It’s time to make a move.
After multiple years in the Mini Stock division at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, former champion Wayne Burroughs is taking a leap to the newly-formed SK Light Modified class at Thompson this season.
Burroughs, a two-time Mini Stock champion, sold the car he was so successful with last weekend. He will be moving to Thompson’s Division III SK Light Modified class starting with the 45thannual Icebreaker, April 5-7, where he will look to continue his Thompson success, but in a different ride.
“Overall, we expect to go there and be competitive and win races and hopefully contend for the championship right out of the gate,” Burroughs said. “We might be a rookie in the SK Light Modifieds at Thompson, but I have a lot of laps in the Mini Stocks there and I’m not a rookie in the SK Lights in general. I don’t think I’ll have a big learning curve.”
Burroughs mentions that he isn’t a rookie in the SK Lights – and even though he might be on paper at Thompson – he does have experience in the car, just across the state, at New London-Waterford Speedbowl. In 2019, Burroughs will once again team with Tom Abele to drive the No. 32, this time at Thompson – as the combination looks to build on last year, where they finished second in the championship standings at the Speedbowl.
“I’ve run the SK Light at Waterford the last two years, but I picked up a different ride in the SK Modifieds over there for this year, so I wasn’t going to run the Light, and Tom asked what I thought about running it at Thompson,” Burroughs said. “Right at that time, I still had the Mini Stock and I didn’t see a way financially I could do both. We had a lot of fun in the Mini Stock, so it was bittersweet, but we decided we had done everything we could do, so we put it up for sale and it sold last week. I didn’t have the opportunity to run the SK Light at Thompson previously, but now, with the offer there, I couldn’t pass it up.”
He is hoping his Thompson success in the Mini Stock transfers over to his new venture. Burroughs capped his Rookie season in the Mini Stocks in 2016 with a championship trophy, adding his name to the long list of successful drivers at the Connecticut oval. That was just the start of his success, though.
“We had a fast race car, our 2015 season at the Speedbowl we found some things with the car and built a foundation, and then in 2016, I ended up getting a second Mini Stock and two weeks before the Icebreaker we said since we had the other car, we decided to bring it to the Icebreaker and give it a try,” Burroughs said. “We brought it to Thompson, unloaded, and we were the fastest car right in the first practice. We weren’t even planning on running the full season. We were just going to have some fun but we were really fast all weekend at the Icebreaker. We went back and it wasn’t even until halfway through the season when we decided to run for points that first year.”
One year later, in 2017, he clinched back-to-back Mini Stock titles in dominant fashion – and set his sights on winning a third straight in 2018. But, after the Limited Sportsman Extra Distance Night was rained out, and later rescheduled, Burroughs ran into an issue last summer. He had already booked a vacation with his family, outside the country, for the date the race was rescheduled for, therefore, he couldn’t make it. He ended up coming up one spot and just 27 points short of the third straight title, but won five of the six races he competed in.
“Thompson is a motor track,” Burroughs said of the Mini Stocks. “My motor, built by Larry’s Auto Machine, was just dynamite. It was almost unstoppable. A lot of it is the motor package, but endless hours in the shop, testing, and a lot of effort. The open rules in the Mini Stock definitely help. We built our own cars, build our own stuff into the cars, and the motors are all different, so there is a little bit of variation in the division.”
In the SK Light Modifieds, Burroughs is hoping to come out of the gate on top of his game. But, with realistic expectations, the first few races will be about getting the setup tuned to his liking and coming up with some consistent finishes. Burroughs feels like he is going to be up against a difficult challenge from one of his competitors specifically.
“The biggest thing I’m expecting is Bryan Narducci being really tough to beat,” Burroughs said. “I’ve raced him quite a bit in the SK Lights, and he’s a class act, a heck of a wheelman. I’ve beaten him some and I haven’t beaten him some. But he’s going to be tough.”
Narducci is just one of many challengers that Burroughs is going to have to beat. Narducci actually has four victories in four races in SK Light Modified® races at Thompson in the past, but names like Alexander Pearl, John O’Sullivan and Anthony Marvin are just three of the early entered drivers who look like they will be challenging. And there are more drivers coming in their footsteps.
For Burroughs, the chance to showcase his driving talent to Thompson’s fans in a different style of car is going to be important. He’s moving from full-fendered action to the open-wheel ranks.
“It would be important to me,” he said of being in contention for the title this year. “I like to say all the time that I don’t want to be someone that is known for one thing at one track. It’s important to show that my skills are just not behind the wheel of a Mini Stock. My goal this year is to prove that I can jump from the Mini Stock to the SK Light and not miss a beat. I don’t think we will go win five out of six races, but I think we can run up front, and with some consistency we can be in contention as far as the points are concerned.”
Even though the Mini Stock was more of a family-owned operation, Burroughs isn’t going to be handling everything inside his own shop this year. But, as with many drivers in Thompson’s Whelen All-American Series divisions, it’s still going to be about spending time with his family.
“A lot of it is just a lot of work by me, my dad, my cousin. Even last year, when we were winning races but we were out of the Mini Stock championship race, we spent a lot of the season experimenting. We would go with something different at each race, trying to learn. Fast is never fast enough in racing,” he said. “We are always spending a lot of hours in the garage.”
Thompson’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series schedule, where the SK Light Modifiedswill compete this season, includes 10 races — spanning from April to October. Last year, teams competed in just seven races.
“I think 10 races is almost a perfect number, I thought seven wasn’t quite enough,” Buroughs said. “I saw the schedule and I like that a majority of them are on Sunday. The weekday races are a little bit different for work and the crew. I thought the schedule overall looked great, and that’s what enticed us to go back. The schedule is appealing to me.”
Overall, even though Burroughs feels it is going to be important to have some consistency and hopefully chase the championship this season, all of his mindset is steered towards the opener for now. The 45thannual Icebreaker, which begins in just over two weeks, is one race Burroughs really wants to win.
“The Icebreaker is a lot of fun. You’ve been sitting around all winter, and you’re chomping at the bit ready to race. You get to see everyone again for three days, seeing everyone you haven’t seen all winter,” he said. “I have won every single major event at Thompson except the Icebreaker, and my goal is to win the Icebreaker this year. I’ve won the World Series, the Bud 150 twice… the division is going to be very popular. There are going to be some big heavy hitters. You can go on and on with the list of young kids that are coming up and have some talent. I would love to win the Icebreaker. That’s definitely our goal when we roll in there.”