Thompson, CT — In difficult times, sometimes the best way to cope is to get back to normal, the “new” normal. The new normal at Thompson International Speedway is a Sunoco Modified event without standout John Blewett III. Last week, Blewett of Howell, NJ, lost his life at the Speedway after being involved in an incident during the Whelen Modified Tour main event.
The management, fans, friends, and family joined the racing community in mourning the tragic loss of such a talented driver and loyal friend. On Thursday Night, the Thompson International Speedway hosted a moving tribute to John Blewett III.
A night of fiercely competitive racing was a fitting homage to John. Two races, the Late Models and Mini Stocks, were decided by mere feet at the line. An emotional Kerry Malone of Needham, MA visited victory lane in the Sunoco Modified main event held in Blewett’s memory. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, scored his eighth win of the season in a Late Model thriller while Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI added to his win tally by inches. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, took home his second win of the season in the Pro Stocks. Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, pulled off a similar feat with his second win in the Limited Sportman division. Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor padded his point lead with another TIS Modified feature victory on Thursday night.
You could have heard a pin drop when the Sunoco Modified drivers filed side-by-side to the infield. Front row starters Josh Steeves and Danny Cates lowered the flag to half mast before track announcer Russ Dowd gave a heartfelt tribute to John and Reverend Don Rivers led the crowd in prayer. With the safety lights on all the track vehicles, Karen Lussier delivered a tender rendition of the National Anthem. A flag, still all night, waved effortlessly during the Sunoco Modified main event.
Cates immediately motored out to a sizable lead over Steeves and Steve Masse. A scary moment near the start of the race saw the red flag flying. On lap three, Ricky Shawn launched over the tire of Bert Marvin sending his car flipping, making a complete rotation, before landing on his wheels and hitting the wall in turn three. Shawn was not hurt in the incident.
The youngsters Cates and Steeves vied for the lead when racing resumed. Their time at the head of the pack was short-lived with Kerry Malone on the move. In a half lap, Kerry Malone was the new leader. After freeing himself from Masse, he took second from Cates in turn one of lap four, he took the lead from Steeves exiting turn two. Steeves continued to run in second while Masse had his hands full with Keith Rocco. Cates began to fall back.
Tommy Cravenho, who started deep in the pack after being involved in a heat race incident, was working his way through the pack. Marvin had begun to work his way back toward the front as well. After a disqualification in the heat, Pitkat was making tracks from deep in the field.
The mount of Glen Griswold went up in smoke to bring out the second caution of the event. A chain of events on the ensuing restart found James Harrison hard into the outside wall. Todd Ceravolo and Pat Moreau were also involved. The restart at the halfway marker pitted Kerry Malone against Steeves with Rocco laying in wait in third. Malone easily resumed his spot at the head of the pack while Steeves and Rocco battled. Rocco came out on top of an aggressive battle for the second spot on lap 17.
Pitkat and Masse made contact in turn two. Both cars slid out of the corner with Masse eventually losing the handle. The remainder of the pack was able to avoid the spinning Masse. Pitkat lined up in the fourth position on the restart behind leader Malone, Rocco and Steeves. Tommy Cravenho rounded out the top five with ten laps to go.
The race was set for an exciting finish after the restart that found Malone and Rocco on the front row. Malone got a great run to retain his lead. Pitkat made quick work of Steeves to move into the third spot. Pitkat dove low in turn one in search of the second spot, to no avail. Rocco was able to maintain the position. Malone could not get any breathing room despite the battling between Rocco and Pitkat. Equally as exciting was the battle for the third spot as Marvin and Cravenho did battle.
Over the final two laps, things settled down with the top five going nose to tail. Malone ran to the checkers a wisp ahead of Rocco. Pitkat was glued to the bumper of the #6 as they streaked to the checkers. Marvin topped the secondary battle taking fourth over Cravenho.
In victory lane Malone dedicated his win to John Blewett. “I will miss racing with him,” said Malone. “I will miss that twinkle in his eyes. God Bless John Blewett.”
Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, has been relatively quiet in the Pro Stock division as of late. On Thursday night it was loud and clear that he was the winner. Wrenn took over the lead on lap five and despite pressure, never relinquished his spot at the head of the pack. After taking the lead, Wrenn showed the way over Dave Berghman, George Bessette and Jay Macedonio. Andy Johnson relinquished the fifth spot when he made contact with the outside wall on lap 10.
With the teammates out front and George Bessette taking chase, the best battle on the field was fourth place. A charging Les Rose was able to maneuver his way past Macedonio to take over the position.
With Wrenn back out front after a mid-race caution, Bessette had a great restart on lap 18 to take over the second spot from Berghman. After a lap, Berghman began to battle back. He got underneath Bessette in turn one and took the second spot back in turn two. Berghman immediately ran down his teammate Wrenn while Rose continued his march to the front taking over the third spot from Bessette on lap 23. Bessette fell into the clutches of Macedonio.
Wrenn turned back the challenges of Berghman while Rose joined the lead duo. On the final lap Rose peeked to the inside of Berghman but could not muster up a real challenge. Wrenn took down the victory. Berghman held on for second over Rose. Macedonio and Bessette rounded out the top five.
Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI took down his eighth Late Model victory but the feat was anything but easy. Paul Newcomb led the opening laps of the main event but quickly had to contend with Pete Yetman. While Newcomb was relinquishing the lead to a charging Yetman, Gentes used a three-wide move to storm into contention. Gentes took over the third spot and then the second, taking Dennis Perry along for the ride.
Yetman was maintaining a 10-car length advantage over Gentes when a spin by Tommy O’Sullivan brought out the caution. On the restart, Gentes got alongside Yetman. The two went door-to-door lap-after-lap. Neither driver could get a decided advantage. The battle allowed Dennis Perry to gather in the leader. Perry thought about making it three-wide, peeking inside of the front duo. He settled back in line but not before taking over the second spot.
Another incident involving O’Sullivan, necessitated a caution that pitted Gentes against Perry. Despite contact on the restart, Gentes was able to retain the lead. The man on the move on the restart was Jay Stuart. Stuart got around Yetman for third and immediately started to reel in the leaders. Mark Jenison; meanwhile, had moved into the top five as well.
The battle upfront was really starting to heat up with less than five laps remaining. Perry looked high and then low trying to work over Gentes. The caution came out with only three laps to go when the car of Jeff Hartwell abruptly slowed on the front stretch. Mark Oliveira and Al Mandarino had no where to go, collecting Hartwell.
On the restart, Jenison was able to move by Stuart for third. Perry continued to hound Gentes, who had motored out to the lead once again. Over the final two laps, Perry continued his relentless pursuit. Perry got a run as they exited turn four to complete the race. He got alongside the leader but Gentes proved to be too much as he ran to the win a nose ahead of Perry. Despite his third-place finish, Mark Jenison watched his slight point lead disappear. Jenison and Gentes will be tied for the point lead going into next week’s race. Stuart and Conrad Cote rounded out the top five.
Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA turned in an impressive performance to record his second win of the year. Jay Pepin jumped up from his fourth place starting position to lead the opening laps of the 20-lap main event. Scott Sundeen went along for the ride moving into the second spot. His march to the front not complete, Sundeen took over the top spot on lap three. Pepin was left to fend off DeSanctis.
DeSanctis made easy work of Pepin and set sail for Sundeen. On lap 10, DeSanctis took over the lead from Sundeen. As DeSanctis was beginning to distance himself from the rest of the pack things were starting to heat up from the second position on.
Ernie Larose took advantage of a restart with six laps to go to take over the second spot from Sundeen. But the battle was not over. LaRose and Sundeen continued to duke it out, Jay Pepin and Larry Barnett joined the fray making it a four car battle for second. In the close quarters, Sundeen got out of shape ultimately spinning in front of the pack to bring out the caution. A little bit further back in the top ten contact sent Puleo spinning as well.
DeSanctis motored away from LaRose on the restart. LaRose ran alone in second while the final two laps were highlighted by a great battle for third between Larry Barnett in his newly acquired racer and Pepin. DeSanctis went virtually unchallenged to the checkers. Larose came home second. Pepin won the drag race to the checkers taking the third position over Barnett. Joe Arena completed the top five.
A night that could have been disaster for the point leader ended with Tim Sullivan of E. Windsor in victory lane. An opening lap incident in the TIS Modified main event involved many of the cars from second on back including the likes of Sullivan, Roger Larson, Kurt Vigeant, Shane Michalski and others. All were able to rejoin the field.
With racing underway, pole sitter Cam McDermott showed the way. McDermott withstood another quick caution; however, a caution on lap four that involved Josh Walmsly proved to be the undoing for the early leader.
McDermott struggled on the ensuing restart, losing several positions including the lead to Leo Oliveira. A fully recovered O’Sullivan had moved into the second spot with Mike Viens taking chase. The winner for the last two weeks, Vigeant took over the third spot from Viens after a lap seven restart. Oliveira continued to show the way at the halfway marker with Sullivan and Vigeant in pursuit.
On lap 13, Oliveira chased his car up the track exiting turn four opening the door for Sullivan to take over the top spot. Sullivan streaked to the checkers over Oliveira and Vigeant. Mike Viens and Glenn Boss rounded out the top five.
Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI joined the ranks of the winning point leaders with his victory in the Mini Stock division. The head of the pack was a busy place in the Mini Stocks with Scott Michalski holding the top spot over no less than five other competitors including early leader Chris Williams, point leader Mike Romano, Ron Rixham, and Joe Arena.
The caution flew on lap eight for an incident that involved top-runner Rick Blanchard.
On the restart Michalski jumped out to lead that first lap. Williams continued to apply heavy pressure when Romano started to show his hand. Michalski was up to the task holding off Williams. Williams was not as lucky, losing the second position to Romano. He continued to fade losing positions to both Caddick and Rixham.
The contenders went three-wide for the lead on lap 13. Mike Romano dove to the inside of Michalski with Caddick coming along for the ride. As they entered turn one, Caddick wisely backed off while Romano took over the top spot. Michalski got a great run coming out of turn four to make a bid for the win on the final lap. Romano held on to score the victory by a foot over Michalski. Caddick had to settle for third over Rixham and Williams.
Sunoco Modified (Top Ten): 1. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 2. Keith Rocco, Wallingford, CT; 3. Woody Pitkat, Stafford, CT; 4. Bert Marvin, Waterford, CT; 5. Tommy Cravehno, Raynham, MA; 6. Josh Steeves, Webster, MA; 7. Danny Cates, Chaplin, CT; 8. Buddy Charette, Woodstock, CT; 9. Geoff Gernhard, Salem, CT; 10. Danny Lajeunesse, Norwich, CT.
Pro Stock Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Norm Wrenn, Nashua, NH; 2. Dave Berghman, Seekonk, MA; 3. Les Rose, E. Wareham, MA; 4. Jay Macedonio, Somerset, MA; 5. George Bessette, Danbury, CT; 6. Mike O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 7. Jeff Zuidema, N. Brookfield, MA; 8. Dave Silvia, Warwick, RI; 9. Jim Banfield, S. Glastonbury, CT; 10. Nick Ribbe, Kingston, MA.
Late Model Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Rick Gentes, Woonsocket, RI; 2. Dennis Perry, Pawcatuck, CT; 3. Mark Jenison, Danielson, CT; 4. Jay Stuart, Preston, CT; 5. Conrad Cote, Lisbon, CT; 6. Pete Yetman, Peru, MA; 7. Paul Newcomb, Jr., Plymouth, MA; 8. John Materas, Voluntown, CT; 9. Tommy O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 10. Jim Kiley, Jr., Griswold, CT.
Limited Sportman Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Keith DeSanctis, Monson, MA; 2. Ernie LaRose, Plainfield, CT; 3. Jay Pepin, Ridgefield, CT; 4. Larry Barnett, Ledyard, CT; 5. Joe Arena, Kensington, CT; 6. Kevin Riley, Plainfield, CT; 7. Scott Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 8. Brian Blaise, Colchester, CT; 9. Tim Taylor, Wauregan, CT; 10. Mike Cavanaugh, Coventry, RI.
TIS Modifieds Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Tim Sullivan, S. Windsor, CT; 2. Leo Oliviera, Raynham, 3. Kurt Vigeant, Oxford, CT; 4. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 5. Glenn Boss, Danielson, CT; 6. Josh Walmsley, Scotland, CT; 7. Richie Ferriera, Raynham, MA; 8. Shane Michalski, Woodstock, CT; 9. Leo Adams, Putnam, CT; 10. Bart Ramos, Sterling, CT.
Mini Stock Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Mike Romano, Pascoag, RI; 2. Scott Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 3. Brad Caddick, New London, CT; 4. Ron Rixham, Jefferson, MA; 5. Chris Williams, Niantic, CT; 6. Steve Michalski, Dayville, CT; 7. Leo Defevers, Brooklyn, CT; 8. Mike Anzalone, Griswold, CT; 9. Danny Fields, Deep River, CT; 10. Jeff Moffat, Warwick, RI.
Sources: Dale Wolbrink/Thompson International Speedway PR