THOMPSON, Conn. — official series release — NEMA photo —
The Northeastern Midget Association has long considered Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP) the ultimate “separate the men from the boys” facility. While any Thompson checkered is a treasure, winning on opening day in the NEMA Lites feature at this year’s ICEBREAKER event will be a goal high on the list of many attendees.
Sitting at the top of that list is the all time Thompson winner – with twelve victories, Randy Cabral, who will return at the ICEBREAKER in his family owned #35 Lites car. There are certainly no lack of favorites to win the event, outside of Cabral. Scott Bigelow, last year’s winner, is a tentative “yes” for this weekend’s festivities, dependent on his personal schedule. Bigelow scored an impressive victory in the first ever NEMA Lites feature at the Speedway.
In addition to Bigelow and Cabral, one cannot count out last year’s NEMA Lites Champion, Anthony “The Tornado” Payne. Son of legendary open cockpit mainstay, Joey Payne, the young Payne had impressive outings at TSMP last season. NEMA competitor Paul Scally will be debuting his new Drinan Lites car, and 2014 NEMA runner up Avery Stoehr, will return in his family owned ride as well.
With a nearly twenty plus car field rumored, that’s just the beginning of the list. Brothers Alan and Jim Chambers come to the ICEBREAKER with two focus powered cars, and will highlight Alan’s return to the division in addition to a full time NEMA schedule for both. Teammates Christian Briggs and Juris Kupris will bring their RAM Bull racing entries to TSMP with high hopes of a feature victory. The Cugini family brings their two strong family owned entries to the Speedway. Ryan Bigelow is set to return to Thompson in his focus powered BEAST chassis as well. Other entrants include PJ Stergios, a multi time NEMA Lite winner, set to run a full season in pursuit of a Championship in 2016, and possibly long time Northeastern racer, Chad Labastie.
Thompson, known for its long straightaways and high banked corners presents a “mental wrestling match from mid straightaway into the turns,” pointing out to be successful “you have to pretty much keep your foot in it deep into the corner” says long time NEMA member and multi time winner Greg Stoehr.
NEMA and Thompson have a relationship that goes back to 1960, the legendary Dutch Schaefer the winner. Since then, Thompson has helped write a ton of NEMA history. Greg Stoehr, driving for John Zahar, passed brother Russ in the closing laps to win in 1994. In 2001, Joey Payne, who like Greg Stoehr started last, passed the same Russ Stoehr on the final lap en route to the checkered. The latter was the famed car owner Gene Angelillo’s 100th NEMA win. Last fall, Randy Cabral claimed the victory over his teammate Todd Bertrand with a last lap pass in turns three and four that will go down as “one for the ages.”
The Lites kick off ICEBREAKER weekend with all events, including practice, taking place on Saturday only. One thing is for sure, with as close as some of the big track races were last season – reminiscent of Oswego, Thompson’s ICEBREAKER should be a “barn burner.”
CREDIT: NEMA PR