Stafford Springs, CT – When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Stafford Speedway on August 4th for the Stafford 150, Stafford SK Modified® regular Rowan Pennink finds himself at the top of the NWMT points standings. Pennink’s ninth place finish this past weekend at New Hampshire was good enough to move him to the top of the standings as Timmy Solomito got caught up in a wreck and finished 29th. Pennink has occupied the top spot of the NWMT standings once before at the midway point of the 2011 season and his points position has both himself and the #3 Cape Cod Copper / Boehler Racing Enterprises team excited.
“It’s definitely good to have the points lead halfway through the season and we want to end up with the points lead after the last races at Stafford and Thompson,” said Pennink. “Hopefully we’ll be bringing another solid car to Stafford and we’ll be trying to win and if we can’t win then get a solid top-5 finish. You’ve always got your eyes on the points but we just want to worry about putting together solid finishes and keep on chugging along here midway through the season. It’s definitely awesome to be part of the 3 team and to be leading the points with them. They’ve been leading the points and won plenty of championships before but I don’t think they’ve been in this position in a long time so everyone on the team is excited and I’m excited as well. Hopefully we can keep on having a strong season like we’ve had in the first half.”
During Pennink’s short time as the driver of the #3 Cape Cod Copper machine, in 5 starts at Stafford he has recorded 4 top-6 finishes, with the only blemish a 25th place finish last August when an engine issue forced an early retirement. With his past success in both the Whelen Modified Tour and the SK Modified® division at Stafford, Pennink is looking forward to another top-6 finish and a victory would not only be a career first at Stafford for Pennink, but would serve as a launching point for their pursuit of the championship in the second half of the NWMT season.
“I think we should have a pretty good car,” said Pennink. “We’re bringing a different car than we ran in the Sizzler and we’ve been working on some different stuff with the setups, so hopefully we have some room for improvement and we can have a good run. We try every week to get better and better and if we didn’t think the newer car was better we’d bring the older car back. A win would mean a ton. I’ve never won a Tour race at Stafford and we’ve been close a lot of times. The 3 team has been putting some really solid cars under me and one of these days a Stafford win is going to come to us and if we could win this race, it would be great for our points situation and it would be awesome for the whole team.”
In order to be the first car to take the checkered flag and win the Stafford 150, Pennink and the NWMT teams will have to devise a strategy much different than what they’ve been used to in the past for Stafford events. A new rule for the Stafford 150 will be that teams will only be allowed to change one tire per pit stop. Another new wrinkle for the Tour teams will be a group qualifying session. The qualifying order for the group qualifying session will be set from the first practice that runs from 4-4:30pm and each group will have 5 minutes to lay down qualifying laps with the starting lineup determined by the fastest lap set by each car.
“The race is a little shorter than the Sizzler and they’re doing some different stuff with pitting and changing tires,” said Pennink. “You’re only going to be allowed to change one tire each time you come down pit road so there’s going to be some different strategies for sure and we’ll have to figure out what we’re going to do.”
Pennink’s ninth place finish at New Hampshire extended his streak of finishing each 2017 NWMT race in the top-10 and he is the only driver that has finished each race in the top-10 thus far. With two consecutive SK Modified® championships to his name, Pennink is hoping to take the lessons learned during those championship chases and apply it to his pursuit of the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.
“We’ve been putting a bunch of solid runs together so we have some good momentum,” said Pennink. “We just want to stay out of trouble and see if we can’t win the race at Stafford. The way we won the 2 SK championships was to go out and try to win every race and if we can’t win then take what we can get. If we have a top-5 car, then take the top-5 and if it’s a top-10 car, then take the top-10 finish. As long as we stay out of trouble, that’s what won those 2 championships for us and if we can use the same theory on the tour, hopefully that will give us a chance to win the championship at the end of the year.”
In addition to the Stafford 150, Pennink is also in search of his first SK Modified® victory of the 2017 season. After a slow start for the 2-time defending SK Modified® track champion #99 Independent Wheel team, Pennink has reeled off five consecutive top-7 finishes, including a season best finish of third in the NAPA SK 5k on July 7th.
“These tires are a different from what we had last season and there’s a real tough field of drivers at Stafford,” said Pennink. “We’ve been gaining on it, we’re trying different things each week, and that seems to be getting us closer and closer. Hopefully in the coming weeks we can get our first win of the season with the 99 team. It’s tough. There’s a whole bunch of cars that are capable of winning each week and when a team gets hot and on a roll, it’s tough to beat them. We’ve been there with the 99 team before and now we’re trying to catch up a little bit. Things can change at any time for any one in racing and Stafford starts to change during the summer and there’s a whole bunch of things that can happen to change momentum. We’re looking to finish up the season strong.”
Tickets for the August 4 Stafford 150 are available and on sale now at the Stafford Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $35.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seat tickets are $37.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking along with overnight parking available for self contained Recreational Vehicles. Stafford’s five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will join the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars in feature action.
Stafford Motor Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo