Thompson and Crawford Team for assault on Williams Grove. "I want to be feared," states 26 year-old driver 1/20/03, Mechanicsburg, PA - As dawn approaches the 2003 racing season at Williams Grove Speedway, one man stands poised to turn up the ...
Thompson and Crawford Team for assault on Williams Grove.
"I want to be feared," states 26 year-old driver
1/20/03, Mechanicsburg, PA - As dawn approaches the 2003 racing season at Williams Grove Speedway, one man stands poised to turn up the proverbial wick on his sprint car career. That man is 26 year-old Len Thompson of Macungie.
For as long as he can remember, the Penn State University Business Management graduate has been cutting his teeth weekly on the popular Central PA sprint car circuit, including Williams Grove. And he has done so with a tightly budgeted, family owned team.
In fact, while wheeling the Thompson Motorsports No. 10, the current Lutron Electronics Project Coordinator has taken a feature win each of his last three seasons at the Grove. And Thompson says doing that has been no small feat given the level of competition he has faced compared to his financially burdened team.
"I come from a team that is used to racing on a really tight budget and I’ve always been really proud of what we could do against teams that were spending way more than we ever did. And I pride myself on that still today."
But the outlook for Thompson as this season arrives at the Grove is shaping up to be a bit different than those previous. Enter Western PA car owners Dr. John Crawford and his wife Debi of Hastings.
The former Jimmy Hawley car owners and Western PA champions at tracks like Lernerville, Tri City and Mercer first spoke with Thompson early last year.
"Last Spring we were only racing one night a week and I was looking for a Saturday night ride," remembered Thompson recently. "I got their number from our engine builder, Bob Kriner. At that time they were taking a break since Jimmy had left but I stated my interest and left my number."
"He (Crawford) called me in the Fall and said he was talking to several different people about next year and we kept in touch. Basically it came down to one night he called me and said ‘I really think I’d like you to drive my car next year’ and I said ‘okay great.’"
So after ending the 2002 season strongly at Williams Grove while driving the Tanger 07, his first ever consistent ride for anyone aside from his parents, Thompson is the hired gun of the Crawford CIII and he has high hopes for the months ahead.
"The two goals we’ve laid out in my mind are the Port Royal track championship, its not easy but its attainable. And I think we’ve got to be able to win a half dozen features this year overall. This is definitely a team capable of doing that and I’m a driver capable of that," states Thompson.
"Races at Williams Grove are tough no matter what you’re in. I’d certainly like to win more than my standard one a year but its gonna’ be tough."
Thompson also admits he’d like to win at the Grove in a slightly different way.
"I want to be one of those cars that when the guys in the pits walk up to the lineup board on Friday nights, they want to know where we start. I want us to be one of the guys that the other guys want to know where I’m starting at in the heat or feature."
"By the end of the season I want us to be at that level. I want to be feared. Next year at this time, when everyone is talking about the teams to beat at the Grove in 2004, I want us to be one of those teams."
Thompson has nothing but praise and the best of intentions for Crawford and his wife Debi, who is the niece of the late sprint/modified ace Dick "Pete" Swarmer. They are opening a huge door for the hungry racer and he emphatically states his position on the new team.
"It is CIII racing, It’s their deal. They are the owners, I am the driver," he says.
"They (Crawfords) are kind of the hardware, we’re like the software in the team. It’s 100% their team but they didn’t have a crew so that’s where the old Thompson crew comes in."
Thompson is very intent on protecting his newfound partners’ interests while enjoying a change of pace.
"Coming to Doc and Debi is a major step up for me," says LT. "The first disagreement we ever had was when I thought we only needed to order two cars and he wanted to order three. Doc says we got to go at this thing all the way and not halfway. He wants us to go at this as if we want to win a track championship."
"He’s definitely not an Al Hamilton but he is definitely a step in that direction compared to what I’m used to. But it’s still important to me to run the team with a tight budget and spend the money smartly."
The Crawford/Thompson CIII team will be based out of the Thompson garage in Newtown. And both men are ready to elevate their careers to a new level when they hit the track at Williams Grove in a few weeks.
Crawford offers his thoughts on the new endeavor for he and his wife.
"We’ve always wanted to run Central Pa. My wife and I met there and when we broke up with Jim, I said, ‘lets find someone who could run Central Pa.’"
"My wife suggested Lenny cause she’d followed his career and Bob Kriner’s opinion carried a lot of weight. He thinks the Thompsons are great and he thought Len was ready to take the next step as far as a driver goes."
"We look for maybe several wins," Crawford hopes. "We know that Central PA is running with the big boys and it’s like going from high school to college for us so we come into it with our eyes wide open and we know that we’re not going to rule like we did out here (Western PA)."
"We’re trying to be realistic and we hope we do well. I think our expectations are in line with what we’re capable of. I think with Len on board and giving him this equipment we should be able to do well."
Veteran wrench Fred Grenoble will continue to support Thompson in the pit area. The team will utilize a J & J Chassis shod with Hoosier tires, VRP Shocks and powered by a Kriner engine.
Crawford and Thompson will get their first shot at doing well at Williams Grove when the gates open for the first time this season on Sunday afternoon, February 23 at Noon. Practice laps are schedule for 1:30 with racing beginning at 2 PM.