Modified Race Preview: Thompson

Icebreaker

The Icebreaker 150 will be the first of four appearances at Thompson this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Last year, Timmy Solomito used his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park to launch a breakout season.

To find this year's candidate to follow in Solomito's tracks, you don't have to look far.

Max Zachem made his debut on the tour at Thompson in 2013, and the now 24-year-old Preston, Connecticut, driver cut his teeth racing at his home state's short tracks. And he heads back to New England for the 43rd annual Icebreaker weekend after a fifth-place run in the newly unified tour's season opener at South Carolina's Myrtle Beach Speedway last week.

Zachem led a race-high 43 laps at Thompson last June before a last-lap pass by Bobby Santos bumped him to a runner-up finish. Zachem also has a pair of sixth-place finishes at the .625-mile oval. It's worth noting that Solomito had just one top-five run at Thompson in nine previous starts before his 2016 Icebreaker victory.

Solomito's win marked the first time since 1995 when Tommy Cravenho Jr. scored the first of his three career tour wins that a driver made his first trip to Victory Lane at the Icebreaker. 

Solomito led the final 34 laps in route to his first triumph on the tour last year and rounded out last year with a fifth at the Connecticut oval. He led the final eight laps at Myrtle Beach in picking up the victory there.  

Four-time series champion Doug Coby will return to Thompson looking to rebound after a struggle at the half-mile Myrtle Beach. In his career, Coby has visited Victory Lane five times at Thompson -- including sweeping all four races at the historic oval back in 2015.

Fast Facts

The Race: The second race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season will be contested on the high-banks of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The Icebreaker 150 will be the first of four appearances at Thompson this season.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field per the entry blank is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 positions in the field will be determined by the qualifying process, while there will also be six provisional spots available. The race is scheduled for 150 laps.

The Track: The 0.625-mile banked asphalt oval opened back in 1940 as the only asphalt track in the country. The track has held 134 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races in its history – the most of any facility on the schedule.

Race Winners: There have been 35 different tour drivers that have rolled into Thompson’s victory lane. Mike Stefanik leads all drivers with 15 career wins, while Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and Bobby Santos III lead all active drivers with five wins each.

Pole Winners: There are 45 drivers who have a Coors Light Pole Award at Thompson. Doug Coby leads all active drivers with seven career poles on the high-banks.

Icebreaker 150 Notes

Bonsignore Riding Thompson Momentum: The Holtsville, N.Y. driver has captured the last two Whelen Modified Tour wins at the historic oval behind the wheel of his Phoenix Communications No. 51. Last August, Bonsignore held off Doug Coby to take down the victory and he also finished last season with a victory in the World Series. Coming off a sixth place finish at the season-opening race at Myrtle Beach, Bonsignore will feel confident heading to a track he has won five times at in his career. He will also unload a brand new car this weekend.  

Coby Looking To Rebound: Thompson arguably is Coby’s best track on the tour. In 2015, he swept all four races therel and he has also finished inside the top-10 in 15 of his last 18 starts at the track. Last year, Coby finished a worst of 11th in the four events and captured three of the four pole awards. He has also clinched all four of his championships at Thompson. 

Tough Thompson Luck For Seuss: Andy Seuss will be returning to Thompson for the first time since October of 2015. The Hampstead, N.H. driver has struggled on the high-banks in his career, only finishing a best of ninth in his first ever start back in 2007. He has failed to finish in five of his nine starts and finished 13th in his last event back in 2015. Coming off a third in the Myrtle Beach opener, can Seuss finally find some Thompson luck?

Summers Building Off Myrtle: Much like Seuss, the track record at Thompson for Rob Summers is one that he would certainly like to forget. The Manchester, Conn. driver has 31 starts at Thompson, but only two top-10 finishes – the last of them coming in 2002. He has failed to finish in more than half of his career starts at the track. However, Summers has momentum on his side following a Coors Light Pole Award and second place finish at Myrtle Beach. 

New England Opener: The Icebreaker will serve as the unofficial opener for NASCAR racing in New England. With the unification of the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the race will be the second on the schedule for just the first time since 2001. That year, Jerry Marquis won on March 11 at Virginia's South Boston Speedway, and Rick Fuller took home the Icebreaker 11 days later.

Starting Fresh: Ten drivers will be making their 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut, including a veteran drivers making his first career starts on the tour. Brad Vanhoute of Riverhead, New York, has competed in the modified division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at Riverhead Raceway. The 39-year-old also made a Sunoco Modified division start at Thompson in 2015.

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Each Wednesday at 4 p.m. (ET) exclusively at MRN.com, hosts Kyle Rickey and Buddy Long update you on all the news from NASCAR Modified, K&N Pro Series East and West Series, along with interviews with the drivers.

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