Action returned to the Connecticut shoreline Saturday night as Waterford Speedbowl returned to racing.  Six divisions were on hand with repeat winners and new faces both reaching the winner’s circle.  Joe Gada of Salem mastered the SK Modified® field, claiming his first win of the year.  Joining Gada as new faces in Victory Lane for 2014 were Groton drivers Bruce Thomas Jr., picking up the checkered flag in Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race, and Ray Christian III, winner in the Mini Stocks.  Josh Galvin of Franklin won his third Street Stock feature in a row and Corey Barry of Plainfield won his second SK Light Modified race on the year.  Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott claimed another INEX Legend Cars feature to round out the night’s winners.

Gada was stellar in the night’s 35-lap SK Modified® feature.  He started the race from the pole position and left Nichole Morgillo behind exiting turn two.  Excitement picked up on the opening lap when several cars made contact down the back chute, sending Shawn Thibeault through the infield but continuing on without a caution flag. 

Gada was out to a blistering pace while Ed Puleo quickly moved to second position.  Ted Christopher was already up to third and Keith Rocco was charging through the top-ten and was hot on Christopher’s tail in fourth just four laps in.  Rocco was not content and immediately looked for racing room on Christopher, making an inside move to jump to third on lap-5.  Ahead, Gada stretched his lead on Puleo as Rocco closed in.  The battle for second picked up on lap-10 with Rocco all over Puleo.  After several laps trying, Rocco could not unseat Puleo for the spot.  Christopher was all alone in fourth with Tim Jordan rounding out the top five as the race reached halfway all under the green flag.
Over the second half of the race, Puleo began to slowly reel in Gada as Rocco started to fade in third.   Christopher was closing the gap back to Rocco and Jordan continued in fifth.   By lap-25 Puleo was two car lengths back of Gada and three laps later he was on his rear bumper looking hungry for his second win of the season.  Puleo looked to the inside of Gada more than once, but Gada was quick off the corners.  Puleo tested Gada’s rear bumper on a couple occasions, including lap-32 when both cars briefly got sideways entering turn one. 

Gada withstood Puleo’s efforts to win by a car length at the checkered flag in a clean but well contested event. The win marked Gada’s second in the division.  His first victory came in 2013.  Gada’s father Dennis is one of the all-time best open-wheeled drivers in track history, claiming seven division titles.  The caution free race took 9 minutes and 33 seconds from start to finish.  Puleo rebounded from a hard wreck last Saturday to finish second and Rocco held back Ted Christopher for third. 

Thomas won for the first time on the year to halt Rocco’s stranglehold in the Valenti Auto Mall Late division.  Rocco won the final five races in 2013 and the first five features to begin 2014.  Thomas, one of the division’s all-time best, finally found the answer to best Rocco in the 30-lap race.  The feature got off to a rocky start as several cars came together on the opening lap in turn three.  Past champion Jeff Smith got squeezed into the turn three wall and Rich Duranti spun in the middle of the track, drawing the only caution flag of the race.

Thomas passed Anthony Ryan Jr. for the lead on lap-2 and never looked back. Rocco quickly moved to second but was not able to seriously challenge Thomas over the duration of the race, which ran without another caution flag the full 30-laps after the opening yellow.  Rocco finished second and Ryan finished a career-best third.

Barry became the first driver to win multiple features in the SK Light Modified division in 2014.  He won for the second time in a special 28-lap extra distance race sponsored by RH2 Way Radios.  Barry trailed Chris Ignazio for a long green flag stretch that was finally halted by a spin on lap-21.  Ignazio led from the drop of the green flag and was able to hold Barry back, beginning to pull away when the caution flag was displayed.  The yellow was key for Barry, as his tires cooled enough to overtake Ignazio on the restart in the outside lane.  Barry held on through two additional restarts in the final laps after taking command.  Ignazio finished second and 15-year old Paul Buzel finished an impressive run with a solid third place effort, a career best.

Galvin won his third consecutive Street Stock race and fourth on the year.  He was the third leader of the 25-lap race, clearing Travis Jurcik on the outside on lap-15.  Jurcik had led after taking over from Steve Barrett on lap-5.  Galvin worked through the field, taking second on lap-10 before moving in on Jurcik.  Once clear of Jurcik, restarts were Galvin’s biggest hurdle, mastering three in the final ten laps. Galvin cruised to the victory, surviving a late race bid by Chris Meyer after a restart with two laps remaining.  Ryan Waterman edged Meyer for second at the finish line.

Christian wired the field in the night’s 25-lap Mini Stock race, another caution-free race.  He took command over pole position starter Pete Zaikarite on lap-1 and built a big cushion as the battle for second place was hard fought behind him over the first half of the race.  Five-time champion Ken Cassidy Jr. made some impressive moves to race into the spot on lap-13.  Cassidy could not run down Christian without the benefit of a caution flag however, finishing two car lengths behind Christian while Garrett Denton finished third.

Christopher won for the fourth consecutive time in the INEX Legend Cars at the track.  He won his first career race at the track on April 19 followed by the track’s first two Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday series races before his 25-lap victory on Saturday.  Christopher received damage in a first lap wreck, however that did not deter him from making a pit stop for repairs before climbing back through the field.  He took the lead from Cory Dimatteo on lap-8.  Christopher withstood a lengthy red flag delay with just three laps remaining before closing out the win.  Tim DePizzol made a late surge to claim second and Keith Rocco was third at the finish. 

The Speedbowl returns next Saturday night with a special Memorial Day Weekend event. Super Saturday Showdown joins the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with the track’s Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday series, which takes a break on May 21.  Seven divisions of racing hit the asphalt for a special $12.00 adult grandstand admission price, with all youth age 14 and under receiving free admission when accompanied by an adult.   On Sunday, Memorial Day Madness offers thrills and spills with a demolition derby, trailer race, and more capped off by an aerial fireworks display.

Waterford Speedbowl Saturday 5/17 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Results:

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modifieds® (35-laps):  1. Joe Gada, Salem; 2. Ed Puleo, Branford;  3. Keith Rocco, Berlin; 4. Ted Christopher, Plainville;  5. Tim Jordan, Plainfield;  6. Kyle James, Ashaway, RI;  7. Nichole Morgillo, Southington;  8. Paul Kusheba IV, Monroe;  9. Craig Lutz, Miller Place, NY;  10. Diego Monahan, Quaker Hill;  11. Bert Marvin, Colchester;  12. Rob Janovic Jr., Waterford;  13. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr., Milford;  14. Jeff Gallup, Agawam, MA;  15. Shawn Thibeault, Plainville;  16. Brent Sweet, Monroe;  17. Wendell Dailey, Gales Ferry;  18. Tom Pinson, Colchester;  19. Victoria Bergenty, Plainville

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Valenti Auto Mall Late Models (30-laps):  1. Bruce Thomas Jr., Groton;  2. Keith Rocco, Berlin;  3. Anthony Ryan Jr., Danbury;  4. Tommy Barrett Jr., Millis, MA;  5. Joey Gada, Salem;  6. Mike Sweeney Jr., Meriden;  7. Jeff Smith, Old Lyme;  8. Vin Esposito, Seymour;  9. Chris Garside, Waterford;  10. Rich Duranti, Quaker Hill

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Street Stocks (25-laps):  1. Josh Galvin, Franklin;  2. Ryan Waterman, Danielson;  3. Chris Meyer, North Franklin;  4. Steve Barrett, Preston;  5. Phil Evans, Uncasville;  6. Greg Moran Jr., Preston;  7. Al Stone III, Durham;  8. Jake Bercham, West Greenwich, RI;  9. Scott Sundeen, Sutton, MA;  10. Travis Jurcik, Chaplin;  11. Norm Root Jr., Old Saybrook;  12. Lloyd Anderson Jr., Wauregan;  13. Jeff Jolly, Wallingford;  14. Brandon Fisher, Plainfield

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Mini Stocks (25-laps):  1. Ray Christian III, Groton;  2. Ken Cassidy Jr., Lisbon;  3. Garrett Denton, Hope Valley, RI;  4. Doug Curry, Groton;  5. Pete Zaikarite, Niantic;  6. Wayne Burroughs Jr., Oakdale;  7. Joe Liskiewicz, Preston;  8. Ian Brew, Wood River Junction;  9. Christopher Ivory, Oakdale;  10. Nick Pappacoda, North Branford;  11. Dave Trudeau, Mansfield;  12. David Arute, Tolland;  13. Dale Sherman, Charlestown, RI;  14. John Bowes, Willington;  15. Jeff Lee, Uncasville

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modifieds (25-laps):  1. Corey Barry, Plainfield;  2. Chris Ignazio, Colchester;  3. Paul Buzel, Trumbull;  4. Glenn Griswold, Vernon;  5. Randy Churchill Jr., Oakdale;  6. Paul French, Andover;  7. Joe Ferrigno, East Hartford;  8. Larry Goss, North Windham;  9. Alan Tirrell, North Stonington;  10. Jeff Fialkovich, Shelton;  11. Victoria Bergenty, Plainville;  12. Crystal Serydynski, Johnston, RI;  13. Calvin Therrien, Vernon

INEX Legend Cars (25-laps):  1. Mike Christopher Jr., Wolcott;  2. Tim DePizzol, North Franklin;  3. Keith Rocco, Berlin;  4. Cory Dimatteo, Farmington;  5. Kyle Rogers, Waterbury;  6. Jordan Churchill, Lisbon;  7. Scott Limkemann, East Lyme;  8. Peter DePizzol, North Franklin;  9. Cornelius Flynn, Hampden, MA;  10. John O’Sullivan Jr., Salem;  11. Dylan Izzo, Westport

Thomas Puts an End to Rocco's LM Streak at Waterford
Bruce Thomas Jr. and Joey Gada Among Winners at Connecticut Oval
By Brian Darling, Waterford Speedbowl Press Release