By Kyle Souza, for Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
THOMPSON, Conn. – Few events in New England can match the anticipation that the 56th annual Sunoco World Series has each year. With Modifieds, Super Late Models, Sportsman, Mini Stocks, Midgets and everything in between scheduled to compete throughout the three-day weekend, fans will have the opportunity to catch their favorite division in action on the Thompson high-banks.
And the wait is almost over.
The event kicks-off next Friday, October 12, and will go through Sunday, October 14, with action on the track at just about every time of the day. And, when there are not cars on the track, it’s likely fans will find themselves in the middle of a celebration somewhere on the campgrounds — where fans flock together to celebrate the end of the racing season on the high-banks.
“I’ve been going to the World Series since I was a little kid,” Whelen Modified Tour driver Matt Swanson said. “My dad used to own Super Late Models, and we used to go every year. It’s just really cool to be a part of the weekend as a driver, and see all the fans that come out just to see this one event. All of the people come from all over the country just to go to the World Series.”
Friday’s action will give fans the opportunity watch the starts of the present, and the stars and cars of recent memory both compete on the same night. STAR, the Senior Tour Auto Racers, visit many tracks in New England each year and keep racing’s memories alive. They will be on the track Friday for two, 12-lap main events, but they aren’t the only division that will open the festivities. The Open Vintage Modifieds, another division that keeps racing’s history alive, will also compete.
The NASCAR Whelen All American Series is well recognized across the United States, and Thompson’s own Late Models will begin feature racing for the weekend with a 25-lap event that will decide the 2018 champion. Nick Johnson enters the race just four points up on most recent winner Tom Carey III, while William Wall, a former champion, is third, 19 points back. With the addition of the American Canadian Tour on Saturday in recent years, the Whelen All American Series Late Models have moved to Friday to give drivers the opportunity to be prepared for both races and fans the chance to see locals battle invading stars.
Quite possibly the headliner for Friday night is the Granite State Pro Stock Series, a division that will come in hot in the middle of their championship chase. The car counts have grown over the last few years, and the Pro Stock touring division always brings some of the top Super Late Model talent from across New England to the 0.625-mile oval. Last year, Derek Ramstrom, a former track regular as part of the Thursday Thunder Series, went to Victory Lane in the 50-lap event. The Lite Modifieds, a division that showcases the upcoming modified talent at Thompson, will be in action as well Friday night.
MODIFIEDS, MIDGETS, LATE MODELS & MORE HEADLINE SATURDAY
Saturday has practice and qualifying for all divisions that didn’t compete on Friday, and the variety of different cars that will hit the track hits an all-time high this season. The NEMA Midgets enter the Sunoco World Series in the middle of their title fight, while the winged-warriors will be putting everything on the line at full speed through the banking of Thompson’s oval. When the NEMA Midgets come to town, fans always expect high-speed action.
The American Canadian Tour, a well-established Late Model touring series in New England and Canada, is back again as the headliner for Saturday night. Much like NEMA, the ACT Tour brings their championship battle to World Series weekend for a 75-lap event that will put invading stars up against track regulars. There is truly nothing like local experience, and with stars of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series ready to give ACT Tour regulars a run for their money, the 75-lap event is guaranteed to be a fan favorite.
In the touring series category, multiple New England divisions will flock to the high-banks for action on Saturday night. The Street Stock Showdown Series, North East Mini Stock Tour and the Exit Realty Pro Truck Challenge are all on the schedule this season, giving fans plenty of variety for the value of their general admission ticket. Drivers will flock to Thompson all the way from Maine and further, to compete.
Modifieds also fill Friday night, with the Pro 4 Modified division back once again this season, along with the co-headliner for the night, the Valenti Modified Racing Series. A division that is still going strong more than a decade after beginning, the VMRS races at Thompson are another showcase example of regulars up against invading stars. Even though Thompson doesn’t run Tour-Type Modifieds on a regular basis, most of the drivers in the field have some background at Thompson, whether it be in the Sunoco Modifieds or NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“When you’re leaving to go home on Saturday night and you see all the fans in the parking lot, they’re out there having a good time,” Swanson said. “It’s really cool to see how many people come out just to see this one event.”
Though Saturday will roll late into the night, fans won’t be sleeping much before they are back in the stands. Sunday, action gets underway right at noon with the winged-warriors of the ISMA Super Modifieds tuning up their rides for action. Following pre-race ceremonies, the Sunoco Modifieds kick-off their battle with the championship event for the Whelen All American Series division. Keith Rocco enters the weekend looking to seal another championship, and it won’t take him much – since he enters with a 48-point lead, he will just about seal it by just taking the green. The veteran modified racer will look to add to his already impressive resume.
Rocco has challengers like Troy Talman, Kyle James, Woody Pitkat and NASCAR’s UNOH Youth Achievement National Champion Marcello Rufrano ready to breathe down his neck chasing the checkered flag.
Fans will find themselves on the edge of their seats with the 20-lap Limited Sportsman division feature race. While the Sportsman provide some of the best short-track action in New England, the division is known for battles that bring the race for the win down to the final corner, and sometimes, down to the final few feet. Shawn Monahan, who leads by 43 points entering the weekend, is looking to seal his second straight crown.
The warriors of ISMA come into the weekend ready to go full throttle, giving fans another open-wheel winged division to watch. At full speed, midgets flying around Thompson through the high-banks are certainly going to be a site for every fan to see. Following ISMA, another winged division, the NEMA Lites, will compete in a 20-lap event.
The weekend comes to a close with the annual Sunoco World Series 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the 16th and final race of their season. Although Justin Bonsignore has already sealed the championship entering the finale, he will be looking for the clean sweep of Thompson’s 2018 events. With the largest car count of the season expected, and pit strategy playing a major factor in the winner, fans are not going to want to leave early.
Over the course of three days, the annual breakfast buffet and prime rib dinner will be available in the clubhouse, another part of the weekend fans won’t want to miss. Thompson’s concession stands will also be open for the entire weekend.
After all that, if fans aren’t quite ready to leave, campers are allowed to stay on property until 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
Fans can enter the paddock area for $75, which is one price for all three days. Any fans that wish to enter the grandstands can do so with a general admission ticket at $55, while seniors (65+), veterans and active duty military members can enter at a price of $50. As always, any children under the age of 12 are free.
Camping is also available for the weekend. Fans can catch-up with the latest World Series information by visiting www.thompsonspeedway.com, where you can find the full schedule. Follow the track on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates.