Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park saluted the fans during the track’s penultimate oval season event on Sunday, September 10, the annual For the Fans Night and 20/20 Sprint Sunoco Modified event. The night featured giveaways and fan appreciation activities as the spotlight on the track was put squarely on the local drivers and divisions of Thompson with one final chance to gain points and a win before the season finale in October.
The evenings main event was actually a series of three races, all featuring the drivers of the Sunoco Modified division looking for points, wins, and a big payday. The Sunoco 20/20 Sprint features two points paying races and a final 10-lap shootout with the ultimate goal of every driver to finish as high as possible, thus collecting the least amount of points in the process, with the lowest score after the three events earning one driver a payout and the glory of being the overall 20/20 Sprint winner. Three different victors were crowned over the course of the evening, starting with two of the division’s biggest stars each taking home a trophy for winning one of the 20-lap features.
The first feature event was an important one for a local racing legend, Ted Christopher, who started in the top three and worked his way through traffic and restarts to claim his 99th career victory at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Christopher said he was proud of the achievement, but admitted he forgot how competitive Thompson Speedway can be. “It’s like the WWF out there,” Christopher said in victory lane. “It was fun. It’s been a while since we’ve had a Sunoco win here. We had a really good car today. It’s only the second time I’ve driven it.”
Christopher looked to make the evening a big one for his career as he came within two positions of taking win number 100 in the second 20-lap segment of the 20/20 Sprint, but it was not meant to be. Despite working his way through traffic following the inversion of the starting order based on the first feature’s finish, Christopher made contact with the backstretch wal on a restart which eventually led to hard contact between Christopher and Matt Gallo taking both drivers out of the remainder of the event. Hoping to defend his 2016 title, Keith Rocco pounced during the second segment and took his own victory. “It’s tough. It’s pretty much impossible to drive away unless you’ve got a car that’s about a half second faster,” Rocco said. “On old tires for these races it’s pretty exciting for the fans.”
While Christopher and Rocco drove home with trophy’s they were not consistent enough to take the overall 20/20 Sprint win however. That right went to Todd Owen, who sits second in the points behind Keith Rocco and turned a third place finish in segment two and a pair of second place finishes in the first and final segments into a big payday. Owen finished second to Troy Talman in the final ten-lap sprint, securing the 20/20 Sprint title to close out the evening. “It’s the big picture. You had to be there all three races to be in the hunt. My hat’s of to all my guys. We races Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and we finished second last night with this car and had to change it over. This is really all for them. I’m just fortunate enough to drive this thing,” Owen said.
Owen will have a chance at a title when the World Series come to Thompson in October. He sits second behind Rocco with Ryan Preece, Woody Pitkat, and John Studley all also within range of stealing the title from the reigning champion in October.
The Late Models kicked off the evening with Ray Parent looking to build on his points lead and defending champion William Wall working to make up ground, but it was a new name that found his way into victory lane at the conclusion of the 25-lap feature. In his first race back after a work injury sidelined his racing venture Ryan Morgan took the checkered flag for his first win of the season and first win at Thompson.
After crossing the finish line Morgan said it was an emotional experience to return to the track and win right off the bat. “it’s been really hard. I go to the race track week in and week out. I live at the race track so it’s great to be back and driving again and it’s even better to get a win in my first race back. I’ve never won here at Thompson, but I’ve come close. With the help of my team and my family, that’s how I got here. It’s a team effort,” said Morgan.
With one race left in the upcoming World Series of Racing in October, championship contenders Ray Parent and William Wall had a pair of impressive runs, but they weren’t able to separate from each other in the points finishing fourth and sixth respectively in the race. Parent, who drove a special Make-A-Wish themed car for the For The Fans event, holds the points leads over Wall going into the season finale next month.
The Limited Sportsman 20-lap feature saw the best of the division duke it out for a victory with the championship still up for grabs. Points leader Shawn Monahan saw early success, but it was his closest competition in the points Scott Sundeen who drove his way to the front enduring three way battles and an early race caution to take home the trophy.
The victory was Sundeen’s first of the year in the division and was an exciting one for the veteran wheelman who spoke about the tough battle to the front in victory lane. “We had a really good car. They were being rough up front and I just stuck my nose in and got them with a couple to go,” Sundeen said.
Sundeen closed the gap on Monahan with his victory, but Monahan still holds the top spot going into the World Series after a strong fourth place run. Brent Gleason, who sits third in points, also enjoyed a great finish with a second place result followed by Steve Kenneway in third, Monahan, and Ryan Waterman in fifth.
In the Mini Stocks a former champion returned to his winning ways, and just in time too as the season draws to a close. It has not been an easy year for 2015 division champion Dave Trudeau, but he recovered well and finally found his way back to victory lane for the first time since the 2017 Icebreaker weekend in April. Trudeau is out of contention for a title, sitting over a hundred points back from first in eleventh place, but the veteran competitor did not let that damage his winning spirit as he celebrated a hard fought win in victory lane after holding off Jacob Perry and Nathan Taylor in a three-wide battle to the finish in the closing laps of the 15-lap feature.
“We definitely didn’t have the fastest car here. The thing was tight. We were wicked loose off the corners. We got lucky and started up front with a pole,” Trudeau said. Jacob Perry and reigning champion and points leader going into October Wayne Burroughs finished second and third respectively followed by Eric Bourgeois, who sits a close second in points, in fourth. Steve Michalski rounded out the top five.
Finally in the Lite Modifieds Glenn Griswold made his way to victory lane. The driver known as “War Horse” sealed the deal despite a last lap dive bomb move by Chris Viens who spun coming to the checkered flag in turn four.
Thompson has one final weekend in store for race fans as the biggest event of the season, the World Series of Racing, takes place from October 13 through the 15 with three nights of championship races to decide track champions and the new titleholder for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series Tour.
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SPRINT SEGMENT ONE TOP-10: 1. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 2. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 3. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 4. Steve Masse (Bellingham, MA); 5. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 7. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 8. Nick Salva ( Prospect, CT); 9. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 10. Timmy Jordan (Brooklyn, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SPRINT SEGMENT TWO TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 3. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 4. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 5. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 6. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT); 7. Andrew Krause (East Brunswick, NJ); 8. Marcello Rufrano (North Haven, CT); 9. Stephan Masse (Bellingham, MA); 10. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA)
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SPRINT OVERALL FINISH TOP-10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 3. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 4. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 5. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 6. Stephan Masse (Bellingham, MA); 7. Nick Salva (Prospect, CT); 8. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 9. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 10. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT)
LATE MODEL FINISH TOP-10: 1. Ryan Morgan (Pawcatuk, CT); 2. John Warren (Chicopee, MA); 3. Mathew Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 4. Ray Parent (Tiverton, RI); 5. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 6. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 7. Paul Charette (Woodstock, CT); 8. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 9. John Lowinski-Loh (Millville, MA); 10. Ryan Kuhn
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINISH TOP-10: 1. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 2. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 3. Steve Kenneway (Lowell, MA); 4. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 5. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 6. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 7. Michael Palin (Dudley, MA); 8. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 9. Kevin Bowe (Smithfield, RI); 10. Corey Fanning
MINI STOCK FINISH TOP-10: 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Jacob Perry (Pawcatuck, CT); 3. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 4. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 5. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 6. DJ Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 7. Douglas Curry (Groton, CT); 8. Mitchell Bombard (Willimantic, CT); 9. Mike Anzalone (Plainfield, CT); 10. Nick Matera (Warwick, RI)
LITE MODIFIEDS FINISH: 1. Glenn Griswold (Vernon, CT); 2. Glenn Korner (Canton, CT); 3. Albert Ouellette (Ellington, CT); 4. Rick Williams (East Hampton, CT); 5. Chris Viens (Putnam, CT); 6. Chris Correll (Old Lyme, CT); 7. Ed Chicoski (New Hartford, CT)
Written by Jason Bleau