Ted Christopher & Woody Pitkat Headline Championship Celebrations at Thompson

Thompson, CT -- For two straight nights the Raceway Golf Club in Thompson, CT was alive with merriment as Thompson International Speedway hosted Champions Night celebrations. On Friday night, January 24, 2003, Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT was crowned the 2002 Late Model Champion while Moosup, CT driver Ernie LaRose was bestowed the Limited Sportsman title and Rich Barry of Central Village, CT was recognized as the 2002 Mini Stock Champion. On Saturday night the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge celebration centered on the championship feats of Sunoco Modified ace Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT and Pro Stock honoree Mike O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA. In true Thompson Speedway style, the banquet ceremonies were conducted in a professional and timely manner allowing for plenty of celebrating and frivolity.

It took a busload to help Woody Pitkat celebrate his first Late Model championship. Friday night the young man brought many of the individuals who played a part in his quest for the title. Two feature wins, 12 top-five, and 13 top-ten finishes helped Pitkat realize his goal. The often-colorful Pitkat was humble in his speech, recognizing the camaraderie between the top-five competitors and citing a genuine admiration for each of his fellow drivers.

Ernie LaRose took a slightly milder approach to the banquet; quietly accepting his Limited Sportsman championship accolades. A vastly different approach then how he attacked the 2002 season. The hard-charging driver found himself deep in the pack nearly every week but in victory lane at the end of most nights. Nine feature wins, and only two finishes outside of the top-six gave this tenacious driver the 2002 championship.

Ten feature victories was the final tally for 2002 Mini Stock champion Rich Barry. To say that Barry had a dream season would be an understatement. In truly dominating fashion, Barry raced to the Mini Stock title with only one finish outside of the top five! In addition to trophies from Thompson International Speedway, Barry also received hardware from NASCAR.

The celebration continued the following evening, Saturday, January 25, 2003, with the competitors from the Pro Stock and Sunoco Modified divisions receiving awards for their accomplishments during the 2002 season. NASCAR representative Ed Cox, Tour Director of the Featherlite Modified Series, was on hand both evenings to help with the presentation of trophies.

Mike O’Sullivan may have had to borrow Woody Pitkat’s bus to get all his loot home. The Springfield, MA driver took the racetrack by storm in 2002, not only did he win the Pro Stock division title but also the division's most Improved Driver Award and Most Popular Driver recognition. For his efforts, which included two victories, eight top-five, and 13 top-ten finishes, O’Sullivan received trophies and a championship fleece from the Speedway, a plaque from NASCAR, a champions jacket from Dave Lind’s Race Tires, and a complete body from Duraflex Race Car Bodies of Greenville, RI.

In his acceptance speech O’Sullivan was quick to acknowledge the efforts of his family. “This is truly a team effort,” said the proud driver, “my dad Tom is the heart and soul of this race team”.

Other Pro Stock drivers recognized were Rookie of the Year, Ron Smith of Oakham, MA and Hard Luck Award recipient Bernie Croteau of Monson, MA. In the Sunoco Modified division it was the flamboyant John Brouwer, Jr. of Waterford, CT receiving the Rookie of the Year nod. Noted for his interesting choice of headwear, Brouwer loaned one of his hats to Chief Steward Dick Brooks during the presentation. The woes of Josh Steeves were empathized with the Modified Division's Hard Luck Award and Matty Adanti, of Old Saybrook, CT was voted as the division's Most Improved Driver. An award of excellence was presented to Tom Tagg, a former Modified champion and Thompson Speedway competitor for 22 years, who announced his retirement at the end of last season.

Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT, car owner Jim Galante and the Mystique Motorsports team added yet another set of championship trophies to their collection on Saturday night. Four victories in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series presented by Dodge Sunoco Modified division and 16 top-five finishes earned the team its second championship in three years at the Thompson facility. Christopher, too, walked away with trophies, plaques, jackets, and gifts from Duraflex. He was also presented with a welder from Lincoln Electric for his championship effort.

Special presentations were made on Saturday night including recognition awards to outstanding NASCAR officials Assistant starter Tim Bennett and Scorer Russ Smith. Dedication awards were bestowed on ultra-fast wrecker operator Mike Giguere, Pit Steward Tom “BC” Stroiney, the East Thompson Volunteer Fire Department and the Community Ambulance. A dedication awarded was slated to go to one of the Speedways most visible and devoted employees, back gate attendant, Ed Ryan. Unfortunately, shortly after the World Series, Ed passed away. Everyone who enters the Thompson Speedway pit gate certainly will miss Ed Ryan.

Anne Empy was presented the 3rd Annual John Hoenig Award, named for the founder of the Speedway and recent N.E.A.R Hall of Fame Inductee, for her many years as the head scorer of Thompson Speedway. In an eloquent speech Anne reminded everyone “to treasure the friends that you make in this sport”.

After a harsh winter friendships will be renewed at the traditional kickoff of the racing season at Thompson’s Icebreaker. The quest for the championship begins again on April 5 & 6, 2003.

Test and Tune dates are scheduled for March 22 & 29, 2003 from Noon to 8 PM. Watch the website www.thompsonspeedway.com for updates on the 2003 season.

Final Sunoco Modified Championship Standings (Top Ten): 1. Ted Christopher, Plainville, CT: 2. Ron Yuhas, Jr., Groton, CT: 3. KerryMalone, Needham, MA; 4. Bert Marvin, Waterford, CT; 5. Jeff Malave, Manchester,CT; 6. Bo Gunning, Bethlehem, CT; 7. Eric Berndt, Meriden, CT; 8. Tom Tagg,Oxford, CT; 9. John Brouwer, Jr.,Waterford, CT; 10. Bobby Santos III, Franklin, MA. Special Awards: Rookie of the Year-John Brouwer, Jr.; MostImproved-Matty Adanti, Old Saybrook, CT; Hard Luck-Josh Steeves, Uxbridge,MA.

Final Pro Stock Championship Standings (Top Ten): 1. MikeO’Sullivan, Springfield, MA; 2. Norm Wrenn, Nashua, NH; 3. Jeff Connors,Ellington, CT; 4. Jim Mavlouganes,Bethany, CT; 5. George Bessette,Danbury, CT; 6. Chuck Docherty, Springfield, MA; 7. Jim Banfield, S.Glastonbury, CT; 8. Bernie Croteau,Monson, MA; 9. Roger Godin, Spencer,MA; 10. (TIE) Joe Lemay, Blackstone, MA& Ron Smith, Oakham, MA. SpecialAwards: Rookie of the Year-Ron Smith;Most Improved Driver-Mike O’Sullivan, Hard Luck Award: Bernie Croteau.

Final Late Model Championship Standings (Top Ten): 1. Woody Pitkat, Stafford, CT: 2. Marc Palmisano, Deerfield,MA; 3. Jeff Plakias, Agawam, MA; 4. Jeff Hesselton, Auburn, MA; 5. John Falconi, Marboro, MA; 6. RickLaFlesh, Griswold, CT; 7. ScottBronczyk, N. Grosvernordale, CT; 8. Bill Wheeler, Sag Harbor, NY; 9. Scott Fanning, Smithfield, RI; 10. Todd Dean, Danielson, CT. Special Awards: Rookie of theYear- Fred LaForge, Windsor Locks, CT: Most Improved Driver-Jeff Hesselton; Hard Luck Award: Bill Wheeler.

Final Limited Sportsman Championship Standings (TopTen): 1. Ernie Larose, Moosup, CT; 2.Larry Barnett, Ledyard, CT: 3. KeithDeSanctis, Monson, MA; 4. Scott Cook,Uncasville, CT; 5. Lyle Wolfinger,Moodus, CT; 6. Scott Sundeen, Douglas,MA; 7. Mike Cavanaugh, Coventry, RI; 8. Mark DeCosta, Cranston, RI; 9. GlennBoss, Danielson, CT; 10. Nick Bazzano,Windsor, CT. Special Awards: Rookie of the Year-Jesse Gleason, Baltic,CT; Most Improved Driver- Lyle Wolfinger; Hard Luck Award Norm Ashline,Springfield, MA.

Mini Stock Championship Standings (Top Ten): 1. Rich Barry, Central Village, CT; 2. Mike Viens, Seekonk, MA; 3. Ron Rixham, Jefferson, MA; 4. Andy Publicover, Sudbury, MA; 5. Roger Larson, Jr., Milford, MA; 6. RodRixham, Sutton, MA; Bill Schoeler, Warwick, RI; 8. Clyde Caswell, Jamestown, RI; 9. Cindy Larson, Milford, MA; 10. Eric Bourgeois, E. Haddam, CT. Special Awards: Rookie of the Year-Mike Viens; Most Improved Driver-AndyPublicover; Hard Luck Award-Bill Schoeler.