Those visiting the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) in 2016 will notice a facility that looks much different than it did one year ago. A lot of sweat, a lot of time and a team effort between two men who care a lot about the race track has Connecticut’s shoreline oval revitalized for the upcoming season.
One year ago, the upcoming racing season at the Speedbowl was still on icy ground, literally. New owner Bruce Bemer and racer-turned-general manager Shawn Monahan were facing a long list of preseason maintenance items as opening day approached, but one of the worst winters the state of Connecticut has ever experienced made it so that the duo couldn’t tackle much of that list. Following a hectic April, the Speedbowl reopened in May to a group of happy drivers and fans with the new caretakers promising substantial improvement for the 2016 season. One year later, those promises are becoming reality.
This week Speed51.com powered by JEGS had the chance to view the progress of the winter renovations and they are nothing short of impressive. Gone are the gouged and beaten Armco Barriers which lined the outside of the Speedbowl’s four turns for many years. Those have been replaced with fresh new cement walls which were completed this week following the start of the project in November.
During the construction of the new wall it was found that the track’s electrical system for the lights was in need of replacement, and that had Bemer himself stepping up his involvement in the “all hands on deck” effort.
“I’ve mostly been here for the electrical line here. We had the concrete people here doing this and we found out that we had some electrical problems so we decided to do it the right way,” Bemer explained. “It’s something that’s not going to show but hopefully we won’t have a problem.”
Bemer’s personal contribution of time and sweat has awed many Speedbowl supporters including Monahan himself.
“In the past few weeks Bruce has come down himself and run the backhoe,” said Monahan. “He actually amazes me with his experience level and hands on work. One of the reasons Bruce and I get along well is because we’re not afraid to get right in and make it happen. We’re not just somebody in the background pointing out orders; we do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Those feelings are mirrored by Bemer,
“It’s got to be a team effort, we’ve got to work together.”
Both Bemer and Monahan also agree the other major component to the progress has been this year’s lack of winter weather. Despite the renovations now being in a good place, both men are eager to press on with Monahan already sorting things out for the Speedbowl’s next project.
“I feel pretty comfortable with being on track,” he said. “The wall is now completed and we’re in the process of covering some conduit and my fence contractor is lined up and ready to start. With the weather we’ve had on our side we won’t have any problem with completing everything a few weeks before opening day.”
A fresh new catchfence is expected to begin going up above the concrete walls in the coming weeks following the installation of the new electrical conduits and reassembly of the lights.
Another noticeable change is the addition of a new gate just off turn two on the backstretch for improved pit access to the north pits located outside of turns one and two.
The Speedbowl will also be moving the scales out of the infield and into a new dedicated tech area which will be located in the south pits outside of turn three.
There is also a notable disappearance of the aging scoreboard from behind the backstretch. That is slated to be replaced by a new scoreboard that is scheduled to be installed this spring.
One project that was discussed for this season but ultimately pushed to next off-season was a renovation of the grandstands. Track management decided to not take a chance of over doing the workload and received the thumbs up for use of the current grandstands in 2016.
For the longtime Speedbowl faithful, including Monahan, all of the improvements are a special thing to see.
“I was born in the Waterford area and raised up at the track, to see it to go from years of being in shambles to having a solid foundation is a beautiful thing,” he said. “To actually surpass it being stagnant, and being totally revitalized by Bruce (Bemer) is just amazing.”
In the midst of the renovations and running his family’s business next door to the Speedbowl, Monahan has also been hard at work putting together sponsorship deals for what are already shaping up to be competitive divisions for 2016.
“I feel extremely confident with the fact that I’ve already got three divisions’ title sponsors and we’re going to release that in the near future, but my goal is to have every division with a title sponsor to help with a bonus program for the winners.”
The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl rolls off with a massive roar beginning Saturday, May 7 with the track’s Saturday competitors being joined by the Thursday Thunder divisions for opening night.
This will be followed by appearances by the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour May 14, the ACT Late Model Tour May 21, the Northeast Street Stock Tour May 28, and the Northeast Mini Stock Tour on June 4.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com