By Kyle Souza, for Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
THOMPSON, Conn. – With only seven races on the oval track schedule for the 2018 season, consistency matters if you want to be part of the championship discussion.
For Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Sunoco Modified driver Marcello Rufrano, the start to this season has put him in striking distance of the top in the title chase.
Rufrano, a native of North Haven, Connecticut, finished 13th in the Icebreaker, but since then, has two consecutive runs up front. He finished fourth in the feature on June 7, and in the 30-lap feature as part of the Thompson 125 — Rufrano finished sixth.
“We’ve been doing pretty good the last couple of races, we started to hit on some different things with the setup,” Rufrano said. “We just built a whole new car over the winter – we started fresh with a whole new setup, a whole new everything. We came out at the Icebreaker and we were really fast and I’ve had a lot of confidence in it. We started this season with a whole new mindset.”
This season, he has watched one of his closest teammates – defending Thompson Sunoco Modified champion Keith Rocco – win the first three races in the competitive class. However, the guidance from Rocco off the track has helped Rufrano craft himself into a better driver.
“Just watching him on the track is all I would need, but between him giving me some advice and having him to lean on, it’s great to be able to work with someone like him,” Rufrano said. “I help him with his cars, I even did that when I was a kid.”
In the most recent 30-lap feature as part of the Thompson 125, Rufrano found himself chasing Ryan Preece for the lead in the early laps. The opportunity to race with Rocco, a former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion – and Preece – a two-time winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – has also helped Rufrano grow as a driver behind the wheel.
“I think it’s pretty cool, it must make them feel pretty old since I was watching them battle when I was young up in the stands,” Rufrano said of racing the two veterans. “I idolized them when I was a kid.”
Right now, Rufrano sits sits fifth in the championship standings, 43 points off the top with four races remaining. What is the goal for the rest of the year? Consistency.
Finish the feature events as close to the front as possible, in one piece, and hopefully sneak his first win in the middle.
Without sponsors like Wheelers Auto Service, Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair, Liguari Plumbing and many, many more supporters, Rufrano wouldn’t be able to hit the 0.625-mile oval.
“The more consistent we are the better off we will be. It would be cool to get that win, there is nothing more I look forward to having. Once you get the first, I hear the rest come a lot easier. We just need to keep the consistency going.”
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns to the high-banked oval for racing on Saturday, July 14 with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Throwback 100. The Sunoco Modifieds will run another 30-lap feature on that night, along with the Late Models, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.