THOMPSON WORLD SERIES LEFTOVERS, PART THREE by Mike Twist
Hoag Overachieves, Marquis & Stefanik Hit Wall and More
SCORE ONE FOR THE UNDERDOG
There were more than fifty cars entered for the final Modified Series race of the season and some good cars were going home. There were no questions about that.
Looking through the pit area on Saturday morning, one might have pegged the chances of a single car team with an older pick-up truck, open trailer and family team making their first ever event as slim to none.
But Alex Hoag didn’t pay any attention to that. The 20-year-old Race of Champions Modified driver didn’t just squeak into the field. He posted the 16th fastest time and earned a solid spot in the field.
“We were just really excited to get into the show,” said Hoag. “It helped coming here with the RoC tour this summer because Thompson wasn’t so intimidating this time.
“We’d really like to run more races next season,” said Hoag. “Sponsorship is an issue and obviously, we don’t have a high dollar team. So maybe we could get some help or find a ride someplace.”
Hoag (#62) runs among the #77 of Doug Coby, Justin Gaydosh (#94) and Ted Chrisitopher's #13. (Howie Hodge Photo)
“The truck and trailer are both older than the driver,” said Hoag. “We’ve got a 1980 (Dodge) dually and a 1979 open trailer. We’re a family deal with my Dad and my Grandpa helping me a ton. We have a few local companies helping us with sponsorship and that’s about it.”
“To have everyone come over after qualifying made me feel good,” said Hoag. “It really made me realize how big that it was to get in the show.”
In the beginning of the race, Hoag worked his way up to 11th before being involved in the multi-car wreck that occurred on the backstretch just 18 laps into the event.
MARQUIS’ BUSY WEEKEND GOES FOR NAUGHT
It was a busy weekend for Jerry Marquis. He practiced and qualified for the Modified Series event at Thompson on Saturday, drove up the road to Worcester, Massachusetts and caught a chartered plane to Toms River, New Jersey with plans on competing in the rescheduled Busch North race at Wall Township Speedway (NJ), figured on running that tour’s 150 lap season finale and then planned to hop back on the plane for Sunday’s Modified race at Thompson.
The wreck damaged the #18 car heavily and although they returned to log a few laps near the end of the race, the damage left Lia’s team with a finish of 27th, which dropped them to eighth in points.
“We would have been there at the end,” said Lia. “It’s too bad.”
SK MODIFIEDS HAVE EXCITING FEATURE AT WORLD SERIES
The Sunoco Modified feature at Thompson’s World Series had a Modified Series flair to it. Several drivers, including Ted Christopher, Doug Coby, Eric Berndt, Ronnie Silk and Bo Gunning were entered in both events.
The Sunoco Modifieds ran a wreck-filled 30 green flag laps with Ted Christopher dominating the first 29 of them. In turn three of the last circuit, James Civali got by Christopher’s car and took over the top spot. He held on for two more corners and won.
Meanwhile, Christopher caught up to Civali on the cool down lap and spun him around in turn two. Civali got the last laugh though. He pulled directly in front of where TC parked on pit road and chose that spot on the track to cut a few celebratory doughnuts.
“I knew that I could get him at the end of the backstretch,” said Civali. “I got under him and he tried everything that he could, but I wouldn’t let him win.”
WORLD SERIES FANS A DEVOTED BUNCH
New England racing fans don’t have it easy in the autumn and this year’s World Series was no exception. Heavy rain all day Friday as well as on Saturday evening, made things a little bit muddy and cooling temperatures kept everyone bundled up, but the stands were full at Thompson.
The only hitch in the plan was rain. For the second time, the race at Wall was washed out and this time it was not rescheduled. As it turned out, Marquis might have well just stayed at Thompson all weekend long.
“I got the call about five miles from the racetrack,” said Marquis. “We were on the Garden State Parkway. We kept going, because I had to pick up Michael (Stefanik) anyways. I showed the pilot the track and got a kick out of the place. We did a lot more running around than we did racing.”
“We avoided the lightning bolts leaving, the place,” said Marquis. “It was coming down too, I was waiting for one of the wings to light up.”
Jerry Marquis was busy last weekend. (51 Photo)
“Robbie gave it a good effort,” said Lia. “There just wasn’t enough time to figure it out.”
LIA LOSES WHEEL AFTER BRAKE PROBLEM
Donny Lia hoped that a good finish would launch him into the fifth position of the point standings. However, a lost wheel ended Lia’s chances of that happening on lap 45.
The seat of the #50 might be up for grabs next season. (51 Photo)
A BUSY WEEKEND FOR STEFANIK AS WELL
Stefanik also made the trip to Wall. He was able to practice his Busch North car and was sixth quickest. In victory lane, he referred to the weekend of running around.
“This win make all of those worthwhile trips to Wall worthwhile now,” Stefanik told the crowd over the PA system.
LIA MOTORSPORTS ENTERS TWO CARS AT THOMPSON
With points on his mind, Donny Lia filed a second entry for the World Series at Thompson. He put Rob Summers into his second car, renumbered as #11, on Saturday. The entry did not make the field though and Lia’s team loaded it back into their trailer for use as a back-up car.
Lia told Speed 51 that the idea of a second car came about from a conversation with him and his crew chief.
“Kevin (Crowley) and I were talking at the shop and said that it won’t hurt to come out here and try to run two cars,” said Lia. “We’re in a battle for fifth in points and that’s big. You’ve seen it on TV that two cars can work as a team for an advantage. The points are tight and if my second car can finish ahead of the other guys that I’m battling with in the points, that one spot could have made the difference.”
That didn’t pan out with the #11 not qualifying, but Lia didn’t blame the driver for that.
”Modified Racing is #1,” the sign read. “NASCAR Racing (we assume they mean Nextel Cup and other high divisions) is a joke lately!”
NEWS ON THE OTHER WORLD SERIES
An interesting point about Thompson is that the track is located between Boston and New York. Therefore, with the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees going head to head for the American League Championship Series over this weekend, there were plenty of divided fans at Thompson.
Red Sox and Yankees hats were visible throughout the pit area. With the Yankees paint scheme on his #31, there was no doubt who Long Islander Tony Ferrante, Jr. was pulling for. Even the PA announcers got into the act by making the joke, “What is the difference between a Fenway (Park) Frank and a Thompson Hotdog?” The answer?
“You can buy a hotdog here during the world series,” which was an obvious slam at Boston’s slim chances of winning four straight games and making it to the World Series this season.
Robbie Summers stands by his #11 LMI entry. (51 Photo)
“The left rear wheel and the tire came off the car,” said Lia. “We were just riding and I felt a vibration that kept getting worse and worse. The next thing I know, something was coming off the back of the racecar. It was a weird feeling because I was waiting for something to happen and it finally did. I just went into turn three and lost the brake pedal. I had a feeling that the problem had to do with the brakes because when I was on the brakes, it felt a lot worse.”
Upon further review, it appears that a brake rotor came apart on the #18 car and took the hub with it. The team searched through the woods off turn three after the race and found the wheel. All, but one lugnut was still attached to their studs, so loose lugnuts were not the problem.
There were plenty of happy campers at Thompson. (51 Photo)
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Donnie Lia buckles into his office. (51 Photo)
The parking lot was full too – it resembled a NASCAR Nextel Cup weekend more than a short track race judging by the number of RVs. Everything from pop-up campers to six figure motorcoaches filled the camping areas of the track. A very unscientific survey showed license plates from almost all Northeastern states, as well as a few from Canada.
The fans at the track were hard-core short track fans. In fact, one of the most telling signs of the weekend was a hand written poster taped to the window of a vehicle parked in the RV lot.