Payea Captures ACT Championship in Wild Day Two of World Series Weekend
Despite Mother Nature raining on the party early, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park successfully held day number two of the 56th Annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing on Saturday, Oct. 13. Seven features made up the afternoon with several drivers clinching championships in touring series holding their season finales at the Big-T.
The highlight event of the night was the American-Canadian Tour Late Models who took to the track for the World Series 75, the longest race of the night. Last year’s race winner Eddie MacDonald hoped to continue his success after winning the Granite State Pro Stocks feature on Friday night at Thompson. MacDonald entered the final race of the season 26 pts behind Scott Payea for the championship lead. Payea was seeking his second consecutive title with a perfect record of top tens in 2018 having to finish third or better to secure the championship regardless of what his competition did.
MacDonald and Payea proved to be inseparable throughout the race both staying within three positions of each other on the back end of the top ten while Rich Dubeau took a significant lead on the field up front. The race proved to be a marathon of green-flag laps until lap 67 when a series of consecutive cautions and restarts changed the complexion of the race.
Payea’s smooth day quickly fell apart as he was involved in two different incidents allowing Eddie MacDonald to make up ground and move into the top five. Meanwhile Tom Carey, III and Richard Dubeau traded the lead numerous times on consecutive restarts before another caution on lap 71 saw both drivers spin out seemingly putting Eddie MacDonald in the lead. However, MacDonald was penalized and sent to the back of the field as he was deemed partially responsible for causing the wreck by failing to lift, spinning Dubeau as a result.
With MacDonald going to the rear all Scott Payea had to do was finish as he secured his second consecutive title after a seemingly simple feature turned into one of the most intense battles of the entire weekend. “It was just amazing with this team behind me. The tour is so tough, and it was a wild night. We won it, we lost it and we won it again. I’m just so happy to get this done for the whole team. It’s just amazing,” Payea said in victory lane.
As for the race win it was young Jake Johnson who took advantage of the chaos and charged to his first ever victory at Thompson in his first race at the track in a late model. “We had a really good car and I really didn’t think we would have this type of night. We were eighth or so and then things started going our way. Everyone started getting aggressive and wrecking each other. Once I was in fourth it was hammer time and we were going for it,” Johnson said.
The Valenti Modified Series was just as action packed, closing out the season with a 50-lap feature and a tight points race with Woody Pitkat and Michael Willis, Jr. separate by only 15 points. Pitkat earned his only win of the season on Oct. 7 at Lee USA Speedway and was riding momentum into the final event but luck was not on his side as an engine failure earlier in the weekend and a broken rear end in the opening laps forced Pitkat to pit seemingly ending his championship hopes. However, Michael Willis, Jr. also suffered through an unfortunate evening sustaining damage in a caution halfway thought the race, one of two incidents at halfway that brought out red flags. Willis went on to finish 22nd but it wasn’t enough to overcome Pitkat’s lead giving Pitkat his second title in the Valenti Modifieds despite an early retirement from the event.
“It was a long weekend obviously. Not the way I wanted to finish it off. I can’t thank these guys enough. There’s so many people to thank it’s unbelievable,” Pitkat said after the race. Pitkat won the title driving for different owners throughout the season in order to earn the championship and with the struggles World Series weekend brought he said he felt blessed to have a support team to help him pull it off. “It’s just nice that the hard work we did over the weekend came out because I probably slept about four hours. It’s really unbelievable to have to piece together rides here at the end of the year to cap this off. That’s just my never give up attitude. When you think you’re down you just keep digging.”
Meanwhile in the front of the field the early battle was between Keith Rocco and Chase Dowling with Rocco having the advantage in the opening laps. By lap 16 Dowling had hunted down Rocco and made the pass for the lead where he remained until a restart with six laps to go allowed Owen to get a jump, pushing past Dowling before the final caution waved on lap 45. Owen held the lead off the last restart winning a wild and eventful Velenti Modified feature. Owen said restarts were key to his success at the end of the night.
“When you’re second you need cautions because that’s probably the only point right there where I could have passed (Chase Dowling),” Owen said. “He was probably better on the long run. I knew if we had a restart I could have a good chance at him and that one right there I was able to drive right by.”
The NEMA Midgets started off the evening with their annual Shane Hammond Memorial 25-lap feature, the penultimate race of their season, with Randy Cabral firmly in charge of the points looking for his second consecutive title and seventh overall in eleven years. Cabral, always a threat at the World Series with eight previous wins in Thompson’s annual season-ending weekend, came into the race a model of consistency with three wins and six other podium finishes in eleven races this season.
The race pitted Cabral against John Zych, Jr. by the end of the race setting up a battle between two drivers who are no stranger to victory lane on World Series weekend. In the end is was John Zych, Jr. who took the checkered flag while Cabral all but wrapped up the title with one race left in the season.
After the race John Zych, Jr. celebrated a win at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit. “I love coming here. I love this track and the atmosphere here. For pavement racing this is it,” Zych said. “The car was really good through one and two. I was almost able to flatfoot it around. I knew the car was really good and for someone to pass me they would have had to be really good.” The NEMA drivers will close out their season with one final feature at the Waterford Speedbowl next weekend.
The Exit Realty Truck Challenge crowned a familiar name as champion after a 25-lap feature. Allen Coates won both the title and the feature event, but he had to battle and defeat his son Corey Coates to do it. “I saw (Corey) in the mirror and I was like, ‘oh no, here we go’. I knew I couldn’t miss my corners with Corey there. I told him from the beginning to take advantage of what he gains. I saw him a couple times pretty heavy in the mirror,” Allen Coates said after the race. The legendary racer was joined by his son in victory lane who went on to finish second.
The Pro 4 Modifieds produced a pair of winners during the annual Harry Kourafas Memorial Race Brett Meservey took the overall win while P.J. Peters picked up the win in the limited category. In the North East Mini Stock Tour 20-lap season finale Desmond Skilling scored the feature win, his first career victory on the tour, while Cody LeBlanc overcame and eight-point deficit to Emerson Cayer to win the tour title. Finally, the Street Stock Showdown closed out the night with a 20-lap feature that event was was called after 11 laps just before the midnight hour. Wayne Corey, Sr. was awarded the win while Alby Ovitt was presented with the championship trophy.
Thompson’s 56th Annual World Series of Speedway Racing will come to a close with its biggest day of racing on Sunday, Oct. 14 where several track champions will be crowned in the Mini Stock, Sunoco Modified, and Limited Sportman track divisions. The afternoon will also include the NEMA Lites and ISMA Supermodifieds before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour closes out its season to end the weekend. Justin Bonsignore comes into Thompson with the Whelen Tour title already secured, but the driver is looking for the Thompson Grand Slam having won all three prior events at the track in 2018. Ronnie Williams will start the race from the pole.
ACT TOUR FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Jake Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 2. William Wall (Millbury, MA); 3. Nick Sweet (Barre, VT); 4. Jean-Francois Dery (Quebec, QC); 5. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, MA); 6. Ryan Morgan (Gales Ferry, CT); 7. Ryan Kuhn (East Bridgewater, MA); 8. Scott Payea (Colchester, VT); 9. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 10. Jimmy Hebert (Williamstown, VT)
VALENTI MODIFIED RACING SERIES FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Chase Dowling (Roxbury, CT); 3. Matt Swanson (Acton, MA); 4. Anthony Kocella (Woburn, MA); 5. Anthony Flannery (East Hampton, CT); 6. Rob Richardi (Taunton, MA); 7. Bryan Narducci (Colchester, CT); 8. Dave Etheridge (Portland, CT); 9. Andy Shaw (Center Conway, NH); 10. Dave Shneider (Huntington, NY)
NEMA SHANE HAMMOND MEMORIAL FEATURE TOP-10: 1. John Zych, Jr. (Mendon, MA); 2. Randy Cabral (Kingston, MA); 3. Ben Seitz (Bourne, MA); 4. Jim Chambers (Atkinson, NH); 5. Avery Stohr (Lakeville, MA); 6. Todd Bertrand (Danielson, CT); 7. Alby Ovit (Somersworth, NH); 8. Paul Scally (Raynham, MA); 9. Mike Horn (Ashland, MA); 10. Bethney Stoehr (Bridgewater, MA)
PRO 4 MODIFIEDS HARRY KOURAFAS MEMORIAL RACE FINISH: 1. Brett Meservey (Bewster, MA); 2. Rob Richardi (Taunton, MA); 3. Randy Cabral (Kingston, MA); 4. P.J. Peters (Oxford, CT); 5. #75; 6. Julian Gorman (Bethel, CT); 7. Mark Charette (Wolcott, CT); 8. Bill Lucchessi (Putlake, NY); 9. Dion Doyle (Preston, CT); 10. Ben Ashford (Northfield, CT); 11. #87
EXIT REALTY PRO TRUCK SERIES: 1. Allen Coates; 2. Corey Coates; 3. Josh Stringer; 4. Duane Noil; 5. Jacob Perry; 6. Andy Lindamin; 7. Joshua Hedges; 8. Lucas Leone; 9. Dave Koening; 10. Rick Ashlaw
NORTH EAST MINI STOCK TOUR FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Desmond Skillings (Antrim, NH); 2. Cody LeBlanc (Waterville ME); 3. Jacob Rheaume (Rochester, NH); 4. Rich Fournier (Warwick, MA); 5. Matt Boucher (Andover, NH); 6. Cris King (Derry, NH); 7. Mike Viens (Seekonk, MA); 8. Andrew Farnham; 9. Marc Paneroni; 10. Justin Faford (Westminster, MA)