THOMPSON, CT -- As the start of the 2016 racing season nears on April 9-10 for the traditional Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Icebreaker, the Sunoco Modified field is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent history.
Woody Pitkat returns as the division’s champion in the Stan Mertz owned Sunoco Modified. By virtue of winning the title, Pitkat’s team decided to rebuild the car in time for the championship banquet that was held in December for the first time at Mohegan Sun. Since that time, the car has been ready to race and to begin a title defense.
“It’s been a weird offseason because the car has been ready to go and I haven’t been to the shop all winter,” said Pitkat.
When asked if being separated from the team for five months will impact his on track performance, Pitkat felt it would make the team stronger.
“If anything a long break would only fuel the fire more because the team hasn’t been doing the daily grind. Some people may be rushing and burning the midnight oil, but we are ready to go and to fire on all eight cylinders so it will be more of an advantage to us,” he said.
2014 division champion and defending Icebreaker winner, Ryan Preece, has moved up to the national scene and is competing full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JD Motorsports. Preece is scheduled to be on hand for the season opener driving for Al and Cathy Moniz in the Sunoco Modified division. The husband and wife duo also back Preece’s Xfinity Series car as an associate sponsor with their company Falmouth Ready Mix appearing on the car for all 33 events this season. The remainder of his schedule will be determined on a race by race basis.
Adding his name to the list of regulars for 2016 is Rowan Pennink who hasn’t raced at Thompson full time since 2010 when he too drove for the Moniz family in the 31 machine. Pennick, the reigning SK Modified champion at Stafford Speedway, will replace Keith Rocco in the Ceravolo machine and make the weekly 4 hour drive from his home in New Egypt, NJ to compete at Thompson. Pennink will also be on hand for the Whelen Modified Tour event as he takes over the Boehler Racing No. 3 full time this season.
Rocco, a 4-time Thompson champion will return once again, but not only as a driver. He will also enter as a car owner for rookie Ronnie Williams who will run full time. Williams at just 19 years old has already garnered a lot of attention after a 6 win season at Stafford in 2015. He has never run a Sunoco Modified at Thompson and has only two starts at the track including his first ever SK Lite Modified start in 2011 at only 15 years old. It was the first time he drove anything other than a go kart. However, regardless of William’s inexperience at the Big T, he is expected to be a factor this season.
“I’m not worried at all. Keith’s cars are the best out there so at this point it is all up to me,” said Williams. “Last year I gained a lot of experience and matured a lot. I’m racing against guys I know; Keith, Woody, and Rowan. It’s going to be a new track, but I am definitely looking forward to it.”
Not only is this the first time Rocco will own a car he will race against all season for the drivers championship, it is also the first time Williams will drive a car that isn’t prepared by his family team.
Thompson Speedway opens its gates for the first time this season on Saturday March 26, for an open practice session. The Icebreaker kicks off the season on the weekend of April 9-10. An additional practice day is scheduled for Friday, April 8. For more information on Thompson Speedway news and events, visit www.thompsonspeedway.com.
-Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Press Release
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen