Sid’s 2016 End of the Season Rant & Review

Posted by By at 2 November, at 16 : 01 PM Print

Another Speedbowl season in the books!  I’m almost done updating the statistical history on speedbowlhistory.com and then ready to jump back into the editing booth to finish our documentary series on Speedbowl history this off-season, and then I realized… ya know what?  I haven’t done a blog entry in a while and haven’t done a year-end rant since the 2013 season.  It’s been long overdue….  so let’s the rambling begin on some assorted 2016 topics!!

RENOVATIONS

april-2016_renoIf you go back to May, when the Speedbowl opened the 2016 season, the big talk was about the renovations that had been made during the winter.  New walls, new fence, new scoreboard, new towers… all good stuff.  Couldn’t be more appreciative of the efforts Bruce Bemer and his team have put towards improving the facility.  To say it needed some TLC would be an understatement.  I’ll never forget going down to the ‘bowl a few days before opening night to get some shots of all that was new.  I was just blown away.  I just never thought I’d see the day when the Speedbowl would get that kinda facelift.  Fact of the matter is, I just love that freakin’ place.  Standing there, seeing the track all new & shiny looking, it was a really good feeling.  Thanks for that Bruce!  Here’s hoping there’s more to come in this department. 😀

Of course, the one renovation that didn’t go too well was the new pit gates.  Many said they didn’t like the turn 2 gate added… I wasn’t one of those people, I thought it was a great idea and helped moved the show along in between races.  But then Chris Correll wrecked hard into the gate in late July.  Just a wicked wreck.  And it made me wonder if that gate was actually safe.  Then Doug Curry wrecked his Mini Stock in the same spot, in the same to-a-dead-stop manner weeks later.  And then Diego had a similarly vicious wreck into the turn 4 gate during the last SK race.  I have zero knowledge on how to properly engineer and/or install entry gates at a race track, but if they are re-designed properly for next season, I still like the idea having that turn 2 gate.

But enough about that, let’s get to the racing on the track…

KID ROC

9-17-16_skWhat else can be said or written about Keith Rocco?  At the Speedbowl, he is the best… the best there is today and, statistically at least, the best of all-time.  He’s won the most races, he’s won the most championships – statistically it’s not even close who’s the best.   Debating who’s the bowl’s best is always subjective.  Depending on who you debate with, and how old they are, there are a variety of names that would come up.  Bill Slater, Don Collins, Dick Dunn, Bob Potter, Phil Rondeau, Dennis Gada… You could make the case that the title of Speedbowl’s best has been passed on through all those names chronologically through the years.  It’s pretty evident that since 2010 that title is clearly Keith’s… and you could make the argument it started sooner than that.

What’s amazing about Keith is he doesn’t just break Speedbowl records, he absolutely destroys them.   I mean, he just passed Phil Rondeau for the Career Wins record in early 2015 and now we’re at the end of 2016 and he’s already 30 wins ahead of him.  Seriously, 200 wins is not only possible, it could be in the near future.  I remember during the Finale of 2011, Keith won both the SK race and the LM race.  Nobody had won a modified & late model event at the ‘bowl since 1954 when Moe Gherzi did it.  57 years it took for someone else to do it… and in the 5 seasons since then, Keith’s won the SK & LM features on the same night 16 more times!  In 2013 he became the 1st driver to drive 2 different cars in 2 different divisions to 2 different track championships… and then he did it again the next year… and for a 3rd time this year.

As great as Dennis Gada and Phil Rondeau were in their respective divisions, Rocco is simultaneously going after both their statistical records, with only a select few left to break.  Just think about this… Since 2010, Keith has averaged just under 10 wins a year and won all but 1 of those 7 championships.  Should he win the 2017 SK title, he would tie Dennis Gada’s record for consecutive SK titles (5) and overall SK titles (7) at the same time.  And if he kept his average of 10 wins a year, would join Rondeau as the only driver with 100 wins in a single division by late 2018 or early 2019.

All that being said, I rarely root for Keith cuz I subscribe to the underdog theory when I watch short track racing, and Keith’s rarely an underdog at the ‘bowl.  And while Keith is fun to watch as a wheelman (his car control is just incredible), its usually a better story for #SidsView when someone else beats Keith.  That doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s usually a good show!  Keith gave us a great interview for our documentary series last off-season.  I’ve been fortunate to interview so many Speedbowl people over the years, with many sharing on camera what it was like to watch Bill Slater or Don Collins or Bob Potter race at the Speedbowl back in the day.  Years from now, we’ll be telling the younger generation about Keith.  He’s simply one of the best we’ll ever see at the shoreline oval.  You don’t have to root for him to appreciate what he’s doing.  It really is incredible.

SK MODIFIEDS

6-25-16_sk2All Keith’s accolades aside, there were still 11 different winners this season in the SK Modifieds – the most since 2008 when there were 12 winners.  It was great to see Keith go down to the wire with two drivers, Dennis Perry & Joey Gada, who both had their own unique story in 2016.

As for Dennis, he wasn’t even supposed to run a full season.  He came back to the Speedbowl from Thompson, where he had been running an SK the past couple of seasons, to mainly support his son Jacob who was debuting in the Mini Stocks this year (more about him later) and would bring the SK now & then to have some fun.  But that turned into consistently good finishes that found himself atop the point standings early in the year and ultimately the entire season while also chasing his first SK win at the ‘bowl.  Unfortunately for Dennis, neither the championship or a feature win was in the cards in 2016, but it’s hard to imagine they didn’t enjoy their season at the ‘bowl this year.   The Perry’s have a long history at the Speedbowl – it was good to see Perry clan back at the shoreline oval on a weekly basis this year.

As for Joe Gada, well what can ya say, he’s coming into his own.  Just another Gada running up front, winning races, contending for titles.  As a historian, I can’t help but like Joe’s story.  No family has been more woven into the fabric of the Speedbowl’s history than the Gadas.   Joe definitely has his father Dennis’ laid-back personality off the track… and on the track it’s becoming more n’ more evident with every feature that he’s Dennis’ kid.  Smooth through traffic, effective on the outside, good on equipment.  I expect Joe to accomplish bigger & better things as the years go bye.

8-20-16_SKAnd Joe’s cousin Adam had the most talked about moment… and the most viewed moment in #SidsView history with his wild wreck on the front stretch.  22,000 views and counting… gotta love that exposure for our lil’ web series.   Adam was upside for about a half-hour before they got his car back upright.  I felt for him the whole time he was hanging there upside while I was down on the track with my video camera that night.  I’m thankful he came out uninjured… and was impressed with the Cohanzie crew’s efforts during that whole incident.  The competitors should feel lucky to have a safety crew like that at the Speedbowl every week… (every week going back to 1951 by the way).  Adam’s quest to find victory lane could result in the 9th member of the Gada family to win an event at the Speedbowl.  They found some speed in that #17 car during the weeks prior to his big wreck and I was bummed to see his season take such a hit.  Adam’s father Dave is a 2-time SK Champion himself and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Adam once again have a fast car back at the ‘bowl next year.

I also want to give a quick shout out to Tyler Chadwick.  It’s easy for any competitor to be overlooked when they run in a division in which Keith Rocco competes.  Tyler and Keith both started winning SK races at the Speedbowl in 2008, and while Keith’s 80 wins in that span dwarf’s Tyler’s 25, those 25 put Tyler 6th all time since the SK Modified division started back in 1985.   The names you’ll now find below Tyler on the SK Career Wins list include Rob Janovic Jr, Ron Yuhas Jr, Ed Reed Jr, Jimmy Broderick, Todd Ceravolo and Eric Berndt to name a few.  Throw in a track championship (2012), back-to-back mid-season 100 lap wins (2012-13) and a $5K 150 lap win (2014) and Chaddy-Wagon’s resume is pretty impressive.  Tyler’s taken some laps at Thompson & Stafford in the last few years with little success, but the Speedbowl is where he shines.  He always brings a fast car, and like very few others since 2008, has won a couple head-to-head battles against Keith.  Sometimes I think Tyler’s overlooked for just how consistently good, at times even great, he’s been over the last decade.

7-2-16_skAnd how could I possibly end my SK Modified ramblings without mentioning Ted Christopher.  TC back at the ‘bowl in the DiPisa #13 the last few seasons has been…. how would ya put it…. interesting shall we say??   Nobody embodies the love-hate relationship with the fans like Teddy.   From the Speedbowl’s POV, what’s better than having fans arrive at the track every week knowing there’s a potential for 2 of the SK Modified’s best ever (Keith & Teddy) battling for the win in your headlining division.  How is that not good for the show?  I know Fuel-gate has the Prestige Motorsports re-evaluating their 2017 plans.   I have no real opinion on Fuel-gate, DiPisa himself put it the best IMO when he said “It’s the Speedbowl’s sandbox…”  True story.   I just hope Teddy is running at the ‘bowl again in 2017.  Fans need that love-hate guy in the field…  he’s like Tony Montana of the SK Mods… “you need people like me”  :)

SUPPORTING DIVISIONS

Let’s talk about Al Stone and Ken Cassidy Jr for a sec.  Over the years, I’ve noticed several parallels in their careers.  They both won their first feature in 2005, they both have since broken the record for most feature wins & the record for most championships in the Ltd Sportsman & Mini Stock divisions respectfully.   They both have a smooth style on the track, can get it done on the outside and off the track share the same laid-back demeanor.  But in 2016, there seasons couldn’t have been more opposite.

8-20-16_recapStone won the first race and remained the man to beat (again) for the entire season in the LS.  Chris Meyer (5 wins) and Monte Gibbs (6 wins) brought fast cars every week, so it was no cake walk, but Stone’s consistency (and 5 wins of his own) earned him a record 4th title in the Strictly Limited Street Stock Sportsman division…

… I mean, can’t we just go back to calling them the Street Stocks again?

Kenny, on the other hand, had an off year…. well, at least by Kenny’s standards.  He did find victory lane once, but it took until September before he did.  It was the lowest win total in a season for Kenny since he started winning races in 2005.  That win did extend his record streak of 12 straight seasons with a Mini Stock win.  Just to put that in perspective…. there are only 7 other drivers in addition to Cassidy who have won 12 MS features in their entire career at the Speedbowl, never mind one in 12 straight seasons.  I’d be surprised if Kenny doesn’t return to form in 2017.

Similar to what I said about Keith, we’re also fortunate today to be able to watch the best ever in the Limited Sportsman and Mini Stock division.

Al and Kenny also have more talent than their racing budget… and that’s probably true for many others at the local levels of this sport.  It was good to see Al taking some laps in the SK’s again.  Would love to see Kenny get a ride in a Late Model, that’d be a fun to watch.  Really sucks that $$ dictates so much in this sport… but that will never change.

Wayne Burroughs Jr had a tremendous season, not only did he repeat as Mini Stock champion at NLWS, he also won the MS championship at Thompson.  I’m pretty sure no one’s ever done that in the same season.  For a long time, the Mini Stock fields at the two tracks were quite different in terms of competitors.  It’s good to see more drivers racing both tracks this season.  I like Wayne’s style – super-competitive on the track, well spoken on the mic, respected by his fellow competitors.  Nice to see the #20 team going strong.

7-16-16_MSShout out to C.J. Canfield – 1 previous MS win (2011) prior to this season…  4 trips to victory lane in 2016.  Impressive!

Another shout out to Jacob Perry – impressive rookie season for this 14 year-old.  3 wins, tons of enthusiasm, quality sound bites on the mic… and seems to have great composure behind the wheel for a driver his age.  I have a feeling Jacob is one of many up n’ coming 2nd generation drivers that’ll be moving up the ranks in the next several years.  Should be fun to watch!

SK LIGHTS

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Olivia Bouchard photo

The SK Lights at the Speedbowl took a big leap forward in 2016… this is no longer that struggling division that started out as X-Modifieds in 2004.  This division has a good car count on a weekly basis and enough personalities & talented wheel-men to keep us fans into it.  Corey Barry, Tony Membrino Jr,  Brett Gonyaw and Cory DiMatteo were the class of the field this year, collectively winning all but 1 feature this season.  ‘Hollywood’ Membrino leading the way with 7 wins & the championship.

Speaking of Tony, he got screwed by the system… the NWAAS system… or the tracks not working together within the system.  I actually don’t know enough about the reasons why, but I do know that Tony was the dominant SK Light driver in all of CT this season, and should have had a chance at some NWAAS National recognition… but our 3 CT track’s don’t submit the SKL’s into the same division for NWAAS points… so he loses out.   Stafford is Div III, NLWS is Div V and I don’t even think SKL results at TSMP count towards any NWAAS division.  Just a shame the track’s aren’t working together to make this right – Tony is a case-in-point on how that can lead to the competitors losing out.

BEMER’S BIG POINT SHOW

2016-bemers-big-show-logoAh, my biggest gripe with the 2016 schedule was making Bemer’s Big Show a point event for all divisions.   Ugh… I just don’t understand this one.  4 weeks off before the last point race for Saturday division… actually 5 weeks for all but the SK’s thanks to Mutha Nature.  It’s just too long of a break.  I’ve heard the argument that if it wasn’t a point race, then the competitors wouldn’t show up… although it wasn’t a point race last year and I don’t recall car counts being an issue, so not sure I’m buying that one.

And the $5,000 winner’s purse (as well as the Tri-Track event being held the same day) brought in a lot of ‘outsiders’ in for the 75-lap SK Modified event.  No complaints that this race had names like Preece (who won), Hirschman, Berndt (at least before his motor blew), Masse, Yuhas and Pennink in the field.  But there was also 3 drivers within 11 points fighting for a championship.   Two different types of shows in my opinion that deserved their own stage.  Would have preferred the last Saturday night event being the last point race where the season long title chase is completed & champion crowned, maybe even make that one a 50-lapper.  And Bemer’s Big Show a year-end,  all-star caliber, home team vs outsider, big money event that was a great companion to the Tri-Track race.

Big thumbs up for branding it ‘Bemer’s Big Show’ again… that Super Bowl title just didn’t have the same ring to it.

And that SK race was apparently the 20th annual $5K Modified Nationals event Terry & Co. created in 1997?  I read that in a promo release prior to the event.  Did they call it the Nationals last year?  (If they did, then I’m apparently not a good track historian & really need to start paying attention I guess).  I’ll admit I’m probably the only person in the world that is bothered by this, but that just doesn’t make sense.  Other the winner’s purse, it’s nothing like the Bud Nats…  ah, I’m just being a nit-picky historian, rant over…

LEGEND CARS

The Speedbowl hosted the INEX U.S. Legend Car Nationals this year.  And this was a weird one for me…  I can’t say I ever attended a LC Nationals event previously down south, so didn’t know what to expect.  There was NO crowd the day (Saturday) that I went… and it was a miserable rainy day too which really sucked.  But I was told by several people that even down south it was never a heavily attended event.  I wish Mutha Nature didn’t screw things up.  Felt bad for the teams that traveled from so far away, only to have the event cancelled.  I guess any event that brings competitors from around the country is a good thing, and the Speedbowl is a perfect track for the Legends.  As a fan, not sure if I would welcome or even care if this event returned, but if it was good for the track at the back gate, then what the hey, go for it again.

And then there’s Dana DiMatteo… clearly the dominant car in the Legends division from week to week this year.  Scored his 2nd 10-win season (2011) and because Bemer’s Big Show was a point race, he was one of the point leaders that had to wait for over a month to race one more time to clinch the championship.  But then it rained and the LC event was ppd until a week later when Dana made plans to be out of state that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) change, so he lost the championship via a no-show in the last event.  Just a bum deal…  can’t say making the Bemer’s show a point race is a fault for how this turned out… but it didn’t help.  Ultimately Mutha Nature caused the issue.   Racing takes up enough time for us, especially during the season.  Just sucks to lose out on a championship because you planned a vacation in advance during what should have been the off-season.

DiMatteo’s misfortune created a great title chase for the Sat LC title though.  Congrats to Kyle Rogers for winning the Sat LC title by a mere point over Andrew Molleur.  (DiMatteo finished third, 8 points back).  DiMatteo would have been the first driver in history to win multiple Sat LC titles, instead the streak continues.  There have been 15 Saturday Legend Car Champions crowned by the Speedbowl each year since 2002, and 15 different drivers winning each one.  Rogers also became the 13th different driver to earn a championship without benefit of a single victory during the season and the 1st since Jim Boyle in the Super X-Cars in 2012.

OTHER 2016 MISC RAMBLINGS

7-2-16_sklSpeaking of Andrew Molleur (pictured), he came out on top of a wild SK Light race early in the year, then was disqualified for being too young to actually compete in the division.  And if that’s the case, he should have been DQ’ed.  Rules are rules, it’s that simple.  But there’s no denying Andrew is a talented kid.  I can’t wait till we are talking about his talent behind the wheel again instead of his birth certificate.

Shout out to the Thursday Thunder Champions!  Noah Korner (LC), Ray Reed (SX), Dave Gargaro Jr (XC) and Talon Prinze (Bando) and ‘Outta Control’ Duane Noll in the Truck division.  I rarely make it to the mid-week shows and only occassional video them during their select Saturday appearances over the years.  But those teams & that series is important to the Speedbowl.  It’s a different vibe from Saturday and it’s now been 16 seasons for the WNWW/TNT series.  Big shout out to all those teams for keeping that series going strong.

Speaking of Trucks… do we need New England Trucks, Seekonk Trucks and Speedbowl Trucks all scheduled to run separate features during the same event?  Can you say… overkill!!

Or how about only the 75 lap $5K SK race during Bemer’s Big Show being the only extra-distance event for any of the NWAAS divisions.  And only the (2) 50-lap LC National qualifiers the only extra-distance events for the TNT divisions.    Would be nice to have some 50 lap specials for each division throughout the year.

And just for kicks, I’m gonna throw out the idea of upping the SK Mod event to 40 laps and dropping the Late Models to 25.  No disrespect to the LM’s, but sometimes when there’s 11 cars all spread out by lap 5, and well… that’s just not compelling to watch.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s not every LM race.  In fact, there were several great battles in the LM’s this year and when you have those, car counts don’t matter… but you’d have those battles in a 25 lap race just as often as a 30 lapper IMO.

I really missed having the Webby Cam as a regular feature in #SidsView this year, but was glad that it made some special appearances a few times.  Here’s hoping that it returns full-time in 2017!

Scott Tapley made some return guest appearances as Race Director during the last few events of the seasons… not sure if we should be reading anything into that but it can only make us wonder what’s in store for 2017…

Oh… and I have to mention that french fries at the Speedbowl were much better this year!


Now to one of my old favorites… haven’t done these since 2013, so let’s lift the hiatus and bust out a 2016 version of the RANDOM NUGGET AWARDS:

BEST ON-TRACK RIVALRIES

7-16-16_SK

  • Keith Rocco vs Ted Christopher (pictured)
  • Monte Gibbs vs everyone else
  • Bruce Thomas Jr vs Jason Palmer… while it lasted at least
  • Ray Christian vs Keith Rocco
  • Ken Cassidy Jr vs Sean Caron
  • Bo vs Teddy revisited

BEST FEEL GOOD MOMENTS

9-3-16_sk

  • Celebration honoring Ron Bouchard prior to the August Tri-Track Modified Series event
  • Jacob Perry winning his 1st Mini Stock race
  • Matt Galko finally bringing the #25 SK Modified to victory lane (pictured)
  • Former LC Champs Dylan Izzo & Paul Kusheba getting their 1st SK career wins
  • RC3 getting his 1st LM win

BEST IN SHOW

9-3-16_SK

  • Tyler Barry winning a Bandolero (that’s right, I said Bandolero) thriller over Ethan Durocher & Andrew Morin on opening night.
  • Monte Gibbs out-dueling Chris Meyer for the win during the May 26th Thursday special for the LS
  • Chris Ivory winning a side-by-side battle over Ken Cassidy for the May 28th MS win
  • Ray Christian & Anthony Flannery battling side-by-side for 4th place in an otherwise spread-out & boring LM feature on May 28th
  • Andrew Molleur crossing the stripe 1st after leader Randy Churchill Jr gets loose in turn 4 of last lap during SK Light race on July 2nd
  • Another classic Keith vs Teddy battle in the SK Modifieds won by Keith on July 17th
  • C.J. Canfield using the outside groove to edge Wayne Burroughs Jr for the MS win on August 20th
  • Ed Gertsch and Al Stone swapping the lead side-by-side during the August 27th LS feature
  • Ronnie Williams sick move inside of TC on the last lap to win the September 3rd SK Modified feature (pictured)

MELTDOWNS… LOVE THE MELTDOWNS!

  • Diego Monahan after week 1 wreck with Rob Janovic Jr
  • Dylan Izzo & Dana DiMatteo heated exchange after wrecking battling for the lead in late season LC event

WICKED WRECKS

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  • Chris Correll’s nasty wreck into the new turn 2 gate (pictured)
  • Doug Curry’s scary wreck in the same place
  • Enormous backstretch wreck in the VMRS race that involved more than half of the field during Wings N’ Wheels
  • Bo Gunning/TC wreck on the front stretch that made me re-edit #SidsView with additional footage for the first time ever.
  • Adam Gada flip n’ slide on the front-stretch wall
  • Randy Cabral’s driver’s side impact in the Pro-4 Modified race at Bemer’s Big Show
  • Diego Monahan’s head-on crash into the turn 4 gate

DISAPPEARING ACTS

5-21-16_Izzo_Wins_1st_SK Race

  • Bruce Thomas Jr
  • Dylan Izzo (pictured)
  • Timmy Jordan
  • Jeff Gallup
  • Chris Ivory
  • the mysterious ‘Grand American’ (GA) division listed on the original schedule that never appeared on the track.

OUTSIDER ADDITIONS/RETURNS TO THE WEEKLY CARD

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  • Todd Owen
  • Dennis Perry
  • Charlie Beal
  • Tony Membrino Jr
  • Brett Gonyaw (pictured)
  • Tom Abele Jr
  • Bo Gunning

THE HAMMER BOWS OUT

Well news broke the other day that Shawn Monahan was leaving after 2 seasons as Speedbowl GM.  As Shawn Courchesne of RaceDayCT.com accurately described, it was the worst kept secret in short track racing this summer.    It’s also no secret I’ve been a big supporter of Shawn getting the opportunity to be Speedbowl operator for years.  And now that his 2-year stint is over, I’m both appreciative of what he brought to the table and glad that he’s moved on.

Producing my documentary series on Speedbowl history the last few years has taught me a lot about the Speedbowl ownership lineage.  It truly is unique.  Unlike Thompson or Seekonk, where the families who built the track are still involved, or Stafford, which the Arute family has owned for well over 40 years now, the Speedbowl has been owned by several people since 1951 and operated by even more.  By my count,  there’s been 5 true property owners, and 19 different individuals who have been track operators/promoters/GM’s etc.  And throughout the 65 years, all of them have left some kind of mark on the track’s survival.

shawn-monahan-drivers-meeting-5-2-15

Shawn Monahan (Shawn Courchesne photo)

For Shawn, his most important contribution in my opinion is being the key player to resolve the post-foreclosure auction delays by the creditors (including himself) that were still owed money back in the 2014-15 off-season.  He essentially saved the 2015 season just as much as Bruce did for having the winning bid at the auction.  If the creditors banded together to appeal the price until they all got there money back, it could have taken years to resolve in the court system… or Bruce could have walked away & there could have been another auction all together… all of which would have severely hampered the future of Speedbowl racing.  But Shawn somehow made all parties happy enough to get a resolution and the racing to continue back on track.  And that in itself should be Shawn’s greatest contribution to the Speedbowl’s survival.  As a die-hard fan of that place, I will always be grateful to him for that.

As a promoter, I think he had a lot of good ideas.  Town night when residents could get in for free, shortening the weekly schedule, putting victory lane back out on the front-stretch, revamping the concession menu, big wheel races for kids on the frontstretch and having the banquet at a new location are just some of the good things. But not everything worked.  I remember on NWMT night, there was an elaborate driver introduction ceremony planned…. which turned out to be too elaborate, because it was confusing, and it took too long and… well, it just didn’t work.  But mistakes like that don’t bother me too much.  They kinda suck at that moment they’re not working, but I’ll take a new idea that fails over no new ideas.

And oh, the website.  With all due respect to all of whom helped behind the scenes that, the Speedbowl website just needs a lot of attention.  A few years back, I thought the Speedbowl had the best website in the country for short track racing, now I barely ever use it or know where anything is on there….  and it personally hurts not to have our web series #SidsView embedded on the main page like it used to be.  The focus online definitely seems to be their FB page over their website, and while I agree having a presence in social media is essential these days, I don’t know if I agree that social networks should be the only online presence.

So was Shawn the perfect G.M./promoter… absolutely not… but I don’t really think such a person exists, so I’m not sure if that’s really a knock on the guy.  For someone fulfilling a dream who had no experience running a race track, I think he did some really good things.  I know my perspective as a media guy/historian is different than being a competitor or part of a race team, but I can only speak to my experiences.   And Shawn and I didn’t always agree on things that we’re happening at the track, but he always listened and always thanked me for my input.  And that too I’ll always appreciate about him.

Everything wasn’t perfect.  I think even Shawn would admit that.  Over the last few months of 2016 though… when I saw him on race day… he just looked exhausted… and for that reason alone, and as I said at the top, I’m glad that he’s moved on.

A COUPLE MORE RANTS…

The one thing I do have to rant about though are the detractors who I’m guessing weren’t a fan of him on the track (or maybe off the track) when he was a competitor and brought that same negativity towards him as a GM.  The whole “if Team Critical isn’t on your car, then calls go against you” mentality just makes no sense.  I mean, it’s just not factually correct.  Bruce Thomas Jr has had Team Critical on his #35 cars for years and stopped running on a weekly basis this year over a disagreement on a penalty levied against him.  Paul Kusheba is another with Team Critical on his car for years that decided not finish the full season.  There was a huge Team Critical on the back of Monte Gibbs’ #55 LS and he was DQ’ed a couple times this year.  Even Diego had a DQ.  I mean, if ya don’t like Shawn, well… don’t like him, whatta I care.  But this blanket Team Critical favoritism theory… I just ain’t buyin’ it.

I also gotta vent about numerous comments I’ve heard throughout the year from several people on how the car counts and crowd attendance are terrible.  2 more evaluations that I couldn’t disagree with more.  Let’s take this one at a time…

1985 Speedbowl crowd (Howie Hodge photo)

1985 Speedbowl crowd (Howie Hodge photo)

As for the crowd, here’s the news flash in-case ya missed it:  IT’S NOT THE LATE 1980’s ANYMORE… or the 1960’s or 1995 or any pre-Y2K era you want to compare today’s world to.  It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see stands packed to the brim on a weekly basis again… it’s just not today’s world.  Yes it was great to see them close to capacity on the Town Nights when you could get in for free, but you can’t have that promotion every week.   And I’m not sure I buy the ‘lower the admission price’ theory either.  I just don’t think it’s that easy.  Ya know, there are a ton of long-awaited and long-overdue renovations going on, just makes me chuckle that people want to see all those renovations happen AND get in for a cheaper price too.  How easy have people forgotten (or never knew) there was a admission tax added to CT facilities like race tracks a few years back (which they were previously exempt from for years).  There are 2 huge casino resorts in the area now, which wasn’t the case before the early 1990’s.  People still don’t spend money on entertainment things like they did before the economy tanked in 2007-08.  And just because cheaper admission and cheaper hot dogs at Lebanon Valley works for that venue, that doesn’t mean that’s the best decision for the Speedbowl or any other track.  I mean, I’m all for debating the issue, but let’s take into consideration all the factors into admission prices other than our own budgets… that’s all I’m saying.

Our very first video project at the Speedbowl was the 2008 Finale.  The SK Modifieds had a 100 lap race with 3 people in the hunt for the championship.  Pretty good event to go see, right?  It resulted in Dennis Gada making history by winning his 7th track championship… and there was maybe… maybe 200 people in the stands.  Now that’s a problem with attendance…  The Speedbowl is so much better off in that department these days.  I’ll leave it at that…

And car counts…  Again, it’s not 1986 when there was only 2 divisions, or 1990 when there was 3 divisions or even 1995 when there was 4 divisions.  There are 6 different divisions that run a point series on Saturday nights, and 5 more on the Thursday series (if you include the Truck division there).  That’s 11 point divisions over 2 nights.    If you took the average total car count on just a Saturday night in 2016, I betcha it’s higher than most total car counts from previous eras… they’re just spread out over more divisions.  The SK’s had a night where there was 29 SK Modifieds on a Saturday… 29 SK Mods… the headlining division.  Do you understand what an unbelievably impressive car count that is???    Yes the supporting divisions had many a night with sub-15 car counts.  I’d even like to see some divisions either dissolved or merge with others.  All debatable.  But to me, it’s an argument over too many divisions, not bad car counts.  The car counts are there.

SHOUT-OUTS ROLL CALL

Just gotta give a big shout out to all the drivers who let us put in-car cameras on their race car or let us use the footage from their own camera to use in our #SidsView web series this season:

Rob Janovic Jr, Tyler Chadwick, Tom Abele Jr, Todd Owen, Diego Monahan, Dennis Perry, Joey Gada, Adam Gada, Justin Gaydosh, Bo Gunning, Paul Buzel, Matt Galko, Paul Kusheba, Tim Jordan, Dylan Izzo, Ryan Morgan, Ronnie Williams, Rowan Pennink, Kyle James, Ray Christian, Jason Palmer, Chris Meyer, Josh Galvin, Jacob Perry, Nick Pappacoda, Chris Ivory, Tony Membrino Jr, Brett Gonyaw, Cory DiMatteo, John O’Sullivan, Eric Berndt, Ryan Preece, Ron Yuhas Jr, Robbie Summers, Woody Pitkat, Tommy Barrett Jr, Les Hinckley, Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore, Matt Hirschman and Ted Christopher.

And all the help from so many others behind the scenes on race day this season:

Kathy Courtemanche, Ricky Holmgren, Jay Perkins, Jimmy Dupont, Greg Hanner, Bob Lucas, Larry Thompson, Matt Swanson, Joe Grillo, Kodey Duplissie, Ashley Bubna, Kaitlyn Brice, George Wilkinson, Eric Webster, Rich Keator, Craig Merriman, James Warner, George DeCoster, John Spence Jr, Jesse Gleason, Brent Gleason, Kenny Stuart, Phil Jacques, Speedbowl Wrecker Crew, Bruce Bemer, Shawn Monahan and the entire Speedbowl staff and of course my beautiful wife Tiesha.

And without a doubt, a HUGE thanks to our awesome sponsorship team:

Honest John’s Used Cars, Waddell Communications, Michael V. Williams, Belltown Motors, GRE6.com, ServPro of Norwich, Ashaway Performance Engines, Tick-Free Organic Tick Control, the Gaudreau family, the Gada family, Nick’s Service Center, Critical Signs and Critical Screen Printing.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for updates on speedbowlhistory.com and our continuing production of our documentary series on the Speedbowl’s history (hitting this hard again in the editing booth this off-season, hoping to get it done finally!!)  Had fun ranting like the old days of jeff-pearl.com’s forum.  Maybe it won’t take me 3 years to do it again next time… LOL!!

Enjoy your off-season!!

Sid

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