THOMPSON, Conn. – Race fans that were in attendance for the 45th annual Icebreaker may have been shocked to see Shawn Monahan’s familiar No. 55 Limited Sportsman roll on the track.
Even though the number itself was familiar to many, dating back multiple years in Monahan’s racing career, the body style was something completely different, and something that Thompson fans hadn’t seen in quite a while – if ever before.
Monahan quickly found a nickname for the new body style, and the car itself – the ‘Swaggin Wagon’ – but the decision to actually put the car together required a little bit of discussion with those in the technical department before he could get it done.
“All I really want to go out and do is continue to have fun. I’m so glad that I was able to have the success that I have had in racing, because as I get older, life gets busy,” Monahan said. “In order for me to continue doing it, I have to ensure that I am going to have fun. If anybody ever knows me personally, I fully understand that motorsports is so much more than going in circles.”
“I had asked different people of authority if I could run a wagon for years, and when I spoke with the inspectors over the winter, and I asked if the kids, adults and the fans would like to see something different pull on the track at the Icebreaker. People find something to complain about and some people find something they want to love. I feel like I was successful in gaining attention in a positive way and bringing attention to the division.”
Unfortunately for Monahan, although he is pleased with the reaction from fans, his family and friends, the car itself will need a little bit of work if he wants to get back to Victory Lane.
“I actually had a really hard time out there. I’ve got more rear weight in the car, and I felt it, the car was actually a handful,” Monahan said. “I felt it sliding around a lot more and I was having trouble holding it down.”
Monahan’s heat race ended with damage, and eventually, even though he did work from the back to the front to finish sixth in the feature, he even left that with a little bit more damage.
“For me to have the altercation in the heat, I had tried to make an adjustment to get it better for the heat race and we only got into turn one on the first lap so there was really no way for me to find out what the car was going to be like. I brought the car home Saturday night, and I can’t ever remember doing that for a two-day show – and when I went back to the track, ultimately, I wasn’t happy with the car again Sunday,” Monahan said. “There is an extreme amount of talent in the Thompson Limited Sportsman division. I’ve got a fire inside of me to kick it up a notch from where I was. I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
For Monahan, the racing career dates back many years starting at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, but lately, he’s found plenty of success on the high-banks of Thompson – winning the last two titles in the Limited Sportsman class in two different ways.
In 2017, Monahan was a master of consistency and didn’t win a race en route to the title, but last year, he dominated the class, winning more than half of the races before clinching a second straight. On top of all of his success, Monahan also races in other divisions -- sometimes even at other tracks -- across New England.
During the Icebreaker, Monahan picked up the checkered flag in the Exit Realty 375 Sportsman feature on Saturday night. And even though the chassis itself has shown plenty of speed over the years, Monahan always finds a way to give fans a different look for their eyes each year.
“If you look back on the history of the double-nickel, very rarely do you see my car come back to the track the same it did last year. I change my number style, drastically change my colors,” Monahan said. “Purple and white was my very first Street Stock back in 1998 when I won Rookie of the Year down at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. I am an avid fan of older cars, and I currently own a station wagon that I drive on the road now. I just sold a 1962 Impala Wagon last year. Even in the past five years, station wagons are becoming more and more popular.”
For Monahan, the opportunity to work with his son, Brody, who has been driving Bandolero cars, has also increased his drive to succeed. For now, his attention will turn towards getting the ‘Swaggin Wagon’ to handle better, and capture victories, as the 10-race NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule continues on May 19, where Monahan and the rest of the Limited Sportsman division will compete in the only extra distance race of the season, scheduled for 30 laps.
“It’s definitely going to be a gamble on how to get the car to stick for the next event,” Monahan said. “We have lives outside of racing, but I’m happy with 10 races. I’m not looking at the points grid right now. My number one priority right now is to have fun, and the second is to get a grasp on what is happening so I can be the best that I can be.”
While Monahan and the remainder of the Whelen All-American Series drivers prepare their cars in the race shop, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is busy preparing for the next NASCAR event, but also hosting various other events during the time in between races.
For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, including those upcoming events, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com, and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
-Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Rick Ibsen