THOMPSON, Ct. — Although rains dampened much of Friday’s planned mid-day practice sessions, the 61 Sunoco World Series was able to start off with a bang at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
The Milton CAT Modified Racing Series and Mighty Mini Stock Tour were both able to crown their touring champions and the Thompson Late Models saw a return champion in victory lane. Throw in some vintage racing, a hard-nosed open Street Stock showdown and the first of three Sunoco Modified events, and the 61st Sunoco World Series began in style.
The Milton CAT Modified Racing Series brought the 61st Sunoco World Series weekend to a roaring start, 30 cars strong with Matt Swanson leading Kirk Alexander by a mere five points in the championship battle. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour invaders Austin Beers, Jake Johnson and Craig Lutz took down heat race wins, as well as Tour-type Modified freshman Brett Meservey.
Beers brought the 27-car starting field to green and paced the field with championship chasers Swanson and Alexander caught in the back of the pack. The field stretched out as cross-over passing and nerf-bar banging ruled the roost at the Big-T.
After running him down for the first 20 laps, Jake Johnson brought ‘Ole Blue’ to the front and led lap 21 with a hard-charging Ronnie Williams joining the picture in third. Williams moved into second under Beers at the halfway point with 25-laps remaining to chase down Johnson.
Meanwhile, Swanson faced a rear-view mirror full of Kirk Alexander as the championship battle was waged in 16th and 17th-place, respectively. Lap 31 saw contact between leader Johnson and Williams in turn four with Johnson spinning and calling out the first caution of the 50-lap event.
Williams would keep the lead on the restart as Beers and Eric Goodale kept him looking in the mirrors.
Deeper in the pack, Alexander made his way around Swanson on lap 36 before a turn two melee saw Swanson dirt-track the Gary Casella-machine around the apron and Tommy Barrett’s stop in turn two bringing the caution back out on lap 39. While Williams led the restart, Teddy Hodgdon ran bumper-to-bumper in his tire tracks.
Hodgdon challenged for the lead on lap 45 with the turn four crossover as the two kept it side-by-side around the five-eighths-mile Thompson Speedway lap after lap. Ronnie Williams took down the win over Teddy Hodgdon and Woody Pitkat rounding out the podium while Kirk Alexander took down his fourth Milton CAT Modified Racing Series championship and first since 2007.
Clark Brooks and Shane Gendron brought the R&R Race Parts NH Street Stock Open 50 to green with a field of Thompson regulars and hopeful invaders behind them. ‘Kid Chaos’ Corey Fanning quickly launched into third behind the front row starters as the field settled in.
The first caution would slow the field on lap 17 for the stalled Brandon Plemons in turn three. Gendron continued his dominance at the front on the return to green as Maine street stock legend Kris Watson made his way into the top-five. Watson went to work on Fanning as the two battled side-by-side at the halfway point.
A big turn two pile-up brought the yellow back out just after the restart as Brooks, Fanning, Watson and more going around. Watson and Gendron made it through to lead the restart with Ryan Lineham and ‘Leadfoot’ Larry Barnett in tow behind them. While Gendron piled up a straightaway lead, Clark Brooks powered his way from shotgun on the restart to fifth by the closing laps.
Shane Gendron kept up the power out front to take the R&R Street Stock Open win with Kris Watson in second and Ryan Lineham rounding out the podium.
Following their qualifying heats, four drivers were in the running for the Thompson Speedway Late Model championship.
Two of those pilots, Jake Johnson and Andrew Molleur, led the field to green for their 30-lap season finale on Sunoco World Series Friday. Jake Johnson got the early lead before Connor Souza went for the spin-cycle in turn two, bringing point leader Nick Johnson with him to the rear of the restart line-up.
Jake ‘The Jet’ again took the lead while Andrew Molleur ran in his tracks as Nick Johnson charged up through the field. The caution flag returned on lap eight as Erick Sands and Tom Carey III went around coming off turn two.
Following the restart, it seems the pressure for point leader Nick Johnson saw the Propane Plus machine spin in turn three on lap 14, relegating him all the way to the rear as the championship battle became even more hotly debated.
Jake Johnson looked shot from a cannon once again on the restart with Molleur and Woody Pitkat following. With the field back under green for the final stretch, Jake Johnson would bring the Cady’s Tavern, Hartwell Motorsports Ford Mustang back to victory lane followed by Andrew Molleur and Woody Pitkat.
By virtue of his eighth-place finish, Nick Johnson would take down his second Thompson Late Model track championship by just six points over Molleur.
In their final event of the season, point leader Cody LeBlanc led the Mighty Mini Stock Tour field to green before Edmond Cousineau’s spin in turn four brought out an early caution. Nick Anderson led the restart off the line before LeBlanc got back to the front by the end of turn four.
With the field rapidly stretching out, Leblanc continued to lead Anderson and Heywood Herriott as Pat Houle and Desmond Skillings battled side-by-side for fourth. Cody LeBlanc would steal the show and the Mighty Mini Stock Tour championship flanked by Nick Anderson and Heywood Herriott in Sunoco World Series victory lane.
JP Puleo and Paul LaPlante led off the Sunoco Modified showdown to open their Sunoco World Series Triple Crown. Puleo quickly launched off with the lead as LaPlante and Chase Cook battled side-by-side for second. LaPlante took over the advantage but faced Troy Talman coming with a full head of steam from shotgun on the field.
Talman pulled up to LaPlante’s rear bumper under the crossed, half-way flags. JP Puleo took down the lightning-fast seven-minute feature to start off the Sunoco Modified World Series Triple Crown with Troy Talman and Paul LaPlante completing the topthree.
The Senior Tour Auto Racers (STAR) Tour brought Sunoco World Series Friday to a close with a twin bill of vintage Modifieds and Late Model Sportsman. Twin 15-lap features for both divisions, Curt Snow was able to steal away the vintage modified win by less than a car length while Mark Parmentier lapped the field to win the Late Model Sportsman showdown.
Parmentier would be disqualified by STAR officials with second-place runner Greg Gilbert declared the winner.
Saturday Program Postponed To Sunday
With rains hanging heavy over the Northeast corner of Connecticut on Saturday morning, and a dismal forecast predicted throughout the rest of the day, American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) officials have made the decision to postpone the originally-scheduled Saturday program of the 61st Sunoco World Series to Sunday, Oct. 8.
The move will create a Sunoco World Series Super Show with over 10 divisions on tap on Sunday.