Rowan Pennink bounced back from offseason back surgery in a big way on Saturday night at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). The Huntingdon Valley, PA driver took the lead from Richard Savary on Lap 20 and pulled away on a late-race restart to win the Valenti Modified Racing Series season opener on the opening night of the 44th Annual Icebreaker.
“I felt really good in the race car,” Pennink said. “Today was my first day back in a car, so I guess it went pretty well. I was just hoping I’d be comfortable in the race car and I was comfortable. It feels good to get back behind the wheel and start it off like this.”
Pennink underwent back surgery on January 31 to repair two herniated discs that were pushing into his spinal cord.
“When they looked at the MRI they pretty much said I needed surgery immediately or there could be some permanent things that could happen which weren’t good,” he explained on Saturday. “I had surgery the next day and pretty much had to do nothing for six weeks, and then I could slowly start back doing stuff here and there. But I’m feeling pretty good.”
Pennink started fourth during the 50-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature and lined up next to early leader Richard Savary on a Lap 20 restart. Pennink won the drag race against Savary into turn one on the restart to take the lead.
Despite never relinquishing the lead, Pennink was challenged by Chase Dowling during the closing laps. Dowling appeared to have a car capable of challenging for the lead before the final yellow flag waved with five laps to go. On the restart, Pennink was able to pull away from Dowling and never looked back en route to the checkered flag.
“That long green flag run there I was getting a little bit free and Chase was pretty good behind me,” Pennink stated. “I actually didn’t mind that caution coming out because I figured it might give my tires a chance to cool off and the car might come back to me, and it did. The thing was unbelievable on the restarts. I just made sure I got a good one every time and I was able to walk away at the end.”
Following Dowling and Pennink under the checkered flag were defending VMRS champion Anthony Nocella, 2015 series champion Woody Pitkat and youngster Sam Rameau.
Pennink will be back behind the wheel of the Ole Blue No. 3 on Sunday when he attempts to defend his Icebreaker win from one year ago.
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-Story by Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com