Random Thoughts on #SpeedbowlDocSeries Part 5

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I’m in decompression mode for a couple days.  My Vault Productions crew just released Part 5 of our documentary series on the history of our beloved Waterford Speedbowl and I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed with all the positive feedback in the last 36 hours.  So I’m riding the high of accomplishment for the next day or two before I start another deep dive in the edit booth to complete our reality series at Stafford Speedway coming this January.  So to put a bow on the completion of our latest film, I thought I’d ramble a bit about putting it together over the last year.

Terry Eames (Roger Riley photo)

I have to start with Terry Eames.  This whole series is divided up between major changes in either ownership or operational control, so Part 5 was Terry’s story.  Or at least the start of it.  We all know how it ended, and Part 6 will deal a lot with the foreclosure issues that hung over the track for a decade.  But it’s important to tell the story before all that stuff, and Terry brought things to the Speedbowl that became so ingrained into the track’s routine I think some might have forgot who started them.

There were major things Terry did like returning the headlining division to SK Modified® rules, moving the Mini Stock division to Saturday night, incorporating the Legend Cars into the Speedbowl schedule, creating the $5,000 to win Modified Nationals, creating the Wild N’ Wacky Wednesdays and bringing back the NASCAR sanction.

There were officiating and race procedure changes like having a turn 2 spotter, implementing team radios for the SK Modifieds, regulating starts & restarts to turn 4 instead of turn 3 and re-branding the track as a 3/8 mile instead of 1/3 mile.

There were cosmetic changes like bringing in the construction trailer as the track office or the jersey barriers in the infield.

There were fan friendly things like being the first Speedbowl promoter to hold annual pit parties, having the 50 Favorite Drivers fan vote or bringing NASCAR Cup drivers to Waterford for autograph sessions and exhibition races.

It’s important whenever we’re profiling a track operator to be sure to acknowledge all that made their operation unique or new to the Speedbowl.  In Terry’s case, it’s a pretty lengthy list and we cover a lot of it in Part 5 from not only Terry, but from his operating team at the time which included Tony Leckey, Billy Roberts, Mark Geer and Pete Zanardi.

Terry’s interview took close to 3 hours to film because there was just so much to talk to him about and I think he was just fantastic at strolling down memory lane in detail for us to tell this era’s story.

Dennis Gada (Rene Dugas photo)

The other major ‘star’ of Part 5 is Dennis Gada.  This was the era of Harry Wyant’s #3 SK Modified that won 7 championships during a 9 year stretch – the first two with Jimmy Broderick (1995-96) and then a record 5 in a row with Dennis (1999-2003).  As seen in the film, Dennis’ story is complex – there was his accomplishments on the track, the jeers that grew from the fans as those accomplishments piled up, the heat Terry took simultaneously for the same guy winning so much and lastly Dennis’ quiet demeanor that somewhat frustrated Speedbowl PR guy Pete Zanardi in attempts to hype him up.  All of which we touch upon with in Part 5.   Dennis’ segment is the longest of any profile in Part 5, and in our opinion rightfully so because he was without a doubt the Speedbowl’s biggest star in this era.

Some random thoughts about the rest of the cast:

Bill Roberts (Keith Cyr photo)

Billy Roberts was quite candid about his years as a Race Director, specifically about the night he rescinded a lap-down penalty on Dennis Gada during a red flag situation in 2000 and the night he erased the VHS tape while trying to review the finish of the 2001 Late Model season.  Agree or disagree with how he handled either situation, he was pretty honest and straight forward about both incidents which made each story all the more compelling to watch.

The segments with the late ‘Flash’ Gordon Rodgers are bitter sweet.  I’m so thankful to have his interview and think he really has some great moments on screen, especially narrating us through the stress of the last race before he & Ed Reed Jr clinched the 2004 SK Modified Championship.  I miss Flash… and it saddens me to know he didn’t get a chance to see this finished product.  I hope I did him proud!

Allen Coates, Eric Berndt and Tyler Chadwick – three guys who are pretty quiet dudes and not necessarily excited to be in front of the camera for extended periods of time.  But we were pleasantly surprised at just how tremendous they each were in their interviews.  Allen and Eric as competitors coming into their own, and Tyler as a kid during this era watching his idols on the track.

The editing process is really fascinating with this documentary.  I don’t know that I actually planned it this way, but as it turned out some of our interviewees ended up narrating chunks of content throughout the entire series.  In the first few films, guys like Bones Bourcier and Steve Kennedy were a big contributors to that.  Terry Eames and Pete Zanardi both do a great job with that in the beginning of Part 5, while in the second half Matt Buckler and Shawn Courchesne give great perspectives in several segments.  And they’ll be more from the latter two in Part 6.  Writers, photographers, announcers… these guys by nature are good story tellers and they are invaluable to our production to help tell compelling stories.

And for every group of people that help with long, detailed narrations of complex stories, there’s also that group of people who made cameos in Part 5 that also help tell a single story.  Like Rob Summers and Ed Flemke Jr, who both appear in the NASCAR Modifieds segment.  Ken Cassidy Jr (who will be prominently featured in Part 6) chimes in about the Funkmaster Flex event in Part 5.  Brooksie keeps his streak alive for appearing in all 5 films to date by talking about the closing of Riverside Park Speedway and Phil Smith cameos during the Karns/Darnstaedt battle for the 1995 MS Championship.  And last but not least, the late, great Bob Potter who has also been in all 5 films to date and whom I wish could be here to see his cameos in our latest release.

John Brouwer Jr (Rene Dugas photo)

We’ve also been fortunate to tell the stories of colorful personalities from throughout Speedbowl history.  Some were love ’em / hate ’em type drivers like Dick Beauregard, Dick Caso and Ted Christopher, others were wildly popular like Don Collins, Mike Daignault and Brian McCarthy.  In part 5 we had one of each in the cast with Shawn Monahan and John Brouwer Jr.  These two guys just have enormous, deep rooted passions for the Speedbowl and both have unique personalities as competitors.  Every track has their memorable competitors from throughout their history, and these 2 are no exception in the Speedbowl’s case.

I also think about the guys who were successful primarily during this era – Eric Berndt, Tucker Reynolds Jr, Corey Hutchings, ‘Moose’ Douton, Chris Pasteryak, Todd Ceravolo, Ed Reed Jr, Rich Brooks and Jeff Karns.  These guys all came into their own in the mid-to-late 1990’s, won a ton of races and/or championships… and then by the end of 2004 (or not too long after), they were mostly gone from weekly competition.  Almost all of them came back years later, but their respective ‘hey-days’ at the Speedbowl were in this era and I’m glad they all took time to do an interview with us.

And then still there’s a bunch of other Speedbowl legends like Jay Stuart, Phil Rondeau, Jeff Pearl, Rob Janovic Jr, Don Fowler and Tom Fox.  All of them former champions. Speedbowl heavyweights on the track who have continually told us great stories throughout most of the documentary series to date.

In the early days of this production, we were initially going to stick with just the Modifieds and Late Models for in-depth profiles.  But when we interviewed ‘dirt pit’ guys like Ed Gertsch Jr and Dan Darnstaedt, we were reminded that there are great stories in all divisions so we interviewed more people and expanded the scope of our project.  Both former champs who won tons of races and gave us a really authentic point of view from the other side of the pit area.

Others who made their on-screen debut in Part 5 were Al Stone, Phil Evans, Keith Rocco, Jags Palmer and Dave Trudeau – all of whom you’ll see more of in Part 6.

Shout out to Mark Geer, Tony Leckey, Bob Gada, Mark Lajeunesse, Phil Smith and Bob Potter – nothing is definite, but there’s a high probability that these guys have likely made their last appearance in the doc series.  Each one of them has been in each of the first 5 films and they all shared just an abundance of stories that helped us tell the Speedbowl’s story from the beginning.

Eric Webster (Rene Dugas photo)

The only other member of the cast from Part 5 that I haven’t mentioned yet is Eric Webster.  Webby’s father Charlie was a Speedbowl legend on the track, and Webby himself is one off the track for his tireless, dedication to the place over the years.  As noted in Part 5, he hung up his helmet and became an official in 1997 and has been there in one position or another ever since.  It’s only fitting that he’s been in every film in this series, since his family has been at the track since it opened in 1951.

In other news, it’s a dead heat between Shawn Monahan and Keith Rocco as to which one had the most recent haircut prior to their interview. You make the call…

More random thoughts as music supervisor:

Anyone who’s seen the previous films or any Year in Review video I’ve produced over the years knows that music is a big part of my video work.  And I always try to find the perfect song for each segment.  I’ve literally spent weeks searching for the right song before I start editing some of these segments. Yup, I’m that cuckoo about having the right music for each story.

For the ‘Brouwerland’ segment in Part 5, I was about halfway through that edit using another song… and then while searching for something else, came across the song I eventually used and knew I had to go back and re-edit.  The music for ‘Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday’, ‘Funkmaster Flex’ and ‘Corey vs Moose’ also stick out as tunes I immediately knew were right for the content in those segments.

Other random thoughts as producer:

Fran Lawlor with Sid (Vault Productions photo)

I have to give a shout out to my man Fran Lawlor – a longtime racing photographer who I absolutely pepper with messages throughout the months-long edit to see if he has pics that can help with a story I’m working on.   He pretty much came through with every request… and it was usually really specific random stuff.  Whether I was looking for a wide shot of Beech Ridge Speedway or a shot of the truck division from Riverside Park, the Flawless One had the goods.  Just a huge help.

And the Speedbowl track photogs from this era like John Driscoll and Keith Cyr were also a big help with specific stuff I needed for Part 5 – especially when it came to the Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday series.  And like Parts 3 & 4 of the doc, our huge archives of Rene Dugas photos came in clutch again.

Also got to give a shout out to the Speedbowl announcers.  In Part 4, all of the footage had the announcing team of Joe Golas and Bob Freeman.  But Golas left when the Kortewegs did after the 1994 season and Freeman stayed only through the 2000 season.  In Part 5, there is a ton of footage with absolutely tremendous calls of the action by Mark ‘MG’ Geer, Ken Witham, Ben Dodge, Mark Fish, Kyle Rickey, Gary Danko, Matt Buckler and even Shawn Monahan.  A good call of great action is awesome in any sport at any level, and these guys all had moments in the clips we used this time around.  Just another example of elements that make compelling video.

My favorite quotes from Part 5:

Another element of making compelling video is great sound bites.  Whether it makes you laugh or makes you think, a good sound bite can make a world of difference when putting a story together.  And it’s usually pretty obvious when I first hear one.  It’s a cool part of the process that happens multiple times while editing each film and you know is going to make the finished product better.  Here’s some that stick out from editing Part 5.

“Guy would come along last lap and skunk me out of it” – Dan Darnstaedt on Bruce Thomas.

“I hate time trials” – Billy Roberts

“I was just amazed… how can I get to the other side of the fence” – Todd Ceravolo on going to the Speedbowl as a kid.

“You better check your distributor Tony because you’re not firing on all 8” – Pete Zanardi on Leckey’s idea for the Modified Nationals.

“I love the Super X-cars…. just a bunch of boats diving into Turn 1” – Tyler Chadwick on going to the Wacky Wednesday shows.

“I like taking Terry’s money” – Ted Christopher

“We were all right there slamming it out” – Jags Palmer describing a 4-wide Legend Car photo-finish

“Terry Needs Therapy” – Terry Eames quoting Tony Leckey’s alternate name for Thursday Night Thunder.

“He was trying to do the right thing and… up in smoke!” – Rich Brooks on Bill Roberts erasing the tape.

“Luckily I haven’t driven against him much” – Phil Evans on Shawn Monahan

“Just enough… to advance himself but not do you bad enough to be mad about it” – Shawn Monahan on Dennis Gada’s infamous hip shot in the turns.

“Hey you a**hole, sign the kid’s autograph” – Matt Buckler quoting Paul Teutul taking to Paul Jr during the Funkmaster Flex Series event.

“I miss that.  I wish we could get that back” – Allen Coates reminiscing about battling with Corey Hutchings, Phil Rondeau and Jay Stuart.

“I love going to the Speedbowl… for me there’s nowhere better to go on a Saturday night in the summer” – Chris Pasteryak

Honorable mention to how the expression on Tucker Reynolds Jr’s face suddenly dropped when I asked him about Brouwerland… cracks me up every time I watch it!

Some stats for the series so far:

The 5 films produced to date provide a total of 10 hours of documented Speedbowl history.

46 of the 67 people we interviewed on camera appear in Part 5, the most of any film in the series.

The competitors in the cast of Part 5 collectively won 80 Speedbowl championships.

10 people have appeared in all 5 films to date:  Bob Gada, Bob Potter, Bones Bourcier, Dick Brooks, Eric Webster, Mark Geer, Mark Lajeunesse, Pete Zanardi, Phil Smith and Tom Fox.

I get asked quite often how much time it takes to edit this series.  I have to admit I don’t keep any type of log of my time in the edit booth for this project, but I can ballpark it.   I’d say during July through mid October this year, there were probably 75 days I spent around 8 hours editing.  That’s 600 hours, and there was probably another 400 hours in the months prior to that since Part 4 was released last year.  So that’s a 1000 hours for the most recent 2.5 hours – the whole series so far is 10 hours long, so I’m probably somewhere close to 4,000 hours of editing time total for the first 5 films.

Yeah…. that’s a crazy number.  But totally worth it.

Lastly, I think it goes without saying that 2019 was a painful reminder of just how important it is to preserve the Speedbowl’s history.  So I really hope tons of people make time to watch this film (and the films before it too if you haven’t seen those yet either).  And when you do, be sure to watch through the end credits.  Not only are there some great final sound bites about just how awesome the Speedbowl is, it’s also a chance to see all the names of the countless people who helped put this bad boy together.  From those who contribute to the budget, or provide footage and pics, to all the fact-checkers and extra set of eyes, it’s just amazing how many different ways people have contributed to this series over the years…  it truly would not have happened without such a massive group effort… and for that, my crew and I will forever be grateful!

I hope the support continues and in a year’s time, we’ll be watching Part 6!

until then…