To say that Rowan Pennink had an eventful Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway would be an understatement. The Modified racer from Huntingdon Valley, PA completed a sweep of the Modified Racing Series and SK Modified features at the Connecticut oval, but the successful night didn’t come without a little bit of drama and some fisticuffs in victory lane.
In the 40-lap SK Modified race, Pennink fought to the front while looking for his first SK win of 2017. After taking the lead on Lap 25, Pennink had some company with two laps to go from the all-time winningest driver in Stafford history, Ted Christopher. Christopher gave Pennink a shot to the back bumper into turn three, allowing “TC” to get inside off turn four for the lead coming to the white flag. Pennink fell in behind before returning the favor with a bit more force in turn three on the final lap. Christopher washed up the race track and kept the wheels straight, but not before Pennink beat him to the checkered flag.
After the two drivers went through some stop-and-go activity on the cool down lap, they reached victory lane. Pennink climbed from the car, receiving the famous Stafford 50-percent of cheers and 50-percent of boos a driver normally gets when they tangle with Christopher. But before Pennink could be interviewed, Christopher came over and confronted Pennink, with shouts turning into shoving. The shoving the became swings and soon it was a full-blown melee with both teams and supporters going at it.
The order would be restored after several tense seconds, with Pennink offering his fresh take over the track’s public address system.
“Ted gave me a shot, got me loose. He got under me. I just gave it right back to him, that’s what it takes here when you’re racing against him. You got to step up to his level of dirtiness so that’s what I did,” Pennink said in victory lane.
Christopher declined the usual podium interview and while not giving a full take on what happened after the race was still very upset with Pennink. His comments to Speed51.com were brief and filled with expletives about what occurred on the race track.
Christopher had also been dealt another bad break with an engine failure following heat racing with his MRS car, sidelining him from the event.
Pennink meanwhile stayed in the top five all through the start of the 80-lap MRS feature, making his move for the lead on Lap 57 and staying there to get his first MRS win of 2017. The win was also his second in three races for car owner Gary Casella.
At the end of the night, Pennink offered a further perspective on what had occurred earlier during and following the SK feature.
“I don’t know why he (Christopher) had to take it that far. He’s done far worse than that probably hundreds of times throughout his career. I don’t know why he’s so upset about it, he just got beat, that’s what he’s most upset about,” Pennink stated. “That’s racing here at Stafford; it’s some good Friday night SK racing, that’s what the fans come to see.”
The events did not diminish the overall feeling of accomplishment from the night, especially in the SK Modifieds, where the No. 99 Hitchcock family-owned team had been struggling to get to victory lane after winning the championship the last two years.
“It’s awesome, especially to get a win in the 99 (SK) there. We’ve been struggling this year and we finally got the thing back on track. The 25 (Tour Mod), this place owes us a couple of wins, so it’s nice to finally be there at the end of the race in contention for the win and be able to get it this time.”
As for Pennink and Christopher, their cooldown period will not last long, as the two are entered for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Oswego Speedway (NY) Saturday night. Pennink is strictly focused on getting the BRE No. 3 its second win of 2017.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m going to go race my own race and what happens, happens.”
By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen