Story By: KYLE SOUZA / THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK – THOMPSON, CT – Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is now less than two weeks away from the season-opening Icebreaker on April 10-11.
As part of a packed 10-division lineup, there are a mix of fendered divisions, open-wheel modifieds and winged Midgets.
The fendered side of the schedule is packed with three Thompson local divisions and three touring series classes. The stars of the Pro All Star Series lead the way with a 75-lap feature as the headliner of the Saturday slate. They are joined on Saturday by the EXIT Realty Pro Truck Series, Mini Stocks and a special $1,000 to win, 8-Cylinder Street Stock open race.
On Sunday, the Limited Sportsman and Late Models get their crack at opening the season. The Limited Sportsman have a special 25-lap feature while the ACT-type Late Models go 40 laps in support of the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Outlaw Open Modified Series.
The early entries for the Mini Stock season include a list of tenured veterans who are heading back to Thompson in search of more glory. The 2019 track champion, Doug Curry, is joined by Steve Michalski, Russell Barboza, Tommy Silva and more as the early contenders. In two Mini Stock races at the Connecticut oval in 2020, Jared Roy collected checkered flags in both. The Mini Stocks are often Thompson’s most affordable class for a competitor but put on some of the best racing at the track.
As part of the Limited Sportsman division, all eyes will be on some of Thompson’s most polished veterans. Former track champions entered for the season include Kyle Gero, Ryan Waterman, Scott Sundeen and Larry Barnett. All four drivers have proven they can get the job done, but it’s been Waterman who has done the most winning lately, taking both races at Thompson during the 2020 season. Additional registered drivers include former division winners Corey Fanning and Brent Gleason, former Thompson Mini Stock champion Curry, Kristopher Kay, former Seekonk Speedway regular Ed Flanagan Jr. and more. The Limited Sportsman division is long known for three-wide action and drivers sliding around the track in search of the checkered flag.
Some of those same Limited Sportsman drivers will be competing on Saturday when the $1,000 to win, 8-Cylinder Street Stock race hits the high-banks. At the World Series in 2020, it was Christopher Buffone who scored the win, and he’s planning on returning to attempt to keep that crown. Buffone led laps early but fell to fourth-spot by halfway. It wasn’t long before he was back out front after all three drivers in front of him suffered mechanical failures, propelling him to victory. This time, he’s hoping to not depend on Lady Luck and dominate the show instead. His victory at Thompson came in his first start at the 0.625-mile oval.
“I’m super excited to head back to the track I grew up watching my Uncle Tom and Mike O’Sullivan in the Pro Stocks and Late Models up until 2011,” Buffone said. “Being able to win my first race there last year was pretty amazing. But I had lots of help from the years of experience my family has there in weekly racing. I think my chances of going back and repeating are just as likely as they were the first time, just this time I’m going in with a few more laps under my belt. There will be a ton of top-notch race cars there, along with ours, so winning would be a huge feat — especially to go back-to-back.”
The Late Models open the season with a $1,200-to-win, 40-lap feature part of the Sunday portion of Icebreaker weekend. In their debut race on the new ACT Hoosier tire, drivers from across New England will commence at Thompson to help open the New England Late Model Challenge Cup. Originally slated to open last year, but halted due to COVID-19, the Challenge Cup allows registered competitors to take their best 10 eligible finishes at participating tracks across New England towards the season-long point standings. A guaranteed minimum point fund of $14,000 has been posted with a minimum prize of $3,000 to the overall winner.
Perhaps the favorite heading into the new year is former track champion Woody Pitkat, who returns to competition with the Hartwell Motorsports team after a successful two years together. In 2019, Pitkat went into the World Series of Speedway Racing in contention to win the championship on the strength of multiple wins. In 2020, in a shortened season due to COVID, Pitkat swept the two races at the Connecticut oval. His partnership with Hartwell Motorsports has proven to be a strong one that is nearly unbeaten of late.
Additional former Late Model track champions in the field include Brian Tagg and Nick Johnson, while names like defending American-Canadian Tour Rookie of the Year Derek Gluchacki, Tom Carey III and others are also expected to contend in the opener.
“I always feel confident going into Thompson,” Carey, a former winner at Thompson in the weekly division, said. “I feel like I should have a couple ACT Tour wins there already — I just kind of got plagued with bad luck. I’ve always had a really fast hot rod there, though. The first time I got taken out with five laps to go, and then on the first lap the second time — both times while I was running on the front row. It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the changes that ACT and PASS have planned for the place. Hopefully they bring the venue back to the glory that it deserves.”
The EXIT Realty Truck Series returns to Thompson with their stout list of competitors. The defending champion of the division is Duane Noll, who is always a top driver. He will be joined by a strong contingency of regulars for their feature. Ken Morin was the first driver to file a registration for the Icebreaker.
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 beginning at 1:00pm. They’re joined by the Sunoco Modifieds, NEMA LITES Midgets, EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge, Mini Stocks, and an 8-Cylinder Street Stock Open. 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.
Speed51.TV is also offering a live pay-per-view broadcast for both days of the Icebreaker. Sign up at www.speed51.tv. PPV passes are $30 for Saturday-only, $35 for Sunday-only, and $55 for both days.