Story By: KYLE SOUZA / THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – The debut season for the Outlaw Open Modified Series will end in style next weekend at the 59th annual Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park from October 8-10.
The historic Thompson 300 returns with a minimum $20,000 on the line for the winner and a total posted purse booming over $100,000.
The Modifieds will act as the headliner of a full 17-division card of racing. Even though teams can practice on Friday and Saturday, drivers will have just Sunday for qualifying and feature racing, making it an intense one-day show with everything on the line.
In the return of the historic race for the first time since 2005, many of the top Modified names from across New England are heading to Thompson looking for glory. They include a mix of drivers from the Tour-Type Modified ranks in New England, including the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Tri Track Open Modified Series, Modified Racing Series and additional competitors who focus on Thompson’s Outlaw Open Modified events.
Names like Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher, Jerry Marquis and Tony Hirschman have all won the prestigious race — showing that this event brings the top talent to the front of the field. Officials from the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Star Series have leased Thompson’s oval track this year and will continue to do so next year. One of their top goals at the beginning of the season was to bring back the 300-lap race, giving fans and competitors the chance to be a part of this spectacular event.
Names like six-time NASCAR champion Doug Coby, three-time and current NASCAR champion Justin Bonsignore, Ron Silk, Eric Goodale, Jon McKennedy, Dave Sapienza, Chris Pasteryak and others are intending on competing for the big prize. Coby, who hasn’t been to Thompson yet this year, knows this is going to be a challenge for his Doug Coby Racing team. He has competed in the Thompson 300 multiple times before and was in contention to win the 2005 edition until a late wreck took him out.
“It’s going to be interesting because we’re not using the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rules and when we ran it back in the day, we had other races to look back on and see how it had unfolded in those years prior,” Coby said. “We had a gauge on when the best time to take tires was, fuel, etc…and it’s changed a lot. There are a lot of different motor packages and a lot of different fueling needs for everyone.”
Like many of the others in the field, the biggest thing for Coby is going to be making it to the end of the race in one piece and putting himself in contention in the late laps. The six-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and multi-time winner on Thompson’s high banks is no stranger to longer races that include a strategy element.
“It’s one of those races where you have to settle in for the first 150 or 200 laps and put yourself in the best position to make the best pit call towards the end,” Coby said. “With the different packages, it’s going to depend on where the cautions fall. If the last 120 laps go green, it would favor someone that can keep their tires on the car longer. If someone has fresh tires at the end, it’s definitely going to make it interesting. I almost won it one year when we pitted late and Ted Christopher pitted before us. I was charging right through the field and probably would have got him at the end, but I got put in the wall. You definitely want to try and be the car going forward in the last 30 laps.”
The first four Outlaw Open Modified Series races of the season have been hotly contested, and the three drivers that have been to Victory Lane are all planning to attend the 300. During the Icebreaker 125, Ron Silk scored a $10,000 prize in April, his only start of the season to date. Silk will be returning to Thompson for the 300 driving the No. 16 for Haydt-Yannone Racing with hopes of taking down the big prize. In June, at the Nutmeg State 75, Keith Rocco stormed to the front to take the impressive victory, holding off Ronnie Williams and NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece in the late laps.
Since then, Williams has been the star of the show. He drove the Gary Casella prepared No. 25 to the front in the last two races, winning the Sam Adams Wicked Hazy IPA Spirit of 76 in August and the Twisted Tea Tripoint Showdown 75 in September. Williams will be one of the top contenders in the Thompson 300, driving the same familiar red and yellow entry.
Additional entries include Goodale, McKennedy, Sapienza, Pasteryak and Matt Swanson, who have all been supporters of the Outlaw Open Modified Series from the start. Other names like Patrick Emerling, Tommy Barrett, Anthony Bello, Noah Korner, Max Zachem and others are also expected to attend.
Teams will qualify through heat races after a blind draw, and the American-Canadian Tour plus/minus system will be used to line up the feature race. A B-main will occur if needed. Teams will be allowed to change 12 tires during the race, plus the four they start the race on, meaning it is a 16-tire race.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park presents the 59th annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing from Friday, October 8 to Sunday, October 10. The weekend is highlighted by the $20,000-to-win Sunoco Thompson 300 for the Outlaw Open Modified Series. The 17-division program also includes the Sunoco Modified Triple Crown Series, ACT Late Model Tour, PASS Super Late Models, NEMA Midgets and Lites, all local divisions, and much more.
Advance ticket sales are now live at www.happsnow.com/event/Thompson-Speedway-Motorsports-Park-YHPQ. Three-day general admission to the Sunoco World Series is $75 for adults, $20 for kids ages 6-12, and free for kids ages 5 and under. Fans can also purchase single-day tickets or a two-day Saturday-Sunday ticket.