By Christian Koelle, Staff Writer
A 15th and a sixth-place finish were how Dean Thompson entered Saturday’s race at Irwindale. With a small resume in the ARCA Menards Series West, Thompson showed up Saturday and made sure that people knew who he was leaving Irwindale Speedway.
Thompson’s previous career-best start was a 13th at Sonoma, but when the Series returned to Irwindale for the first time of 2021, he put the No. 51 on top of the speed charts earning his first career General Tire Pole Award. Thompson ran a perfect race Saturday after starting from the pole and even, in the end, he continued his perfection even though he lost the lead from Jesse Love during the short shootout for the lead. The short-run at the end was ultimately what resulted in Thompson coming home second instead of first, in victory lane.
“I’ve gotta thank my guys,” said Thompson. “We were killer this race, we had an amazing car. All of my guys worked super hard on this car and we qualified really well. Our car, by far, was the fastest in the whole race. It was just our short runs were just not good. We were just loose/tight, it just wasn’t in place to be able to do that last dash. It was just really tough. We had an amazing long-run car and if we hadn’t had that last caution, I am sure we could’ve won but we’ll be back and we’ll win.”
In front of a sold-out house, the racing that Thompson put on against the likes of defending ARCA West champion Jesse Love and ARCA East standout Joey Iest was just what the West Series needed. The 19-year old from Anaheim, California got out of the car to a pop from the fans in attendance and the reaction of the crowd was even heard on the NBC Sports Gold: TrackPass while the three battled it out for the win.
“This crowd is my family,” said Thompson. “I love these people, their cheering for the No. 51. They love me and I love them. It’s amazing to be here in front of the fans, I really missed them during COVID and they are truly a blessing.”
His hometown is just a little under 30-miles away from Irwindale Speedway and the reaction that he received after getting out of the car helped a second-place finish feel like a victory. Thompson leaves Irwindale not only being known but tied with Todd Souza for the points lead as the series heads to Colorado on July 31st.
Photo: Meg Oliphant/ARCA Racing