THOMPSON CT: As the snow flew Saturday morning, the motors and the fans were fired up for the start of the 2018 season. Saturday at the Icebreaker the Valenti Modified Racing Series 50 lap race would headline the event. It was unclear throughout the week if we would be racing, but that didn’t stop 28 Valenti Modified Racing Series modifieds from showing up at Thompson on raceday. Keith Rocco, Woody Pitkat, Richard Savary, defending champion Anthony Nocella, and Chase Dowling looked to be the favorites to take down the win before practice even started. Richard Savary, Keith Rocco, and Stephen Masse would take down heat wins to set the 26 car field. As the race took off it was clear that Richard Savary had a stout race car. However throughout the whole race there was one driver who was yet to be stopped and that was the #25 of Rowan Pennink.
He would work the traffic perfectly and snag the lead and would never look back. “This 25 team put another amazing car under me at Thompson Speedway.” Pennink told John Spence in victory lane. This would be Rowan Pennink's 12th career win in the Valenti Modified Racing Series. The top five were (1) Pennink, (2) Dowling, (3) Nocella, (4) Pitkat, (5) Rameau, and Tommy Catalano was P6 in his first ever MRS race as he made the long haul from Western NY.
The EXIT Reality Pro Truck and Sportsman Challenge was not short of excitement either. The 375 sportsman race showed a true showing of hard racing when Ryan Waterman, Scott Syerdenski and Shawn Monahan would battle it out side by side for the last 7 laps, ending with a 3 wide battle which would leave Scott Syerdenski with the win in the 35 lap event. The top 3 were Scott Serydynski Sr., Shawn Monahan and Corey Fanning.
The Pro Truck event was a true showing of friendship, and rivalry. Jim Boyle and Josh Stringer were the class of the field Saturday night and showed that by battling side by side for 20 of the 35 laps. A problem in the rear end of the 29 would send him around upon hitting the gas. “I asked my spotter if I hit anything and he said no you just looped it on your own!” said Stringer. It was clear he was upset, but this would leave the field in the hands of Corey Coates and Jim Boyle. A 3 wide move would let the eventual winner Corey Coates cruise to the victory on Saturday night over his dad Allen Coats and Gerard Giordano Jr..
The SK Light race was a showing of the up and coming drivers in our sport and one name in particular continued his open wheel dominance. Bryan Narducci in his Flordia Connection racing #01 put a blanket over the field on Saturday night with Wesley Prucker's Prucker Excavation #22 and young hot shoe Teddy Hodgdon #55 in third spot in his first ever race in a modified in his Champion and Montanari s Fuel sponsored #55. Noah Korner and Glenn Griswold rounded out the top 5.
The NEMA Lites also ran a 20 lap feature. There would be a red flag near the final laps of the race that would involve some top runners. In the end it would be Todd Bertrand for the win. Followed by 2. Randy Cabral 3. Jim Chambers 4. Meg Cugini 5. Avery Stoehr. It was very cold Saturday night but well worth it. It was a long winter and we diehards were there to race and that's what happened. Saturday also saw most of the heats for the weekend as well happen. It was a full day packed with racing with roughly 275 cars on hand for the 2 day event as Fridays practice was canceled as 2 inches of snow fell and then went away pretty fast as it was the "Icebreaker".
The 2nd day of the 2018 Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway did not disappoint. Highlighted by a fan appreciation pit party, the fans had the opportunity to meet their favorite drivers up close and personal.
The Pro All Star Series Super Late Model Tour was nothing short of a hometown hero race. Derek Griffith would take advantage of a great long-run car and was able to dominate the 100 lap event putting on a clinic on passing, and setting his own pace and not destroying his tires. DJ Shaw in the 60 and Jared Irvan, son of NASCAR Cup driver Ernie Irvan in the 28 would round out the podium.
The Mini Stock 15 lap feature would show an old veteran showing the young guns how it is done. Early in the event, Dave Trudeau, Jordan Hadley and Wayne Burroughs would get together, and the 87 of Bourgeois would take advantage and power to his first win of the season. “This forces our hand. We’re going for the championship now.” Bourgeois said in victory lane.
The Late Model feature showed a champion continuing his winning ways starting the year off right. Defending 2016 champion William Wall would show he had the smarts and the speed to power to the icebreaker win as Nick Johnson and Rick Gentes would get together. Wall would end up using that as his pick to take the lead and never look back. Woody Pitkat and Nick Johnson would round out the podium.
The Limited Sportsman race was nothing less than a continuation of the 375 sportsman race on Saturday night, but this time it would be Shawn Monahan taking down his first victory of the season. The defending champion was able to show true speed coming from 12th to 1st. Jesse Gleason and Scott Sundeen would round out the podium. As typical front runners Ryan Waterman, Phil Jacques and Al Stone found trouble in early race incidents.
The SK Modifieds was the first feature and was nothing short of the typical exciting SK Modified race we are used to seeing at Thompson. Troy Talman and Woody Pitkat would tangle early as Troy would give a shot to Pitkat at the end of the front stretch sending him for a fast slide through the infield, at 45 degrees to the track at a high rate of speed. Pitkat would slip back up on the track in turn two in front of a pack of hard charging cars. He would grab a gear mid slid, get it pointed in the right direction and hammer down all while in a high speed slide.
It was an incredible save that showed experience and natural skill and was awesome to see live. There is a in-car video of it HERE. It could have been a very bad situation. Pitkat would keep racing. Up front, it was all Keith Rocco vs. Todd Owen. When it came down to it, Owen would not have enough steam, and Rocco would edge him out to continue his northeast SK Modified dominance. Owen and Talman, Kyle James and Joe Gada for the top 5.
Headlining Sunday was the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Ronnie Williams would get his first NWMT pole, and would come so close to notching a win, as Justin Bonsignore and Williams would tangle on the last lap after an very eager Williams would make a move in search of that first WMT victory and end up in the wall. Bonsignore in the Phoenix Communications Ken Massa owned #51 would end up with the victory in their new LFR chassis. Craig Lutz in the Riverhead Building supply #46 and Rowan Pennink in Old Blue JDL #3, the 2017 Icebreaker winner would round out the podium. “The 2017 season humbled me a lot as a person, as a race car driver, it was just a really tough season. To come back and have a really good car at Myrtle Beach, and come here and have luck go our way today and get a win, it’s a really good feeling.” Bonsignore told NASCAR Home Tracks. Before the last restart with 5 to go the Accel construction 7NY driver Jon McKennedy winner of the last WMT race would run out of fuel, handing the lead to Justin Bonsignore. It looked as if McKennedy had it locked up until then. Most the race it looked like the car to beat was the black #15 of hot shoe Chase Dowling as he was fast, lead many laps and by a good margin at that. But Chase would get a penalty on a restart and would be sent to the rear and ultimately salvaged a P8.
This was one of the best tour races we have seen in awhile. There was tons of passing throughout the race, multiple leaders through the event. Good hard battles. We did not have that "down time" where it was follow the leader or the drivers just riding for a while that can come in the last two thirds of a tour race. The yellows seem to come at the right times and the drivers appeared to be on the wheel for all of the race. The beautiful #76 of Jimmy Blewett ended up on his roof. There also was numerous cars that could have won this race and at times it looked like any one of them might. The #46 of Craig Lutz would have an excellent day with his WMT career high P2, he put on a great show and battled hard in his Douglas Ogiejko prepared car. They Stopped by the Mod Squad camp the night before and told us they were confident but had a few things to get right on the car, it looks like they figured that #46 judging by the out come raceday. Ryan Preece #6 who had a rough race for most of it would put on a show and battle back to a P4. Young Matt Swanson would have a great showing in his Starrett Tools #89 for a P5. Defending champion #2 Doug Coby would salvage a P6 after getting caught up in race incidents during the event. Rob Summers in his #64 would be P7, Chase Dowling #15 in his 15-40 connection LFR would fight back to P8. Ninth would see Bobby Santos in the sharp black #44 and rounding out the top 10 would be Timmy Solomito driving the Starrett Tools #16. He was able to salvage p10 after coming back from contact with the wall on the back stretch as he was avoiding contact with another car.
As more often than not, Thompson made the right call and put the effort in to make the show happen with the concern of the winter weather. We were glad they did, the show ran great and in a timely fashion as they have are known to do; they even had an Air Titan on hand. We want to thank them for the great show and hospitality they showed to the Mod Squad Crew as we had multiple team members throughout the track covering the weekend events and shooting photos. Race season is hear finally! This was a great start to it and we are looking forward to it unfolding.
We are planning on getting some shots up at practice at Monadnock Saturday. Some of us are also planning on heading to Seekonk as they also have their open practice running on as well Saturday. Then next weekend you may see some of us for the Monadnock opener featuring the MRS and/or at Lebanon Valley for their opener $3000 to win for Big Block Mods. We are working hard getting our Thompson photos done and up. Between all of us we had well over 15,000 shots and had a memory card mishap...BUT they are coming in between us getting some hero cards finished up, hope to have everything out soon! #ModOn RG&BW