Sunday, April 10, 2016

Solomito Steals Preece's Thompson Thunder

Thompson Speedway kicked off the Icebreaker of 2016, and it put the Ice in Icebreaker given the usual chilly mid-April temperatures that greeted the capacity crowd as well as the multiple features hitting the 5/8th miler.    In the larger sports world that Sunday the 1992 Houston Oiler-esque collapse of Jordan Speith stole all the headlines; at Thompson there wasn't a collapse, but the NASCAR Modified Tour did see an upset of a win.

Entering Sunday's plethora of features the favorite was Ryan Preece.  Driving both the #6 Mod Tour car as well as an SK-class Modified, Preece flew from a disappointing Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway in Johnny Davis' #01 racecar for the Icebreaker.   But a harbinger of the outcome of the 150-lapper for the Tour came in the SK-class feature as Preece had to pit after two early yellows and was never really a factor for the win.   The SK race shook into a showdown between Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher.  A Rowan Pennick spin set up a green-white-checker finish and Christopher got a huge run on the white flag but couldn't finish off the pass, even when a seven-car scramble set up another green-white-checker finish; Christopher's second shot wasn't enough to stop Keith Rocco.

What did become enough to stop Keith Rocco later on was his twin brother Jeff in the Late Model race.   The two basically monopolized the race until near halfway they were side by side and Jeff lost it in Three and they both wrecked hard, the kind of air-off-the-spoiler-flavored wreck we thought we'd last seen in the 1990s at the Cup and Busch/Xfinity level.    The same fate bit Rick Gentes and it all left William Wall with the win, his first in the Late Models at Thompson.

Amid that, the Pro All Star Series stockers went through a rough and competitive outing won by Garrett Hall.   Meanwhile Ryan Preece prepped for the Mod Tour 150.  Driving the #6, Preece seized the lead from polesitter Doug Coby and for 80 laps was unbeatable, putting seventeen of the field of 27 a lap down or more.   Jimmy Blewitt's spin set up pitstops and Justin Bonsignore got out first.  

On the Lap 92 restart Bonsignore got a huge jump and Timmy Solomito,  in the Flamingo #16, grabbed second; he then seized the lead and withstood a hard counterattack from Bonsignore on Lap 93.  Preece got to second following Jimmy Blewitt's second spin of the day, and at Lap 109 he wernt after the lead; Preece and Solomito raced for a lap before Preece cleared into first and it appeared the race was over - but on Lap 116 Solomito ran down Preece and retook the lead.   Bonsignore grabbed second on Lap 121 but Preece fought back and retook the spot, then closed on Solomito by Lap 130.

The challenge, though, would not develop, as Solomito edged away and by Lap 140 was over a second ahead, and kept inching away to the win, denying Preece the expected triumph.

It also gave Solomito a first - his first Mod Tour win.   "I feel like I'm dreaming," he summarized of his breakthrough win, while Preece was left summarizing that "my car didn't have the drive it had before" of his second-half effort.

Others likewise were left a little mystified by the changing track condition.   ""It was just a good top five,: said Doug Coby afterward.  "It's all you can hope for.   I thought, 'all right, I'll fish around (for another line).'"

Jimmy Blewitt, making his debut in Bob Garbarino's famed Mystic Missile #4, struggled even when his car wasn't going around.   "At first I was stuck tight," he said.  "I got free but it was still tight, like a four-wheel drift."

Bonsignore summarized that "The 16 was the class of the field."  Like others his #51 "was too tight." 

Playing it tight thus proved the order of the day in a 150-lapper where a first-timer stole the thunder of one of the Tour's stronger stars.

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