Racers Excited For Return To New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Though Questions Still Remain

Al Stone III celebrates his fourth Limited Sportsman championship last year at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

It’s been the question on the mind of drivers, crew members, team owners and fans since the local racing season kicked off in Connecticut in early April.

What will be of the 2017 racing schedule at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl? The season was put in question after the arrest in late March of Speedbowl owner Bruce Bemer.

Monday New London-Waterford Speedbowl management helped to finally bring an answer to that question with the announcement that the track will be leased and operated by longtime Legends car team owner and driver George Whitney of Westbrook.

“We’re thrilled,” said Al Stone III, a four-time and reigning Limited Sportsman division champion from Durham. “You keep hearing all the nonsense, but you never know what the rumors are going to be. Right now it’s in writing. Hopefully it stays in writing. … We’ve been doing it for 16 years every Saturday and now it’s like, we have this announcement but we don’t have anything more to go on. Hopefully all this comes true and it all works out.”

Keith Rocco of Wallingford is happy to have his Saturday night racing home back in business. Rocco is the track’s all-time winningest driver. He is the six-time and reigning SK Modified champion at the track and also a three-time and reigning Late Model division champion. Rocco also has a Limited Sportsman division championship at the historic shoreline oval.

“It kind of had put us down in the dumps,” Rocco said of the questions concerning the season. “We built a brand new [SK Modified] for there this year and banked on racing there and then all of the sudden you’ve got a new car sitting there with nowhere to race. So it will be a good thing to go back there and race on a Saturday night.”

Monday’s announcement of a lease agreement does lead to a host of other questions that now remain to be answered. The announcement stated that “An updated race schedule is being reviewed and will be posted as soon as dates are confirmed.”

Neither Bemer nor Whitney were available for comment on Monday.

On May 21 a message was posted on the Speedbowl’s Facebook website stating that there was a “working agreement for the Speedbowl to be Leased for the 2017 racing season.” That announcement, which was also on the track’s website, was gone from the next day. On May 24 track officials released a statement officially retracting the announcement of a possible lease.

“Obviously there’s a Facbeook post and it’s on the website, but we saw that a couple weeks ago too and it got beaten down,” Stone said. “We’re still treading lightly, you just don’t know. … I want to see a hard date. It’s nice to make an announcement finally, but when there’s a date then I’ll believe it a little more.”

One other big question is getting approval from the town for the grandstands. When management announced in April that they were postponing the originally scheduled May 6-7 Blastoff weekend, repair concerns with the grandstands was cited as the reason for the delay. Multiple sources have said that at this point there hasn’t been town approval for the grandstands, but that it is expected to happen.

Another question is how will the track staff look. Many of the upper level track officials, including former race director Tom Fox, announced their resignations from the track in early April.

Fox said Monday that he will not return to the track as long as it is still under Bemer’s ownership.

Bemer was the high bidder in a foreclosure auction of the Speedbowl in October 2014. Bemer was charged in late March with patronizing a trafficked person.

On April 6 it was announced by NASCAR that they were terminating their NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanction of the track and also cancelling the scheduled July 22 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at the facility. NASCAR is not expected to revisit sanctioning of the track for the 2017 season.

As a full-time SK Modified racer at the Speedbowl and also at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, Rocco has annually been in the hunt for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series short track national championship. He won the title in 2010. Rocco said he’s not disappointed by the fact that he likely won’t be able to accumulate NASCAR national points at the Speedbowl this season.

“The way it is these days, the way the stuff rolls down south with the Late Model guys, it’s almost impossible to win a national title again,” Rocco said. “It will actually be a lot stressful and a lot more relaxing to go racing and not have to worry about points.”


  1. Oh, look dareal, the town hasn’t approved the stands yet. I guess maybe they needed and are being worked on.

  2. darealgoodfella says

    ” One other big question is getting approval from the town for the grandstands. When management announced in April that they were postponing the originally scheduled May 6-7 Blastoff weekend, repair concerns with the grandstands was cited as the reason for the delay. Multiple sources have said that at this point there hasn’t been town approval for the grandstands, but that it is expected to happen.”

    At this point, the grandstands are STILL not resolved? SAD! BIGLY! It’s been a KNOWN issue for months and the grandstands are still an issue. Very sad.

    Let’s do what Trump would do… let off a Tweet storm and badger, bully and taunt the Town of Waterford. That is supposed make the town issue all permits immediately, without question.

    What could go wrong!?!?!??!?!?

  3. Great news Speedbowl fans. Help the new tenant of the Speedbowl make a success of what will be left of the season and inspire a potential new owner at the same time.

  4. Da-real-liberal-fella… Please stop with your crying and tantrums on here about Trump and your Crook liberal Hillaries loss… The last time I checked this was a racing site.. Let’s be happy the race track will Survive and keeps its non conforming zonning use alive for another year… There is plenty of other ways for you to get your kill America libersl message out besides here.. I’m sure there are links on CNN.com or Pocahontas2020.com for you to be on!

  5. It;s a racing site, stop crying about trump but explode a grenade of attacks with shrapnel hitting a wide array of your real and perceived political enemies. Interesting strategy.

  6. darealgoodfella says

    It’s been a couple months, those grandstands all fixed yet?

    Town inspected yet?

    Permits granted yet?

  7. dick hurtz says

    Dareal would you be making repairs to your facility that you knew had the potential of never opening again. I think that’s called throwing good money after bad.

  8. Dareal seems to be obsessed about the status of the stands. So much so that even after the track opens he’ll still be posting the same questions. How many times do we need to say that the stands have been and are being worked on? As far as the permits, why would Whitney be leasing the track if he didn’t think the permits would be granted?

  9. Victor Phillips says

    At least someone is in charge and talking. I’m sure that we could at least see practices open soon. The track gets $50 per car and an easy way start the cash flow situation. I’m also sure that many car owners would love to know how their machines (many new) run! Get your schedule figured out, but in the meantime George, let’s make some noise like we’re alive! WHAT DO YA SAY?

  10. darealgoodfella says

    No, I wouldn’t.

    But some folks here feel they are owed that, at the expense of anyone else.

  11. Drove by today. Someone was weed whacking the parking lot and there were 4 vehicles parked at the office.

  12. darealgoodfella says

    Weed whacking? That’s great news!!

    Just a few final little things, all set to go.

  13. Edward Ryan says

    DMV Regulations

    DMV regulations require each racing facility to submit certain information at least 30 days before its seasonal opening or first event. This information must include a copy of the certified letter, including postal receipt, sent to the town manager or chief elected official informing him of the event schedule and informing the local official that he may notify DMV immediately if any event conflicts with local laws or ordinances. The preseason information to DMV must also include copies of executed contracts or signed letters providing for: (1) police protection (at least two officials with police powers); (2) fire protection (including numbers of personnel and equipment); (3) ambulance service from a licensed ambulance company (name, personnel, and equipment to be provided): (4) a certificate of liability insurance for at least $3,000,000 for automobile and truck events or $1,000,000 for motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle events: (5) a safety evaluation report prepared by a Connecticut-licensed civil or general professional engineer stating that he has fully inspected the facility and finds it free of unusual hazards to participants and spectators; (6) a safety evaluation report from a licensed structural engineer certifying that the facility’s outdoor bleachers or grandstands, if it has them, are structurally sound and free from unusual hazards (a second such report must be submitted before July 30 or as otherwise required by DMV); (7) a safety evaluation report from a Connecticut-licensed electrician certifying that the facilities have been inspected and are free of unusual hazards; (8) a map or drawing of all facilities; and (9) a copy of the track rules for each scheduled or proposed event.

    Once he receives the preseason information, the DMV commissioner must inspect the facility and if he finds the facility and its appurtenances present no unusual hazards and all of the other required information is in order, he must approve the facility in writing. Thereafter, he must issue the individual event permits provided they are applied for on-time and include the required information, the permit fee is paid, the person responsible for the event provides a statement that no changes have occurred in the character or use of the facility since the preseason approval or the last permitted event, whichever is later, or, if significant changes have occurred, the person makes new submissions of safety evaluations, electrical system certifications, facilities map, or track rules, as applicable at least one business day before the event.

    DMV requires each facility to comply with type-specific guidelines it may issue for the different types of tracks, i.e., oval circuits, road race tracks, motorcycle/all-terrain vehicle tracks, acceleration and performance exhibition tracks, indoor facilities, and facilities for truck and tractor pulls. The regulations also specify other things such as minimum driver and vehicle safety equipment and use, minimum ambulance coverage, fire fighting equipment, police protection, fuel storage and vehicle refueling requirements, and restricted areas that only those with proper credentials may access. A copy of the current regulations are attached to this report for your reference.

    If the lessor is business id# 1239822 and is required by the DMV to follow the above requirements one would think if the process and 30 day clock started May 22nd when the entity was formed, that is if the required information was submitted on May 22nd.
    If for any reason the DMV does allow the the owner of the facility to follow the above requirements would that mean the owner would have contracts with the town for police, fire and ambulance service ??? Who is the owner?

  14. I don’t know who Edward Ryan is but he said a mouthful.Also without NASCAR insurance who will write these policies and what will they cost?

  15. Back in the dayz says

    The CT DMV has no jurisdiction over auto racing in the state of CT. Haven’t since the 90s.

  16. Thanks Edwards that was really informative. What I’m reading into it is the incredible regulatory structure a race facility has to navigate to put on the races. The good news is they’ve done it all before and the vast majority of the work surely has been standardized. Except of course current issues like the stands that I’ll bet have in large part been resolved and perhaps waiting inspection. Rich says they’re knocking down the weeds in the parking lot. Mundane but very useful information. What we know is mostly we don’t know any of the details nor is it our place to know. What is our business is they released a statement that says there will be racing which mean they have the majority of the details we don’t know about under control. This is pretty exciting isn’t it?

  17. I found the information he is referring to and it is dated 1998. I remember when I was a kid the dmv would hang out in the infield during the races and would drive out onto the track for more see wrecks. I think they would even do a crash investigation if the driver had gotten injured. Like the other person said, that ended sometime in the 90’s.

  18. Edward Ryan says

    back in the dayz you are correct I apologize, I should have known better and did my own research to see if the regulations where changed. If my understanding of the changes is correct on August 20, 2003 the regulation was changed eliminating the permit requirement from the DMV. To this day the DMV does still have jurisdiction over the safe operation of the motor vehicles participating. See Sec. 14-164a. (Formerly Sec. 29-143). Motor vehicle racing. The current regulation addresses fuel, restricted areas time races can be run (with exceptions). It also requires Fire, Ambulance and police. When the regulation was changed it mandated the Commissioner of the DMV to adopt regulations mandating safety requirement for the protection of the drivers. These days with the tax problems in Connecticut I am sure that the DMV has and or will designate their authority to any local community that will take responsibility. The jurisdiction concerning the safety of structures now are handled by whatever Government agency that regulates buildings in the community that the race track is located. For those who stated that the problem with the stands at the Beemer owned track is fake news your wrong. There was a permit obtained for the repair of them from the towns building Department and if you doubt that you can check for yourself, it is public information.

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