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Chapter 1, Airborne  -  Chapter 2, Thunder Road
by Denise DuPont

Chapter 1
Les Hinckley Wins at Airborne Speedway with a Wild Ride Right to the End

Memorial Day Weekend was a long tough weekend for the Modified Racing Series (MRS) as teams drove to Upper State New York for racing competition on Saturday. After racing, teams then packed up shop and boarded the ferry to get to Vermont for a second day of racing. The temperatures were not hot but tempers flared and it was a weekend of unsettled racing and feelings for the competitors.

It was also a weekend of racy racing, wrecked cars, rule books and tough decisions.

The series made their premier showing at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY which turned out to be a gem of a speedway hidden in the foothills of the mountains in the Lake Placid area. Modified teams unpacked their cars not knowing what to expect. Racers went on the track and to their delight found several grooves of fast racing waiting there for them to tap into.

Veteran competitor Les Hinckley’s car took to the track as though it had been put on rails. He started the race on the pole and dominated the race until he was passed by fellow hard charger, Rowan Pennink. Then the battle for the lead began. Pennink charged forward as a race horse trained to win and Hinckley never gave up his hungry pursuit for the win. On the last lap, lapped traffic played a key role in who would be the victor. Pennink who ran a strong line on the top of the track had to make the decision on whether to jump to the bottom to protect his lead or stay in the top groove. He decided to go to the bottom and was clipped by Hinckley who had been charging to get pass Pennink for the win. Then as Pennink fought to maintain control of his car, Hinckley shot to the top groove and raced forward. The race suddenly turned into a drag race as the two lead cars put the pedal to the metal and gave it their best to be the first across the finish line. In the end Hinckley had the win by a nose. But the racing action did not stop there as each competitor was not ready to let off the gas and they continued their charge pass the finish line.

In the end there were sparks and torn metal as both cars came to rest in turn one severely damaged. There are replays, stories and opinions but in the end you have to listen and watch and make your own opinion on what happened.

For Les Hinckley and the Chick Montville #06 team it was a win but not quite what the team strove for. “It is definitely not the type of win that we wanted. It is not for us, Rowan and Gary either. It was not good for anybody. It is what it is. We will put it (#06 car) back together and move on from here.”

From the winner’s eyes and perspective: “We were beat in the last couple of restarts, but we were better on the longer run. I sat on the track right with Rowan. Lapped traffic got bottled up at the end a couple of times. I was able to get to his (Pennink’s) back bumper. And then it got really bottled up on that last lap. He (Pennink) chose the top getting into turn three which was where he was running. There he was slowed up so much by lapped traffic that it really opened up the bottom behind another lapped car for me. I shoved it (#06 car) or drove it down in there. The coming off once he (Pennink) saw that I was attempting to get in there; he crossed over and tried to protect the bottom. But I was already there. I got into my right front into his left rear. But I could not go down any lower and he got a little crossed up in turn four and I got to the outside. I got crossed up and went across his back bumper and then the two of us got straight and drag raced to the finish line. I beat him by a bumper or maybe six inches. Then after the start finish line we were drag racing we were going straight and then he turned right on me long after the start finish line and put me up into the fence. He (Pennink) is blaming me. He does not want to be accountable for his actions. And I cannot change that so I am not going to deal with it. It is what it is.”

Rowan Pennink ended up with the second spot and his second damaged race car of the weekend. Here is what Pennink had to say about the last lap: “Before the start-finish line he (Les Hinckley) hooked me. He got a wheel on me and turned me sideways down the straight away. That is why he got the run on me to cross the finish line before me. He bumped me and after that we crossed the finish line. After that we smashed into each other by flying into the wall. Not only did he destroy his car but my car too. His car is probably not as bad as mine.”

Airborne was a racer’s paradise providing a very racy track with three or more grooves to race in. The leaders were able to chalk up fast laps and in the end when they caught up to the lapped traffic it added slicing and dicing to the speed. So was the lapped traffic a factor in the final race outcome? Here is what Rowan Pennink had to say: “Yes, I could not believe that when got to lapped traffic that they were racing for track position there instead of just taking the bottom or something. The MRS officials should be on their scanner telling their spotters to get lapped traffic out of the way. Basically they did not do their job. They (lapped traffic) were blocking the track when I got to them on the last turn. Les could not have gotten me. I held the bottom. The only thing that he (Hinckley) could do to win the race was what he did. And that is to wreck me. It is unfortunate. MRS is known for being strict about wrecking and spinouts. They are not going to do anything about this because it was on the last lap.”

Two of the real veteran racers that have more seat time under their belts than the rest of the field raced their hearts out but sat back and settled in for a third and fourth position rather than to get mixed up in the heat of the moment for the win. Dwight Jarvis crossed the finish line third followed by Carl Pasteryak both with their race cars intact.

What unfolded in their minds as the lap last unfolded right there in front of them?
Dwight Jarvis shared his thoughts, “I think that the lapped traffic had a lot to do with that the way that it unfolded. I think that there were a few tempers flaring. I would have rather finished third than to get wrecked. I feel bad because both of those guys have wrecked cars. You should not retaliate on each other like that. I think that there should be a penalty because if there is not from now on when you go across the checkered flag it is fair game to wreck someone.”

While here were Carl Pasteryak take on the lapped traffic, “There were a lot of lapped cars there and everybody was racing hard for position. It looks like one car got into the other one and got him turned. I could not believe that they crashed after the start/finish line. But that is racing now days. They do not drive at all like it use to be. I guess we just have to learn to go with it and hope for the best.”

Well now that we have gotten beyond the race for the win what did the drivers think of the Airborne Speedway and are they ready to go back there again?
Winner Les Hinckley who led most of the race enjoyed the track and is ready to race there again. “I love the place (Airborne Speedway). It is a very racy race track. We had a good race car. I enjoyed it a lot. I had a good time. I enjoyed it all. The race track was very racy with multiple grooves that you could go in on the race track. It was a really exciting race to race. It was excellent!”

Second place finisher and hard charger Rowan Pennink was very disappointed with the race finish, but it did not tarnish his thoughts on the track. “It is a great little track here. There is plenty of room to pass. There is a good outside groove. It is an awesome track to pass and race on. The track reminds me a little bit of Thunder Road and then kind of Monadnock. But it is not quite the same. The track is way fast. You could drive it way into the corner and there is grip all the way up to the top. You can run low out there. If you have a good car the high groove is wicked fast up there. If you were better than somebody you could go right around them.”

Third place finisher Dwight Jarvis has seen a lot of tracks in his career but his eyes were lit up when he drove on the track. “This track is awesome. I would rate this one right up at the top of any of the places that we go to. There is a lot of room here. People at the track are real nice up here. He is going to make some improvements here in the pits a little bit. But other than adding a little bit of gravel it is real nice.”

“This track is unique. It has progressive banking. Tom Curley said you are going to love that track and he is 100% right,” said Jarvis in the pits. “It is a track you can race on and if you get into somebody it is your fault. The track had several grooves and there are definitely three grooves here if you dared to get on them. You can run anywhere on this track. The track is real fast.”

Carl Pasteryak may have been fourth but he had the time of his life driving the grooves at Airborne. “The track is definitely different. It is pretty racy. It is very fast. There is an outside lane but it does give up. It does make for pretty good passing but it is very fast. Once somebody slips or if something happens you have a big wreck.”

Even though it was a long commute and stressful night of racing the racers loved Airborne Speedway and would vote to come back again to race. Race winner Les Hinckley gave the track a thumbs up. “Absolutely, I would like to come back here again.”

But 2009 champion Jon McKennedy summed it up the best.”It is a fun track the progressive banking gave us a lot of grooves to pull up on. My car preferred the apron and when I wanted to go it went in like a rocket!”

Chapter 2
Steve Masse Make it Two for Two at Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Rowan Pennink gets Airborne at Thunder Road as his Wild Ride Continues

Sunday’s MRS racing moved to the hills of Vermont where the “Modified Thunder” echoed from every mountain peak. The MRS teams crossed state lines to a new track but they did not leave behind them the tension and zest for racy, tight competition. Racing during Heat Race qualifying was caution laden and several cars were damaged close to beyond repair. Rowan Pennink ranked up on the top of bad luck as the race demons continued to slay him and the #25 race team. During the third Heat Race he and former MRS Champion Kirk Alexander, both wanted the win so bad that they both tasted it. After a caution on the first lap, racers prepared for a restart. When Pennink and Alexander crossed the start-finish line Alexander was behind Pennink. Alexander gave Pennink’s rear bumper a tap that sent him flying in the air onto a first turn dirt mound that jettisoned the car into the air. The momentum and dirt flipped Pennink’s car and then set him down on four wheels surrounded by a cloud of dust. It was only heat competition and already there were several damaged cars!

Last year’s race winner, Steve Masse, managed to avoid the accidents in his heat race and went forward to claim his second consecutive victory at Thunder Road Speedway. He started ninth in his heat race and came across the finish line to qualify second. This earned him a fifth spot to start the race. “I have been having the worst luck in drawing numbers recently. I have been drawing last but the heat race paid off. There were a few wrecks that brought me directly to the front. It was not anything major. My car is on a rail today. The car was quick and awesome all day long. It is probably one of the best cars that I have ever driven.”

After winning at a race track, one of the things that race teams never forget to make a note of is the setup they used to get them the win. Did their notes help the #13 team when they returned to Thunder Road Speedbowl? “Absolutely, knowing the setup helped 100%. We ran the same setup we ran last year. We only did minor tweaks during the day to get it the way that I wanted it. The car was just awesome. My crew chief gave me an awesome car to drive. I can not thank him or my dad enough. They give me awesome equipment. I want to thank everyone. I cannot thank my dad, crew and sponsors enough they are all awesome. We especially want to thank our new sponsor that just came on a couple of weeks ago, F K Rod End.”

Making his way through the field of cars and keeping the #1nh car where it needed to be, Rob Goodenough crossed the finish line second. He had tried to charge for the lead but in the end had to settle for second. “That was all we had tonight unfortunately. The car was definitely a lot better than what we started with. The car was a second place car tonight. We were kind of hanging on and really loose tonight. We were just trying to hopefully get some breaks and that was all the breaks we were going to get out of that race so we were really happy.”

After his car broke the night before at Airborne Speedway, Goodenough’s team got up bright and early Sunday morning to repair the car in time for racing at Thunder Road. During practice Goodenough knew that his car needed tweaking, but he was lost when it came to ideas on what to do. “What we had today was based on Roy Blake, my crew chief. Without him I did not know what this car was doing. This car was so bad I could not tell if the car was pushing or loose. We were going up in the corner and then the nose was falling in. I just did a four tire slide. This car was just so bad I could not tell what to do with it. I just basically turned it over to him and told him to gamble and try to get something with it because it was not any good the way that it was.” And the gamble did pay off for the team because it gave them the second place finish.

Ken Barry usually sits at the track watching the MRS team’s race. But this year he has put on the racing gloves and jumped into Art Barry’s #2 car and shown the rest of the field that he was not only watching but also taking notes and learning how to get to the front. He did not make it all the way to the lead but was happy to have improved his finish from the night before with a third place finish. “We had a really good car. We have learned with this series that you just have to be really patient in the beginning of the race, take what your race is going to give you and hope that you have something left at the end. We timed it pretty close this time. That last caution took some away from it. We thought we could have had a second but once you get the ten to go and everything tightens down it is hard to pass.”

This was the first time Barry was behind the wheel at Thunder Road and it was all the challenge that he thought it would be and then some. “This is the first time that I have been on this track as a driver. I have only been up here a couple of times to watch these guys run and that is about it. It is a big challenge because turn four is barely wide enough for two cars never mind two that are sliding around. We stayed out of the “widow maker” all day. I saw a couple of guys hit it. It is tough with open wheels coming around a corner.”

Barry did a lot of watching at Airborne and during the heat races at Thunder Road and came up with a strategy that worked for their team. “Today was just about being patient and getting down to thirty to go before you decide to do much racing and it paid off today.”

Now that the WMT have put their Memorial Day Racing memories into the books they have moved on to get ready for their return to Seekonk and another state of racing on Saturday June 12th.

Memorial Day Weekend Race Notes

Airborne Speedway
Steve Masse
“It was weird yesterday. I drove my brand new car there (at Airborne Speedway). There were a lot of bugs in it. That track is a half mile but like a donut. It is kind of weird with big sweeping turns. It was kind of tricky until you get the hang of it. We did not really show up with the right setup.”

Rob Goodenough
“At Airborne we broke a power steering rack. Somehow or other the pressure blew the steel off the end of the rack and just started pumping oil on the right exhaust header. We repaired the car this morning. We got here first thing this morning and put a rack in it. We were fighting the handling all day long just trying different things. We wanted to get a better finish coming back here. Hopefully we savaged the race and the crowd is happy with it even though we did not have a very good start today. It definitely made for a better weekend.”

Ken Barry
“I liked Airborne Speedway. It was fast there was more than one that was fast. It was a nice track because there was more than one place where you could pass. A lot of tracks that we go there is only one groove that you really do anything on and it does not make for a lot of fun for the driver. But there (Airborne) If was not handling in one place you just moved over and found another place to go.”

“We really had a car all day (at Thunder road). We made a lot of strides on it yesterday up there in the New York (Airborne Speedway). We carried it over this weekend to today. We made all the right calls this morning.”

Racers thought on why racing on Memorial Day Weekend was such a challenge?

Rob Goodenough
“They are putting a lot of pressure on us. We are getting great car counts which are great. We have twenty-four slots and when you start to put eight or ten cars out there for a heat race and you are only going to take five. Then today they have fifteen cars for the consi and only twelve made it out there for the five race spots. That is a lot of pressure on these guys. On a little tight track where it is hard to pass for a twelve laps or even in a fifteen lap consi, even with a good enough car, you do not have enough time to get very far. It is just a lot on us. I know it is not looking very good but that is just the deal. There were a lot of cars trying to get into a few places”

This is Steve Masse’s third year in the series. What is his most memorable thought so far in the MRS series?
“I hate to say it but it would be Thompson Speedway. I love that track. It is the best. It is one of my favorite. I really wanted to win that race last year. It did not quite turn out like I wanted to. I ran out of fuel. But that happens. I do not know why that thought sticks in my mind but it does. I would really like to win there. “

What do you credit win to? “I have to go with my crew. I came here and we unloaded fast. During practice I knew I had a car that was fast and there would be no problems. I knew that we would have no problem competing for the win. The car was quick and awesome all day long.”

Source: Denise DuPont /
Posted: June 2, 2010

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