After a fourth-place finish in the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour final standings, Rowan Pennink appeared poised to contend for the championship in 2010. While Pennink was able to earn his first career victory a year ago, the title chase did not materialize.
In 2011, however, Pennink is off on the right foot. Although the season is just two races deep, Pennink has a 20-point advantage on the field in the season standings. He was runner-up to Ted Christopher in the opener at Thompson International Speedway and followed that by a second-place effort to Bobby Santos the last time out at Stafford Motor Speedway. Now in his fifth season, those were his first runner-up finishes, and also his best career efforts at the two Connecticut ovals.
Pennink, from Huntingdon Valley, Pa., received a boost in the standings when Christopher was penalized 50 points following the Thompson opener, but those around the garage have noticed that Pennink and his family-owned team have stepped things up this season, including the defending Whelen Modified Tour champion.
“Rowan is fast, they’ve got their stuff together this year, and they’re going to be tough to beat all year,” said Santos.
Pennink will look to reach Victory Lane for the first time at Stafford in Friday’s TSI Harley-Davidson 125.
Pennink Leads, but Stefanik is Stalking … Pennink may have the points lead thanks to runner-up efforts in each of the season’s first two races, but Mike Stefanik has been right there as well with finishes of third and fifth, respectively, and is just 20 tallies behind. The owner of a record 20 Whelen Modified Tour triumphs at Stafford, Stefanik will look to end an eight-race drought at the track he has been most successful at through his legendary career.
Beers Runs Well With DeLange … After competing for John Blewett Sr. in 2010 and Robert Katon before that, Eric Beers is teamed with David DeLange this year in the No. 45. Beers has a long relationship with the DeLange’s, who have fielded cars from him in other Modified series through the years. The pairing has worked exceptionally well through the first two races of 2011 with finishes of sixth and fourth. The No. 45 enters this week’s race third in points.
And Then There’s Christopher … If he would not have lost the 50 points following his season-opening win at Thompson for post-race technical violations, Christopher would have a one-point lead on Pennink in the standings. He recovered the last time out at Stafford with a seventh place finish, and now returns to the track where he has compiled 112 all-time victories.
The Race … The 21st Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 125 is the third race of the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season overall, and the second of four events at Stafford Motor Speedway.
The Procedure … The starting field is 31 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 125 laps (62.5 miles).
The Track … A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967.
Race Winners … There have been 30 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Bobby Santos is the defending winner of this race, and he was also the winner of the Tour’s first race of the year: the Spring Sizzler.
Pole Winners … There have been 40 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Santos earned the pole in this race last year and Doug Coby recorded the fastest qualifying lap in the season’s first race at Stafford. Santos also set the track qualifying record prior to last year’s Spring Sizzler at 17.965 seconds (100.195 mph).
Home Tracks: Preece Has The Early Advantage
In his first year of full-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Stafford Motor Speedway, Ryan Preece has the early advantage in the SK Modified division standings after three races. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular won the opener and has top-five finishes in each of the first three events and leads defending track and national champion Keith Rocco by four points.
A charter member of the Whelen All-American Series, which is celebrating its 30th season of competition in 2011, Stafford promotes five divisions of racing during its regular Friday night program throughout the season. All five will join the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on the race card during Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST opening weekend.
Last Time Out: Santos Breaks Christopher’s Run At Stafford
Ted Christopher entered the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST on May 1 with three-consecutive victories in Stafford Motor Speedway’s season-opening weekend, and he was the winner of the first 2011 race of the season at Thompson International Speedway.
It was Bobby Santos who derailed Stafford’s winningest all-time driver, however, as he turned in a dominant performance en route to his first Spring Sizzler victory. Santos led the first 86 laps from the pole and Christopher moved to the front when the leaders pitted and he stayed out. Santos eventually regained the lead on Lap 135 and held on through the balance of the 200-lap event. It was his third career win at Stafford.
Up Next: Monadnock 200
For the second year in a row, and the seventh time overall, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will head to Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H., for the Monadnock 200 on Saturday, June 25.
As with last year’s race at Monadnock - the first there since 1990 - the 2011 Monadnock 200 will feature a 25-lap qualifying race following time trials that will finalize the field for the 175-lap feature.
In last year’s event, Erick Rudolph was a surprise pole winner, and he waged a race-long battle with Ted Christopher, who ended up the victor.