Construction Expected To Have Major Effects On Oval Racing At Thompson In 2014; Icebreaker Likely Off Schedule

THOMPSON – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour tradition – and New England short track racing tradition for that matter – could be dramatically changed at Thompson International Speedway in 2014.

Thompson Speedway general manager Jonathan Hoenig said Thursday that – as it stands now – there will not be an Icebreaker event at the track in 2014.

Hoenig said construction plans for a new road course at Thompson will force track officials to tailor their short track racing schedule around new building plans for 2014, if there even is short track racing schedule for the season.

“[In April] this place will be upside down,” Hoenig said. “Unless a miracle happens, we know the Icebreaker is not going to be on the schedule. We’re going to be under construction.”

The Icebreaker traditionally has taken place in the middle of April. The Whelen Modified Tour has started their season at the Icebreaker every year since 2002.

Plans are in place to build a new 1.7-mile road course at Thompson Speedway. The road course will incorporate the current .625-mile oval track. Hoenig said the plans are for the road course to be operational by June 2014.

“A lot of [demolition] that’s happening, doesn’t touch the track surface, but there’s 400 feet of wall that’s being opened up on the oval,” Hoenig said. “There’s 1,500 feet of new paving inside the oval that’s going to be for the road racing surface. The road course connects to the oval. The whole pit grandstand area is getting removed and replaced. So it directly affects all the safety and infrastructure of the oval.”

While he said short track racing will remain as part of the future of motorsports at the facility going forward, Hoenig was non-committal when it came to short track racing at the track in 2014.

Asked if he could you tell competitors at the track with confidence that there will be short track racing next year Hoenig said: “I can’t tell anyone with confidence who is racing here next year. I don’t have any schedule. I don’t know what we’re having for road races, I don’t know what we’re having for special events, I don’t know what we’re having for NASCAR races. I don’t have anything.

“I understand [the concerns of current short track competitors], but we as a family here have a very large project to undertake and we don’t know when it’s going to get done. You’ve seen the winters we have right? It could be done by the first of June, when we’re planning on it, but if it doesn’t, how can we put out schedules for everyone if we don’t even know if we’re going to be open?”

Hoenig said building plans were delayed to allow for the 2013 short track racing season to take place.

“We’re building a 1.7-mile racetrack, have you seen much earth moved here?” Hoenig said. “It’s the end of July and we have a lot of races to run. We have all the financing and permitting in place to do this, we’ve chosen not to disrupt it so we can have a full season of oval track racing. We had the financing all done this spring before the season even started and we could have not run this year, but we ran. So we’re working around the season.

“We’re trying to create a motorsports facility. Motorsports will continue here. We’re not like some places that are being threatened to be shut down or be sold. We’re investing probably more than any other family run short track in the country to rebuild this facility. … There’s going to be oval racing. If there wasn’t you would see on the plans that the oval wouldn’t be there. We just don’t have a schedule.”

In the driver’s meeting Thursday, Late Model driver Rick Gentes brought up the introduction of a track website last week that focuses heavily on the new road course being planned. Selected drivers brought up the fact that the current oval track competition at the track isn’t really represented on the new site. A link on the new site takes viewers to the traditional track website.

Hoenig said the website issues are temporary and that all information will be incorporated when a new website is introduced in September or October.

“We’re investing a ton into this property, we’re redeveloping this place and we’re essentially rebuilding the old racetrack and doing a $4 million capital improvement project,” Hoenig said. “That’s the big buzz in the motorsports world, not just in Northeastern Connecticut. And we have a lot more people than we know asking about it and they were going to the other website and there was nothing there. So now we’ve created a website that has everything about the history and what’s going on here and then you have all the oval track racing which hasn’t changed. It’s just how it’s set up.”

Hoenig said he hopes to have more definitive answers concerning scheduling for the track by October.

“We broke ground but we haven’t started the heavy construction,” Hoenig said of the new road course. “Until the construction company gets into the ground here in the next few weeks, if we hit a good stretch and don’t run into any problems, we could be done and paved by Christmas. Or we could run into big problems. It’s a construction project, you don’t know what is going to happen. Anything. We could have another big hurricane in the fall. …There’s so many unknowns now in New England, that’s why I don’t want to say what we’re going to have for a schedule. We’ll know by the World Series. We’re not going to wait until January 1. We’ll be under construction for months by then. We’ll know the direction, we’ll know real timelines, but I’ve never built a racetrack before so I don’t know how it’s going to go.”

Larry Barnett of Moosup, the track’s all-time winningest Limited Sportsman division driver, said it was disappointing that track management doesn’t do a better job communicating with current competitors about the state and future of the facility.

“I think they should at least tell us what’s going on, just out of a courtesy if nothing else,” Barnett said. “We spend a lot of money on these cars. Some guys probably, me included, spend more than we should. … At least tell us what the possibilities are.”

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  1. Boy does this suck.

  2. Normally it’s the second generation that destroys the family business.

  3. Michael E. Machos says

    they have done nothing to promote the track the last 10-15 yrs, now they think by having sports car clubs and road course action will bring them millions, how about doing some promotion, investing in yur track and dropping the most expensive ticket prices on the tour, MAYBE U WOULD MAKE SOME $$$$

  4. Paul Rose says

    What ticks me off is that they have the start finish line not even near the freaking grandstands. What a waist. You expect the fans not see the finish line?

  5. At least they are not waiting until Feb to tell us this. Sure it sucks. But Thompson will be a better place after this is all done.

  6. They’re investing all this time and money into the track but they don’t know anything? You either plan to run a weekly schedule or you don’t. Sure, construction will alter things a bit next year. That’s fine but when the road course is done you have to know what the plan is. A race track saying they don’t know if they are racing seems like bad business.

  7. Russell Ethier says

    What a shame. Who will be there for road course races? I don’t even watch sprint cup races on road courses. Maybe they should have paid more to the drivers and increased the car counts? I was at Daytona and a ticket for the Nationwide series race was 35 dollars!! I fear they are going to ruin my favorite local race track. I guess this is progress???

  8. Wineandchesse says

    Well said John b.!!!!!!!! Perfect

  9. Sharpie Fan says

    Apparently they are not planning on many fans in the stands since it appears that the current parking areas will be transformed into “Clubhouse Turn” and “Golf Club Turn”.

  10. Before they go paving a road course, it’d be nice if they took some of that $4 million and invested in some sani-cans with doors that actually close and don’t have floors that are rotted out.

  11. What a shame. Tough times surely did not hit this track…with the exception of the fans and race teams! This generation of Hoenigs spends big, but I don’t understand their thought process. Guess they want to have events, instead of racing? I’m just another fan who will go elsewhere or find a new hobby. Thompson Speedway owners appear to be disrespectful, inconsiderate, ungrateful, and very greedy. This stinks.

  12. darealgoodfella says

    I hope the oval gets repaved. It is very bumpy and wavy. A repave and smoothing is long overdue.

  13. Sharpie Fan says

    I hope they get the flooding problem behind the fence by the concession stands fixed!

  14. Race Fan says

    Be nice if there spending millions if they put soft walls in for the drivers
    like 90 percent of Nascar tracks have them.

  15. I said it last year and ill say it this year they are looking for a way out of the oval racing. If they really wanted oval racing to succeed they would put it on Sundays and promote it. The ONLY radio commercial I’ve heard for Thompson in the last year was to promote the car show on the 4th and it Prally wasn’t even them that put it on. I don’t go Thursdays because it’s tough with work. Most of the racers can’t get there on Thursday or don’t wanna go there. Its okay ill just watch the car count at stafford grow next year, between waterfords terrible owner/promoter/competition dir/tech guy. (A few of us call him eamstealin ur money) And Thompsons arrogance towards its racers and fans. We’ll Prally see 40+ SK’s weekly next year at stafford if they don’t pull the heads out soon enough to listen to someone else’s voice besides there own. Sorry for the rant but when they speak about the future it just doesn’t look good for nascar. I really
    Hope I’m wrong. I still won’t go there but its a shame to lose any tracks for any reason.

  16. Thompson Speedway Road Course went through a few layouts over the years. It was very highly regarded and for many years, a lot of people wanted to see the track rebuilt. The owners are making a multi-million dollar investment in the track and facilities. This is nothing to complain about. If they did not want the oval racing, it would be much cheaper to bulldoze the track rather than incorporate the road course into it. You will have a first class motorsports facility in CT. I know of no other track with a 5/8 banked oval, 1.7 mile road course, 1/4 midget track, perhaps sprint go karts, restaurant and golf course. If you have no noticed, most tracks and businesses are closing. This one is only being made better.

  17. I think they should expand and re pave the oval to a high banked 3/4 mile, increase the payouts and decrease ticket prices by a few dollars. I honestly believe there are more NASCAR fans in the Northeast than road course fans. As with the Riverside Park Speedway it would be a travesty to see Thompson go by the wayside. Can’t figure out why cities and towns want more casinos but no race tracks. Seems to me casinos will bring in more crime than a race facility would!

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