RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: First Week Of October
Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Seventy years ago, in 1952, the Race of Champions was in its second year of existence on the one-mile circular Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Jim Delaney scored his first of three ROC victories.
Hully Bunn who had won the previous year finished a distant 39th. Also in the field and finishing 58th was Ralph Moody, then from Taunton, Mass. Ray Delisle made it two in a row in Sunday action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Dave Humphrey closed out the season at Seekonk with a 50 lap Stock Car win.
Sixty five years ago, in 1957, Chevrolet was enjoying its first year with the 327 small block V-8. With fuel injection heads plus a four-barrel carburetor and duel exhaust, the 327 put out more horsepower per pound of engine weight than any engine that would be built for many years to come. Glenn Guthrie was the winner of the Langhorne Race of Champions. In Sportsman action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Don Collins took the 25 lap win. Mike Banning was the non-Ford winner. At Old Bridge in New Jersey Pete Frazee took the win over George Tet.
Sixty years ago in 1962, Frankie Schenieder took the big one at Langhorne. Ted Stack won the season ending Modified 75 lapper at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Lou Caso was the Bomber feature winner. With 14 wins on the season to his credit, Dick Beauregard was declared the Modified Track Champion. He retired from racing on the spot. Ed Moody was declared the Bomber division champion.
Fifty five years ago in 1967 George Summers closed out the season at Seekonk with his fifth win of the season in Class A action.
Forty five years ago, in 1977, rain washed out all racing.
Forty years ago, in 1982, triple features for the Super Stocks at Waterford were the only action in Southern New England. Bob Gada, Al Szulczyzk and Brian McCarthy were the winners. It was also a big day for New Yorker Merv Treichler as he won the DIRT Syracuse 200.
Thirty five years ago, in 1987, rain prevailed all over the East Coast.
Thirty years ago, in 1992, the Waterford Speedbowl took center stage with a wide open competition event that saw Ted Christopher, running nitrous oxide in the North End Auto Parts No.54, lead from pole to pole to take down the win in the 50 lap event. Mark LaJunesse finished second with Lloyd Agor, Mike Gada, Mike Christopher and Richie Gallup rounding out the top six. It was also announced that the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N. H. would have a sanction for a Winston Cup event in 1993.
Twenty five years ago, in 1997, Waterford ran twin features for the mods on Saturday night. Tucker Reynolds JR went two for two in his attempt to close in on point leader Todd Ceravolo. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Terry Labonte took the lead with two laps to go from Ken Schrader and went on to take the win. It wasn’t a good day for Jeff Gordon as he triggered a 20-car wreck after getting a flat tire. At the Thompson World Series, Mike Ewanitsko took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 123 of the 125 lap modified tour event. Fuller had attempted to block but instead ended up spinning out. Tony Hirshman ended up second and was followed by Tim Connolly and Jamie Tomaino. Ed Flemke JR won the companion SK type modified event. For many years, the Race of Champions was run on Columbus Day weekend. Last but not least, it was 42 years ago in 1965 that Wild Bill Slater in the Connecticut Valley Rocket-V/8, won the prestigious event.
Twenty years ago in 2002, the Busch North Series season ender at Lime Rock and the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at the Seekonk Speedway were rained out.
Fifteen years ago in 2007, the Annual World Series at the Thompson Speedway closed out the 2007 season for many in New England. Forty-two NASCAR Modifieds were on hand for time trials. Part time Tour competitor Tony Ferrante provided a pleasant surprise when he set the fastest time and captured the Busch pole. Ferrante’s time of 120.656 mph around the .625-mile oval beat out Tony Hirschman Jr. by .025 seconds. Don Lia, Billy Pauch Jr and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five. Qualifying went smooth except for the fact that Jamie Tomaino slammed the first turn wall after completing his second qualifying lap. Tomaino’s time wasn’t good enough to make the starting field but he was eligible for a provisional spot, which he took.
Lenny Boehler and Bob “Frito Bandito” Santos, both deceased and NEAR Hall of Fame inductees, had to be smiling last Sunday as Bobby Santos III drove the Boehler Racing Ole Blu to victory in the NASCAR Modified portion of the World Series. Based on the re-draw after time trials Santos started second in the 150-lap event. Santos, who was in the hunt the entire race, grabbed the lead on a restart on lap 131 and went on to victory over Reggie Ruggiero, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Ronnie Silk. Sixth through tenth were Kevin Goodale, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Renee Dupuis. Series champion Don Lia finished 28th. After dropping out with reported ignition problems. James Civali, who completed all 150 laps was disqualified by NASCAR and placed last for rough riding. A last-lap, fourth-turn crash involving Ed Flemke Jr., Billy Pauch Jr., and Doug Coby changed the complexion of the race behind Christopher. James Civali, who had contact with Flemke, initiating the crash, was parked and put to the rear of the field. Civali was later reprimanded in the NASCAR trailer. Richard Savory, son of George Savory and the driver of the Art Barry No.21 was awarded the series Rookie of the Year award.
The Thompson regular weekly divisions finished off the 2007 season in grand-style with Larry Barnett (Ltd. Sportsman), Mike Romano (Mini Stocks), and Leo Adams (TIS Modifieds) scoring victories. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, continued his stronghold on the Outlaw Late Model laurels during the World Series. In other Outlaw action, Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor won a barnburner in the Strictlys and visiting Randy Churchill, Jr. of Niantic bested the Outlaw Mini Stocks. The Touring Series competitors established a pattern on Saturday night as both Seth Duvall of Ashford in the All-Star Truck Series and Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, in the Pro-Four Modifieds rode feature wins to 2007 championships.
The 34th Annual World Series ended a bittersweet racing season at Thompson International Speedway. In addition to Bobby Santos III those adding their names to the Thompson history books were Chris Perley of Rowley, MA, in the International Supermodified Association (ISMA); and Randy Cabral of Plymouth, MA, in the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA). Also garnering World Series glory was Jimmy Blewett of Howelll, NJ, in the Sunoco Modifieds, Jeff Connors of Ellington in Pro Stocks, and a surprise winner in the Late Models Ron Levesque, Jr. of Tiverton, RI. Ben Seitz had a run for the ages when the young driver from Pocassett, MA, scored an unprecedented fourth Northeastern Midget Association driving championship.
Jimmy Blewett made a triumphant return to the victory lane at Thompson. Blewett was greeted by a number of his fellow competitors and a standing ovation when he exited his Eddie Partridge owned TS Haulers #12 in victory lane. Blewett took over the lead before the completion of the first lap and never looked back. In the early going, Blewett and second-running Malone drove away from the rest of the pack. Blewett withstood a pair of late race restarts and persistent challenges from Malone to score the victory. Josh Steeves came home with an impressive third place finish over Bert Marvin and a returning Ted Christopher. Sixth through tenth were Tom Cravenho, Bo Gunning, Bobby Santos III, Danny Cates and Todd Ceravolo.
Dick Houlihan made his final career start at Xtra/Mart World Series at Thompson. Houlihan, who began his racing career in 1972 at the now closed Lakeville Speedway (MA), had raced at tracks all around New England, the east coast, as far west as Indiana and even in Canada. Throughout his career he has driven for many car owners including Danny Fournier, Jim McCloud, Sam Medeiros, Frank Procopio, Bill Ambrosio, Dan Andruck, John McKenna, Lenny Ellis, Greg Paquin and Wayne Darling. Along the way Dick won over 150 Features and 9 championships including 3 NASCAR Weekly Series titles, one at Thompson in 1996 and back to back titles at Seekonk in 2002 and 2003. He was also voted the Most Popular Driver at Seekonk in 2001 and 2002.
NASCAR released the final standings for the Weekly Racing Series for 2007. Four of the top ten in the final standings raced at the Thompson and Stafford Motor Speedways including runner-up Woody Pitkat who lost out to Steve Carlson by a mere six points. Carlson races at the LaCrosse Speedway in the Mid-West. Philip Morris who raced at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia, finished in third spot with Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Kerry Malone, who raced at both Thompson and Stafford finished tenth in the final rundown.
Longtime motorsports executive Dennis Huth, through his company Racing Speed Associates, reached an agreement to fully acquire all rights to the American Speed Association
In Busch Racing Series action at the Lowes Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton took the win in the Dollar General 300. Burton led the final 61 laps of the race. It was Burton’s fourth win of the 2007 season. In Nextel Cup racing, Jeff Gordon staked his claim to the Nextel Cup title, winning his second straight race to widen his lead in the Chase for the championship standings. The four-time series champion led Kyle Busch on a restart with five laps to go at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but as he tried to hold off his teammate, Ryan Newman slid by both Hendrick Motorsports cars to grab the lead. Newman seemed to be headed to an easy win, but inexplicably spun while running by himself to bring out the caution. Gordon inherited the lead, but had a fuel issue that had him stressed about a pickup problem when the race resumed for a two-lap overtime finish. But Gordon’s Chevrolet was flawless on the final start, and he pulled away from Clint Bowyer and Busch for his first win at the suburban Charlotte track since 1999.
Ten years ago in 2012, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pulled into the Thompson Speedway to finish up their season and crown a Champion. The event drew 32 Modifieds. Eric Berndt earned the second Coors Light Pole Award of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career on Saturday in advance of the season finale Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series on Sunday. Berndt toured the .625-mile, high-banked oval in 18.607 seconds (120.922 mph) for his first pole since 2009. Bobby Santos III posted the second-fastest qualifying lap at 18.624 (120.812). Ron Silk was third fastest with Ryan Preece, fourth and Justin Bonsignore, fifth. Rounding out the top ten was Mike Stefanik, Eric Beers, Jimmy Blewett, Doug Coby and Andy Seuss.
The speedway beat back the threat of rain and now the 2012 season is history. The World Series of Auto Racing victory lane hosted Bobby Santos as Whelen Modified Tour winner, Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modifieds, Randy Cabral in the NEMA Midgets, Rob Summers in ISMA Super Modifieds, and Larry Gelinas in the Super Late Models.
Santos held off a determined Todd Szegedy to win the Sunoco Race Fuels – Town Fair Tire 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race and collect his second consecutive win this season and 8th career victory. Doug Coby finished sixth and won his first Whelen Modified Tour Championship. Santos started the 150-lap race from the outside pole and took the lead from Todd Szegedy on lap 130 when he dove to the bottom groove in turn three. Santos held off Ryan Preece on a late-race restart to take the checkers.
Preece, who finished the race in second, led the most laps at 56 and finished the series point battle in second place. Szegedy finished the race in third. Rounding out the tp five were Mike Stefanik and Eric Beers. Sixth thru tenth was Coby, Tommy Barrett, Patrick Emerling, Keith Rocco and Pitkat. Nineteen cars finished on the lead lap. Rocco wrapped up the 2012 Rookie of the Year award.
Woody Pitkat used a lap 11 restart to take the lead from Ted Christopher and drive to a victory in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Richie Gallup led the opening lap of the Sunoco Modified feature, but caution called for a complete restart. Gallup led again when the green dropped, but Ted Christopher soon maneuvered by him and drove his No. 13 machine to the point. Michael Gervais and Ryan Preece made up the top-three when everything sorted itself out.
Caution slowed their pace at lap nine, but it didn’t slow Christopher down, who darted back to the front on the restart. Pitkat used the inside groove to get by Gervais for second before a car hit the back straightaway wall and set the field up for another restart. Pitkat and Christopher went into turn one dead even, but Pitkat emerged the leader coming out of turn two. Preece and Ceravolo got around Christopher for second and third, but Ceravolo fell off the pace entering the first turn of lap 16. Caution flew at lap 18 with Pitkat, Preece, Christopher, and Gervais making up the first two rows for the restart.
Pitkat took command at the drop of the green with Preece on his bumper. Pitkat had to do it all over again after a caution on lap 19, but it didn’t slow him down. Preece, however, got shuffled back to the fourth position with Christopher and Danny Cates taking over second and third. Pitkat and Christopher quickly pulled away from the rest of the field with Pitkat keeping a car length ahead. A half a second behind them, Preece and Cates battled door-to-door for the third position with Preece having the advantage by a nose. On lap 29, Preece secured the spot while Pitkat continued to lead up front. Pitkat took the checkers a car length ahead of Christopher. Ryan Preece finished third with Danny Cates and Michael Gervais rounding out the top five.
Before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hopefully returns to Thompson International Speedway next spring for the Icebreaker there are other fish to fry as there are two major events on the offseason schedule. The 28th NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion will be crowned as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Awards banquet, which will include ceremonies for the seven NASCAR touring series on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach will then take place Feb. 18-19 on a temporary .4-mile oval on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway as part of 2013 Speedweeks.
By virtue of wins through the Whelen Modified Tour’s first 13 events, Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby, Donny Lia, Ryan Preece, Bobby Santos, Ron Silk and Mike Stefanik have locked-in starting positions for the 150-lap exhibition Whelen Modified-Whelen Southern Modified Tour combination race on Feb. 19
The Valenti Modified Racing Series shared the Thompson Speedway with their big brothers and had their own feature on Saturday night. The New England based series was 36 cars strong. Rowan Pennink picked up his third victory of the season in the Valenti Modified Racing Series after taking the lead at lap 40. Justin Bonsignore led from the pole before caution slowed the race for the first time at lap two. On the restart, Bonsignore drove back out front with Todd Owen right on his bumper. On lap four, Owen shot around to the lead with Bonsignore and Christopher in tow. Owen drove straight to the front when racing resumed after a caution on lap 11 with Chris Pasteryak getting underneath Bonsignore for second. Pasteryak attached himself to Owen’s bumper, and heading into turn one on lap 17, shot to the bottom and drove to the lead. Pasteryak put some distance over the rest of the field once out front while Christopher took over second. Louie Mechalides took that spot from Christopher when the Plainville, Conn. native pulled his ailing machine onto pit road at lap 34. Mechalides set his sights on Pasteryak, who was maneuvering through lapped traffic nearly a second in front of him. Caution flew at lap 40 with many cars electing to go down pit road, but Pasteryak was not one of them. Rowan Pennink joined Pasteryak on the front row for the restart, and took over the lead when the green flag dropped. On the next circuit, Brad VonHouten and Leo Oliviera made contact. Oliviera’s car climbed the outside retaining wall and traveled over 100 feet on that wall before coming to a stop in the middle of turns one and two. The race went under red flag conditions as safety and track personnel attended to Oliviera, who escaped unharmed, and his car. On the restart, Pennink jumped to the lead with Pasteryak and Richard Savary in tow. Lap 50 brought out the caution once again, and on the restart, Pennink drove straight to the front as Pasteryak held off a challenge for second. Jon McKennedy and Steve Masse rounded out the top-four. McKennedy used the bottom to get by Pasteryak on lap 54 while Masse followed his line on the following circuit. Pennink held off McKennedy through two more restarts, but it was getting harder for him to shake McKennedy, who was glued to his rear bumper as they hit five laps to go. Caution flew with two laps to go setting up a green-white-checkered finish, but even that was not enough to shake Pennink, who drove to the victory.
Jon McKennedy finished second followed by Steve Masse and Richard Savory. Louie Mechalides rounded out the top five. Sixth thru 10th were Chris Pasteryak, Max Zachem, Todd Owen, Charlie Pasteryak and Norm Wrenn.
Pennink’s victory in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 75-lapper highlighted an action packed night at Thompson that offered 11 features of racing. John Studley, John Lowinski-Loh, Tommy O’Sullivan, Jesse Gleason, Eric Bourgeois, Glen Thomas, Jr., Chris Correll, and Dave Richardi all visited victory lane on World Series weekend. There was a total of 337 cars signed into the pits for the three day event. The car count increased by 61 over last years total which was 276.
Down in the Southland George Brunnhoelzl III clinched his third NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship just by taking the green flag Thursday night in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And then he closed out the season in style as he went out and led every lap en route to his sixth win of the season. It marked the 17th career win for the West Babylon, N.Y., driver and his first on the quarter-mile oval on the frontstretch at Charlotte. Brunnhoelzl also became the first driver to win three NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified titles, breaking a tie he held with Junior Miller (2005-06).
The event, which drew 20 cars, had some northern flavor as Ryan Preece finished in the runner-up spot and Ted Christopher in the Hillbilly 79 finished seventh. Burt Myers finished third with Danny Bohn and Andy Seuss rounding out the top five.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Clint Bowyer picked up his first win in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship winning a fuel-mileage race that ended in disaster for points leader Brad Keselowski. Keselowski dominated the Bank of America 500 but ran out of fuel with 58 laps remaining to blow his chance at the victory. Denny Hamlin finished second and is third in the Chase, 15 points back, and Johnson finished third. The race was the first since 1979 without an Earnhardt, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out with a concussion. His replacement driver, Regan Smith, had engine failure early in the race.
In Nationwide Series racing at Charlotte, Joey Logano raced to his eighth victory of the year passing Brad Keselowski with eight laps to go after taking on two tires and a splash of gas. Logano led 62 laps en route to his 17th career victory and first at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Nationwide points leader Elliott Sadler. Kyle Busch finished fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Area Auto Racing News reported that the Speed Channel could be no more in 2013. FOX Sports will be re-naming the channel and will use it to showcase more ball and stick sports with just a minimal amount of racing related programming.
Five years ago in 2017, The headline attraction in New England last weekend was the 55th Annual World Series at the Thompson Motorsport Park Speedway. Eighteen different divisions were in competition over a three day span.
The action began on Friday, October 13 with three feature events and the crowning of the first champion of the weekend named in Thompson’s late model division. Matt Lowinski-Loh capped off his season with a statement win in the 25-lap late model feature. Ray Parent’s conservative strategy prevailed as he secured a ninth place finish and wrapped up the division championship. The longest event of the first night of World Series weekend was the 60-lap feature of the Granite State Pro Stock series, a new addition to the Friday night lineup of the annual event. Derek Ramstrom held off Derek Griffith for the feature win in a dominating performance. Numerous wrecks shadowed the event which seemed to take forever to complete. Closing out the night were the Lite Modifieds in a 20-lap feature that saw a competitive field of drivers each looking for one more win on the 2017 season. Third generation driver, Bryan Narducci, who started up front and finished up front in dominating fashion led every lap of the event on route to a victory.
Day two for the World Series of Speedway Racing was long and busy once the rain stopped. It proved to be a busy one as a slew of new champions were named in both touring and track divisions as the biggest weekend in New England racing continued. Six of the eight different races were held over the course of the afternoon, each resulting in a champion being named for their specific series or division as a packed crowd turned out to enjoy and afternoon of non-stop on track action at the Big-T.Eight. Fog caused the speedway to curb activities until Sunday. The Valenti Modified Racing series, the Northeastern Midget Association, the American Canadian Tour, the Mr. Rooter Pro Truck Series, the New England Pro 4 Modifieds, Street Stocks and the North East Mini Stock Tour were scheduled over the course of the afternoon and evening. In addition there was qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour and Sunoco SK type Modifieds. Thirty five Whelen Modifieds and 26 Sunoco SK type Modifieds were on hand.
The American Canadian Tour served as the night’s main event crowning a champion with a two-man battle established coming into the evening’s season finale race. The tour’s 75-lap feature began with a tribute to series founder Tom Curley in a touching pre-race ceremony featuring a playing of “Donny Boy” on bagpipes. Curley passed away at the age of 73 earlier this year and before the green flag flew ACT drivers presented a series of four-wide tribute laps in honor of the man who helped establish their series back in 1986. Eddie MacDonald and Woody Pitkat battled it out for a win in the final ACT race of the 2017 campaign. Despite a strong run in the second half of the event, Pitkat was unable to make a move on MacDonald who had a strong car from start to finish and survived numerous restarts on route to his first win at Thompson and his second of the season in the ACT division.
The Valenti Modified series crowned its own champion before the day even started with points leader Anthony Nocella already earning enough points to clinch the title coming into the final event of the season for the popular local division. Nocella became the eighth different champion in the history of the Valenti Modified series and not only clinched the title, but also won the race after several contenders were sidelined from a series of on-track incidents during the 50-lap event.
Other Saturday winners at Thompson were Todd Bertrand in the NEMA Midgets, Dave Trudeau in the Mini Stocks, David Berghman in the Pro Fours and Nick Maniatis in the Northeast Mini Stocks.
In Whelen Modified Tour qualifying on Saturday, Chase Dowling scored his first career pole award on Saturday. Driving the 15-40 Connection modified for Rob Fuller, Dowling posted a fast lap of 18.991 seconds (118.477 mph) around the 0.625-mile oval. Dowling was the only driver to break the 18-second bracket in qualifying and will make his 41st career start on Sunday from the top spot.
Whelen Modified Tour points leader Doug Coby was second fastest. Coby ran a fast lap of 19.035 seconds (118.203 mph) behind the wheel of his No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet. Ryan Preece, who already has two victories at Thompson this season, was third in the qualifying. Rob Summers and Craig Lutz rounded out the top five.
Dale Wobrink started off the Sunday activity as she presented the 2017 Sonny Richards award post-posthumously to Ted Christopher. Shawn Waddell accepted the award for Christopher. Christphers last win at Thompson was his 99th Sunoco Modified victory at the Thompson Speedway on September 10th.
First up were the Sunoco SK type Modifieds. Ryan Preece and early leader John Studley made contact on lap 13. Keith Rocco was waiting in the wings and took advantage of the situation as he jumped into the lead. Rocco held the lead until lap 28 when Chase Dowling got underneath and rode him up allowing Todd Owen to take the lead. Owen ended up taking the win with Dowling, second and Rocco, Thompson Motorsports Park Sunoco Modified championship. Rocco is looking to make it three titles following this coming weekend at Waterford.
Rocco had a few choice words for Dowling after the event. “There’s a reason I’ve got more championships than that kid does wins,” Rocco said of Chase Dowling.
Timmy Solomito ended the season the same way he started, with a win. Solomito won the season opener for the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Along the way he scored a win at the Langley Speedway plus two at his home track, Riverhead Raceway. He capped off his season with a win at Thompson’s World Series. His crew rolled out a back-up car after a mis-cue in Saturday practice.
Doug Coby led the early going before pitting following a caution on lap 80. He needed to finish eighth or better to sew up the championship. Coby led laps 1-82, Craig Lutz led laps 83-107, Ron Silk led laps 108-144, Justin Bonsignore led lap145 and Ron Silk led laps 146-153 before being moved by Timmy Solomito who led laps 154-155.
By virtue of his fifth place finish Doug Coby wrapped up the 2017 series championship by six points over Solomito. Justin Bonsignore finished up the year in third spot with Rowan Pennink and Eric Goodale rounding out the top five.
For the first time in series history the owner’s title went to a team that wasn’t hosting the championship driver at the end of the year. Ed Partridge and TS Motorsports was presented with the owner’s trophy thanks to the efforts of Ryan Preece, who forwent a full season of driving for the driver’s title to focus on advancing his career in select NASCAR Xfinity Series events over the course of the season. Preece said he was proud to help bring Partridge a title and end the season on a high note.
Other Sunday winners at Thompson were Jeff VanPelt in the Limited Sportsman, Ryan Bigelow in the NEMA Lites, Dave Shulluck in the ISMA Supers and Allen Coates in the Street Stocks.
In NASCAR Monster Cup racing, Brad Keselowski earned an automatic berth into the third round of the playoffs with a victory Sunday at Talladega, where he considered himself lucky to finish after a sloppy day for NASCAR.
“I survived,” Keselowski said. “I feel like only eight cars finished the race. It was one of those crazy days … a lot of attrition.”
There were just 14 cars running at the conclusion, and only four were playoff drivers. The race was red-flagged three times for nearly 35 minutes.
A big at-a-boy to Thirty Two Signs and all the hundreds of fans who have purchased items and donated are proud to announce that next week at the Waterford Speedbowl Thirty Two Signs will be presenting a check in the amount of THIRTY THOUSAND EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS to the Christopher Family. Special thanks to all those who have made this happen!!
On a sad note, Gene White, 90, passed away at his home in Stonington, CT on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, leaving his wife, Nancy, of 53 years. Gene was a World War ll veteran serving in the Marines. He was an avid race car driver winning many trophy’s in modified, stocks and sprints. White was a five time winner at the Riverside Park Speedway. He also raced at the Thompson Speedway and at the Stafford Motor Speedway.
Last year, 2021, On tap last weekend, the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park presented the 59th annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing from Friday, October 8 to Sunday, October 10. The weekend was highlighted by the $20,000-to-win Sunoco Thompson 300 for the Outlaw Open Modified Series. The 17-division program also included the Sunoco Modified Triple Crown Series, ACT Late Model Tour, PASS Super Late Models, NEMA Midgets and Lites, all local divisions, and much more.
After locking up an eighth Thompson Modified title earlier in the day, Keith Rocco made the race winning pass on Jon McKennedy with 18 laps to go. In the process, Rocco pocketed a career high $20,000 with the winner’s check. The win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 298 wins which include 153 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 70 at Thompson and 75 at Stafford Speedway.
“This is a pretty big deal for us,” Rocco said. “They’re all saying ‘well, you’re not a [Whelen Modified] Tour driver… I don’t want to sound cocky, but we just beat all the Tour drivers. I’m sure they’re going to find something to say about me and throw me under the bus, but at the end of the day, we got the trophy and we got the check.”
Chris Pasteryak started on the pole before Doug Coby took the early lead. Eight drivers swapped the lead 15 times.
McKennedy was the dominant car in the first stage, leading 84 of the first 100 laps before the race’s third caution for a Ronnie Williams spin. Mike Christopher Jr. took the lead on the restart just before a turn-two pile-up that put Dave Sapienza, Williams, Andy Jankowiak, and Noah Korner out of the running while wounding several others.
The race mellowed out in the middle stage as teams plotted their pit stops and tried to plan the best strategy around the caution flags. McKennedy dropped back near halfway with a loose spoiler, which allowed Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore, and Anthony Nocella to take turns at the front. After making repairs during a pit stop, McKennedy worked his way back to the front, snatching the lead from Nocella with just over 100 laps to go.
Recently crowned NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bonsignore outgunned McKennedy to regain the point after Eric Goodale hit the turn four wall on lap 217. McKennedy then took it back following caution number 12 on lap 248 and started to pull away.
Rocco found himself at the back of the lead lap but spun in turn four with 28 laps to go. That caution allowed Rocco to come get fresh tires, which he used to charge through the field in just 10 laps. McKennedy, who led over half the race before dropping out with a mechanical failure with 10 laps to go, was furious after the race at Rocco’s spin, which he claimed was an instance of Rocco making his own luck. McKennedy felt that Rocco should have been penalized for creating a caution. Rocco stated that he had a tire that was losing air and going flat. Buddy Charette finished second, followed by Ron Silk, Anthony Nocella and Matt Swanson. Rounding out the top-10 were Doug Coby, Andrew Krause, Tommy Barrett, Chris Pasteryak and Justin Bonsignore.
Much of the race was a war of attrition. 15 of the 25 cars that started failed to finish. Fifteen cautions slowed the race. On lap 101, the field was stopped on the front stretch for a wreck involving seven cars on a restart. There were ten cars running at the end, all on the lead lap. McKennedy, who had engine problems finished 11th. Rounding out the top fifteen were Andrew Molleur, Eric Goodale, Craig Lutz and John Montesanto.
In other action on Sunday, Jon Puleo held off Todd Owen over the final 10 laps to win the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Owen, finished second and Troy Talman, third.
It was the first career Sunoco Modified win for Puleo. Despite a 15th place finish Rocco clinched his fifth consecutive Sunoco Modified championship at Thompson and eight title in the division overall at the track. Rocco ended up 15th in the 17-car field after wrecking with Ronnie Williams in a battle for second place following a lap 20 restart. Williams was attempting to pass Rocco and ended up almost going over the front stretch wall. Track announcers Matt Buckler and Jimmy Falconi clearly described the incident as “Rocco put Williams into the wall”. Andrew Moeller and Mike Christopher rounded out the top five.
Buddy Charette, won the caution-marred 25-lap SK Light Modified . Second place finishing Anthony Bello of Newtown was able to beat out Charette for the 2021 track championship. PJ Stergois won the 25-lap NEMA Lites feature. Dave Trudeau won the 20-lap Mini Stock feature.
Keith Rocco and Ryan Morgan emerged as the biggest winners of day one action for the 59th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Friday, October 8. Rocco remained perfect in the Sunoco Modifieds for the 2021 season while Morgan bounced back from an opening-lap Late Model wreck to hang on for his first championship. Rocco, after starting eighth, passed Paul LaPlante and set his sights on Mike Christopher Jr.. But before Rocco could even contemplate a move, Christopher lost power as the field came off the fourth corner to complete lap 11. Christopher could only pull to the inside and helplessly watch as the field flew past. Todd Owen eventually picked his way through the pack to finish second. Owen then closed to within two car lengths of Rocco but could not seal the deal. It was the 60th career win for Rocco at Thompson Speedway. Danny Cates ended up third. Jonathan Puleo, Ronnie Williams, Teddy Hodgdon, John Lowinski-Loh, Troy Talman, LaPlante, and Brett Meservey rounded out the top-10.
Tom Carey III won the Late Model battle while Ryan Morgan’s scarred steed won the war. Morgan entered the 30-lap feature four points ahead Woody Pitkat for the Late Model track championship. But as the field came to complete lap one, both Pitkat and Morgan found themselves squeezed into the frontstretch wall, all but trashed. The title contenders were nose-to-tail for the start of the final 18-lap run. Carey checked out at the front while Pitkat and Morgan fought for every position they could. Pitkat settled in 10th while Morgan desperately fended off Jordan Hadley and Dennis Dumas in the 12th spot. Charles Bailey III got past Pitkat for 10th coming to the white flag, and with Morgan successfully parrying Hadley’s moves, the title went to Morgan by two points. It was the first championship of any kind for Morgan in 22 years of auto racing.
Other Friday night winner at Thompson was Paul Newcomb in the Street Stocks.
In the words of Ben Dodge, “They Kling and they Klang” going down the backstretch and thru the final turns. On Saturday Todd Owen ended Keith Rocco’s win streak at five as he won round two of the three round Sunoco (SK type) shootout. It was all Rocco for the first 21 laps of the 30 lap contest. Rocco had taken the lead from Danny Cates on lap 4. Owen took the lead on lap 22 and the games of wit began. Numerous cross over moves kept the competition at a fever pitch until the checker was displayed with Owen winning the battle over Rocco. Teddy Hodgdon ended up third with Mike Christopher Jr fourth and Jon Puleo rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Ron Williams, Troy Talman, Danny Cates, Doug Meservy and Paul LaPlante.
In other Saturday night action, Derek Gluchacki was the PASS Super Late Model 75 lap winner.A big shout-out to Leadfoot Larry Barnett who completed his season in perfect style, winning the season ending 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature, leading pole to pole to clinch his fifth track championship.
Doug Coby Racing announced on Wednesday just before the World Series that crew chief Phil Moran would be departing the team at the end of the 2021 race season. Moran’s final race for the team was on Sunday, October 10, in the return of the historic Thompson 300 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Moran will pursue a new opportunity with Haydt-Yannone Racing in 2022 with driver Ron Silk.
Mat Williamson won his second $50,000 NAPA Super DIRT Week Billy Whittaker Cars 200 championship in historic fashion. The prestigious win puts him in the same category as Stewart Friesen, Billy Decker, Brett Hearn, Merv Treichler, and Buzzie Reutimann as the only drivers to win back-to-back Billy Whittaker Cars 200s.
The Franklin Flyer Billy Decker, in the Gypsum Wholesalers #91 sped across the Oswego Speedway finish line second in Williamson’s tracks after failing to pull off a last-lap pass on the St. Catharines, ON driver. Matt Sheppard finished third, extended his points lead, and is now well on his way to close out his record eighth career Super DIRT car Series championship at the NGK NTK World Finals.
Oswego Speedway overlooks one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario, where the waters were calm and serene throughout the week. In contrast, a storm raged within the walls of the Clay Palace where 41 Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modifieds battled door-to-door for 200 laps.
Williamson’s breakthrough moment came when leaders Peter Britten and Tyler Dippel made heavy contact out of Turn 4 on Lap 151. The seas parted and the #88 Buzz Chew Racing Big Block Modified appeared at the head of the pack where he stayed until he passed beneath Head Starter Dave Farney’s double checkered flags for the historic win.
Area Auto Racing News, America’s No. 1 Auto Racing Trade Paper reported last week that Jon McKennedy and Tommy Baldwin Racing will be going their separate ways in 2022. McKennedy announced to AARN that he has formed a new Whelen Modified Touring Series team with Tim and Sheryll Lepine as car owners and Rob Fuller as crew chief. Baldwin is now actively looking for a driver for 2022. With a new car already in place McKennedy was scheduled to compete at Thompson this past weekend and in the upcoming Islip 300 at Riverhead in November. McKennedy was in contention for the win when his car developed engine problems in the late going of the 300.
In NASCAR Cup racing at Charlotte Roval Kyle Larson rallied from his early electrical issues to win for the seventh time this season and storm into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs. It ended a topsy-turvy day for Hendrick Motorsports in which Larson and Chase Elliott advanced, Bowman and William Byron were eliminated, and Elliott was nearly sabotaged by a vengeful Kevin Harvick.
Harvick laid in wait to deliver payback on Elliott for Elliott costing him a win at Bristol three weeks previous and the retaliation came at about the halfway mark. Harvick sent Elliott into the wall and on the verge of playoff elimination. Ryan Preece finished 19th.