Category Archives: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

Woody Pitkat Looking Forward Following Two Podium Runs at Icebreaker

By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

Photo: Tom Morris Myracenews

THOMPSON, Conn. – Woody Pitkat is certainly a veteran of Sunoco Modified racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Just four years ago, the Stafford, Conn., driver won the championship in Thompson’s premiere division for the second time, following up a 2006 title with another one just about a decade later. After finishing sixth in the Sunoco Modified points chase last year, Pitkat and Mertz decided they wouldn’t be running for the Thompson crown in 2019.

But, after a little bit of discussion over the offseason, Pitkat found a seat for the 45th annual Icebreaker driving for veteran car owner Dan Avery. As of now, it looks like the combination might be going to try to put Pitkat back in championship glory at Thompson.

“I talked to Dan over the winter, I ran the car at Stafford last year for him once and finished second, and Dan knows he wants to be a car owner in the next few years,” Pitkat said. “I told him about Thompson, and we decided we would go to the Icebreaker and see how things went. His plans right now are to try to do the whole deal at Thompson. There might be one race that is a little bit shaky, but, the plan is go for the whole deal.”

If the Icebreaker is any indication, the success Pitkat is having with Avery might last a while. After finishing third in his heat race, Pitkat worked up through the top five in the early portion of the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature to open the season, and was able to bring home the No. 10 Horsepower Hill Farm machine with a solid third-place finish. Avery’s other entry, driven by Glen Reen, finished fifth.

“After practice I said that of the three divisions I was running during the weekend, we unloaded good right out of the box. We didn’t even really change a whole lot, we learned a little bit in the heat about what we needed the car to do for the feature,” Pitkat said. “They came over the radio halfway through the race and I told them it drove like a Cadillac, and I wasn’t lying. It handled perfect the whole day. We need to do a little bit of homework to get a little bit better, but Dan should be very proud of his team to go to Thompson having not run before and come out with two top-fives.”

Pitkat also was busy over the course of Icebreaker weekend driving in another NASCAR Whelen All-American Series division, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Behind the wheel of the No. 91 Late Model for Hartwell Motorsports, Pitkat had similar success, finishing fifth in his heat and driving from his 10th place starting position up to another third-place effort.

The Late Model feature was run following the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, meaning it concluded a day of 205 laps of racing action behind the wheel for Pitkat. Even though he does have a previous Late Model championship at Thompson back in 2002, the cars have changed drastically under the hood and they do drive differently on the track, but he’s adapting well and still having success.

“I was actually racing against my car owner back then, and we had too much motor with not enough chassis, but now we have superior chassis with not enough motors, totally opposite out there,” Pitkat said. “For me, a race car is a race car. I’ve run a few ACT Tour races and maybe that has helped my adjustability to these new style cars, but I’ve noticed all of the cars are pretty much equal.”

After teaming with Hartwell, Pitkat was in contention for the championship last year going into the final few races, but the team took that success and invested in the team even more over the winter.

They seem committed to running at the front of the field consistently in one of Thompson’s most competitive classes.

“Last year we had a lot of just bad luck, we were in the hunt with a few races to go but then we had a bad heat race, and then something happened in the feature and in the World Series I got wrecked in the heat race and didn’t even run the feature,” Pitkat said. “The guys worked really hard over the winter, technology wise and more, to upgrade the equipment. When we unloaded this year, we were two or three tenths faster than we have ever been. It’s nice to see the hard work over the winter pay off.”

And with a month off before the second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race of the season, Pitkat feels like the Late Model team has time to make a few additional adjustments that will help him get closer to Victory Lane.

Is he ready to return to winning form in the class?

“I believe so,” Pitkat said. “We’ve been chasing the steering since day one, it’s just a weird steering where I almost feel like you have to have arms like animals. I might have noticed it more now jumping from the Sunoco Modified to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the Late Model at the Icebreaker, but something happened towards the end of the race where I was having trouble with it. They are changing all of it so it will be more towards what I accustomed to in the Sunoco Modified, so I think that will help a lot. With all of the stuff they have found and all of the work done over the winter, I think we are definitely going to be in contention to win.”

In the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150, Pitkat finished eighth, marking his first top 10 in the three races run this season on the Whelen Modified Tour. He will return to Thompson with the No. 82 Horton Avenue Materials Chevrolet again on Wednesday, June 5 for the Thompson 125.

But for now, Pitkat will be back on track for the second race of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season on Sunday, May 19, when Thompson’s Limited Sportsman division goes extra distance with a 30-lap special event. On that Sunday afternoon, all active military and veterans will be admitted into the grandstands free of charge as part of the annual military night.

In between NASCAR events, fans are encouraged to visit the track for additional events, including those on the road course. Fans can see the full Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park event schedule atwww.thompsonspeedway.com.

For more information, follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

THE STORY BEHIND THE ‘SWAGGIN WAGON’

SHAWN MONAHAN DEBUTS BRAND NEW BODY STYLE AT ICEBREAKER

By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

THOMPSON, Conn. – Race fans that were in attendance for the 45th annual Icebreaker may have been shocked to see Shawn Monahan’s familiar No. 55 Limited Sportsman roll on the track.

Even though the number itself was familiar to many, dating back multiple years in Monahan’s racing career, the body style was something completely different, and something that Thompson fans hadn’t seen in quite a while – if ever before.

Monahan quickly found a nickname for the new body style, and the car itself – the ‘Swaggin Wagon’ – but the decision to actually put the car together required a little bit of discussion with those in the technical department before he could get it done.

“All I really want to go out and do is continue to have fun. I’m so glad that I was able to have the success that I have had in racing, because as I get older, life gets busy,” Monahan said. “In order for me to continue doing it, I have to ensure that I am going to have fun. If anybody ever knows me personally, I fully understand that motorsports is so much more than going in circles.”

“I had asked different people of authority if I could run a wagon for years, and when I spoke with the inspectors over the winter, and I asked if the kids, adults and the fans would like to see something different pull on the track at the Icebreaker. People find something to complain about and some people find something they want to love. I feel like I was successful in gaining attention in a positive way and bringing attention to the division.”

Unfortunately for Monahan, although he is pleased with the reaction from fans, his family and friends, the car itself will need a little bit of work if he wants to get back to Victory Lane.

“I actually had a really hard time out there. I’ve got more rear weight in the car, and I felt it, the car was actually a handful,” Monahan said. “I felt it sliding around a lot more and I was having trouble holding it down.”

Monahan’s heat race ended with damage, and eventually, even though he did work from the back to the front to finish sixth in the feature, he even left that with a little bit more damage.

“For me to have the altercation in the heat, I had tried to make an adjustment to get it better for the heat race and we only got into turn one on the first lap so there was really no way for me to find out what the car was going to be like. I brought the car home Saturday night, and I can’t ever remember doing that for a two-day show – and when I went back to the track, ultimately, I wasn’t happy with the car again Sunday,” Monahan said. “There is an extreme amount of talent in the Thompson Limited Sportsman division. I’ve got a fire inside of me to kick it up a notch from where I was. I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

For Monahan, the racing career dates back many years starting at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, but lately, he’s found plenty of success on the high-banks of Thompson – winning the last two titles in the Limited Sportsman class in two different ways.

In 2017, Monahan was a master of consistency and didn’t win a race en route to the title, but last year, he dominated the class, winning more than half of the races before clinching a second straight. On top of all of his success, Monahan also races in other divisions — sometimes even at other tracks — across New England.

During the Icebreaker, Monahan picked up the checkered flag in the Exit Realty 375 Sportsman feature on Saturday night. And even though the chassis itself has shown plenty of speed over the years, Monahan always finds a way to give fans a different look for their eyes each year.

“If you look back on the history of the double-nickel, very rarely do you see my car come back to the track the same it did last year. I change my number style, drastically change my colors,” Monahan said. “Purple and white was my very first Street Stock back in 1998 when I won Rookie of the Year down at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. I am an avid fan of older cars, and I currently own a station wagon that I drive on the road now. I just sold a 1962 Impala Wagon last year. Even in the past five years, station wagons are becoming more and more popular.”

For Monahan, the opportunity to work with his son, Brody, who has been driving Bandolero cars, has also increased his drive to succeed. For now, his attention will turn towards getting the ‘Swaggin Wagon’ to handle better, and capture victories, as the 10-race NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule continues on May 19, where Monahan and the rest of the Limited Sportsman division will compete in the only extra distance race of the season, scheduled for 30 laps.

“It’s definitely going to be a gamble on how to get the car to stick for the next event,” Monahan said. “We have lives outside of racing, but I’m happy with 10 races. I’m not looking at the points grid right now. My number one priority right now is to have fun, and the second is to get a grasp on what is happening so I can be the best that I can be.”

While Monahan and the remainder of the Whelen All-American Series drivers prepare their cars in the race shop, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is busy preparing for the next NASCAR event, but also hosting various other events during the time in between races.

For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, including those upcoming events, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com, and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo:Tom Morris Myracenews

TOM CAREY III LOOKS TO KEEP LATE MODEL SUCCESS ROLLING WATERMAN OFF TO STRONG START IN LIMITED SPORTSMAN

By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park

THOMPSON, Conn. — After coming up just three points short of the championship last year, it looks like Tom Carey III isn’t going to be messing around in the Late Models in his quest for his first crown.

Sunday, Carey started from the outside pole, and found himself chasing the back bumper of former champion William Wall in the early stages of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

At the halfway point, Carey used a quick move to get around Wall, and set the stage for the remainder of the race, taking the No. 5 Brookside Equipment Sales machine into Victory Lane at the 45thannual Icebreaker.

“Will is always a top-notch competitor, any time I have gone up against him, it’s a good show for the fans and it’s fun for us because we can race each hard and clean,” Carey said. “I knew I had a car that wasn’t really going to drop off, and after the first run, I could tell he was really started to get loose off the corners. I knew where I had to be on the restarts, and I knew if I could clear him, it was going to be lights out after about three laps.”

It was lights out, and in the end, it was Carey taking the early advantage in the Late Model championship standings by two points over Wall. Ever since the second half of last year, Carey’s team has found just a little bit more speed that they needed to get to the front of the field and win races.

“We really have put a lot into our program, and we felt like we should have been up to this speed a long time ago. The luck never came around until late last year, where everything seemed to start clicking,” Carey said. “Over the winter, we found the little weak points that it had and we focused on fine-tuning. It’s just finally all paying off. It’s a fun ride to be on.”

Sunday’s Late Model race marked a new venture for some competitors, and one they didn’t expect until just minutes before the green flag was scheduled to fall. With the time closing in on the start of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, the decision was made to run the Late Models after the tour’s Icebreaker 150, therefore, some drivers were thrown for a curveball because of the rubber left on the track from the Modifieds.

Teams were awarded a short few laps of practice on the track prior to the green and were given the opportunity to come down pit road and make adjustments. It could have ultimately been the decision by Carey not to make any adjustments to his car that helped him win.

“The Whelen Modified Tour rubber makes it so you really don’t know what it’s going to be like going into it. When you’re in a situation like that, I don’t think there is even any point in making changes to the car. It’s just a matter of the track not having enough grip for the tires, there really isn’t much to do to your chassis,” Carey said. “I was just going to figure out the best line on the track and drive it with the cars we were being dealt. A lot of people made adjustments, and I think that hurt a lot of them.”

For Carey, the opportunity to work with his dad, and more close friends, has given him the chance to take his racing game to the next level. The group competed down south at Richmond Raceway just one week before coming north for the Icebreaker to begin his title quest.

“I’m at the point where I’ve only been driving in my sixth year now, and they can trust me in order to know what I need to feel in my race car. It’s just a really good program right now,” Carey said. “All of the ducks are in a row and everything is falling together for us. We are going to ride it out as long as we can.”

Waterman Off To Good Start in Search For Second Title

While some of the talk prior to the race was about the ‘Swaggin Waggon’, a new car that defending champion Shawn Monahan was debuting, the battle at the front of the field at the Icebreaker surrounded Ryan Waterman. And he might be a name fans will be watching when it comes time to crown a champion at the end of the year.

The Danielson, Connecticut, driver started third, but didn’t waste any time, taking the lead on lap three and driving into Victory Lane to open the season. Three years after winning his first title, Waterman is in one of the best positions he’s been in years, he thinks.

With a new car, a new car owner, and a refreshed mindset, Waterman isn’t letting anything get in his way.

“That new car is just sweet,” Waterman said. “I can’t even put it into words. It just took off and I never had to look back. Hopefully, we can stay consistent, and smooth, and clean… keep this going.”

The partnership with a new car owner started over the winter.

“I’ve always driven for myself and my family, but my new car owner Randy Chamberland, he came to me and asked me if he build a brand new car if I would drive it for him,” Waterman said. “I couldn’t pass that up.”

With the 10-race NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule not returning to the track until May 19 with the Limited Sportsman Extra Distance event on tap that day, Waterman will have a little bit of time to ponder how to make the car even faster, so he can slice through traffic.

“Winning, that’s always the goal for me, but I’d like to get my second championship. I won in 2016 with no wins and I’d like to get it with a good handful of feature wins this year,” he said. “With a new car and a fresh start, that should be in the cards.”

In Thompson’s other three NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions, Keith Rocco started another Sunoco Modified season in Victory Lane as he looks to make it four straight titles this season, while Bryan Narducci continued his perfection in the SK Light Modifieds®, winning a fifth straight and opening their title chase at the top. In the Mini Stocks, veteran Steve Michalski opened the season with the checkered flag.

Over the next month, Thompson officials will begin to prepare the facility for the Limited Sportsman Extra Distance & Military Night, scheduled for Sunday afternoon, May 19.  All five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will compete over the course of the day.

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, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo: Tom Morris Myracenews