Championship Battle Heads To Thompson
With the fall of the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Series officially cleared the halfway hurdle. With six races down and five remaining, the ‘it’s too early to think about points’ cliché can go right out the window as the field of challengers becomes more defined.
As the drivers head to series’ cornerstone Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway for Saturday’s Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy 100, the championship race promises to get even hotter.
Veteran Jody Lavender (No. 88 JoJo Enterprises/Custom Race Chassis Chevrolet) jumped back to the front of the field with a strong fifth-place run at New Hampshire. But he is far from clear of the field. Just 55 points separate Lavender from fifth-place Brett Moffitt (No. 44 Castle Packs Power Chevrolet). It’s the closest margin between the top five spots with five races remaining since prior to 1995.
Among the other challengers is Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet), rookie Ryan Truex (No. 00 NAPA Toyota) and defending champion Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino Chevrolet).
“Any one of the top five could leave any race we go to with the points lead,” Kobyluck said. “When it’s this tight, it can make you or break you real easy.”
While Moffitt and Truex will be making their first trip to the .625-oval semi-banked oval, both Kobyluck and MacDonald have been to Victory Lane at Thompson. MacDonald won there in 2005, while Kobyluck followed suit in 2006. Kobyluck was also second in 2007.
Lavender was fifth at Thompson in 2008 in his only series start at the track.
Thompson has hosted a NASCAR Camping World Series East race every year since 1988, which the exception of 1992. In 2005, rain postponed the event until the final race of the year. That year and every year since, it has been a 100-lap affair.
“It’s fun there, because we can pass high, we can pass low,” Kobyluck said. “You only have a hundred laps, you don’t have to save anything. You can let it all hang out for all 100 laps. It’s an all-out shootout.”
Truex will try to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Martin Truex Jr., who led the final 100 laps en route to winning the Pepsi Racing 150 at Thompson in 2001.
New Faces Up For The Challenge
Like Ricky Craven and Martin Truex Jr. before them, Joey Polewarczyk and Derek Ramstrom are looking to make their way out of the northeast racing scene. They’ll have another chance to impress Saturday night when the NASCAR Camping World Series East returns to its New England roots.
Car owner Dave Davis will turn the driver’s seat for the No. 03 Chevrolet to the fourth different driver this year in Polewarczyk, who will be in the car that he raced to a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September.
Polewarczyk made his NASCAR Camping World Series debut with a 25th-place finish at Thompson last year, running for George McRae. He raised his profile significantly last summer when he finished second to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick at the TD Banknorth 250.
The 20-year-old from Hudson, N.H., impressed even further when he dusted the competition — which included two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart — at the Vermont Governor’s Cup 150 at Thunder Road Speedway.
Davis sits second in series car owner points, just 85 points behind the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing. No. 03 Chevrolet has been previously driven this season by Patrick Long, Sean Caisse and Jeffrey Earnhardt.
Ramstrom, 17, from West Boylston, Mass., is currently second in Thompson’s Super Late Model division — one of the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly divisions. He will be making his NASCAR debut driving for Robert Torrierre as a teammate to Steve Park.
Ramstrom is plenty familiar with Thompson, having won four times in a Super Late Model there last year, and once already this season.
Another young driver with northeast ties will also be looking to make his debut this weekend: Corey LaJoie, the 17-year-old son of former two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie. The elder LaJoie is a native of Norwalk, Conn., and finished fifth in the first NASCAR Camping World Series East races at Thompson in 1988.
The Race: Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy 100
The Place: Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 11
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Schedule: SPEED, July 23, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .625-mile asphalt oval
Race Purse: $106,608
2008 Winner: Trevor Bayne
2008 Polesitter: Trevor Bayne
Saturday, July 11 - Practice, 1:30-2:30 p.m.; Final Practice, 3:30-4 p.m.; Qualifying, 6 p.m.
News & Notes
The Race … The Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway is the seventh event in an 11-race schedule this year for the NASCAR Camping World Series East, and the only trip to Thompson, Conn. This will be the 26th all-time race for the series at TIS.
The Procedure … The starting field is 30 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 100 laps (62.5 miles).
The Track … Thompson is a .625-mile, semi-banked asphalt oval. The NCWS East has competed at Thompson every year since 1988 except for 1992. Thompson opened in 1940 as the first asphalt racing surface in the United States, and the largest track in New England at the time. It is one of the oldest NASCAR affiliations in the nation and held NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 1951, 1969 and 1970.
Race Winners … Bobby Dragon won the first two NASCAR Camping World Series East events at Thompson in 1988 and 1989. Ricky Craven and Mike Stefanik have the most wins with three. Craven won in 1990 and swept the two events in 1991—the only year more than one race was held at the track. Stefanik notched wins in 1995, ‘97 and ‘98. Seventeen different drivers have won at Thompson. Eddie MacDonald (No. 71 Grimm Construction Chevrolet) and Matt Kobyluck (No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet) are the only current drivers to have wins.
Pole Winners … Sean Caisse has the most Coors Light Pole Awards in series history at Thompson, with three. Caisse won them in consecutive years from 2005-07. Tom Carey is the only other driver with more than one.
The first NASCAR Camping World Series East race run at Thompson was held on July 31, 1988, with Bobby Dragon driving the No. 71 Buick to Victory Lane.
Dick McCabe won the pole but finished 20th out of 31 cars.
Among the cars in the initial field were 1987 champion Joey Kourafas (sixth), and future champions Jamie Aube (seventh), Kelly Moore (14th), McCabe; future NASCAR Nationwide Series champions Randy LaJoie (fifth) and Chuck Bown (10th); two other drivers that would move on to the national series, Jimmy Spencer (fourth) and Geoff Bodine (27th); and current NASCAR Camping World Series East car owners Dave Davis (15th) and Jeff Spraker (19th). Davis and Spraker will field cars for Joey Polewarczyk and Alex Kennedy, respectively, Saturday.
Plenty Of Action In Thursday Night Thunder
While the NASCAR Camping World Series East will take center stage on a special Saturday race program at Thompson International Speedway, the track’s weekly program — Thursday Night Thunder — is headlined by its Sunoco Modified division.
Points leader Keith Rocco is the defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut state champion and currently leads the national standings. He finished third in the national standings last year.
Chasing Rocco this year in the Modified division is former track champion Woody Pitkat and Rowan Pennink. Todd Ceravolo and Jimmy Blewett round out the top five.
Norman Wrenn (Super Late Model), Jeff Zuidema (Late Model), Joseph Arena (Limited Sportsman), Brian Sullivan (Thompson Modified) and Brad Caddick (Mini Stock) are atop the points in Thompson’s other weekly divisions.
Because the July 2 event was rained out, Thompson will race all six of its regular divisions on Thursday, July 9, highlighted by a 50-lap Sunoco Late Model feature.
The Late Model, Limited Sportsman, Mini Stock and Thompson Modified divisions will be back on the card for Saturday night’s Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy — with the 100-lap NASCAR Camping World Series East race serving as the main event.
Also scheduled for that night is the PASS North Super Late Model Series.
Last year’s event ...
Rookie Trevor Bayne had a pair of career firsts at Thompson International Speedway, as he captured his first Coors Light Pole Award and then drove the No. 1 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet Chevrolet to his first NASCAR victory.
Bayne led a banner day for Dale Earnhardt Inc., which put three drivers in the top five. Bayne’s teammate Jesus Hernandez finished second. Bayne and Hernandez swapped the lead five times over the final 47 laps, with Bayne taking the lead for the final time on lap 97.
Although Bayne won the pole, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Marc Davis led the first 10 laps before giving way to Matt Kobyluck. Steve Park led for 10 laps before Hernandez moved to the front on lap 38.
Brad Leighton, who won at Thompson in 2004, finished third, followed by Davis.
Jody Lavender, Kobyluck, Rogelio Lopez, Austin Dillon and Jeff Anton rounded out the top 10.
The win moved Bayne to within 29 points of Dillon for the points lead, while eventual series champion Kobyluck left Thompson in third, 35 behind Dillon.
Most Popular Driver
NASCARHomeTracks.com will host the balloting for each of NASCAR’s regional touring series – the NASCAR Camping World Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Mexico Series and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
This year, fans also may “write in” their favorite driver if he/she is not among the nominees for a specific series. Fans should go to firstname.lastname@example.org and submit their write-in vote.
Up Next: Adirondack International Speedway
The eighth of 11 NASCAR Camping World Series races in 2009 will take place at Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, N.Y., on Saturday, Aug. 1.
The Edge Hotel 150 presented by Casella Waste Systems will make the eighth consecutive trip to the .5-mile oval in upstate New York. Andy Santerre won the series inaugural race at Adirondack on Aug. 17, 2002. Matt Kobyluck is the series all-time wins leader with three. He is the only driver to win more than once. He won in 2004 and 2005, and then picked up a third win last year.
Dale Quarterly (2003), Sean Caisse (2006) and Joey Logano (2007) have also recorded wins. The last two years, Kobyluck and Logano have followed up their victories by winning the series championship.
Kobyluck was also runner-up to Santerre in the 2002 event, while Santerre was runner-up twice and third once. Bryon Chew set the qualifying record in 2007 at 16.469 seconds.
The green flag for the The Edge Hotel 150 presented by Casella Waste Systems is set to drop at 6:30 p.m.