, Connecticut, will have plenty of heavy payload this week. Although this is not a new phenomenon, it’s worth noting in this instance that 40-percent (14 of 35) of the Mr. Rooter 161 entry lists consists of Long Island drivers, including some of the newest faces on the tour like rookies Brendon Bock, Kyle Ellwood, Jeff Goodale and Dave Sapienza.

Lia, Preece Know Their Short Tracks: Donny Lia and Ryan Preece are the active wins leaders on bullrings, with six apiece. Lia is one up on Preece at the Speedbowl (2-to-1) while both have four victories at Riverhead Raceway. Preece’s other bullring win was recorded at Monadnock Speedway.

Bonsignore’s Bullring Success: While his bullring win total is half of the six checkers that Lia and Preece both have, Justin Bonsignore has posted some impressive numbers in his own right. Bonsignore has three wins, 12 top fives and an average finish of 6.1 in 16 career bullring starts, which is best among all active drivers. He has finishes of second, fourth and fourth at the Speedbowl in the three previous years.

NASCAR Hall Gets Another Mod Member: The distance, 161 laps, of the Mr. Rooter 161 is a nod to modified legend Richie Evans who campaigned the famous orange No. 61 race car. Until last week, Evans was the only non-premier series driver to receive election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but fellow Rome, New York, native Jerry Cook will now join him. A six-time NASCAR Modified division national champion, Cook was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 20 and will be inducted on Jan. 22, 2016.

Home Tracks: Rocco Tops In Speedbowl History
With two more feature victories last week, Keith Rocco became the winningest driver in New London-Waterford Speedbowl history. A four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion out of the SK Modified division, Rocco has also nabbed late model division titles there in each of the last two years. With wins in both divisions last Saturday, Rocco passed Phil Rondeau for the top spot on the Speedbowl’s all-time wins list at 108.


  1. Frankie Tree says

    Please come Support the New and improved New London Waterford Speed Bowl and it’s new owner Bruce Bemer . New paint up dated bath rooms . Better food and great bull ring action .

    See ya Saturday Y’all !

  2. Chris D. says

    Wonder if any other tour regulars besides Keith and Teddy will have the nerve to run an SK as well?
    Priece or Woody perhaps?

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