Story By: KYLE SOUZA / THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – The long wait and anticipation is finally over for race fans in Connecticut. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will roar back to life this coming Friday-Sunday, October 8-10 with the 59th Annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing on the high-banks.
The weekend kicks off on Friday at 5:30pm with a six-division slate, continues on Twisted Tea Saturday with eight more feature races and ends on Sunday with the return of the $20,000-to-win Thompson 300 plus four other feature events. A total of 17 divisions and series will help cap the track’s 82nd season with the biggest names in Northeast motorsports on-hand.
Sunday’s return of the Thompson 300 for the stars of the Outlaw Open Modified Series has been a long time coming. For the first time since 2005, some of the top Modified drivers from across the New England region will be heading to Thompson to chase the big prize in a race that combines classic short-track action with the thrill of the unknown.
Teams have 16 tires they can use for the special event. This includes the four tires they start the race on with 12 in the pit area to change during the race. Strategy will be the name of the game. Teams will need both fuel and tires multiple times during the event, and the challenge is figuring out when to pit to take full advantage of caution periods.
Some drivers may pit early and stay out late on older tires. A few are bound to pit in the final 30 laps if they get a caution and attempt to blast to the front on fresh Hoosier rubber. The anticipation surrounding the race is high and it’s drawing the best names to the Connecticut oval for 300 green flag laps.
Reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore leads the entry list just two weeks after clinching his third series title after another dominating year. He is joined by six-time Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, eight-time Thompson Sunoco Modified champion Keith Rocco, Icebreaker 125 winner Ron Silk and two-time Outlaw Open Modified winner Ronnie Williams.
After Silk won the Icebreaker 125, which was the debut for the Outlaw Open Modified Series, Rocco won the Thompson event in June. Williams has been to Victory Lane in both races since, cashing on a $5,000 prize in both. These drivers, and those who have supported all of the Outlaw Open Modified Series events, may have an advantage over names like Bonsignore and Coby, who haven’t turned a lap at Thompson so far this year.
They aren’t the only big names in the field. Patrick Emerling, who finished second in the Whelen Modified Tour championship battle, is driving for Ted Anderson. Matt Swanson, a podium finisher in multiple Outlaw Open Modified Series events, will be back on track in the famed “Old Blue” #3MA. They are joined by the likes of Craig Lutz driving for Rameau Family Motorsports plus Anthony Nocella, Jon McKennedy, Chris Pasteryak, Eric Goodale, Dave Sapienza, Andy Jankowiak, Max Zachem and more.
Chase Dowling, who was on the podium in the Tripoint Twisted Tea Showdown 75 in August, is heading back to the track driving for Ben Dodge. He’s joined by young talent like Anthony Bello, Derek Robbie, Noah Korner, Dylan Izzo and Andrew Molleur as some of the other competitors in the field. Look out for the No. 16 Kluth Motorsports entry and names like Josh Zentek, Nick Anglace and Tommy Barrett as well. The field is deep, and anyone from top to bottom could pull out the right strategy to take the big check. Teams can practice on both Friday and Saturday, but all qualifying and feature racing will take place on Sunday.
The World Series weekend opens Friday with the Thompson Late Model championship points finale. Ryan Morgan enters the race leading Woody Pitkat by just seven points in search of his first Thompson title. Pitkat is looking for his fourth Thompson championship, which would be his second in the Late Models. The Late Model feature will take place on Friday to allow teams to compete in the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) 75-lap race on Saturday — and a few ACT teams are planning to compete for the $1,200 winning prize in the 30-lap feature on Friday.
Also on Friday, some of the top Street Stock drivers in the area head to Thompson to compete a 25-lap, $1,000 to win Street Stock Open. Paul Newcomb has won both Open events this year, and the driver of the No. 7 will look for a complete sweep. Keith Johnson has entered in the Xtreme Racing machine while Tanner Woodard, a rookie ACT Flying Tiger competitor, will venture to Thompson Speedway for the first time. Some of Thompson’s Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsman drivers will also compete in the race.
Friday kicks off the first of three Sunoco Modified Triple Crown events set for 30 laps and $1,500 to win each. The Sunoco Modifieds haven’t run since June due to the national tire shortage but are back in a big way at the World Series. Action will include qualifying and feature racing on all three days with champions crowned on Sunday for both the Triple Crown Series and the overall track title. Keith Rocco looks for a record-breaking ninth championship in the class after winning the first two races of the year. However, he will have to go up against names like Andrew Molleur, Mike Christopher Jr. and Danny Cates.
The other three feature races on Friday are the Senior Tour Auto Racers Modified and Late Model Sportsman divisions plus the Vintage Outlaw Modifieds for 15 laps each. A full afternoon of Friday practice begins at 12 pm for all divisions except the ACT Tour, Pro All Star Series (PASS) and Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA). Friday qualifying goes green at 5:30 pm.
Saturday’s action begins early with practice at 10:00 am and the first green flag of qualifying at 2:30 pm An eight-division card is lined up for Twisted Tea World Series Saturday, headlined by championship point events for the ACT and PASS tours.
In the ACT Tour points battle, which concludes at Seekonk Speedway on October 23, Ben Rowe leads D.J. Shaw by a mere one point. They will roll into Thompson to compete against some of the track’s best local competitors, joined by names like former Seekonk Speedway champion Ryan Kuhn, Seekonk weekly regular Jacob “Rowdy” Burns, Woody Pitkat and Patrick Emerling.
Emerling, who will do double-duty by also competing in the Thompson 300, is driving for Hartwell Motorsports in the 75-lap feature. In his only previous ACT start, Emerling failed to finish, but is hoping to turn that around this time in a car that has been to Victory Lane at Thompson before.
On the PASS front, Derek Griffith looks to seal the PASS National Championship in the World Series 75, coming off his win at Thompson back in April during the Icebreaker. He will be joined by Shaw, Rowe, Kuhn, Kate Re, Cory Casagrande, PASS North championship leader Johnny Clark, and others for their Saturday night throwdown.
The stars of the Sunoco Modifieds will be back Saturday for their second 30-lap race in the Triple Crown battle. The night of feature racing will begin with the EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge. Connor Souza has three victories on the season in his No. 38 machine and looks to be the favorite in the Truck championship race with three races to go. Their 35-lap feature counts caution laps up until lap 30 with the last five set to be green flag only.
The North East Mini Stock Tour will crown their 2021 champion in their own 20-lap feature, while the stars of the NEMA Midgets are set to invade Thompson for 25 fast laps. The New England Pro 4 Modifieds and Thompson’s own Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsman wrap the Saturday card.
Heading into the 25-lap Sportsman feature, it is a four-driver battle for the crown. Former track champion Larry Barnett and Corey Fanning, both winners in 2021, are tied at the top but only lead Ryan Waterman by one point and Brent Gleason by two. Every single spot will matter in their qualifying and feature racing with the championship battle coming right down to the wire.
On Sunday, joining the Thompson 300, three more of Thompson’s championship chases come to a close. The finale of the Sunoco Modified Triple Crown Series will decide the Triple Crown champion and the overall points season winner while the Mini Stocks and SK Light Modifieds also have their own point battles at hand.
Anthony Bello leads the SK Light Modified total by a healthy margin over Paul “Buddy” Charrette. In the Mini Stocks, three-time winner Jared Roy is well on his way to sealing the championship. The fast winged warriors of the NEMA Lites will also join the Sunday action to wrap a full weekend of competition.
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 ACT Late Model Tour, PASS Super Late Models, Sunoco Modified Triple Crown Series, NEMA Midgets and Lites, all local divisions, and much more.
Advance tickets are available 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.