THOMPSON, Conn. – With his diverse background in racing, it should come as no surprise that William Wall seems to have found a knack for Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
Wall has driven cars from dirt to asphalt, spanning from quarter-midgets, the NEMA Midgets, Thompson’s Limited Sportsman and even most recently in Thompson’s competitive Late Model division.
In 2016, Wall was able to drive his Wall Trucking No. 4 Late Model into Victory Lane at the season-finale as the champion of Thompson’s Late Model class. That accomplishment will surely stick in his mind forever.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career, being able to call myself a Thompson Speedway champion and hold the title was really cool,” Wall said. “I had people I had never met before come up to me and said they recognized me because I had won the Thompson championship.”
His heartbreak moment, which came in 2017, saw him finish second in the championship chase, coming up just short of going back-to-back. That gave Wall some extra motivation to look for one more spot in 2018 – but after one bad week in a seven-race schedule — he found himself trailing in the standings for much of the year. He did recover to fourth in the final tally, but it wasn’t quite what he was looking for.
Maybe this year his luck will turn back in his favor.
With three more races planned to get the job done, Wall is one driver excited for Thompson’s return to a 10-race NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule, especially because his 2016 title came during a 10-race slate.
“I definitely like the 10-race schedule a lot better, because it gives the team an opportunity to redeem yourself if you do have a bad week,” Wall said. “In the seven races, if you have a bad week, you are already really out of the championship race.”
Thompson’s Late Model class has been well known for races that come down to the wire, often even the final few feet, with drivers giving it their all chasing the checkered flag.
Last year, 29 drivers hit the high-banked oval in competition, with four different drivers visiting Victory Lane over seven races. Even though Ryan Morgan won three times, and Mark Jension followed up with two of his own, the top five in the standings ended up separated by just 33 points, with newcomer Nick Johnson crowned the eventual champion.
For Wall, it’s going to take a string of strong runs if he wants to win another title, and he knows that. It will also be important to come out of the box strong at the 45thannual Icebreaker, which opens the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season, April 5-7.
“I’m definitely more of a consistency guy, we’ve had great luck at the Icebreaker and it’s always a race I look forward to because my car seems to handle well in colder weather,” Wall said. “I’m someone who is going to try to make sure I get the top-fives and when the points start winding down, I think we will be right there. The starting position is really important, when it takes two, three, or four, laps to pass someone, with only a 25-lap race, you really almost need to start up front. We just want to be in the position to win the race at the end. Almost every race seemed to finish three-wide last year. I just want to go out there, be in the top three or five, and hopefully the wins will come along with that.”
Even with all of the experience in different types of cars, from dirt to asphalt, Wall feels like the Late Models might be the biggest challenge he’s faced in the sport so far.
Why is that?
“These cars are definitely one of the hardest to pass with based on what I have raced. It really puts it up to the driver to use everything they can to get by somebody,” he said. “It steps up the competition level a great deal, and I love that. In this division, it’s all in the setup, and who can outdrive the other.”
The racing operation for the Wall family is just that – time to spend with each other doing something they all love to do. Much like many race teams in the paddock, Wall has a background in racing that stems far past his own two hands on the steering wheel.
“We really don’t have the winter off, we jump right into it trying to find everything we can. We are going to try a few new things this year,” Wall said. “My dad is my crew chief and my brother is the spotter, so we are very family-orientated. My brother grew up driving, so him looking from the outside, he has a good understanding of something I might not be seeing from inside the car. We all work together really well.”
In the end, why does he seem to have that knack for Thompson? What is it about the .625-mile, high-banked, Connecticut oval that seems to have fit his driving style so well? Being victorious in the Limited Sportsman, then moving up through as champion of the Late Model division has given him plenty of experience, but he looks back years to help find the answer.
“I don’t know if it was just growing down at the Little T Speedway, and going up on Thursday Thunder night to watch, it might just be the amount of laps I have watched there and watching some of the big names race,” Wall said. “I’ve been around it my whole life, and I think that really set the tone for how I was going to be as a driver at Thompson. I am not afraid to bury it off into the corner.”
With just under a month to go until the opener, entries for the Late Model division are constantly flowing into the track office to join Wall’s entry. Veterans Paul Charette, Glen Boss, Matthew Lowinski-Loh, former champion Brian Tagg, and of course defending division title-holder Nick Johnson are among those earliest entries. Woody Pitkat is also set to return to Late Model competition driving the No. 91 for Hartwell Motorsports.
Thompson’s 45th annual Icebreaker weekend is just about three weeks from taking the green flag. The schedule for the duration of the weekend has been released and can be found in the event schedule section of the Thompson Speedway website under the Icebreaker event page. Camping spots are still available and can be purchased either by visiting the website or calling the track office.
For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, including both the NASCAR oval and the road course, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
-Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Press Release
-Photo credit: Daniel Holben