Decision To Reinvent Procedure During Race Makes For Bad Precedent Going Forward At Speedbowl

(The article below is a RaceDayCT column – The views expressed in this column are solely the opinion of the writer)

The aftermath of Saturday’s 12-car SK Modified division crash at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (Photo: Mitch Bomard/TK Race Photos)

It doesn’t matter if it’s the NFL, high school lacrosse, even a game of chess, if you make a decision to deviate from the standards and rules of normally regulated procedure after a competition has begun then you’re creating an unleveled playing field for that competition. 

And what happened Saturday night in the SK Modified division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was a situation where the overseer of the rules of competition essentially changed the rules of an event after that event had begun. 

Track officials decided to sacrifice fairness and event standards to save a show. It was a bad decision that only serves to create way too many questions and opens the door now for competitors to rightfully expect special treatment in the event of something similar happening again. 

Peruse social media about the New London-Waterford Speedbowl from the last 24 hours or so and you’ll probably find a debate centering around what happened with the track’s SK Modified division on Saturday. And almost assuredly within the comments of that debate you’ll find someone saying something to the effect of “Nobody wants to see three cars running a 34-lap feature.” And absolutely, that sentiment is positively true. The problem is, just because nobody would want to see that doesn’t mean you just arbitrarily throw regularly defined standards out the window. 

First, let’s reexamine what took place. On the second lap of the 35-lap SK Modified feature a massive turn one wreck collected 12 of the 15 cars in the starting field. Troy Talman started on the pole for the event and was already a significant distance away from second place by the time the first lap was completed. Heading into turn one on the second lap contact between second place running Billy Anderson and third place Adam Gada set off a chain reaction pile-up in turn one collecting 12 of the 15 cars that were on track. Talman, Gada and last place running Jeff Fialkovich were the only three cars not in the pileup, that literally looked like a junkyard with cars piled on top of cars piled on top of other cars. 

Track officials made the decision to suspend the event with one lap completed and allow all competitors to return to the pit area to make repairs to their cars. Track officials decided to run a NEMA feature and a Late Model feature while SK Modified teams were given ample time to get their cars back to a race worthy level. 

When the the race resumed, 13 of the original 15 cars in the event returned to the track. Anthony Flannery, who was running in fifth place at the time of the massive crash and was in the middle of the pileup, returned to the track to win the event. Andrew Molleur, who was also involved in the wreck, was second. Talman, finished third. 

Two big problems with what ultimately took place. One, it created a wildly unfair and unleveled playing field for the competitors who were not part of the wreck. Two, it sets an immensely undefined precedent going forward in similar situations. 

Speedbowl general manager Sean Foster said of the situation: “It’s a rare occurrence and it was a discretionary decision. There is no policy in place for a situation like that. … Everyone has to realize that we’re putting on a show. This is entertainment and we are putting on a show.” 

There’s merit to Foster’s explanation. Yes, short track racing is a public entertainment entity. Yes, people are buying tickets expecting a certain level and standard of competitive display, and seeing a premier division run with three or five or seven cars certainly falls well below the expectations of those buying the ticket. 

But the fact is, in many instances things happen in all realms of competition that change the scope and expectation of how that competition will play out, but the rules can’t be changed to try to repair the competitive balance. That’s basically just throwing the integrity of the rules in the dumpster. 

Look at it like this, look back at the Super Bowl, just a few months ago, and let’s say on the first offensive play of the game for the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Isiah Pacheco all get hurt. All three players suffer injuries that will remove them from the lineup for the remainder of the game. It’s a situation that entirely changes the balance of competition and would have given the Philadelphia Eagles a huge advantage. So, do you think there is any chance in a situation such as that in which NFL officials would have then stopped the game and announced that they were going to suspend play for days or possibly weeks to allow Mahomes, Kelce and Pacheco to recover from their injuries? There’s no way it ever happens. Injuries are part of the game and they happen during the most meaningless contests to the biggest games. And depending on who they happen to, it can immensely change the competition. But the game goes on because once it starts it isn’t stopped to make sure everyone can continue to play. 

And you can’t just reinvent race procedure during a race because almost all the cars in the race got injured, which is what took place Saturday at the Speedbowl. Ultimately, what happened was immensely unfair to the three drivers that were not involved in the wreck and and any drivers who sustained limited damage in the wreck and could have continued without needing the extended time that was afforded to all teams to make repairs.

The biggest question is, now where do you draw the line going forward? Because now you’ve set an expected standard with an entirely arbitrary set of rules for that standard. You’ve opened a very ugly Pandora’s Box. 

So let’s say next week at the Speedbowl they get 15 SK Modifieds once again. And let’s say on lap three of the event, 10 of the 15 cars in the track wreck together in turn three. Do you suspend the race again for an extended amount of time to allow those 10 cars to make repairs? What if it’s 11 cars in the wreck, or eight cars in the wreck? Is 12 the magic number? Is there a magic number? 

This much you know, if there is a 10-car wreck on the third lap next week, any driver in that 10-car wreck is going to go to officials and ask why the same procedure from the week before wasn’t used. They’re going to ask what the actual procedure and standards are for deciding to stop a race to let people repair their equipment or run it like it’s always been run where if you get wrecked and you can’t get your car quickly fixed you’re out of the race and the event goes on without you. 

And let’s take it one step further. So let’s say next week Talman is one of the cars involved in that 10-car wreck on lap three. The week before you let almost every car running behind him that got wrecked fix their equipment and come back out to race him, despite that decision going against all typical norms for race procedures. And now are you going to tell him he can’t have the same benefit, the same skewed playing field, that all his competitors were given the week before? You can’t not give him the same benefit you gave others because then you’re basically saying your rules and standards have no solid foundation. That they’re basically arbitrary. 

If I’m a driver in the SK Modified division at next Saturday’s driver’s meeting I’m asking Foster how many cars need to wreck at one time to allow for a race to be stopped for everyone to fix their cars? I’m asking if there’s a number, a percentage, a rule, a standard? Because now the precedent for this has been set, so if you’re a competitor you better want to know what that set standard will now be. As a competitor you deserve to know the rules of race procedure before an event starts, so understanding when the new standard created Saturday comes into play would be paramount.  And right now, I wouldn’t even imagine how Foster would begin to address those questions. 

That’s the mess that’s been created. It’s not so much about the decision made last night, but about how last night has suddenly changed the expected standards going forward at the Speedbowl. 


  1. chicken coop says

    Good point, and i’ll bet there will be a set procedure in the rules for next week. Nascar has had very similar scenarios in their top 3 series in recent years, where a controversial decision has to be made on the fly, which turns into a rules change to make it consistent going forward. This was a unique situation, that can, and does at times happen at Waterford, but usually much later in the race. There is a first for everything… There is a winner, and a loser to every decision, but i’m sure going forward they will have a set rule for this, should it happen again.

  2. Not arguing either way here just wanted to add a little more context.
    -12 of the 15 cars were in the pile up in turn 1 on lap 2.
    -2nd place Gada, did not stop in the pile-up but did have damage and ended up coming in the pits under the red flag, prior to the announcement to suspend the race.
    -the last place car the missed the wreck and was up to 3rd under the red flag also came into the pits under the red, prior to the announcement to suspend the race.
    -only Talman would have stayed on track.
    -multiple cars with limited damage were lined up in the pits to return to the track prior to the announcement to suspend the race.
    -the cars returning to the track would have been ahead of 2 of the 3 cars that did not stop in the pile up because those 2 two pitted anyway.
    -due to how the wreck was situated and the lengthy time to separate everyone there was a large time disparity to work on cars from the first cars into the pits to the last ones.
    -for the restart the line up was set based on the the “exit order” of the pits meaning your car had to be ready to go before you could tell the official to put you in the line up. Meaning that the cars that were lined up to return to the track prior to the announcement to suspend the race, could not then do more work to their cars under the suspension without losing there spot. So the first several cars behind Talman on the restart were ready to race before the intermission and didn’t do anymore work to their cars under the pause.

    In summary, would it have actually been a 3 car 34-lap finish? NO, there were cars ready to return to the track who didn’t need or utilize the suspension for more work on their cars (2 of which were the race winner and the second place car, who were the two that finished a head of Talman who was not involved). Was it a different race because of the suspension? YES, as in all racing it is almost impossible to predict what-if situations. Does this decision but the track management in a very tough spot going forward? ABSOLUTLY.

  3. If we refer back to your common analogy of, if a race track was a restaurant…

    The steak wasn’t cooked right. Do you eat it and be dissatisfied or do you send it back to get what you want?

  4. “But the game goes on because once it starts it isn’t stopped to make sure everyone can continue to play.”

    The Bills-Bengals game postponed then canceled after Damar Hamlin’s near death injury on the field. The players mentally unfit to proceed with the game. The league did what it had to do under the circumstances screwing a lot up in the playoff picture but it was the right call.
    There is no right of wrong side here only opinions. Mine is it’s a show, it’s specifically held for fans entertainment so you do what you have to do when exigent circumstances come up. Is it a precedent, I suppose. But only for the Speedbowl and how often will that happen?
    Often racers or players will say when they get some kind of benefit after a competitor goes down for whatever reason “I didn’t want to win that way”.
    Maybe you could say “that was ugly but I’ll take the win”. Most racers I suspect wouldn’t want to win that way would they? I don’t know what Talman thought of it but he got a podium that under the circumstances is much more the feather in his cap then a fluke win.
    Covid taught us to be flexible with everything in our lives including organized sports. I have to believe that roll with the punches mentality seeped into all our lives and we may be more open to audibles even in the middle of a race.

  5. John B 11ct says

    So you write if you make a decision to deviate from the standards and rules of normally regulated rules procedure there is no written rule for this it’s at the tracks call I think they made the rite call not because we got a chance to fix our car and finish I believe the fans and our sponsors deserve it so if you all think it should be a rule then have it written by the track you race at don’t go on saying the track made a bad call unless you have something to back you claim this happened to me in the early 90s when the pole sitter blew an motor going into turn one and we destroyed the whole field 28 cars they let us fix the cars and restart so if you all out think we need another rule then so be it don’t keep bashing the race track if you haven’t been paying attention we’re losing more tracks then getting new ones stop the whining and do something to help the track I myself do not like to race with 10 to 15 cars 24 is my number tells if your working on your car or just a fieid filler this my opinion and mine only if you got something to comment I’d be happy to hear it just don’t hide your name you all know who I am

  6. John b 11ct says

    I take back what I said about field fillers anybody that owns a race knows what it takes to build and maintain one knows how hard it is nowadays so I apologize for that remark I just want to see more cars at the track once again I’m sorry for that remark

  7. Ed, that doesn’t even begin to make sense. Ordering a steak in a restaurant is not a competition with rules and and standards for event procedure.

  8. Many are forgetting why we are there, To put on show for the FANS , I understand the feelings but FANS are number ONE, How to put on BEST show possible. Three cars not a good show.

  9. Al B,
    I keep seeing people saying “we should put on the best show for the fans.” but the question I’m raising here is how is it fair to manipulate the standards of an event just to make things better for the fans and when do we choose to do this or not do this? Because right now as it stands it sounds to be a totally arbitrary thing. You’re saying, the number of cars left after that wreck would not have been a good show for the fans to watch, so throw the standards put in place out the window, change the rules and do something different? Ok, do we now do this every week? Because I can think of hundreds of scenarios where you could put on the best show for the fans but it doesn’t happen because of the way things go. On Saturday at Seekonk Speedway Matt Hirschman was absolutely dominant in the Whelen Modified Tour race. Won the pole, easily pulled away from the field on every restart and lapped all but two other cars on the track at one point. Some would argue that wasn’t a great show for the fans to watch. Should NASCAR have thrown some spike strips out on Matt to give him a flat tire and make it a better show for the fans? See what I’m saying, you could manipulate every event to make it a better show for the fans but then you’re just creating scripted theater not fair competition.

  10. Shawn been in racing for a long time any rule and all the rules in the rule book have usually have a statement that says all rules are at the interpretation of the officials don’t no if Waterford has it but most do.

  11. Well, since it is Waterford, perhaps a rule for extreme idiocy is needed.

    I do not have the Waterford SK rulebook, so could somebody please cite the rules that were violated?

    The way I see it, these were the options:

    1. Cancel or postpone the SK race, issue rainchecks.

    2. Run the 3 surviving cars for the SK feature.

    3. Do what happened, allow time for the affected cars to repair and resume the race.

    I do not see how it was unfair to the three cars that were not involved in the wreck. I’d say they were very lucky.

    What happened was an extreme mess, a disaster. In order for the race to proceed, extraordinary measures had to happen. And that means perhaps outside the “normal” rules. Or within the rules of discretion for extraordinary circumstances. They should have hit the reset button, resumed the race after an impromptu intermission to let the teams repair the cars, and restart the race. The racing is the product, and the producers need to deliver that product.

    It’s hard to come up with a clear, concise, black & white rule to address something like this. Some degree of real time decisions must always be made, there is no way to force and predict every possible scenario that could happen. And now we are where we are… you can’t be all things to all people all the time, and some will not like the decision, and whine on and on and on.

    😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭 😭

    I know this was not NASCAR, but the NASCAR rule book relentlessly mentions that NASCAR can rule whatever they want as needed at the time or circumstances. It has to be that way to enforce the intent of the rules. If not, someone can find a loophole and exploit it until the rulebook is revised. That can’t be allowed to happen.

    As far as what happens if this ever happens again, it will be the same sort of decision: how many cars involved, how many cars not involved, and how severe the damage (time to repair)? There simply can not be a precise metric to define that line and put it in print. If you can put it in writing with absolutely no ambiguity, go for it. And don’t forget to make sure it is fair. Until then, these situations are going to happen, extremely rarely. If situations like this were so clear, and black & white, these determinations would be made per some prescribed schema. But that schema still proves to be impossible to carve in stone. Hence, we have a very fluid and discretionary condition when extreme events like this happen. Extreme and extremely rare.

    In hockey, there have been times when a team ran out of goalies due to injuries. Should the game be stopped? Should a team play without a goalie?Well, what happened was another player, or a coach, dressed and played goalie. This doesn’t add anything to this article, as none of the other comparisons did, just thought I’d present it.

  12. “Should NASCAR have thrown some spike strips out on Matt to give him a flat tire and make it a better show for the fans?”

    No. but wasn’t it just last year at Thompson some drivers themselves were saying that nascar should have found something to throw the yellow for?

    it’s a crap situation for Waterford to be in, but at the end of the day the odds of a something like this happening again in the next few years are relatively low. makes worrying about “the next time” easier.

  13. Fast Eddie says

    I didn’t see this, my comments are based on the article and previous comments. If there is a wreck, the cars not involved should start ahead of anyone pitting for repars, cars restart the way they come out. Anyone that can’t make repairs in time loses laps accordingly, as usual. Sounds to me like most of the cars would have been back on track by the time the cleanup was done. Why set up a new questionable procedure? More importantly, why penalize the cars not involved in the wreck? I know you have to take care of the fans, but you have to take care of the racers as well.

  14. I think it was the right call – bottom line is the fans are there to see a race and the competitors are there to race. The red flag must have been out for quite a long time, not sure what the rule is on driving to the pits and working on your car during the red flag – seeing only 3 cars left after an accident is very unusual. Not much different when Stafford and Thompson throws the checkered flag on a race after so much time has passed due to many cautions. sometimes they set a time limit on races sometimes they don’t. Nothing is written in the rule book for time – track decision on the fly.

  15. Max Collins says

    Below is a copy-and-pasted email I received from the Speedbowl.

    I think the track made the decision they needed to make in order to keep the momentum of the night going.

    “Hello Speedbowl fam,

    In response to Saturday night’s events, on behalf of the Race Department team we would like to make the following statement:

    No number, percentage, rule, or standard will be put in place. A suggestion was made to suspend the event, a discussion was had within, and our Race Department team agreed it made sense.

    It was a rare occurrence… with many factors in play. Pit area safety was a priority. Many cars were in and out of the pits with teams thrashing to get back on track. There were multiple teams requesting the track welder. Some racers had time to work on their cars, depending on how/where their car was stacked in the accident… so racers were getting impatient knowing the first teams cleared from the wreckage had more time to repair their cars.

    We also wanted to let the visiting touring series folks (NEMA) get on track so they could get home at a decent hour since many traveled from out of state.

    This is an entertainment business. The SK Modifieds went back to green and put on a good show for the fans.

    From some people’s lenses it may have been wrong, but from our lens it was the right thing to do. Props to our staff for getting through the events in a safe manner.

    Sean Foster“


    who authored this article ? was it you Shawn? LOL LOVE this sites and da reals obsession with the speed bowl. no one complained about the decision .races are rescheduled, cancelled etc based on many factors. fog, track damage, interest of safety, curfew again NOT ONE COMPETITOR COMPLAINED. its their track their choice. even consider the extended time for cleanup all features were done BEFORE curfew. stop obsessing .personally recall events carried over where competitors who had left the race at the cancelled event were allowed to return and start in the back.. WHY?? at that time they were competing for national points so car counts were critical ..who made that choice? Terry Eames !! go ahead, call him look it up.. do your homework or ask ROCCO or DENNIS GADA. DIRECTLY BENEFITTED from what you call unfair or not the standard … LOL …PS try the foot long hotdogs at the bowl Shawn they are really good !!!…expensive but good !!!.

  17. Capt. Mike Qbvious says

    Whenever I look at event schedules, division rules, etc., I often see one or both of the following phrases at the bottom: “Subject to Change” and/or “EIRI”, which stands for “Except in Rare Instances.” That is the track and sanctioning body leaving themselves an out for when things don’t go according to plan, whether it’s a sudden rainstorm, a power outage, a rash of cautions, or in this case, 80% of the field being involved in a wreck.

    Over the years, I have seen multiple occasions were a race was shortened on the fly due to a rash of cautions, or an entire division sent to the “penalty box” and other races run before finishing their feature. Now we see what happened at Waterford on Saturday night. Is it a deviation from the normal procedures? Yes. However, I believe the circumstances qualified as one of those “rare instances” that is referred to. If a track were to not follow its standard procedures on a regular basis, I would have a problem. But if it happens once every few years — rarely, in other words — I can live with it.

    As for what constitutes a rare instance, I’m reminded of when a Supreme Court justice was asked about the definition of obscenity. Their response was along the lines of, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” I think the same principle applies here. Race fans and officials know when something is rare or unusual as they’re watching it happen, and should react accordingly.

  18. knuckles mahoney says

    Well said Sean Foster. And, like Judge Judy, his opinion is the only one that matters.

  19. I sometimes see during a race, after the race started and after a lot of cautions, restarting the cars single file although the race started and had several double file restarts prior. Is there a rule written when single file restarts are to occur or is this also a case of changing the rules after the race started? Stafford also has the term (EIRI) in some of its rules related to White and Checkered flag, does Stafford also intend this to mean Except In Rare Instances?

  20. Tallman crying about the call to move the race is crazy. You want to win a race with 3 cars?.You best take your panties off and put some big boy undies on.Saying the track is giving all the rich guys a chance to fix cars.Please.I think the track made a good call for the good of fans and and 90% of the field.If want to win a race with 3 cars in it,go on thursday practice and just tool around.Good job NLWSB.

  21. Sharpie Fan says

    Reminds me of I think it was the All-Star race at Charlotte several years ago. It started raining in the early laps of the race and everybody piled in. Nascar allowed teams to work on their cars while they waited for it to stop raining. Michael Waltrip ended up winning the race very late that night and he had been involved in the wreck.

  22. Tracks deviate from the rules all the time. Anyone who’s spent time in tech knows that. So let’s not pretend the rulebook is written in stone.

    While I personally dislike modifieds and think Jeff getting a podium as a reward for being the only driver looking past his chrome horn would be just desserts, I have a hard time being critical of the bowl’s decision here. It was in the best interest of the fans, the show, and most of the competitors. Every situation cannot be planned for, and sometimes you just have to go outside the box for an answer.

  23. Hillary 2024 says

    Impressive that all cars besides just two were able to make repairs and get to finish the race after all the carnage. These pit crews should be proud of what they accomplished. When Owen climbed out of his car and out of the pile one of the wrecker guys asked him if he thought he was done for the night. With a big smile Owen said something like no we’re going to fix this thing. The guy wasn’t even pissed about being in a huge wreck. I think for them getting the car fixed up was just as important as finishing well. Same goes for all the others too. Some of which I couldn’t believe got back out to race.

  24. With low car counts already hurting local tracks continuing a race with only a handful of cars would probably seem like a rip-off to the fans and they might decide to not come back.

    Think of the first CART race at Michigan when most of the girls wrecked before the green flag. They let the teams get it their backup cars so they could actually have a race. Same with the NASCAR all star race in… 2001? Not sure what year it rained on the first lap and they decided to let the teams get backup cars out to actually ruin a real race for the fans. I know that’s not a points race, but a local race track is also a fairly low-stakes competition, especially compared to a million-dollar all star race.

  25. To the gentlemen that included the letter from Foster it’s a critical piece of information in the debate so well done. The letter itself is outstanding in my view. Has Foster’s tenure in management at the Speedbowl been successful or not is your call. But that letter was first rate..excepting….

    “Hello Speedbowl fam,”

    Sorry I can’t resist. Is using the family metaphor really the wisest choice? That would be the family with Creepy Bruce as the patriarch at the head of the table on Thanksgiving. Bless you all that love’s you your Speedbowl but admit it, would you really want that guy carving the turkey?

  26. NurfbarNJ says

    Nice debate here but, I immediately thought back to that Nascar All-Star race. The Speedbowl isn’t the Superbowl and they did want was best for the fans and competitors. Perhaps they get a raise of hands from the drivers and got their input? I know if I was in the stands or in the pits I’d want to race a full field later that evening.

  27. Just a lighter thought that popped into my head, not a serious counter-argument…

    I think the analogy to football would make more sense if 80% of the possible players were involved in a huge pileup, which is impossible since only 11 out of 53 players from each team are even on the field at the same time. But maybe they just got so amped up by a huge play that they all rushed the field as one and created a monstrous pile of humanity requiring so much time to disassemble that the game was temporarily suspended so the players on the bottom could get through the concussion protocol.

    It also probably wouldn’t take multiple tow trucks half an hour to disassemble a pile of players, though I don’t count it out…

  28. The SK championship winner should have an asterix next to their name and footnote in the stats indicating a race was cancelled and restarted after a large wreck.

  29. Seekonk had the same deal decades ago with the mods & I don’t remember any bitching. Probably mid 80’s.

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