Noah Watts/Myracenews photo
By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
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.