DiMaggio recognized by CSWA

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Vault Productions founder and Waterford Speedbowl historian Tom ‘Sid’ DiMaggio will be recognized in April by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance as one of 6 recipients of the John Wentworth Good Sport Award.  The award is presented to individuals who have shown an unselfish dedication to sports in the community.  The presentation will be part of the CSWA’s annual Gold Key Awards Dinner held on April 28th.

DiMaggio has been an active historian for the Speedbowl since 2005, researching the entire statistical history of the track dating back to facility’s first season back in 1951.  He also produces two video projects about the track:  a documentary film project chronicaling the continuous operation of the track and a weekly webisode series entitled ‘Sid’s View’ which began in 2010 and features coverage of the current events from a fan’s point of view.  Over the years, DiMaggio has also served as publisher of the track’s weekly program and held an annual homerun derby exhibition pairing Speedbowl drivers with Little Leaguers in the community.  DiMaggio’s efforts with his Vault Productions crew are done on a largely volunteer basis.

Previous recipients of CSWA honors in the northeast auto racing community include the late Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr as a prestigious Gold Key recipient in 1998, racing promoter & announcer Ben Dodge for the Good Sport Award in 1992 and former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Nat’l Champion Keith Rocco in 2010 as Male Athlete of the Year.

The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance was founded in 1939.   The Alliance, made up of sports writers and editors – active and retired – from around the state of Connecticut, meets monthly from September to June.  The Gold Key Awards are the highest sports honor in Connecticut as the Alliance recognizes those who have made significant contributions to athletics in Connecticut.

Speedbowl fan honored for promoting track

Published by Julianne Hanckel for The New London Day April 25. 2013

On what was considered a fair-weather April evening for the beginning of this year’s race season April 13, Tom “Sid” DiMaggio sat in the grandstands of the Waterford Speedbowl surrounded by his wife and friends.

As cars whizzed around the 63-year-old race track, fans cheered on the drivers in their own way, whooping, whistling or pretending to push the cars ahead of their opponents – only to recoil their bodies once the car they were rooting for lost its coveted place.

None of DiMaggio’s friends mentioned the fact that on Sunday, he’ll be named by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance as a 2013 recipient of their John Wentworth Good Sport Award. He will be honored at the 72nd annual Gold Key Dinner at Aqua Turf Club in Southington.

“They called me in January. I was blown away that they even knew what I was doing to be honest. I was speechless that I’m getting the award,” DiMaggio, of Lyme, said last week. “It’s an unbelievable honor. My father-in-law won the same award last year so that makes it even more special. We do this because we love the sport.”

The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance is made up of both active and retired sports writers and editors from around the state. The alliance was founded in 1939 and the Gold Key Awards Dinner recognizes those who have made significant contributions to athletics in Connecticut.

“The passion and dedication he’s given not only the Speedbowl – but the auto racing community in general – rivals that of anyone at this level,” track owner and promoter Terry Eames said in a press release announcing DiMaggio’s award.

He said DiMaggio’s work would be something “any race track promoter across the country would be tremendously proud of.”

DiMaggio’s social media efforts have earned the Speedbowl a greater following on sites like Twitter and Facebook, but it’s his YouTube videos, with a unique perspective on the races, that are starting to get serious attention.

“Sid’s View: Short Track Racing From a Fan’s Point of View,” are YouTube videos DiMaggio and members of his video production team compile after races each week. There are cameras in the pit, on the track and in the grandstands, right next to DiMaggio.

“It’s as if you were sitting next to me and people around me are asking questions,” he said. “It’s something we consciously do to have a different perspective. We’re definitely an outside-the-box kind of operation.”

There’s even a camera strapped onto NASCAR official Eric Webster, who rides a 4-wheeler during the races and is one of the first people to arrive at the scene of a wreck on the track.

“We take great pride in the “Webby Cam” because that’s something no one else gets to see,” DiMaggio said.

After an evening of shooting video, DiMaggio said he’s up until 5 a.m. on Sunday mornings uploading video.

“I try to have it edited and online by Monday or Tuesday because by next Saturday it’s old,” he said. “I edit thinking of my friends that don’t like auto racing, so they say to me ‘Why do you go to that track to watch cars drive around in a circle?’ I try to incorporate elements so that someone that’s not into racing would want to watch it.”

In addition to his weekly Speedbowl videos, DiMaggio has also created a database of Speedbowl race results and other statistics and is conducting interviews for a documentary on the history of the racetrack, which is set for a 2014 release.

As part of the documentary, footage of the Speedbowl being built will be included and DiMaggio said he plans to have the interviews completed by August. He’s excited about the commitments he’s received from some of the Speedbowl’s biggest names.

“Don Collins won five championships in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s huge for us to interview him … Peg Gaudreau was a car owner in the ’70s and won five straight owner-championships in the ’70s when women weren’t even allowed in the pits,” DiMaggio said. “I was shocked when Mark (Bourcier) said he’d do an interview.”

DiMaggio grew up in Waterford, graduated from Waterford High School in 1991, and started to become a regular at the track when a family member started racing there.

What many don’t know is that his first name is Tom, not Sid – that nickname came with him from high school but stuck around at the race track because two men named Tom working in a race pit got confusing.

He wears many hats at the Speedbowl but said there’s one he’ll never wear.

“Nope. I want no part of that,” he said when asked if he’s ever been behind the wheel of a race car. “I know nothing about cars and part of being a good driver is communication with your crew and since I know nothing about cars I wouldn’t be good at that.”

Although, he did say that if he were to get behind the wheel, other drivers should beware.

“I’m ultra competitive,” he said.