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Feb 9

Canadian Dennis Thomson Tops Pro Challenge Winternationals Night One

Thomson Avoids Bad Luck That Found Several Other Leaders in Orlando



ORLANDO, FL (February 9, 2007) – Dennis Thomson is doing this weekend what many Canadians and people in the northeastern part of the United States do during the wintertime. The Ontario, Canada-native Thomson traveled to Orlando, Florida, to escape his frigid and snowy hometown to spend a couple of days in the warmth of the Sunshine State.



But Thomson’s trip is not a typical “snow bird” vacation to Florida. He brought along his number-02 Pro Challenge racecar to compete in the 2007 edition of Pro Challenge Winternationals, a four-race series at Orlando SpeedWorld and New Smyrna Speedway. On Friday night, instead of visiting the scores of tourist attractions in Orlando, Thomson was at the half-mile Orlando SpeedWorld and topped one of the strongest fields of Pro Challenge racecars in series history.



The 2006 Pro Challenge Canada Region Champion was in the right place at the right time in the first night of Winternationals 2007 Friday evening, taking the lead shortly after halfway in the 50-lap feature as several early leaders fell out of contention with mechanical problems. Thomson avoided the bad luck that found polesitter and early leader Zach Stroupe, defending Aaron’s Pro Challenge National Champion Terry Mathis and young Florida upstart Ryan Rust to take the first checkered flag of the 2007 Pro Challenge season.



“This just feels awesome,” said an ecstatic Thomson in victory lane. “I can’t believe it. I’m so excited right now, you wouldn’t believe it. The competition was so tough tonight. We went down to the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at South Boston (VA) back in November and raced against a lot of these same guys, but we didn’t have it. We went back, worked on some things and brought the car down here and we were very happy with our car tonight.”



Thomson ran inside the top-five for much of the race as he followed in the tire tracks of the early leaders Stroupe and Mathis. The fourteen-year-old Stroupe set fast time in qualifying Friday evening and checked out over the opening laps, but a flat right-front tire near halfway ended his night. That handed the lead to the defending National Champion Mathis, who seemed to have the win in his grasp until a driveshaft bolt came off his number-71 machine and put him out of the race. The only other driver in the opening stages of the race that looked to have a shot at either Stroupe or Mathis was Ryan Rust, but he also succumbed to a mechanical failure when an ignition wire went out in his number-18 machine.



When Mathis broke around lap 30, Thomson inherited the lead, but it was not going to be an easy win. Every active Pro Challenge Regional Champion from 2006 was in the stout 25-car field, including Stroupe (Carolinas), Kyle Mitchell (Georgia), Jamie Blanton (Tennessee/Virginia/Alabama) and Thomson. Winternationals night one also brought in a strong crop of rookies from around the country, including Steve Strandlund, Doug Moff and Legends Car standout Thomas Hartensveld, who entered a second entry for Duke Furr, but was not able to make the start due to engine trouble.



It was the defending Georgia champ Mitchell that was filling up Thomson’s rear-view mirror in the closing laps, but the big Canadian Thomson was too tough.



“The whole field was pretty stout,” said Thomson. “I was cruising there for a while. I knew Terry was real good and so was the 51 (Stroupe), but I could see that he was beginning to slow down with his flat tire. That’s when I got shuffled back to about fifth when he slowed with the flat. I thought that we still had a good horse here, and it took about four or five laps after restarts to get going, but when it did, this thing was awesome.”



Following post-race inspection, second-place finisher Kyle Mitchell was disqualified by Pro Challenge Officials for being under the weight requirements. That bumped Florida Region regular Rusty McLain to the runner-up spot after a topsy-turvy race for McLain’s number-12 machine.



“This wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but we’ll take it,” said McLain. “We started mid-pack, made it up to the front, went to the back and came back up to the front again and ended up with a third. I kept telling my spotter that I thought we could only get up to fifth or so. Then I just kept picking them off one by one and then thought we could win the thing. We still came close.”



The Cinderella story of the night went to third-place finisher Terry Horak. The first night of Winternationals at Orlando SpeedWorld was also Horak’s first-ever Pro Challenge race, so to come home with a podium finish left the Thunder Roadster veteran beaming with delight.



“We flew in from Myrtle Beach at four o’clock today, jumped in the thing for practice and the truck was ready to go for me,” said Horak. “We went up and tested for about 50 laps at Hickory just to get the hang of the truck a couple weeks ago, but this was my first race in this thing. This is beyond my expectations. I just wanted to come out here and run all the laps tonight and hopefully get a top-five, but this is beyond what I was expecting.”



Mathis wound up with an 11th-place finish after falling out of the race, while Stroupe came home 15th and Rust 17th.



Pro Challenge Winternationals continues Saturday night, February 10th, at Orlando SpeedWorld, before switching to the newly-repaved New Smyrna Speedway Sunday and Monday, February 11th and 12th.



For more information on the Pro Challenge Winternationals, contact Matt Kentfield at (704) 455-2051 x 5. The official website of Pro Challenge racing, www.prochallengeseries.com, will be providing trackside updates from the tracks throughout Winternationals weekend.



UNOFFICIAL FINISH

Orlando SpeedWorld

Winternationals 2007

February 9, 2007

50 Laps



1. Dennis Thomson

2. Rusty McLain

3. Terry Horak

4. Jamie Blanton

5. JL Snowden

6. Jason Burchard

7. Jason Treschl

8. Steve Strandlund

9. Duke Furr

10. Malcolm McAllister

11. Terry Mathis

12. Dean McIntyre

13. Scott Hitchens

14. Trevor Farbo

15. Zach Stroupe

16. Doug Moff

17. Ryan Rust

18. Trevor Cauble

19. Sam White

20. Ken Ellefson

21. Lance Rubink

22. Ken Nicholson

23. Logan Ruffin

24. Joe Chafin

25. Kyle Mitchell



 

 

 

 

 

       

 

       

 

       
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