The second race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season saw one driver on his roof, one running dry on fuel and another celebrating a return to the winner’s circle.
The 44th annual Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut only began to scratch the surface on the new season, but it provided some intriguing storylines for fans to follow going forward.
Here are three things you need to know leaving Thompson’s Icebreaker:
1. McKennedy Is A Title Threat: If it wasn’t for his car stumbling and running out of fuel, the combination of driver Jon McKennedy and owner Tommy Baldwin likely would have captured their second straight win to open the year. McKennedy led 26 laps, but when the field rolled into turn three coming to a restart with just five laps remaining, his No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet saw the fuel tank run dry. And even though he got the car fired on pit road and finished 20th, McKennedy still showed the rest of the field he is going to be a major contender as he seeks his first title this season. He won the opener at Myrtle Beach, and was well on his way to grabbing a second straight checkered flag at Thompson. If he needs any more motivation going to the Spring Sizzler in two weeks, he definitely has it now.
2. The Kids Are For Real: Although 38-year-old Doug Coby has won the last four Whelen Modified Tour championships, if the early part of the new campaign is any indication, he is going to have a hard time holding off a pack of hungry rising stars. In Sunday’s Icebreaker, 20-year-old Chase Dowling led 52 laps and was in position to have a shot at the win before a restart violation dropped him to the back of the field. The 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year drove back up and finished eighth, but overall, he proved his full-time effort with Rob Fuller and LFR Chassis could definitely produce his first win. And on top of Dowling, 21-year-old Ronnie Williams found himself at the top of the pack twice. Williams was fastest in practice, and also scored his first career pole just moments before the drop of the green. He had a chance to win on the last lap, but ended up in the turn one fence after giving his best effort. “I was just going for the win,” Williams told RaceDayCT.com. “If you don’t make that move, you’re not a racecar driver. Going for the win, stuff happens.” The Ellington, Connecticut, driver only has 13 starts, but he has plenty of SK Modified experience at Stafford Motor Speedway to lean on as he looks to continue his momentum heading for the Spring Sizzler.
3. Last Year’s Contenders Sticking Around: We already mentioned Doug Coby, but his Icebreaker wasn’t exactly everything he was looking for. Coby started second, and the first 36 laps, but was involved in multiple wrecks during the event and ripped the entire left-rear fender of his No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet. However, in yet another display of resilience, Coby pitted multiple times, and ended up salvaging a sixth-place finish. Along with Coby, four other drivers that entered last year’s finale at Thompson fighting for the title also finished inside the top-10 Sunday. Justin Bonsignore took his new combination with Ryan Stone and LFR Chassis to Victory Lane in just their second effort together, proving he is going to be a threat to Coby. Rowan Pennink returned from back surgery and showed he didn’t miss a beat, finishing third one year after winning the Icebreaker with Boehler Racing. Much like Coby, Timmy Solomito wrecked multiple times, but his Starrett Racing team showed they don’t quit. With a beaten and battered ride, Solomito still found a way to finish 10th — and although he hasn’t started off strong, they have done enough to keep in contention.
- Another tidbit leaving Sunday’s race stems from a lap one incident that saw Bonsignore lock up his tires diving off into turn three. When Bonsignore slid up the track, Pennink had to swerve up to avoid, causing a chain reaction that left Max Zachem stuck in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Zachem’s day ended on lap one, but he won’t be back behind the wheel for the Spring Sizzler. The Preston, Connecticut, driver suffered an injury to his hand that will keep him out of action fro the next four to eight weeks. “I’m looking forward to being 100 percent going back to Thompson (in June), that’s the goal,” Zachem said.