MEET THE CHAMPS: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in 2019
By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
THOMPSON, Conn. -- More than 200 race cars took the green flag across five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions this season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. After 10 events, and countless battles on the track, five drivers earned the right to add their name to the historic list of champions at the Connecticut oval.
Let’s meet the five champions.
SUNOCO MODIFIEDS – KEITH ROCCO (No. 57)
Different season, same result.
Keith Rocco, a veteran Sunoco Modified racer at Thompson, earned his eighth track championship this year in the premiere NASCAR division. Rocco won four races, which tied Ronnie Williams for the most in the class. His title extends his lead as the driver with the most championships in Thompson’s history, and it also added him to another historic NASCAR list.
Rocco tied Joe Kosiski for the most NASCAR Division I track titles in the Whelen All-American Series era (1982-present), with 17. He now has eight at Thompson, six at New London-Waterford Speedbowl, and three at Stafford Motor Speedway. He also finished fifth in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship battle this year.
"It’s awesome,” Rocco said. “We (Rocco and the Pane family, his car owners) work really well together, and we have a lot of fun... my whole team. It takes a lot to win all of these championships, and I can’t do it without them.”
At Thompson, it’s the fourth straight Sunoco Modified title for the Wallingford, Connecticut, driver. He’s inside the top 10 in the track all-time wins list, and his eighth track title continues to show his dominance over the difficult class.
LATE MODELS – WILLIAM WALL (No. 4)
For the second time, William Wall is holding the championship in the Late Model division. But this one didn’t come without a bit of perseverance in the second half of the year. Wall started with three finishes inside the top two, including a win, but struggled a bit with speed going down the stretch.
In the finale, Wall entered the 25-lap feature six points behind Woody Pitkat, but when Pitkat was collected in a crash, Wall took advantage – finishing sixth – enough to clinch the title by four points over Derek Gluchacki. It was the second title in the last four years for the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, native.
“I just wanted to go out there and have fun,” Wall said. “I knew if I was going to win it, there was going to have to a lot of luck and my side, and that showed. I just can’t say enough about my team, they have been behind me 110 percent, and if it wasn’t for them, I definitely wouldn’t be here.”
Wall is a graduate of the Little T Speedway, just across the property from Thompson’s .625-mile NASCAR oval.
SK LIGHT MODIFIED® – BRYAN NARDUCCI (No. 01)
Bryan Narducci left no doubt that he was going to be the SK Light Modified® champion at Thompson in 2019. Narducci, who had won all four races the division ran in 2018, was one of many happy to see the addition as a full-time class for this season.
He took advantage of it.
The Colchester, Connecticut, driver won seven times in the 10 events, including the finale, and won the title by 70 points -- able to clinch the crown a race early. Between Thompson and Stafford Motor Speedway, Narducci won 15 times. He was also able to earn his second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III national championship, accruing enough points between the two tracks to best the entire country.
“I came here just wanting to win the race, because clinching it during the last race, and I got wrecked, it wasn’t very satisfying, but this is,” Narducci said after winning at the Sunoco World Series. “It's pretty amazing. I can’t thank everybody on the crew enough for making it happen.”
His plans for next year are not quite yet determined, but he would like to move up the racing ladder.
LIMITED SPORTSMAN – KYLE GERO (No. 19)
In his second full-time season, Kyle Gero proved consistency would matter in the final Limited Sportsman championship tally. He didn’t have the luxury of carrying a checkered flag along the way, but eight top five finishes, including a fourth in the season-finale, was enough for him to break the two-straight titles from Shawn Monahan, who ended up second, just five points out.
“This is absolutely amazing, I’m almost getting choked up here,” Gero said. “I wanted this so much for all of my guys. Everyone puts in so much effort and it’s an awesome feeling.”
Gero’s experience might not have compared to some other competitors, but his drive to finish at the front, and get the most as he could out of his car, was enough to seal him a title trophy.
MINI STOCKS – DOUG CURRY (No. 2)
Doug Curry used this year as one of redemption, and he ended up accomplishing his goal. After coming close to winning the Mini Stock title at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl last year, Curry transitioned to Thompson hoping to gain momentum and contend for a title. He found himself more than 30 points out with just a few races to go, but didn’t let that derail his efforts.
“This is everything,” Curry said. “I can’t even explain what this means. I’ve wanted this. My Dad had a Mini Stock when I was a little kid and ever since then, I wanted to drive. When I started racing when I was 16, it was so rough. We struggled so bad, wrecked a lot of cars, and just couldn’t get it going.”
This year, Curry proved to be the dominant car in the final stretch of the year. He won two of the final six races, but finished inside the top three in all but one of them. He left the finale up by seven points on a tie between Steve and Scott Michalski in the championship battle.