(THOMPSON, CT) – Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park crowned it’s first of fourteen champions that will be named this weekend as the track kicked off the biggest racing weekend in New England on Friday, October 16th, the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing, presented by XtraMart.
Friday’s racing action featured intense qualifying races for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Monster Mini Stocks, the Valenti Modified Racing Series, the North East Street Stock Tour, the New England Truck Series and the North East Mini Stock Tour as well as the first feature event of the weekend, the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model season that set the pace for what promises to be a wild weekend of non-stop racing action at the Big T.
Drivers in the Late Model series didn’t waste any time adding some drama to the title fight with a pair of highly competitive heat races that saw the points lead for the main event stand at only three points. Brian Tagg held the points lead over Keith Rocco despite receiving damage in an early crash during his heat race. Tagg recovered from the incident to finish fifth in the heat while Rocco made the most of his heat race by winning the qualifying event.
The action only got more intense once the Late Models hit the track for their feature event. While Rocco appeared to have a smooth race, consistently running in the top five for the 25-lap event, Tagg faced another near miss when a lap one caution in turn two nearly collected his car. Tagg’s issues didn’t stop there after the driver found himself marred back in 8th place after being penalized for a rough driving incident involving Earnest LaRose, while Rocco maintained a top three position in third.
Tagg recovered however, working his way to fourth, one position behind Rocco, which would have secured him the championship. With less than two laps to go Rocco made a big move to pass Jeff Smith for second, putting himself two spots ahead of Tagg and in position to win the Late Model championship without winning a single event on the year. With the biggest move of the night, Tagg, who would not be defeated, passed Smith on the final lap to claim third place and win the championship by a single point, while Larry Gelinas went on the win the race. The event also marked the final race for Danielson, CT native, Glenn Boss, who finished fifth.
Tagg, a rookie and newlywed who grew up watching races at Thompson, commented on his miraculous championship win in victory lane.
“It’s something I never would have thought of,” said Tagg. “We had a good car all day and in practice and I knew we were going to have a good car in the heat race. I was worried about the heat race. That was my biggest concern.”
Tagg took the blame for his contact with LaRose and apologized for the incident. He recalled seeing his points rival Rocco take away second position as he worked his way back to the front and what it was like knowing one spot stood between him and a championship title with less than two laps to go.
“A lot of things (went through my mind). Devastation. Still having hope. You never know what could happen,” he said. “It was just crazy. I knew Rocco was going to try everything to get by Smith. He did. He used him up, but he got by him. Hey you have to do that. He’s running for a championship too. He knows what’s going on. It’s unreal.”
The Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing continues Saturday, October 17th where the North East Midget Association, Valenti Modified Racing Series, American Canadian Tour, Monster Mini Stock, North East Street Stock Tour, New England Truck Series, North East Mini Stock Tour, Pro 4 Modified and Lite Modifieds will take to the track for one more ride on the 2015 season. Qualifying for Sunday’s events will also take place throughout the afternoon.
LATE MODEL SERIES FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, MA); 2. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 3. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 4. Jeff Smith (Old Lyme, CT); 5. Glen Boss (Danielson, CT); 6. Wait Sutcliffe (East Haven, CT); 7. Buddy Charette (Woodstock, CT); 8. Lloyd Anderson, Jr. (Wauregan, CT); 9. Brandon Warren (Chicopee, MA); 10. Josh King (Vernon, VT)