(Stafford Springs, CT)—If ever there was a driver/team combination that went through a season of two halves, it was Rowan Pennink and the #99 Monk Wipes / Hitchcock Pool Water SK Modified® team. Pennink’s start to the 2014 season got off to a challenging start with four consecutive finishes of 19th or worse, including ending up on the roof of his #99 machine only 8 laps into the second race of the season. Pennink also missed two of the first seven races of the season, scoring no points at all. But things got turned around for the better for Pennink and the #99 team when they drove to victory lane in the July 25th 100-lap NAPA SK 5k event.
In the final 10 races of the 2014 season, Pennink won 5 times, including a three in a row winning streak and he scored more points than any other driver who finished in the top-10 of the SK Modified® points standings in that time frame. Pennink’s newfound success helped him climb from 26th place in the standings after the July 18th season event all the way up to 10th place at season’s end. Pennink is hoping that he and his team can carry over their positive momentum from the second half of the 2014 season to the 2015 season and be a contender for the track championship.
“I’m definitely excited about getting back in the 99 next season,” said Pennink. “Hopefully we can start off the 2015 season like we finished off this season. We plan on running all the races and we’re going to see if we can be a contender for the championship. I don’t see why we can’t start out next season like we finished this season. Not finishing that many races and doing that bad at the beginning of the season was discouraging, but we have a great team of people with the #99 crew and they stuck with me all year long. They gave me a great car to drive every week and they helped make it a season to remember with 5 wins.”
Outside of some bad luck during that opening 7-race stretch, Pennink says it was as simple as having some breaks start to go their way as well as continuing to fine tune on the car setup that enabled the #99 team to enact their great turnaround during the second half of the season.
“The first half of the season, there was no question about it, we just had horrible luck,” said Pennink. “It was a brand new car at the beginning of the season so it takes a little getting used to something new. Although we were having bad luck, we were working on fine tuning the setup to get the car where we wanted. The second half of the year the car was right where we needed it to be and we were almost unbeatable. It seemed like we were in contention to win every night during the second half of the year, it was just a matter if things played out our way or not. Most of the time they did and there was also a couple nights where I thought we had the fastest car but we didn’t finish in the top-3.”
Pennink’s five wins during the 2014 SK Modified® season were second only to Ryan Preece, who won 6 races. Pennink says that if not for a faulty radiator cap, he feels like he had a car capable of challenging for the win in the NAPA Fall Final feature that Preece eventually won, which would have given him the most wins in the division.
“I wish we could have won the last race at the Fall Final,” said Pennink. “I think we had the car to beat there but we had a bad radiator cap and the car started leaking water and we couldn’t finish the race. I think the race would have come down to the end between Ryan and myself battling for the most wins at Stafford in the season. Winning races is what we like to do and as far as the championship next season, we’re going to try to win as many races as we can and see where that lands us. The best thing would be for us to win the most races and win the championship.”
As strong as Pennink and the #99 team were during the second half of the 2014 season, they can certainly be counted on among the championship favorites if they can duplicate their success to kick off the 2015 season and eliminate the bad luck that plagued them during the first half of this past season.
-Stafford Motor Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com.