John Hoenig built the Thompson
Speedway after the Hurricane of ’38 ripped through the quiet town in
northeast Connecticut, destroying his family farm. Stones from
stone walls were crushed and mixed into asphalt. Felled trees were
turned into lumber for grandstands, fences, and buildings. Finally,
on May 26, 1940, Hoenig opened his doors for that first race at
Thompson, becoming the first paved racetrack in the country. In
those early years, Hoenig quickly established Thompson as a
top-notch racing facility. Lee Allard, Bill Holland, Ted Horn,
Maury Rose, and Rex Mays were all drivers who competed at Thompson.
By the time they retired, each of these five men had gone on to win
the famed Indianapolis 500.
closing during World War II, Hoenig and Thompson came roaring back
in 1945 with midget cars. In 1947, John Hoenig held a meeting at
Thompson with Bill France, Sr., Roy Tuthill, and Ed Otto, to discuss
the future of racing. The following year, as a result of this
meeting, Nascar was formed. In 194, John promoted the first stock
car race in Connecticut. (Fellow Class of ’03 member Moon Burgess
competed and finished twelve at the event). In 1951, John built a
road racing course, using part of the oval track, luring USAC type
cars and driver into Northeast Connecticut. Mario Andretti was one
of the more well-known drivers who competed on the new course. In
1968 and ’69, Hoenig brought the Grand National (Winston Cup)
division to Thompson, with drivers like Richard Petty, Donnie and
Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, and Benny Parsons.
Many of today’s Winston Cup stars have cut
their teeth at Thompson, including Ron and Ken Bouchard, Geoffrey,
Brett, and Todd Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, and Steve Park. John’s son,
Don ran the track for many years. In 2000, John’s grandson, D.R.
Hoenig took over as operations manager, with Don serving as
overseer. John Hoenig had a vision, and was able to see that
vision through to fruition. Today, we welcome him, along with the
other members of the Class of ’03, into the NEAR Hall of Fame.