Story By: KYLE SOUZA / THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – When Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park comes alive for the Icebreaker April 10-11, the roar of Modified engines will once again hit the high-banks.
The Sunoco Modifieds and SK Light Modifieds, Thompson’s two local open-wheel divisions, are back for another year and will compete at all six events during the 2021 season.
Each division provides a mix of veterans, rising stars and newcomers, but the Sunoco Modifieds have long been dominated by those with the most experience. If anyone is going to visit Victory Lane, they will have to knock-off eight-time Thompson champion Keith Rocco first. The Connecticut native and former NASCAR National Champion (2010) has the most titles in track history and sits inside the top-five in the track’s all-time wins list.
Rocco completed a clean sweep of the races held at the Connecticut oval in 2020 and is the favorite heading into a new year. Rocco has the last four titles, while Woody Pitkat, NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece and the late Ted Christopher are the only other champions in the last decade.
However, there will be a strong contingent of drivers looking to take Rocco off the throne. The leaders of that list include Todd Owen and Troy Talman. Both drivers have previous victories at Thompson, and Owen has been Rocco’s toughest competitor over the last few years. Owen went to Victory Lane in the 2019 World Series and has experience competing with Rocco at a high-level at multiple tracks in the same division.
“Keith is a great competitor and definitely the one you want to beat on the track,” Owen said. “I have a lot of respect for him both as a racer and as a person. I can’t wait to battle him at Thompson, Stafford, and anywhere else we race against each other this year.”
Talman, who scored his first career Sunoco Modified Thompson win in 2017, has put his focus on competing at Thompson this season with his family-owned team. Early Sunoco Modified entries for the season also include former winner Danny Cates, Jonathan Puleo, Noah Korner and others. A strong field is expected to open the season as part of Icebreaker Saturday on April 10 with a 30-lap feature. Throughout the season, some of the top modified drivers from the region will compete in the competitive class.
As part of the Sunday, April 11 race day, the SK Light Modifieds kick-off their season with a 25-lap feature. Last year, it was John O’Sullivan and Josh Carey who went to Victory Lane, with Carey’s victory marking his first career. The SK Light Modified division is known for giving drivers a step-ladder to get to the Sunoco Modifieds, but also as a place where veterans can compete at a more affordable cost.
O’Sullivan is one of the early drivers committing to race, while he’s joined by names like Steve Kenneway, Glenn Korner, George Bessette Jr. and Albert “Bert” Ouellette. Bessette is a former Street Stock champion at Stafford Motor Speedway, who made the jump to full-time SK Light action in 2020. Watch closely for Paul “Buddy” Charette, who finished second in the World Series feature in 2020 and is looking forward to returning to compete at a high level. Charette is a former Late Model competitor at Thompson, and the switch to the Modifieds brought him to New Smyrna Speedway this past February to compete in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. He seems primed and ready to go.
“We are very lucky to have teamed up with some amazing sponsors to run the SK Light Modified division at Thompson with the Polar Beverages No. 28,” Charette said. “Thompson Speedway has always been one of our favorite tracks. We’re excited to have partnered with Complete Chassis Solutions to create a strong team with the goal of winning races.”
Registration for Thompson local divisions is open and will remain open throughout the season.
Marked as the third Modified race of the weekend, the Outlaw Open Modified Series debuts at the Icebreaker with a 125-lap, $10,000 to win event on Sunday, April 11. The entry list for the big-money race includes the top stars in asphalt Modified racing including six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby and fellow tour title-holders Ron Silk and Bobby Santos III. Two-time Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified champion Ronnie Williams, reigning World Series Bud Modified Open winner Mike Christopher Jr., Matt Swanson, Patrick Emerling, Eric Goodale, Chris Pasteryak, Jon McKennedy and more are also on the list. Fans won’t want to miss some of the top talent in the region competing to close out the opener of the New England racing season.
The Outlaw Open Modified Series season will also include four Wednesday night races on June 16, July 7, August 11 and September 15, worth $5,000 to the winner. The return of the Thompson 300, worth $20,000-to-win, will be part of the annual World Series of Racing on October 8-10.
Thompson Speedway opens its 82nd season with the annual Icebreaker on Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11. A total of 10 divisions will compete across two days of racing. Sunday’s card features the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Outlaw Open Modified Series with qualifying going green at 1:15pm. There’s also a 40-lap ACT-type Late Model shootout plus the Limited Sportsman and SK Light Modifieds.
Saturday’s six-division card is highlighted by the season-opening Thompson 75 for the PASS North Super Late Models. They’re joined by the Sunoco Modifieds, NEMA LITES Midgets, EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge, Mini Stocks, and an 8-Cylinder Street Stock Open with a 1:00pm post time. An optional Test N’ Tune practice day is slated for Friday, April 9 with all Icebreaker divisions welcome.
Adult general admission is $30 for Saturday and $35 for Sunday. Kids ages 12 and under are $10 each day. Advance tickets are available at https://happsnow.com/event/Thompson-Speedway-Motorsports-Park-YHPQ. Grandstand attendance is limited to 50% of capacity per Connecticut COVID-19 guidelines. Pit passes will be sold at the track.