If you have not heard the news yet, then get out from under your rock and celebrate with the rest of us! The New London Waterford Speed Bowl will be opening for racing for the 2017 season. Thanks to George Whitney who will be leasing it for the 2017 season; more on George Whitney, his plans and our phone conversation in a bit. But first, let’s go back a few years. For any of the die hard fans this year was déjà vu and way too soon. It was only a couple years ago we all were wondering if our beloved Speedbowl would ever open again. It was going up for a foreclosure auction where most thought chances were it would be purchased by a developer or by a real estate investor. Many of us held our breaths and were very bummed about the Bowls unknown future. As this was also not the first time the Bowls fate was in the air. Through the decades the Bowl has had its struggles and uncertainties, but they usually had many good years in between. On that fall day a couple years ago at the auction when Bruce Bemer purchased the Bowl and said he would “keep it racing” we all rejoiced! Social media went wild, calls and texts were rampant, we were going racing again at the Bowl.
Now fast forward, after a couple good seasons of the kind of racing the Bowl is famous for, we again were right back to wondering if we would even have a race season at the Bowl this year and this came right before the season was to get underway.
A couple years were not long enough before we had to deal with the uncertainty of the Speedbowl once more. But, we were back in this sad situation again when the news broke this winter that the owner Bruce Bemer was arrested and it looked like there may be some lengthy criminal and civil legal issues ahead. I know my heart along with many sank. It was almost the spring and with that we were close to the start of the 2017 race season and now this…To say it took the wind out of the sails of many would be an understatement. It was the talk of the media, definitely social media and at the race track for weeks to come. As happy as we all were to be racing again after the winter, it just did not have the same feeling as past season openers have and at the other races too.
The fate of the Bowl was either the main topic of conversation or a topic nobody wanted to bring up. Since then there has been lots of, rumors, assumptions, attempts and uncertainty. It definitely has been the grey cloud for many of us and this season so far. How one track can affect so many and have such an impact on the mood of so many says a ton for the impact the Bowl has and the love the fans have for the place.
During the last few months we have been in contact with a handful of people trying to buy or lease the Speedbowl. We know many sincere attempts have been made along the way and it is a very difficult and complicated process. Though we were keeping the faith, each day that went by and each deal we heard about not being able to come together really had us worried as race season was already more than a month in. We kept getting told there still were some possibilities alive and we were still hopeful as we stuck to our hash tag we coined “#BowlStrong”. One person we have been hearing about the whole time on and off was George Whitney, the man who has prevailed and was able to accomplish the very difficult but much needed task of leasing the Speedbowl to give all of us fans and teams a 2017 season there! Even George’s social media pages were sporting our #BowlStrong hash tag! I always say passion is contagious.
Who is this man George Whitney of Whitney Farm Racing LLC. you ask? You mean besides the man who made this grey cloud go away, who took a load off of many of our minds and gave some of us the best news we have heard in along time? He has be around racing for decades and spent many of them at the Speedbowl as well as tracks all over the country. He mainly ran full fender cars during his early career and after taking a break he returned to run legends and had much success in doing so with track and state championships. More recently George has been a crew chief for multiple successful legend teams and drivers. He also has been helping many with their set ups and repairs on the legend cars. He is a 51 year old family man with a full time job. When not at work or at a track he can be found on his small farm at home on the Connecticut shore line. He seems to enjoy anything with an engine, from Harleys to farm tractors, but race cars are his passion.
All last week I was getting told by our reliable sources the deal is really done, it’s a "go" the Bowl is saved! We were still told “to keep details under wraps, but to keep being positive and doing what you been doing” So hence all our recent “#BowlStrong” posts and small messages to “keep the faith” etc. We knew that this news was very likely coming and would hopefully be “official” very soon. We were not worried about having the story as much as we wanted to do the best for the Bowl and right by those involved. We were told “that we would be in the loop and some of the first to be contacted and talked to as soon as the “official announcement” was made”. We posted another post Monday morning simply saying “#BowlStrong to keep the faith and stay tuned.” We were told Monday was the day the news would be let out of the bag. Sure the nay sayers sang the same ole song they sing and some folks just were still not sure as there have been many rumors and much misinformation along the way.
But all we wanted to do, as we have right along, was keep the positive energy going, to keep the hope and faith alive and to get everyone back in the game! Well that “official announcement” was made Monday afternoon June 5th and spread like wild fire (We have to admit we did our best to help the wonderful news spread on social media) here is the link to the official announcement.(https://www.speedbowlct.com/) This made our day, what we have been told right along is now official, the track would open and we are going racing this year at the Bowl. We were still holding to the way we do things here and not saying too much or posting any stories until we were asked to or contacted. This is just our style of operation and the main thing here was the Bowl is back.
Monday morning during a correspondence with George Whitney he told me “I’ve been watching all the positive things you guys (Mod Squad Racing Media) have been writing about Bowl, believe I'm following”. He told me, “We are going to do a release on the web site today, so later today I would like to give you guys first press release for staying positive, Thanks.” This meant a lot to us! That was our main focus, to stay positive and we figured the right people were watching and reaching out to us for staying positive. We are not all about "that" story, or who’s story or breaking it even though being told we would have one of the first interviews was great. The real story here is the Bowl is saved Bottom line!
I told George to feel free to contact us when ever he had time as I figure he was getting bombarded with calls, messages, visits and so fourth on Monday. I told him to enjoy it and congrats and we will talk soon! So Tuesday morning my phone rang and when I picked up I heard from the other end “I am a man of my word, Hi Ryan it’s George” Let me say I already knew he was my kind of person, I too am very much the same where a hand shake or someone’s word means everything. Plus both us being farmers we speak the same language lol. He told me he was swamped with calls, request’s for interviews and people wanting to congratulate him. He then told me that he was calling from his break as it’s the only free time he has had since the news broke. I told him that I really appreciate him calling to reach out and his support meant a lot to us. As we talked about the track and his plans, we talked some about each others history and also some about George as person and what he does with his time. The more we talked, the more I liked him not just for saving our bowl and reaching out but as a person. I definitely think we will be seeing him at our camper at the track for some smoked meat and drinks! I knew he was short for time and that I would ask him some basic questions and some of the main points the fans and teams might be wondering and at a latter time we could do a more in depth interview or have him on the Radio show. I knew there is still lots for him to do and wanted him to baste in the moment still, and let it still sink in. As there is a lot to do and a short time to do it all ahead of him.
He said “The Speedbowl is my home track and that he has been to many tracks all over the country, but there is nothing like the Bowl. You just can not get the same kind of consistent side by side racing anywhere. (I agreed) There is just something about the Bowl as a whole.” He told me he was proud to be given the opportunity to give back to the track, teams and fans. He also shared with me after he finally got the confirmation that the deal was done, he sat in his vehicle and called his wife and once what he had done really set in he got “choked up” talking to her. I can somewhat relate as "cheesy" as it sounds, I was choked up too when I found out that it was a finally a reality.
So here are the nuts and bolts of my conversation with George in regards to his plans and goals for the Bowl. Whitney will be leasing the Bowl for the remainder of the 2017 season. He relayed that he is going to try to keep as many things as possible the same as last year for the purpose of simplicity and time. I agreed that this would make the most sense to streamline things. He did say he does anticipate that there will be some changes along the way but to get the ball rolling ASAP this was his plan.
There will be weekly Wednesday, Friday and Saturday shows! Their goal is to open before July! That most of the rules and structures will stay the same for now. He was very touched and thankful for all those that have been helping with getting the track ready, George noted that there have been people in the rain, under tarps and behind the scenes doing what ever they could to help as they never lost faith. He did not foresee any “major” road blocks ahead and most of the major ones are being or have been addressed. When asked about NASCAR and INEX he told me “That he had been talking to them and is working on it.” I know regardless of the situation or who is applying for sanctions it tends to be a long and fairly complicated process but I was pleased to hear that they were trying to go in this direction.
The new GM will be Mr. George Whitney himself. He has been putting together a Bowl team and currently looking into and talking to people to fulfill the race director position among others. I know it is the Bowls intentions to try and get as many tour and big shows into the remaining schedule as possible. I personally have been in contact with Gary knight of the Modified Touring Series (MTS) and I know he is still on board with Bowl. Gary has been from day one a vocal supporter of the Speedbowl and always kept his commitment to racing there with his series. Now it is just logistics between the MTS and the Speedbowl. Wanting to keep this interview simple, positive, to the point and to keep the positive momentum of his accomplishment moving forward, I did have to ask about the lease some without getting into something that frankly is not my business or anyone else for that matter. My reasons being, I do know there are negative people out there and nay sayers who find a way to stir the pot….But more importantly I also know there are many that are on the fence and torn about going back to the Bowl. So this is what I will pass along and it should be enough for many I hope, as for me it is all I need to know. Whitney told me when asked about the lease and payments to the owner he said “All money goes back into the track for maintenance and repairs and future improvements." I for one think that this is about the best outcome we could have had for the Bowl given the situation and knowing that all support for the track will be going back into the track. We all must remember that there were many involved in making this happen and it did not have to happen at all. I myself am thankful that all parties involved wanted to see the Bowl race again this year and that there has been so much support coming from all the loyal fans and teams.
I was told right along that many of those involved in this deal have been following social media and seeing who has been saying what and where, good or bad. That all the positive support is what helped them push forward and that they wanted to get the deal done for the fans and teams. Awhile back George had asked us for a copy of our other stories on our blog you can find them here about the Bowl (please take a look at them) and at that time just basically said to us "keep up the possessiveness and thanks." Tuesday morning when George told me why he wanted our stories then, he siad that "he shared those stores we wrote with his team, lawyers and those involved trying to make this whole undertaking happen" it really shocked me. At the same time made me feel great. I knew through this all that if we stayed positive, “kept the faith” and were “#BowlStrong” it would work out for all. Even with the few negative ones out there, the proverbial nay Sayers and those who attempted to discredit us or say we did not know what was going on or we were not going about it as "they" thought we should..…We knew in our hearts to not pay much attention to the negative, to flood it with positive things and to stay our course. We knew we had good info; we trusted our sources and knew most of them well who kept in constant contact with us. We want to thank them “all” and they know who they are, as their main goal was to see the Bowl saved. They also believed and knew that was our man goal at heart too.
As Mr. Whitney was ultimately the man to make this happened at the finish line. I would like to just thank and recognized all the others that we have been in contact with and the rest of the others for stepping up and trying to do something for the Bowl in many different ways to make sure we could have a race season this year. I know right up to recent days there have still been a few people trying to make something happen so simply thank you to you all. The track is saved, everyone wins in my book. I have been saying right along in public and to some of the players who were involved with this, I do not really care who opens it as long as the Bowl is back!
The more I find out and get to know Mr. George Whitney; I think we are very lucky to end up with him as the man now in control of The New London Waterford Speedbowl. I think many of you will feel the same once you get to meet him and see what he is doing for our Bowl. Please come out and support the Bowl, you are supporting the track, the drivers, the teams, the fans, CT racing as a whole and a local business. You will also be supporting a man and team that went above and beyond to make sure we all have a place to race, meet, congregate and build relationships at a place that holds so much history and so many of us hold dear in our hearts. This is a selfless undertaking and we all know his heart must be in the right place because no one is going to get rich leasing a race track in New England. George wanted me to make sure that I let everyone know he said “Thanks to all the fans and racers for hanging in there” and to tell them all “#BowlStrong” from him! Until the next green flag drops (which is now not to far off for our Bowl) #ModOn and #BowlStrong ya all! RG
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