Fans piled into the stands on Sunday for the conclusion of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park's 45th Annual Icebreaker race weekend. With clear, sunny skies and warm temperatures, it made for a beautiful kickoff to the 2019 race season. This was a major difference from last year's literal "Icebreaker" weekend, which was plagued by heavy winds and bone-chilling temperatures.
The day's events kicked off with a driver meet and greet on the front stretch, which allowed fans, families and media members to mingle with drivers from each and every competing division.
After this concluded, the Sunoco Modified division took to the track for their 30-lap feature with Keith Rocco starting on the pole.
The beginning of the feature was plagued with early-race cautions, as Paul Buzel and Josh Zentek both faced trouble in the early laps of the race.
Once the field settled down and went back to green, Todd Owen briefly stole the lead away from Rocco, but Rocco was quick to reestablish his command over the field shortly thereafter.
Adam Gada had the save of the race on lap 5 as he almost lost control in the middle of the pack, only to miraculously keep it off of the wall and avoid making contact with any of his competitors.
Ronnie Williams had mechanical failures on lap 11 as he slowed on the backstretch, making his way down to the pits.
Jake Berchem brought out the caution on lap 14 after a single-car spin in turn 4.
On lap 20, Zach Leone took a spin and backed into the infield wall on the backstretch, leading to a late-race caution. This incident was followed by another caution on the restart, as Matt Vassar went hard into the turn 3 wall.
Todd Owen was all over Keith Rocco on the restart, but Rocco managed to hold him off for the feature victory.
Woody Pitkat and Mike Christopher, Jr. battled it out until the very end behind the leaders, with Pitkat beating Christopher to the line for a third place finish. Glen Reen rounded out the top five.
Defending race winner, Derek Griffith, Ben Rowe, Reid Lanpher, Ray Christian, III and 2018 PASS North champion, DJ Shaw, were some of the heavy hitters competing the 75-lap Pro All Star Series feature.
The #28 of Greg Nanigan took a spin on lap 1, leading to an early-race caution.
Ben Rowe immediately snagged the lead on the restart, but Johnny Clark and Gabe Brown made it a 3-wide battle for the top spot on lap 2.
Gabe, Oxford Plains Speedway's 2018 track champion, briefly stole the lead back after he started on the pole for the main event.
Ben Rowe, Derek Griffith and Johnny Clark spearheaded a battle for the runner-up spot on lap 7, with Griffith finally capturing the spot on lap 10.
Derek Ramstrom had right rear tire troubles on lap 11, leading to a caution. His crew got to work under yellow, but he was unable to get back onto the track before the field went back to green.
Griffith powered into the race lead on the restart with Johnny Clark and Gabe Brown in tow.
Reid Lanpher was on the move in the early laps of the race, breaking the top 5 on lap 14. He continued his fight to the front just a handful of laps later on lap 19, advancing into the fourth spot over Gabe Brown as DJ Shaw also advanced into the runner-up spot over Johnny Clark.
By lap 26, DJ Shaw was all over Derek Griffith's back bumper, challenging him for the top spot.
Dan Winter faced mechanical troubles on lap 29, bringing his #81 car into the pits.
After starting toward the rear of the field, Ray Christian III finally broke the top five on lap 32 and advanced to fourth over Reid Lanpher in the same lap.
Although he had a strong show for the first half of the race, Reid Lanpher's early-season troubles continued as he began to descend through the field mid-race, falling back to 11th place on lap 38.
While battling it out for the top spot, Shaw and Griffith nearly collided on lap 39 in turn 4. Shaw later got a big run on the inside groove on lap 44, finally capturing the top spot from Griffith just two laps later.
Nick Johnson had a single-car spin on lap 46, leading to a caution.
After missing out last week at Richmond due to health problems, Jimmy Renfrew was hoping for a great finish at Thompson, but he was plagued with mechanical problems during the second half of the race and remained parked in the pits from lap 46 - on.
It was a wild restart, with Derek Griffith powering back into the lead with Ray Christian III in tow.
DJ Shaw found himself fighting for position once again, battling it out with Christian for the runner-up spot. He was able to capture the position on lap 55, but their battle allowed Griffith to extend his lead by a handful of car lengths.
DJ put the pedal to the floor, finally catching up to Griffith on lap 66. He made his way to his inside on lap 68, but the leaders were plagued by lap traffic on lap 69. This broadened the gap between the two leaders, but Shaw worked his way to Griffith's outside on lap 73, hoping it would stick.
Shaw finally made the pass on Griffith at the start/finish line on lap 74, managing to hold him off for the remainder of the final lap to win the feature in exciting fashion. The wild finish had nearly all of the fans in the grandstands on their feet, hooting and hollering as the two drivers crossed the finish line.
Ray Christian III, Johnny Clark and Jake Johnson rounded out the top five.
The day's events rolled on, which included some of Thompson's weekly divisions getting the spotlight with their main events.
Ryan Weatherman took home the victory in the 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature and Steve Michalski scored the surprise win in the 15-lap Mini Stock feature after the two leaders (Doug Curry and Jared Roy) took each other out in turn two with just three laps to go. Due to time constraints, the race schedule was changed during the day, forcing the Late Model division to be the last feature of the day. Tom Carey III scored the victory in the 25-lap shootout and Woody Pitkat, pulling double duty, pulled off a third place finish.
All eyes were on Doug Coby and Justin Bonsignore all weekend for the 150-lap Whelen Modified Tour main event, with Coby topping the speed charts with a top speed of 119.332 mph to capture the pole and Bonsignore going for his fifth consecutive Modified win at Thompson.
Doug Coby darted away with the early lead in the feature, pulling away from the rest of the pack.
Calvin Carroll and Rob Summers made contact on lap 24 in turn 3, leading to the first caution of the feature.
By lap 40, the two leaders (Coby and Justin Bonsignore) were catching the tail-end of the field, with a 3/4 straightaway lead over the driver in third. By the halfway point of the race, this was extended to a full straightaway as Coby and Bonsignore continued to set a blistering pace.
Anthony Nocella put on a hard-fought battle, but finally went a lap down on lap 80.
Andrew Krause faced mechanical troubles on lap 82, which ended his day early.
On lap 99, the #54 of Tommy Catalano went hard into the turn 1 wall, leading to a caution.
With only 13 cars remaining on the lead lap, all of the lead lap teams elected to pit under yellow.
Doug Coby won the battle off of pit road, but fans were shocked when he was hit with a pit violation after running over an air hose under yellow. This mistake cost Coby the lead and forced him to restart at the tail end of the field, which was a shocking and fate-changing turn of events.
This game-changer moved Justin Bonsignore into the lead and Ron Silk, another fan-favorite, into the runner-up spot.
The field went back to green with just 40 laps remaining and Coby began to climb through the field, finally breaking the top ten on lap 125 after restarting at the back of the pack.
Anthony Nocella faced troubles in the closing laps of the race as his air cleaner flew off on lap 147, forcing the yellow and forcing the team to come down to pit road.
This late-race caution sent the feature into overtime, with Bonsignore electing the outside line for the restart. He was able to hold off his competitors, taking home his fifth consecutive win at Thompson and his tenth career win in the Whelen Modified Tour division. Ron Silk, Eric Goodale, Patrick Emerling and Doug Coby rounded out the top five. Burt Myers, another fan-favorite, wound up finishing sixth.
Overall, Sunday was a day full of amazing racing action across all divisions and game-changing pivotal moments that changed the expected outcome entirely of some races. This made it enjoyable for fans of all ages and made it a great kickoff to the 2019 race season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park!
You can catch the Pro All Star Series, American-Canadian Tour, PASS Mods, Honey Badger Street Stock Series and the North East Mini Stock Tour this Sunday, April 14th, at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine. (Rain date: Sunday, April 28th) Racing action begins at 1:30 pm. We hope to see you there!
Thank you to my website sponsors, Texas Roadhouse Scarborough, Four Season Synthetic and Drown Excavation. I'd also like to give thanks to Dan Winter, who is another driver that will be riding along with Chasing the Checkered in 2019. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without the support of all of you!