With three events now complete for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT), a theme of domination has emerged. While experienced drivers like Sunoco Modified ace Keith Rocco have been among the top dogs, the Thompson Late Model division has been topped by a relative newcomer to the ranks.
Shrewsbury, Massachusetts driver William Wall got his start at Thompson driving quarter-midget cars on the “Little T” 1/10-mile oval. After rising up and running Midgets, Wall returned to Thompson to run full-time on the big 5/8-mile oval in 2010 driving a Limited Sportsman. In 2015 he made the jump to the Late Models running consistent enough to earn Rookie of the Year honors.
Now, early on in the 2016 season, he has become the driver to watch each week.
After winning the first two races of 2016, Wall entered Wednesday night looking to keep up his dominance in the Late Model 20/20 Sprint event. This format includes two 20-lap segments, which count as separate points paying races, plus a non-points 10-lap sprint to determine the winner of the night’s big $1,000 prize.
After starting in the back of segment one, Wall scratched and claws his way to second, but ran out of time to battle Larry Gelinas for the lead. Wall worked through the field at an even faster pace in race two after an inversion. He took over the lead on lap 8 and went on to score the win.
“We had to make a little bit of an adjustment, that’s why I love the 20/20 Sprint because in between each race we can make changes and hopefully make it better,” said Wall. “That’s exactly what we did and we executed perfectly.”
The 10-lap sprint featured the best battle of the night with Wall going up against long-time Thompson Late Model champion Rick Gentes, who challenged Wall on the inside for much of the 10 laps all the way to the checkers. After a lot of paint-swapping action in the final two laps, Wall claimed the $1000 jackpot.
“That was probably the hardest 10 laps I’ve ever had to drive in a Late Model, (Gentes) is one of the best. He’s been around Late Models for so long, that’s the guy you have to beat,” Wall said excitedly. “Being side by side with him and rubbing paint was fun. I was hoping I wasn’t going to wreck, I was trying to keep the wheels under me. I was more afraid of coming across his nose and taking us both out. That was racing right there at its finest.”
Wall has now won three of the four points races for the Late Models in 2016 at the “Big T” and is focused on keeping up what he considers an amazing amount of momentum.
“I honestly still can’t believe it myself. I just hope we can keep this momentum going right through all the races. Coming off Rookie of the Year really got my confidence up and all my team working real hard. I can’t thank them enough for all this, I wouldn’t be up here today without them.”
Despite the dominance shown by Wall he is hesitant to put too much of his attention on the points battle. He plans to continue taking things one race at a time, with an even bigger goal of keeping his No. 4 intact for the next race.
“Coming into this race I’m trying not to look at it too much,” stated Wall. “I’m trying to go out there consistently, run and keep the car in one piece. It’s a family-owned team, pretty much a low budget team, just trying to keep it one piece every night.”
Despite this, Wall has his eyes set on another feature when the season ends in October, the 100-lap American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Model Tour event which he is guaranteed a starting spot with his overall win on Wednesday.
“I’m going to be racing that. We’re trying to do it race to race, but that’s one race I’d like to do. I like the longer races. Racing against the ACT guys is top notch, if we could compete with them that’d be a dream come true for me.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, LI); Twitter – @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com