Pitkat Earns Two Thompson Wins; Caruso, Fanning & Panaroni Also Score Sunday Checkered Flags at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
THOMPSON, Conn. -- Five NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions took center stage at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on the hot summer Sunday of July 28 as the best racers in New England sought to earn not only victory, but also valuable points with the second half of the 2019 season looming. The afternoon provided intense competition as tempers flared and big names broke long winning and losing streaks in the latest chapter of one of the most competitive seasons in Thompson’s recent history.
The SK Light Modifieds® provided probably the most controversial finish of the day as points leader Bryan Narducci sought to continue his season dominance and claim his ninth consecutive division win at Thompson. Narducci quickly worked his way to the front once the green flag waved on the 20-lap feature, eventually passing Steven Chapman for the lead. Chapman worked his way through the top five to challenge Narducci for the lead in the final laps, managing to get to Narducci’s bumper in the final lap. Entering turn four Chapman got underneath Narducci, and there was contact, sending Narducci around. Narducci suffered his first loss in over a year at Thompson with a fourth-place finish. While Chapman crossed the line first, he was disqualified for his on-track actions and the win was given to second place Keith Caruso, his first career win at Thompson.
“I’ll take the win any way I can. It was a long wait for this. We finally got a good setup. Keith Rocco set up the car for us and it definitely made a difference,” Caruso said adding that he expected that the battle for the top two would present him with an opportunity to capitalize for a win. “I kind of saw it coming. A couple laps before that Narducci got into (Chapman) and I was waiting for a little payback. It could have gone either way. I didn’t know which way they were going to call it.”
Speaking of drama, the Limited Sportsman division featured controversy even before the main feature got underway. Points leader Ryan Waterman and defending champion Shawn Monahan found themselves in a three-wide battle for the lead coming out of turn four in the heat race, leading to contact on the frontstretch that eventually sent Waterman into the turn one wall. Waterman retrieved a backup car, numbered 75, a number that he had won the title with in years past. However, while the sparks flew in the heat races, the race itself was much tamer with Corey Fanning taking the early lead in the 20-lap feature and winning handily by over three seconds. It was Fanning’s first win of the season at Thompson making him the fourth different winner in five Limited Sportsman events in Thompson’s 2019 season. Fanning called the race one of the best he’s raced in all season at any track in New England.
“Green to checker, I don’t think you can ask for any better racing than that. Did I expect it? No. We had a little bit of time off so I thought everyone was going to race pretty hard, but it played out in my favor,” Fanning said. “We had no cautions and that’s big. Congrats to everybody on that one. I know it can get rocky out there. That’s probably the best race, door to door, fender to fender, I’ve been in all year.”
The Mini Stocks kicked off the afternoon with a 15-lap feature and a measly 16 points separating the top four contenders for the division title. After four features in 2019, Scott Michalski, Jared Roy, and Steve Michalski placed first through third in the standings respectively and each had a win, while Evan Bourgeois, who came in fourth in points, sought his first win of the year. However, none of them would find victory in the fifth race of the 2019 campaign. Instead the battle for the win would come down to Doug Curry and Mark Panaroni leading to a three-lap shootout with Panaroni coming out on top. Panaroni, who races part-time, scored his first win at Thompson in eight years and became the fifth different winner of the season in the Mini Stocks.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’re not going to bring something that’s a quality piece to win races then there’s no point in showing up,” Panaroni said after the race. “It was pretty sweet (to win). Definitely a good feeling.” The race also provided major implications for the points battle as Jared Roy was black-flagged after an on-track incident with Dave Trudeau and Evan Bourgeois wrecked out of the event in the closing laps. Roy now sits 48 points out of the lead while Bourgeois is 40-points back. Scott Michalski maintains a slim three-point lead over Steve Michalski.
The Late Model 25-lap feature saw a familiar name come out on top as Woody Pitkat earned his first win of the season in the division becoming the fourth different winner in four features in 2019. Pitkat survived several cautions and a hard-fought battle with Derek Gluchacki in the middle segment of the race to take the checkered flag. Pitkat was joined by an ecstatic crew in victory lane celebrating the latest win for the Jeff Hartwel owned #91 car.
“We came here in the ACT race with a different car and we were really good. We took some of the notes that I took from that and brought it to this deal and it’s definitely woken it up since then,” Pitkat said after the race. “I just tried to keep my composure on the restarts and be nice and consistent. It’s cool to win for Hartwell, those guys have been together for so long.”
It wouldn’t be Pitkat’s last moment of glory on the night however as he took his Dan Avery owned #10A Sunoco Modified to the front of the field in the final race of the evening. Pitkat raced alongside veterans Keith Rocco, Todd Owen and Ronnie Williams up front for most of the 30-lap feature but Pitkat found himself in the lead in the closing laps and had to survive a restart and a late charge from Rocco with three laps to go to win twice in the same night at Thompson for the first time in his career.
“It’s funny how this works sometimes. You get a spark and it gives you the fire to go even harder,” Pitkat said in victory lane. “To start, it wasn’t good. We lost a bunch of spots and I just tried to keep my composure and pick them off one at a time. Towards the end when the sun started coming down and the track started cooling off, I knew we had something that could be in victory lane. I just can’t thank these guys enough. It’s a small group over here.”
The NASCAR Whelen All American Series drivers will be in the spotlight again in just a week as all five divisions will return to the asphalt on Sunday, August 4.
MINI STOCK FEATURE FINISH: 1. Mark Panaroni (Ivoryton, CT); 2. Douglas Curry (Norwich, CT); 3. Charles Canfield (East Haven, CT); 4. Steve Michalski (Brooklyn, CT); 5. Dave Trudeau, Sr. (Mansfield, CT); 6. Scott Michalski (Danielson, CT); 7. Roger Ducharme (Foster, RI); 8. JT Suprenant (Central Village, CT); 9. Todd Taylor (East Lyme, CT); 10. Ian Brew (Woodriver Junction, RI)
SK LIGHT MODIFIEDS® FEATURE FINISH: 1. Keith Caruso (Millbury, MA); 2. John O’Sullivan (Salem, CT); 3. Anthony Marvin (Colchester, CT); 4. Bryan Narducci (Colchester, CT); 5. Brett Gonyaw (Vernon, CT); 6. Matt MacDougall (Derby, CT); 7. Wayne Burroughs, Jr. (Oakdale, CT); 8. Nathan Pytko (Oxford, MA); 9. Bert Oulette (Ellington, CT); 10. Marc Burke (Enfield, CT)
LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH: 1. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, CT); 2. Derek Gluchacki (Dartmouth, MA); 3. Mark Jenison (Warwick, RI); 4. Brian Tagg (Oxford, MA); 5. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 6. Rick Gentes (Harrisville, RI); 7. William Wall (Millbury, MA); 8. Nick Johnson (Rehoboth, MA); 9. Matt Lowinski-loh (Milford, MA); 10. Mike Mitchell
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE FINISH: 1. Corey Fanning (Mapleville, RI); 2. Kyle Gero (Baltic, CT); 3. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 4. Jason Chicolas (Sutton, MA); 5. Meghan Fuller (Auburn, MA); 6. Ryan Morgan (Franklin, CT); 7. Al Stone (Durham, CT); 8. Zachary Robinson (Putnam, CT); 9. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 10. Moose Dunton (Niantic, CT)
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH: 1. Woody Pitkat (Bellingham, CT); 2. Keith Rocco (Berlin, CT); 3. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 4. Ronnie Williams (Tolland, CT); 5. Michael Rutkoski; 6. Troy Talman (Oxford, MA); 7. Andrew Moeller (Woodbridge, CT); 8. Kyle James (Westerly, RI); 9. Paul Buzei (Trumbull, CT); 10. Angelo Belsito