Without a trace of snow in sight, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park hosted its pre-season open test day for oval track competitors in the Northeast on Saturday afternoon. Ninety-four cars representing a multitude of divisions entered through the gates, and one of the biggest turnouts was from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Approximately 15 Tour-Type Modified teams made their way to the track to prepare for the season opening Icebreaker 150 scheduled for Sunday, April 10.
Teams and drivers came from far and near to prepare for the season. While the usual suspects from the Connecticut Modified scene were in attendance, Long Island was also well represented. One of those drivers who traveled to Thompson, Connecticut from Long Island was Timmy Solomito.
Solomito, of Islip, New York, was behind the wheel of a new car for Flamingo Motorsports. He will begin his second year with the team in 2016.
“This is a brand new car, we are just kind of shaking it down, making sure nothing is falling off and everything was tight. The car was driving really well,” Solomito told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Another member of the “Long Island Brigade” who made the long trip to Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner” was Eric Goodale. He returns with the same equipment as a year ago and is making sure everything is in order following the team’s run at the New Smyrna Speedway (FL) in February, which included a win in the 76-lap John Blewett III Memorial.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we came here,” said Goodale excitedly. “The car is running pretty good and happy with the way it’s driving. We came here to just get some notes and figure out what to do for the Icebreaker.”
Ryan Preece was another fast driver at New Smyrna, winning a 35-lap sprint race and the 100-lap Richie Evans Memorial to start a whirlwind season which includes a full calendar running the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Preece took advantage of the off-weekend to get one more look at the Eddie Partridge-owned Modified that he will pilot in select NWMT events.
“We are pretty good. We just wanted to try what we had at New Smyrna here,” explained Preece. “It unloaded pretty good, so we just decided to tinker around and try different things.”
The Icebreaker is the first of nine races that Preece plans to run on the 2016 Tour. He also plans to run the full Sunoco Modified division schedule at Thompson held on Wednesday nights this season.
While Saturday’s test was a nice opportunity for most participating drivers, it was a necessity for others including former NWMT champion Bobby Santos. The Tinio Racing team purchased two new chassis from LFR Chassis for Santos to run this season. The team suffered “new car woes” with both rides Saturday, but Santos kept his head high while still being thankful for the time.
“To start a season every year, you should do something like this, especially with all new equipment,” he said. “It’s obviously being beneficial to us today.”
There are also some new faces expected for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this season, including Nick Salva, a driver who has competed at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) in the SK Light Modified division. He will team up with veteran owner Wayne Darling for a seven-race slate this season. Salva’s main goal for the day was to get comfortable in his new ride.
“It has gone well,” said Salva of the adjustment. “We made a couple of adjustments (to the car) and we’re just logging laps trying to get some speed.”
A familiar figure returning to the Tour-Type Modified scene in 2016 will be that of Rob Summers. Summers has competed in Supermodified competition the last few years and will compete in the No. 64 car for the KLM team, who brought out a new ride for the year.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Summers. “So far so good. We brought the car here, it’s a brand new Troyer car that we’re just shaking down. The KLM team has worked real hard, it’s going good.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour kicks off the 2016 season at Thompson April 9-10 as the highlight event for 12 division Icebreaker Weekend.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, LI, MA) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com