RPW Column: How Fans Are Getting Their Racing Fix During The Health Pandemic & More News…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The coronavirus which has brought this country to its knees is still rampant. Government officials tell us to keep a social distance of six feet and no groups of people over ten.

New York City has reported to be the hot spot and those living there have been urged to stay home. There are a chosen few who think they are privileged and have taken trips to Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Many New York City residents have been seen wandering around the beach areas in Rhode Island despite the fact that RI has initiated a 14 day quarantine rule for those coming into the state. It became so rampant that the Governor activated the Army National Guard and along with local police departments are going door to door at any home that has NY plates on the vehicles.

Out of staters have been documented and told they are under quarantine. Violators are subject to arrest and fine.

Three Massachusetts males were arrested last week by Richmond RI police last week after they played a round of Golf at the Meadowbrook Golf Club near exit 3 on I-95. The three parked their car at a McDonalds near the exit and were picked up by a RI resident. They were charged with avoiding a Rhode Island proclamation and could be fined up to $5,000 each.

A big shout out to the folks at the Stafford Motorspeedway for their production of their iRacing series. It’s the next best thing in these trying times. Bryan Narducci was Friday night’s winner of the 80 lap iRacing feature. Numerous full feature videos of Stafford racing divisions are now available on YouTube. This quarantine has track management cleaning out the archives. They will be posting loads of old content on YouTube in the coming weeks.

With COVID-19 delaying action on the track at the Seekonk Speedway, competitors competed in the inaugural Seekonk iRacing event last weekend. Building off the success, Seekonk is now proud to announce an eight-race iRacing Seekonk Road Trip Tour for the 2020 season. All eight races will be broadcasted live on Speed51.com ” one of the top platforms covering short-track racing in the country. The schedule begins on Thursday, April 9, and ends on Thursday, Oct. 21 ” as all eight races will be mid-week specials on Thursday nights ” most leading into a major event on the third-mile in real-life as part of Seekonk’s 75th anniversary season. The entire schedule will be run with fixed Super Late Model setups on iRacing, with 150-lap distances, and will bring drivers to some of the most historic short-tracks in the country. The broadcast for each event is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Speed51.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed the start of the Tri Track Open Modified Series season, but the list of entered drivers and car owners for 2020 continues to grow just over a month before the drop of the first scheduled green flag. For those who haven’t seen, the start of the season has been delayed until May 9th at Monadnock Speedway — but that date is fluid, depending on how the pandemic develops. As of this writing, the entire schedule remains in place, with Monadnock on May 9th and Claremont Speedway on May 24th opening the season.

A former series champion and countless winners are on the current entry list — one filled with talent from top to bottom. Defending series champion Ronnie Williams is looking to repeat in 2020, with car owner Gary Casella, as the combination comes back fired up and ready for more. They were able to visit Victory Lane at Seekonk Speedway last year as part of the $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday before earning their crown. Ron Silk and Chase Dowling, two drivers who earned victories last year, are both back with the same team. Silk teams with Bob Horn, as Dowling teams with Jimmy Paige. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is also well represented.

Matt Swanson, who drives for the historic Boehler Racing on the tour, will drive for Larry Westgate in a car prepared by Boehler Racing, carrying the famed ‘Ole Blue’ colors. Woody Pitkat, who is back teaming with Stan Mertz, returns to wheel the No. 6, while former NASCAR Modified Tour Rookie of the year Calvin Carroll returns to Tri Track for another round.

On the veteran front, Kirk Alexander, Les Hinckley and Tommy Barrett are coming back. Weekly SK Modified racers from Stafford Speedway set to compete with Tri Track in 2020 include Matt Galko and Andrew Molleur, one of many upcoming Modified stars. Mike Willis, who earned his first Tri Track win last year at his home track of Claremont, is coming back, this time with car owner Cam McDermott. Rising stars Ryan Doucette, Dylan Izzo, Brian Robie and Derek Robbie are also on the list.

NBC Sports has added even MORE content to the TrackPass! Stream races from from the 2019 Archives of American Flat Track, IMSA, K&N, and Whelen Modified Tour – all with your current subscription. Twenty bucks for unlimited race coverage in your home is a fantastic deal.

The following appeared in the New London (CT) Day on April 5: By Sten Spinella Day staff writer

Waterford — For more than a year, a large sign at the entrance to New London-Waterford Speedbowl has shown the message: “GREAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING SEE YOU SOON!”

The Speedbowl, closed since the conclusion of the 2018 season, didn’t reopen as promised in 2019. Construction delays, as well as high-profile legal issues with its owner — wealthy businessman Bruce Bemer, who’s appealing his conviction in human trafficking-related crimes — have plagued the popular local attraction.

April 15 will mark the Speedbowl’s 69th anniversary. In a recent interview with The Day, General Manager Mike Serluca promised racing would return. The exact timeframe, though, is in question.

A false start

Serluca said he regrets having told the public the Speedbowl would hold races in 2019. He declined to give an approximate opening date, especially considering the question of how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact work schedules. But he’s hopeful.

“We’re making real progress every day to get the place open for racing,” Serluca said. “My goal is to, like I said last year, be racing at the Speedbowl in 2020, and I do believe that we are going to race there again this year barring any major catastrophe.”

So far, Serluca said, there has been no interruption to the project due to the coronavirus, but, he added, that could change in an instant. He said he’s in constant contact with the company the Speedbowl purchased the grandstands from, National Equipment & Facility Solutions in Mystic, to check on the status.

Serluca detailed numerous renovation objectives and obstacles, which he blames for the delay. The chief challenge has been tearing down the original wood grandstands and putting up aluminum ones that are handicapped accessible

The new grandstands will reduce the track’s capacity from around 6,000 to closer to 3,500.

Waterford Planning Director Abby Piersall described the Speedbowl’s current regulatory status.

“They received permits last year for updating the bleachers and tearing down old bleachers, where it wasn’t a good idea for folks to be,” Piersall said. “So, right now they have that permit, they have authorization to do work, and we’re just waiting to hear from them when they’re ready for inspections.”

Another issue at the track has been drainage.

“How are we going to get rid of the water? We can’t pump it into the brook — it’s 2020, we need to be more eco-friendly,” Serluca said.

Piersall also commented on the drainage problem.

“They were doing some limited drainage work in the area around the bleachers to make sure they didn’t have any pooling water,” Piersall said. “I know they have worked with DEEP (the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) in the past around the drainage in the center of the track.”

Serluca thanked the town for answering questions and being open in telling the track what it needs to do to begin operating again.

“For any property that has a vested right to conduct a business, we’re here to help,” Piersall said. “We want folks to be operating with the right information. I know there has been talk from some who are not as excited about noise or other issues, but we’re trying to make sure the Speedbowl has everything it needs to continue operating the way they have the right to.”

Bemer’s tenure

The first race season under Bemer’s ownership was 2015. In 2019, he was convicted on sex trafficking charges. He arranged for sex trafficker Robert King to bring mentally disabled and drug-addicted young men to racing events in a Winnebago, according to testimony at his trial. He posted $750,000 for bail to be free while he appeals his conviction.

The controversy surrounding Bemer also surrounds the Speedbowl.

“He gets a bad rap. Whether you support the guy or don’t support the guy, he loves the racing community, he loves the racetrack, he would dump every last dollar he could into it to make it great for people to come race,” Serluca said. “At first, some people were understandably negative, but some have started to come around again; the racetrack is an important place. His passion for racing and his passion to keep the Speedbowl going is remarkable with everything he has going on.”

Serluca said Bemer is the “decision-maker” for major moves at the track, such as the construction of the grandstands, the drainage work, the tower design, the concession design and the demolition. Per Serluca, Bemer is hands-on with the business, and has been legally permitted to be so.

If Bemer does end up incarcerated, Serluca said he doesn’t know how the Speedbowl would be affected.

“I’m assuming there’s a plan in place. As far as what that plan is, I’m not privy to it,” Serluca said.

Due to his association with Bemer and the construction delays, Serluca said he has faced backlash from people who used to be involved with the track.

Another lap

Serluca said people who come to the track are like “one big family” — he’s been going to the Speedbowl since he was 3 years old, and he knows most of the fans in the stands as well as the racers.

Charles Canfield, 2017 and 2018 Mini Stock Champion, has had experiences similar to Serluca’s at the track. His father first brought him there when he was 5 years old or younger, and he’d been racing at the Speedbowl for 12 years before it shut down.

He’s eager to be behind the wheel again.

“I’m really hoping it’s ready,” Canfield said. “I guess we can only be let down so much. But I think they’ve made a lot of progress. It might be at a little standstill now because of what’s going on with the coronavirus, but Mike’s still pushing, saying the stands will get built. I’ve got some confidence there will be a 2020 season. My car’s just sitting, waiting.”.