These days in short track racing, it's hard to find many drivers who are content with where they are. Even drivers in the lowest entry-level divisions are shooting for a NASCAR Truck or Nationwide deal. Some competitors with more money than talent even write checks with six or seven figure numbers on them to advance their cause in moving up.
Chris Pasteryak isn't one of those guys.
Like many of those trust fund drivers, Pasteryak was lucky enough to come across an inheritance. But that windfall wasn't in the form of a stocked bank account or mutual fund. Instead, it was a deep passion for motorsports that was passed down from his father Charlie and uncle Carl, both longtime New England Modified competitors who still wheel their own cars from time to time.
That passion is what has moved Chris Pasteryak up through the ranks of racing into an asphalt Modified. It's also the same thing that makes him proud to enjoy his second Modified Racing Series championship, which was clinched last weekend in the MRS season finale at Lee USA Speedway (NH), instead of plotting out his next career step. Simply put, Pasteryak has reached his racing destination, now he's just out to do the best job that he can do there.
“When I ran a Legends car, everyone asked when I was going to get into an SK [Modified],” said Pasteryak. “When I ran an SK, everyone asked when I was getting into a Tour car. When I ran a Tour car, everyone asked when I was going to run NASCAR [on the Whelen Modified Tour]. I did that for a year and I hated it. So now, I'm back here and I've found a home. I just want to be a short track Saturday night racer. That's all that I want to do, so I'll sit back and enjoy this all winter before I come back and try to do it again next season.”
Pasteryak earned this year's title by just 14 points over rival Les Hinckley. However, using the word rival probably isn't a good choice. There is plenty of mutual respect between the two drivers, so much so that even when he celebrated his title, Pasteryak couldn't help but think of the fact that Hinckley wasn't able to celebrate instead.
“If there was ever a guy who deserves to win a title, it's him,” said Pasteryak of the veteran Hinckley. “He deserves it by now.”
Pasteryak is also quick to point out that his unfair advantage this season was luck.
“I can't believe how much good luck that we had this year,” said Pasteryak. “That's what it came down to because most of the time, Les was better than I was. Racing luck is part of it and it was with us this year. I'm not going to complain. I'm going to enjoy it. I'll take it and it's been a great year.”
A great year indeed - as Pasteryak won events at Lee, Seekonk Speedway (MA) and Waterford Speedbowl (CT) over the course of the season. Hinckley won a pair of events during the year as well - showing that in addition to being lucky and good, Pasteryak is also a bit modest too.
Going after a second career MRS crown was something that Pasteryak hoped for during this season, but it wasn't something that he planned out either. He just figured that he'd keep going to races all year long and see where things fell.
“We were planning on trying to make them all because we weren't doing anything else. We were planning on going for it, but you never want to say that you are going for the title because there are a lot of people who can win this championship. It's a tough deal.”
Pasteryak had a few scary moments during the Lee finale. At some points in the race, he was running outside the top 10 while Hinckley was up in the first or second positions during the entire race. At the conclusion of 100 green flag laps, Hinckley placed second while Pasteryak ended up ninth. That secured the title for Pasteryak.
“The car was pretty good, but the late caution hurt us because after that it was never the same,” said Pasteryak. “So we missed it a little bit, but it was still good enough for what we needed to do. We were conservative when it came to the race today and that showed a little bit. So I guess we finished about where we deserved to today.”
Was Pasteryak nervous during the race? You bet he was.
“All of the time. You've got to race a little bit differently though. It's points racing and…well…it sucks. But if you aren't going to race for points, why are you going to all of the races all year long? Everyone who says that they aren't a points race, but runs every race…well they are at one point or another no matter what they say.”
Now, it's time for Pasteryak to just enjoy his second MRS championship as the off-season kicks in. He admits that each title has a little bit of a different feel to it.
“This means a lot,” said Pasteryak. “It's a different feeling than the first one. I don't know if it hasn't sunk in or it will feel different once it does sink in or if it won't even sink in until I'm old and senile. But either way, it's a good deal and I'm going to enjoy it.”