MARK JENISON MAKING TITLE RUN AT THOMPSON SPEEDWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK
By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
THOMPSON, Conn. -- The speed is there for Mark Jenison at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
The Warwick, Rhode Island, driver has finished inside the top 10 in nine of his last 10 races in the Late Model division at the high-banked Connecticut oval, and has two wins over that span -- both last year. In three starts this season, he’s finished sixth or better, but feels like there is even more in the car he hasn’t shown yet.
“The car is mostly a Distance Racing Chassis car, most of the time we run top three with it, but this year we were falling off a bit at the end of the races,” Jension said. “We came back from Maine with it for the last race and we finished third. We were just losing the handling at the end... and we had some bent pieces in the front that we didn’t know about.”
Jenison is no stranger to Late Model racing. He’s made a career of competing in the Late Models across the Northeast, including on the ACT Tour. Last year, in the Sunoco World Series, he scored an eighth-place finish in the ACT race at Thompson. His start in racing wasn’t in the Late Model class, but instead another division at Thompson.
“I started in the Street Stocks (Limited Sportsman) in 1998 and I struggled because I had a Ford and there were some rules and we didn’t do that well at first,” Jenison said. “It took me a few years, but we started running up front. I never run well when I first come into a series. It takes me until my third or fourth year to really start ripping it up. I get comfortable, and some of the others are comfortable around me. I try to get everyone familiar with me and the way I drive. It takes time.”
It wasn’t long before he was moving from the Street Stocks to the Late Models, where he’s been for nearly 20 years.
“I moved to the Late Models because I figured we were having a tough time in the Street Stocks and I figured the Late Models would be more equal and well-rounded, might be a little bit easier... but I learned fast that it wasn’t true,” Jenison joked. “Thompson had changed some rules and being a lower-budget team and doing everything myself, I had to work with it.”
It might have taken Jenison a few years to get off the ground running, but he’s found the speed under the hood to run at the front of the pack. In a competitive Late Model division that is known for tight racing and close setups, Jenison is making himself a contender for the championship. Through the first three races, he is second, just 19 off leader William Wall.
“It just takes me those few years because I’m doing the research myself and trying different things to figure out what is making the car go faster or slower,” Jenison said. “I have different people I talk with to help... but it takes time. It took me a long time to make these cars work with the suspension dropping as quick as they do. We used to fight to keep the binds out of the car but now you’re almost fighting to get them in it, while also following the rules. I’ve learned how to do it and we finally hit on it lately.”
This year, the Thompson championship isn’t the only title Jenison is chasing. He is also running for the Late Model title at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts, where he sits second, just 12 points off the top. His larger goal is the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division II national championship, where he’s competing with hundreds of drivers across the United States. As of July 8, he was eighth in those standings.
“I’m a very calculated person when it comes to the points and winning races,” Jenison said. “When I finish third, or sixth, or anywhere else, I always check the points... all I wanted to do in the first few races at Thompson was to have a shot at the win and finish in the top three. We did that once, but we need to do it more going forward. Our goal this year is to run both tracks and go for the national points. Our team usually gets the car pretty dialed in by the last four of five races. We feel like we are really close right now.”
For now, Jenison is still finding a way to make the most out of his experience each time at the track, trying to not get wrapped up in the points deal while he is racing. But when the week is over, his mind starts turning towards points.
“I always want to get to the track and not have to work on the car that much, years ago we were working on it all night,” Jension said. “But making just the little adjustments help. It’s much simpler for me. We have a lot more fun now than we did years ago. We are going to Thompson to try to win the next race. No matter what happens, it won’t be because we aren’t prepared. I’m going there with a smile on my face and ready to go.”
Jenison and the remainder of the Thompson Speedway Motrosports Park teams are preparing to return to battle on Sunday, July 28. All five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will compete, joined by the third round of the Street Series for Lock City Drift.
For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, fans are encouraged to visit www.thompsonspeedway.com, and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.