(THOMPSON, CT) – Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park gave local kids a little pre back-to-school action on Wednesday, August 24th with the venue’s Pepsi Back To School Night featuring twin 25-lap features for the Sunoco Modified division as well as Thompson’s three other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions as the championship season begins to draw to a close.
With this being the third to last race of the season at Thompson, drivers came ready to fight for every inch of real estate on the track over the course of the evening with the highlight events being the twin 25-lap features of the Sunoco Modified Series that opened and closed the night in epic fashion.
With Keith Rocco in complete control of the series points lead at Thompson and having a dominant year, series regulars were looking to take away some of Rocco’s thunder and stake their claim on a bit of real estate with two opportunities for a win on the night. Rocco ran well in both events and maintained his points lead, but the one driver he needed to beat the most was the one who would claim victory not once, but twice, as Ryan Preece, second in points, swept the duel races and took a small chunk out of Rocco’s sizable lead with two events remaining on the schedule at the Big T.
Preece worked his way to the front methodically in the first race, taking the lead ten laps in and never looking back, but took a much more aggressive approach in the second race of the night battling Rocco for the lead in the late stages and eventually using a crossover move to take the top spot with only five laps to go, completing an impressive sweep over his rival, Rocco, who finished runner-up in both events.
The wins were the third and fourth on the season for Preece, second to Keith Rocco’s six victories to date in 2016, and gave Preece a boost of excitement and confidence as the season approaches its conclusion.
“I could really move the car around (in the second race),” said Preece who didn’t change tires between the events, running all fifty laps on the same set. “It was a little free, but the amount of forward drive the car had was phenomenal. It really handled. That’s what you want in a racecar.”
Preece added that the battles between himself and Rocco were entertaining to say the least and that he had to be patient, especially in the second feature, to make the right moves at the right time.
“I was kind of sitting there. You could tell I was watching where (Rocco was making moves) and how he was doing it,” said Preece. “Once the opportunity arose and I followed Keith through it was pretty much a cat and mouse game down the straightaways, making those inside and outside moves, and when the time came I got a run off of two and we made it happen.”
Following the first Sunoco Modified feature of the night, Wayne Burroughs continued his potential championship drive in 2016 with a strong run once again in the night’s 15-lap Mini Stock feature. Burroughs started the day by extending his championship lead to sixteen-points after finding success in the heat races while his closest competition, reigning champion Dave Trudeau, had issues and retired early from the pre-race qualifying feature.
Trudeau would face more issues in the main feature for the Mini Stocks, retiring early once again due to mechanical issues, while Burroughs would win the race in dramatic fashion in a last turn pass on veteran Brad Caddick. Burroughs bumped Caddick coming out of turn four coming to the checkered flag and further solidified his position at the top of the standings, and clinched him the championship in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Triple Crown.
“The car was definitely handling better than Brad (Caddick’s) I think,” said Burroughs. “We’ve got the same motor so being on the bottom he had a little more down the shoot than I did running off the outside. I knew where I could beat him and knew where I couldn’t and we finally got it down.” Burroughs said that he was unaware of the issues Trudeau was having during the event, learning the full extent of his excellent points day after he drove into victory lane.
In the Xtramart Limited Sportsman Series the two best drivers in the series this season put on quite a show as Ryan Waterman and Scott Sundeen, first and second in points respectively, battled it out for the win in the closing laps. Sundeen entered the event with a fourteen point deficit to Waterman and took advantage of a strong car and a few cautions to open up a sizable lead in the second half of the feature, taking the checkered flag for the first time in 2016 and a small bite out of Waterman’s points lead. Waterman held on for a second place finish.
“I started the race loose and the car started to come to me half way through I just didn’t want it to get tight and it didn’t. It was actually still a little loose. This is the first win for this car. This is brand new this year and I’ve pretty much struggled with it all year, but made it to victory lane this week,” a proud Sundeen said in victory. Sundeen also claimed the O’Reilly Auto Parts Triple Crown title in the Limited Sportsman Series as his closest competitor in that battle, Corey Hutchings, retired early after being involved in a mid-race incident with pole sitter Corey Fanning.
In the Late Models It was a long time coming for defending champion Brian Tagg but the series regular finally found his way back to victory lane at Thompson with his first win of 2016 in the series’ 25-lap feature. Tagg faced tough competition from points leader William Wall and Marc Curtis to complete his long awaited return to his winning ways. The reigning series titleholder was ecstatic as he climbed out of his car to greet family, teammates and friends.
“I know coming through the back straightaway I got hit in the right rear and it felt like it changed the handling of the car,” Tagg said in victory lane. “I guess it was good. It all came together. We’ve been running into every bad break we could this year and we had a great year last year but it’s been a lot of fun racing down here.” The win capped off a busy day for Tagg who spent the morning in Loudon, New Hampshire qualifying for the American Canadian Tour event before making the trip back down to Thompson for the night’s event.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park closes out its summer stretch on September 7th with it’s last Wednesday feature of the season and penultimate racing event of 2016. The Way Back Wednesday race lineup will feature the Sunoco Modifieds, Late Models, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks along with appearances by the NEAR and STAR series and the Vintage Outlaws.
SUNOCO MODIFIEDS FEATURE #1 FINISH: 1. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 2. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 3. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 4. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT); 5. Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 6. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, New Jersey); 7. Jason Sundeen (Douglas, MA); 8. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA); 9. Jeff Gallup (Agawam, MA); 10. Matt Gallo (Berlin, CT); 11. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 12. Kyle Trainor (Marlboro, MA); 13. Eddie LeClerc (Taunton, MA); 14. Joey Parker (Weymouth, MA); 15. Kyle Cafro (North Windham, CT); 16. John Catania (Agawam, MA)
SUNOCO MODIFIEDS FEATURE #2 FINISH: 1. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 2. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 3. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, New Jersey); 4. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT); 5. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 6. Matt Gallo (Berlin, CT); 7. Jason Sundeen (Douglas, MA); 8. Jeff Gallup (Agawam, MA); 9. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA); 10. Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 11. Kyle Trainor (Marlboro, MA); 12. Eddie LeClerc (Taunton, MA); 13. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 14. Kyle Cafro (North Windham, CT); 15. Joey Parker (Weymouth, MA);
MINI STOCK FINISH: 1. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 2. Brad Caddick (Wyoming, RI); 3. Roger Ducharme (Foster, RI); 4. Eric Bourgeois (East Haaddam, CT); 5. Christopher Viens (Putnam, CT); 6. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 7. Ed Field (Deep River, CT); 8. . Scott Bellisle (Wauregan, CT); 9. Nick Matera (Warwick, RI); 10. Keith Ballou (Pascoag, RI); 11. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); DQ: Nathan Taylor (Brooklyn, CT)
XTRAMART LIMITED SPORTSMAN SERIES FINISH: 1. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 2. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 3. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 4. Al Stone (Durham, CT); 5. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 6. Jack Aquilina (Oakdale, CT); 7. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 8. Joshua Wood (Palmer, MA); 9. Troy Waterman (Killingly, CT); 10. Mike Palin (Dudley, MA); 11. Phil Jacques (Dudley, MA); 12. Tommy Shea (New London, CT); 13. Hank Stott (Medway, MA); 14. John Carpenter (North Grosvenordale, CT); 15. Dan Coutu (Canterbury, CT); 16. Nick Anderson (Oxford, CT); 17. Ed Correia (Raynhyam, MA); 18. Corey Hutchings (Salem, CT); 19. Randy Waterman (Danielson, CT); DQ: Corey Fanning (Maple Valley, Rhode Island);
LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH: 1. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 2. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 3. Marc Curtis (Brookfield, MA); 4. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 5. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 6. Lloyd Anderson, Jr (Wauregan, CT); 7. Jared Materas (Westfield, MA); 8. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 9. Brandon Warren (Chicopee, MA)