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Thompson Speedway returns to 2019 PASS schedule

The high-banked oval will kick off the PASS North schedule as part of its annual Icebreaker weekend.

Derek Griffith (#12G), winner of last year's PASS feature at Thompson, works through traffic early in the race. Griffith will get a chance to defend his win as Thompson has been added to the 2019 PASS schedule. (Jeff Brown photo)

Last year, a late-breaking schedule change added a new season finale to the Pro All Stars Series North schedule. This year, a late-breaking announcement will add a new season opener for 2019.

PASS announced Friday that the touring Super Late Model series will compete at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on April 7. For a fourth straight season, the fendered cars will be paired with NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour as part of the Connecticut track’s 45th annual Icebreaker. The feature will serve as the season opener for the PASS North schedule, but will also award points toward the PASS National Championship.

Thompson has welcomed the PASS Super Late Models since 2003. The legendary ⅝-mile oval, one of the oldest tracks in the country, is a unique test for the region’s racers. The high-banked corners and long straights set it apart in a region dominated by flatter tracks, and make it one of the fastest tracks on the nineteen-race PASS North tour.

Thompson’s initial schedule release made no mention of PASS as a supporting division for the 2019 Icebreaker, lessening the surprise when the track was left off PASS’ December schedule announcement. Given the addition of New Hampshire Motor Speedway to the 2019 schedule, and the drivetrain demands commanded by tracks like Thompson and NHMS, it seemed like a decision based in practicality. Last year’s race was highlighted by a long green-flag stretch where even some top teams were unable to keep pace with the leaders.

As one of the few area tracks that regularly runs midweek features, Thompson looked like an outside candidate for PASS’ to-be-announced midweek feature, but the track had committed to a set number of dates for its oval-track program in 2019. Star Speedway in New Hampshire was confirmed for the late-July midweek event a week ago.

Thompson’s return to the schedule gives the Maine-based touring series events in five of the six New England states. Rhode Island has no paved oval tracks, but both Thompson and Seekonk (MA) Speedway are minutes from the state’s borders.

Additionally, one Connecticut Super Late Model racer pointed out that updates to the PASS rulebook for 2019 mandate stock crate engines for Thompson, as well as NHMS and Richmond (VA) Raceway. While some questions remain about specific packages for the bigger tracks on the schedule, this should be encouraging for teams that might not have bothered to run the big track only to be uncompetitive.

The addition of the Icebreaker, however, makes for a very busy start to the season for teams vying for the PASS National Championship. With stops scheduled at Richmond Raceway on March 30 and Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway on April 20, plus the originally-scheduled PASS North event at Oxford on the 14th, teams will face four straight weeks of travel. The schedule also leaves no room for error in the case of inclement weather. An open weekend in late April, noted on the original schedule release as a rain date for Oxford, may serve as the safety valve should rain interfere with any of the four race weekends.

The PASS schedule still lists two to-be-determined events, a July event on the PASS North circuit and a mid-November race for the National Championship. Announcements surrounding these races are expected soon, at which point the schedules will be finalized at nineteen PASS North events and eight races counting toward the National Championship.

In the wake of the announcements of the last two weeks, the early obstacles and concerns facing PASS’ schedule in December seem like old news. The sanctioning organization has organized a diverse and challenging schedule for the new season, one befitting of the region’s fastest fendered stock cars and top talent. The return of Thompson binds the series back to one of New England’s biggest racing weekends and most popular touring divisions, while setting the tone for the challenging but rewarding season ahead.

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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