Thompson, CT: A Thompson International Speedway tradition continued last weekend as five division champions were crowned over a two-day period. On Friday night January 23rd Late Model champion Scott Bronczyk of Thompson, CT was honored along with Limited Sportsman title winner Glenn Boss of Danielson, CT and Mini Stock victor Mike Viens of Seekonk, MA. Saturday night the Sunoco Modifieds and Pro Stocks took center stage with recognition of 2003 Sunoco Modified champion Eric Berndt of Rockville, CT and Pro Stock champ Dave Berghman of Seekonk, MA.
“It was a year that I will never forget.”
That sentiment could be echoed by any number of individuals that were recognized at Thompson’s annual awards banquet, but they were the opening words of a great speech given by 2003 Sunoco Modified champion, Eric Berndt.
The young driver stood up as the champion of one of the most competitive divisions in New England racing. Berndt’s season included three wins, 12 top-five finishes and 17-top-ten finishes. The truly family effort of the North End Auto Parts Team, headed by car owner Ronald Berndt, proved to be a force throughout the season besting a talent-laden field that included second-place finisher Todd Ceravolo and third-place point man Jeff Malave.
Bert Marvin and Ron Yuhas, Jr. rounded out the top-five in the final point standings for the 2003 season. Fifth through 10th in the Sunoco Modified division included Kerry Malone, Bo Gunning, Ted Christopher, Bobby Santos III, and Matty Adanti. Special Awards were presented to “Most Improved Driver” Wendell Dailey, Hard Luck Award Winner Jeff Malave, and Rookie-of-the Year Dan LaJeunesse.
Unique to almost any Speedway in the country, Thompson International Speedway presents two headline divisions on a weekly basis. On Saturday night both of those divisions were recognized. Championship honors of the full-bodied variety went to second-generation driver Dave Berghman of Seekonk, MA and car owner Dennis Gagliardi.
It was not until the last lap of the last race that the championship was decided. By virtue of only eight points, Berghman clinched the championship to keep a family tradition alive and well. The season was highlighted by four wins including the season finale and 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-tens.
By his own admission, not much of a public speaker, Berghman made it short and sweet. “We did what we had to do and it ended up being a good year,” said the man of few words.
Chuck Docherty drove the wheels off of Rollie Lindblad’s Ford but settled for second in the season-long point chase. Berghman’s teammate Norm Wrenn, Jr. had two wins to score his third-place finish. GeGe Gravel and Joe Lemay were also recognized for their top-five finishes in the Pro Stock point standings. Ryan Vanasse earned Rookie-of-the-Year Honors while Andy Johnson was the Most Improved Driver.
A touching moment followed the announcement of the Hard Luck Award for Pro Stock driver Jeff Zuidema. Track owner Donald Hoenig asked for a moment of silence to mourn the sudden passing of Jeff’s father, Gus Zuidema, who had been a beloved fixture in the Thompson pit area for many years.
On Saturday night the management of Thompson Speedway also took a few moments to recognize the excellence of some of the track employees. Richard “Mouse” Morrill & Bob Blanchett were presented with Outstanding NASCAR Officials Awards. Dedication Awards were bestowed to Richard Flemming, Brenda Connors, Larry Houle, Mike Giguere and Herb Sward. D.R. Hoenig was honored with the John Hoenig Memorial Award, an award named for his grandfather, founder of Thompson International Speedway, for his devotion to the track, the fans, and the competitors.
The celebration on Friday night was one of historic proportions, as Late Model king Scott Bronczyk became the first-ever Thompson resident to take down a championship. Car owner Benny Bronczyk is also of Thompson.
“In 64 years of operation we have never had a champion from Thompson,” said Hoenig. “We really want to congratulate the Bronczyks and put them in the record books.”
Bronczyk, who was quick to mention several of his fellow competitors in his acceptance speech, will make a fine representative for the Speedway, his division and his home town. By virtue of his four feature wins and 12 top-five finishes Bronczyk took a decisive win in the Late Model division over second place point finisher Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI. Bronczyk’s championship also earned him special recognition from NASCAR as he finished 4th in the New England Region of NASCAR ShorTrack Series.
Charles Bailey, III of N. Stonington, Ryan Posocco and fellow Stafford Springs resident, Woody Pitkat completed the top-five in the Late Model standings for the 2003 season. Rookie-of-the Year honors went to Darrin Stevens of W. Boylston, MA while other specialty awards were presented to Ryan Posocco who was recognized as the division’s Most Improved Driver and John Falconi who received the Hard Luck Award. Bailey was the recipient of a complete racing body courtesy of Duraflex. Additionally, crew chief for Bailey, Jennifer Mingo was recognized by her peers as the True Value Mechanic of the Year.
Glenn Boss of Danielson, CT was honored with his seventh track title when he received the laurels of his 2003 Limited Sportsman championship. Four wins and 17 top-tens in 20 starts was what it took for Boss and car owner Norm Beauvais to clinch the title. Like his fellow Thompson champions for 2003, Boss’ take included some impressive hardware as well as Thompson Speedway championship apparel, jackets from Obastid and David Lind Racing Tire/American Racer, and a photomontage from Nickel Brothers Photography.
Shawn Monahan completed the season with a division leading seven feature wins to earn his second-place finish in the final point standings and the Most Improved Driver accolades. Also clinching top-five finishes in the Limited Sportsman standings were Larry Barnett, Scott Sundeen and Keith DeSanctis, who additionally earned the division’s Hard Luck Award. Steve Malcolm was recognized as the 2003 Rookie-of-the-Year. In the Duraflex drawing it was Barnett who won the racing body.
Mini Stock champion Mike Viens of Seekonk, MA received a standing ovation from his fellow competitors when he claimed his awards on Friday night. With his mother down from Maine for the celebration, Viens humbly accepted his honor noting the stiff level of competition in the Mini Stock division.
“You never like to see a racing season end,” said Viens, “but Jason (Paquette) was so close in the points that I was glad to have it over.”
Paquette was a mere 12 points behind Viens in the final tally. Andy Publicover, Scott Michalski and Eric Bourgeois made up the remainder of the division’s top-five point getters. Former division champion Rod Rixham had the unfortunate distinction of being the Hard Luck Award recipient. Mike Nadeu was recognized as Most Improved and Scott Michalski earned the nod as the Rookie-of-the-Year.
Festivities on both evenings included acknowledgment of the accomplishments of the top-twenty in each division. Ed Cox, Director of the Featherlite Modified Series, NASCAR Touring summed it up best when he delivered his regards from NASCAR.
“On behalf of NASCAR and everyone in Daytona Beach, we would like to extend our congratulations to our champions and everyone that is part of the Thompson International Speedway program. You guys ARE our program.”
With champions newly crowned, the countdown now begins for the 2004 season. Racecars will get back to the track with two practice days scheduled for Saturday, March 20th and Saturday, March 27, 2004. The action officially gets underway with the presentation of the Icebreaker on April 3&4, 2004.
For a complete schedule for the 2004 race season that features special events for the Featherlite Modified Series, Busch North Series, Pro All Star Series, Race of Champions, Northeastern Midget Association, and International Supermodified Association visit www.thompsonspeedway.com. Contact the Speedway office at (860) 923-2280 for more information on all the Thursday Night Thompson Thunder NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series action.
Sunoco Modified Final Point Standings (Top Ten): 1. Eric Berndt, Rocky Hill, CT; Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 3. Jeff Malave, S. Windsor, CT; 4. Bert Marvin, Waterford, CT; 5. Ron Yuhas, Jr., Groton, CT; 6. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 7. Bo Gunning, Bethlehem, CT; 8. Ted Christopher, Plainville, CT; 9. Bobby Santos, III, Franklin, MA; 10. Matty Adanti, Old Saybrook, CT. Specialty Awards: Rookie-of-the Year: Dan LaJeunesse, Norwich, CT; Most Improved: Wendell Dailey, Gales Ferry, CT; Hard Luck Award: Jeff Malave.
Pro Stock Final Point Standings (Top Ten): 1. Dave Berghman, Seekonk, MA; 2. Chuck Docherty, Springfield, MA; 3. Norm Wrenn, Nashua, NH; 4. GeGe Gravel, Groton, MA; 5. Joe Lemay, Blackstone, MA; 6. Mike O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 7. Jeff Connors, Ellington, CT; 8. Jim Banfield, S. Glastonbury, CT; 9. Ryan Vanasse, Warwick, RI; 10. Jeff Zuidema, N. Brookfield, MA. Specialty Awards: Rookie-of-the Year-Ryan Vanasse; Most Improved Driver: Andy Johnson, Rehoboth, MA; Hard Luck Award: Jeff Zuidema.
Late Model Final Point Standings (Top Ten): 1. Scott Bronczyk, Thompson, CT; 2. Rick Gentes, Woonsocket, RI; 3. Charles Bailey III, N. Stonington, CT: 4. Ryan Posocco, Stafford Springs, CT; 5. Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, CT; 6. Paul Heard, Lisbon, CT; 7. Corey Hutchings, Uncasville, CT; 8. Rick LaFlesh, Griswold, CT; 9. Darrin Stevens, W. Boylston, MA; 10. Dennis Botticello, Suffield, CT. Specialty Awards: Rookie-of-the Year: Darrin Steven; Most Improved Driver: Ryan Posocco; Hard Luck Award: John Falconi, N. Grafton, MA.
Limited Sportsman Final Point Standings (Top Ten): 1. Glenn Boss, Danielson, CT; 2. Shawn Monahan, Waterford, CT; 3. Larry Barnett, Ledyard, CT; 4. Scott Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 5. Keith DeSanctis, Monson, MA; 6. Jess Gleason, Lisbon, CT; 7. Mike Cavanaugh, Coventry, RI; 8. Brian Blaise, Colchester, CT; 10. Walt Hovey, Scotland, CT. Specialty Awards: Rookie-of-the Year: Steve Malcolm, W. Warwick, RI; Most Improved Driver: Shawn Monahan; Hard Luck Award: Keith DeSanctis.
Mini Stock Final Point Standings (Top Ten): 1. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 2. Jason Paquette, Norwich, CT; 3. Andy Publicover, Sudbury, MA; 4. Scott Michalski, Attawaugan, CT; 5. Eric Bourgeois, E. Haddam, CT; 6. Bill Schoeler, Warwick, RI; 7. Joe Godbout, Hope Valley, RI; 8. Roger Larson, Jr., Milford, MA; 9. Ron Rixham, Jefferson, MA; 10. Shane Michalski, Woodstock, CT. Specialty Awards: Rookie-of-the Year: Scott Michalski; Most Improved Driver: Mike Nadeau; Hard Luck Award: Ron Rixham.
Sources: Dale Wolbrink/Thompson International Speedway PR