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Jon McKennedy, driver of the No. 7 Accell Construction Inc. Chevrolet, heads to Connecticut following his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

PIT BOX: Jon McKennedy Looks To Continue Hot Start At Icebreaker

The unofficial opening of racing in New England is set to roll this weekend. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will host its 44th Annual Icebreaker weekend. In addition to a slate of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action — Thompson is the first northeast track to open the season — the .635-mile banked high-speed oval will host the second race of the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Jon McKennedy was a bit of a surprise winner in the season opener at Myrtle Beach Speedway, given it was his first career tour victory in 34 starts. But it should be no shock if the Chelmsford, Massachusetts, driver makes it 2-for-2 at Thompson.

McKennedy, an accomplished Modified driver who had won in just about every other division he had competed in, finally got his breakthrough tour win driving the No. 7 Accell Construction Inc. Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin. Baldwin’s car sat on the pole at Thompson last May in its only start there. Meanwhile, McKennedy scored a pair of top 10s in two races at Thompson last season in the No. 00 for car owner Brian Brady.

Sunday will also mark the return of defending Icebreaker winner Rowan Pennink, who missed the opener in South Carolina because of offseason surgery. Pennink, like Timmy Solomito in 2016, used his Icebreaker win to propel the No. 3 Cape Cod Copper/USNE Inc. Chevrolet into title contention all season.

RACING-REFERENCE: Previous Whelen Modified Tour races at Thompson | Whelen Modified Tour drivers’ career stats at Thompson

Looking for a dark horse for this weekend? Try Chase Dowling. The 20-year-old from Roxbury, Connecticut, won the pole and finished second in the season finale last year at Thompson. Dowling, the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year, finished fourth at Myrtle Beach — his fourth top five in his last five tour events.

RACE FACTS

RACE ICEBREAKER 150
PLACE Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park
DATE Sunday, April 8
TIME 3:45 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT .635-mile oval
2017 WINNER Rowan Pennink
2017 POLE Timmy Solomito
EVENT SCHEDULE Saturday— Garage opens: 12:30 p.m. ET; Practice: 3:15-3:55 p.m.; Final Practice: 4:20-5 p.m.

Sunday — Garage opens: 8 a.m.; Driver autograph session (on track): 11-11:50 a.m.; Group qualifying: 2:45 p.m.; Icebreaker 150: 3:45 p.m. (approx.).

TWITTER @ThompsonSpdwy
HASHTAG #Icebreaker150 #NWMT

RACE CENTRAL LIVE | ENTRY LIST

CREW CHIEF HANDOUT: The maximum starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals.

Qualifying groups will be determined by each vehicle’s overall fastest single lap from the official practice sessions.

The first 30 cars will secure starting positions based on the two-lap qualifying session. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process.

The ICEBREAKER 150 will be 150 laps (93.75 miles).

The maximum tire allotment available for this event is eleven (11) tires per team. Four (4) tires used for qualifying must be used to begin the race. The tire change rule is four (4) tires, any position.


LOCAL FOCUS

Oklahoma’s Thunderbird Speedway was slated to begin its NASCAR era on Friday. But when rain forced the postponement this past weekend of the B Mod Bedlam at nearby Salinas Highbanks Speedway, the Muskogee, Oklahoma half-mile pushed its opener to April 13.

There will still be a number of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks scheduled to begin their seasons this weekend. In addition to Thompson’s Icebreaker, Colorado National Speedway and Virginia’s Dominion Raceway will feature racing action on Saturday. Colorado National’s SUNOCO Fueling Victories Season Opener  (TICKETS) will include it’s NASCAR Division I Gillet Vet Clinic Super Late Models. Dominion, which opened in 2016 just south of Washington D.C., features the Late Model Stock Car divison (TICKETS).

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