Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / OSWEGO SPEEDWAY – OSWEGO, NY – Oswego Speedway has seen a good share of impressive rookie drivers over the years, but it’s been quite some time since the Supermodified class has seen one stand out as much as this year’s rookie of the year recipient, Tyler Thompson.
Thompson, a DIRTcar Sportsman standout from Fulton, had never seen Supermodified action prior to the 2018 season. He had raced at Oswego before, but only on a couple of occasions in a Small Block Super.
Tyler impressed in the SBS ranks as well, notably picking up Mike Kapuscinski Memorial Rookie of the Race honors piloting the No. 93 machine in the 2016 edition of the Bud Light Classic 75.
Nothing, however, will top the rookie season that he put together in 2018 with the Jason Simmons Racing, David O’Connor prepared No. 98T Supermodified.
Prior to season’s beginning, it was announced that Simmons and team had acquired the former Graham Racing No. 21 built by John Colloca, which had most recently been piloted by Bobby Santos in the 2017 Budweiser International Classic 200.
Putting Saturday night dirt racing aside, Thompson committed to a full season bid at rookie of the year, and immediately turned heads behind the wheel of the 900HP racer.
In his first ever laps, the 16 year-old high school student found the mid-17 second bracket in his potent ride, providing all of the confidence he needed approaching Opening Night on May 26.
Despite getting caught up in an accident in the first Jim Shampine Memorial Twin 50 shortly after bringing the crowd to its feet when he passed Chris Perley, Thompson later recovered for an eye opening 11th place finish in just his second Supermodified start.
On June 9th’s Spring Championship, Thompson drove to an even more unbelievable sixth place finish in what was only the the third Supermodified race he ever contested in, holding off Keith Shampine who finished just behind him.
For the second time, Thompson was bitten by bad luck in round two of twin action on June 16, which on this occasion was set at 35-laps in distance. In the first twin, he got together with Dan Connors Jr. while attempting to secure the lead on lap 1, but repairs were made to the car and Tyler drove to eighth in the second twin.
Certainly his most impressive run of the season came on June 30 in the Independence Weekend 75, when the rookie drove to his first career Oswego top five in what was also his very first extra distance event at the track.
Thompson finished just behind the likes of Dave Shullick Jr, Brandon Bellinger, and Otto Sitterly in the top three, while beating out a tremendous list of talent behind him including Dave Danzer, Davey Hamilton, Shaun Gosselin, Shampine, and more.
Another solid top ten run on July 7 got Thompson started off on the right foot for his busy summer stretch, and it was the purchase made by Jason Simmons Racing and Lindsey Aggregates one week later that helped bring further success to Tyler’s first full-time Supermodified effort.
On July 14, Simmons and Lindsey Aggregates acquired the former Tim Devendorf No. 5 Hawk Chassis Super, and within a week had the car re-lettered and fitted to Tyler ahead of the $10,000 to win Mr. Novelis Supermodified event on July 21.
In his first run with a Hawk Chassis, Tyler drove to a fine sixth place finish again behind Sitterly, Michael Barnes, Shullick, Dave Gruel, and Jeff Abold.
With just three events remaining in the race for rookie of the year, Thompson had already turned heads at Oswego, and Simmons decided he’d next like to try some winged Supermodified action with his rookie on the ISMA circuit. That began at Sandusky Speedway’s Hy-Miler Nationals a week later.
Thompson instantly adapted to the wing, clocking in at a mind boggling fourth fast out of twenty four seasoned veterans in Hy-Miler practice.
He later completed his first ISMA race finishing in a respectable thirteenth position, before an unfortunate first lap crash plagued his first go at the Hy-Miler Nationals later in the weekend.
Returning to Oswego for the month of August, unfortunately, Thompson pulled pitside with issues on the No. 98T during August 4th’s Retro Night event, but recovered a week later with a solid eighth place finish on August 11.
Going into the final regular show of the season, Thompson had a huge lead over Nathan Schultzkie and Brent Murray in rookie of the year standings, and capped off his quest for rookie of the year with a ninth place finish on August 18.
Thompson took rookie of the year honors by over 300 markers in a season that included one top five run, eight top tens, as well as being awarded the Lighthouse Lanes Up and Comer prize on four separate occasions.
Two weeks later, Tyler qualified for his first career Budweiser International Classic 200 in 17th position, timing in with a lap of 16.559 seconds. He had gotten down to as quick as 16.4 earlier in the season.
Even after his impressive qualifying run on Friday of Classic Weekend, Thompson was not done.
With a strong performance at Sandusky under their belt, the back story is JSR doing the Supermodified double dip the weekend of August 10, driving to Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire on Friday night before returning back to Oswego, New York for Saturday’s show.
In only his second ISMA attempt, Thompson brought the No. 98T home with a ninth place finish in the Ollie SIlva Memorial 75, finishing just behind fellow Oswego regular Sitterly.
After that, a few weeks went by, and it was now time for Thompson’s first winged laps at Oswego. This will come as no surprise, but he impressed with the top on at Oswego right away as well, finding 15.6 seconds in his very first ISMA laps on the fast 5/8th’s.
Engine issues plagued the team late in their Classic Week test session and also on Friday with Joe Trenca, who was attempting to qualify the very same car into Sunday’s International Classic.
This engine problem provided a massive setback for Jason Simmons Racing, but the team fought through all of the problems overnight to allow Thompson to return behind the wheel on Saturday.
As it turned out, Tyler would fire from the pole in his first ISMA Supernationals and had literally the entire field covered for the win a third of the way through the race, but only to pop a motor with 20 laps complete, providing a heartbreaking end to what surely could have been his first Supermodified victory.
When a crash ended Thompson’s first International Classic a bit too early in the following day, it provided for a frustrating end to their Oswego program, but JSR was not yet finished with Supermodified competition in 2018.
After Classic Weekend, the team then replaced the engine in ‘Victoria’ for the ISMA show at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park last month, and at Thompson, Tyler Thompson drove to a fifth place finish in the World Series.
This race at Thompson was only the fourth ISMA event of the season for JSR, but their efforts were good enough to award Tyler with rookie of the year honors both with and without the wing.
The 2018 season marks only the third time in history that such a feat has been accomplished, as Thompson joins Bob Cicconi in 1989 and most recently Jerry Curran in 1992 as the only other drivers in Supermodified history to win both rookie titles in the same season.
Of his tremendous accomplishment, the well spoken teenager said, “I’ve had an amazing year running both non-wing and winged Supermodifieds. I have a great team and awesome sponsors behind me including Lindsey Aggregates, my father, and the rest of the great backers I have. To win rookie of the year at Oswego was unbelievable, but to take both in one season was breathtaking for me. I’ve had a blast and look forward to what next season has in store for Jason Simmons Racing and our team of marketing partners.”
After finishing his rookie Supermodified campaign with a bang, the versatile competitor then took to the clay at Oswego for NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRT Week, before most recently traveling to the Dirt Track at Charlotte North Carolina where he won his second DIRTcar Sportsman All Star Invitational in a row.
Tonight, Thompson will be honored for his head spinning accomplishments at the speedway banquet, held at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center located at the Best Western PLUS in downtown Oswego.
Ticket sales for the banquet are now closed, but as part of the event, discounted room rates at host location Best Western PLUS in Oswego will be available to all ticket holders for $119. For more information, you can call the hotel at (315)-342-4040 or visit their website at
BestWesternOswego.guestreservations.com. Plan to bring your banquet ticket with you upon check-in.
Oswego Speedway’s 2019 schedule, along with a full rule book, are both a work in progress. The speedway’s 69th annual Opening Day has been set for Saturday, May 25th. Open Practice will take place a week earlier on Saturday, May 18.
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