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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Pennink Has Unbelievable Race Season End

Denise DuPont

The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) headed to Lee USA Speedway the weekend of October 22nd to compete in the tracks traditional Oktoberfest racing activity. Lee’s season finale included the touring series last scheduled race with the 2011 VMRS Championship in a close point chase. There were only twenty-eight points separating first and second place. So point leader Chris Pasteryak and runner-up Les Hinckley would both drove their hearts out but in the end only one would be the Champ.

While eyes were on the front of the pack early on with title contender Les Hinckley leading from lap one and point leader Chris Pasteryak working his way into the top ten, quietly and methodically Rowan Pennink was making his way forward. The Huntington, PA driver started 9th on the grid and by lap 25 was firmly in fifth. With 32 circuits on the board, Pennink had taken over second and using patience, made what turned out to be the winning pass on lap 62 and never looked back cruising to the Modified Racing Series sponsored by Bob Valenti season finale victory at Lee USA Speedway.

“I was surprised the car went that easy and still got by cars,” said Pennink. “When you can do that, I knew we would have a shot at it and we ended up winning by a long ways, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

His second MRS win of the year, Pennink made the winning pass for the lead out of turn two and side by side with Hinckley on the backstretch, completed the move before heading into turn three.

“I was just waiting- I kind of let Hinckley go when I got into second then ran him back down - not pushing it too hard then I got a good run off the corner and I felt it was the right time to go by him- made a good pass on him and it was smooth sailing from there.”

Stretching his lead, Pennink worked lap traffic able to pass each one without incident. “There was some lap traffic, luckily enough the guys we were going by, that we were lapping, were giving plenty of room and was able to get by without any problems.”

However the cushion Pennink built up all went away when the third and final caution waved on lap 82 setting up a 12 lap dash to the checkers. Bringing the field down to green for the last restart of the season, Pennink never wavered and cruised to victory lane.

Les Hinckley led the race from the start for the first 61 laps. He then made the one small move that caused him to fall back one spot into second from where he could never progress. Hinckley was racing hard with the championship on the line. The thought of his first VMRS championship was so strong that Hinckley could almost taste it. But just as the race lead slipped through his fingers, the 2011 series championship also did. “It was a good race. I just missed it a little bit and Rowan was just a tick better than we were. It is a tough bill. It is hard to be happy. I know that we should be because we had a really good year. We finished second in the points and then second in the race today but it is just one of those deals. It is hard to be happy. I will look back on it and try to learn from it.”

Leaving the race the #06 team of Chuck Montville will spend their time reflecting on the race and running through their minds all the what ifs that remain. But in the end they cannot change or redo history. They can only go forward and improve on their lessons learned. “I do not know what more we could have done. We had one bad race at Stafford that really hurt us. There were just not enough races to overcome it. We kind of got hurt without Seekonk being in the mid season and not getting rescheduled. Then late in the Thompson race getting rescheduled it just kind of took races away from us. And we could not just over come it.”

This year veteran racer Norm Wrenn has found the right combination to run with the leaders in the VMRS. The race at Lee proved to be no different. Wrenn started the race fourteenth and charged to the front waiting for the right opportunity to pass for the win. A podium finish was his in the end that also secured a solid fifth place finish in the point standing. “A third place finish was just awesome. I needed a third place finish here to be able to finish fifth in points overall for the year. Louie Mechalides was only six points behind me and I wanted to stay with him and finish the race. So I stayed close so that I could pull off a top five. It is hard to finish in a top five in this series in points. This is my second year on the tour and I thought that it would be awesome if I could do it for the team. They work real hard. So I went forward and finished third.”

Series regular Rob Goodenough had an up and down 2011 race season. The team struggled some times and other times they persevered and ran with the leaders at the end. This year the team traded in their old car for a newer one and regrouped to move forward. Their hard work was rewarded with a fourth place finish at Lee. “It was a good race. I did not realize at first that we were quite coming up that far. In the beginning we started so far back we were just trying to get where we could early without using up a whole lot of car up. Next thing I know we were getting closer to a top ten and we were just riding. I was just taking what was available out there. And we were just a little bit too free. When that last caution came out and we saw we were sitting in fourth I was really shocked. The car was just really good. I was just trying to get into a rhythm and drive. I just need the car to be a little bit tighter. It was only the second race in this car. I am started to really get accustom to it. I think that we can do some tweaking and really have something good going here.”

Matt Hirschman had to make his way into the race through the consolation race. The additional laps on the tires could have been a disadvantage for the average driver, but Hirschman used his experience and saved his car. He patiently made his way through the pack from twentieth up to fifth at the end of the race. He drove a consistently paced race which gave him the car that he needed to crack into the top five. “I had a pretty good run. We had to go through the consi with a bad draw yesterday. Those extra fifteen laps that we had to run in the consi hurt. I really did not want to do that. I do not think that any of the guys in front or around me had those extra laps (on their tires).”

This year Hirschman raced with the VMRS when he could and there were a few tracks that he had not frequented for a while. Hirschman used his expertise to race smart as he drove at Lee Speedway for the first time in years. “It was the first time that I have been here in a long time (Lee USA Speedway). It has probably been about nine years since I have been here. So for the first time coming back here in a while I think that we did pretty well. These guys run here every year a couple of times. I am happy. We have learned something so if we come back I would like to think that we would be a little bit better.”

Chris Pasteryak finished the race ninth. It was not a top five finish but it was good enough to secure him the 2011 VMRS Championship. Pasteryak was on pins and needles the entire race and when the checkered flag flew he was able to breathe a sigh of relief. “Driving for a point chase sucks sometimes. You just have to drive it (car) straight and stay out of trouble. Sometimes you end up in trouble trying to stay out of it. We were a little bit off today. Our car was a little bit tight and it showed. We finished about where we deserved today. And it was good enough!”

With his team in Championship Lane and the congratulations and ceremonies took place, Pasteryak looked like a kid on Christmas morning who was overwhelmed with one too many present. He had the familiar Pasteryak smile and the bright eyes, but yet there was a skeptic look of misbelieve. “Winning the championship has not really sunk in yet. I really do not know if I appreciated how special the first one was. Now that I am a little bit older and hopefully a little bit wiser. Maybe I can relax and enjoy it now rather than looking for the next year.”

So the 2011 race season ends for the VMRS drivers and teams. They will get together one more time this year for their 2011 Awards Banquet to celebrate another year of racing.
Sadly they will be minus one core person this year, John Hoyt.

Racing Notes from Lee USA Speedway

What was the #25 race team’s strategy for Lee USA Speedway race?

Rowan Pennink
“The race strategy was to just try and keep the tires on the car,” said Pennink. “We were taking it easy the whole time just picking off a car or two when we could get to it. The car stayed the same the whole race, it didn’t give up one bit. I got to thank Gary Casella and the whole 25 team, they did an awesome job getting the car ready for here. We normally struggle here- get free, being too tight, one or the other, we couldn’t seem to find the right balance point but they found it today, the thing was unstoppable. Hopefully they can get it like that for the next time we come here”

What was your most memorable racing moment of 2011?

Chris Pasteryak
“The Stafford MRS win was the most memorable event. To go there a lot of times and finally get one that was great.”

Rowan Pennink
“This race is a big one. We won at Twin State with Gary’s car. But we always run good there. But here, we always struggle here ever since I first came here a couple of years ago. To struggle that bad and then finally get it working and getting it working right for a win is great for the team.”

Les Hinckley
“I would have to say that it was probably the Monadnock win. That was a three or four car battle late in the race with Louie, Jon and me. I got them on the outside with a couple to go. That was a pretty exciting race. Looking back on it that is the first thing that jumps to mind. We had an eventful season but that was probably the highlight of it.”

Norm Wrenn
“Getting off the track at Seekonk, being black flagged with only sixteen laps to go. We were running third or fourth at that time too. We stayed up all night putting the car together from crashing during qualifying the day before. We started twenty-seventh and got up to fifth I think. Then it (the car) overheated.”
“That was my most memorable moment because I wanted to have a decent finish for the guys and all the work they did the night before. But I was running to close to the car in front of me and the car was running real hot. So it started squirting out the right rear and they black flagged me.”

Rob Goodenough
“Oh, boy this has not been that great of a year. I really do not have a whole lot to really look back on this year. But I get look forward to next year. With Hamshaw Lumber standing behind us this year and getting into something considerably newer Going from a 1996 car to a 2006 car now we have something that we can work with. That gives me something to look forward to for 2012. I am just chalk off this year as a learning year. I am looking forward to 2012 and hopefully we can make it work to run another season but that is yet to be seen. But it is going to be a long winter.”

Matt Hirschman
“I do not think that anything sticks out too much this year. It was a good year with some wins but it was also a little tough this year. I had a little stretch where I did not do so well. What would say right now is that we are ending the season pretty strong and I think that that is what is on my mind right now. We had a lot of good runs in a row, a few wins and a third last week at Thompson. We had a fifth here coming from last. Right now we just want to keep that going for the rest for the year with hopefully some wins.”

VMRS Rookie of the Year – Timmy Jordan
“We had the car to win at Lee and we were involved in an incident. Hopefully we can come back again next year.”

What are your plans for 2012 race season?

Chris Pasteryak
“Do the same thing as this year.”

Rowan Pennink
“Everything is always up in the air over the winter. But I definitely plan to still plan run both tours if I have the opportunity to. I would love to do that if I can.”
“This year in both series (NWMT and VMRS) we started out strong. Then I had some bad points throughout the season for both teams. That will happen and I think next year we will just try and smooth things out for those rough times. That makes the rough times not so rough and hopefully we can come home with at least one championship or maybe two next year.”

Les Hinckley
“I do not really know right now. I hope to be doing the same thing that we are doing now. We really have to sit down and assess our program just financially. We are a little guy and a lot of people do not believe it because the car looks nice and it is shiny with the chrome on it. We are operating with no shoe strings basically. We will just try put something together and try to do it again next year. I hate to turn back now. As far as I am concerned we have the best equipment and best of personnel I have ever had in my career and I would hate to walk away from it at this point.”

Norm Wrenn
“I plan to run the Modified Racing Series again. I still have my Super Late Model at Thompson Speedway and I plan to run a couple of shows there. And I still have the Pro Four. So whatever races I can make with the Pro Four I will.”

Source: Denise DuPont - Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 25, 2011

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