For the 58th time in its history, Thompson Speedway will showcase one a grand lineup of short track racing in Connecticut’s ‘Quiet Corner’. With 19 divisions of racecars contesting this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 9-11; there are a number of drivers ready to throw their names into multiple hats.
One crossover to watch is that of a trio NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers competing in the ISMA Big-Block Supermodifieds on Sunday. While Anthony Nocella and Ronnie Williams will each be strapping into a Supermodified for the first time in their racing careers this weekend, it will be World Series business as usual for Jon McKennedy.
The 2017 ISMA champion has only started two races on the 2020 Supermod schedule, which itself has been dramatically reduced due to COVID-19. But, McKennedy is perfect in every start he has made in ISMA, going back to when he scored the win in the World Series in 2019. The emotional victory, which he dedicated to his father, was his first in any racecar at Thompson.
Coupled with his wins in 2020 in New Hampshire during the Ollie Silva Mid-Summer Classic at Lee USA Speedway and the Bob Webber Sr. Memorial at Star Speedway, McKennedy is looking for his fourth straight in Sunday’s 50-lap feature. A race that was only added to the World Series schedule in the past few weeks. A jovial McKennedy is more than eager to unleash that full 900 horsepower.
“For sure, the Supers there are always a lot fun to drive. It’s one of the few places you can run a Super to its full potential, a big track with all that horsepower. We’re feeling pretty good, we got a lot of notes to go off of, and obviously a lot of momentum winning the last three races in a row,” McKennedy told Speed51.
As for the campaign on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, McKennedy has also shown speed in the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7NY in 2020. But, the Chelmsford, MA driver has been unable to deliver the final blow to collect a race win. Expecting to unload quick again, McKennedy only hopes to be the one to deliver the knockout punch after 150 laps on Sunday evening.
“We’re in the hunt every race, it just seems like when we’re in contention at some point something doesn’t go our way. This year we’ve led laps, had some podium finishes, and won some poles. At the end of the day, we just can’t seal the deal. We need some consistency at the end of the race, if we can do that, then we can win on Sunday.”
While McKennedy will get a usual methanol fueled dose of horsepower, fellow Massachusetts driver Anthony Nocella will get his first Supermodified sized helping, as he will make his ISMA debut driving for longtime car owner Howie Lane.
“I am looking forward to it, I’ve always wanted to run one. Outside of Modifieds I’ve run Midgets and stuff like that, but never got to run a Super. It should be fun. Just one of those things that just came together, Howie called me about a week or so ago, asked if I was interested in running one of his cars at Thompson for him,” Explained Nocella.
Even with both ISMA and NWMT features on Sunday, plus all practice and qualifying on Saturday, some recent schedule revisions have spaced certain divisions with high driver crossovers away from each other. A decision that plays into the hands of the Woburn, MA native.
“It shouldn’t be too bad, a little running around, but should be able to handle it. The schedule they got this year really works well. It’s just practice and qualifying with both cars on Saturday. Sunday the Super race is the first of the day and the Tour race is last on the day. Plenty of time in between, should be good.”
As for Nocella’s quest for his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory, prospects have only gotten better as 2020 has rolled on. Taking over the No. 82 Danny Watts owned Modified in the third race of the season after contesting his usual family-owned No. 92, the new driver-team combination has made great strides, despite the pandemic shorted schedule. Despite a single win at Thompson in a Modified Racing Series sanctioned race in 2017, Nocella has been consistent at ‘The Big T’.
Now, he hopes that to turn that consistency into a performance that will turn a lot of heads after 150 laps.
“We’ve been having good runs for the most part since I joined up with them. Some Top 5’s and Top 10’s, besides the last one out at Stafford when we got collected in a wreck. All and all we’ve been happy, we got some speed, last time at Thompson we had a real fast car, but just got messed up spinning around two or three times, and ended up coming back. We had a much better car than where we finished, I’m looking forward to this weekend to see if we can end up front this time.”
Like Nocella, Ronnie Williams will also make his ISMA debut at Thompson this weekend, also driving for Howie Lane; with the two being teammates for the weekend. Williams on the other hand will be running a racing schedule that to some, might seem a bit… bonkers.
In addition to the Lane Supermod, and the No. 50 Adam Skowrya NASCAR Whelen Modified the Ellington, CT hotshot will also be in his usual seat in Skowrya’s SK Modified for the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature on Sunday. In addition, he will compete Saturday night for $5,000 in the Budweiser Modified Open 75 with Gary Casella’s No. 25 Modified. Plus, he will skip any Friday practice to compete in the last 2020 weekly event of Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified season, extended into October by the pandemic.
It is a schedule that is dizzying to many, but only serves to fire up the two-time Stafford SK champion.
“It is 100 percent the most I’ve ever done in a weekend. Got to remember I’ll be racing Friday at Stafford in the SK. Five races in three days at two tracks is pretty incredible. Just taking a look at the schedule Saturday it’s like, holy cow it won’t stop! You just go from one thing to another. It’ll be fun though, that’s what you dream of as a kid is just racing every chance you can get,” Said an enthusiastic Williams.
While the Tour-type and SK races have been on Williams schedule from the beginning, the ISMA ride with the Howie Lane team is a late edition. It is a ride that came about after some vouching from the man who Williams earned the 2019 Tri-Track Open Modified Series title with, Gary Casella.
“I am extremely excited, I talked to Gary about it when we won up at White Mountain last month. I just threw it out there and said, ‘I can get you a ride.’ I was like, ‘No you can’t.’ Then he called me last week and asked if I wanted to do it. I remember when Stafford did those Tuesday night shows in the summer back in the day, those cars are just badass. It’s going to be a big learning experience, but I think I’m up for it.”
In regards to Saturday’s Modified Open, Williams is supremely confident, especially coming off a World Series win last year with the No. 25 in what was an MRS sanctioned event.
“Any time I go anywhere with Gary’s car, I know I’m going to have a shot to win. Last year it was 50 laps, this year it’s 75 laps, so there may be more saving involved there. We’re just going to have see how the race pans out, but I know we got a great shot to win that $5,000 on Saturday night.”
As for over the Skowrya No. 50 camp, Williams has his usual confidence in himself and the team for a Sunoco Modified victory. But, that confidence has now made its way over to the Whelen Modified operation, despite the team’s first season in NASCAR competition being hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s gone really well actually, we’re learning with every race. Stafford, that car came alive for the feature after we struggled in practice and qualifying, we finished seventh. Back in September at Thompson we didn’t have as strong a car as we wanted, but Adam went back and did his homework, and I think we can have a strong run come Sunday.”
Tickets are still available for the 58th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing, but for those unable to make it to Thompson Speedway this weekend, Speed51.TV will provide a live pay-per-view broadcast of 13 racing divisions on the Saturday and Sunday portions of the program, including the ISMA Supermodifieds and Sunoco Modifieds on Sunday, and Budweiser Modified Open on Saturday. (Click here to order PPV)
While NBC TrackPass will provide the broadcast of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, there will be full post-race coverage, including a one-on-one with the 2020 champion early next week on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51