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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



by Denise DuPont & Polly Reid

Jon McKennedy started his season the way any driver and team would want to by winning the first event of the year. McKennedy started on the pole, survived cautions, and strong challenges from Chris Pasteryak then later Rowan Pennink to take the first checkered flag of the year in the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) Budweiser Blastoff 100 at Waterford Speedbowl.

McKennedy pulled the Art Barry modified into victory lane, a second career win at Waterford for the Carlisle, MA driver.

“Sometimes leading from the front row can be difficult, you don’t know how hard a pace to set, how hard the cars are going behind you” admitted McKennedy. “It was a 100 laps but it felt like 200 laps, leading the whole thing. There were points of the race I was going harder than I wanted, but I wanted to keep the car up front, I knew track position was really important.”

Barry was pleased with his ‘new’ driver, the combination of team and driver clearly hitting it off opening day. “I definitely enjoy working with Jon, he’s incredibly good,” said Barry. A mutual decision was made with his son Ken to keep Ken out of the seat for now leading to a phone call to McKennedy. Barry could not have been more pleased with the dominating win. “We’re looking to run for a championship if everything goes well. I’ve been doing this for quite a while but I tell you, he is one of my favorites.”

“They gave me a great car,” added McKennedy. “They’re great guys to work with so I hope I can be a part of the team for a while. Let’s face it, they could have called a couple of hundred other drivers, for him and Kenny to choose me, it feels pretty good.”

Starting 19th, Rowan Pennink had climbed to the top ten when he was spun out, sending the Gary Casella owned #25 to the back of the pack to do it all over again. At the checkers, Pennink crossed for a hard earned second. “I was patient and worked my way up; got myself in position- we had a shot at the win late on, but couldn’t get it. I was happy with second place after all we went through today.” Pennink will be busy this season between running both the VMRS as well as the NWMT.
Veteran driver Norm Wrenn used a provisional spot to make his way into the VMRS feature. Starting the race in last place meant a long ride to the front and avoiding race mishaps along the way. It was a bumpy start for Wrenn as he found himself involved in the first two accidents. “I was in the first two cautions and I came in after each of them “, said Wrenn. “When other cautions came out I was looking to dodge the bullets. I was happy doing that because I was gaining track positions at the same time. I was trying to save my tires. Finally we got into a rhythm and had only one good shot to do it and save the tires as much as possible. After half way they finally told me go ahead and see what you got. Then I started passing and went toward the front.”

“At the end the car was finally straightened out and I could get on the throttle more.” Around lap 76 Wrenn made a final charge and passed Dave Etheridge for third. “I was in third at that point and I could close in on the two lead guys. But there was no way I was going to pass them. But there was no point because I was not going to be able to pass them. So I thought I might as well keep the car in one piece. I did not want to spin the car out or I might own it for sure.”

Wrenn definitely earned himself a hard charger award with a third place finish. “I am thrilled to finish third today. Hopefully we can do this more often than not this year and even better than last year. Either way I am happy to be running with these guys.”

Mike Holdridge made his way into the top five early and managed to stay with the leaders during a caution laden race. But maintaining a front spot was a challenge for Holdridge. “It certainly felt like a 200 lap race today. I broke my one of my cylinders around lap 25. It turns out that I broke a spark plug. I was unbelievably lucky again. I have to say congratulations to Jon (McKennedy) and Rowan (Pennink) it was a good race that they put on. It did seem like it (the Race) lasted a long time. I was just praying for a decent finish. “

And fourth place was a very decent finish for Holdridge and his broken race car. “This is a good start to 2012.” Holdridge said reflecting on the race. ” I run good here but finishing here is another story. So this is a good start for me. Hopefully I did not hurt the engine at all. That would be devastating. I am looking forward to going to Monadnock next.”

VMRS teams have packed up their haulers and headed home. Teams will take a few weeks off, regroup and head to Monadnock Speedway on April 21st. We look forward to seeing you there for a fun night of modified racing.

Source: Denise DuPont-Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 2, 2012

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