Four First Time Icebreaker, Road Race Style Champions Crowned at Thompson
THOMPSON, CT – Thirty-seven entrants participated in the Icebreaker, Road Race Style at Thompson Speedway
Motorsports Park (TSMP) this weekend. Those entries were divided up into four different groups, and in the end
there were four first time Icebreaker, Road Race Style Champions.
Jeff Swann was fast from the time that he unloaded his Spec Racer Ford. Swann started from the pole position in
Group One and never relinquished the lead throughout the 25-minute race. The Black Swann Racing driver bested
defending Icebreaker, Road Race Style Champion Ken Payson, who finished in the runner up position. Sixteen year
old, Evan Karl, finished in the final podium position. The New York-native just got his license a week ago.
Dave Woodle, who was piloting the T1 Corvette throughout the weekend, also had a dominant performance in Group
Two. Woodle led the way throughout practice and qualifying. His only scare of the weekend came during final
practice on Saturday morning when his No. 89 went spinning at full speed on Thompson’s long front straight. The
veteran driver was able to use his skills – and a little self-admitted luck – to keep his entry off the Armco, before
completing his 360 degree spin and continuing on. When it came race time, though, it was all a distant memory as
Woodle beat Dan “The Man” Preston and rookie driver, Adam Strelczuk to the start-finish line.
The closest race of the weekend was among three Miatas in Group Three. Evan Karl, who was double dipping –
racing in Group 1 & 3 – battled with John Raudat and Rob Sturgis throughout the 25-minute race. Sturgis put his No.
16 entry out front early, leading the first seven circuits. Raudat beat Sturgis to the line on lap eight, but Sturgis
quickly fought back and edged Raudat on lap nine. Sturgis’ lead was short-lived, however, as he overdrove turn one
and ending up spinning, relinquishing the lead back to Raudat. Evan Karl, meanwhile, was buying his time, patiently
waiting for his chance to capitalize on opportunity. The SCCA Divisional Champion followed Raudat for the next five
laps before darting his way to the top of the leaderboard. Raudat and a hard-charging Rob Stubrgis would stalk Karl
over the closing laps, but to no avail. In the end, it was Karl who was victorious over Raudat in a very close finish.
Sturgis crossed the line third.
The No. 05 entry for Nicholas Galuardi appeared to be unstoppable throughout the weekend. He paced both the
qualifying and feature races, in route to his first Icebreaker, Road Race Style win. The second generation racer
finished ahead of Thompson resident, Watler Popiak, and Tyler Reynolds
Noah Korner swept both Midstate Site Development Legends Series races on Friday, and Nick Maniatis defended his
2015 North East Mini Stock Tour road course win on Saturday.
For full results, please visit MyLaps and search for 2nd Annual Icebreaker, Road Race Style. For more information
about the event, please visit www.otbpromos.net.
(THOMPSON, CT) - Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park hosted its 131st Whelen Modified Tour Event on Sunday,
April 10th capping off an action packed weekend in the 2016 Icebreaker and kicking off the tour’s season schedule
with a first time winner in victory lane.
Timmy Solomito was crowned the champion of the Icebreaker 150 after benefiting from a great pit stop that helped
him earn the lead in the second half of the event and hold off series veterans Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore and
defending champion Doug Coby to claim his first win in the series in his 36th start.
“I’ve been coming to Thompson many years watching races. It’s always been a dream of mine to turn right onto that
stretch and turn into Victory Lane. To do it in such a great car with the 16 team really means a lot,” said Solomito.
“I got my start with Wayne Anderson on the tour and it’s catapulted me to where I am now. I just can’t thank
everybody who believed in me and has been behind me this whole time enough.”
Solomito took the lead after a great pit stop put him and Bonsignore ahead of Preece, who led the first 81 laps of the
event. It would be several laps before Solomito was able to wrestle the lead away for good and set the pace for the
remainder of the event. “The guys on the 16 had an incredible stop. We picked up a lot of track position there. We
had a car that was very stable. We didn’t really kill it in the beginning, but we picked them off one by one. We got to
the top 7 and then picked up the spots that we needed on pit road and that’s what helped us win,” he said.
Preece, who returned to the Modified Tour after racing several races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, said his race
started strong, but he just did not have enough to best Solomito in the end. “They had a really good car,” Preece said
after the race. “I thought we were going to have something for (Solomito).” Bonsignore and Coby held on to place
3rd and 4th respectively while Ron Silk rounded out the top five for a solid finish in the first event of the Modified
The Sunoco Modified series kicked off the afternoon with big names vying for their first win of the season at the Big
T. Series regulars Keith Rocco, Preece, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink led the field to green in the 30-lap
feature with Rocco and Christopher reigniting their rivalry by engaging in a cat-and-mouse game all race long. The
two survived a slew of cautions and two green-white-checker restarts to finish in the top two spots with Rocco’s
extreme precision on each restart helping him hold on for the win.
Rocco said he enjoyed the hard fought battle with Christopher as he charged towards the checkered flag. “Ted is
always fun to race with. Switching this tire compound, the racing is just like me and him in Waterford - There’s going
to be a lot of good shows this year with the new Hoosier tire,” Rocco said.
While Rocco and Christopher celebrated great performances in the season opener, a few big names were not so
fortunate. Series regular Rowan Pennink saw a good run go sour after spinning twice in the last few laps, causing
the two green-white-checker restarts that ended the race. Reigning champion Woody Pitkat, who has experienced
minimal mechanical setbacks over the past few years in the series, saw his day end early after a hard crash on lap 3
eventually led to mechanical failure later in the race. Ryan Preece started the race strong but had to fight back after
an early pit stop to finish sixth.
The Vintage Outlaw series ran its second race at Thompson following its 2016 premier event on Saturday. Sunday’s
race saw a repeat victory from Jim Lowrey who started up front and stayed there the entire race, fighting off
challenges from Glen Boss and others to start the season off with a bang.
“When you come here twice and there’s double features you want to win both,” Lawrey said. “I feel pretty good. My
car was very good both days. Today offered a little more bite off the corner, which was good. The other guys are
getting racier so it’s going to get more interesting later on in the season.”
The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) saw a first time winner in its northern series season opener and third race of the
national season with Garrett Hall of Scarborough, Maine who worked his way to the front 51 laps into the 75-lap
feature and never looked back.
Hall beat out fellow young gun Derek Griffith to claim his first trophy in the series and said he was proud to come
out on top at Thompson, a place where he is still a relatively green driver compared to others in the field. “I ran
back here a couple years ago in the World Series and we finished in the top ten, not quite what I was hoping for but
we came down here and got some track time. It paid off,” Hall said. “(Winning at Thompson) is something a lot of
people don’t get to experience.”
The season opener for the Late Model series provided a familiar sight as the Rocco brothers, Keith and Jeff, fought
for the lead for much of the 25-lap event before making contact on lap 18, taking each other out of the race. The
incident caused substantial damage to both cars, including removing much of Keith Rocco’s roof. The two brothers
shared some choice words on the track as safety officials responded to the crash and later continued their dispute
in the infield while the race continued.
The front of the field continued to be the worst place to be for drivers in that event with Ernie LaRose, who inherited
the lead after the restart, making hard contact with the turn one wall and also saw a potential race win fade away.
Another caution would soon follow when Rick Gentes spun out from second place, causing a chain reaction involving
several other cars including reigning champion Brian Tagg, who was running third.
One driver who did manage to find success at the front was William Wall, who turned a pole position start into his
first victory in the series. “This is definitely the biggest win of my career right now,” Wall said. “Just getting this
together, all the ducks finally fell in a row. It was awesome. Words can’t describe it. The cautions helped me out a
little bit. I had a real bad push the whole race so every time the caution came out if I could get to the outside I knew
I’d have a real good chance of getting a position. The cautions fell in my favor today and that’s what it took.”
Other events held over the course of the evening included the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Series where Scott
Michalski took home the checkered flag in a dominating win and the Mini Stocks where defending champions David
Trudeau picked up right where he left off in October with a trip to victory lane.
The 2016 Icebreaker also marked the final weekend for longtime Thompson personality Russ Dowd who, after over
thirty years with the speedway, announced his retirement in the offseason. Dowd was honored in a pre-race
ceremony on Sunday afternoon and has provided play-by-play for all 130 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at
Thompson prior to officially turning the microphone over during the 2016 Icebreaker weekend.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR ICEBREAKER 150 TOP-10: 1. Timmy Solomito (Islip, NY); 2. Ryan Preece (Berlin,
CT); 3. Justin Bonsignore (Holtsville, NY); 4. Doug Coby (Milford, CT); 5. Ron Silk (Norwalk, CT); 6. Donny Lia
(Jericho, NY); 7. Eric Goodale (Riverhead, NY); 8. Jimmy Blewett (Howell, NJ); 9. Rowan Pennink (Huntingdon Valley,
PA); 10. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED SERIES TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 3. Ronnie
Williams (Tolland, CT); 4. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA); 5. Bert Marvin (Colchester, CT); 6. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 7.
Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 8. John Catania (Agawam, MA); 9. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, New Jersey) ; 10. Kyle
Traynor (Marlboro, MA)
VINTAGE OUTLAWS TOP-10: 1. Jim Lowrey (Tilton, NH); 2. NO NAME #23; 3. Darrel Dutch (Greenville, RI); 4. Glen
Boss (Danielson, CT); 5. Gary Byington; 6. No Name #17; 7. Ed Milligan; 8. Tom Bouregard; 9. Ben LeVangie; 10. Tom
Cerroni (Smithfield, RI)
XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN TOP-10: 1. Joshua Wood (Palmer, MA); 2. Corey Hutchins (Salem, CT); 3. Scott
Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 4. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 5. Al Stone (Hurham, CT); 6. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 7.
Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 8. Randy Waterman (Danielson, CT); 9. Allen Coates (Ledyard, CT); 10. Frank L’
Etolle, Jr. (Wethersfield, CT)
PRO ALL STAR SERIES RACE TOP-10: 1. Garrett Hall (Scarborough, ME); 2. Derek Griffith (Hudson, NH); 3. David
Garbo (Stonington, CT); 4. Trevor Sanborn (East Parsonfield, ME); 5. Ben Rowe (Turner, ME); 6. Mike Hopkins
(Hermon, ME); 7. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, ME); 8. Joey Doiron (Berwick, ME); 9. Glen Luce (Turner, ME); 10. Derek
Ramstrom (Worcester, MA)
LATE MODEL SERIES TOP-10: 1. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 2. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, MA); 3. Matt Lowinski-Loh
(Milford, MA); 4. Marc Curtis (Brookfield, MA); 5. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 6. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 7.
Walt Sutcliffe (East Haven, CT); 8. Michael Bennett (Willington, CT); 9. James Banfield (South Glastonbury, CT); 10.
Tom Carey, III (Orange, MA)
MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Scott Michalski (South Killingly, CT); 3. Wayne
Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 4. Ed Field (Deep Rivier, CT); 5. Jordan Hadley (Quaker Hill, CT); 6. Nick Anderson; 7.
Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 8. Doug Curry (Groton, CT); 9. Robert Ducharme Foster, RI); 10. Steve Michalski
(THOMPSON, CT) - Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park kicked off its 2016 season in style on April 9th with its
first series of races as part of the 42nd Annual Icebreaker weekend. In addition to setting the field for Sunday’s
events, including the season opener for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, day one of racing was highlighted by a 20-
lap feature for the NEMA Lites which offered plenty of competitive racing action to kick off their 2016 season.
The event started smooth for front row starter Ryan Bigelow, who engaged in an intense battle with Jim Chambers
through the first five laps of the event before their battle for the lead resulted in contact on turn four. The incident
forced an early retirement for both drivers and Anthony Nocelia who was also collected in the wreck and changed
the complexion of an already competitive race by taking out the two strongest cars in the early going.
Their misfortune worked to the benefit of Dan Cugini who, after experiencing mechanical issues in the heat races
worked his way to the front and took the lead on lap 12. Cugini would dominate the rest of the race and claim his
first ever win at Thompson Speedway and what he considers one of the biggest trophies of his career so far.
“This is the Thompson Icebreaker. This is special to anyone. It’s one of those events that everyone wants to win. I’ve
got mine, I love it and I want to do it again,” Cugini told reporters after his win. “We’ve been in the top three a bunch
of times and we finally got one. It’s tough to win here. You have to have a good setup. If you can’t drive it in deep
you’re not going to win.”
Adding to Cugini’s impressive win was the fact that he had to hold off early leader PJ Stergios and last year’s
champion and runner-up respectively, Anthony Payne and Randy Cabrel, to get to victory lane. Avery Stoher rounded
out the top five.
Another highlight event of the night was the season debut of the Lite Modified series, which saw a repeat winner in
Tony Membrino, Jr. who defended his win at the end of last season during World Series weekend. Membrino was one
of many drivers that followed up victories in the season finale last fall with strong runs in the 2016 Icebreaker, but it
was not an easy road to victory lane. Membrino had to endure a hard charging Corey Barry and Matt Rzewmicki
throughout the early running of the event and then defend his lead in a three-lap dash after Rzewmicki lost an engine
and created an extended caution. Membrino never let up and took home the checkered flag, starting 2016 the same
way he left 2015. Membrino took time in victory lane to pay tribute to a driver the racing world lost in December of
last year, Ronald “Ron” Bouchard. “He was a real close member of this community,” Membrino said. “Without (Ron)
modified racing wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Kicking off the first night of the 2016 Icebreaker feature events was the Vintage Outlaws series. The first event of
the series third season saw a pair of drivers dominated the field as Jim Lowrey and Darrel Dutch traded the lead
throughout the fifteen-lap feature. Despite an impressive early lead by Dutch it was Lowrey who came out on top
after making an impressive lap-three pass and never looking back.
Lowrey said he got off to a slow start but it didn’t take long for him to find his groove and take the first trophy of the
season. “I was just going easy. We were told at the driver’s meeting that everybody was fresh this year on new tires.
We just wanted to be careful. Once I got heat in the tires and it hooked up it was really going good,” Lowrey said.
The North East Street Stock Tour (NESST) opened their second season with a 20-lap feature on the Big T, presented
by RAD Auto Machine. Defending champion Joe Arena started the race strong, taking a comfortable early lead after
starting on the pole and holding that lead for the first half of the event until the race’s first caution came out on lap
Arena maintained the lead on the restart, endured a second restart after a caution on lap 13 and held off a hard
charging Steve Kenneway and Corey Hutchings to claim the first win of the NESST season in dominant fashion. “The
track is really slick and I learned in the World Series don’t take the bottom groove when it’s this cold,” Arena said
commenting on the chilly temperatures that dominated the first day of Icebreaker weekend. “I learned that the hard
way last year. I was pretty calm about that first restart, but then the second one I thought about Steve Kenneway,
he’s a tough competitor like me. I want to thank Corey (Hutchings) for giving me a little push there of two on the
restart. That really bolted us to the front there.”
The New England Pro Four Modified Tour, which brought together two divisions for one big 20-lap feature, saw Norm
Wrenn, III claim a victory while Allen Rieser’s fourth place finish made him the first member of Pro Four Lite Division
to cross the stripe.
The New England Truck Series closed out the night with a victory for Bert Ouellette, III.
The action continues for the 2016 Icebreaker event at Thompson Speedway on Sunday, April 10th with a special Fan
Appreciation Party at 11 AM, featuring a performance by American Idol contestant Timmy Brown. In addition to the
season debut of the Sunoco Modified series, Limited Sportsman, Late Models and Mini Stocks the evening will also
include the first race of the 2016 Whelen Modified Tour season with defending champion Doug Coby taking the pole
on Saturday, his 4th in a row at Thompson, as he begins his journey to defend his title once again. He will be flanked
by veteran Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece who returns to his short track roots after running in the NASCAR Xfinity
Series in Texas Friday night.
NEW ENGLAND PRO FOUR MODIFIEDS: 1. Norm Wrenn, III (Amherst, NH); 2. Robin Berghman (East Providence, RI);
3. Randy Clark, Jr. (West Yarmouth, MA); 4. Allen Rieser; 5. Mark Charette (Wolcott, CT); 6. Bill Lucchesi, Jr.
(Patterson, NY); 7. Mark Giordano (Dudley, MA); 8. Tom Royer (Swanzey, NH); 9. J.R. Gorman; 10. Dion Doyle
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Partners With Indian Motorcycle Of Springfield To Host Vintage Event
Thompson, CT (April 13, 2016) – Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is pleased to announce the addition of Indian
Motorcycle of Springfield as presenting sponsor of its inaugural New England Vintage Motorcycle Festival. The
Thompson Vintage Motorcycle Classic presented by Indian Motorcycle of Springfield will be held on Sun., May 15,
2016, and will feature antique motorcycles in a Classic Motorcycle Show, Midway Vendor area, a massive Swap
Meet, and a Vintage Motorcycle Track-Day on Thompson's 1.7 mile road course. This exciting new event is a great
way for motorcycle enthusiasts to kick off the riding season across the Northeast.
Indian Motorcycle of Springfield is a family owned dealership that is proud to be carrying on the tradition of Indian
Motorcycle’s heritage in Springfield Massachusetts, where the brand originated in 1901. Dealership principal Dennis
Bolduc has a personal connection to the original factory. His grandfather Joseph Bolduc worked for Indian from 1938
until 1959. Dennis proudly owns two Indians his grandfather purchased while an employee and says “The first real
motorcycle I rode as a young boy was one of these”. Dennis, an avid Indian motorcycle collector, has been involved
in the automotive and motorcycle business throughout New England for 32 years. He adds “I look forward with great
anticipation to carrying the Indian Motorcycle name forward. Bringing Indian Motorcycle back to Western Mass and
Connecticut is a dream come true for me" Indian has a great racing history which dates back to the beginning of our
motorcycle sport. Indian Motorcycle is the foundation of so much of today’s motorcycling scene. Sturgis and Laconia
were started by Indian dealers. Indian won the first Daytona race in 1937 and continued to dominate throughout its
history. Indian Motorcycle of Springfield is proud to team up with Thompson Speedway to bring this exciting
historical event to New England.
Gates open at 9 a.m. on May 15th and general gate admission is just $10. The Classic Motorcycle Show is open to
any pre-1985 bike, all brands are welcome! At noon Motorcycle Show participants are welcome to take a parade lap
around Thompson's 1.7-mile road course. (Helmet required). The Vendor Midway will feature manufacturers
showcasing the latest motorcycle gear and products. And the Swap Meet Marketplace will have tons of hard-to-find
parts for sale.
Indian Motorcycle of Springfield is located at 962 Southampton Rd, Westfield, MA 01085. Thompson Speedway
Motorsports Park is located at exit 50 (formerly exit 99) off I-395, at 205 E Thompson Road, Thompson, CT 06277.
For more information, call (860) 923-2280 or visit: www.thompsonspeedway.com.
|OLD School Photos
Lyn St. James to be honored as Guest Speaker at 3rd Annual Vintage Motorsports Festival at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
(THOMPSON, CT) - The 3rd Annual Vintage Motorsports Festival will bring vintage sports car and formula racing back to the quiet corner of Connecticut
on June 23-25, 2016. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is proud to announce former IndyCar driver and Daytona 24 Hour winner, Lyn St. James, as
this year’s Honored Guest. As part of her visit to the historic track, St. James will present as the guest speaker at the Drivers’ Dinner on Friday evening,
and will also be holding a book signing.
Lyn St. James raced professionally for decades, and has an impressive number of achievements under her belt, including being the first woman to win
Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, two victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and one victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring. She has also competed in some
of the largest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 24 Hours of Nürburgring. “I’m excited to see Thompson Speedway Motorsports
Park. I enjoy seeing the cars and meeting the people who race vintage race cars. It’s a way to not only honor the past, but to grow the sport. I’ve been
doing some vintage racing myself and just love it,” said St. James.
Outside of her own racing career, St. James has made her name through motivational speaking, and her support of young women in racing. In 2003, she
founded the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation, and the Women’s Sports Foundation Project Podium Grant, which provides aspiring young women
racers with support, both on and off the track.
The Vintage Motorsports Festival welcomes drivers from the Vintage Sports Car Club of America and Vintage Racer Group, and features a diverse range
of race cars from the early 20th century through the muscle cars of the seventies. The event will feature a practice day on Thursday followed by two full
days of racing on the historic 1.7 mile road course.
For more information about the Vintage Motorsports Festival or Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, pleasevisitwww.thompsonspeedway.com. Follow
us on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube to stay up to date on the latest news and updates.
Sunday June 5 is the date of the 12th Annual Norwood Arena/New England Dragway South Reunions at Bezema Motors on US Rt. 1 in Norwood, MA. The
event is being hosted again by the Bezema family dealership located at 401 Providence Hwy. in Norwood MA. It's located just north of the original site of
the renowned Norwood Arena racing complex. The event goes rain or shine from 10 am to 3 pm.
Held annually on the first Sunday in June, drivers, fans and officials turn out for this anticipated gathering of the faithful every year. All attendees are
encouraged to bring pictures, scrap books, posters and collectibles for possible autographs. There is no admission charge for this event. Collectible
vendors are also encouraged to attend and exhibit their wares that are motor sports oriented at no charge. Also, the Bezema family offers a light lunch
to those in attendance at approximately 1 pm.
It's with pleasure that Bezema Motors dealership announces that Shoe City Auto of Brockton, MA has graciously agreed to bring to the 12th Annual
Norwood Arena/New England Dragway South Reunions three vintage racing vehicles. Steve and his son Glenn Zimmerman will display the authentic
Richie Evans #61 Modified that the late legendary driver drove to several victories and numerous NASCAR Modified Championships during his career.
Evans was the dominant force on the NASCAR Modified Series until his untimely death at the Martinsville Speedway in VA. The owners of this race car
have the documentation proving that it is the original and not just a copy. Helping to authenticate that the race car is the original are documents signed
by Richie Evans' crew chief Billy Nicewicz of Syracuse, New York.
Richie Evans was inducted a few years back into the NASCAR Hall of Fame located in Charlotte,NC. During that time the Zimmermans lent his Modified
race car to the Hall of Fame to be displayed. Since then the #61 has been returned to the Steve and Glenn Zimmerman collection.
The second race car that will be on display at the reunions is an old school Sprint Car with a small block V8 engine sporting Hillborne Injection system
which burned methanol for fuel and ran on various open wheel racing circuits throughout the country.
The other vehicle to be displayed is a '73 Pontiac Grand Am pace car built specifically to celebrate NASCAR's 25th Silver Anniversary. The automobile
was used specifically to pace the Grand National Winston Cup races during that year at tracks that hosted those events. This street vehicle pace car was
prepared for the now shuttered half-mile North Wilksboro Speedway in NC which is indicative by the livery. That pace car and the others were delivered
to those NASCAR tracks that hosted Grand National races that year through Ferguson Pontiac in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Zimmermans also have
other valuable vintage race cars and classic cars in their collection.
Other vintage race cars from the STAR and NEAR clubs, among others, will be also be on display on Sunday, June 5. In addition the show will feature
various types of oval, drag, sport cars and motorcycles. Trophies for the top three in each category will be awarded by the show judges along with dash
plaques for the participants. All types of race cars, classic cars/trucks and motorcycles are welcome. For further information you can call the Bezema
Motors dealership at 781.769.4700 or the organizer at 781.784.7857 in Sharon, MA.
(THOMPSON, CT) - With a full season under his belt driving the Eric Grant owned entry at Thompson Speedway, Jeff Rocco’s name ranks high on the list
of contenders in 2016. Rocco drove to victory lane 4 times last season, in addition to winning the special Late Model 20/20 Sprint comprised of 3 distinct
segment of racing on one night. It was the 14th, 16th, and 17th place efforts that spelled misfortune for Rocco that made him fade from the spotlight at
the Sunoco World Series.
“It was a lot less pressure last year coming into a new series,” said Rocco. “If we ran in the top-5 it was a success for us. Now we have set the bar high
to go back and achieve that. If you look at where we stacked up against touring competition (American-Canadian Tour) that set the bar of where we need
to be. As good as we were for weekly competition we wanted to get better.”
Rocco’s team is one of several that take advantage of Thompson’s Late Model rules aligning with the American-Canadian Tour rules. Defending champion
Brian Tagg honed his craft on the ACT circuit for a year before winning the title in his rookie season.
“The biggest thing for us and me is the confidence; having the confidence of what happened last year and rebuilding the car throughout the winter,
everything was a positive note,” said Tagg. “It made the winter go through kind of slow because we want to repeat what we did.”
It won’t be easy to repeat in a division of so much talent. Keith Rocco returns for a full season after losing the championship by virtue of a last lap pass
made by Tagg in the 2015 finale.
Six time division champion, Rick Gentes returns with a new engine package for 2016. After running a blue oval power plant last season, Gentes made the
switch back to the bowtie seeking that competitive edge. Looking back on his years of racing at Thompson, he recalled the competition as being the
same as it was back in the 1990's when there were 10-12 cars on the track who could win any given night.
“It is tough just to finish in the top-5 now let alone winning and we have probably fallen behind a little,” said Gentes. “We used to be right on top of it. We
need to step of our game to get back to where we were.”
During the open test in March, Gentes backed his car into the outside wall forcing him to rebuild the car in time for the season opener.
While names like Rocco, Gentes, and Tagg are just a few of the proven winners in the division, there will be some interesting newcomers to the class this
season. Well, relative newcomers that is. William Wall was among one of the first names Tagg noted as one to watch in 2016. Wall led laps last season as
a rookie and is back for his sophomore season. A graduate of the Limited Sportsman ranks, Wall is looking for late run speed to propel him to his first
“A lot of times I would get a good start and pick off a few cars in the early stages of the race,” said Wall. As it went the car tended to fall off and I
wouldn’t be able to complete a pass and you need to have it fast at the end.”
After the open test, Wall was confident in the speed his team gained in the off-season.
Returning to Thompson as a rookie is Corey Fanning who began racing in the Limited Sportsman division before spending two years racing at Seekonk
Speedway. Fanning is back and for the first time will compete in a late model. Fanning finished 3rd in the standings during his last full season at the Big T
in 2013. Last season, he managed a 4th in points at Seekonk after a dismal start backed by a late season charge that saw 7 consecutive runner-up
Michael Bennett will be running a three race schedule this season which includes the Icebreaker. Bennett is the defending Late Model champion at
Stafford Speedway coming off a 7 win season and this year will be his first time competing on Thompson’s high banks. Bennett plans to run the Late
Model 20/20 Sprint and the World Series, in addition to a slate of ACT events.
Thompson Speedway opens its gates for The Icebreaker on the weekend of April 9-10. An additional practice day is scheduled for Friday, April 8. For more
information on Thompson Speedway news and events, visit www.thompsonspeedway.com.