RING: A Look At Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s History

Thom Ring New England, Staff Columns, Thom Ring Blog 0 Comments

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park has been a staple of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour since 1985. (NASCAR photo)

THOMPSON, Conn. — So last weekend, I hopped on my vintage Yamaha triple and scooted on over to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

Thompson, nestled in the woods and hills of Connecticut’s “Quiet Corner,” was hosting its annual vintage meet for oval-track race cars, and being of a similar vintage, I’m always interested in exploring the state of the racing art from earlier eras of the sport.

For example, you could see original old modified coupes that truly were modified from street iron near examples that were beginning to evolve into dirt mods, as well as mods on their way to becoming supers.

Park them in chronological order, and you have a timeline for the evolution of modifieds.

Besides, all race cars are cool. That’s why I’m so happy to see Thompson Speedway become Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. It’s not just “a track” anymore.

For years this unique, five-eighths-mile paper-clip has been one of the best venues for oval-track racing in the Northeast. In fact, NASCAR at one time brought its premier division (then known as “Grand National” before they attached a brand-name to it) to Thompson.

Furthermore, I was surprised when I picked up a biography of Mario Andretti and found a photo of a young Mario in his midget days, leaning on the wall at an ancient iteration of the place.

Yet if you’ve been around racing for a while, you might be aware that the access road that once led to the pits at Thompson, as well as the road leading from the track’s main entrance, used to be part of a road course that hosted corner-carvers from a host of national and regional series for cars and motorcycles.

If anything, Thompson’s road course once was better known than its oval.

The road course ceased hosting racing in the 1970s. Nobody seemed to miss it. Bryar Motorsports Park in New Hampshire was more of a loss. It hosted road racing until Bob Bahre bought the place and built the very best venue for oval-track racing in the Northeast on the property.

However, road racers soon decided that the road course Bahre built to snake around his oval was an unsatisfactory and potentially hazardous compromise.

In recent years, potential corner-carvers tuned in to the plans being developed for a road course in nearby Palmer, Massachusetts. The track was built, but you have a better chance of strolling into the oval office at the White House without an invitation than actually getting in to see any racing at Palmer, as the track has become a NIMBY crusade for the locals in town.

Then one day, I was scooting by Thompson on my way to nowhere in particular. As is often the case when nowhere is my destination, I had headed to the woods and hills of the Quiet Corner.

As I blasted by the track, I saw excavation-work going on out in what had been a spectator-parking area for years. The path being carved into the grass looked almost like a route for a road course. I knew better, of course, but no later blast by the track revealed anything to dissuade me from my first impression.

And then it was real.

Continued on the next page…

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