This is one of our favorite times of the year because it is when the track comes alive again. We tend to be one of the last ones out on the Monday after the World Series wraps up and to have a place that is busting with activity just the night before sit silent is strange and empty feeling. This time of year it is just the opposite. It gives you the feeling that the track lives and breathes a bit as the cars pull onto it for the first time of the season. The silence is broken, the smell of fuel travels thru the crisp air and it is alive all over again.
We would venture to say that Thompson Speed Motorsports Park’s Icebreaker is one of the most looked forward to events in racing here in the Northeast. It’s the event that marks that for us, race season has started. Winter if finally over and the points battles start all over again not just for the Thompson divisions but also all the touring divisions that come to town for this opener. This season, the 44th annual running of the Icebreaker will host in total eleven divisions over two days. Included in those are not only the five regular Thompson divisions but also the Whelen Modified Tour (WMT), Pro All American Series (PASS), NEMA lites, EXIT Realty 375 Street Stocks, EXIT Realty Pro Truck Series and the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS).
To get some more details on what to expect at the Thompson Icebreaker, we spoke to Josh Vanada, General Manager at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park to touch on a few points and get some incite on this up coming weekend’s event, the 2018 Icebreaker! In talking with Josh Vanada we asked him what was new for this year’s Icebreaker and his response was “In 2018 we added the season opening event for the Valenti Modified Racing Series. Additionally we have welcomed the Exit Reality 375 Sportsman Challenge.” This is a new event that is being headed up by Marshall Hurley of the Truck Series with the support from Exit Reality. Their race will be held Saturday night following the Modified Touring Series.
“We expect at least 233 cars on the property for the race weekend. This is supported by the significant increase for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the addition of the Valenti Modified Racing Series, and the strong turnout expected in each of the supporting divisions” said Vanada to Mod Squad Racing Media.
This week Anytime Reality announced that they would be adding some bonus money “Don Parsons is first and foremost a race fan. He stepped up to add $250 to the purse for each of our four NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions. We’re grateful for his partnership and support of racing at Thompson” Josh stated when asked about this announcement from Don Parson owner at Anytime Reality and title sponsor of last seasons Thompson's Late Model Champion Ray Parent.
We were talking with Josh about some of the younger/new talent racing at Thompson this season and this was what he had to say, “I think Troy Talman is going to be one to keep your eye on in the Sunoco Modified Divisions. Also, Jack Johnson, in his practice last year is likely to find some early success. Megan Fuller gained some great experience last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the top 10 regularly. Also, keep an eye on Jon Puleo in the Lite Mods, Evan Bourgeous (Eric’s Son) in the Mini Stocks and Dave Trudeau’s Son (DJ) in the Mini Stock.”
“The Fan Appreciation [pit] Party has become a great component of the Icebreaker. I enjoy watching the excitement and promise of the new season as everything is just about ready to participate in their first race. Over all, I’m eager to get the season going. I’m a fan of motorsports, like everyone else, and it will be nice to see cars in action on our 5/8 mile oval.” Vanada exspressed. We agree, pit party's are great for fans of all ages to interact personally, talk, get autographs and see and touch the cars. They are a great promotional tool for, teams, drivers, sponsors and tracks and are a nice way to give back to the fans. We personally always look forward to them and grabbing some great candid shots.
Before we let Josh get back to his busy day ahead of Icebreaker weekend we asked him for some highlights for the upcoming 2018 season as well as what is new going into this year. “Highlights of the season include our seven NASCAR events, the return of the Vintage Motorsports Festival, The 24 hours of Lemons, and our own [Thompson Speedway] sports car racing series on the road course." We concur those all sound like great events! As we ourselves are die hard stockcar fans we cannot wait for the 7 oval events including the 4 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races as well as the K&N East race this year. And of course one of the biggest and hands down best racing events in the nation the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park World Series Held in every October, where last year over 400 cars were on hand for nearly 20 divisions of racing in three days!
For Thompson’s own divisions you will look to see Keith Rocco returning to defend his Sunoco Modified Championship from the 2017 season. The field is always a strong one and both Todd Owen #81 and Woody Pitkat (2015 TSMP Sunoco Modified Champion) in the Mertz Racing #6, who were second and third in points respectively are returning this season. They will sure to be factors in the points battle again for the 2018 championship. As well, no one can ever count out Xfinity Series driver Ryan Preece who drives the #31 Sunoco Modified and as Whelen Modiifed Tour regular Rowan Pennink.
In the Late model division Ray Parent took home the championship for the 2017 season followed by Will Wall and Woody Pitkat all of which are expected to return this season.The Thompson Late model class is one of the biggest and best in the North East and one can always expect a good show from them.
The Limited Sportsman class was won by Shawn Monahan last season followed by Brent Gleason and Scott Sundeen. This class is always a good hard nose race that stirs up rivalry without a doubt. We always look forward to watching them compete as they are one of our favorite divisions. The fourth Thompson Whelen All American NASCAR division is the Mini Stock class with defending Champion Wayne Burroughs Jr followed by Eric Bourgeois and Jacob Perry. While Perry has moved up to go modified racing and will not be competing in the Mini Stocks the field looks like it will be strong as many were out for practice last Saturday.
Lastly is the SK Lite field. They do not run regularly enough to have a points champion they are fun to watch and put on great shows at Thompson. Last years Ice Breaker winner was Brett Gonyaw. At Saturday's Test and tune young shoes Teddy Hodgdon and Jon Puleo were out in their new SK Lites for the first times after moving up from the Legends. Albert Ouellette was on hand in his sharp #151 and should be a contender this year. We are looking forward to seeing how things shake out this year and hope the points battles take the whole season to shape up to show us who the winners will be.
For many of the divisions on hand for the Icebreaker this will be the first race of the season .All the cars are new and shiny and for many the only race you will get to see them this nice before they take to battle. An exclusion from that statement is the Whelen Modified Tour. The WMT has already had one event that took place down at Myrtle Beach Speedway where the winning combination was that of Jon McKennedy and the Tommy Baldwin Racing 7NY team. Jon and the Baldwin team have found early success this year as they just partnered up this year. They had also won the first Modified race at New Smyrna during Speedweeks this year. Myrtle Beach was an exciting race to start the season and points battle off. Some of the regulars that we may have been counting on to contend for the win or even a podium, finished out of the top five and even in some cases out of the top 10. Second was taken home by the #6 team with Showtime Jimmy Blewett at the wheel. He was a substitute driver for Ryan Preece in the Partridge car as he had an XFINITY conflict. Tri Track Series Champion Matt Hirschman found himself taking home the third place finish. We hope that this is just the start of another season that takes till the last race to name a champion and the point battle is exciting to the end. 2017 in our opinion was the best season in recent history for the Whelen Tour as no one dominated, there were multiple winners and the top 5 of each race was mixed up from race to race. We think this year will be even better.
As we said earlier this year Mckennedy will be the wild card that will really shake things up, Showtime Jimmy Blewett will have a say as to how some races end. Matt Hirschaman when running will also be in the way of the Tour regulars finding a easy way to a win. Former Whelen Southeren Modified Tour Champions Burt Myers and Andy Seuss will be racing with the Northern boys when they have a chance. Chris Pasteryak is running a Whelen Tour mod this year as well, Chris has found good success on the VRMS and the no longer active MTS. As always Tour regular top competitors Doug Coby, Timmy Solomitto, Justin Bonsignore, Rowan Pennink and Eric Goodale will be at the front of the field and points. Bobby Santos the III and Ron Silk are always contenders when running.
There are some young guns on the tour this year who I feel once they get their feet wet and comfortable in the tour car they will sure to be turning some heads. Such as last years rookie of the yer Calvin Carroll, Blake Barney and 15 year old hot shoe Andrew Molluer is expected to run a partial season later in the year. We are looking for Woody Pitkat to have a come back season, Woody looked very competitive the last part of 2017 after taking over the #82 car of Dan Watts after the tragic passing of the Legend "TC" Ted Christopher and he is a great pick to fill that ride. My Predictions is the young and very talented Chase Dowling will get his first NASCAR Whelen
Tour win this year. The Jeff Goodale #46 team looks to have there stuff together this year with Craig Lutz at the wheel. Look for this team to be a factor at the end of some races this year. With 36 cars entered!! For the Icebreaker this list could go on and on but we cannot wait for the 2018 WMT to play out! To find their full schedule and follow points standings check out their site HERE.
The Pro All Star Series is on the schedule to race their 100 lap event on Sunday following the Sunoco Modified Race. According to their webpage they have about 20 cars registered to date to compete this weekend and more tend to show up race day. They have already hosted some southern events this year but this marks their first northern race of the 2018 season. For more information on PASS check out their webpage HERE.
This season EXIT Realty has teamed with the Truck series and the Pro Sportsman Series. For the Icebreaker they are putting on "The EXIT Realty Fan Challenge". As stated on the EXIT Realty ProTruck Challenge page, “The EXIT Realty Fan Challenge will take place during the 375 Pro Sportsman race. All a lucky fan needs to do to become a winner is correctly predict the Top 10 Finishers in order from 1-10 and the Lucky Fan will win a 2018 Chevy Camaro or Truck ($30,000 Value).* The fans will be able to sign up for the EXIT Realty Fan Challenge at Thompson Motor Speedway the day of the race and must be present following race in order to claim their prize!” This sounds like an exciting challenge and a great way to get involved as a fan. For more details on who is entered and the Challenge click HERE to visit their webpage to get more details.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series is scheduled to run a 14 race schedule for the 2018 season. According to their release on April 2, this will be the first season in 15 years that the tour will both open and close their schedule on the high banks of Thompson. They also stated that there will be five rookie of the year contenders, Joseph Mucciacciaro, Derek Robbie, Dylan Rock, Ryan Doucette, and Jacob Perry.
There are 50 registered drivers for the 2018 MRS season. Among the registered drivers are some strong returning competitors. The 2017 champion Anthony Nocella plans to run a full schedule. Names of some 30 drivers expected to be at Thompson for the Icebreaker along with Nocella are Woody Pitkat, Sammy Rameau, Mike Willis Jr, Jeff Gallup, Eric Goodale, Donnie Lashua, Dave Schneider, Keith Rocco, Ron Silk, Richard Savary, Rowan Pennink and ROC regular Tommy Catalano. For the full entry list we will share it on our Mod Squad Racing Media Facebook page. They will be running their 50 lap event on Sat night; heat races will start at 12:15 on Saturday as well. As mod junkies we are very happy to have the MRS mods racing Saturday! They always put on a great show where ever they are and they look to have a very strong car counts this season. For more information check their webpage for this seasons schedule and more HERE.
We are set to have a great weekend of racing at the Icebreaker. It will be hard to call what the top few races will be, as far as action and good racing goes with this schedule it hard to see where the headliners end and the support divisions start. Thompson's regular divisons never let down.
As the event keeps getting closer the topic of the weather report seems to be of more concern, not less. Thompson announced that by Thursday afternoon they will make a decision as to what the reports look like and if they are going to be a green light or not. They do have a scheduled rain date for the following weekend April 13th - 15th if needed. We personally are asking everyone to do their anti-snow and no rain dances and hope for some sun and a good weekend for some racing. Keep an eye both on our Facebook page and our webpage as we will post and update once any announcement has been made either way. As well as TSMP website.
To check out our two albums of pictures from the Thursday Practice and open practice at Thompson last Saturday Click HERE.
For the full schedule of events for the Icebreaker click HERE. RG & MT #ModOn
The Icebreaker Feature Races:
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (150)
Sunoco Modified (30)
Late Model (25)
Limited Sportsman (20)
Mini Stock (15)
Pro All Stars Series (100)
NEMA Lites (20)
Exit Realty 375 Sportsman Challenge (35)
Lite Modified (20)
Exit Realty Pro Truck Challenge (20)
Valenti Modified Racing Series (50)