Story By: THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – Once a year Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park honors the fans with a special afternoon of racing purely dedicated to the local divisions with drivers looking to squeeze every point they can out of their day prior to the season-ending World Series weekend in October.
That tradition continued on Sunday, Sept. 9 with the Sunoco Modified 20/20 Sprint and For the Fans Night featuring all four of Thompson’s track divisions with the Sunoco Modified drivers taking part in the annual 20/20 sprint featuring two points paying races and a third segment to decide and overall winner.
The Sunoco Modified 20/20 Sprint was, in fact, the biggest show of the afternoon as the stars of the division took to the track for three races including a final ten-lap sprint to determine the overall winner of the event. While the first two 20-lap features awarded championship points all three also awarded separate points based on finishing position with the driver accruing the least amount of those points wining the overall 20/20 Sprint title.
The first segment put drivers in an inverted order based on championship points with the lowest driver in points starting on the pole and the driver on top of the standings starting in last. Points leader Keith Rocco quickly moved his way into the top five in the opening laps of the first segment while Marcello Rufrano, Kyle James and Joey Gada held down the top three for the first half of the segment with Woody Pitkat and Rocco in tow. Pitkat would work his way up to second by lap 16 but couldn’t find enough to get past Marcello Rufrano who took the first segment easily. The win was Rufrano’s first career victory in the Sunoco Modified which had the young driver speechless in victory lane.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was six years old,” Rufrano said. “Now I’m part of the record books. You can’t explain the feeling I have right now. I’ve got to sleep tonight and take this all in. We’ve been working so hard this year trying to get to where we are right now.”
The second segment inverted the finishing order of lead lap cars from segment one and quickly saw one of the best in the business take the lead early as Todd Owen quickly worked his way to the front where he remained for the first half of the race with Kyle James on his tail in second and Keith Rocco settled in third. James closed Owen’s lead to around a car length with five laps. James made one final push in the final corner of the final lap using a lapped car as a pick but Owen managed to score the victory by a nose. After the two points paying races Keith Rocco takes a comfortable lead into the World Series weekend in October. The reigning champ is looking to win his third division title in a row.
When the accrued points for the 20/20 shootout were tallied the final 10-lap segment saw Kyle James as the man to beat for the overall crown with five points while Marcello Rufrano entered the final segment with seven points and Keith Rocco and Todd Owen had an accumulated eight points. The driver with the lowest points total accrued after the final segment was to be crowned the 20/20 Sprint champion. Todd Owens and Keith Rocco started the race up front based on their speeds from segment one while Kyle James settled in fourth for the opening laps. Those positions put Owen and James in a tie for least points accrued and they stayed that way through the final lap. Since the two drivers were tied at the end of the race Todd Owen was awarded the overall victory for the second year in a row for finishing higher that Kyle James in segment three.
“Two years in a row we won this and I’m just happy for all my guys. They are my family. They are my crew. They gave up their whole weekends to be with me and that’s something special. It’s hard to find guys as committed as the ones I have with me here,” Owen said in victory lane.
The Late Models started off the afternoon’s lineup of main events as one of the closest points races of 2018 with only eight positions separating Nicholas Johnson and Tom Carey III for the championship. It was a tale of two races for the points leaders as Johnson was involved in two separate incidents only four laps into the race, including a crash on a restart that also collected Woody Pitkat who was third in points coming into the race. Carey on the other hand spent much of the race in the top five and managed to wrestle his way to second place seven laps into the event before another caution slowed action on the track. Yet another caution flag waved soon after when contact between William Wall and Walt Sutcliffe in a battle for the top three created a multi-car incident resulting in a red flag and Sutcliffe approaching Wall’s stationary car to confront Wall face to face. The wreck was also the third incident involving Nicholas Johnson who spun to successfully avoid damage from the incident.
After two more cautions race control changed the restarts to single file allowing Tom Carrey III to take the lead while Nickolas Johnson worked his way through the field into the top five with eight laps to go. Carey went on to dominate the second half of the race scoring his first Late Model win at Thompson. Nicholas Johnson completed his comeback performance with a fifth-place finish making him perfect in top five finishes for 2018 in the division going into the final event. Carey celebrated the win in style with his family in victory lane and called it a long time coming.
“It’s been a long three years. I feel like we should have won here a couple of times, but we just never seem to be able to punch the ticket – I knew we had a good piece today and I said if that door isn’t going to open I’m going to kick it in,” Carey said in victory lane. With the title now within his grasp and only mere positions separating him and Johnson Carey said his team never races for points and they don’t plan to change that approach when they return for the World Series next month. “I’m going to go out there and do what I normally do,” said Carey. “It seems to be when people start points racing you start making silly mistakes. If Nick wins the championship than he deserves it and if I win the championship than I deserve it.”
The mini stocks took to the track for a 15-lap feature which saw plenty of action up front as the early laps saw two father and son duos, Eric and Evan Bourgeois and Dave and DJ Trudeau, battle it out for the top spot. However another familiar name eventually worked his way into the mix as Wayne Burroughs took the lead eight laps into the event. A late race caution saw Chris Taylor’s car ride the front stretch wall and nearly flip over eventually landing on all four tires bringing out a quick red flag. Another quick caution later and Wayne Burroughs once again held the lead battling points leader Eric Bourgeois to the wire. Burroughs held on to score his fourth win of the 2018 season in the Mini Stocks. Despite having more wins that Bourgeois, Burroughs is out of the running for the title after missing a make up race over the summer leaving Bourgeois comfortably ahead of Jared Roy and Dave Trudeau in his quest for a title at the season finale.
Finally, in the Limited Sportsman it was business as usual for Shawn Monahan who all but wrapped up his second consecutive championship in the division with his fourth win of the season after earning the title winless in 2017.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will close out the 2018 season next month with the 56th Annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing. Considered the crown jewel of the speedway the World Series will see numerous champions crowned including the new titleholders of Thompson’s four track divisions and the crowning of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Series Tour champion as Justin Bonsignore looks to cap off an incredible season with a title and possible season sweep at the Big T. The three-day weekend begins on Friday Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 14.
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SPRINT FINAL FINISH TOP 10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT) 9 pts; 2. Kyle James (Ashaway, RI) 9 pts; 3. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT) 10 pts; 4. Marcello Rufrano (Northhaven, CT) 15 pts; 5. Kyler Cafro (Chaplin, CT) 17 pts; 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA) 17 pts; 7. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT) 18 pts; 8. Adam Gada (Bozrah, CT) 23 pts; 9. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA) 24 pts; 10. John Studley (Framingham, MA) 27
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SEGMENT ONE TOP 10: 1. Marcello Rufrano (Northvane, CT); 2. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 3. Kyle James (Ashaway, RI); 4. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT); 5. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 7. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 8. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 9. Adam Gada (Bozrah, CT); 10. Kyler Cagro (Chaplin, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SEGMENT TWO TOP 10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Kyle James (Ashaway, RI); 3. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 4. Kyler Cagro (Chaplin, CT); 5. Marcello Rufrano (Northvane, CT); 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 7. Joey Gada (Uncasville, CT); 8. Adam Gada (Bozrah, CT); 9. John Studley (Framingham, MA); 10. Robert Palmer Lisbon, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED 20/20 SPRINT (SEGMENT 3) TOP 10: 1. Todd Owen; 2. Keith Rocco; 3. Kyler Cafro; 4. Kyle James; 5. Troy Talman; 6. Adam Gada; 7. Joe Gada; 8. Woody Pitkat; 9. Marcello Rufrano; 10. John Studley
LATE MODEL FEATURE TOP 10: 1. Tom Carey III (New Salem, MA); 2. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 3. William Wall (Shrewsbury, MA); 4. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 5. Ryan Morgan (Gales Ferry, CT); 6. Michael Lindquist (Sandy Hook, CT); 7. Jared Materas (Westfield, MA); 8. Joey Parker (Weymouth, MA); 9. Ernie LaRose (Moosup, CT)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE TOP 10: 1. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 2. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 3. Chris Meyer (North Franklin, CT); 4. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 5. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 6. Jeff VanPelt (Pawtucket, RI); 7. Kyle Gero (Baltic, CT); 8. Scott Sundeen (Sutton, MA); 9. Hank Stott (Medway, MA); 10. Brendan Houghton (Thompson, CT)
MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP 10: 1. Wayne Burroughs, Jr (Oakdale, CT); 2. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 3. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 4. Dave “DJ” Trudeau, Jr. (Mansfield, CT); 5. Evan Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 6. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 7. Jared Roy (Sterling, CT); 8. Tommy Silva (Gales Ferry, CT); 9. Mike Anzalone (Plainfield, CT); 10. Keith Ballou (Pascoag, RI)