Coby claims historic title in Thompson World Series shootout
Story By: Jason Bleau/Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Photos By: Dave Dalesandro & Dick Ayers/RacersGuide.com
The Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing Presented by King Cadillac GMC came to a close at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Sunday, October 15 capping off another successful year of on-track action at the raceway known to many as the Big-T. Seven divisions made for a busy final day of the three-day showcase of the finest racers in New England and beyond with the main event of the evening being the crowning of the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series champion to help close out the night.
The Whelen Modified Tour’s Sunoco World Series 150 proved to be a historic one with three different drivers earning honors as for the first time in series history. The race saw a different race winner, tour champion, and owner’s champion crowned as Timmy Solomito scored a World Series win while Doug Coby secured a fifth Whelen Modified Series crown and Ryan Preece earned Ed Partridge and TS Motorsports the owner’s title.
Coming into the weekend Doug Coby had history in his sights with a slim 10-point lead over Justin Bonsignore. Six drivers had a mathematic shot at the title, but Coby was seeking his fourth straight championship, and fifth overall, after a year of ups and down that saw him only reach victory lane one time. Coby survived two close calls to finish in the top five, securing the crown that puts him in exclusive company with Richie Evans and Jerry Cook as the only drivers to win four consecutive titles in the series. Coby is the first to do so in the modern era dating back to 1985.
“We have no quit. It took all we had to do to take care of business,” said Coby after clinching the championship. “What a tight season it was – This one’s a little different. It’s a split car and owner championship and the #6 car (of TS Motorsports) had a phenomenal season. They were on point every single race. This is our fifth title with some of these guys. This one we got the points lead with two races to go. It’s just a different feeling and it’s an amazing job. Our team just digs deep every time they have to.”
For the first time in series history the owner’s title went to a team that wasn’t hosting the championship driver at the end of the year. Ed Partridge and TS Motorsports was presented with the owner’s trophy thanks to the efforts of Ryan Preece, who forwent a full season of driving for the driver’s title to focus on advancing his career in select NASCAR Xfinity Series events over the course of the season. Preece said he was proud to help bring Partridge a title and end the season on a high note.
“We had a really solid year and we won a lot of races. When we didn’t win we were consistent. We were really fast and that’s all you can hope for. I have to thank Ed and Connie (Partridge) for letting me drive this car and work on this car,” Preece said as he celebrated with the Partridges after the race.
Finally the race winner was Timmy Solomito, who is no stranger to victory lane at the Big-T. Solomito came into the event knowing he had to win the race and get some help from others in the field to take down Doug Coby for the drivers championship and while he didn’t win the overall title he made a statement with a pass for the win on the final restart. Solomito not only won the event in the closing laps, he did so in a backup car after damaging his primary in a practice incident. Solomito said he was excited to bring his team one more trophy to close out 2017 strong.
“It just goes to show you how great these guys are. We qualified eighth with no laps on the car and put it in victory lane today. There was a lot of determination after what happened in practice. It was pretty unfortunate, but I’m really happy for everybody on board,” Solomito said in victory lane.
Before all that, the first champion of the day was crowned in the Sunoco Modified division as Keith Rocco came into the event with a 12-point lead over Todd Owen. Rocco, seeking his second straight title in the division to add to his already impressive resume at Thompson, didn’t have the dominant year he enjoyed in 2016 but still rode consistency into the final race of the season with two victories and five top five finishes prior to Sunday’s finale.
Rocco looked to not only win the title, but the race as well after making it a three-wide battle for the top spot thirteen laps into the event and taking the lead. However, Rocco’s title hope almost took a major hit in the closing laps of the race when Chase Dowling got into Keith Rocco on a restart, allowing Rocco’s rival for the title Todd Owen to take the lead. Owen went on to claim his third win of the season, but Rocco recovered to a third place finish, which was enough to secure him the division championship. Rocco had a few choice words for Dowling after the event. “There’s a reason I’ve got more championships than that kid does wins,” Rocco said of Chase Dowling. “(These championships) keep getting harder and harder and with about two laps to go we had to put our game faces on.”
While he didn’t win the championship, Todd Owen did get a pretty decent consolation prize with a World Series victory in the Sunoco Modifieds. Owen said he knew he had to win if he was going to contend for the title and his team did what it had to do. “Hats off to Keith Rocco for winning the championship. We knew we had to do one thing, and that was to win. We knew anything could happen,” Owen said in victory lane. “It’s been an incredible year here at Thompson. I’m just happy (to win the race).”
The Sunoco Modifieds were introduced with a special tribute to the late Ted Christopher, who scored in ninety-ninth overall career victory at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in a Sunoco Modified only a week before his untimely passing in September. In addition to the playing of “The Mission” to honor the man simply known to many as TC, Drivers performed a three-wide tribute lap to honor Christopher and the fans while a flag displaying Christopher’s iconic #13 flew in front of the field and was displayed on the flag pole behind the Thompson Speedway scoreboard for the duration of the World Series of Speedway Racing’s third and final day of on-track action.
In the Limited Sportsman it seemed like it was a simple path to the title for Shawn Monahan who held a 29-point lead on Scott Sundeen coming into the event and needed a top fifteen finish to clinch the title despite having no wins on the season coming into the World Series. Monahan was a model of consistency all year. In six races he had six top fives and four consecutive runner-up finishes to his record, but had yet to win an event.
When the green flag finally waved Monahan’s journey to a title seemed even more secure when Scott Sundeen was involved in an early wreck. However Monahan would find his own troubles on track later in the race, putting him outside the top fifteen while Sundeen worked his way to the top five. Controversy erupted when Monahan’s brother, Diego Monahan, appeared to purposefully spin Sundeen late in the event despite Shawn Monahan having worked his way to the top fifteen. Shawn Monahan held on to win the championship with no race victories on the season while his brother Diego was ejected from the race and disqualified.
Monahan was greeted with boos from the packed crowd at Thompson after he exited his car, something he said reminded him of the great Ted Christopher, and praised his team for helping him earn a title without having to visit victory lane. “It was an awesome season,” Monahan said after the event. “We talked to all the guys before we went out on the race track and in 2017, with all the years I’ve been racing, there’s been peace and harmony in the pit area among the top five competitors. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Meanwhile up front Corey Fanning took the victory, but post-race inspection resulting in his car being disqualified from the event. It was announced that the original runner-up in the race, Jeff VanPelt, would be credited with the win.
The NEMA Lites were next up and saw a pair of familiar names each vying for a title as Danny Cugini sought his own championship while Jim Chambers looked to repeat as the champion for the first time. Cugini ran a solid race and finished strong in the top five to secure his NEMA Lite crown while Ryan Bigelow broke through to claim a dominant World Series win.
For Cugini it was a hard fought season-long battle filled with consistency and a focus on the big picture. “The car is in one piece. We haven’t had any wrecks. We didn’t go through any motors this season. The last couple of laps we had a little smoke coming (into the car) so that made me a little nervous, but it’s nothing we couldn’t get by to finish the race. The World Series is the biggest night of the year for us and it’s just awesome to be a part of it. I hope we put on a good show,” said Cugini.
For race winner Ryan Bigelow it was a family affair. His brother, Scott Bigelow, has numerous wins at Thompson, including at the World Series. Ryan Bigelow said he was proud to finally claim a World Series victory of his own. “It’s definitely a way to go out on the year. I have to thank my father for doing everything he does to support me. My brother Paul does all of the chassis work and everything on the racecar and his efforts worked today. This car was on a mission from the beginning. It was a little tight in the end, but I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Bigelow.
The International Supermodified Association (ISMA) brought their biggest and best drivers to Thompson for a 50-lap feature on the Big-T. That division saw two drivers, Jon McKennedy and Timmy Jedrzejek, contesting for their first titles coming into the race with McKennedy having the advantage as the event began. While he wouldn’t win the race itself, McKennedy ran a consistent line and securing a solid top three and his first ISMA title in the process. Timmy Jedrzejek finished fifth to hold on to the runner-up spot in the season points while last year’s series champion Dave Shulluck sped his way to a strong race victory in the 50-lap feature, the twenty-second win of his career.
“This car is really good here. It’s been good here for the last three years and we fought through some issues in practice but the crew worked really hard to get it back together,” Shalluck said in victory lane. “The car was good and I’m glad I could do this for my guys. It’s a great way to end the season.”
The champion, Jon McKennedy who almost won the title a few years back, said he was proud to finally put together a whole season and come out on top in the end. “We were close before so I knew going into today we just needed a little bit of luck and we needed to keep our nose clean. Everything worked out. (My team) worked really hard all season,” said McKennedy.
Closing out the night The Mr. Rooter Pro Truck Series and Street Stocks named feature and series winners after their events were postponed from the previous night. For the trucks Frank Dumicich, Jr. outran the competition to claim a title while Jim Boyle took the win and the Street Stocks saw Allen Coates win the race in a truck and Corey Hutchings score the title.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED SERIES SUNOCO WORLD SERIES 150 TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Timmy Solomito; 2. Chase Dowling; 3. Ron Silk; 4. Rowan Pennink; 5. Doug Coby; 6. Andrew Krause; 7. Woody Pitkat; 8. Dave Sapienza; 9. Jamie Tomaino; 10. Justin Bonsignore
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Todd Owen (Somers, CT); 2. Chase Dowling (Roxbury, CT); 3. Keith Rocco (Berin, CT); 4. Steven Kopcik (Newtown, CT); 5. Timmy Jordan (Brooklyn, CT); 6. Woody Pitkat (Sturbridge, MA); 7. Kyle Elwood (Riverhead, NY); 8. Bert Marvin (Colchester, CT); 9. John Studley Framingham, MA); 10. Ryan Preece (Berlin, CT)
LIMITED SPORTSMAN FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Jeff VanPelt (Pawtucket, RI); 2. Jesse Gleason (Lison, CT); 3. Travis Jurcik (Chaplin, CT); 4. Larry Barnett (Moosup, CT); 5. Kevin Mason (West Warwick, RI); 6. Brent Gleason (Griswold, CT); 7. Shawn Monahan (Waterford, CT); 8. Zachery Robinson (Putnam, CT); 9. Jon Porter (East Lyme, CT); 10. Robert Bloxom, III (Stratford, CT)
NEMA LITES FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Ryan Bigelow (East Hampton, CT); 2. Kyle Hamilton; 3. Chad LaBastie (Uxbridge, MA); 4. Randy Carbal (Kingston, MA); 5. Dan Cugini (Marshfield, MA); 6. Todd Bertrand (Danielson, CT); 7. Jim Chambers (Atkinson, NH); 8. Paul Cally (Raynham, MA); 9. Meg Cugini (Marshfield, MA); 10. Anthony Payne (Fair Lanw, NJ)
ISMA SUPERMODIFIED FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Dave Shulluck, Jr. (Westlake, OH); 2. Chris Perley (Rowley, MA); 3. Jon McKennedy (Chelmsford, MA); 4. Trent Stephens (Tallmadge, OH); 5. Timmy Jedrzejek (Independence, OH); 6. Dan Bowes (Epping, NH); 7. Dave Duggan (Milford, NH); 8. Bobby Magner (Oswego, NY); 9. Rich Reid (New London, OH); 10. Jason Spaulding (Fulton, NY)
STREET STOCK FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Allen Coates; 2. Corey Hutchings; 3. Frank LeToile, Jr.; 4. Corey Fanning; 5. Jim Silvia; 6. Jim Nawakowski; 7. Chad Baxter; 8. Ryan Waterman; 9. Steve Barrett; 10. John Bercham
*Mr. Rooter Pro Trucks Results Were Not Available Prior to Press Time*