Scott Payea secures ACT championship at Thompson
Story By: Jason Bleau/Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Photo By: RacedayCT.com
Day two of the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park proved to be a busy one as a slew of new champions were named in both touring and track divisions as the biggest weekend in New England racing continued. Six different races were held over the course of the afternoon, each resulting in a champion being named for their specific series or division as a packed crowd turned out to enjoy and afternoon of non-stop on track action at the Big-T.
The American Canadian Tour served as the night’s main event crowning a champion with a two-man battle established coming into the evening’s season finale race. The tour’s 75-lap feature began with a tribute to series founder Tom Curley in a touching pre-race ceremony featuring a playing of “Donny Boy” on bagpipes. Curley passed away at the age of 73 earlier this year and before the green flag flew ACT drivers presented a series of four-wide tribute laps in honor of the man who helped establish their series back in 1986.
The event was highlighted by a points battle between Scott Payea and Dillon Moltz who were separated by only 37 points coming into the event. As fate would have it the two drivers found themselves in the top five in the closing laps of the event giving Payea enough breathing room to hold on for a title while Moltz settled for the runner-up spot in the points race. For Payea was his first career title and one that served as vindication after years of coming up short to past champions in the division.
“We’ve had some great years and the stars aligned this year,” Payea said. “We put so much into this every year and to finally put it all together is just amazing. It’s so special to us. It’s so tough in this series. We were fortunate enough to win five races this year and we still had to come into the last race and fight to the end.”
Up front Eddie MacDonald and Woody Pitkat battled it out for a win in the final ACT race of the 2017 campaign. Despite a strong run in the second half of the event, Pitkat was unable to best MacDonald who had a strong car from start to finish and survived numerous restarts on route to his first win at Thompson and his second of the season in the ACT division. “I’m just very excited to finally get a win in a late model here. I’ve been wanting to do that forever,” MacDonald said in victory lane. “It’s an awesome way to end the season for us. I just want to thank all the fans. We have a good crowd (at Thompson) today.”
The Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) drivers were the first to take to the track for their annual Shane Hammond Memorial 25-lap feature with Randy Cabral securing himself another title in an increasingly impressive career, cementing himself among the NEMA greats with his sixth series championship in the last nine years. Cabrel came into the event with a solid 50-point lead over Jim Chambers and raced his way to a third place finish while Chambers secured a runner-up finish in the final event of the 2017 season.
However while the two championship contenders battled it out it was Cabral’s teammate Todd Bertrand who took home a dominant win in the feature. Bertrand is a former winner on Ice Breaker weekend at Thompson, including a victory in the NEMA Lites earlier in the 2017 season, and said winning the World Series race was a highlight of his year. “I’ve been wanting to win the World Series for the NEMA Midgets for a few years now. We’ve been trying really hard and we’ve gotten unlucky a couple times on the last lap. I wasn’t going to let this one get away from me,” Cabral said.
After congratulating his teammate on his feature win, 2017 NEMA Midget champion Randy Cabral spoke about his sixth series title and the legacy he is building in the modern era of the NEMA Midgets. “I’m so excited that Todd won. He’s been trying for this race for so long. I’m excited for my team and my teammate. I love the World Series. I wish I won the race, but halfway through the race I realized I had a bigger picture to worry about,” Cabral said. “I have a lot of big shoes to fill. I’m trying to live up to the names and legacies (of past legends) and what they did – It’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
The Valenti Modified series crowned its own champion before the day even started with points leader Anthony Nocella already earning enough points to clinch the title coming into the final event of the season for the popular local division. Nocella became the eighth different champion in the history of the Valenti Modified series and not only clinched the title, but also won the race after several contenders were sidelined from a series of on-track incidents during the 50-lap event.
“I just can’t thank all my guys enough. They work hard all year long – Everyone stepped up this week and it showed right there,” Nocella said in victory lane celebrating both a race win and a series title. “We knew we had the championship won so we went out there to win and that was it. Either way we wanted to get in victory lane and we showed that. We had a good car all weekend and we ran hard all night. We wanted to stay out front and make sure we were the only ones in victory lane tonight with both trophies in hand.”
The next champion to be crowned was the Mini Stock track champion with Wayne Burroughs overcoming adversity to survive the 15-lap feature and secure a second consecutive title in the division at Thompson. Burroughs spun early in the event, nearly being collected in a bigger incident, but still managed to secure a top five and best Eric Bourgois for the title. The result gave Burroughs a perfect season of top five finishes in the division at Thompson, including two victories, and solidified himself as the man to beat in 2018. After the race Burroughs appeared a bit rattled by the on-track incident that almost took his title chances away, but nonetheless he was excited to celebrate another championship with his team by his side.
“I’m not going to get into the whole thing or call anybody out, but guys were trying to take it from us. We’re fine. We saved it. We came from the back and proved to everybody we were the fastest car out here. We did what we had to do all season. It’s Championship number two. This is absolutely awesome. It’s better than the first one,” Burroughs said.
As for the race win, that went to another familiar name as Dave Trudeau secured a World Series race win in the Mini Stocks after a hard fought battle with Nate Taylor that, at times, saw the two competitor race almost an entire lap side by side. Experience won out however and Trudeau came out on top with a statement win to close out the year. “It was a great way to end the season,” said Trudeau. “I was kind of pinching (Nate Taylor) down so he’d have to bind up the car a little bit and kind of slow his momentum. It worked. He started getting loose and I was able to escape.”
The Pro 4 Modifieds were next up with the tightest points race of the night set to be decided with only two points separating the top three contenders. Rob Richardi, Jr., Norm Wrenn, III, and Brett Meservey all came into the event with their title hopes still very much alive. It was a hard fought battle to the very end with all three contenders racing in the top five, but it was Brett Meservey who scored a second place finish and the Pro 4 Modified championship at the end of the 22-lap event. “It was a tough battle and we pushed through. We did a good job,” Meservey said after clinching the title. Wrenn finished third, securing him the runner-up spot in the season standings, while Richardi unofficially finished fifth in the race and third in points after holding the points lead entering the event. As for the winner of the 22-lap feature, that title went to Dave Berghman who provided a dominant performance as he was the class of the field leading almost the entire race after starting on the pole.
The night was capped off by the naming of the North East Mini Stock Tour champion Emerson Cayer who finished second to race winner Nick Maniatis. The evening also included a consulation race earlier in the day for the Limited Sportman won by Ed Puleo. The remainder of the night was stalled after heavy fog rolled in, postponing the remaining events for the evening, a street stock feature and the Mr. Rooter Pro Truck Series, to the third day of Sunoco World Series weekend. In addition to those features Thompson will crown track champions in the Sunoco Modifieds and Limited Sportsman divisions while the NEMA Lites and ISMA Super Modifieds also take center stage with the afternoon capped off by the biggest event of the weekend, the Sunoco World Series 150 for the Whelen Modified Series Tour after which a champion will be crowned. Chase Dowling sits on the pole for that event with Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and Timmy Solomito all well within striking distance of the title.
VALENTI MODIFIED FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Anthony Nocella (Woburn, MA); 2. Eric Goodale (Riverhead, NY); 3. Rowan Pennink (New Egypt, NJ); 4. Jeff Gallup (Feeding Hill, MA); 5. Sam Rameau (Westminster, MA); 6. Andy Shaw (Center Conway, NH); 7. Ron Silk (Norwalk, CT); 8. Anthony Flannery (Easthampton, CT); 9. Blake Barney (Jackson, NJ); 10. Rob Richardi (Taunton, MA)
NEMA MIDGETS FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Todd Bertrand (Danielson, CT); 2. Jim Chambers (Atkinson, NH); 3. Randy Cabral (Kingston, MA); 4. Kyle Hamilton (Plainville, IN); 5. Avery Stoehr (Lakeville, MA); 6. Paul Scally (Raynham, MA); 7. Alan Chambers (Atkinson, NH); 8. Chris Deritis (Philadelphia, PA); 9. Bethany Stoehr (Bridgewater, MA); 10. Ryan Bigelow (East Berlin, CT)
MINI STOCKS FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Dave Trudeau (Mansfield, CT); 2. Nate Taylor (Brooklyn, CT); 3. Eric Bourgeois (East Haddam, CT); 4. Jacob Perry (Pawcatuck, CT); 5. Wayne Burroughs, Jr (Oakdale, CT); 6. Doug Curry (Groton, CT); 7. Andrew Krzeminski (Haddem, CT); 8. Chris Ivory; 9. Ian Brew (Woodriver Junction, RI); 10. Mike Anzalone (Plainfield, CT)
PRO 4 MODIFIED FEATURE TOP-10 FINISH: 1. Dave Berghman (East Providence, RI); 2. Brett Meservey (Brewster, MA); 3. Norm Wrenn, III (Amhert, NH); 4. Jacob Perry (Pawcatuck, CT); 5. Rob Richardi, Jr. (Taunton, MA); 6. Mark Charette (Wolcott, CT); 7. Allen Rieser (Brimfield, MA); 8. Dana Willis (Hanson, MA); 9. Bill Lucchesi, Jr. (Patterson, NY); 10. Dion Doyle (Preston, CT)
NORTHEAST MINI STOCK TOUR FEATURE TOP-10: 1. Nick Maniatis (Hooksett, NH); 2. Emerson Cayer (Contoocook, NH); 3. Matt Sonnhalter (East Thetford, VT); 4. Nate Taylor (Brooklyn, CT); 5. Mike Viens (Seekonk, MA); 6. Nicholas Anderson (Oxford, MA); 7. Kodi Sabins (Windsor, VT); 8. Jacon Rheaume (Rochester, NY); 9. Davin Guy; 10. Matthew Kimball
LIMITED SPORTMAN CONSOLIDATION RACE TOP-10: 1. Ed Puleo (Branford, CT); 2. Jon Porter (East Lyme, CT); 3. Mike Hopkins (Hermon, ME); 4. Scott Cook (Oakdale, CT); 5. Jason Lafayette (Somers, CT); 6. Tommy Shea (New London, CT); 7. Brendan Houghton; 8. Nick Anderson (Oxford, CT); 9. Brandon Fisher (Plainfield, CT); 10. Ed Correla (Raynham, MA)