At this point a year ago Bobby Santos had a 56-point lead on the field as he strove for what would be his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title. Heading into the Town Fair Tire 150 this Friday, Aug. 5 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway – the eighth race of the season – just five points separate the two drivers at the top.
The points leader from the opening race of the 2011 season, Rowan Pennink fell from the top last time out on July 30 at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. Pennink battled back from a spin early on at Riverhead to finish sixth, but that just goes to show how competitive the season has been. With his fifth podium finish in the first seven races, Ron Silk moved past Pennink to the top of the season standings.
As the Whelen Modified Tour heads to Stafford for the third of four events at the historic half mile in 2011, both Silk and Pennink figure to continue their battle at the front. Silk finally broke through for his first Stafford win in his 25th career start there when the Tour visited in late May and he’s finished on the podium there three races in a row. Meanwhile, Pennink will look for his first Stafford win in his 17th start at the track. He finished as the runner-up to Bobby Santos in the Spring Sizzler, and again was second to Silk in the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.
Szegedy on a roll … Following an unfortunate start to the season, Todd Szegedy has reeled off four top 10s in a row and is up to third in the standings. A runner-up effort last week has the 2003 champion 91 points back of Silk as he heads to Stafford, where he is the defending winner of the Town Fair Tire 150. Four of Szegedy’s 16 career wins have come at Stafford, more than at any other track.
Christopher looks to bounce back … You can’t talk about a race at Stafford without mentioning Ted Christopher. The winningest driver in track history across all weekly and touring series, Christopher will look to bounce back in the Town Fair Tire 150 after his first DNF of the season last week at Riverhead. Although he has 10 career Whelen Modified Tour wins at the half mile, it has been five races since Christopher reached Victory Lane there, which is his longest drought since he went eight races between conquests from 2005-07.
Santos faces uphill battle … There hasn’t been a back-to-back champion in the Whelen Modified Tour since 2004-05 by Tony Hirschman, and the more the current season progresses, the more ominous things look for Bobby Santos’ repeat bid. Santos and the No. 4 Mystic Missile Racing team survived to salvage a ninth-place effort last week at Riverhead, but they’re 162 points behind leader Ron Silk. Santos has won three of the last five races at Stafford, however, so the Town Fair Tire 150 has the potential to provide a much-needed boost.
The Race … The 21st Annual Town Fair Tire 150 will mark the midway point of the 16-race 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. It is the third of four events this year 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 150 laps (75 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 31 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Todd Szegedy is the defending winner of the Town Fair Tire 150 while Bobby Santos and Ron Silk have won the first two Stafford events this year.
Pole Winners … There have been 40 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Silk earned the pole for this race last year as well as the Whelen Modified Tour’s most recent visit in May. Santos set the track qualifying record in the 2010 Spring Sizzler at 17.965 seconds (100.195 mph).
Home Tracks: Preece Holding Off Rocco In SK Modifieds
In his first year of full-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Stafford Motor Speedway, Ryan Preece continues to lead the SK Modified division standings after nine races. Despite having two wins to defending track and national champion Keith Rocco’s five, Preece leads Rocco by 12 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 on Friday, Aug. 5 for the Town Fair Tire 150.
Last Time Out: Bonsignore Gets First Win
Justin Bonsignore converted his home-track advantage into his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. The 23-year-old from Holtsville, N.Y., drove away with the Lighthouse Mission 200 on July 30 at Riverhead Raceway.
Bonsignore, the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year, also runs regularly in Riverhead's weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified Division. He is second in the track's point standings.
Todd Szegedy was second, followed by Ron Silk, Ryan Preece and Doug Coby. Rowan Pennink rebounded from an early spin to finish sixth. The sixth-consecutive top-five finish for Silk moved him past Pennink atop the season standings.
Up Next: Granite State Classic
The second of three dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is up next with the Granite State Classic on Saturday, Aug. 13 in Loudon, N.H.
Ryan Newman took the checkered flag in the last three Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire from the pole. In the last visit on July 16, however, post-race technical violations stripped him of the victory that became Todd Szegedy’s. Newman’s return for this date is uncertain, but there are plenty of drivers that have found Victory Lane in Loudon before, including Ted Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld, Ron Silk, Mike Stefanik and Szegedy.
A new date for the Whelen Modified Tour this year, the Tour will be the lone NASCAR representative on race weekend in Loudon when it joins the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights Series. The American Canadian Tour will share the Saturday race card with the Whelen Modified Tour. The Tour will practice and qualify on Friday, Aug. 12.