THOMPSON, Conn. — With just three races remaining in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season, Kyle Gero is right in the middle of a tight Limited Sportsman championship race.
The former Thompson Mini Stock competitor, and New London-Waterford Speedbowl X-Car champion, is second, just eight points out in the title fight. He’s trailing two-time and defending division champion Shawn Monahan, who has three wins in the first seven events.
For Gero, this season has been about improving the setup and continuing to seek his first victory after a little bit of a learning curve over the last few years. Moving to the Limited Sportsman division was a welcomed challenge for Gero, who seems to be excelling in his second season. Before returning to Thompson competition, Gero had been off for more than one decade at the Connecticut oval. His Mini Stock days were in the early 2000s.
“Going from a front-wheel drive car that made around 125 horsepower to a rear-wheel drive car that makes over 300 is definitely a huge difference. The track was familiar to me, and I had been up to Thompson watching races, but one of the things I’m just now starting to get down is what they had to do to the track in turns three and four for the road course,” Gero said. “When I ran before, there was a line there where you could gauge where you were in the turn, but now there isn’t. It was something I struggled last year with while trying to find some marks to stick with every lap.”
Even though he started his season with two finishes outside the top 10, since then, it’s been all about consistency. Gero finished fifth in the third race of the season and has followed it up with three second-place efforts and a fourth.
“I’ve always thought that we are going to the track with a chance to win, otherwise we wouldn’t go. We did a lot of work over the winter, so it doesn’t surprise me to be where we are at. What’s surprised me the most is my ability to see what has been going on out on the track,” Gero said. “The guys up front have been beating and banging a little bit more at the beginning of races, and I’ve just been sitting back and watching it and saying that I would capitalize when something happens. We’re very grateful to be where we are at.”
His career started at a young age, competing in go-karts for many years, winning races and countless championships. In fact, in one season, he was able to win all the races in his division, traveling from Connecticut to Maine to compete each week. After building the Mini Stock and competing for a few years, it was time for a step away.
“I needed a break, and my dad needed a break after that,” Gero said. “I had my eyes on something different at the time, but I wish I would have stayed with it. I raced four-wheelers for a few years competitively, then I started helping some guys out at the track with their cars and I decided I would step back into it slowly.”
His slow step back into racing saw him carrying a championship trophy at another Connecticut track, then decide it was time to step back to Thompson to try and chase a NASCAR championship.
“Just as much work goes into the go-kart compared to the race car,” Gero said. “The 10-race schedule isn’t too much for us – working full-time and having limited help, it works.”
Gero also knows competing in the Limited Sportsman isn’t easy. A total of 36 drivers have taken the green flag this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few more drivers enter the division before the end of the year. For Gero to be only eight points back with three races left, he’s pleased.
“We are starting to learn more about what we need to do with the setups,” Gero said. “The adjustments have been big for us. These cars are over 3,000 pounds and it takes a lot to wheel one of them. You have a big heavy race car with a decent amount of power, they aren’t going to handle that great. I’ve always been a smooth driver and being smooth in a Sportsman almost goes out the window. You have to manhandle them.”
For now, with the support of his dad, family and crew, as well as Advanced Overhead Door, Thames Electric, 1-800-blacktop, Tick Mike, Park Roway Commercial Doors, JS Landscaping, KLT Industries and Lathrop Construction, Gero is in a good position to chase two goals down the stretch.
He’s hoping to earn his first win and contend to become the Thompson Limited Sportsman champion as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“Just have to take it race by race — I try not to points race because it can mess up your head and take a little bit of the fun away,” Gero said. “We definitely have to be a little better on the setups. We are doing a little bit different package for the last three races.
“There is always that chance of a championship, which would be amazing. I want to win a race but standing up there on the stage at the end of the year is why we are all doing this.”
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns to NASCAR racing action on Sunday, September 1, with all five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions and Lock City Drift. Race fans and teams are reminded that this is the make-up date for the June 30 show that was rained out.
For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
(Stafford Springs, CT)—Stafford Speedway returned to NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action with the Late Model division taking center stage with their extra distance Late Model 50 feature event. Ryan Fearn came away the big winner on the night, capturing his first career Late Model feature win. Fearn’s winnings from the night totaled $3,450 with $1,200 in purse money, $1,900 from the Gaston Racing Enterprises High Roller Challenge that saw Fearn roll a 1 in victory lane for the winner takes all option, and $350 in contingency bonus money from iRacing, New England Racing Fuel, Sunoco, and Bob’s Painting and Del’s Vinyl Siding. Other winners on the night included Ronnie Williams in the SK Modified® feature, Bryan Narducci in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn in the Limited Late Model feature, and Meghan Fuller in the Street Stock feature.
In the 50-lap Late Model feature, Tyler Leary took the lead at the green with Ryan Fearn lined up behind him in second. Fearn took the lead from Leary on lap-2 as the leaders came back to the line with Darrell Keane third, Kevin Gambacorta fourth and Tom Fearn quickly worked his way into fifth utilizing the outside groove. Al Saunders was applying heavy pressure to Tom Fearn for fifth and he nearly made a pass on lap-5 but fell back in line.
Gambacorta slid back to sixth in line as the order on lap-10 was Ryan Fearn, Leary, Keane, Tom Fearn, Adam Gray, and Gambacorta. The caution came out with 12 laps complete as Andy Marchese, R.J. Surdell, and Paul Varricchio, Jr. came together coming out of turn 4.
Ryan Fearn didn’t come up to speed on the restart and he fell from the lead back to third as Leary took the lead and Gray moved into second. Al Saunders was up to fourth behind Ryan Fearn with Michael Wray in fifth. Trace Beyer got around Wray to move into fifth on lap-18 while Leary was starting to stretch out his advantage over Gray and Ryan Fearn.
Ryan Fearn made a move to get around Gray to move into second right at the halfway point of the race on lap-25. Al Saunders was still fourth with Beyer in fifth. Leary’s large lead was erased by the caution flag with 26 laps complete as Keane got into the backstretch wall at the entrance to turn 3.
Ryan Fearn streaked into the lead on the restart, but the caution came out almost immediately as Marchese and Scott Bouley spun in turn 1 to bring the caution back out. Ryan Fearn again took the lead on the restart with Leary in second. Saunders was third with Beyer and Tom Fearn lined up behind him in fifth. The caution came back out with 26 laps complete as Saunders and Beyer spun coming off turn 4 and nearly collected the car of Cliff Saunders, who did a great job to avoid hitting either Saunders or Beyer.
Ryan Fearn and Leary ran a lap side by side for the lead before Fearn got clear. Tom Fearn and Wray were side by side for third but the caution came back out with 27 laps complete for spins by Surdell, Marchese, and Bouley coming out of turn 2.
The restart saw a wreck on the backstretch that collected the cars of Gray, DeMone, Keane, Michael Wray, Tom Fearn, Cliff Saunders, and Richard Ciriello to bring the caution back out. This made the restart order Ryan Fearn and Tyler Leary on the front row, Michael Bennett and Gambacorta in the second row, and Dave Wray and David Arute in the third row.
Ryan Fearn took the lead back under green with Bennett in second. Dave Wray was third with Gambacorta fourth and Michael Wray charged his way into fifth. Michael Wray took fourth from Gambacorta on lap-32 with Tom Fearn and Leary following him through to move into fifth and sixth and drop Gambacorta back to seventh.
With 10 laps to go, Ryan Fearn had a lead of a second and a half over Bennett in second with Dave Wray, Michael Wray, and Tom Fearn still making up the remainder of the top-5.
Ryan Fearn led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his first career Late Model feature victory. Bennett came home second with Dave Wray, Tom Fearn, and Leary rounding out the top-5.
In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Tony Membrino, Jr. took the early lead with Dan Wesson and Stephen Kopcik lined up behind him. The caution flew with 3 laps complete as a multicar pileup in the middle of turns 3+4 brought the caution out.
Membrino took the lead back under green with Wesson right behind him but the caution came out with 7 laps complete for a spin in turns 3+4 by Marcello Rufrano. Kopcik took the lead from Membrino in the outside lane on the restart with Membrino and Cory DiMatteo side by side for second. DiMatteo took second going into turn 3 and he took the lead from Kopcik at the line on lap-9. The caution flew with 10 laps complete as Dan Wesson spun coming off turn 4.
Kopcik took the lead on the restart but DiMatteo went 3-wide with Kopcik and Ronnie Williams on lap-12 to take the lead. Kopcik came right back on lap-13 with a push from Williams to retake the lead. Keith Rocco was now in the mix for the lead as the top-4 cars were side by side two rows deep before the caution came back out with 18 laps complete for a spin by Tyler Jones at the exit of turn 2.
Williams powered his way into the lead back under green with Rocco and Kopcik fighting side by side for second. DiMatteo was fourth in line with Michael Gervais, Jr. up to fifth. Rocco cleared Kopcik for second on lap-26 and he began to set his sights on Williams in the lead. The caution came back out with 30 laps complete for a spin by Eric Berndt in turn 4 and Andrew Molleur came to a stop against the turn 2 wall.
Williams took the lead back under green while Kopcik and Rocco resumed their side by side duel for second. Rocco got clear of Kopcik on lap-33 and DiMatteo was now side by side with Kopcik for third with Gervais in fifth. Kopcik took third on lap-34 with Gervais pulling alongside DiMatteo for fourth. Up front, Rocco pulled to the outside of Williams on lap-35 and the two leaders were once again side by side. Williams cleared Rocco on lap-37 with Kopcik diving to the inside of Rocco for second. Coming to 2 to go, Rocco was right on Williams’ back bumper. Rocco tried a crossover move but Williams was able to fend off his challenge. The two cars touched going into turn 3 but Williams was able to maintain the lead with Rocco still in second. Rocco made one last bid for the lead in turns 3+4 but Williams took the checkered flag to pick up his second consecutive win and fifth of the 2019 season. Rocco finished second with Kopcik, Gervais, and DiMatteo rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap SK Light feature, Amanda West took the lead at the drop of the green with Chris Matthews in second. The action was fast and furious behind the two front runners as Teddy Hodgdon, Bryan Narducci, and Robert Bloxsom were three-wide for third. Alexander Pearl came through to second with Narducci, Jonathan Puleo, and Hodgdon making up the top-5.
Narducci took the lead from West on lap-9 and with that move West began to slide backwards as Pearl took second, Puleo third and Hodgdon fourth with West finally getting back into line in fifth place.
With 5 laps to go, Narducci, Pearl, Puleo, and Hodgdon were locked in a four car nose to tail train in the fight for the race lead. Hodgdon made a move to the inside of Puleo on lap-17 but Puleo was able to hold him off. Hodgdon tried the move again on lap-18 and this time he was able to make the pass stick and take over third place.
Narducci led Pearl to the checkered flag to pick up his sixth win of the 2019 season. Hodgdon finished third with Puleo and West rounding out the top-5.
In the 15-lap Limited Late Model feature, the caution came out at the start as Matt Clement got on the brakes to avoid getting into the back of Gary Patnode and spun after contact from Kevin Crosby. Alexandra Fearn took the early lead on the restart with Duane Provost giving chase in second. Patnode was third in line with Jeremy Lavoie fourth and Clement was fifth in line.
Lavoie made a move on lap-8 to get by Patnode for third. Lavoie’s move opened the door for Clement and David Tefft to follow Lavoie by Patnode and drop Patnode back to sixth in line. Provost was still giving chase to Fearn for the race lead while Tefft nearly made a pass on Clement for fourth on lap-12 but settled back into line in fifth.
With 2 laps to go, Provost was right behind Fearn in the fight for the lead. Provost couldn’t get close enough to Fearn to make a move as Fearn took down her third win of the 2019 season. Lavoie finished third with Clement and Tefft rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap Street Stock feature, Meghan Fuller took the lead at the drop of the green with Zack Robinson working the outside lane to take second. Adrien Paradis, III slotted into third with Travis Hydar fourth and Tyler Trott and Dave Secore side by side for fifth place.
Hydar took third from Paradis on lap-3 while George Bessette, Jr. got around Secore to move into sixth behind Trott. Bessette took fourth from Trott on lap-4 and he then went by Paradis to take third on lap-5 as Fuller was starting to stretch out her advantage over Robinson at the front of the field. Jason Lafayette took fifth from Paradis on lap-7 and the caution flag came out with 8 laps complete for a spin in the middle of turns 1+2 by Trott. Tim Morse was sent to the rear of the field by NASCAR Officials for making contact with Trott.
Fuller took the lead back under green with Hydar taking second. Bessette and Robinson were side by side for third and Paradis in fifth. Lafayette nearly spun in turn 4 on lap-13 but he was able to gather his car up and remained in sixth. Robinson got clear of Bessette for third and with 2 laps to go, Bessette was glued to the back bumper of Robinson.
Fuller led Hydar to the checkered flag to pick up her second consecutive win of the 2019 season. Robinson finished third with Bessette and Paradis rounding out the top-5.
For more information contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at (860) 684-2783, or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
THOMPSON, Conn. — The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour took center stage at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, August 14 for the third time in 2019 with the 30th running of the Budweiser King of Beers 150. Coming into the race three drivers were considered the ones to watch. Points leader Doug Coby looked to extend his perfect streak of top ten finishes on the season, second place Ron Silk sought his third consecutive series victory, and third place defending champion Justin Bonsignore was looking for his seventh consecutive win at Thompson.
Coby earned the early edge by grabbing the pole in group qualifying earlier in the evening, but Bonsignore made sure to keep the five-time champion in his sights, staying within striking distance of Coby through the first half of the race. A caution on lap 83 brought the field to pit road where Jon McKennedy exited first and Justin Bonsignore beat Doug Coby back to the track giving him his best shot at the lead all night.
A poor restart for McKennedy allowed Bonsignore to storm to the lead with 90-laps to go, but an impressive power move by Craig Lutz saw Bonsignore fall back to second where Doug Coby was waiting to pounce. While Bonsignore and Coby battled it out for the runner-up spot with 50-laps to go, Lutz opened a .422 second lead seeking his first Whelen Modified Tour victory. A pair of cautions forced Lutz to fend off both Bonsignore and Coby, but a hard charging Bobby Santos III proved too much for Lutz, who was forced to relinquish the lead on lap 128 leaving Lutz, Bonsignore and Coby hoping for one more shot at the win.
They got their wish with just over ten laps to go as the fifth caution of the night led to chaos when Lutz spun his tires while Santos broke a shifter ending his day. The ensuing caution set up a clash between Doug Coby and Justin Bonsignore, but it was Coby who claimed another Thompson win and his fourth win of 2019. The victory was extra special as it came just days shy of Coby’s 40th birthday.
“This is a special place for me and my family,” Coby said on Thompson Speedway in Victory Lane. “What a great race. My last Modified Tour race in my 30s and I won it. What a great decade it was for me and I hope my 40s are even better.”
Justin Bonsignore settled for a runner up finish and saw his winning streak at Thompson come to an end. “It’s tough when you’re that close. It just didn’t work out tonight,” Bonsignore said after the race. “You’re not going to win every race. We were prepared for it to happen. I’ve probably been more prepared (to lose) as it’s gone more and more – we lost to the best car this year.”
The NEMA Midgets followed up the Whelen Modified Tour with a 25-lap feature that saw Todd Bertrand lead the early laps of the event seeking a repeat victory after winning the same race in 2018. However, a mechanical failure 14 laps into the race sidelined Bertrand handing the advantage to points leader Avery Stoehr. Stoehr went on to earn the win defeating Randy Cabral by a margin of just over a second. The win was Stoehr’s first at Thompson in the NEMA Midgets and his best finish at the Big-T since a fourth-place result in 2015.
In addition to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NEMA Midgets, Thompson’s five NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions also took to the track with only a handful of races remaining before the season finale in October. First up were the Sunoco Modifieds where Keith Rocco looked to continue to solidify his position as the frontrunner for what would be his eighth Thompson title. Rocco carried a 38-point lead into the race over Todd Owen and it was those two drivers who battled it out for the first ten laps. While Rocco would manage to fight off his rival, it wouldn’t be the last challenge for the reigning champion in the 30-lap feature. Rocco also defended his position against a hard-charging Woody Pitkat, but it was Ronnie Williams, who defeated Rocco in May, who offered the biggest challenge making several dives for the lead right up to the final corner. It wasn’t enough to dethrone the champion however as Rocco claimed his third win of the season and extended his points lead to 44.
“(Williams) was really good. I do have to say tonight he showed me a lot of respect and that goes a long way,” Rocco said of his rival after the race. “He ran me like a gentleman tonight and that goes a long way – If we could race like that every night the two of us could put on one heck of a show.”
Next up was the SK Light Modifieds® where points leader Bryan Narducci sought his sixth win of the year, with Albert Ouellette not far behind. However, neither driver would last long in the race, as the two points leaders were caught up in a multi-car incident only six laps into the 20-lap feature opening the door for a new winner to shine in the division. That driver was Teddy Hodgdon, who outraced former Thompson Mini Stock champion Wayne Burroughs, Jr. for his first Thompson victory.
“I’ve always wanted to win here since I started last year. We’ve been very close many times, but we were able to do it tonight. The car was on rails,” the 18-year-old Hodgdon said in Victory Lane. “The car went away a little bit towards the end. (Burroughs) was coming. I knew he was better on the long run than I was, so I just had to defend, and we ended up getting a victory.”
Sporting the closest points battle of Thompson’s five divisions, the Limited Sportsman series saw Shawn Monahan step up to the plate to take full control of the points race scoring his third victory of the season in dominating fashion. Monahan made it look easy cruising to a 1.4 second lead and walking away with a trophy and an eight-point lead over Kyle Gero putting Monahan in prime position to earn his third consecutive division title.
“I’m going to take any win I can get – we can’t let go now. We’ve got a goal and there’s not even time out there to run in second place because somebody can get you when you least expect it,” Monahan said after the win.
In the Mini Stocks, the points race was shuffled after both Scott and Steve Michalski, who sat first and second in points respectively with only six points separating them, each had problems in their heat races. This opened the door for Doug Curry, who was third in points facing a 35-point deficit, to cut into their lead. He took full advantage of his opportunity leading nearly the entire race and scoring his second win of 2019 making him the first multi-race victor in the Mini Stocks this season. Despite their troubles the Michalski’s still maintained a tight grip on the top two spots with finishes inside the top ten. Scott Michalski goes into the Labor Day race with an eight-point lead over Steve Michalski.
Finally, the Late Models took to the track for a 25-lap feature with William Wall holding a 17-point advantage over Woody Pitkat for the championship. The points battle took a backseat to some division veterans however as Brian Tagg, Rick Gentes and Ryan Morgan, all virtually eliminated from the title hunt, looked to score a late-season win. Brian Tagg came away with the win while Woody Pitkat picked up minimal points over William Wall as the title contenders finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Racing action returns to Thompson on Labor Day weekend for a makeup day of on-track action on Sunday, September 1. NASCAR’s Whelen All American Series divisions will take center stage as drivers seek valuable points with only two more races before the Sunoco World Series of Racing season finale in October.
WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR 30TH ANNUAL BUD 150 FINISH TOP-10: 1. Doug Coby; 2. Justin Bonsignore; 3. Craig Lutz; 4. Jon McKennedy; 5. Timmy Solomito; 6. Jimmy Blewett; 7. Andrew Krause; 8. Patrick Emerling; 9. Matt Swanson; 10. Woody Pitkat
NEMA FEATURE FINISH TOP-10: 1. Avery Stoehr; 2. Randy Cabral; 3. Paul Scally; 4. Mike Horn; 5. Bethany Stoher; 6. Jake Trainor; 7. Sammy Swindell; 8. Andy Lunt; 9. Jeff Champagne; 10. Todd Bertrand
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH TOP-10: 1. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 2. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 3. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, MA); 4. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 5. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 6. Noah Korner; 7. Corey Barry (Brooklyn, CT); 8. Kyle James (Westerly, RI); 9. Adam Gada; 10. Danny Cates
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 2. Jason Chicolas (Sutton, MA); 3. Moose Douton (Niantic, CT); 4. Kyle Gero (Baltic, CT); 5. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 6. Corey Fanning (Mapleville, RI); 7. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 8. Al Stone (Durham, CT); 9. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 10. Tommy Shea (New London, CT)
MINI STOCK FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Doug Curry (Norwich, CT); 2. Jared Roy (Sterling, CT); 3. Glen Thomas, Jr.; 4. Ian Brew (Woodriver Junction, RI); 5. Joe Bavolacco (Stratford, CT); 6. JT Suprenant (Central Village, CT); 7. Scott Michalski (Danielson, CT); 8. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 9. Evan Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 10. John Ekdahl (Chepachet, RI)
LATE MODEL FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 2. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 3. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 4. William Wall (Millbury, MA); 5. Derek Gluchacki (Dartmouth, MA); 6. Matt Lowinski-Loh (Milford, MA); 7. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 8. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 9. Buddy Charette (Woodstock, CT); 10. Mike Benevides (Westerly, RI)