Local Divisions Looking To Steal The Show At Thompson’s Spirit Of 76 Wednesday

Story By: THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – The high banks of Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will rumble with action Wednesday, July 7 with the Samuel Adams Wicked Hazy IPA Spirit of 76.

A six-division card is on tap for the belated Independence Day celebration, which is highlighted by a $5,000-to-win Outlaw Open Modified Series showdown featuring Ryan Preece, Jon McKennedy, Dave Sapienza, Chris Pasteryak, and other Tour-type Modified stars.

The local program will be just as, if not more impressive, with five support divisions sporting the best racers of Southern New England. The Thompson Late Models, Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen, SK Light Modifieds, and Mini Stocks are all tightening the bolts and checking the fluid levels for the next round of their championship chases.

An 8-cylinder Street Stock Open, which is a new edition to the Wednesday Summer Thunder Series, could end up being the race of the night. The 25-lap, $1,000-to-win special was a hit at both the 2020 World Series of Speedway Racing and the 2021 Thompson Icebreaker. It now returns for more high-speed, paint-swapping action with a four-figure prize on the line.

Plymouth, MA’s Paul Newcomb was the Street Stock Open winner at the Icebreaker. He has entered the July 7 Open and is going for two in a row. The former ACT-type Late Model racer has found a home in 8-Cylinder Street Stocks over the last few years, and his April victory surely has him looking forward to another drive from the Massachusetts coastline to the Tripoint region.

However, one of Thompson’s weekly legends will try to steal Newcomb’s thunder. Moosup, CT’s “Leadfoot” Larry Barnett is planning double-duty next Wednesday. The Limited Sportsman point leader has also entered the Street Stock Open. Barnett plans to use the same car in both features while making a few changes in-between to adapt to the Street Stock rules package.

“It might not be the smartest thing to try to do, but as soon as I saw the order of events was somewhat doable, it made me think about it,” Barnett said. “I looked back at some lap times from the Icebreaker and realized some of the driver’s lap times weren’t as far apart as I thought. It would be a real stretch to win two in one night. But because of the harder, skinnier tires that are run at Thompson now, it gives us a chance with a few other changes. If we happen to hit the setup, we could run with them. My goal is to give someone a run for the money.”

Barnett is one of the most accomplished drivers in Thompson Speedway history. His 60 total wins — the latest of which came at the Icebreaker in April — are fourth all-time at the track. Only Ted Christopher, Rick Gentes, and Fred DeSarro have made more trips to O’Reilly Auto Parts Victory Lane. The Icebreaker victory was Barnett’s first since 2017, snapping a long drought.

“Everyone else and even myself, you start questioning it…it’s like ‘holy crap, I haven’t won in a long time,’” Barnett said. “When there are only eight races a year, there aren’t as many chances as there were years ago to win. At the Icebreaker, getting ready in the shop and on the practice day, I was basically completely on my own. I had my wife and one other crew guy that joined us last year on the day of the race. It was just a few of us.”

“Winning meant more than anyone can imagine,” Barnett went on. “When you think you’re putting in as much effort as you can, and you go without winning for so long…we finally figured it out. Last Fall, we figured out what was wrong with the car with the frame. We took the car to Barry Fluckiger and he helped us fix it. I had been running it like that since 2017.”

The Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen sets up as an impressive feature in its own right. Mapleville, RI’s Corey Fanning won the last time out, putting him just one point behind Barnett in the standings. They’ll go toe-to-toe with Brent Gleason, Ryan Waterman, Scott Sundeen, and others who have no limits on how hard they’ll push for victory.

In other local action, the Thompson Late Models have a 25-lap, $1,200-to-in main event. New Salem, MA’s Tom Carey III is currently the point leader at both Thompson Speedway and on the ACT Late Model Tour. He will have a busy week ahead with the Thompson event on Wednesday and a trip to Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway the following Sunday.

Carey and Oxford, MA’s Brian Tagg have split the two features at Thompson Speedway this year. Franklin, CT’s Ryan Morgan has been on the podium in both features while many-time Thompson victor Woody Pitkat of Bellingham, MA has also looked strong. Rick Gentes is trying to get back to his winning ways, as are Nicholas Johnson, Matthew Lowinski-Loh, and Mark Jenison.

The SK Light Modifieds have put on some of the best racing of the year at Thompson Speedway. Newtown, MA’s Anthony Bello is one spot away from perfection, following up his Icebreaker victory with a runner-up on June 16. That has given him a 14-point lead over Ellington, CT’s Albert Ouellette. Paul “Buddy” Charette picked up the Nutmeg State 20 victory last month and sits third in points.

The Mini Stocks are also returning for a 15-lap feature. A strong field is expected after the division banded together to ensure they would have the cars needed for a great show. They’ll be chasing point leader Steven Michalski of Brooklyn, CT; Icebreaker winner Jared Roy of Sterling, CT; and co-number two point driver Dave Trudeau of Marshfield, CT.

The Thompson Speedway oval thunders again on Wednesday, July 7 at 6:00pm with the Sam Adams Wicked Hazy IPA Spirit of 76. The Outlaw Open Modified Series is chasing a $5,000 top prize as part of a six-division program with the Late Models, Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen, $1,000-to-win Street Stock Open, SK Light Modifieds, and Mini Stocks.

General admission is $30 for adults, $10 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids ages 5 and under. and under.

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