The Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing kicked off Friday with practice and qualifying for a handful of divisions, as well as a 25-lap feature for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models. Catch up on all of the action with Speed51.com’s notebook.
The Final “ACT”
Friday marked the return of the American Canadian Tour Late Models to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the first time since 1992, with two 30 minute practice sessions in advance of Saturday’s 100-lap season finale.
With a number of Thompson drivers planning to enter the event, there were questions of how the Tour regulars would stack up. Throughout the afternoon the Tour drivers asserted their dominance with Brandon Atkins topping the charts in the first session over Brian Hoar and Eddie MacDonald. In the second session, Hoar shifted to the top spot over MacDonald and Atkins. Championship leader Wayne Helliwell, Jr was seventh in both sessions, with second-place Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. timing in at fourth and sixth fastest.
Heat races and the 100-lap feature will be run Saturday afternoon and evening for the season finale. Helliwell unofficially needs to finish 11th or better to clinch the championship.
MRS “Heats Up”
It was down to business right from the drop of the jacks for the competitors of the Modified Racing Series on Friday at the World Series. First in a 45 minute practice session three-time series champion Jon McKennedy set quick time and looked to be strong as the series prepared for qualifying heat races later in the evening.
In the first heat race Todd Szegedy led from the drop of the green flag, but most eyes were on the back of the field as Keith Rocco and championship contender Chris Pasteryak made their charge to the front. Rocco ran down Szegedy for the heat win, while Pasteryak finished fifth.
The first heat was supposed to include defending champion Rowan Pennink, but he dropped out with an ailing car after not making race laps in practice.
“We haven’t made a lap on the track all day. We’ve been trying to figure it out,” Pennink told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We thought it was something in the ignition, but that wasn’t it. Then we thought maybe it’s sucking air in the fuel pick up. And we also thought maybe a fuel pump went bad. We’re just changing everything. Eventually we will figure it out. We will have to start at the rear tomorrow, but we will be alright.”
Championship leader Woody Pitkat would go from 10th to first in just four laps to win heat two. You can watch from inside the cockpit as Pitkat’s charges to the front row now on the 51 Network.
Local SK Modified driver Eric Berndt won the third and final heat race. The MRS will have their 50-lap feature to end the season on Saturday night. Pitkat leads Pasteryak by seven markers in the standings heading into the season finale.
The Sunoco World Series marks the fourth and final stop of the season in New England for the ISMA Supermodifieds with Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park serving as one of the few tracks where these mighty machines can really stretch their legs.
Avon, Ohio’s Dave Shullick Jr. comes into the weekend looking to bring home his first championship in ISMA competition. Shullick also leads the series with four wins in 2015, including last time out in the “Star Classic” at Epping, NH on September 12.
Shullick was second fastest in practice Friday behind Mike Lichty, who’s looking to sweep the two Connecticut races in 2015 after winning at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on August 8.
Late Moves in Late Models
With many drivers planning to enter Saturday’s ACT feature, Thompson decided to hold their NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model 25-lap season finale feature in advance on Friday night.
After a strong performance in qualifying heats, Keith Rocco assumed the points lead from rookie Brian Tagg going into the final feature of 2015.
Larry Gelinas dominated the evening’s affair in the lead, while Rocco struggled with passing Jeff Smith for the second spot. Tagg rebounded from some early race contact to chase down the top two in the closing laps.
After Rocco had finally made his way by Smith with two laps to go, the championship looked to belong to “Kid Roc”. But Tagg defied the odds, with a diving move in turn one on the last lap, passing Smith for third, and getting behind Rocco who finished second to race winner Gelinas.
The move was just in time to earn Tagg the 2015 Thompson Late Model championship, only one point ahead of Keith Rocco. Both Tagg and Gelinas celebrated as the first champion and race winner to be crowned on World Series weekend.
There was plenty of heat race action for other divisions Friday. In the Thompson Mini Stocks Jeff Moffat and Dave Trudeau took the heat wins, while Ed Puleo and Joe Arena were victorious in Northeast Steet Stock Tour heats.
Puleo then doubled up in his New England Truck Series heat, while Bert Oullette took down the second for the Trucks. Haywood Herriott and Toby Wells were triumphant in the Northeast Mini Stock Tour. Finally Tony Membrino Jr took the Lite Modfied heat. These divisions will hold their feature events on Saturday.
Qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, as well as feature events for the American-Canadian Tour and Valenti Modified Racing Series also take place Saturday.
A full Trackside Now replay of Friday’s action can be viewed by clicking here.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com