Berndt Takes Blast Off Victory on Hot DayMitch Bombard
Two weeks after its original date, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was able to host the 2022 edition of the Blast Off. This year it was headlined by a 71 Lap SK Modified® event signifying the 71st year since first opening back in 1951 and was won by Eric Berndt in his first ever Speedbowl start with Ferguson Motorsports. The heat was as intense as the action on the track, with 2021 Champion Jason Palmer winning the Late Models. Shawn Gaedeke found his way back to victory lane for the first time since 2018, Tom Abele Jr. went back-to-back in SK Light competition. Charles Canfield took the win in the final 14 laps of last weeks Mini Stock race, and Marc Panaroni won the Blast Off event. There were also first-time winners with the Trucks and Legend Cars with Chris Taylor and Brody Monahan grabbing their first ever division wins.
As the sun was beginning to set on the shoreline oval, sixteen drivers took the green flag for 71 laps of SK Modified® action. Sitting twelfth on the all-time win list so he’s no stranger to Speedbowl Victory Lane, Eric Berndt led 70 of those laps by a comfortable margin to capture the win. Rob Janovic Jr had the early jump over Berndt, but it wouldn’t last more than a lap. 2021 Champion Todd Owen started fifth but would work his way by Janovic on lap 12. He looked to have the steam under the hood needed to take down the top spot, but after a few solo spins slowed the pace, he would get passed and settle into third after a restart with 31 to go. Each green flag run, Berndt built up a strong lead going unchallenged, ultimately winning by a 4.4 second margin.
Thirty laps of Late Model racing almost went off without a hitch for much of the race, with 2021 Champion Jason Palmer starting his title defense off strong with a win. Ryan Morgan would get off to an early lead after starting on the pole and hold that spot for 8 laps, when Palmer worked his way by. Morgan would settle into second place and stay there even with a few attacks from last years runner up, Ray Christian III. Christian couldn’t seal the deal and Morgan would go on to give Palmer a couple battles when a restart with both 5 and 4 to go. Palmer chose the outside groove on those last two restarts, the same groove where he won many races in 2021.
Attrition was the name of the game in the first Street Stock race of the season, when a big incident on lap 4 took some strong contenders out of the picture. Brian Norman got off to an early lead but fell back to as low as seventh, before rebounding to the runner up position. Making his first start at the ‘Bowl since 2020, Zack Robinson looked to be the man to beat leading the middle portion of the race. He would be passed by eventual winner Shawn Gaedeke with 9 laps to go. Gaedeke had to survive two restarts in the closing laps but the 2018 Champion was able to seal the deal holding off both Brian Norman and Aaron Plemons.
Tom Abele Jr. scored his second win in as many races with the SK Lights, coming from a sixth place starting position and getting by early race leader John O’Sullivan on lap 14. O’Sullivan looked strong out front during the first green flag run but Abele had the momentum needed to get to the front. An incident on the white flag lap involving several drivers up front jumbled up the results, but Abele was ahead of any controversy.
In the Trucks, Emma Monahan looked like the girl to beat leading the first 18 laps of the 25-lap race. Trouble on a restart with 7 to go would put her in the middle three wide coming to the stripe, and the caution flew but this would lead to rookie Ed Ryan Jr. getting flipped up on his side, driver’s door first. A re-rack of the lineup gave Chris Taylor a new chance to complete the pass on the outside, and during those final 7 laps he had to hold off his brother Todd to add his name to the record books for the very first time.
Last week’s final 14 laps of the Mini Stock race didn’t go as smooth as the first 11 laps did. Tom Silva set the pace until 4 to go, when Marc Panaroni made the pass for the lead. Silva would make a cross-over move and get underneath him when contact between the two would take them out of contention. A green-white-checkered finish took place with Sam Mesick and Kevin Moore on the front row, but trouble would strike on Moore’s car and a resulting incident would occur. One last attempt with gave Charles Canfield the chance to restart second and take down the rookie to win.
An invert with no qualifying had put Panaroni on the pole for the regularly scheduled 25 lap race. He went on uncontested as a redemption story from the first race to win.
Brody Monahan won the INEX Legend Car 25 lap race, leading from flag to flag. But it wasn’t all easy, as 2021 Champion John O’Sullivan was in second for several late race cautions. This win marks his first ever Legend Car win at the Bowl.
Racing returns on Wednesday’s as Wild ‘n Wacky Wednesday season opener is May 25th. Saturday racing returns next week headlined by a 50 lap Late Model race, and 5 of our other weekly divisions. We will also have the first of six Open Street Stock races where the winner gets locked into the North East Street Stock Championship in October.
Keep up with us online at www.speedbowlct.com, on Facebook as The New London-Waterford Speedbowl, or on Twitter @SpeedbowlCT
(Top 10 Results)
SK Modified® 71 Laps: 1. Eric Berndt, Cromwell CT; 2. Rob Janovic Jr., Waterford CT; 3. Todd Owen, Somers CT; 4. Mike Christopher Jr., Wolcott CT; 5. Andrew Molleur, Shelton CT; 6. Tim Jordan, Plainfield CT; 7. Dana DiMatteo, Farmington CT; 8. Bill Anderson, Wolcott CT; 9. Dennis Charette, Southington CT; 10. Anthony Flannery, East Hampton CT
Late Model 30 Laps: 1. Jason Palmer, Berlin CT; 2. Ryan Morgan, North Franklin CT, 3. Ray Christian III, Uncasville CT; 4. Andrew Molleur, Shelton CT; 5. Isaiah Newcomb, Plymouth MA; 6. Keith Scalia, North Branford CT; 7. Charles Bailey III, Lisbon CT; 8. Jason Williams, Lisbon CT; 9. Doug Curry, Groton CT; 10. Paul Newcomb, Plymouth MA
Street Stock 25 Laps: 1. Shawn Gaedeke, Groton CT; 2. Brian Norman, Clinton CT; 3. Aaron Plemons, Uncasville CT; 4. Zack Robinson, Putnam CT; 5. Tim Poulin, Thompson CT; 6. Tom Musante, Naugatuck CT; 7. Al Stone III, Durham CT; 8. Nate Taylor, Preston CT; 9. Ed Gersch Jr., East Haven CT; 10. Jake Coutu, Moosup CT
Mini Stock (From 5/14): 1. Charles Canfield, East Haven CT; 2. Sam Mesick, East Lyme CT; 3. Charles Beal, Ledyard CT; 4. Nick Pappacoda, North Branford CT; 5. Jesse Oloski, Salem CT; 6. Bill Sylvia, Preston CT; 7. Marc Panaroni, Ivoryton CT; 8. Ray Herman, Groton CT; 9. Tim Baker, Hartford CT; 10. Erica Canfield, East Haven CT
Mini Stock 25 Laps: 1. Marc Panaroni, Ivoryton CT; 2. Kevin Moore, Moosup CT; 3. Sam Mesick, East Lyme CT; 4. Charles Canfield, East Haven CT; 5. Chris Garside, Groton CT; 6. Bill Sylvia, Preston CT; 7. John Bavolacco, Stratford CT; 8. Jesse Oloski, Salem CT; 9. Nick Pappacoda, North Branford CT; 10. Tim Baker, Hartford CT
SK Lights 25 Laps: 1. Tom Abele Jr., Norwich CT; 2. John O’Sullivan, Salem CT; 3. Steven Chapman, Ellington CT; 4. Christopher Hirt, Newington CT; 5. Zackery Sangermano, Plainfield CT; 6. Isaiah Newcomb, Plymouth MA; 7. Brandon Plemons, Uncasville CT; 8. Nickolas Hovey, Chaplin CT; 9. Sami Anderson, Wolcott CT; 10. Matt Brewer, Norwich CT
Truck 25 Laps: 1. Chris Taylor, East Lyme CT; 2. Todd Taylor, Stonington CT; 3. Bert Ouellette, Ellington CT; 4. Tyler Chapman, Mystic CT; 5. Andrew Morin, Old Saybrook CT; 6. Emma Monahan, Quaker Hill CT; 7. Bill Porter, Canterbury CT; 8. Andy Pellegrini, North Grosvenordale CT; 9. Ed Ryan Jr., Preston CT; 10. Shawn Passaro, Oakdale CT
Legend Car 25 Laps: 1. Brody Monahan, CT; 2. John O’Sullivan, Salem CT; 3. Dylan Freeman, Unionville CT; 4. Dylan Cote, Griswold CT; 5. Wade Oemcke, Terryville CT; 6. Riley Paul, Ledyard CT; 7. Patrick Smith, New Britain CT; 8. Bruce Finley, Webster MA; 9. Tyler Miske, Shelton CT; 10. Scott Kinsman, Berlin CT
(TK Race Photos)