.Teams and Drivers,
Submit your FREE profile
 for 2010
   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

After a season high 16 cautions and a maximum three green, white, checker finishes, when the dust finally settled on lap 168 it was Glen Reen of Wilbraham, MA in the Silberman H&C/Alloy Wheel Repair Chevrolet taking down his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in the Sunoco World Series at Thompson International Speedway. While Ron Silk of Norwalk, CT in the T.S. Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Chevrolet overcame a wreck earlier in the race rallying to finishing 16th to claim the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship title.

Starting 24th at the green, Reen in the Ralph Ridgeway owned machine had worked his way into the top ten before the half way mark after pitting on lap 41 and when the century mark showed on the board, it was Reen in second behind Doug Coby. Reen inherited the lead when Coby pitted on lap 105 only to lose the spot to Eric Berndt, falling back to third after a couple more yellows but Reen was there at the right place at the right time avoiding the mishaps around him to take the lead on lap 144 and holding off the likes of Justin Bonsignore, Coby, Matt Hirschman and then Bobby Santos to score the victory. Santos, Hirschman, Chuck Hossfeld and Tom Rogers were the top five with Keith Rocco, Eric Beers, 2011 Rookie of the Year Patrick Emerling eighth, Mike Stefanik and Eric Goodale the top ten.

“I have to thank the good Lord. If you told me this morning that I was going to start 24th and win this race I’d tell ya you were out of your mind. Give it to my whole family, my dad, my Uncle Tom, my team; these guys have been behind me the whole time”

The multiple restarts were a struggle for Reen. “My clutch broke on lap 107 and every restart it was slipping worse and worse, I said guys we’ll be alright as long as there aren’t any more restarts, sure enough, there was only 30 of them so we were OK,” Reen joked. Extended 18 circuits beyond the 150 scheduled laps, Reen was indeed worried about fuel. “I didn’t know how much fuel was left, I was freaking out, and my spotter Rob was the only one calming me down.”

“About Monday morning we decided to come here so we only had about 4 days to prepare for this,” explained Reen whose best Tour finish prior to this was a fifth at Riverhead in 2009. “The motor is 2 years old with 1700 laps on it. People rebuild them every 800 laps, its super tired. The clutch, that was broken - I had to get pushed into victory lane because it’s broke. I mean we’re running on a shoe string budget. My brakes were gone, we had no pads left we had to shim them to make pads - it literally should not have happened but somehow it did. I cannot thank my whole team; those guys give 200 percent, my whole family standing behind me this long.”

Santos of Franklin, MA in the Mystic Missile Dodge pitted on lap 105 and worked his way carefully to the front to be there at the end. “I’ve got to thank the guys, they gave me an awesome race car all day, we had good strategy, we just had a couple of yellows that screwed us up at the end. That last restart I felt like we had the car to win, I was in position to win, I just drove in too deep into one, I just screwed up on the last lap. I’m disappointed with second but I can’t complain, we struggled a lot all year then the last of the year we tried something and I feel like the 4 was running the way it should today- it’s a little late but we’re back in the right direction.”

It is crew chief Bob Mueller’s last race for car owner Bob Garbarino, the championship crew chief is stepping down following the World Series. “I think that was more of my disappointment is that I felt like I should have won that race for Bob. He’s done an awesome job all year; he did an awesome job for me last year. I’m really proud to say that I’ve worked for him, I’m a little disappointed he’s retiring but he has to do the best thing for himself.”

Also using a later pit strategy, Hirschman crossed for third after having to drop to the back prior to the green flag at the start of the World Series. “It’s well deserved for the team; I mean they deserve the credit. We had a flat tire in time trials, we were the first car to go out and probably hit a piece of debris, cut the tire and went in and spun it around, I couldn’t keep it off the wall, wrecked that car pretty good. So they had to go back (to the shop) load up, this is the car we ran at Stafford and it pretty much hadn’t been touched since Stafford so they had to go back and prepare this car to race today- really I owe all the credit to them. My part was just surviving the wrecks. I was able to miss all those wrecks and get a third place. I’m happy that I could get a nice run for these guys and finish the year on a good note with a third place finish. Today was just wild. I think it is like that saying - it was the inmates running the asylum.”

Silk came into the Sunoco World Series with a 54 point lead over Todd Szegedy. Both knew what they had to do but neither could predict what they were about to go through.

Szegedy in the Wisk Detergent/A&J Romano Construction sponsored Ford started fourth and marched his way forward taking the lead from pole winner Ryan Preece on lap 37 while Silk remained in the top ten, running eighth until the call was made to pit on during caution on lap 42.

Szegedy leading, Silk lined up deep in the pack at 23rd. Just after the restart, an oil line blew on the Timmy Solomito ride and Silk along with Tony Ferrante didn’t make it through, Ferrante done for the day in the turn one outside wall, Silk going around making contact, the Eddie Partridge owned Chevrolet suffering left side damage. Silk, able to get down pit row with only three tires, came to a rest at his pit just as the red flag flew for the extensive clean up.

“We pitted early like that so we could have a good, clean pit stop,” said Tommy Grasso, crew chief for Silk. “We would ride around and stay out of trouble then when everyone else pitted we’d be back up front without having to use up too much tire - I thought that was going to be the best way to stay out of trouble and apparently that didn’t work out. The 66 blew an oil line and we got in his oil. It’s one of those things; you really can’t figure those things out until they happen.”

“We had time when the red flag came out- the guys looked it all over and we came up with a plan,” continued Grasso. “It took quite a bit of doing to figure out what we were going to do. The officials were right there, told us what we needed to do to make it safe and as soon as the caution came out the guys went at it. Luckily I have a good crew around me and it showed today.”

“There were two things that were wrong with the car. The front end was broken and the guys were going to go work on that. The biggest part was the nerf bar on the rear bumper; it didn’t look like it was going to go back together. We figured out a way while we were under red to get it back together strong and safe. As soon as the yellow came out the guys went at it and got that work done drilling holes and bolting everything together - it was quite a task- they were up to it.”

As Silk sat on pit row, Szegedy in the Mike Smeriglio owned Ford continued to lead the field. Eight laps down, Silk returned to action only to pit again for more repairs. Shortly after Silk returned, Szegedy relinquished his lead to come down pit row for his planned service on lap 66. By lap 100, Szegedy was bogged down in the pack 16th while Silk was running 29th. However, Szegedy continued forward up to 11th by lap 110 and still the points leader. Dodging an incident 10 circuits later, Szegedy had an even closer call on lap 127 forcing the Ridgefield, CT driver to pit twice under caution, his restart location now back to 24th. Meanwhile, Silk had benefited from the free pass four times.

Back up to 16th on the lap 148 restart, Szegedy still had a shot at the title until the mayhem broke out in turn three. Around and up against the wall, the right side damage Szegedy suffered was the end of the title hopes for the MSR team.

Silk survived the three green, white, checker finishes crossing 16th to claim the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship title.

“It was an awful day,” said Silk. “It started out OK then we got into somebody’s oil and I hit the wall. I thought it was all over, I mean at that point Todd was leading; I figured he drive off and have a story book day. Todd ended up having problems, my guys worked their butts off to get it back out and it worked out. The guys did a great job getting the car back together. Luckily there was a red flag so they had a good amount of time to check everything out, figure out what they needed- they worked pretty efficient to get that done.”

“I couldn’t drive my car it was all messed up, I was just riding around making laps. We had bad luck today, obviously I hated to see that and I hated to see Todd’s bad luck too. It would have been better if we could have both gone out and raced and not have problems but it didn’t work out that way. Congratulations to Glen Reen winning the World Series.”

“It feels great but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I just keep thinking what a miserable day we had, the emotions from high to low, thank God it ended on a high note but still. I’m so happy to be the champion, I’m so happy for my car owners Connie and Eddie Partridge to be the champions, all the guys who do so much work, it’s been a roller coaster day and I’ve had about enough of it.

Grasso mirrored Silk’s thoughts. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. After we got caught up in the wreck there we had pretty much lost the championship. The guys did a good job working on the car, getting it back together. The car was really wrecked I didn’t think they could get it back together but they did, it was a handful for Ron to drive. We needed all those cautions to get us back in there, then Todd had his problems so we went to essentially losing the championship to back winning it. It went both ways, full swing.”

“I knew it was going to be tough, we had trouble yesterday with the clutch in practice. Never had an issue with the car all year and of course this week something goes wrong,” smiled Grasso. “It wasn’t a big problem, it was minor, but we took the car apart to make sure it was all right and it was, we figured it out. So we got through that -I said it’s not going to be easy and sure enough it wasn’t easy today. We needed some luck. Obviously Todd’s bad luck was our good fortune. I hated that for those guys. I know exactly how they feel- that part of it’s not fun.”

“I worked a long time to win championship, I’m glad we finally got the ability to do it. Eddie is a great car owner and he deserves this championship, I’m glad to win it for Eddie.”

Starting back with S.J. Evonsion, who was his next door neighbor were he got his start with the Tour in ‘85 minus the off and on they took a couple of years to do some short track racing, Monadnock and Riverside, Grasso owned a couple of cars with his brother Danny driving at Riverside they did some SK racing at Stafford before the money ran out. “I started working for other car owners and that’s how I started working on cars rather than owning cars. It’s been a long road to hoe, but I’m glad we finally got here. I can breathe a little sigh of relief, we won a championship.”

Eddie Partridge and his wife Connie have been Tour car owners for ten years. “The guys worked real hard, they put the car back together amazingly fast for the shape it was in. We just went out there 9 laps down and then Szegedy’s day went terribly wrong.”

“Ronnie is great, he’s very calm, he’s always right there, he’s smooth - I don’t know what else to say about that. Tommy Grasso, the Grasso brothers they do the impossible.” Partridge continued, “We were contenders I would say honestly the last two years, this and the last two to be in the points chase and it finally worked out. It’s a great feeling to win a race; it’s a great feeling to win a championship.”

Finishing with 2,443 points for Silk, 76 ahead of Szegedy, the consistency of Eric Beers season earned him a third place over all in points with Rowan Pennink fourth and Doug Coby fifth for the year.

Silk and the team will be honored at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala December 10th in Charlotte, NC.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 17, 2011

©2011 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.