(THOMPSON, CT) – The Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Series took center stage at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, May 18th for their marathon event, the Limited Sportsman Long Distance, presented by Circuit One Events, and the first Wednesday night of racing for the 2016 season at the Big-T. The forty-lap feature doubled the traditional distance of the Thompson division and has been a highlighted event on the calendar for many of the series regulars, but it was a familiar name that came out on top with Josh Wood taking the checkered flag on his 22nd birthday.
It was the second time Wood has won on his birthday, but the first time he has done it in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Series. Wood took the lead fifteen laps into the forty-lap feature and never looked back but had to survive a series of cautions late in the race and a hard charging crew of experienced series veterans to claim his second straight win of the 2016 season.
After the race Wood said winning the first two races of the season, including the long distance event, was a great feeling. “This is the hard one. I drove my butt off. The rear end was going a little bit, I could smell it. The brakes were glowing. I tried saving the tires halfway through and I kept looking in the mirror and I saw (Ryan) Waterman coming closer and closer so when the caution came out I was a little upset, but I could cool my tires off a little bit and get a little more speed,” said Wood. “I could tell Waterman was learning my restarts a little bit. He was getting me a little bit better, but my car on the outside just hooks up so I knew going into turn one I could out drive him off – It’s easier when the car handles like it’s supposed to and it’s consistent every week. When you’re fighting the car it’s a lot more frustrating.”
The event saw a series of comeback performances in the top five. Corey Hutchings managed to salvage a third place finish despite a spin twelve laps into the event after making contact with Ed Puleo, who would finish fifth. Ryan Waterman held on to finish second after making his own comeback from starting in the rear of the field when his heat race win was disqualified as a penalty for a rough driving incident coming to the finish. Scott Sundeen rounded out the top five with a fourth place finish.
The concept of repeat winners at Thompson would become the theme of the night, starting with the Mini Stock division feature which provided an exciting battle throughout the entirety of the 15-lap event with the defending series champion, Dave Trudeau, coming out on top for his second consecutive win of the season. However, it was not an easy road to victory lane for Trudeau as he had to work his way to the front through a field of extremely competitive cars that included early leader Jordan Hadley and eventual runner up Wayne Burroughs, Jr. who narrowly missed a victory by half a car length in a neck-and-neck battle with Trudeau to the checkered flag.
With back-to-back wins to start the season Trudeau said his second victory of the year has helped him gain some confidence that his team can repeat as champions. “It was a lot of fun,“ Trudeau said after the race. “(Wayne Burroughs, Jr.) had a fast car. We kept tweaking all day long with it. We got a little bit better. It’s still not perfect, but it never is. I just want to thank everyone who helped me out –We always have a good car. I don’t want to get too cocky and say ‘oh, we’ve got a real good piece here’. We’ll just try to be consistent and keep my cool and move forward. Hopefully we finish top five every week.”
The Sunoco Modified feature saw a dominating performance by Keith Rocco who turned a win in the first qualifying heat of the event into an impressive charge to the lead for the first ten laps of the 30-lap race, including cutting into a half-straightaway lead to take the top spot a third of the way through the feature. Rocco would go on to win the event despite a late race charge by Ryan Preece who came home second after a rocky start and several apparent mechanical issues caused him to lose positions early in the event. Preece closed in to within a few car lengths of Rocco on the final lap, but it was not enough to relinquish the lead from Rocco who claimed his own repeat win at Thompson to start the 2016 Sunoco Modified season.
Rocco said he was very aware of Preece’s charge to the front, but he had a plan to hold him off and stuck to it to the end. “I was just trying to save something for the end. We had such a lead I figured I’d bank a little bit in case we had to restart. My spotter was telling me how far back (Preece) was,” Rocco said in Victory Lane. “This thing in incredible – This new Hoosier Tire they gave us makes the racing good. It gives us two grooves of racing again.”
The Late Model Series closed out the night and while he didn’t have much for the leaders in the early parts of the race, William Wall managed to complete the sweep of repeat winners for the night by winning his second consecutive race to start off the season. This made every winner of the night a repeat winner in their respective divisions, following their victories in the season-opening Icebreaker weekend. Wall said seeing three repeat winners before him certainly helped him approach his own event with a heightened confidence level, but it took a few properly timed cautions to help him get the job done.
“My whole team had real good momentum after the little break that we had between races. I just can’t say enough about this whole team. I wouldn’t be here without them. Like I say to everybody that comes to these races, it’s not just having a good car or good crew. The cautions need to fall in your favor and tonight they did,” Wall said. Wall took the lead after the final restart, which saw issues for the second and third place drivers and allowed Wall to move into position to make a late race charge for the win.
Next up for Thompson Speedway is Whelen Military Night on June 1st, following Memorial Day weekend. The night will feature the 3rd Annual Late Model 20/20 Sprint as well as features for the Sunoco Modified, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks where we will see if any of the winners from May 18th and the Icebreaker can continue their domination and claim a third straight win to open their seasons at Thompson.
MINI STOCK FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 3. Scott Michalski (South Killingly, CT); 4. Jordan Hadley Quaker Hill, CT); 5. Ed Field (Deep River, CT); 6. Glynn Roy (Sterling, CT); 7. Brad Caddick Wyoming, RI); 8. Nick Anderson (Oxford, MA); 9. Ian Brew (Woodriver Jct, RI); 10. Nick Matera (Warwick, RI)
SUNOCO MODIFIEDS (TOP-10): 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 3. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT); 4. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, NJ); 5. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 6. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA) 7. Jason Sundeen (Douglas, MA); 8. Stephen Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 9. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 10. Joey Parker (Weymouth, MA)
XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Josh Wood (Palmer, MA); 2. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 3. Corey Hitchings (Salem, CT); 4. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, ME); 5. Ed Pulio (Branford, CT); 6. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 7. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT) 8. Frank L’Etoile, Jr. (Wethersfield, CT); 9. Dennis Blaise (Norwich, CT); 10. James Bendiak (Hopkinton, MA)
LATE MODEL FINISH (TOP-10): 1. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 2. Tom Carey, III (Orance, MA); 3. Rock Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 4. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 5. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 6. Marc Curtis (Brookfield, MA); 7. Ernie LaRose (Moosup, CT); 8. Brandon Warren (Chicopee, MA); 9. Corey Fanning (Mapleville, RI); 10. Ryan Lineham (Hope Valley, RI)