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   The Chrome Horn - Modified Racing Series



Jon McKennedy Now Leads Modified Racing Series Points
by Denise DuPont

Waterford Speedbowl hosted the second annual “Thunder on the Sound” event on Saturday, September 4th. Again this year the event was not to be outdone by other Labor Day Weekend happenings. The evening’s events started as an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flew over the track and landed in the center of the infield to kick off pre race ceremonies. 2010 Miss Connecticut, Brittany Decker, sang the National Anthem. And then racing commenced as Republican contender for US Congress, Janet Peckinpaugh, threw the green flag for the evening’s first event a 25 lap SK Mod feature race.

Also not to be outdone at this race was 2009 MRS defending champion, Jon McKennedy. His team unveiled a new RaceWorks chassis prepared just for the race. The crew rolled the car off their trailer and handed the reins over to McKennedy to do what he does best, race. He took the new car from there and went forward to win his heat race and then on to win the 100 lap MRS feature event.

Since a win at Lee USA Speedway earlier this year, McKennedy and his team have struggled with a car that just missed the mark at every race. The team would prepare the car for racing and head to the track to reap the fruit of their hard work. At the end of each race the team felt discouraged because even though they had given it there all and the car just did not perform. “The last few weeks it has been a real big struggle. I just want to thank the crew, all the guys. They always work hard but especially this week. They worked fifteen to sixteen hours every day to get the car done. As of Monday we had no car so they basically built the whole car in four and half days. They worked hard and I am just glad got a win for them.”

This week though, the team’s hard work was rewarded with a win that finally was a turn around for the team for their efforts. “To come here with a brand new car right off the trailer it ran pretty good. I just have to thank the guys. They worked really hard. It has been a long week with a lot of work. I also have to thank Eddie Flemke and Reggie Ruggiero for getting the car done for me with such a short notice. I hope everyone is happy that it paid off.”

So the #73 Power Mist team was able to leave Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night finally able to say that they have beat “The Bowl” and overcome their rash of bad luck. “We have a win at a track that we usually struggle at,” said McKennedy about his victory. “To come out of here with a win and a brand new car and to get the points lead in both the owner and drivers, it is a pretty good night.”

Just one spot from a win at his home track was second generation driver, Chris Pasteryak. Pasteryak came back to his home track all smiles and ready to drive. He strapped into the family owned #52 car of his dad and headed out to prove that he was back full force ready to win. Luckily the end results were not the same as the last time McKennedy won. Instead of a visit to the emergency ward, Pasteryak was able to pilot his car into Victory Lane to celebrate a second place finish. "I wish I could have made it a better show but Jon had us covered tonight," Pasteryak said celebrating his second place finish.

Coming in third, Steve Masse was one of the few drivers that was able to pass on the outside groove at Waterford. He was able to make his charge forward from a fourteenth starting spot passing cars when and where he could. After struggling with the car all night, the team was happy with a third place finish at the end. “The car was a little free all night,” Said Masse reflecting on the race. “It was the same car that I had last time here but it was not as racy as I thought it was. When I drove it hard it was real loose on entry. We pitted I think about lap 25. We made a track bar adjustment. We lowered it (the track bar) and it definitely helped but it was not enough to get to get to the front as fast as I wanted to. But it was definitely good enough for a top three. So we are happy.”

The team adjusted the car during early race cautions but they felt need another one to get it where they needed to zero in their car in for a win. “I was praying for a caution after I got by the #21 (Geoff Gernhard). Because my car felt real racy on the bottom and I knew if we went double file on a restart that I might be able to get Chris (Pasteryak) that was running second. And I was hoping then that I maybe I could make a move on Jon. Maybe I was thinking way too far ahead.”

MRS rookie contender Geoff Gernhard had his best run and finish of the 2010 race season. He had the luck of the draw for the first heat race starting on the pole. He continued his luck in the heat race finishing first. “Qualifying today was great. I haven’t started, I believe, better than fifth in a heat race. So pulling number one today was good. Everything went good today. We haven’t had too many of these days. We are happy.”

Genhard’s heat race win was pivotal one in his career because it gave him his first pole and an opportunity to start on the pole and drive for a win. “We had an excellent run. We were getting way, way loose. I was just trying to keep up with the leader and the rest of them. We just ended up fourth. I wish that we had tightened up a little bit more we would have been able to hang with them.”

As the race unfolded the rookie was right there in the thick of it as veteran MRS drivers made their last charges for the win. Hard charger Dwight Jarvis made a late race run to take the fourth spot from Gernhard and the two made some contact. “With about five laps to go, Dwight got into the back of me,” Said Gernhard. “I was hanging on for everything that it was worth. I should be happy to make it this far this year to have the same color on each panel. We have a little tin work to do this week. It is no big deal.”

Dwight Jarvis’s day did not start as he planned. He came to the track trying to catch Jon McKennedy and a Waterford win for the series point lead. His car was just not there for both practice and heat racing to help him with his goal. “It was our fault that we did not finish well in the heat race. It was not running good in practice. It was running tight so we kept moving the tracking bar up and nothing. We added a turn and then a little bit more and before the heat racing we went to far and then the car had no bite at all.”

Starting the race way back in nineteenth Jarvis knew that the night was going to be a challenge. He hung back in the back of the pack as the race unfolded waiting until half way to make his charge. Conserving the car and feeling out the track groove paid off in the end. Jarvis was able to use the outside groove to his advantage to pick off cars one at a time as he made the charge to find McKennedy. “I would say that I held back at the beginning and then my spotter told me it was lap fifty and we started to pour it on then,” said Jarvis. “I like this track. It is fast. It is a nice place. This is one of our better tracks. There is no place like it. “

The hard luck award once again goes to Les Hinckley. He went into the race tied for the points lead. On lap 43 of the race, his night came to a fast end when he and Ken Barry tangled as they both made a move to advance their track position. The move was a costly one for Hinckley as he slips into third in points. He is now third in points and thirty-eight points behind leader, Jon McKennedy.

Teams will take time to celebrate Labor Day weekend while they plan for their next race. On Friday, September 10th, the MRS teams will head to Stafford Motor Speedway and what will be the longest race in the series history as they compete on the half-mile oval for their 100 lap feature.

Racing Notes from Waterford Speedbowl:

For 2010 the decision was made to use a new tire for the MRS series. The new tire has received both positive and negative feedback.

Jon McKennedy
“The new tires seem to last a lot longer. I think that you can go a lot harder for a lot longer distance. Last year you had to ride for the first forty or fifty laps and save everything up for the end. With these tires you can almost go hard the whole race. I rode around the first thirty laps and then the last seventy laps I was basically hammered down. I was driving it pretty hard and it (the car) stayed underneath me. The car started to get a little bit free on me getting in so I put some front brake in it and that kind of solved that.”

Steve Masse
“These tires are a little different than last years. They hold up and people can beat on them. They really put a crutch in for people, cars that have problems early on in the day. They put the new stickers on and they run really good in the heat race. They are good enough but you cannot make or complete a pass. I really think that it changes the way the features plays out. I mean it is what it is.”

Geoff Gernhard
“I am new to the series so I do not really know a lot to compare the tires to. I do not usually run with Hoosier. Where I come from at Thompson they race American Racing tires. But I like the tire because I think it is a little bit forgiving. If you mess up once or twice and beat them up you can cool them off and keep going. I have no complaints with the tires. I think that we are just starting to figure it out actually.”

Dwight Jarvis
“These tires last longer. I think that we were just as well off with the other tires. This is one of Jack’s (Bateman) decisions to change the tires. That was what he wanted and that was what we got.”

Next week MRS teams will head to Stafford Motor Speedway. This will be the series first visit to the track and the second large track they will race on this year. What are some of the competitors thoughts as they prepare to head there?

Jon McKennedy
“Stafford – I am looking forward to it. I ran there quite a few times with a modified and with the Super Modified. I had some decent success there. So I have some laps there while a lot of guys in this series haven’t. Having been there we have a little bit of an upper hand. Most of these guys do pretty good so I am sure that they will adapt to it quickly. I just hope that it is a good race. It is a great facility and I just hope that this series can just put on a good show for everyone. “

Steve Masse
“I am very excited to be racing at Stafford Motor Speedway. I cannot wait for it to be honest. I have never raced there. I have only gone to watch a few times. But it looks like a fun track and I am just going to have to learn from the veterans. I will just drive my car. Stafford being a bigger track does not really bother me that much. I am really excited to be racing on big tracks. They are all fun. If you car is not one-hundred percent you really need to wheel the car. On some of the smaller tracks, like Seekonk or Beech Ridge if you do not have a car you are not going anywhere. But it is all fun for me.”

Geoff Gernhard
“I am use to the big tracks. Thompson is my home track. The short tracks are what is killing me. It has taken me a little while to get use to them. I am wicked excited about going to Stafford. I saw Stafford on the schedule and I said “If I only make it to one race, it is going to be Stafford!” Because I have always wanted to run there and I have never had the chance or opportunity to. I hope that we make it into the race. I hear that there is a ton of cars “

Dwight Jarvis
“I have never been to Stafford and I just hope that I can load it (the car) in the trailer when we are done. I do not think that we belong there. This series has gotten out of hand. We have to take too much time off of work and we have to ask our crew too along with everybody involved. The series was not designed for that. It was designed for guys that do not have much financial backing could race. Now it is getting into too many races and races that are far away. Hopefully we get it straightened out this winter.”

At Waterford Speedbowl the #73 team of Jon McKennedy rolled a new car out of their hauler to compete. With less than a handful of races left, why did the team make the decision to go with a new car?

Jon McKennedy
“I just felt like we just needed to do it. The last four or five races we were just really struggling. We had some top fives but I was just driving the car for everything that it had and still barely making the top five. I just felt to compete for the Championship and win races we needed to make a change. We got a new chassis. The change it was night and day.”

Going out and running a 12 lap heat race to determine where you are going to start the race puts a lot of pressure on both the driver and the teams to have the best car they can before the qualifying starts. Added to this pressure is the one chance to pull a starting position for the heat race. As they say “Sometimes it is all in the luck of the draw”. Here is some feedback on the process:

Steve Masse
“It was just like the race that we raced here a couple of weeks ago. We (the MRS Mods) went from 40 to lap 100 with a green flag. Last time it was 20 to 100. It is just a racing deal.”

“It is weird how the racing has played out lately, especially the heat races. I hate the heat races. We cannot pick a good number every week or often enough to help us. It is real tough in these heat races starting fifth or sixth. There is very minimum passing going on in every heat race this whole year. It is always hard to get by two or three people especially here. I blame the tires.”

“The way that I look at is there is not that much of a strategy involved any more. People kind of just race a hundred percent all the time. Which is good but it kind of makes you drive one-hundred percent which is tough. Tonight it felt like there was no groove up top and it was really hard to make a pass coming off the corner. People were really blocking and hugging the bottom. Obviously people have done it and have come back all the way to the front. So I cannot complain about it that much. I think I would like to see maybe new rubber next year. Yes, a new type of tire next year.”

Geoff Gernhard made the decision to step up to compete in the MRS. What are Gernhard’s thoughts after competing in fourteen races at different tracks?

Geoff Gernhart
“It is a great little series. They run a tight ship and they do not take a lot of stuff. The series competitors like racing. They do not like wrecking. It took us a long time to save up and come to this series but we like it.”

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 6, 2010

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