Thompson, CT — The first Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson International Speedway started the season off with a bang. Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, earned victory in a thrilling Sunoco Modified main event to start off the season. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, a winner during the Icebreaker in April, continued his winning ways in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI edged out fan favorite Jeff Zuidema to earn the Late Model checkers. Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, in Limited Sportsman; Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT in the TIS Modifieds; and Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT in the Mini Stocks also visited victory lane on the opening Thursday night.
The Sunoco Modified division lived up to its reputation on Thursday night as Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, scored the feature win in a dramatic finish for the Speedway’s premier division. It was the second win for Rocco at Thompson after his victory back in April on Icebreaker Saturday.
Kerry Malone got the edge on pole sitter Christopher before the caution flew for a pile-up exiting turn two. Danny Cates was sent spinning from the fifth position and several drivers took evasive action. Only the #36 of Tim Sullivan headed down pit road for service. He was able to rejoin the field.
On the restart it was all Malone, who motored out to a five-car length advantage over Jimmy Blewett. It was action-packed for the third spot as Josh Sylvester had his hands full with Christopher and Woody Pitkat. Keith Rocco, who was involved in the lap three caution, had worked his way back inside the top-ten by lap eight.
With 10-laps down, Blewett and company had caught Malone. Blewett made a power move exiting turn two to take over the lead. Sylvester and Christopher followed through.
Christopher made quick work of Sylvester to move into second. A single-lap later the caution flew for a spin by Dana Young. Under the caution, Malone gave up the fourth spot to head to pit road for adjustments. An incident that involved Harry Rheaume, Tim Sullivan, Dave LaCroix and Andy Gasper brought out the caution again on lap 16. The cars of Rheaume and Sullivan sustained heavy damage.
Back under green, Christopher was all but pushing leader Blewett while Sylvester, Pitkat and Rocco where locked in a heavy battle for third. Sparks flew when Christopher made a bid for the lead. Contact between the lead duo ended with Christopher stopped on the front stretch with a flat tire; necessitating the caution. Todd Ceravolo pitted from the fifth position under the caution.
Pitkat looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart giving Blewett a run for the lead. Sylvester stood his ground. Pitkat slipped back to third behind Sylvester. Rocco was now fourth followed by Marvin, who had worked his way back into contention after being involved in the first caution.
On lap 23, Rocco muscled his way passed both Pitkat and Sylvester and into the second spot. The young gun had five laps to chase down Blewett. It didn’t even take one as Rocco caught Blewett. In turn three, Rocco made a dive bomb move under Blewett. The car drifted up allowing Blewett to maintain his lead. The cat-and-mouse continued over the final two laps.
On the white flag lap, Rocco ran Blewett up toward the wall in turn one. Coming to the checkers, Rocco drifted high pushing Blewett toward the wall once again in turn three. Sylvester saw a glimmer of light in the middle while Pitkat looked low. All four cars had a shot at the victory. Slight contact with Sylvester slowed Rocco but not enough to derail the run to the victory. Blewett barely edged out Pitkat for second. Sylvester settled for fourth. Marvin completed the top-five.
Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, followed up his Icebreaker victory with a win in the Super Late Models on opening Thursday night. It was a tough night for the frontrunners in the feature event. Defending champ, Fred Astle, Jr., who made hard contact with the outside wall in turn two from the third position, was the first victim to bring out the caution.
On the restart, Jeff Connors was able to get the jump over early leader Steve Desmarias. Desmarias had slipped back to the fourth position before being involved in an incident in turn two to bring out the event’s second caution.
Les Rose, Jr. capitalized on the restart jumping to the head of the pack. Derek Ramstrom exited turn two a little hot spinning into the infield to relinquish the second position. Wrenn got a great restart but bobbled in turn two giving Rose the edge once again. Fully regrouped, Wrenn was able to retake the lead.
With Wrenn and Rose out front the heaviest action was between Bessette and Marc Curtis. Curtis came out on top of the battle. Jeff Zuidema ran in the fifth position. Ramstrom had hunted down Zuidema.
Early leader Jeff Connors spun with a left rear tire to bring out the caution once again. Back under green, Ramstrom, now free of Zuidema, set his sites on Bessette. In a matter of a couple of laps, Ramstrom had moved all the way back into the third spot. Meanwhile Rose had caught Wrenn. Rose made a last ditch effort exiting turn four on the final lap but had to settle for the second spot. Ramstrom had put on a show to finish third. Curtis and Bessette rounded out the top five.
Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, scored the victory over a hard-charging Jeff Zuidema in the Late Model feature event. In the early going it looked as if Gentes was going to walk away with the victory. After a short battle with early leader Tommy O’Sullivan, Gentes enjoyed a comfortable lead. The “Professor” Jay Stuart had moved into the second position. A heated battle for the top spot was brewing when a shower of sparks trailed the #42 of Stuart. He headed to pit road and ultimately behind the wall.
At the halfway marker, Zuidema had begun to track down Gentes. With each lap the lead got smaller. In the closing laps, Zuidema repeatedly made attempts to take over the top spot. Gentes was up to the task; turning away the advances and into victory lane for his first win of the season. Zuidema settled for the second position over John Materas, O’Sullivan, and Mark Oliveira inside the top five.
Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, withstood heavy pressure throughout the Limited Sportsman main event to score the victory on Thursday night. The fans were treated to a great battle between Sundeen and Larry Barnett. Sundeen held the point but Barnett was never far behind. In true Limited Sportsman fashion, there were three-wide battles around the speedway and throughout the field.
At the midway portion of the event, with Barnett dogging Sundeen, Icebreaker winner, Joe Arena caught the leaders. For a time it looked like it might be a three-horse race. Barnett settled back into the second position as the race wound down. The veteran and former division champion waited until two laps remaining before showing his hand again. Barnett was locked to the back bumper of Sundeen; getting up alongside the leader in the corners. In the end, Sundeen was able to hold off Barnett to take down the win. Arena settled for third ahead of Joe Campbell and Paul Coutu, Jr.
After an Icebreaker win back in April, Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT, made it two straight in TIS Modified competition. Leo Oliveiria took over the top spot from pole sitter Brian Tagg just laps into the race. Things were anything but smooth sailing at the head of the field as the leader Oliveira had his hands full with a charging Sullivan. On lap 12, Sullivan got the run in turn one taking over the lead exiting turn two.
The handle appeared to be going away for Oliveira. Once ousted from the top spot, the early leader slid back to third position with others, including Bart Ramos, bearing down. After a red flag for a non-racing occurrence, Sullivan assumed his place at the head of the pack. Over the final few laps, the top three of ran nose to tail. They sailed under the checkers with Sullivan taking his second win in as many starts. Tagg had a great run to finish second ahead of Ramos. R.J. Marcotte came from deep in the field to finish fourth followed by Tyler Poulin.
Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT, turned in a dominating performance to score the first Mini Stock victory of the 2009 Thompson Thursday Night Thunder series. Taylor took over the top spot from early leader Trevor Michalski before checking out on the field. The top four positions got strung out ahead of the field while deeper in the pack the action was more intense. Leader Taylor watched his lead evaporate when the second caution of the event flew for an incident involving Tim Higginbottom and Keith Ballou.
The veteran driver was able to rebuild his lead just as quickly once the green flag flew once again. Eric Bourgeois came on strong in the late going motoring to a runner-up finish. Chad Baxter completed the podium. Scott Michalski and Brad Caddick rounded out the top five. The Taylor Family was well represented as the Tim’s son Nathan turned in a solid performance to finish seventh.
Racing resumes next Thursday with the six divisions of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action including a 50-lapper for the Limited Sportsman division. This Sunday, Thompson International Speedway proudly hosts Family Fun Night. For more information on these and all events at Thompson Speedway visit thompsonspeedway.com or by calling the raceway hotline at (860) 923-2280.
Sources: Dale Wolbrink/Thompson International Speedway PR
Sunoco Modified 30-Lap Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Keith Rocco, Wallingford, CT; 2. Jimmy Blewett, Howell, NJ; 3. Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, CT; 4. Josh Sylvester, Lebanon, CT; 5. Bert Marvin, New London, CT; 6. Eric Goodale, Riverhead, NY; 7. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 8. Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, PA; 9. Rick Shawn, Bradford, CT; 10. Ted Christopher, Plainville, CT.
Super Late Model 30-Lap Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Norm Wrenn, Nashua, NH; 2. Les Rose, Jr., Southbridge, MA; 3. Derek Ramstrom, Worcester, MA; 4. Marc Curtis, Worcester, MA; 5. George Bessette, Danbury, CT; 6. Jeff Zuidema, N. Brookfield, MA; 7. Mike O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 8. Jay Macedonio, Somerset, MA; 9. Jeff Connors, Ellington, CT; 10. Chris Curtis, Rutland, MA.
Late Model 25-Lap Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Rick Gentes, Woonsocket, RI; 2. Jeff Zuidema, N. Brookfield, MA; 3. John Materas, Voluntown, CT; 4. Tommy O’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 5. Mark Oliveira, Blackstone, MA; 6. Wayne Coury, Sr., Milford, CT; 7. Dave Trudeau, Manfield, CT; 8. Jeremy Sadowski, Voluntown, CT; 9. Randy Waterman, Killingly, CT; 10. Tom Fox, Plainfield, CT.
Limited Sportsman 20-Lap Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Scott Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 2. Larry Barnett, Ledyard, CT; 3. Joe Arena, Bristol, CT; 4. Joe Campbell, Moosup, CT; 5. Paul Coutu, Jr., Thompson, CT; 6. Paul Palen, Pelham, NH; 7. Jay Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 8. Kevin Bowe, Pawtucket, RI; 9. Gerald Sevigny, Brooklyn, CT; 10. John Carpenter, Danielson, CT.
TIS Modified 20-Lap Feature Finish (Top Ten): 1. Brian Sullivan, S. Windsor, CT; 2. Brian Tagg, oxford, MA; 3. Bart Ramos, Putnam, CT; 4. R.J. Marcotte, Millville, MA; 5. Tyler Poulin, Millville, MA; 6. Leo Oliviera, Raynham, MA; 7. Richie Ferreira, Raynham, MA; 8. Jay Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 9. Jeff Barrows, Worcester, MA; 10. Glen Boss, Danielson, CT.
Mini Stock 15-Lap Feature Finish (Top-Ten): 1. Tim Taylor, Wauregan, CT; 2. Eric Bourgeois, E. Haddam, CT; 3. Chad Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 4. Scott Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 5. Brad Caddick, New London, CT; 6. Chuck Rogers, Quaker Hill, CT; 7. Nathan Taylor, Wauregan, CT; 8. Trevor Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 9. Jeff Moffat, Warwick, RI; Scott Jassaume, Danielson, CT.