Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park kicked off the 2019 season with the first of two days of the 45th Annual Icebreaker weekend. The first official day of racing brought five feature events to the track on Saturday, April 4 with competitive racing and close finishes that kept fans on the edge of their seats the entire afternoon. Several racing series and divisions kicked off their respective seasons as drivers sought to claim victory in one of the most prestigious racing weekends in New England.
The main event of the afternoon was the 50-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature kicking off their sixteenth season in style with a battle of two young stars of the sport surviving caution after caution chasing their first wins. While early on it looked like Chase Dowling was securely in control of the race Ronnie Williams quickly worked his way up the field and by halfway was battling Dowling for the lead. The rest of the event was filled with side by side racing and lead exchanges between the two young guns as they endured numerous cautions that saw each driver gain an advantage restart after restart. It all came down to a three-lap shootout after the final caution of the race where Dowling got the jump and outraced Williams to score his first Valenti Modified Victory as well as his first win at Thompson in any division.
“The car was really good on the long runs and on the short runs Ronnie Williams was obviously better. I wasn’t going to lose this one. These guys needed a win and they’ve been busting their tails week in and week out,” Dowling said. “It’s not the cleanest race to push someone up (the track) but when you have the passion to win and guys that are behind you week in and week out, you’re not going to finish second.”
Dowling won the race in the #00 car previous driven by the late Ted Christopher, a ninety-nine-time Thompson race winner considered to be one of the greatest modified drivers of all time. Dowling celebrated his win waving a Ted Christopher flag during a victory lap after his entire crew came out to celebrate.
“I think it was more these crew guys who have been with Teddy. It’s not just the #00, you go back to racing at Thompson in general and he’s had a huge impact on the crew,” Dowling said of his victory celebration. “It means the world to those guys and I’m just happy to be behind the wheel of that race car.”
The Exit Realty Pro Truck Challenge kicked off the afternoon with the first points race of the 2019 season at Thompson and concluded with its own exciting finish. Gerard Giordano, Jr. ran a dominant race starting on the pole and leading 34 laps of the 35-lap feature surviving several cautions to try and capture the Pro Truck season opener. However, it’s not over until it’s over as they say. That was the case for Jacob Perry who raced behind Giordano in second for the entire race until he picked his moment and relinquished the lead on a bump-and-run move on the final lap.
Perry’s win was his first season opener victory in his career and one he said was a long time coming. “My spotter did an absolutely phenomenal job keeping me calm behind the wheel. I hate to have to move somebody for the win, but after last year we had some serious unfinished business,” Perry said. “To be standing in Thompson Speedway Victory Lane at the Icebreaker is an honor.”
Joining the Pro Trucks was the Exit Realty 375 Sportsman Challenge series with its own 35-lap and yet another dramatic finish. Reigning champion Shawn Monahan looked like an easy winner early in the race after relinquishing the lead from Alby Ovitt following a caution. However, Ovitt refused to concede and challenged Monahan in the closing laps, racing to his bumper with four laps to go. Ovitt would make the winning move on the final lap diving to the bottom groove in turns one and two and holding the lead to the finish line. Despite crossing the line first, Ovitt’s win was being contested as of press time.
The NEMA Lites kicked off their 2019 season with a 20-lap feature with a very familiar name in victory lane. John Zych, Jr. had won at Thompson before in the NEMA Midgets but never visited victory lane at the Big-T in the NEMA Lites. He crossed that off his to-do list in the first race of 2019 after working his way to the lead by the halfway point and surviving a late race restart to rocket his way to Victory Lane. “The car had been stumbling taking off all day, so I was concerned when the caution came out. I started running as hard as I possibly could. I knew if I kept my line it would be really hard for somebody to pass me. It worked out,” Zych said after the race.
Finally, the night concluded with the kick off of Thompson Speedway’s divisional racing season with a new entry in the track’s lineup, the SK Light Modifieds®. This division has grown in popularity at Thompson over the last few years leading it to become an official addition to Thompson’s lineup in 2019. Coming into the event Bryan Narducci had a perfect record winning all four SK Light Modified® races run at Thompson since 2017. He continued that success with a dominating effort winning the division’s first event of 2019 at Thompson.
Icebreaker action continues on Sunday, April 7 with the biggest race of the weekend, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series. Reigning champion Justin Bonsignore won all four events at Thompson in 2018 and after a slow start to the 2019 season he could use a good run at the Big-T. However, he will need to fend off the best in modified racing to keep his Thompson winning streak alive. In addition to qualifying and the running of the Icebreaker 150 for the tour modifieds the afternoon will kick off the season for four Thompson divisions as the Limited Sportsman, Late Models, Mini Stocks and Sunoco Modifieds hit the track for their first races of their new seasons and the Pro All Star Series (PASS) hosts a 75-laps event of its own.
VALENTI MODIFIED SERIES TOP-10 UNOFFICIAL RESULT: 1. Chase Dowling; 2. Ronnie Williams; 3. Mike Willis, Jr; 4. Todd Owen; 5. Dylan Rock; 6. Jeff Gallup; 7. Artie Pederson, III; 8. Dan Maservey, Jr.; 9. Carl Medieros, Jr.; 10. CJ Bolton
EXIT REALTY PRO TRUCK SERIES TOP-10 UNOFFICIAL RESULT: 1. Jacob Perry; 2. Gerard Giordano, Jr.; 3. Dave Koenig; 4. Lucas Leone; 5. Tony Nagleri; 6. Jim Thompson; 7. Dylan Cabral; 8. Andrew Morin; 9. Greg Hurley; 10. Todd Taylor
NEMA LITES TOP-10 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: 1. John Zych, Jr.; 2. Jake Trainor; 3. Richie Coy; 4. Kyle Valeiri; 5. Dan Cugini; 6. Jim Cataldo; 7. Matt Janisch; 8. Chris Vose; 9. Drew Eldridge; 10. Ryan Locke
EXIT REALTY 375 SPORTSMAN CHALLENGE TOP-10 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: 1. Alby Ovitt; 2. Shawn Monahan; 3. Jim Renfrew, Jr.; 4. Chad Baxter; 5. Paul Lallier; 6. Paul Williams; 7. RJ Surdell; 8. Crystal Seydynski; 9. Ryan Waterman; 10. Steven Potter
SK LIGHT MODIFIEDS® TOP-10 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: 1. Brian Narducci (Colchester, CT); 2. Teddy Hodgdon (Danbury, CT); 3. Alexander Pearl (Salem, CT); 4. John O’ Sullivan (Salem, CT); 5. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 6. Mikey Flynn (Hampden, MA); 7. Brett Gonyaw (Vernon, CT); 8. Bert Oulette (Ellington, CT); 9. Keith Caruso (Millbury, MA); 10. Andrew Les (New York, NY)