Despite a few rain delays over the course of the day, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Division’s return to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park could not be dampened by Mother Nature as the division made it’s first appearance at the Big-T since 2009 in style. The brightest future stars of NASCAR took to the historic track for the first annual Busch North Throwback 100 on Saturday, July 8 with several drivers sporting paint schemes honoring the best of the best of the series’ past as they honoring the history of motorsports in New England.
The field consisted of numerous series regulars and a few drivers familiar with Thompson Speedway looking to make their own mark by using their experience on the historic oval to their advantage. The day started with a new track record as Chase Purdy topped Martin Truex, Jr’s previous record of 20.200 with a lap time of 20.197 in group qualifying, nabbing Purdy his third consecutive pole. Purdy would lead the first few laps of the night’s main event, but eventually found himself under attack by Todd Gilliland, son of NASCAR driver David Gilliland, who started on the outside pole and had a dominant car for much of the event.
Despite Gilliland’s dominance however, the last 25 laps saw another generational driver rise to the top and find his way to victory lane. Harrison Burton, son of NASCAR staple Jeff Burton, was able to wrestle the lead away in the final quarter of the event after racing side-by-side with Gilliland for nearly five laps before finally completing a pass and never looking back. The win was Burton’s fourth of the season, and fourth in the last six races, building on his points lead as he continues to make his mark on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Division.
After the win a humble Burton said it was a fun and challenging day and that he was proud to come out on top. “It was an awesome race. We had a really great race car. We weren’t quite as good as we needed to be at the end of the first day so we came back today with a little bit of a different setup and it took to the racetrack well,” Burton told reporters after his win. “I’m proud of my guys. They put together a really great race car and made my job a heck of a lot easier. You need a car that’s pretty good to pass here.”
With the K&N Pro Series East Division having an extensive history at Thompson, much of which was celebrated throughout the weekend as part of the Throwback 100 theme, Burton said he was proud to add his storied family name to the history of the Big-T.
“It’s awesome. The Burtons are kind of like a team themselves,” Burton said. “It’s cool that we’re kind of branching out a little bit and trying some new race tracks and getting the opportunity to race on tracks like (Thompson). This is why I do it. I couldn’t do it without the guys in the shop, my mom and dad, and my sponsors and it’s cool to bring the Burton name to victory lane.”
Todd Gilliland held on for a second place finish and took the blame for the loss, but said Thompson was a fun track to race on and hopes to return to the speedway in the future.
“It was pretty fun. I think I just ran too hard and got the rear tires too hot and they were slipping and sliding,” Gilliland said. “We knew when (Burton) got by us it was going to be hard to pass him. Overall we had a great car tonight. I think this was on me just burning up the rear tires a little too much.”
Elsewhere on the night, the Mini Stocks division started off the evening of racing and it was the defending champion who charged his way to the front as Wayne Burroughs continued his consistent season claiming victory in the 15-lap feature. Burroughs survived contact from runner-up Nate Taylor in a green-white-checkered finish to claim the win. While Burroughs managed to pull away from the incident without harm, he said it was a surprising moment that made for an interesting final two laps.
“(Taylor) got me good. I didn’t think we were getting out of it. I knew it wasn’t intentional when he backed out. That’s a risk you take when you start on the outside. It’s a faster groove, but you know that guy is going to wash up into you,” Burroughs said. “This car was awesome. We’ve been real consistent since we’ve been here. That’s what it takes is consistency. You have to be on top of your game.”
The Limited Sportsman series saw redemption for Brent Gleason after the driver was disqualified from his previous victory at Thompson in May due to issues with his engine. He got a clean win at Thompson in July however, taking the top spot in the 20-lap shootout that he felt helped him come full circle as a racer.
“This is definitely redemption. I noticed a difference in power. I have to drive harder. These guys are tough to beat,” Gleason said. “I wanted this race. I wanted redemption. I wanted to come back to win.”
While Gleason was claiming victory the points leaders stayed close together on the track with points leader Scott Sundeen finishing third and maintaining his slim lead over Shawn Monahan and Ryan Waterman, currently second and third in points, who finished second and fourth in the race respectively.
Late Model driver Matt Lowinski-Loh celebrated a rare career first at Thompson as he took victory in the division’s 25-lap feature. While it was Lowinski-Loh’s second win at Thompson in his five-year career on the track, it was his first time actually visiting victory lane, which he called a humbling experience.
“It was definitely a fun race,” said Lowinski-Loh who led every lap in the feature. “We got out to the lead and we kept it and we kept a safe distance without overworking the car. It’s my first time in victory lane. Last year I got a win due to a disqualification, but it’s definitely wild to be in victory lane in front of all these fans.”
Rick Gentes finished sixth and managed to cut slightly into the points lead of championship rival Ray Parent. Parent minimized the damage however with an eighth place finish before climbing into a K&N Pro Series car to take part on the Busch North Throwback 100.
The Sunoco Modified Series ended the night with the points leaders all having trouble in a caution littered first half of the 30-lap feature. Points leader Ryan Preece as well as his closest challengers for the title, Keith Rocco and Woody Pitkat, all experienced setbacks in different incidents over the course of the first half of the race while veteran racer Ted Christopher returned to a familiar position atop the leader board, leading much of the second half of the event. Christopher held off numerous challengers, including several charges by Todd Owen on numerous restarts. Is wasn’t until the final restart of the night that Owen managed to beat Christopher to the punch when Christopher took the outside line after having found success on the bottom groove all night, allowing Owen the chance to gain the momentum he needed to capture a win at Thompson.
“The car was super fast,” Owen said in victory lane. “I don’t know what (Christopher) was thinking. He was killing me on the bottom on restarts and he would have done it again. I guess I want to thank him. It was good racing. I know some of the heavy hitters weren’t up there, but at the end of the day we’re still number one.”
Finally, in the Lite Modifieds Glenn Korner took home the win in the 20-lap feature. It was Korner’s first win in an open wheel car, which he implied was a highlight moment of his Motorsports career so far. “This feels so great, we’ve had a lot of bad luck,” Korner said in victory lane. “It feels so good to get the monkey off my back. We were just hoping for a good finish. To come out and win, it feels so good for everybody.”
Next up for Thompson Speedway the Whelen Modified Tour makes its third stop at the Big-T in 2017 with the annual Bud 150 on Wednesday, August 9. The night will feature the biggest stars in open wheel racing looking to edge closer to a series title at the World Series in October while Thompson’s track division drivers will also take center stage as their own points battles become even more heated as the summer begins to wind down.
NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST DIVISION BUSCH NORTH THROWBACK 100 FINISH TOP-10: 1. Harrison Burton; 2. Todd Gilliland; 3. Ronnie Bassett, Jr.; 4. Doug Coby; 5. Dillon Bassett; 6. Ryan Preece; 7. Chase Purdy; 8. Ruben Garcia, Jr.; 9. Jay Beasley; 10. Chase Cabre
MINI STOCKS FINISH TOP-10: 1. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 2. Nate Taylor (Brooklyn, CT); 3. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 4. Doug Curry (Groton, CT); 5. Tommy Silva (Groton, CT); 6. Mike Anzalone (Plainfield, CT); 7. Nick Matera (Warwick, RI); 8. Keith Ballou (Pascoag, RI); 9. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 10. Mitch Bombard (Willimantic, CT)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINISH TOP-10: 1. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 2. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 3. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA): 4. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 5. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 6. Mike Palin (Dudley, MA); 7. Kevin Bowe (Smithfield, RI); 8. Tommy Shea (New London, CT); 9. Randy Waterman (Danielson, CT); 10. Ed Correia (Raynham, MA)
LATE MODEL FINISH TOP-10: 1. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 2. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 3. Glenn Boss (Danielson, CT); 4. Tom Carey, III (Orange, MA); 6. Rick Gentes (Burrillville, RI); 7. Mike Benevides (Westerly, RI); 8. Ray Parent (Tiverton, RI); 9. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 10. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA)
LITE MODIFIEDS FINISH TOP-10: 1. Glenn Korner (Canton, CT); 2. Chris Viens (Putnam, CT); 3. Glenn Griswold (Vernon, CT); 4. Chris Correll (Old Lyme, CT); 5. Todd Douillard (Palmer, MA); 6. Damon Tinio (Mendon, MA); 7. Albert Ouellette (Ellington, CT); 8. Ed Chicoski; 9. Paul French
SUNOCO MODIFIEDS FINISH TOP-10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 3. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 4. Steve Masse (Bellingham, MA); 5. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 6. Nick Salva (Prospect, CT); 7. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT); 8. Adma Norton (Palmer, MA); 9. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 10. Andrew Charron (East Greenwich, RI)
Image Credit: NESN Fuel