Lost And Found: Return To Speedbowl Brings Return To Normal For Flannery Family

Anthony Flanner celebrates a victory in the Late Model division in June at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Anthony Flannery Jr. celebrates a victory in the Late Model division in June at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

When the New London-Waterford Speedbowl opened for the 2015 racing season, after an offseason full of questions about the future of the facility, it ensured weekend normalcy for the fans that have called Saturday nights at the shoreline oval regular life for years.

Though with the reopening of the Speedbowl in May, that return to normalcy proved doubly true for Tony Flannery Sr.

When Anthony Flannery Jr. left the Speedbowl’s Late Model division after the 2012 season to head off to college, it left Tony Flannery Sr. wondering what to do with himself.

“When he left to go [to the University of Northwestern Ohio] I was kind of lost,” said Tony Flannery Sr. “For 15 years all my spare time was spent with my two boys working on racecars or going to different races. It basically consumed all our spare time and it was a great thing that we got involved in. We loved it. Once my son decided he was going away to school, it was like ‘What am I going to do while you’re gone for two years?’”

After completing his course work in Ohio, the 21-year old Anthony Flannery Jr. returned to where he left off at the Speedbowl, arriving back in the Late Model division at the track this year.

“I think the season went great,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “There’s only one more spot we could have gone in the points. We finished second in the points to our friend Jason Palmer.”

Tony Flannery Sr. owns Belltown Motors, Belltown Tire and Service Center, Belltown Auto Sales and Rental and Belltown Recycling Center and Fowler’s Auto Wrecking all in East Hampton. It was looking for a break from the grind of work-life that originally led the family to racing.

“Anthony, and my younger son Collin, when both of them were six and seven years old, I was working seven days a week, working four or five businesses that we owned,” Tony Flannery Sr. said. “My wife got me to go down to the Silver City Quarter Midget track on a Saturday and both of my kids ended up getting into racing. It was something where, nobody in my family had ever been involved in racing. That was our first taste and it turned into family fun. That’s what we turned it into.

“At that point I was working seven days a week at four different locations and I closed a couple of my locations and started spending my weekends with my family racing. And I found out that this is what people do, they don’t just work all the time. That ended up consuming a lot of my spare time, and it was great to bond with my kids. Then we spent the next 15 years racing. We went out and bought a big bus motorhome and traveled all over the United States going racing and it was a great thing. When my son Anthony got into Legends my younger son decided he was done racing.”

Anthony Flannery Jr. proved a dominant force in Legends racing at the Speedbowl and beyond before moving on to the track’s Late Model division in 2011 as a 16-year old. He quickly made a splash in the Late Model, getting his first feature win in his sixth start at Waterford.

After the 2012 season he headed to the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima, Oh., a school that has specialized course studies for those interested in careers in motorsports. The school also operates its own dirt track racing team.

In his first year at the school Anthony Flannery Jr. tried out as a driver for one of the school’s dirt Late Model cars.

“I started out as a regular worker with the team,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “I went to tryouts for a dirt car with my white firesuit on and they were all making fun of me, but after my tryout they didn’t have much to say.

“My first year on the team I was a crew chief on a car then I got chosen to drive. I drove most of the year and then when I wasn’t driving I was the crew chief. Then my second year I was appointed team manager, but I also drove one of the Modifieds full-time my second year. It was definitely out of my realm when I first started. But I love racing, and no matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re having fun, you can figure it out. I did pretty good. I made big improvements. A lot of the coaches were pretty impressed.”

And while son was getting dirty on short tracks in the Midwest, dad was spending plenty of time heading to Ohio.

“I knew he was lost without me racing at home,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “He’s got his ’32 Ford Coupe that he works on, but he can only tinker and polish that for so long before he runs out of stuff to do there. I know it was eating at him not racing because he came out to Ohio as much as he could to watch me race there. I started racing when I was seven years old and I knew it was hard for him to just stop.”

Said Tony Flannery Sr.: “My time was spent traveling to Ohio whatever weekends I could. At that point I kind of shifted to sponsoring some local cars. I got involved with Keith Rocco and Diego Monahan and a few other guys. My funding for racing was there and we weren’t racing so it was a cool thing to do to still support the racing community by sponsoring some guys, and I enjoyed going to the races and doing that.”

In November of 2014 Anthony Flannery Jr. finished up his studies at UNOH, earning a certificate in diesel technology and an Associates Degree in business management.

“I definitely always wanted to stay racing, whether I came home and did it or went somewhere else,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “I had a lot of opportunities. I had offers to stay there and work on cars. I could have done the North Carolina thing and tried to get on a team. But my father had just purchased Fowler’s Auto Wrecking here in East Hampton and I really wanted to come home and work for my family. No matter where I went though I knew I definitely wanted to keep racing.”

From there it was time to get the old Late Model ready once again.

“When everything with the Speedbowl was up in the air we weren’t sure what to do,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “We decided to just run the Late Model. Everybody wants to run a Modified but it’s very expensive. You have five or six bad weeks in a row and that might be the end of your season. With the Late Model you can rub a fender or touch a fence and it’s not a huge deal. That same mistake in a Modified can be a lot bigger catastrophe. We waited as long as we could and then decided we better start getting the car ready. We thrashed for a few weeks and then they announced the [Speedbowl] was going to open and we started thrashing even harder and got the car ready to go.”

Anthony Flannery Jr. ended up with two wins in 2015, finishing second in the standings, 85 points behind Palmer. He said he expects to return to the division in 2016 to chase that next spot in the standings.

“It was a hard fought season,” Anthony Flannery Jr. said. “For two years being in dirt racing, coming back to asphalt and being able to run up front with all those guys and be that consistent and finish that good in points meant a lot to us. But I think we’re going to stick with it for one more year. We don’t like to change cars or change direction until we’ve won at least one championship. I don’t like to leave anything on the table. I want to win a championship and go out from there on top.”

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