As the state of Connecticut continues to grind through the bitter chill of winter, things are beginning to warm up on the shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Since announcing the track’s 2018 season-opening weekend of May 5 and 6, the Speedbowl crew has been quietly but steadily working towards preparing the facility for its 67th season of operation.
Among the items on the to-do list is one of the biggest makeovers in the Bowl’s history, with the construction of new grandstands and a tower. While the process of finalizing construction plans with town of Waterford building inspectors is still in progress, track general manager George Whitney is pleased with where the process is currently at.
Whitney, who is entering his second season as Speedbowl GM, spoke exclusively with Speed51.com about some of the specifics and confirmed that he has a lease in place to operate the race track in 2018.
“Yes, (the lease) is there and it is in place. We’re moving along fine,” Whitney stated. “Schedule is being put in place, and the grandstands is all in the attorney’s hands right now. We’re going back through the plans now, some things had to be changed. It has already been presented to the town attorney; it has not been to the building inspector yet.”
While he doesn’t have a specific timetable for demolition and construction, Whitney is confident the track will be ready to go for opening weekend, even with what the winter weather has already thrown down or may throw down.
“The company we are working with said if we can get all this stuff we just talked about done this month with the town, they’ll have no issues in taking the old ones down and having the new ones up and ready so we can open May 5.”
Whitney also provided some insight into what fans can expect when the gates open in the spring.
“The grandstands right now are 450 feet long, the grandstands that are going into place are 350 feet long, all aluminum, but we are splitting them in the middle. If the town says it’s okay, what we are going to do is have one concession stand in the middle with the tower on top of that, which is also going to be all new.”
The biggest challenge for the Speedbowl crew this winter has been finding the time to hammer out all the details together at the same time.
“The crew here at the Speedbowl, this is not our full-time job; we all have full-time jobs, like me I work 60 to 70 hours a week. I’m in the transportation business, so I’m doing the best I can to get this done.”
The other big to-do for the Speedbowl has been the season schedule. While announcing the start and end dates for the Saturday and Wednesday night programs, along with dates for multiple touring series, the issue of time has put off further discussion for additional touring divisions as well as the Bowl’s weekly divisions.
“We should be able to get the schedule out soon, that’s all about finding a time to sit down at the same time,” Whitney stated. “It’s been phone conversations back and forth, but to actually sit with the guys that are going to make the decisions in one room is tough because everyone has jobs.”
Among the touring series scheduled to compete at the track is the Valenti Modified Racing Series, which anchors the Saturday portion of Blastoff Weekend on May 5; the MRS will also be back for Wings & Wheels August 11 along with the ISMA Supermodifieds who will race that night. The series will make their final visit on September 15.
The Late Models of the American-Canadian Tour will return after a one-year absence on June 16, while the Granite State Pro Stock Series will conclude their 2018 season at the Speedbowl as a part of finale weekend Saturday, October 20. In addition, the Pro 4 Modifieds, NEMA Midgets and Lites have also set dates in 2018.
Although there is a good touring presence at Waterford for 2018, Whitney has said there will be some changes, primarily to mix things up and further display Waterford’s own weekly divisions.
“I’m excited for what’s coming. It’s been a lot of hard work for everybody. We’re also trying different stuff to bring a different variety to the table,” he said. “I was a racer for 20 years and I think the racing industry is changing a little bit. The next generation coming through, to me are laptop guys; it’s hard to find people who work on race cars anymore, so you got to change things up a little bit.”
Before looking fully ahead to 2018, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl will honor its Saturday night champions on Saturday, January 20 with its 2017 season banquet.
Stay with Speed51.com for more on the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and the track’s plans for the 2018 season.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com