The Hook Up: The Many Sides To Wrecker Crew Life At New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Ed Thompson hangs from the door of a wrecker looking on at action from the infield of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Ed Thompson hangs from the door of a wrecker looking on at action from the infield of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

WATERFORD – When Ed Thompson arrives at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday’s he understands that there’s plenty of hats he needs to wear for a night of racing action at the shoreline oval.

Organizer, planner, boss, amateur psychologist, MacGyver-like engineer, chef.

Call it a whirlwind job description, especially considering it’s an unpaid volunteer position that Thompson takes on purely for the love of the sport.

Thompson’s position as an official at the Speedbowl is to oversee the crew operating the wreckers at the track during events.

“We bring a lot of fun to what we do here,” Thompson said. “But we take it very seriously too. I think for fans what they see, they think it looks easy. It’s not. You’ve got a 20 or 30 thousand dollar race car that’s just been destroyed. You don’t want to do any more damage to the vehicle than what’s already done. It can be a totally thankless job.”

Thompson oversees a crew that typically incudes between three to four hooking wreckers and one rollback flatbed type wrecker.

“When the rollback rolls out you know it’s beyond not good,” Thompson said. “But we do use it. We have even transported people home with it. We’ll get you home.”

The showcase ride for the crew is a massive bright yellow hook truck provided to the track crew by Belltown Motors of East Hampton, which is owned by the family of Speedbowl Late Model competition Anthony Flannery.

“The Flannery’s are phenomenal people,” Thompson said. “Mr. Flannery and Anthony, they’re great. I couldn’t ask for a nicer setup. They let me us a $295,000 tow truck every week? It’s great. I can’t say anything more.”

Thompson – known well around the track as “Special Ed” – has been working regularly at the track for about a decade.

“I do pump septic systems for a living, but I’ve been hooking for a long time. I worked for a truck stop as their wrecker driver. I did all their heavy work. That place went belly-up and I took a job doing septic systems. But I’ve been hooking since I was a kid. I’m 49 years old and I’ve been hooking since I was 10.”

Thompson, of Ashaway, R.I., knows he doesn’t leave all the stink behind from his paid job when he gets to the track.

“We take a lot of crap from drivers,” Thompson said. “I’m a volunteer. All my guys are volunteers. We just roll with it. You let it go. Nine out of ten times after they cool off, they all apologize. I understand, the heat of the moment.

“I don’t make a nickel doing this. All for love. I take enough crap all week long. I don’t need it from drivers too.”

Thompson’s full crew depends on events, but included in the crew is Thompson’s sons Jamie and Zach, Jordan Soper, Glen Taylor, Geal Rodrick, Smokey Brice, Floyd “Bandit” Chesbro, Jim Brice Jr., Chris Simone, Mike Simone and Kasey Rich.

Thompson said he understands that drivers can sometimes go overboard and take out their frustrations on the wrecker crew.

“We’re the first person that you’re going to see after you just got wrecked,” Thompson said.” You are going to be hot. We’re here to have a good time, treat the drivers with all the respect in the world. We’re here to help them, not hurt them. We want to do whatever we can to get their car back out on the track and back racing that night.

“But I hear it from guys, that we wrecked their stuff. ‘I didn’t wreck it, you did. Wrecker don’t care. But we can wreck it some more if you want to keep going with us.’ But we just try to go with the flow. It is what it is, I understand they’re hot and the whole nine yards. You just let it roll.”

The crew has become well known around the local racing scene not just for their ability to swiftly clean up any messes that arise on the track, but also for their eclectic event dinner menus and their embracing of social media.

At times the crew has even delivered cooked lobsters to drivers in victory lane.

“Every week we’re doing something here a little different,” Thompson said at recent event while grilling marinated chicken tenders before the start of feature racing. “From prime rib to lobster, we’ve done it all in this infield.”

And the crew is unique in that they oversee their own Facebook page, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Wrecker Crew page on Facebook. They currently have 1,421 “likes” on the page, which offers regular photos and videos of the crew in action.

“My son got it going,” Thompson said. “We started that because there was people that couldn’t come to the races and we wanted to throw some pictures up so people could see stuff. Then we started doing some videos. There’s a lot of people that like it. It’s just something to have fun. Believe it or not, you sit in the stands and watch a race, or you’re in the pit and you watch a race. Same race. Then you come to the infield and it’s a totally different race. Very fast paced. We get that luxury to get to the best view. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Kasey Rich (left), Joran Soper (center) and Ed Thompson look on during a heat race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Kasey Rich (left), Jordan Soper (center) and Ed Thompson look on during a heat race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Wrecker Crew Grandstands

The wrecker crew sits prepared in the infield at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl before the start of feature racing.


Wrecker Crew Ed Thompson Mirror

Ed Thompson waits in the cab of the track’s lead wrecker during a heat race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Wrecker Crew Cooking

Jordan Soper (left), Jamie Thompson (center) and Ed Thompson (right) prepare to grill marinated chicken for the wrecker crew in the infield

Wrecker Crew Ed Thompson Glenn Taylor

Glen Taylor (left) and Ed Thompson (right) chat during a heat race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Wrecker crew Back Rig

The wrecker crew waits while cars pass by on the backstretch during a heat race at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Shane Ryan Bailey contributed to this story 


  1. They are the Best

  2. Jim Phillips says

    Thank you to wreaker they help the show go along each week

  3. Ed blackwood says

    I ran enduros&a demos drivers can get out of hand some time they forget it’s a sport l always keep my kool when I wrecked it’s my fault & nobodys ele’s fault l also drove tow truck not at the speed bowl it can be a thankless job sometimes hang in there

  4. I ran enduros&demo-Derbys some times drivers can get out of hand they forget it’s a sport I wrecked quite a few times at the bowl I always kept a calm kool attitude it’s my fault &nobody else’s i drove tow truck back in the day it can be a thankless job people mess up&they blame you hang in there &Akeem up the good work

  5. What is with the white speedy dry they use that takes weeks to go away.

  6. Ray Williams says

    I’ve been blessed with working side by side with Ed and the crew, this story tells a lot, but they go beyond what the story tells, not only do they do everything that was stated, but they’ve also delivered cold waters on extremely hot nights to the drivers in victory lane, they show up at the track and make sure the track is safe and clean for racing, Ed provides a classic 70’s ford tow truck to assist in hooking cars which provides a nice nostalgic feel to the place!
    I’ve seen Ed come to the track after a heavy rain at 5am to pump water off of the infield so the race could happen that evening. Ed also brings a fun comedic personality and provides a great atmosphere for his coworkers. He would call us up on the phone to see if there was something we would like to eat off of the grill…. the list goes on and on, not to take away from any of the volunteers at the Speedbowl, but Ed is quite an asset and I hope to one day work with him and his crew again someday!

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