In what has been one of the lengthiest seasons in recent memory thanks to a near spotless record of weather in 2015, competitors and fans gathered at Stafford Motor Speedway for its 20th and final Friday night show of the season this weekend. In a season that has seen the SK Modified division dominated by a select few, veteran driver Eric Berndt took the wheel of a fast No. 66 car to come away with an untouchable victory to close out the regular season.
“Time runs out fast, as long as this season has been we’ve had decent cars, nothing good enough to compete with Rowan (Pennink), Ronnie (Williams), and Ryan (Preece),” Berndt said after the race. “But tonight, I’ve had some good cars up here in my years, that’s probably the number one car I’ve driven up here, unbelievable.”
After starting fourth, Berndt found himself chasing Dan Avery for the lead 10 laps into the 40-Lap SK Modified feature, but on Lap 13 Berndt got the inside run he had been waiting for.
“It’s just a matter of finding the right time to get there but not wait too long so somebody does get by you and you can’t get by him.” Berndt said. “I finally got a good run on Dan and stuck going off of four, and from there on out the car got better and better and I stretched it out.”
After what has been an aggressive season of racing in the Stafford SK Modifieds, Friday night’s feature event would go caution-free which played right into Berndt’s hands.
“I was definitely hoping for no cautions once they were telling me I was pulling away,” he said. “Green to checkered it was good for us, we had 21 cars and no incidents so that’s a great race.”
It is the 14th career SK Modified victory for Eric Berndt at Stafford and it’s the first win for the Cromwell, CT driver at Connecticut’s half-mile since August 2nd, 2013. The win is the second overall victory for Berndt in 2015, the first coming at Thompson Speedway on July 29th which helped to give him the extra drive to get the elusive trophy at Stafford.
“Anytime you win a race it’s a boost for everybody. Then the next one you want it even more and the next one even more,” he said. “This has been a tough track in the past couple of years where it seems like a few guys have been able to be better than everybody else, so to come away on the last Friday night with a win is a little bit of a monkey off the back.”
It was wide margin from Berndt back to the rest field, with Michael Gervais Jr finishing second, Dan Avery third, Todd Owen fourth, and Ryan Preece who rounded out the top five.
It was a good points night for Preece who has closed to 12 points of leader Rowan Pennink who finished 17th. Pennink told Speed51.com powered by JEGS after the race that the toe had been knocked out of the No. 99 SK in an early dust-up under green.
Pennink and Preece will settle the championship battle in the final SK Modified points race of 2015 on Sunday, October 4th as a part of NAPA Fall Final weekend, which will include the penultimate round for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Contributor – @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com