Barry making rare Valenti Tour drive at Speedbowl

Barry making rare Valenti Tour drive at Speedbowl

WATERFORD — Normally when you see Ken Barry of Griswold at the New London Waterford Speedbowl, he’s in the paddock, serving as crew chief for his son Tyler, who competes in the Speedbowl’s Legends division.

Barry will be in another location on Saturday, however — the spotlight.

Barry will be driving the Spafco Chassis No. 21 car, pinch-hitting for the regular driver, Les Hinckley, when the Valenti Modified Series invades the Speedbowl Saturday as part of Military Night. The Valenti cars will be competing for 100 green flag laps.

Barry has competed in one race this season — a 50-lap Modified race at Bronson Speedway in Florida  — and finished fifth. Prior to that, Barry says he’s been away from the driver’s seat for “three or four years.”

He said he was forced into active duty Saturday when the Valenti race, originally scheduled for Aug. 11, was rained out.

“Les has commitments this week to race at Claremont,” Barry said. “My dad really wanted to run this race, so I decided to give it a shot.”

Barry’s dad is New England Hall of Famer Art Barry, known as one of the top crew chiefs and fabricators in New England. Art and Ken Barry have teamed up to win two Valenti titles, one with Jon McKennedy behind the wheel and one with Justin Bonsignore driving.

Barry said the team, with Hinckley driving, has shown some promise this season.

“We’re actually having a pretty good year,” Barry said. “My dad’s legs have been bothering him and we’re not doing as much racing as we want to. But what we have been doing has been good.”

Barry is an accomplished driver in his own right, starting as a youngster in Quarter-Midgets and Go-Karts, where he won several championships.

He arrived in the SK Modifieds at Stafford Motor in 1994 and won the Rookie of the Year Trophy. Then he started competing on the Whelen Modified Tour, earning Rookie of the Year in 2004. In 53 career starts on the Tour, he carved out 14 Top 10s and four Top 5s.

Then after the 2006 season, he stepped back from racing to concentrate on his business and his family.

“Once my son Tyler got started in go-kart racing, I found I had a lot more fun helping him than spending all my time in the shop not seeing my kids,” Barry said. “So I really haven’t done much racing lately.”

And that means he’ll have one handicap on Saturday — rust.

“The biggest thing to adjust will be my timing,” Barry said. “It takes a while to get used to the speed. Your racing against a lot of young kids who compete three or four times a week. My hand speed may be a little off at first. One I get used to that, I should be fine.”

Barry will have to be at his best. The field assembled at the Speedbowl Saturday will be one of the most competitive of the season.

“That is correct,” Barry said. You have the Valenti Tour regulars and then you have some of the big wigs coming in just for this race. It will be a tough race, for sure.”

Keith Rocco, the Speedbowl‘s all-time win leader, will be in the field, along with defending Valenti champion and current point leader Anthony Nocella, who leads by 44 points over Mike Willis and 48 over Sammy Rameau. Nocella was a winner on May 5 when the Valenti Tour appeared at the Speedbowl.

Barry, however, says he can be competitive.

I think the car is going to be good,” Barry said. “We have a good package for the Speedbowl. If I can knock the rust off, I think we can be right there at the end. Sometimes when you get older, you get more patient.”

Especially when you’re making a long-awaited return to the driver’s seat.

Rocco return

Keith Rocco is planning to make his first appearance at the Speedbowl since May 5, driving his No. 88 Modified.

Even though he has only two races under his belt at the Speedbowl this year — one in a Valenti car and one in a NEMA Midget — Rocco likes his chances. He has three Valenti Tour victories in his Waterford career.

“Waterford is still my home track,” Rocco said. “I have a lot of passion when I run there. Not many drivers know the Speedbowl better than I do.”

He says his strategy will probably be no different than the game plan he has used in the past.

“I like to get in front early, set the pace, save my tires and when it comes time, go for it at the end,” Rocco said. “When you’re in front, it’s always a lot easier to play defense.”

Rocco says the strategy made popular by drivers such as Tommy Barrett — hanging around at the back of the pack during the first half of the race, making a mid-race pit stop and coming strongly at the end — never has been his plan of choice.

“That’s not me,” Rocco said. “Although with Billy “Bear” Calicchio as my crew chief, you don’t know what’s going to happen. He never lets me show my cards.”

That’s because those cards usually are aces.

Bounty hunters

Twin Mini Stock features are on Saturday’s card, and the first 25-lapper will have some added significance — a $200 bounty has been placed on defending champion Charles Canfield, who has won five out of the last six races. A $200 bonus will be presented to a driver who can knock Canfield out of victory lame.

Point leader Doug Curry, who has finished second to Canfield on several occasions, isn’t thinking about a bounty.

“I’m really not interested in being a bounty hunter,” Curry said. “I’m going out to win the race. If extra money comes my way, so be it.”

“I am tired of finishing second, but to me, it will be business as usual Saturday. I’ll try to win the race and if I can’t, get the best finishing position that I can.”

Curry said he expects a large field of Mini Stocks in attendance Saturday for the double features.

“That excites me,” Curry said. “The people I hear are coming are all great drivers.”

Curry spent Thursday practicing at the Speedbowl, just to get ready.

“If feel that we’re almost at Canfield’s level,” Curry said. “He’s still ahead of us, but we’re close on a consistent basis.”

He’ll have two opportunities Sunday to get even closer.

Nine-feature program

In addition to the twin Mini Stock features and the Valenti series, the SK Modifieds, SK Lite Modifieds, Late Models, Super-X Cars, Ct. Pro 4 Modifieds and Open Vintage Modifieds will be on the schedule. 

Qualifying will get under way at 4:20 p.m., with features kicking off at 5:30 p.m.

Be sure to check out the drivers who are in Autograph Alley on Saturday.  During the heat  races, Sk lights, Ct Pro -4’s and the Open vintage Modifieds will be signing autographs.  The drivers of VMRS will be in Autograph Alley during the Super X race. 

Autograph Alley is located on the midway across from the Popcorn stand. 

Military night

One of the long-standing traditions has been Military Night, giving fans an opportunity to say thank you to all the past and current members of our military. All past and present military members with proper ID will receive free grandstand admission.

Press release from New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Contact Mike Serluca at

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