Tyler Thompson remains in awe nearly two weeks after his landmark victory in the 63rd annual International Bud Classic 200 at Oswego Speedway.
Thompson — a 17-year-old Fulton native — became the youngest winner of the prestigious race’s long and storied history on Sept. 1 to cap off a prolific second season driving the No. 98 supermodified car.
Thompson graduated from G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton this past June and also races big block modifieds at various area dirt tracks. He plans to return to Oswego to compete in Super Dirt Week from Oct. 9-13.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I’m just truly grateful to get the win for me, my crew, and my sponsors,” Thompson said. “It still feels unreal. I just can’t believe that I won the biggest race of the year for supermodifieds.”
Thompson led for 187 of the main-event feature’s 200 laps, which was the most since Randy Ritske led for a track-record 196 en route to the victory in 2000, according to Oswego public relations director Camden Proud.
Thompson’s dad, Jason Simmons, said that he watched most of the race from Turn No. 1 with Thompson’s mother, Tiffany Spicer. Simmons said that he kept nervously approaching Spicer to warn of things that could go wrong, and as Thompson maintained the lead with about 10 laps left, Simmons said he was “shooed away.”
“We’ve had so many races taken from us and I’ve been there many times where you get your hopes up and get your hopes up,” said Simmons, who raced for nine years at Oswego before stopping to focus on helping his son’s race career. “We’re both a little superstitious so we didn’t want to move or even breathe until we saw that checkered and him get past it.”
Thompson was swarmed as he pulled his car into victory lane following the win. Family members, friends, his pit crew and others fans at the track rushed to congratulate the historic feat, and Simmons was one of the first to greet Thompson and express his pride in the accomplishment.
“It was very emotional, and I just kept saying: ‘I can’t believe I just won this race,’” said Thompson, who won $15,000 for his first-place finish.
Thompson, who got started in the sport by racing go-karts at Oswego Kartway, edged out veterans Dave Shullick Jr. and Michael Barnes for the Bud Classic 200 victory. Jeff Abold and Doug Didero filled out the top five.
Mike Bond captured the 75-lap small-block supermodified feature during Classic Weekend, Jeffery Battle Jr. claimed the 35-lap 350 Supermodified event, and the $12,000 to win NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Toyota Mod Classic held the previous night was won by Mike Lichty.
Thompson’s win shined above the rest, however, and the teen sensation has been congratulated by several prominent figures at Oswego Speedway such as team owner John Nicotra and racing icons like Doug Heveron and Bentley Warren since the victory.
“I don’t know if he fully understands how big of a race that is and how many guys have been trying to win it for years,” Simmons said.
Thompson credited his crew chief David O’Connor and other team members for their dedicated work throughout their breakthrough season.
Thompson became the youngest feature winner overall at Oswego Speedway when he took first place on Aug. 11, and also set the track record for fastest time trial earlier that night. Thompson clocked in at 15.800 to eclipse the previous record established by Joey Payne in 2014 by two one-thousandths of a second, according to the Oswego Speedway website.
“It takes a whole lot of hard work the whole year to get the car where we’re at now,” Thompson said. “It takes a whole lot of work in the shop every day, and a whole lot of knowledge from other people that we got throughout the year.”
Thompson plans to return for a third full-time season with Oswego as his primary racing destination next year. He also plans to continue racing his big-block modified on area dirt tracks such as Fulton, Brewerton and Weedsport, and will run take part in some touring races with the ISMA Supermodified Series.