THOMPSON, Conn. (Januray 14, 2019)– Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park honored four NASCAR Whelen All American Series champions along with special award winners on Saturday night, January 12, with the 2018 awards banquet and celebration.
This year, the event returned home to the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Clubhouse inside the Raceway Restaurant and Golf Club.
As Thompson’s Division I NASCAR champion, Keith Rocco celebrated another crown behind the wheel of the No. 57 Sunoco Modified driving for the Pane family. The title was Rocco’s seventh NASCAR title on the Connecticut high-banks, and his 16thin the history of track titles in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series across the country.
In seven events, Rocco won four races, including the opening race of the season with the 30-lap Icebreaker. In the finale, Rocco was swept up in a wreck under caution, but luckily for him, he didn’t need to finish towards the front in order to seal the crown. His consistency through the first six races, which includes six finishes inside the top five, was enough to give him a 20-point lead in the final tally. Todd Owen finished second, while Kyle James, who had just three top-fives, was able to finish third.
In his first championship run, Rehoboth, Massachusetts, driver Nick Johnson took the Late Model division by surprise in 2017. Johnson didn’t visit Victory Lane throughout the seven-race schedule, but worked consistently inside the top five and entered the Sunoco World Series in prime position to clinch. But, with four drivers in striking distance entering the race, Johnson had to drive the car to its limits in the final 25-lap feature of the season.
He finished fifth, and it was just enough, as he bested Tom Carey III by three points, and Mark Jension, who won the finale, by just 13 points. William Wall finished fourth, back by 15. Johnson’s career includes racing just across the boarder in Massachusetts as well, where he won his first Pro Stock race at Seekonk Speedway last September. Johnson was honored inside the Clubhouse as Thompson’s Late Model top contender, joining William Wall as the two most recent champions of the division.
“Not at all,” Johnson said at the World Series when asked if he thought winning the title at the beginning of the season was possible. “My immediate thought was I just wanted to come and win. We didn’t even think we were going to run a full-time schedule, but one thing leads to another.”
For the second straight year, Shawn Monahan captured the Limited Sportsman title as part of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series. Monahan reversed his 2017 effort, where he didn’t visit Victory Lane, and won four races in 2018 driving the No. 55 in a competitive class where 39 drivers took at least one green flag.
His second straight crown came with a 49-point gap in the standings.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team and more blessed to be where I am today,” Monahan said after clinching the crown at the World Series. “If you had asked me at the beginning of the season, I would’ve said that it’s impossible because of the talent this division has. The difference between myself and the rest of the competitors is simply that I have been in the right place, at the right time.”
And finally, in the Mini Stock division, a veteran proved that he was ready to hang up his helmet in style. East Haddam, Connecticut, driver Eric Bourgeois found himself with a 27-point advantage in the standings, besting the 2017 champion Wayne Burroughs Jr. for the title. Bourgeois, who introduced his son Evan to the Mini Stock division on the track over the last few years, is retiring from full-time racing to focus his time on wrenching through the No. 78 Mini Stock for his son.
In fine fashion, Eric celebrated another Mini Stock title as he career running for points officially comes to a close.
With the banquet now in the rear-view mirror, Thompson has officially turned the calendar to the 2019 season as racing is just three months away from taking the green flag. A revamped schedule, which includes 10 races, begins with the Icebreaker weekend from April 5-7, headlined by the third race of the season for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Fans can visit www.thompsonspeedway.comor follow the track on social media outlets for the latest updates.