Rocco Takes Center Stage as Thompson Celebrates ’07 Champion

O’Sullivan, Gentes, Vigeant, DeSanctis & Romano Also Feted

Thompson, CT — The Raceway Restaurant and Golf Club, on the grounds of the historic Thompson International Speedway, was the site of the two-day 2007 champions celebration. On Saturday night, Keith Rocco of Wallingford took center stage as the Sunoco Modified champion. He shared the spotlight with fellow titlists-Late Model ace Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, and TIS Modified champion Kurt Vigeant of Oxford, MA. A night earlier, Pro Stock Champion Mike O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA, was honored along with Limited Sportsman honoree Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, and Mini Stock victor Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI. NASCAR’s Chad Little was on hand on Saturday night to present the champions with their wares.

A relative newcomer, Keith Rocco, in only his third year of Sunoco Modified racing beat the best-of-the-best to score his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship in 2007. With a great car owner in Don Bannister and the backing of a strong race team led by Shane Hopkins, Rocco and his Interstate Diesel team ran consistency straight to the championship. Together the team posted four wins, 12 top-five finishes, and 14 top-ten finishes.

Photo Galleries by Scott Nickel

The chase for the championship went right down to the wire with the top-three of Rocco, Woody Pitkat, and Tommy Cravenho all within striking distance of the title. All three teams finished in the top-five on that final night, but it was Rocco claiming the title in exciting fashion and a six-point edge. Defending champions Woody Pitkat and car owners Robert Hitchcock and Kelly Iverson came home second over Tommy Cravenho and owners Al and Cathy Moniz.

Veteran campaigner Kerry Malone finished the season in fourth while underdog Paul “Buddy” Charette had a breakout season to finish fifth in the final point standings. Todd Ceravolo, Bert Marvin, Danny Cates, Harry Rheaume and the late John Blewett III ended the season-long battle in sixth through tenth positions, respectively. Cates was also honored as the Rookie-of-the-Year. After catapulting from the Limited Sportman division to the Modifieds, Cates was impressive scoring three top-five and 10 top-ten finishes. Josh Steeves was recognized with the “Most Improved Driver” Award.

After a decade of trying, Rick Gentes was once again honored as a Thompson champion. On Saturday night, Gentes was honored among his peers for a season that found him in victory lane eight times. He also had 13 top-five and 14 top-ten finishes en route to the title. Like the Modifieds, the Late Model title hunt came down to the final night with three teams still in the hunt. A third-place finish was enough for Gentes to win his first championship in 10 years.

Veteran Mark Jenison had to settle for second in the point chase but has to be proud of his 2007 season. He stunned the Thompson faithful by immediately becoming the dark horse in the title chase. Going toe-to-toe with Gentes all season, Jenison scored four wins to prove he was for real in 2007. Up-and-comers Tommy O’Sullivan, R.J. Marcotte, and Paul Newcomb rounded out the top-five. R.J. Marcotte was also recognized as the division’s “Most Improved Driver”. With a season that included a top-five finish and four top-ten finishes, Randy Waterman was honored as the 2007 Late Model Rookie-of-the-Year. Runner-up Jenison was also presented with The First Annual ‘Chief Starter’s Sportsman Award’ for exhibiting exceptional cooperation and sportsmanship.

The newest division to the Thompson International Speedway, the TIS Modifieds, continues to grow stronger year-after-year. Still in its infancy stage, the division quickly evolved into one of the most competitive at the track. In 2007, Kurt Vigeant proved to be the leader of this spirited pack with three wins, 11 top-fives and 14 top-tens. Tim Sullivan pressured the champ until the end to finish second. Roger Larson, Jr., Shane Michalski, and Mike Viens rounded out the top five. Also honored on Saturday night were sixth through tenth respectively, Leo ‘Bim’ Adams, Richie Ferreira, Glenn Boss, Roger Ducharme, and Bart Ramos. Shane Michalski also received “Most Improved Driver” honors while Josh Walmsley was named Rookie-of-the-Year.

A very special award was presented by Speedway management on Saturday night. Track employee Mario Palladini was bestowed with a well-deserved honor when he was awarded with the prestigious John Hoenig Memorial Award. The award, named in honor of the track’s founder, is presented annually to the employee who exhibits a true dedication to the Speedway. Mario possess a genuine admiration for the Hoenig family, track management, his fellow employees, and the competitors. He is truly committed to maintaining the lore that is Thompson Speedway and to improving the weekly presentation.

The celebrations kicked-off on Friday night when Mike O’Sullivan was honored as the Pro Stock divisional champion. The now multi-time champ had plenty to celebrate during the 2007 season. Above and beyond his four feature event wins, he and his wife welcomed their first child. On track, O’Sullivan drove to 12 top-five and 13 top-ten finishes during his title run.

Second-place finisher Norm Wrenn dogged the champ right down to the final point race. Wrenn had to settle for being a bridesmaid for the second straight season. The Nashua, NH driver was relatively quiet in 2007 but still came home to finish second with two wins. George “Mad Dog” Bessette, Jay Macedonio and the two-time and defending champ Jeff Zuidema rounded out the top-five. During a tremendously competitive season, Macedonio captured the attention of even the division’s hottest dogs. His prowess during the 2007 season was recognized with the “Most Improved Driver” Award. Nick Ribbe was presented with the Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

Fan-favorite, Limited Sportsman competitor, Keith DeSanctis made his dream come true during the 2007 season. The racer, who shared every high and low with his wife Debbie, announced that he would end the phase of his career as an owner/driver after the 2007 season. The hard-charger went out as a champion winning the title with three victories 12 top five and 14 top-ten finishes.

Like there counterparts, the chase to the 2007 Limited Sportsman title went down to the final night. Ernie LaRose, who returned to Limited Sportsman competition after a several year hiatus, vied for the title against DeSanctis. Never missing a beat, LaRose was in the thick of the battle ultimately finishing second. Last season’s champion, Larry Barnett, settled for third in the final point standings ahead of veterans Scott Sundeen and Joe Arena. Second-generation driver Jay Sundeen was named the “Most Improved Driver”. Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the division went to Fred Bates in his familiar Richard Petty tribute #43.

Mike Romano went from a relative unknown to a contender during the 2007 season. On the heals of five feature win, 12 top-fives and 13 top-tens, the young driver from Pascoag, RI was crowned the Mini Stock champion and now the man to beat. Romano had stiff competition that lasted through to the final race of the season from the likes of runner-up Brad Caddick and third-place finisher Rick Blanchard. Ron Rixham and Leo Defevers finished fourth and fifth respectively in the season long point chase. In addition, to his runner-up finish, Caddick was also named the Mini Stock “Most Improved Driver”. John Kelly was recognized as the Mini Stock Rookie-of-the-Year.

Also on Friday night, champions Mike O’Sullivan and Keith DeSanctis were recognized by chief starter Tim Bennet with his First Annual ‘Chief Starter’s Sportsman Award’.

In just over two months the excitement of the 2008 season starts with the annual ICEBREAKER. April 5-6 will mark the start of another chase for championship honors in all six of the Thompson Speedway divisions. The on-track activities will begin on March 22 and March 29 with test and tune sessions. To learn more about the 2008 season including “test and tune”, visit or see track officials when Thompson Speedway is represented at the upcoming SpeedwayEXPO on February 29-March 2, 2008 in the Mallary Complex at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA.

Sunoco Modified Final Point Standings (Top Fifteen): 1. Keith Rocco, Wallingford, CT; 2. Woody Pitkat, Stafford, CT; 3. Tommy Cravenho, Raynham, MA; 4. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 5. Paul Charette, Woodstock, CT; 6. Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 7. Bert Marvin, Waterford, CT; 8. Danny Cates, 9. Harry Rheaume; 10. John Blewett III, Howell, NJ;
11. Dan LaJeunesse, Norwich, CT; 12. Stephen Masse, Bellingham, MA; 13. Jimmy Blewett, Howell, NJ; 14. Carl Oberg, Sutton, MA; 15. Geoff Gernhard, Salem, CT.

Pro Stock Final Point Standings (Top Fifteen): 1. Mike O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 2. Norman Wrenn, Nashua, NH; 3. George Bessette, Danbury, CT; 4. Jay Macedono, Somerset, MA; 5. Jeff Zuidema, N. Brookfield, MA; 6. Fred Astle, Jr., N. Westport, MA; 7. Jim Banfield, S. Glastonbury, CT; 8. Dave Silvia, Warwick, RI; 9. David Berghman, Seekonk, MA; 10. Les Rose, Jr., E. Wareham, MA; 11. Steve Desmarais, Westport, MA; 12. Michael Rivard, N. Scituate, RI; 13. Dennis Maxfield, Fitchburg, MA; 14. Nick Ribbe, Kingston, MA; 15. Andy Johnson, Rehoboth, MA.

Late Model Final Point Standings (Top Fifteen): 1. Rick Gentes, Woonsocket, RI; 2. Mark Jenison, Danielson, CT; 3. Tommy O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 4. R.J. Marcotte, Millville, MA; 5. Paul Newcomb, Jr., Plymouth, MA; 6. Mark Oliveira, Blackstone, MA; 7. Dennis Perry, Pawcatuck, CT; 8.Pete Yetman, Peru, MA; 9. John Materas, Voluntown, CT; 10. Conrad Cote, Lisbon, CT; 11. James Kiley, Jr., Griswold, CT; 12. Randy Waterman, Killingly, CT; 13. Al Mandarino, Lake Grove, NY; 14. Rich Holton, Manchester, CT; 15. Jeff Hartwell, East Putnam, CT.

Limited Sportsman Final Point Standings (Top Fifteen): 1. Keith DeSanctis, Monson, MA; 2. Ernie LaRose, Plainfield, CT; 3. Larry Barnett, Ledyard, CT; 4. Scott Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 5. Joe Arena, Kensington, CT; 6. Ed Puleo, Branford, CT; 7. Tim Taylor, Wauregan, CT; 8. Jay Pepin, Ridgefield, CT; 9. Jesse Gleason, Lisbon,CT; 10. Jay Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 11. Brian Blaise, Colchester, CT; 12. Gerald Sevigny, Brooklyn, CT; 13. Chris Bisson, Putnam, CT; 14. Jason Chicolas, Sutton, MA; 15. Tom Shea, New London, CT.

TIS Modified Final Point Standings: 1. Kurt Vigeant, Oxford, MA; 2. Tim Sullivan, S. Windsor, CT; 3. Roger Larson, Jr., Milford, MA; 4. Shane Michalski, Woodstock, CT; 5. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 6. Leo ‘Bim’ Adams, Putnam, CT; 7. Richie Ferreira, Raynham, MA; 8. Glenn Boss, Danielson, CT; 9. Roger Ducharme, Foster, RI; 10. Bart Ramos, Sterling, CT; 11. Leo Oliveira,Raynham, MA; 12. Josh Walmsley, Scotland, CT; 13. Keith “Cam” McDermott, 14. Steven LaBreck, Millbury, MA.

Mini Stock Final Point Standings (Top Fifteen): 1. Mike Romano, Pascoag, RI; 2. Brad Caddick, New London, CT; 3. Rick Blanchard, Pascoag, RI; 4. Ron Rixham, Jefferson, MA; 5. Leo Defevers, Brooklyn, CT; 6. Roger Ducharme, Foster, RI; 7. Steve Michalski, Dayville, CT; 8. Scott Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 9. Steve Romjue, Coventry, RI; 10. Jeff Moffat, Warwick, RI; 11. John Kelly, Groton, CT; 12. Mike Anzalone, Griswold, CT; 13. Robert O’Connell, Jr., Plainville, MA; 14. Bill Schoeler, Warwick, RI; 15. Scott Roy, Bloomfield, CT.

Sources: Dale Wolbrink/Thompson International Speedway PR

January 2008
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