The Icebreaker lived up to its name on Sunday afternoon, bringing chilling temperatures and wind to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Thompson, Connecticut. Throughout the week, fans were unsure whether or not the show would go on due to unexpected snowfall earlier in the week. The weather might have plagued some practice time, but the show went on. Sunday brought cloudy skies and low temperatures, but the action was heating up on the track all day long.
The day kicked off with the 30-lap Sunoco Modified division. Hartford, Connecticut native Ryan Preece was back in town for the speeedway’s staple event. After competing and finishing fifth in Saturday’s XFINITY race in Texas, Preece made the trip home to Connecticut to compete in both Modified events on Sunday. Preece started at the rear of the field in the #31 car after being unable to make qualifying on Saturday due to his XFINITY commitments.
All eyes were on Preece during the feature until the driver had a right front tire go down under the first caution of the day at lap 18. After the green, Preece made a lazy spin in turn 1, drawing out the caution and halting the racing action. Preece was just outside the top 10 when the incident occurred. He was penalized one lap for intentionally drawing out the caution, seemingly ending his shot to win the first Modified event of the day.
Frustrations were also flying for fan-favorite Woody Pitkat, who was pushed hard into the grass in turn 1 on the restart while battling for position. Pitkat slid through the grass, miraculously avoiding destruction of any sort. Pitkat’s car was unharmed, but he lost a handful of valuable positions on the track.
As Keith Rocco drove into victory, Pitkat stopped in turns 3 and 4, showing frustration toward his on-track rival that led him to finish 11th in the first feature of the day.
The PASS Series 100-lap feature was next on the schedule, with fan-favorites DJ Shaw and Reid Lanpher starting on the front row. Reid Lanpher, who recently got his first K&N West start, led all ten laps of his qualifying heat on Saturday.
Two PASS South competitors were also competing on Sunday afternoon, bringing some new faces to the Northeast. North Carolina’s Kodie Conner started the event in Reid Lanpher’s backup car after facing troubles with their machine throughout the weekend. NASCAR racing legend Ernie Irvan’s son Jared was also in the field, piloting the #28 car.
Scarborough’s Garrett Hall had struggled with handling all weekend, but was ready to get in “100 laps of practice time” on Sunday. Defending PASS North champion Travis Benjamin ran a crate motor opposed to a big motor for the feature, talking beforehand about how hard it would be to “keep up with” the big motor drivers during the 100-lap race. Trevor “The Mayor of Parsonsfield” Sanborn was also in the field on Sunday, piloting the #80 car.
The 100-lapper started out with a bang as Tracy Gordon lost his engine in the early laps of the race. DJ Shaw blew Reid Lanpher away on the restart, pulling away from the field. Sammy Gooden, Jr. took a hit on lap 28, collecting the #01 car into the turn 2 wall and drawing out the second caution of the day. Front-runner Reid Lanpher made a trip to pit lane under the caution, making adjustments to the #59 machine.
New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith barreled into the lead on the restart and began lapping the field on lap 45. Jared Irvan was putting on a show behind him, making his way into third place by lap 48. Derek Ramstrom, who races both SLM’s and Modified’s, parked his #35 machine for the day on lap 70.
By lap 80, leaders Derek Griffith and DJ Shaw were obliterating the rest of the field, pulling away from the other leaders by half a lap. Strong front-runner’s like Glen Luce, Garrett Hall, Trevor Sanborn and Ben Rowe struggled throughout the feature, all going a lap down in the closing laps of the race.
After falling outside of the top 5, Reid Lanpher was gaining momentum in the closing laps of the race. After battling head-to-head for a few laps, he eventually made his way around New England native Eddie MacDonald for P4 on lap 96.
Derek Griffith went on to win the feature, making it his first victory at Thompson Speedway and his second PASS victory of the year.
DJ Shaw, Jared Irvan, Reid Lanpher and Todd Stone rounded out the top five.
As the day went on, Eric Bourgeois scored his first Icebreaker win in the 15-lap Mini Stock feature. William Wall won the 25-lap Late Model feature, scoring his sixth career Icebreaker weekend victory and Shawn Monahan won the caution-plagued 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature.
After a long (and incredibly cold!) day of events, it was time for the 150-lap Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker.
Right out the bat, Patrick Emerling and Manny Dias got into each other on lap 2, collecting Justin Bonsignore and Rowan Pennink in the action. Doug Coby blasted into the lead on the restart, leaving the rest of the leaders to battle it out behind him.
Kyle Bonsignore, the cousin to Justin Bonsignore, went hard into the turn 2 wall on lap 25. This brought out the first red flag of the day. By lap 30, Ryan Preece had broken into the top ten after qualifying 27th. Meanwhile, Chase Dowling took off with the lead.
An incident on lap 75 involving Woody Pitkat and Bobby Santos collected Doug Coby in the mix. Coby took a trip down to the pits 3 times under the caution, with his crew working diligently to align his tires correctly.
After a string of lead changes and cautions, Doug Coby, Woody Pitkat and Timmy Solomito got jumbled up on a restart, bringing out another late race caution. Race leader Chase Dowling was penalized for a restart violation, forcing him to restart from the back of the field.
John McKennedy took the lead on the restart, pulling away from the field until another caution flag flew for Timmy Solomito going around in turn 3.
Jimmy Blewett took a wild ride on lap 134, flipping his car onto its hood in turn 2 after getting mixed up with Woody Pitkat, Manny Dias and Gary McDonald. This brought out a late-race red flag to cleanup the track and flip Blewett’s car back over.
Ron Silk went around on lap 142, leading to yet another late-race caution. Heartbreak was on the horizon for race leader John McKennedy, who ran out of fuel in turn 4 coming to the green for the restart.
This changed the game completely and led to a 4-lap shootout. Battling back to the front after an early race altercation, Justin Bonsignore made his way into the top spot in the closing laps of the race.
Andrew Krause ended his day with a bang, slamming into the turn 2 wall on the final lap.
The race ended under a yellow-checkered as Justin Bonsignore sailed into victory.
Craig Lutz, Rowan Pennink, Ryan Preece and Matt Swanson followed, rounding out the top five.
Bonsignore’s victory was momentous, especially after his early-race struggles and a completely winless season in 2017.
Justin’s crew, family and friends joined him in Victory Lane, celebrating the momentous occasion with him.
It may have been a cold weekend at the Icebreaker, but that’s New England racing for you.
Justin Bonsignore and Derek Griffith both scored special victories that they will carry as momentum as we enter the heat of the 2018 race season.
We’re looking forward to seeing how these drivers perform in 2018, and we’re looking forward to the endless amount of racing action on the horizon!
Join us in congratulating both Justin and Derek on their big victories! Catch them on Social Media here: