Thompson, Conn.: Ryan Preece took advantage of missteps from his competition to claim victory in a special 20/20 Sprint event of the Sunoco Modified Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, July 30th. The night included Thompson’s four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions, along with the Vintage Outlaws, taking to the track for a night that would include its share of drama and exciting racing resulting in hard fought victories for some of the track’s most prominent contenders.
Jeff Smith took the first win of the night and his first at the “Big-T” as the Late Models took center stage. Smith’s victory came in the wake of a very dramatic and eventful opening race after the early laps were dominated by a three way battle between Nick Ladyga, John Lowinski-Loh and Glenn Boss battling it out for the lead before drama ensued following a lap two caution. Ladyga held off his rivals on the lap three restart before a battle for second between Lowinski-Loh and Boss resulted in Boss going around in turns one and two. The drama continued when Boss and Lowinski-Loh were once again involved in an incident in the first two turns on lap eleven where it appeared that Rick Gentes got into the back of Ladyga, pushing him into Lowinski-Loh who had taken the lead going into turn one. The contact send Lowinski-Loh spinning and collected several cars in the process including Boss’ vehicle.
The incident created a red flag scenario, but not before Lowinski-Loh made his frustrations known after exiting his car and tossing his helmet at Ladyga’s car. Ladyga would restart beside Rick Gentes before being freight-trained by multiple cars and falling back in the field, eventually finishing ninth. Smith came from the shadows to battle Gentes and finally wrestled away the lead on lap seventeen before holding off Damon Tinio for the lead on the final lap. Tinio held on for second while Marc Curtis, Jr., Larry Gelinas and Chris Curtis rounded out the top five. Smith said he was thrilled to find success in Thompson, “Overall I’m happy with the car. It was a lot better than the last time we came here.”
The Vintage Outlaws Modified Tour event proved to be more tame as Paul Suprenant of Springfield, Massachusetts took home the trophy after taking the lead in the opening laps. Halfway through the 15-lap event the field was single file with the only drama being the issues experienced by Dayville, Connecticut native Charlie Wilcox who started on the front row and almost immediately fell through the field, finishing in the rear.
The night’s mini stock feature saw Pascoag, Rhode Island native Joe Baxter take the checkered flag after spending the better part of the race battling his brother Chad Baxter for position. Baxter said racing his brother was an exciting experience, “You can’t ask for anything better than that, two brother racing.”
Jim Helger of Rutland, Massachusetts started out front for the race but almost immediately fell back and eventually spun, slamming almost head on into the turn two wall. Helger climbed from the vehicle apparently uninjured while the incident resulted in a brief red flag on lap two. The ensuing restart would set the stage for the Baxter brother’s battle to the finish. The Baxter brothers had a competitive race, fighting off assaults from Mike Viens and Eric Bourgeois and enduring several more restarts due to minor incidents.
The night’s big event was the Sunoco Modified Series 20/20 Sprint event which was separated into three segments, two twenty laps races and a ten lap shootout to the finish. The first twenty laps saw drivers lined up through qualifying while the second segment inverted the field using the results of the first race. The third and final segment lined drivers up based on lap times from the first segment with the most consistent driver, or the one with the least amount of points after all three races, winning the overall event.
The first segment saw Thompson regular Keith Rocco of Berlin, Connecticut dominate while another Thompson Speedway regular and current Sunoco Modified points leader Ryan Preece battled Kerry Malone and Woody Pitkat for position in the top four. Rocco went on to win the first segment and commented on his victory, “You know we were a little off in the heat race. We found something that was throwing the car off and we fixed it. I think we learned something here and we have something for the next race.”
Unfortunately Rocco’s success was short lived when mechanical issues sidelined his efforts in the second segment. Pitkat also suffered mechanical issues during the first two segments leaving Ryan Preece to run away with the second segment and achieve the pole position in the third segment for his fastest lap time in segment one. Preece, Rocco, Pitkat, Malone and Todd Ceravolo were all involved in close quarters racing, at some points three or more wide, throughout the second segment.
Preece entered the third segment with nothing to lose with his closest rivals in the championship standings, Rocco and Pitkat, sidelined. When the green flag waved for the final ten lap sprint he was able to fight off hard-charging Malone to claim the victory and the overall win for the three-part feature. “This car is lightning fast. I’m having a lot of fun,” said Preece. “I’m having such a good time racing with all my race teams. It makes it enjoyable to go to the race track, […] and see if we can get some tour wins and keep this success going.”
The night concluded with the Xtramart Limited Sportsman series and Corey Hutchings of Salem, Connecticut taking the win in dominant fashion. By lap five Hutchings was leading the field after starting near the front before three-wide racing in the back of the pack led to a wreck and a caution with just over ten laps left to run. Hutchings maintained his lead off the restart opening up almost half a straightaway advantage on his competition before taking the checkered flag. Shaun Monahan, Moose Douton, Steve Kenneway and Ryan Waterman rounded out the top five for the night’s final event.
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Ryan Preece, N. Falmouth, MA; 2. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 3. Cam McDermott, Scituate, RI; 4. Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 5. Troy Talman, Oxford, MA; 6. Tyler Chadwick, Ledyard, CT; 7. John Catania, Agawam, MA; 8. Andrew Dzenkowski, East Marion, NY; 9. Andrew Major, Brookfield, MA; 10. Andrew Charron, E. Greenwich, RI.
LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Jeff Smith, Old Lyme, CT; 2. Damon Tinio, Mendon, MA; 3. Marc Curtis, Jr., Worcester, MA; 4. Larry Gelinas, Buxton, ME; 5. Chris Curtis, Rutland, MA; 6. Rick Gentes, Burrilville, RI; 7. Jared Materas, W. Springfield, MA; 8. Randy Tucker, Millis, MA; 9. Nick Ladyga, Voluntown, CT; 10. Robert O’Connell, Wrentham, MA.
MONSTER MINI STOCK FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Joe Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 2. Eric Bourgeois, E. Haddam, CT; 3 Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 4. Chad Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 5. Jeff Moffat, Smithfield, RI; 6. Nick Anderson, Oxford, MA; 7. Steve Michalski, Brooklyn, CT; 8. Mike D. Viens, Putnam, CT; 9. Eddie Field, Deep River, CT; 10. Car #06
XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Corey Hutchings, Salem, CT; 2. Shawn Monahan, Waterford, CT; 3. Moose Douton, Waterford, CT; 4. Steve Kenneway, Lowell, MA; 5. Ryan Waterman, Danielson, CT; 6. Scott Sundeen, Sutton, MA; 7. Jesse Gleason, Lisbon, CT; 8. William Wall, Shrewsbury, MA; 9. Mike Palin, Dudley MA; 10. Chris Meyer, North Franklin, CT.