Connecticut is Modified country. That’s pretty much common knowledge. But something has been happening at the big 5/8-mile oval of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in recent years. We hesitate to call it a changing of the guard, but suddenly cars with fenders are starting to become much more popular than they ever have been in Modified country.
“About three or four years ago we went to the ACT (American-Canadian Tour) rules package and started to allow those cars in,” Thompson’s general manager Josh Vanada told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Ever since then we’ve seen a steady increase in our car counts.”
Another positive that came with the change to the rules employed by the American-Canadian Tour will be seen during Thompson’s season finale weekend at the World Series of Speedway racing when the American Canadian Tour ends their own season on the high banks of Thompson for the first time since 1992.
“That was never on the horizon,” Vanada explained. “That’s something that has probably developed in the last 18 months I would say. We started to have conversations with Tom Curley and he came down to the track and we chatted about things and I developed a relationship with him. Scott Tapley (Thompson’s race director) and I went and had lunch with Tom in October or November and we ironed a deal out basically right at the table. That’s something that kind of organically happened.”
While other tracks in the region have been struggling to keep Late Models at their tracks, Thompson’s Late Model division has been growing. The division has averaged 21 cars the last three races, surpassing the number of cars NASCAR considers to be a full field.
“It’s exciting to see every event that we are running have full fields for NASCAR points,” Vanada said. “That’s exciting for a lot of people, especially since there’s a division II champion within NASCAR now.
“And we are excited for our fans. When fans come to Thompson, if we have a 12-car field that isn’t respectable. If you have a 20-plus car field on a 5/8-mile race track, that’s more in line with what they’re accustomed to seeing and gives them the type of entertainment that they deserve.”
Vanada believes the type of entertainment fans want to see is side-by-side racing lap after lap. He believes that the special 20-20-Sprint format used once a year for each division at Thompson helps produce even more side-by-side action.
That 20-20-Sprint format, which features two 20-lap features and a final 10-lap sprint to determine the overall winner, will be used tomorrow night, July 8, for the Late Models, and Vanada can’t wait to see it once again. He explained that the 20-20-Sprint night for the Late Models in 2014 was one of his favorite races he has witnessed at the historic facility.
“We watched Keith Rocco and Rick Gentes battle side-by-side for the entire second segment which was 20 laps, and then half of the final 10 lap sprint,” Vanada said. “I was pretty happy about that because that’s what fans want to see. Last year’s was really well done and I’m looking forward to another successful one this year.”
Fans can catch the next installment of the 20-20-Sprint for the Late Models tomorrow night for just $18. Race fans can also bring a can of food to donate to a local food bank and receive $2 off their general admission ticket.
Joining the Late Models will be the Sunoco Modifieds, Mini Stocks and Limited Sportsman. Grandstand gates open at 3:30 p.m. with feature racing action beginning at 6:15 p.m.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park photo