Thompson, Conn: Thompson Speedway honored its 2013 track champions and celebrated its 73rd season of racing at its annual awards banquet Friday evening. Champions in all five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions took center stage as they put an exclamation point on a season defined by competitive racing in spite of a rain-plagued year. Keith Rocco of Meriden, Conn. led a contingent of drivers to earn series crowns with a championship in the coveted Sunoco Modified division.
Other champions included: Rick Gentes of Burriville, RI in the Late Models, Cam McDermott in the Lite Modified division, Steve Kenneway in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division, and Monster Mini Stock Champion Eric Bourgeois.
Mini Stock driver Mike Viens of Seekonk, Mass. and Late Model driver Marc Curtis, Jr. of Worcester, Mass. were the recipients of the Chief Starter’s Award presented by Tim Bennett. The award recognizes sportsmanship displayed by drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions.
The Sunoco Modified division crown was decided in a highly contested battle that went right down to the last lap of the last race. Rocco, who held a mere two point lead heading into the final regular season event, finished second that night to Woody Pitkat of Stafford Springs, Conn., whose race win tied him for the championship. Rocco’s division-leading five victories served as the tie-breaker and catapulted Rocco to the head table for Friday night’s festivities to celebrate his fourth Thompson Speedway track championship. Rocco accomplished a total of nine top-five finishes throughout the season. Cassie Rocco shared in the honors as the championship car owner. Rocco’s accomplishments at Thompson and throughout the state also earned him the title of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut State Champion and will also be honored by NASCAR in Charlotte in December.
“This championship was different because it was my first as a car owner. Without the people behind me – this team, the people who show up every Thursday – this championship wouldn’t be possible,” said Rocco. “It was a short season, but we made sure we had fun. We laughed, we joked. The people on my team are just awesome and they make this sport fun.”
Rocco also said he would be returning to Thompson for another full season in 2014.
Special awards were presented to Sunoco Modified Most Improved driver, Jason Sundeen, and Rookie-of-the-Year, Paul Newcomb.
Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, R.I. added to his auto racing legacy with the 2013 Late Model championship after taking it down to the wire. The division title was decided on the final regular season event in which Glenn Boss of Danielson, Conn. entered the race with a four point lead over Gentes. His brought home his No. 70 machine in the seventh position to claim the crown over Boss and earn his fifth Thompson Speedway track championship. In total, Gentes earned three victories, six top-five and nine top-10 finishes throughout the season. Gentes’ accomplishments put him second on the tracks all-time win list with a total of 72 career victories.
Special awards were presented to Late Model Most Improved driver, Marc Curtis, Jr., and Rookie-of-the-Year, John Lowinski-Loh, Jr.
Cam McDermott of Scituate, RI. earned his third consecutive Thompson track championship with a crown in the Lite Modified division for the second straight year. McDermott began his title streak in the Thompson Modifieds, and continued it even after moving to the Lite Modified division in 2012. McDermott’s season was dominating with six victories and nine top-five finishes. McDermott, who will move to the Sunoco Modified division next season, finished the season 22 points ahead of John Studley of Framingham, Mass.
Special awards were presented to Lite Modified Most Improved driver, Joseph Boivin, and Rookie-of-the-Year, Bob Vojtila.
Lowell, Mass. native Steve Kenneway and Norwich, Conn.’s Banta Racing, owned by Charlie and David Banta, celebrated their first Thompson Speedway track championship in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division. Kenneway entered the final race of the season with a 12-point lead over Jason Chicolas of Sutton, Mass. Kenneway suffered a flat tire early in the race but rallied to a sixth place finish to secure the division crown. Banta Racing, who has fielded cars in the division for the last 14 seasons, enjoyed one victory, five top-five, and eight top-10 finishes in only their second year with Kenneway behind the wheel.
Special awards were presented to the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman Most Improved driver, Kevin Mason, and Rookie-of-the-Year, Travis Jurcik.
Eric Bourgeois of East Haddam Conn. waited nine years to celebrate a second Thompson Speedway track championship. The 2004 Monster Mini Stock Champion earned his second title after entering the final event of the season with only a six point lead over defending champion Chad Baxter. Bourgeois, who lost a championship bid last season to Baxter by eight points, wasn’t about to let his efforts of the season slip away. Bourgeois took down the win that night and, in doing so, secured the division crown. In all, Bourgeois and car owner Bruce Stevens earned a total of two victories and never placed outside the top-five all season long.
Special awards were presented to Monster Mini Stock Most Improved driver, Nathan Taylor, and Rookie-of-the-Year, Anthony Comforti.
The evening concluded with the presentation of the John Hoenig Memorial Award. The award, which recognizes one individual for their hard work and dedication to the Speedway, was presented to Richard “Mouse” Morrill.
Morrill has worked for the speedway for 47 years in various capacities, but it best known for his role as leader of one of the very best track crews in the country. Thompson officials have depended on his leadership to keep them informed on track conditions. He directs accident scenes and the cleanup that follows. He has earned the respect of not only every race official at Thompson Speedway, but has received rave reviews from touring series directors for his ability to deal with on-track problems and to accurately report back to them the exact conditions that exist on the track surface.
SUNOCO MODIFIED FINAL POINT STANDINGS: 1. KEITH ROCCO, Meriden, CT; 2. Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, CT; 3. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 4. Dennis Perry, Pawcatuck, CT; 5. Ryan Preece, N. Falmouth, MA; 6. Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 7. John Catania, Ludlow, MA; 8. Matt Gallo, Berlin, CT; 9. Paul Newcomb, Plymouth, MA; 10. Jason Sundeen, Douglas, MA.
LATE MODEL FINAL POINT STANDINGS: 1. RICK GENTES, Burriville, RI; 2. Glenn Boss, Danielson, CT; 3. John Lowinski-Loh, Jr., Milford, MA; 4. Chad LaBastie, Uxbridge, MA; 5. Marc Curtis, Jr., Worcester, MA; 6. Damon Tinio, Mendon, MA; 7. John Falconi, Oakham, MA; 8. Derryck Anderson, Jr., Coventry, RI; 9. Louis Romiza, E. Falmouth, MA; 10. Bob O’Connell, Jr., Wrentham, MA.
LITE MODIFIED FINAL POINT STANDINGS: 1. CAM MCDERMOTT, Scituate, RI; 2. John Studley, Framingham, MA; 3. Dylan Menditto, Brooklyn, CT; 4. Joseph Boivin, Belchertown, MA; 5. Glenn Griswold, Vernon, CT; 6. Nikki Ouellette, East Granby, CT; 7. Bob Vojtila, Southington, CT; 8. Robert Palmer, Lisbon, CT; 9. Danny Gamache, Jr., Woonsocket, RI; 10. Ryan Pellerin, Dayville, CT.
XTRA MART LIMITED SPORTSMAN FINAL POINT STANDINGS: 1. STEVE KENNEWAY, Lowell, MA; 2. Scott Sundeen, Douglas, MA; 3. Corey Fanning, Mapleville, RI; 4. Jesse Gleason, Lisbon, CT; 5. Bill McNeil, Preston, CT; 6. Jason Chicolas, Sutton, MA; 7. Kevin Mason, West Warwick, RI; 8. Scott Fanning, Mapleville, RI; 9. Travis Jurcik, Chaplin, CT.
MONSTER MINI STOCK FINAL POINT STANDINGS: 1. ERIC BOURGEOIS, East Haddam, CT; 2. Chad Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 3. Dave Trudeau, Mansfield, CT; 4. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 5. Joe Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 6. Nathan Taylor, Wauregan, CT; 7. Louis Bellisle, Lisbon, CT; 8. Scott Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 9. Alicia Thatcher, Pascoag, RI; 10. Steve Michalski, Brooklyn, CT.