Stafford Springs, CT — Along with their SK Modified® division, Stafford’s Limited Late Model division features a championship battle that currently has Shawn Thibeault leading Kevin Gambacorta by only 8 points, or 4 positions on the track. While Gambacorta has won track championships at Stafford in the DARE Stock division in 2004 and the Limited Late Model division in 2006, Thibeault is experiencing a championship chase for the first time in his racing career.
“I like being ahead, but I wish we had a little bigger lead,” said Thibeault driver of the #58 Enterprise Rent A Car Chevrolet. “Kevin has won a championship in the DARE Stocks and the Limiteds, so he knows what it takes and what to do and what not to do in these last 5 races. We’ve both been pretty consistent this year, we usually start right around one another, and our focus is to keep Kevin in sight and try to finish ahead of him. If we can get a couple more wins, the points will take care of themselves.”
“I’d like to think I have a bit of an advantage,” said Gambacorta, driver of the #23 Rafferty Fine Grading Dodge. “This year I feel more relaxed than in previous years. Usually we’re in the lead of the championship at this point of the season, and now we’re behind, so it’s a different feeling. I always figured that when I was leading the points I could control my own destiny. I’d rather be leading, but there is a lot less stress where were are right now.”
Both Thibeault and Gambacorta have been a model of consistency this season. While Thibeault holds the edge over Gambacorta in feature wins by a 4 to 1 count, Gambacorta has finished in the top-5 in 13 of 14 races this year with his worst finish being a 7th place finish on August 5th. While Thibeault has 2 less top-5 and top-10 finishes than Gambacorta, his 4 wins have made the difference so far this season in the points standings as Thibeault’s average finish for the season is 3.3 while Gambacorta’s average finish stands at 3.6.
“Our plan is to keep the same strategy and try to let the races come to me and try to keep the 23 in sight,” said Thibeault. “We want to win races, but it all depends on how the car is and how I’m feeling behind the wheel. We already had one incident earlier this year where we were going for a win and we were put to the back and we lost some points, so we should have a bigger lead than we do. I don’t want to jeopardize myself anymore this year. We usually start behind Kevin, so our focus is to keep him in sight and if we can get by him, we can try to win the race. Last week Kevin finished one spot ahead of us, and as much as I hated doing it, I stayed behind him. We loosened the car up for the feature and we might have gone a tick too far, I didn’t have the forward bite I needed to get by him.”
“In all honesty, I think I’m going to go points racing these last 5 races,” said Gambacorta. “We still have to keep an eye on George [Nocera] because he’s close, but we got a couple of points on Shawn last week and if we can do that the rest of the year, we’ll be ahead. I would say that this is the best season I’ve ever had. We only have one finish outside the top-5 all year long, so we’ve had a strong season, but that just shows how tough Shawn has been to beat this year. Some guys can go out and blast off a fast lap pretty quick, but then their car falls off by 4 or 5 tenths at the end of the race. Our car seems to stay pretty consistent throughout the race from start to finish.”
With only 8 points separating them from each other in the standings, anything can happen over the final 5 races and both Thibeault and Gambacorta feel good about their chances of taking home the championship this season.
“We feel pretty good,” said Thibeault. “I feel like the car has been good and I feel like I’ve gotten better behind then wheel in relaying information to the crew about what the car is doing and what kind of adjustments we need to make. It would mean the world to everyone if we are able to win this championship. As the season has gone on, more of my family has been coming out to the track and helping out in the pits, so I’ve had great support this season and winning a championship would really be icing on the cake for me.”
“I feel pretty confident and everyone on the team feels confident,” said Gambacorta. “I don’t want to jinx myself by saying this, but this season has felt like years past when we’ve won the championship. We’ve had little things, I guess you’d call it luck, that have happened this year that haven’t been happening for the past few years. Last week I was checking my air pressures in the tires and I noticed that one of the spokes on my wheels was broken all the way through and one night at the shop I was underneath the car doing some routine stuff and it was just right that I noticed my clutch was broken. I’ve always said that to win a championship, you have to win a race. We’ve won a race this year and I like winning championships and getting to come out on stage at the banquet at the end of the year.”
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
Sources: Scott Running/Stafford Motor Speedway PR