|After the past rain out, can Rocco make it 5 in a row at Thompson ?|
(THOMPSON, CT) - Oval track action returns to Thompson Speedway on Wednesday night for the 3rd Annual Sunoco Modified 20/20 Sprint. It’s all part of “For the Drivers Night” featuring free admission for all drivers.
The two prior Sunoco 20/20 Sprint races have been won under very different circumstances. Ryan Preece, a regular at the speedway won the inaugural event in 2014, while Eric Berndt in a second Ceravolo modified captured victory in his first race of the season last year in dominating fashion.
The event is comprised of two 20-lap features that both count for championship points. The final 10-lap Sprint to the finish provides the excitement of one last dash for the dollars. That was put on display earlier this season during the Late Model 20/20 Sprint when William Wall and Rick Gentes put on a 10-lap battle for the ages.
Winning the 20/20 Sprint is no easy task. Instead of the usual challenge of winning one event on a given day teams must compile three strong finishes, usually win one of the races, and not have any mistakes over the course of the three segments. It’s a tall order for anyone in the field.
“To be honest, with the Sunoco Modified it is not like a Tour car where the car will transition throughout a run,” said Preece. “This year it might be a little different running a softer tire because we do see some transition through a run. Some people get tight, some people get loose and it might work out to my favor if you have run the same tire in all three (races). My car seems to get better and better the longer into a run and it seems like others might be fading a little.”
Woody Pitkat, the defending track champion said, “You’ve got to see where you start, but you obviously try to win every race. You definitely got to use your head more and probably not take some chances that you would take if there was just one race, to keep it safe and run all three.”
Wednesday night might just be the best opportunity all year for anyone to catch Keith Rocco. Rocco has gone undefeated in the four events held so far, but with three races on one night, history shows that more than one car will visit victory lane. In the five events using this format including both the Late Model and Sunoco Modified divisions, no single car has swept all three segments. Rocco is hoping to changes the course of history on Wednesday night.
Rick Gentes put a brand new motor in his car prior to the last event and the power plant seemed to make a world of difference. There was no question Gentes had the fastest car on the property during the main event on July 9, earning a dominant victory. The win added to a long list of victories for Gentes, but snapped a winless streak that saw him shut out of victory lane since September of 2014.
Gentes’ most recent success is enough to make anyone in the field nervous. William Wall who seemed untouchable to start the season now has a white and red number 70 looming larger in the rear view mirror. Wall has two consecutive finishes outside the top five after making three trips to victory lane early in the year. Only 10 points separate the two at the top at the mid-point of the season.
Larry Gelinas who has one feature win to his credit sits third, but did have to switch cars after destroying their primary Thompson car earlier in the year. The team has certainly faced adversity this year and are still in the hunt with five races remaining.
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Like Gentes in the Late Models, Corey Hutchings has found his stride midway through the summer, cruising to victory during the last event after a slow start to the season. It broke a streak of first time winners in the division and for the first time saw a veteran of the division make a triumphant return back to victory lane.
Even with 4 different winners this season, Ryan Waterman leads the championship chase by 11 markers and is yet to win, but has finished 2nd on three occasions and outside the top-5 only once in five events. Waterman has become the picture of consistency all season and has been able to harness his aggressive style into good finishes week in and week out. Waterman will be back on track attempting to get back to victory lane for the first time since June of last year.
After winning three straight events to start the season, defending champion Dave Trudeau relinquished the point lead for the first time after a last place finish at the most recent event. He now trails in the standings by 9 points behind Wayne Burroughs, Jr. Burroughs has one victory so far and has finished no worse than 3rd all season setting up what could be the most exciting Mini Stock championship battle we have seen in years.
Ed Field and Brad Caddick, who won the last event that was held, could still have a shot by continuing to have solid finishes and with a little help if bad luck were to strike Burroughs or Trudeau.
For the Drivers Night takes place on Wednesday, July 27 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park headlined by the Sunoco Modified 20/20 Sprint. General admission tickets are available for $20, veterans, seniors, and active military are $18, and kids 12 and under are free. For more information visit www.thompsonspeedway.com.