TRACK OFFICALS HOPE THAT THE RAINOUTS ARE OVER AT THOMPSON By Mike Twist
World Series Has Been Postponed Twice, Busch North Was Scheduled for June
“With Don Hawk’s [of NASCAR] cooperation, we finally put together a package that we felt was feasible for the drivers, car owners and particular the race fans since this has been lingering on for what is going on the fourth week,” said track owner Don Hoenig
While the World Series has been postponed twice, this new schedule actually dates back to June when Busch North and the Modifieds were schedule to run a doubleheader. Both series got to practice, but qualifying and the feature races were rained out and rescheduled for early October. That event was rained out again and rescheduled for later in the month. However, the string of wash outs has forced the Modified Tour 100 lapper to be cancelled and the Busch North 100 lapper moved to be part of the World Series.
“As far as putting the two series together, there just really wasn’t any more time left,” said Hoenig. “The Busch cars have to go to California and NASCAR was very concerned over that part of it. We tied everything together with the cooperation of NASCAR.
“This is the first time that I can remember, going back to the 50’s, when we’ve had two premier divisions on track at the same time deciding a points championship. Besides that, we have 10 total divisions deciding their point champions – our own track divisions, supermodifieds. It’s an outstanding weekend of racing if we can get it together. I’m sure it will be one of the classic events held here in the Northeast.”
Juggling all of those divisions took some work.
“One of the key things in all of this that is remarkable has been the cooperation of the competitors themselves,” said track advisor Ben Dodge. “It’s been amazing. We have not had anybody call up screaming or ranting and raving. Competitors want to go racing. Traditionally, this event, the World Series, has been the finale for what we call short track racing in New England. A lot of people think of Thompson and this event as their Daytona 500. This is an opportunity for a guy who runs weekly at the Seekonk Speedway, or Lee or Star, to come here and compete [with each other]. They look forward to that.”
Those teams know that the track can’t control the weather.
“Competitors understand because there were no ifs,” said Hoenig. “The weather has been so bad and such a washout over the past three weekends, that there was no possibility to open the gates and do any practicing.”
Now, a revised plan for the race has been put together and an optimistic forecast for the weekend has been issued. This all sets the stage for one of the most unique events that the region has seen in recent history. There will be 15 divisions of racing over two days at Thompson, with Busch North and the Modified Tour, as well as the ISMA Supermodifieds, holding their season finales on Sunday afternoon.
“This was a major schedule change for not just us at Thompson, but for NASCAR and the other sanctioning bodies that were involved in this very frustrating exercise of trying to run our World Series and the Twin 100s,” said Thompson Director of Operations Russ Dowd.
The promoters, teams and fans of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Busch North Series are hoping that the third time is the charm when it comes to running the annual World Series at Thompson Speedway (CT). For the past two weeks, the event has been washed out by a record amount of rain and flooding in New England.
A photo finish between Ted Christopher (#13) and Zach Sylvester (#15) at The Icebreaker kicked off the season at Thompson.
June's Twin 100 races at Thompson were a wash. The Busch North portion of the show will finally run this Sunday. (51 Photo)
Part of that cooperation has been getting a race in for the NEMA Midgets. The track added that division to the racing card this week after not being sure how they would get that event in due to a scheduling conflict with nearby Waterford Speedbowl. Waterford has pushed their racing card back one week to solve that problem.
“At the time that we were updating the schedule, the midgets had a date booked with the Waterford Speedbowl. We were not aware of what would best work to put the midgets back in the program. We weren’t sure if they were going to be a Saturday event or a Sunday event. They are going to be a part of the program on Saturday.”
The track knows that the weather situation has had an effect on teams and fans. They received criticism two weeks ago when they pushed on with plans to try and hold the race despite poor forecasts for the weekend. Throughout the day on Friday, officials thought that clearing was possible and the race could get in with a few adjustments, but overnight on Friday a record amount of rain fell through the region, leaving no choice but to pull the plug.
“A few weeks ago, when we were snookered with six inches of rain overnight, we were hoping that we were actually able to get started,” said Dowd. “We spent hours working on different scenarios and published that information. If we got the racetrack ready at nine in the morning, this would be the schedule. If it was ready at Noon, this would be the schedule. If it was ready at 2, this would be the schedule. Sharing that information and being open with the competitors has led to this cooperation.”
To reward race fans, the track has reduced admission prices for the weekend. Instead of costing $50 for grandstand and $75 for pit entry, the event will now cost $35 for general admission and $45 to get into the pits. Rain checks from the June race will be accepted and anyone who purchased a World Series ticket at the full price will get a refund from the track.
“We have some obligation to the race fans,” said Hoenig. “We’ve had campers on site. It looks like we developed a new campsite because we’re going on the fifth week. These are dedicated people and they are not leaving. Some of the rental campers went back, but the real race fans are here and they are here to stay. We have the obligation to roll back the prices. In that respect, we are trying to take care of the race fans, because without them, we have no source of income.”
The track is ready to go. There is no damage to the facility from the floods and if the skies are clear, the track is ready to go.
“Overall, the conditions are quite good,” said Hoenig. “We’ve pumped out a lot of water over the past couple of weeks and it is really shaping up.”
Earlier this week, the forecast for this weekend didn’t look too positive. A 30% chance of showers was forecast for Saturday and Sunday, but as of Wednesday that chance has been reduced to 10%.
“We finally have a promising weekend of traditional New England sunlight coming…hopefully,” said Hoenig.
And if it does rain, what happens next?
The following weekend (November 5th and 6th) Thompson has their annual Racing Flea Market and Swap Meet scheduled and most of the Modified teams will be in North Carolina at the non-NASCAR sanctioned North vs. South Shootout. On November 12th, the NASCAR Busch North team will be in California for the NASCAR All Star Showdown.
Working around those events would be a tall task.
“I think that we’ll all want to take a long walk off a short pier,” said Dowd. “We’d get good and wet and then come back and reexamine the whole thing again.”
“We’d have to renegotiate with NASCAR, sit tight and keep our fingers crossed,” said Hoenig. “Hopefully, it’s going to work.”
And if Saturday gets rained out, there the option of trying to run all 15 races on Sunday.
“It has been done in the past,” said Dodge. “Not very long ago, we were able to run all 15 divisions in one day. It took a lot of work and cooperation. I think that there are a lot of elements involved in making that decision based on where we are with the program itself. Right now, we’ll go forward with our plan, watch the weather closely and make changes as needed. We’ll do our best to get this done. We want to see this end on a high note and a positive note.”
And hopefully, weather won’t play a part this weekend.
“We have racecars that have been in the pits here for [what seems like] months,” said Hoenig. “Now, we’ll just pray for good weather and have a good weekend."
Everything from Supermodifieds to Mini Stocks are a part of the World Series. (51 Photo)
Ted Christopher goes into the final Mod Tour race at Thompson this year leading the points. (Jim DuPont Photo)
The camping area is always full at Thompson and lately its been underwater at some points. (51 Photo)