The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park celebrated their 2015 oval track
season this past weekend at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort. Their annual
award ceremony honored four division champions in the NASCAR Whelen
All-American Series. Woody Pitkat celebrated his 2nd Sunoco Modified title,
while Scott Sundeen was honored as a 4-time Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman
champion. Late Model driver Brian Tagg and Mini Stock competitor Dave
Trudeau each took home their first career championship.
For Pitkat, it was his first season driving for car owner Stan Mertz in
the Sunoco Modified division and the combination found immediate success.
The duo placed in the top-10 in every race this season including five 2nd
place finishes. Pitkat won the Modified title in 2006 in his first full-time
season in the division to compliment his 2002 Late Model crown. It is the
first championship for Mertz as a car owner at Thompson Speedway.
Late Model driver Brian Tagg saw his childhood dreams come true when he
accepted the championship trophy before a large group of supporters. Tagg
grew up attending races at Thompson Speedway with his dad, a former Sunoco
Modified champion, who won the championship in the Speedway’s 50th
anniversary season. This year’s Late Model triumph came in as the 75th
season was celebrated. 2015 was Tagg’s rookie season in the division.
Scott Sundeen defended his 2014 championship from one year ago to earn
his 4th title in his 14th season competing in the Xtra Mart Limited
Sportsman division. Each of his championships were won while driving the
same race car, which was proudly on display Saturday night at Mohegan Sun.
With the banquet complete, that chassis will be retired as a champion after
winning two races in 2015. Sundeen will be back next season to attempt his
3rd straight championship.
Dave Trudeau has been a long time competitor at Thompson Speedway, but
2015 was his first taste of the champion’s champagne after earning the Mini
Stock title. Trudeau was a factor all season by finishing 2nd in 3 of the
first 4 races. His two victories came in the month of August only to pad his
point lead heading into the Sunoco World Series where he captured the crown.
Special awards were presented to the Rookie of the Year including Sunoco
Modified driver, Ryan Morgan who finished 5th in the final standings on the
strength of 4 top-5 finishes in 2015. William Wall led laps and registered
two podium finishes to earn Late Model Rookie of the Year honors. Xtra Mart
Limited sportsman driver Josh Wood was the Rookie of the Year in his
division with 4 Top-5 finishes and 5 Top-10s. Robert ‘Bob’ Ducharme earned
the honor in the Mini Stock Division by earning 2 Top-10 finishes. Each
rookie driver was measured by his performance both on and off the racetrack.
In 2015, Thompson Speedway introduced the new Triple Crown Series in the
Mini Stock and Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Division. The Series became a
race within a race as points counted for both the track championship and the
Triple Crown. In the Mini Stocks, the Triple Crown races were held on June
10th, July 29th, and August 26th and Eric Bourgeois was honored as the first
Triple Crown winner. Xtra Mart Limited sportsman driver Corey Hutchings won
two of the three Triple Crown races that were held on June 10th, July 8th,
and August 12th to earn the award in his division.
The John Hoenig Memorial Award, which recognizes one individual for their
hard work and dedication to the Speedway, was presented to Olivia Bouchard.
Bouchard, the daughter of Kenny Bouchard, was born into racing and grew up
around racetracks along the east coast. She has spent countless hours
working tirelessly at Thompson Speedway in many different capacities. She
has been responsible for speedway marketing, NASCAR licensing, the redesign
of speedway awards, coordination of autograph sessions and many behind the
scenes tasks. She has shown unmatched devotion to Thompson Speedway and its
competitors. Bouchard was presented with the prestigious award that is given
in her great-grandfathers name as part of Thompson Speedway’s Awards
Last but by no means least, the speedway management announced that 2016’s
schedule would expand to include ten NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
races. The complete schedule will be released at 7PM E.T. on December 8th,
through a live broadcast with Victory Lane Radio.
Weekly Wednesday night racing has become extremely popular with both fans
and competitors. Thompson prides itself on the fact that fans and
competitors are on their way home by 9:00pm.
NASCAR’s Touring and weekly divisions will be honored this coming Friday
and Saturday in Charlotte, NC. In the Whelen Modifieds Doug Coby will be
honored as the Champion. Coby raced hard and his crew worked hard and are
deserving of the title. The only down side of the two nights of honor will
be the fact that Melissa Fifield will be named Whelen Modified Tour Most
Popular Driver for the second consecutive year. This is a gross injustice
and a slap in the face to those who race in Whelen Modified Touring Series
events. She got a lot of votes because she has a lot of non racing friends
who have nothing better to do than to sit at a computer and click all day.
Melissa seems to be a nice young lady but a racer she is not. When
introduced at the tracks she doesn’t even get a boo, never mind a cheer. She
gets in the starting line-ups only because of short fields. Once in the
starting field she is like a turtle and is usually lapped inside of ten laps
and in most events ends up being black flagged for going too slow. She
certainly isn’t the most popular driver at the race track, not by crowd
reaction during driver intros, or during pit parties, and certainly not by
team chatter over the radio during the races. In reality, her best effort
was at Loudon, and that was 3 laps down at the finish. Otherwise, many races
she finished over 100 laps behind the leader.
NASCAR needs to revamp their voting process and they need to set minimum
speeds for those who compete.
FanschoiceTV.com will live stream the events on Friday and Saturday
A first time visit to a New Hampshire Speedway, an appearance with the
Pass Pro All Stars Series in Maine, and the traditional stops at New
England’s top bull-rings and historic ovals, highlight the 2016 season for
New England’s Valenti Modified Racing Series. Jack Bateman, series founder
and president, made the announcement Thursday night, December 2.
The 13th annual season opens Saturday night April 23, 2016, with
Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, New Hampshire.
The series next competes Friday night, May 20 at the Stafford Motor
Speedway, Stafford, Connecticut. The event will be the first of three races
at the half-mile oval. Friday, June 24, and Friday, September 2, are the
dates to circle for return visits. New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame
member and track owner, Joey Laquerre, opens the gates to his Speedway 51 in
Groveton, New Hampshire, for the first ever VMRS visit. The event will be
held on Memorial Day weekend, May 28.
The month of June finds Seekonk Speedway, Seekonk, Massachusetts, hosting
the series on June 4. Oxford Plains Speedway, in Oxford, Maine will host the
VMRS twice. Saturday, June 18, for the first event, and August 27, as part
of the prestigious Oxford 250 weekend.
The week after the June Stafford date, the long tradition of Monadnock
Speedway hosting the series continues with their annual Independence weekend
event on Saturday, July 2. The series remains in New Hampshire with a stop
at Claremont Speedway, July 8, and Lee USA Speedway July 22. The series will
be part of the annual ‘Wings and Wheels’ at the New London-Waterford
Speedbowl in Connecticut on August 13, with Monadnock Speedway on the docket
The VMRS joins with the Pass All Stars Series, September 17, at
Scarborough, Maine’s, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for the first time. The
fall traditions continue with stops at Lee USA Speedway for the annual
‘Oktoberfest’ weekend on October 8th and 9th, and the Thompson Speedway
Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut on October 14, 15.
It looks like the legend of Len Boehler will live on as NASCAR announced
last week that the famed Boehler Racing Enterprises No. 3 will return to
full-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition in 2016 by teaming with
driver Rowan Pennink. This comes as good news for the Modified Tour after
losing three top teams.
BRE, which has won three NASCAR Modified Division national titles with
Bugs Stevens in the 60’s and three Whelen Modified Tour crowns across nearly
60 years of operation, has competed on a part-time basis the last two
seasons. The pairing with Pennink will produce a full-time effort.
"I’m excited to be back racing on the tour in 2016 and it’s an honor to
be able to race in a car like the No. 3 with all of the history behind it,"
Pennink said. "Hopefully we’ll have a good season and I’ll end up driving
for them for a while."
Pennink, originally from Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, has
participated on the Whelen Modified Tour since 2007 with his family-owned
No. 93 Chevrolet. He’s posted a pair of wins with 58 top 10s in 124 starts.
Last year BRE, based in East Freetown, Massachusetts, fielded a car for 10
of the 15 events on the schedule for rookie Troy Talman.
BRE is building an additional new modified for 2016 and Pennink will
provide the spec motors he used in his No. 93 car which are prepared by
Pettit Racing Engines. "I’m honored to drive for the BRE team, Mike Boehler
and the whole family, and I’m looking forward to it," Pennink said.
NASCAR also announced last week that Senior Vice President of Competition
Robin Pemberton will leave the organization at the end of 2015.With a racing
career that has spanned five decades, Pemberton joined the sanctioning body
in August of 2004. Since that time, he has overseen all areas of NASCAR
competition and been credited as a key component in bridging the gap between
the sanctioning body and the racing community.
Before joining NASCAR as an official, Pemberton was a team member at
various NASCAR teams including Petty Enterprises, Roush Racing and Team
Penske, where he served as crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty
Wallace. Pemberton will help in the transition to a new competition lead for
the balance of the year.
Pemberton’s early involvement in racing began at the Albany-Saratoga
Speedway and after meeting various Modified competitors at his family owned
restaurant got further involved helping drivers like Jerry Cook.
Congratulations to Eric Webster who has been named as Race Director at
the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Webster, the son of the late Charlie
Webster who was a four time champion at the shoreline oval, replaces Scott
Tapley who will take over the race director position at the Riverhead
Raceway on Long Island for 2016.
At 53 years of age Webster has spent almost his entire life at the
speedbowl. First as a fan, then a competitor and then an official. In
addition to being in charge of the track crew Webster has worked with and
served under Tapley and Tom Fox who is the race director at Stafford.
It looks like yet another Modified racing series is about to debut as Pro
All Stars Series (PASS) President Tom Mayberry and event promoter Renee
Hackett have announced the creation of a new series in the southland
featuring the popular Tour-type Modifieds. The Southern Modified Racing
Series Presented By PASS will launch it’s inaugural season in 2016 and will
feature the Tour-type Modifieds racing on some of the South’s most historic
speedways. The inaugural season will see the Southern Modified Racing Series
Presented By PASS competing tentatively in 10 events, several of which will
pair the new Modified division with the PASS South Super Late Models in an
unprecedented series of races.
The first Southern Modified Racing Series Presented By PASS is
tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 26, 2016, at Hickory Motor
Speedway as part of the 11th Annual Easter Bunny 150 weekend. Hopefully the
new series will run without conflict with the NASCAR Whelen Southern
Modifieds and the Koma Modified Series.
On the speedway stock market scene last week, two of the three speedway
stocks had positive results.Speedway Motorsports went up 0.98 to 20.44 and
the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.06 to 35.28 while Dover
Entertainment dropped 0.02 to 2.26. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up
0.07 to 34.88 while NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.20 to 3.53 and
NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 4.52 to 33.79. With
the exception of Toyota which went up 1.53 to 125.90, the auto manufacturers
had a down week as Ford dropped 0.33 to 14.20 and General Motors dropped
0.12 to 36.25. In the home improvement sector, Lowes dropped 0.58 to 76.76
and Home Depot dropped 0.26 to 134.53. With the exception of McDonalds which
went up 1.87 to 116.20 and Target which went up 0.46 to 73.90, the big team
sponsors stocks were down for the week. Coca-Cola dropped 5.55 to 193.14 and
Aarons Rentals dropped 0.10 to 24.58.
On the tube this coming week:
Wednesday, December 9
6:00 AM, NASCAR America: Scan All 43, NBC Sports Net
6:30 AM, NASCAR America: Scan All 43, NBCSN
7:00 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:30 AM, NASCAR the List: Dale Earnhardt Sr. Moments, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
5:30 PM, NASCAR America: Scan All 43, NBCSN
Thursday, December 10
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
5:30 PM, NASCAR America: Scan All 43, NBCSN
8:30 PM, How It's Made: Liquor Jugs, Deli Meats, NASCAR Engines, SCI
11:30 PM, How It's Made: Liquor Jugs, Deli Meats, NASCAR Engines, SCI
Sunday, December 13
4:30 PM, How It's Made: Liquor Jugs, Deli Meats, NASCAR Engines, SCI
Monday, December 14
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub - Best of the Year, FOX Sports 1
6:30 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and
R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.