Thompson, Conn: John Lowinski-Loh of Milford, Mass., Steve Kenneway of Lowell, Mass. and Chad Baxter of Pascoag, RI all captured their first season wins on Whelen Engineering night in Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson (TNTT). Other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series winners included Keith Rocco of Meriden, Conn. in the Sunoco Modified division with his fourth victory of the season and John Studley of Framingham, Mass. in the Lite Modifieds.
Lowinski-Loh has a proven record of success at Thompson Speedway and that’s why it was no surprise that he continued that pattern behind the wheel of a Late Model. Lowinski-Loh nailed his first victory in only his fifth start in the highly competitive division after taking the lead at lap 14 from John Falconi.
Falconi and Damon Tinio led the field to green with Falconi taking the point in turn two after a brief side-by-side battle. Lowinski-Loh took over second on the second circuit with Tinio settling into third.
Lowinski-Loh was on the move, and attempted a challenge on Falconi at lap three, but didn’t have quite enough momentum to complete it. He dropped back into line in second and continued to look for a chance to get by. The man on the move, however, was Rick Gentes, who had moved up to third by lap five. On lap 12, however, Gentes had his hands full with Marc Curtis, Jr., who was challenging on the bottom. Up front, Lowinski-Loh mounted yet another challenge on the inside, but this time successfully taking the lead on lap 14.
Gentes was still running third, but Curtis was not making it easy. On lap 18, Curtis got up alongside him yet again, but this time having the advantage at the line. The duo battled it out for several laps with Gentes having the smallest of advantages at the line on lap 21. Lowinski-Loh, meanwhile, was pulling further and further ahead of Falconi.
The race remained under green for the remainder of the distance and Lowinski-Loh soared to the checkers ahead of Falconi and Gentes.
Keith Rocco used a late-race restart to take down his fourth victory of the 2013 season in the Sunoco Modified division. Rocco held off Ryan Preece and Todd Ceravolo for the win.
Matt Gallo drove to the front at the start of the race, but Ceravolo put the pressure on almost immediately. Coming around on the second lap, Ceravolo dropped to the bottom to get a run on Gallo for the lead. Ceravolo got loose, but saved it before caution came out.
Gallo, who chose the outside lane for the restart, drove out front on the drop of the green. Rocco got by Ceravolo for second and took over the lead on the third lap in turn two. Pitkat and Ceravolo were side-by-side for third with Ceravolo having a slight lead when caution came out on lap four.
Rocco drove by Gallo on the restart with Pitkat in third. The field settled in single file with Ceravolo riding Pitkat’s bumper back in fourth. On lap six, Ceravolo dropped to the bottom in turn three and drove by Pitkat for third. Preece followed Ceravolo’s line and took over fourth.
Up front, Rocco had a comfortable ten-car length lead over Gallo as all eyes continued to focus on the third through fifth positions. Ceravolo got by Preece for third, and the trio was running nose-to-tail when caution came out for a spun car on the front stretch.
Rocco was no different on the restart, and shot right to the front. Gallo and Preece rounded out the top-three, but Rocco was already sitting comfortably five car lengths ahead by the completion of the lap.
Preece made a run on Gallo for the second spot while Ceravolo moved up to third. All the dicing for position allowed Rocco to run away from the rest of the field with a second-and-a-half lead by the 20th circuit. Preece and Ceravolo – running nose-to-tail – started closing some of the distance, but time was not on their side.
A caution flew at lap 28 for a car in the turn three wall setting up a two-lap dash to the checkers. Rocco drove to the front again with Ceravolo and Preece battling for the second spot right behind him. Preece earned the spot on the outside groove with Pitkat taking over third before the checkers fell.
Perseverance paid off for John Studley, who was dealt a two-position penalty at the beginning of the Lite Modified feature event. Despite the setback, Studley went on to win for the second time this season ahead of Cam McDermott.
Dylan Menditto took the lead in a wild three-wide start to the Lite Modified feature. John Studley took over the lead, but the race quickly went into caution to correct the running order after it was determined by race officials that Studley had jumped the start. Cam McDermott, who was running second at the time of the caution, was put into the lead for the restart at lap four with Glenn Griswold and Studley rounding out the top-three.
McDermott drove right out front at the drop of the green with Studley taking over second at lap five. Studley set his sights on the lead, but McDermott already had a significant one-second advantage.
Caution tightened the field back up with McDermott and Studley side-by-side for the restart at lap 10. The duo were side-by-side until turn two when McDermott pulled ahead on the inside groove. On the following circuit, Studley dropped to the bottom to take over the lead, also coming out of turn two. Studley settled in with a small two-car length advantage, but it was clear that nothing was going to stop the determined Studley from reaching victory lane.
Steve Kenneway took the lead on a lap seven restart in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division and never looked back on the way to his first win of the season. Kenneway’s victory came in a 30-lap extra-distance feature event and included a $200 bonus.
Todd Dean led the field to the green with Michael Malbaurn in second. A three-wide battle opened up behind him for the third spot with Kenneway coming out the victor and claiming the position. Kenneway was still on the move and passed Malbaurn on the same lap for second and immediately closed in on Dean.
Dean held strong for the next several laps, but on lap six, Kenneway made a charge on the bottom coming out of turn two. The duo raced door-to-door before caution halted Kenneway’s challenge with Dean still out front for the restart at lap 7.
Dean brought the field down to the line, but it was Kenneway coming out of turn one for the first lead change of the night. Dean settled into second with Scott Sundeen keeping the pressure on in third. On lap nine, Sundeen went deep into turn three to mount a side-by-side challenge for the second spot. The two drivers were dead even for almost an entire circuit before Sundeen took over the spot coming out of turn four of lap 10. Dean retaliated and didn’t allow Sundeen much breathing room as they continued to race side-by-side, but Sundeen pulled ahead at lap 14 with Dean getting passed by Larry Barnett for the third spot.
Kenneway was dominant out front, but Sundeen was closing in and within a carlengths when the No. 36 went off the pace on the backstretch at lap 18. Kenneway never lost a beat and held a full second advantage over second place car Barnett and Dean in third.
Kenneway began to put the tail end of the field a lap down five laps before the race conclusion, but the traffic never hindered Kenneway, who continued on to the checkered flag unchallenged.
Chad Baxter took the checkered flag sideways in the Monster Mini Stock finish after an intense race-long battle with Eric Bourgeois that left fans on the edge of their seats. Baxter led every lap en route to his victory.
Baxter took the early lead ahead of Bourgeois and Dave Trudeau. Baxter had breathing room until lap five when Bourgeois mounted an inside challenge for the lead. Baxter shut the door, but Bourgeois continued to apply the pressure. Bourgeois got alongside Baxter at lap 11 and the two were side-by-side at the line with Baxter holding on to the lead.
The battle continued up front with Baxter holding off Bourgeois’ solid challenges. Coming off turn four of the last lap, Bourgeois attempted one last challenge, but made contact with the rear of Baxter’s car – sending him over the finish line sideways.
SUNOCO MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Keith Rocco, Meriden, CT; 2. Ryan Preece, Berlin, CT; 3. Woody Pitkat, Stafford Springs, CT; 4. Todd Ceravolo, Gales Ferry, CT; 5. Kerry Malone, Needham, MA; 6. Matt Gallo, Berlin, CT; 7. Dennis Perry, Pawcatuck, CT; 8. Tommy Barrett, Millis, MA; 9. John Catania, Ludlow, MA; 10. George Wilkinson, Pawcatuck, CT.
LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. John Lowinski-Loh, Jr., Milford, MA; 2. John Falconi, Oakham, MA; 3. Rick Gentes, Burriville, RI; 4. Marc Curtis, Jr., Spencer, MA; 5. Glenn Boss, Danielson, CT; 6. Damon Tinio, Mendon, MA; 7. Chad LaBastie, Uxbridge, MA; 8. Jared Materas, Palmer, MA; 9. Chris Garside, Waterford, CT; 10. Bob O’Connell, Jr., Wrentham, MA.
LITE MODIFIED FEATURE FINISH: 1. John Studley, Framingham, MA; 2. Cam McDermott, Scituate, RI; 3. Dylan Menditto, Brooklyn, CT; 4. Glenn Griswold, Vernon, CT; 5. Scott Nordman, Woodstock, CT; 6. Nikki Ouellette, East Granby, CT; 7. Joseph Boivin, Belchertown, MA; 8. Bob Vojtila, Southington, CT.
LIMITED LATE MODEL FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Steve Kenneway, Lowell, MA; 2. Larry Barnett, Moosup, CT; 3. Todd Dean, Danielson, CT; 4. Tommy Shea, Sr., New London, CT; 5. Bill McNeil, Preston, CT; 6. Kevin Mason, West Warwick, RI; 7. Corey Fanning, Mapleville, RI; 8. Jason Chicolas, Sutton, MA; 9. Lloyd Anderson, Jr., Wauregan, CT; 10. Michael Malbaurn, Sterling, CT.
MONSTER MINI STOCK FEATURE FINISH (TOP-10): 1. Chad Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 2. Eric Bourgeois, East Haddam, CT; 3. Dave Trudeau, Mansfield, CT; 4. Scott Michalski, S. Killingly, CT; 5. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 6. Leo DeFevers, Moosup, CT; 7. Joe Baxter, Pascoag, RI; 8. Alicia Thatcher, Pascoag, RI; 9. Louie Bellisle, Lisbon, CT; 10. Todd Lajeunesse, Putnam, CT.
PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Rocco in victory lane – Scott Nickel Photo