(THOMPSON, CT) – Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park hosted its 131st Whelen Modified Tour Event on Sunday, April 10th capping off an action packed weekend in the 2016 Icebreaker and kicking off the tour’s season schedule with a first time winner in victory lane.
Timmy Solomito was crowned the champion of the Icebreaker 150 after benefiting from a great pit stop that helped him earn the lead in the second half of the event and hold off series veterans Ryan Preece, Justin Bonsignore and defending champion Doug Coby to claim his first win in the series in his 36th start.
“I’ve been coming to Thompson many years watching races. It’s always been a dream of mine to turn right onto that stretch and turn into Victory Lane. To do it in such a great car with the 16 team really means a lot,” said Solomito. “I got my start with Wayne Anderson on the tour and it’s catapulted me to where I am now. I just can’t thank everybody who believed in me and has been behind me this whole time enough.”
Solomito took the lead after a great pit stop put him and Bonsignore ahead of Preece, who led the first 81 laps of the event. It would be several laps before Solomito was able to wrestle the lead away for good and set the pace for the remainder of the event. “The guys on the 16 had an incredible stop. We picked up a lot of track position there. We had a car that was very stable. We didn’t really kill it in the beginning, but we picked them off one by one. We got to the top 7 and then picked up the spots that we needed on pit road and that’s what helped us win,” he said.
Preece, who returned to the Modified Tour after racing several races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, said his race started strong, but he just did not have enough to best Solomito in the end. “They had a really good car,” Preece said after the race. “I thought we were going to have something for (Solomito).” Bonsignore and Coby held on to place 3rd and 4th respectively while Ron Silk rounded out the top five for a solid finish in the first event of the Modified Tour season.
The Sunoco Modified series kicked off the afternoon with big names vying for their first win of the season at the Big T. Series regulars Keith Rocco, Preece, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink led the field to green in the 30-lap feature with Rocco and Christopher reigniting their rivalry by engaging in a cat-and-mouse game all race long. The two survived a slew of cautions and two green-white-checker restarts to finish in the top two spots with Rocco’s extreme precision on each restart helping him hold on for the win.
Rocco said he enjoyed the hard fought battle with Christopher as he charged towards the checkered flag. “Ted is always fun to race with. Switching this tire compound, the racing is just like me and him in Waterford – There’s going to be a lot of good shows this year with the new Hoosier tire,” Rocco said.
While Rocco and Christopher celebrated great performances in the season opener, a few big names were not so fortunate. Series regular Rowan Pennink saw a good run go sour after spinning twice in the last few laps, causing the two green-white-checker restarts that ended the race. Reigning champion Woody Pitkat, who has experienced minimal mechanical setbacks over the past few years in the series, saw his day end early after a hard crash on lap 3 eventually led to mechanical failure later in the race. Ryan Preece started the race strong but had to fight back after an early pit stop to finish sixth.
The Vintage Outlaw series ran its second race at Thompson following its 2016 premier event on Saturday. Sunday’s race saw a repeat victory from Jim Lowrey who started up front and stayed there the entire race, fighting off challenges from Glen Boss and others to start the season off with a bang.
“When you come here twice and there’s double features you want to win both,” Lawrey said. “I feel pretty good. My car was very good both days. Today offered a little more bite off the corner, which was good. The other guys are getting racier so it’s going to get more interesting later on in the season.”
The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) saw a first time winner in its northern series season opener and third race of the national season with Garrett Hall of Scarborough, Maine who worked his way to the front 51 laps into the 75-lap feature and never looked back.
Hall beat out fellow young gun Derek Griffith to claim his first trophy in the series and said he was proud to come out on top at Thompson, a place where he is still a relatively green driver compared to others in the field. “I ran back here a couple years ago in the World Series and we finished in the top ten, not quite what I was hoping for but we came down here and got some track time. It paid off,” Hall said. “(Winning at Thompson) is something a lot of people don’t get to experience.”
The season opener for the Late Model series provided a familiar sight as the Rocco brothers, Keith and Jeff, fought for the lead for much of the 25-lap event before making contact on lap 18, taking each other out of the race. The incident caused substantial damage to both cars, including removing much of Keith Rocco’s roof. The two brothers shared some choice words on the track as safety officials responded to the crash and later continued their dispute in the infield while the race continued.
The front of the field continued to be the worst place to be for drivers in that event with Ernie LaRose, who inherited the lead after the restart, making hard contact with the turn one wall and also saw a potential race win fade away. Another caution would soon follow when Rick Gentes spun out from second place, causing a chain reaction involving several other cars including reigning champion Brian Tagg, who was running third.
One driver who did manage to find success at the front was William Wall, who turned a pole position start into his first victory in the series. “This is definitely the biggest win of my career right now,” Wall said. “Just getting this together, all the ducks finally fell in a row. It was awesome. Words can’t describe it. The cautions helped me out a little bit. I had a real bad push the whole race so every time the caution came out if I could get to the outside I knew I’d have a real good chance of getting a position. The cautions fell in my favor today and that’s what it took.”
Other events held over the course of the evening included the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Series where Scott Michalski took home the checkered flag in a dominating win and the Mini Stocks where defending champions David Trudeau picked up right where he left off in October with a trip to victory lane.
The 2016 Icebreaker also marked the final weekend for longtime Thompson personality Russ Dowd who, after over thirty years with the speedway, announced his retirement in the offseason. Dowd was honored in a pre-race ceremony on Sunday afternoon and has provided play-by-play for all 130 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at Thompson prior to officially turning the microphone over during the 2016 Icebreaker weekend.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR ICEBREAKER 150 TOP-10: 1. Timmy Solomito (Islip, NY); 2. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 3. Justin Bonsignore (Holtsville, NY); 4. Doug Coby (Milford, CT); 5. Ron Silk (Norwalk, CT); 6. Donny Lia (Jericho, NY); 7. Eric Goodale (Riverhead, NY); 8. Jimmy Blewett (Howell, NJ); 9. Rowan Pennink (Huntingdon Valley, PA); 10. Woody Pitkat (Stafford, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED SERIES TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ted Christopher (Plainville, CT); 3. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 4. Adam Norton (Palmer, MA); 5. Bert Marvin (Colchester, CT); 6. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT); 7. Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 8. John Catania (Agawam, MA); 9. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, New Jersey) ; 10. Kyle Traynor (Marlboro, MA)
VINTAGE OUTLAWS TOP-10: 1. Jim Lowrey (Tilton, NH); 2. NO NAME #23; 3. Darrel Dutch (Greenville, RI); 4. Glen Boss (Danielson, CT); 5. Gary Byington; 6. No Name #17; 7. Ed Milligan; 8. Tom Bouregard; 9. Ben LeVangie; 10. Tom Cerroni (Smithfield, RI)
XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN TOP-10: 1. Joshua Wood (Palmer, MA); 2. Corey Hutchins (Salem, CT); 3. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 4. Jesse Gleason (Lisbon, CT); 5. Al Stone (Hurham, CT); 6. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 7. Ryan Waterman (Danielson, CT); 8. Randy Waterman (Danielson, CT); 9. Allen Coates (Ledyard, CT); 10. Frank L’Etolle, Jr. (Wethersfield, CT)
PRO ALL STAR SERIES RACE TOP-10: 1. Garrett Hall (Scarborough, ME); 2. Derek Griffith (Hudson, NH); 3. David Garbo (Stonington, CT); 4. Trevor Sanborn (East Parsonfield, ME); 5. Ben Rowe (Turner, ME); 6. Mike Hopkins (Hermon, ME); 7. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, ME); 8. Joey Doiron (Berwick, ME); 9. Glen Luce (Turner, ME); 10. Derek Ramstrom (Worcester, MA)
LATE MODEL SERIES TOP-10: 1. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 2. Larry Gelinas (Buxton, MA); 3. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 4. Marc Curtis (Brookfield, MA); 5. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 6. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 7. Walt Sutcliffe (East Haven, CT); 8. Michael Bennett (Willington, CT); 9. James Banfield (South Glastonbury, CT); 10. Tom Carey, III (Orange, MA)
MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Scott Michalski (South Killingly, CT); 3. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 4. Ed Field (Deep Rivier, CT); 5. Jordan Hadley (Quaker Hill, CT); 6. Nick Anderson; 7. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 8. Doug Curry (Groton, CT); 9. Robert Ducharme Foster, RI); 10. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT)