The Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing is known for its headlining races, most notably the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale which runs as the last race of the weekend on Sunday. Indeed, both Saturday and Sunday have always been jam-packed with the many feature events. But Friday, a major practice and qualifying day, has also become a time for feature racing the last few years, and now for 2017, it is getting a headlining event of its own.
For the first time since April 2015, the Granite State Pro Stock Series is returning to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and to the World Series after a two-year absence. While many Pro Stock drivers are excited for a chance to take on “The Big T,” none are more excited than the drivers who once called Thompson home.
Up until about five years ago, Thompson ran Pro Stocks as a part of its former weekly Thursday night program, giving rise to a number of drivers in Southern New England. Massachusetts driver Derek Ramstrom was one of them, and he is always eager for a chance to race at his home track.
“We used to go there every Thursday and it was a blast. I definitely miss it. We won three championships, almost four,” Ramstrom told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Thompson is in a world of its own, high-banked, long straightaways and real fast. You can’t compare it to anything; it’s an animal of its own, it takes a certain feel to run well there. I started there just before my driver’s license, so it feels like it’s been forever.”
Current Granite State Pro Stock Series points leader Mike O’Sullivan is also ready to return home to a track which helped shape his racing career into what it is today.
“We haven’t raced there since 2014; it’s been two full years we had off. It’s our home track where we learned how to race, so very excited to head back home,” O’Sullivan stated. “My first year was 2001 and we ended up winning the championship twice and somewhere in the area of 35 races.”
O’Sullivan became wrapped in a rivalry in the 2000’s with none other than Ramstrom, with the two always going at it for wins and championships, seemingly evenly matched. At least most of the time.
“We won the championship in 2002 and 2007. We actually ended up tying one year, but Ramstrom got the tiebreaker,” O’Sullivan said. “We raced each other about three to four seasons there and he’d have four wins and I’d have four wins throughout a season. It was always neck and neck. We knew if one of us got in front, it would be tough to get them out of the lead. He was always a car to beat.”
While O’Sullivan is not worried about remembering how to take on Thompson, he knows that he and his team will have to be quick to adapt their improved car after three years.
“Our car isn’t the same as when we were last there, the only thing that’s the same is the center section. We have a different front clip and front-end geometry, everything else has changed,” he explained. “I have all my notes from all those years past, think it’s a little bit of an advantage, plus I know the track well.”
While the GSPSS has typically run on Sundays in the past at Thompson, drivers agree that it may prove to be a tremendous way to start the weekend off for everyone.
“I liked running Sundays with the fans all amped up for the Whelen Modifieds, but this could pan out well. It can be a great show, start the weekend off on a strong note, we’ll see how it goes,” Ramstrom stated.
The Friday date will also be a great cost-saving measure, especially for the full-time teams.
“Opening the weekend at Thompson is a huge opportunity for us. For our series, we try to do the one-day events to try and keep the costs down, to be able to do it on a Friday night is a testament to Josh Vanada and Mike Parks to be able to get that done,” O’Sullivan said.
“I’d much rather figure out a way to get there and race any way we can because it’s our home and we love racing there, very excited for it.”
Speed51.com will have coverage of the Granite State Pro Stock Series from Thompson Friday night and all weekend long for the rest of the 55th Sunoco World Series.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com