New Beginning: New London-Waterford Speedbowl Reopens With Blastoff Saturday

George Whitney on the midway at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Saturday

WATERFORD – It was a day Saturday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl that proved symbolic of all that has swirled around the facility since late March.

From dark and gloomy and looking awful to sunny and celebratory.

At 3 a.m. Saturday morning new track operator George Whitney arrived at the track.

There was nothing pressing the necessitated him being there that early.

“Just nerves,” Whitney said of his early arrival.

In late March the future of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was thrown into question after track owner Bruce Bemer was arrested for patronizing a trafficked person.

Through April and May rumors swirled of possible sales, or lease aggreements or the possibility that the track would just sit dormant for the 2017 season.

The track was originally scheduled to open May 6-7 for Blastoff Weekend. Track officials announced the postponement of Blastoff weekend on April 26.

On June 5, some clarity came to what the 2017 season would hold when it was announced that Whitney, a former competitor and team owner at the track, would lease the facility from Bemer.

On Saturday Whitney got his first taste of operating the track for an event.

“Everything has gone awesome,” Whitney said. “It’s a pretty good turnout. It’s a little light for what we’ve been through. All the drivers are positive. There’s been no negative at all. It’s been incredible. Everything has kind of fell into place like nothing ever happened.”

The day started with heavy rains in the morning that flooded much of the track property. The task of moving water out was the first big test for the new operations crew.

“Everybody came together,” Whitney said. “We got the rain. There was a plan place. Everything just fell into place. We pumped it out, pushed the water out. We really didn’t start much later than we anticipated.”

From there, with some minor tweaks to the schedule, track action got underway with practice and qualifying for an eight division racing card for Blastoff 2017. At about 6:15 p.m. feature racing began at the track.

Car counts in most regular divisions were lower than typical from last season. The track’s premier SK Modified division, would averaged more than 20 cars weekly last year, had 13 participants. The Late Model division had eight cars. There were 15 SK Light Modifieds, 19 Street Stocks and 16 Mini Stocks. The Valenti Modified Racing Series had 19 cars on hand.

“It will play out,” Whitney said of the car counts. “A couple people told me they wouldn’t be here because they’re racing at other tracks, but they’ll be here next week. I kind of anticipated that.”


  1. Man Courchesne is prolific. Writing and posting on the fly. So what of the crowd. Was is decent?
    For a 3rd mile the car counts were just fine. Considering the hole this very brave guy Whitney jumped into voluntarily and had to dig himself out of this is a near best case scenario. People are creatures of habit. They have to get back into the Speedbowl groove again and realize they won’t be damned for simply wanting a nights entertainment.

  2. Car counts will improve. It’s only been a couple weeks since we got the green light to run, but months of negative reports that it wouldn’t even open. I bet more than a few are scrambling to get ready

  3. Joe is stands?

  4. How many in stands

  5. Stafford car count last night for comparison. 24 SK’s, 13 Late Models, 23 SK Lights, 13 Limited Late Models and 14 Dare Stocks. What do you think? Do the Speedbowl numbers seem respectable?

  6. Joe,
    Probably just under half full.

  7. So Shawn posted the truth and you don’t like it ok. The car counts were poor. It is what it is

  8. Yes considering the unkown of how the track would operate. Lots of folks do a wait & see. Plus weather and summer is just beginning. Other tracks have worse car counts,and they had no 2017 issues.

  9. Yes considering the unkown of how the track would operate. Lots of folks do a wait & see. Plus weather and summer is just beginning. Other tracks have worse car counts,and they had no 2017 issues.

  10. Racer 28 says

    George Thank You for saving the bowl this season. The racing has been good.

  11. Car counts will come back. Th track count was respectable.There are some New England tracks that have had worse counts,and they’ve been open since April.

  12. No mention of the trucks ? Why in every post is there a need to bring up old news . Focus on the positive moving forward to make this another great season at the Bowl!

  13. Poprocks says

    No mention of the Legends with a strong field of 20. Not too far off most weekly shows last year. There was a decent size crowd on hand, too. Car counts will come up. But wouldn’t it be nice for once to read an article on here about the Speedbowl without beating the dead horse to death even more. We all know what happened. You seem to be the only one that keeps bringing it up in every posted article. But I guess it takes up more space in the article when you really have nothing to write about.

  14. I would estimate about 1/3rd full stands. That is not good when it takes $ to pay the bills. We will see as time goes on if the car and fan counts increase. I hope so for survival sake.

  15. Is dareal m.i.a? Maybe he checked himself into a mental institution. I can only imagine his head exploded after seeing all the deplorables in the stands. They must have left their moral compasses at home. No official word if they passed inspection either. I guess they’re OK, I didn’t see anyone fall through. Great to see some positive press finally. The bulletin, The Day and fox 61 were all there. The Day especially had an excellent article with plenty of pictures.

  16. Fast Eddie says

    I thought the weekly car counts were about the same as events last year with the SK’s & LM’s being short. I’m not sure if the truck count was average or not. The VMRS count was a little low. Some of the low counts were probably due in part the the lousy a.m. weather and Riverhead. I thought the crowd was pretty decent, more than 1/2 full. The grand stands were fine (95%) except for a small section near turn one, and from what I saw, one more day’s labor will complete it.
    A BIG THANK-YOU THE MR. WHITNEY AND CREW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Trucks were average. They get more when the actual truck series comes. Some people are saying the counts will get better in the coming weeks. We’ll see. The lites and the rest had plenty of cars. Rocco said his car wasn’t even finished until Saturday morning. The big surprise was Dennis Charette in a lite. He had been a top runner in the sks years ago. Then moved to the mrs.

  18. The crowd size was good – no different I’d have expected in a “regular” year. The “one third full” estimate is too low, in my opinion. I’d say 1/2 to 2/3 full.

  19. Rafter Fan,
    I hate making estimates, but I tried to estimate twice from long views. More than half, less than three quarters was my best description.

  20. JimBinCT says

    The crowd was really good. As good as most weeks last year. SK count was a little weak. Late models were weak, but they always struggle to get decent counts. Rest of the divisions were about average counts. It was a great night considering all that has gone down.

  21. Did Waterford release a schedule for the rest of the season or say when their next race is? I don’t see anything on their website or full results from Saturdays race. It does look like they can update the website on the weekend as they posted a picture and blurb saying they were running Saturday. I looked at the practice results, no feature results on my laps, and the car count wasn’t too far off from prior year in most divisions. The Sks were down significantly and late models were down a bit but everything else seemed about right. From all accounts, the crowd was pretty good, sounds like a fairly successful opening. It is definitely something to build upon and at the very minimum at least they ran a race in 2017 to keep the grandfather clause in tact so it can remain a race track.

  22. Re the crowd size, I thought it looked a little sparse as qualifying started, but later as the VMRS was lining up I noticed that the crowd had grown considerably. Maybe a little bigger than past Blastoff events? Either way, all the doom and gloomers who predicted empty stands were proven wrong. As a side note, I didn’t realize until Thursday that it was a 2pm start. Wonder if some fans didn’t get the word on the starting time and just assumed it was a regular Saturday night schedule as I had thought up until Thursday? Overall there was a lot of racing but the show moved along quite well considering it was the first effort by the new regime. Thank you George Whitney for going out on a limb and bringing the Speedbowl back to life.

  23. speaking as a car owner that ran the last show of the night – show dragged on way to long. got to the track at 12 noon left at 11:00 pm – sucks
    No reason to run a practice round with 7 cars in one and 6 cars in the other, 13 cars fit on the race track.
    Due to the late start of practice (water in the infield) there should have been only one practice round for each division, everyone qualified for the features so no need for 2 rounds.

  24. Sign out front says 7 divisions this coming Saturday plus Wednesday and Friday shows. They seem to be lacking in the PR department though.

  25. darealgoodfella says

    New beginning?

    Nah, when Bemer sells the track, then there will be a new beginning.

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