RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; It’s October, So It’s World Series (At Thompson) Time

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The 56th annual Sunoco World Series at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway took center stage this past weekend with the Whelen Modifieds, Sunoco (SK) Modifieds, Super Late Models, Sportsman, Mini Stocks, Midgets and everything in between which were in competition throughout the three-day weekend.

When the pit gates opened on Friday a flood of over 200 racing cars entered the pit area.

Thirty-two Modifieds were on for qualifying on Saturday. Ronnie Williams captured the pole for the season ending event. Williams toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.664 seconds for a speed of 120.553 mph. Justin Bonsignore was third with Doug Coby, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Jon McKennedy.

Bonsignore won the battle and the war as he captured his eighth win of the season in the Sunoco World Series 150, ending his title run by celebrating both a race win and a dominating championship.

Bonsignore started third, but ran just outside the top five for the first half of the race. During a caution on lap 81, he rolled the No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet to pit road and changed tires. Quick work by his team allowed him to exit the leader of the race, and he never relinquished the top spot. Jon McKennedy used a late stop for tires, and passed Ron Silk in the final turn, capping his season with a second. Silk was third, followed by Ryan Preece, who led a race-high 83 laps. Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Doug Coby was sixth, followed by Matt Swanson, Bobby Santos III, Chris Pasteryak and Eric Goodale.

Twenty five of the original 33 starters were running at the end. Among those who failed to finish were Dave Sapienza who crashed, Andrew Krause dropped out with ignition problems, Timmy Solomito tangled with Gary McDonald on the start, Cory Osland had mechanical problems, Chase Dowling dropped out after 82 laps with ignition problems, Melissa Fifield’s had handling issues and retired after completing 72 laps, Dave Salzarulo had engine problems and Gary McDonald crashed on the opening lap.

Todd Owen made it two for the weekend as he beat out Ryan Preece for the win in the 30 lap Sunoco Modified main event. It was pretty much the last time in the foreseeable future that Preece would be driving a Sunoco Modified as he will be racing full time next year in NASCAR cup competition. Keith Rocco needed only to start the event in order to wrap up the division championship, his third in a row. Rocco dropped out after being involved in a mid race crash. Andrew Molleur finished third with John Studley, fourth. Kyle James rounded out the top five.

The Friday night of racing served as a warmup for the action still to come with the crowning of Thompson Late Model Champion and the penultimate race of the 2018 Granite State Pro Stock Series season as the highlights of the evening.

The Late Models have been the most competitive division all season at Thompson Speedway both in terms of points and the variety of winners. Four different drivers entered the season finale with wins to their credit but one without a victory was Nicholas Johnson who used consistency to open a slim seven-point lead on Tom Carey, III coming into the final race of the year. In the end though it was a battle between Carey and Johnson. Johnson finished fifth completing a season of perfect top five finishes and winning the division championship in the Late Models. Mark Jenison took advantage of the hard racing behind him to charge to the race win.

The Granite State Pro Stocks took to the track later in the evening with a 50-lap feature. As for the race win it was all Eddie MacDonald who dominated the event to score his first win of the season.

The Lite Modifieds held a 20-lap feature that saw the battle for the win become one-two punch with cousins Bryan Narducci and Alexander Pearl duking it out in the front row for much of the event. Narducci was able to hold off Pearl and get the jump on a restart with two laps to go to take the checkered flag for his third win of 2018 at Thompson and repeat as a World Series weekend winner after claiming victory in 2017 which was his first race in the Lite’s at the Big-T. Narducci, who has persevered through cerebral palsy to become a rising star on the local racing circuit, was named the Whelen All-American Series Division III national champion last month.

Despite Mother Nature raining on the party early, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park successfully held day number two of the 56th Annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing on Saturday, Oct. 13. Todd Owen, driving a car formerly driven by Rowan Pennink, won the 50 lap Valenti Modified Racing Series 50 lap battle but it was Woody Pitkat who overcame adversity and won the series championship. Pitkat finished 30th after the rear end in his car expired.

In the front of the field the early battle was between Keith Rocco and Chase Dowling with Rocco having the advantage in the opening laps. By lap 16 Dowling had hunted down Rocco and made the pass for the lead where he remained until a restart with six laps to go allowed Owen to get a jump, pushing past Dowling before the final caution waved on lap 45. Owen held the lead off the last restart winning a wild and eventful Valenti Modified feature. Owen said restarts were key to his success at the end of the night.

Dowling finished second and was followed by Matt Swanson, Anthony Kocella and Anthony Flannery. A big shout out to Bryan Narducci who finished seventh.

Other Saturday winners were Jake Johnson-American-Canadian Late Model Tour, John Zych-NEMA Midgets, Brett Meservy-Pro 4 Modifieds, Allen Coates- Pro Trucks and Desmond Skillings- North East Minis. William Wall crossed the finish line second to fellow local Jake Johnson of Rehoboth, MA, who appeared to have pulled off a shocker of his own after taking the lead with four laps remaining in his first ACT start. Johnson’s joy was short-lived, however, as the young racer was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for a chassis infraction. This gave the victory to Wall, who had been strong in previous ACT events at the speedway and finally broke into the winner’s circle on Northeast Late Model racing’s biggest stage.

It was a long day as the final checkered flag dropped at 11:55pm.

The Tour type Modifieds return to the Richmond (VA) return for the first time in quite a while this coming week on the 20th, as they will be part of the Commonwealth Classic with a 75 lap main event. The Classic carries a purse of $155,650. Also on the bill of fare are the PASS Super Late Models, 100 laps, Late Model Stocks 75 laps, Limited Late Models, 50 laps and Street Stocks, 40 laps.

It was thirty five years ago that George Summers ran his last race driving the Art Barry #21. It was in the World Series and he won it! In victory lane he announced his retirement. Since then he has been inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame and the Seekonk Speedway Hall of Fame. George’s daughters Kathie Summers Grice and Mary Summers Cortese announced last weekend that their dad will be inducted into the Living Legends Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, Fl on the Wednesday before the running of the Daytona 500. Congratulations to George and his family.

On the speedway stock market scene this week, all three speedway stocks were down. Taking the biggest dip was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 1.83 to 15.99. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 1.16 to 35.65 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.03 to 2.15. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage dropped 2.90 to 53.29 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.52 to 20.59 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.75 to 21.61. The auto makers were also down for the week. Toyota dropped 4.84 to 116.76 while General Motors dropped 2.33 and Ford dropped 0.48 to 8.64. In the home improvement sector, Lowes dropped 4.38 to 105.36 and Home Depot dropped 3.91 to 192.47. The big teams sponsor stocks took it on the chin also. McDonalds dropped 2.75 to 163.82, Coca-Cola dropped 2.29 to 162.02, Dow-Dupont dropped 3.53 to 59.66, Fedex dropped 9.06 to 221.00 and Black and Decker-Stanley Works dropped 12.95 to 129.77 while Target Department Stores went up 0.09 to 84.61.

On the tube this week:

Thursday, October 18
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Net
5:30 PM, Dale Jr. Download, NBCSN
7:00 PM, NASCAR Whelen Modified Thompson NBC Sports Net

Friday, October 19
2:00 PM, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kansas practice, NBCSN
3:00 PM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas practice, NBCSN
4:00 PM, Dale Jr. Download, NBCSN
4:30 PM, Racing Roots – Bubba Wallace, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NXS Kansas final practice, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:00 PM, MENCS Kansas qualifying, NBCSN

Saturday, October 20
6:30 AM, Classic NASCAR – 1988 Daytona 500, FS1
10:30 AM, MENCS Kansas practice, CNBC
11:30 AM, NXS Kansa qualifying, CNBC
12:30 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
1:00 PM, MENCS Kansas final practice, NBCSN
2:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
2:30 PM, NXS Countdown to Green, NBC
3:00 PM, NXS Kansas race, NBC

Sunday, October 21
11:30 AM, Classic NASCAR – 1988 Daytona 500, Fox Sports 1
12:00 PM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:30 PM, NASCAR America, NBC
2:00 PM, MENCS Countdown to Green, NBC
2:30 PM, MENCS Kansas race, NBC
6:00 PM, MENCS Post Race, NBCSN
6:30 PM, NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN