THOMPSON, Conn. (WWLP) – Rowan Pennink led the most laps and put legendary modified Ole Blue back in victory lane with a win in Sunday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut. Pennink survived restarts and red flags while making the most of a late race pit stop. The victory is Pennink’s third on the NWMT and his first since 2013.
Pennink said he did not expect Ole Blue to be that dominant. “I knew we had a good car after practice and the way the thing got out front there. I had to hold it back. We got ourselves a comfortable lead and just ran the pace we needed to run. When they put tires on that thing, I mean that was one of the best cars I’ve ever driven in my life in the final laps there.”
This is the 60th anniversary of the #3 modified, affectionately known for decades as Ole Blue owned by the Boehler family in Eastern Massachusetts.
Timmy Solomito was 2nd, and he was pleased with his day. “For a pole and a 2nd today it’s pretty good so it’s a win in our book” Max Sachem was 3rd with Bobby Santos 4th, and Patrick Emerling 5th. Rounding out the top 10 were Eric Goodale, Matt Swanson, Woody Pitkat, Justin Bonsignore, and Todd Szegedy. The caution waved right after the green flag to start the race. Defending NWMT Champion Doug Coby started 3rd and hit the wall entering turn 3 under the caution, quickly ending his day with a last place finish. The #6 Chevrolet of Ryan Preece got right front damage at the start. Preece finished 28th, 92 laps down.
Timmy Solomito set fast time in qualifying and won the pole. He was the 24th car of 31 to attempt to qualify. The mod tour qualified just after 3:00 pm. Each car got two laps, except the #51 of Justin Bonsignore, who was penalized for failing tech twice and was only allowed one qualifying lap. After time trials, the field was parked on pit road while the Thompson Mini Stocks ran their feature. The Icebreaker 150 was the final race of the day.
This is 25 year old Timmy Solomito’s third season behind the #16 Ford on the NWMT. While Solomito is from Islip on Long Island, the team is owned by Eric Sanderson and their race shop is in Palmer. No sophomore slump in 2016 as the team had four wins and finished third in points. They started the 2017 season with a win at the NWMT opener at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Solomito told 22News the goal in 2017 is continue to improve. “Hopefully this year, I can race a little bit smarter and put ourselves in contention for the championship at the end of the year. Just got to be smart, take what we can, and finish races, that’s the main thing. Last year, I kind of got tied up in a few wrecks that I shouldn’t have been in, it kind of cost us at the end of the year in a shot for the championship. Just going to try and race smarter, still race as hard as we did last year, bit race smarter and hopefully be there at the end of the year.” Drivers put a premium on winning races but some racers are very skilled at racing for championship points. According to Solomito,“That’s kind of what Doug (Coby) and those guys have been doing for a couple of years now. They know when it’s not their day and they know when they’ve got to ride and take a 5th or a 6th or a 7th place. If you get a couple of lucky breaks along the way, who knows you might end up 3rd. Where I’ve always been the guy that if we’re running 5th I want to be running 3rd. Just got to be smarter about it and keep the big picture in focus. Last year, I was clearly going out there and trying to win every race I possibly could, which there’s nothing wrong with that- I like to do that too, every driver does. I’ve just got to run a little bit smarter this year and put ourselves in contention to be there at the end of the year, rather than get ourselves tangled up in something because I forced an issue.”
It’s been a couple of seasons since 51 year old Tom Carey, Jr. of New Salem has sat in the seat of a race car. His racing resume is extensive with championships and wins. He has driven in NASCAR’s truck series. Carey plans on joining his son Tom for a limited number of races this season. Carey told 22News, “We are in the process of putting a second car together. Tommy will run the new one and I’ll run this one a little bit. I don’t know which races I’m going to run, but I’ll probably run two or three times in the late models here at Thompson and then we’ll both run Loudon (ACT Invitational) also.” Carey explained that he’s going to enjoy racing this year more than he has in some seasons in the past, as he’s driving for just the love and fun of the sport.
Fifty-eight year old Ted Christopher of Plainville, Connecticut has won 98 races at Thompson. Christopher spoke with 22News about the drive to reach the 100 win milestone. “ It’s pretty nice if you can get to that point. You don’t know unless you try. I haven’t been here in a couple of years. It’d be nice if they had more races. It makes it a little tight doing it in seven races, but we’ll see.”
A special pre-race ceremony honored two members of the racing community who died four days apart in January. Howie Hodge was not just a racing photography icon, but one of the nicest people you could ever hope to know. Howie photographed motorsports for 50 years, along with his wife, Mary. The two were married for 53 years. Howie was always happy to share his knowledge with the next generations of racing photographers. Also honored was modified driver Leo “The Lion” Cleary. Cleary had raced throughout the Northeast, and won the 1967 modified championship at Thompson.
Among Sunday’s other races, Ryan Preece won the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Eddie MacDonald drove a dominant car to victory lane in the Pro All Stars Series-North 75-lap season opener. Jesse Gleason easily won the 20-lap Limited Sportsman race, describing the experience like “driving an old Cadillac out there.” Ray Parent emerged as the winner after a last lap crash and spin in turn 4 by the leaders in the 25-lap Late Model contest. Dave Trudeau took the checkers in the 15-lap Mini Stock race.
Icebreaker weekend included six races on Saturday. Todd Bertrand went to victory lane in the NEMA Lites. Jim Lowrey won the Vintage Outlaws race. Brett Gonyaw was victorious in the Lites Modifieds. Frank Dumicich topped the field in the Mr. Rooter Pro Truck Series. Ryan Waterman was top dog in both the Thompson Open Street Stock event and the 12-lap Race of Champions.