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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Seventeen Years Old
And On Top Of His World
Denise DuPont/Polly Reid

A full moon, a blue moon hung over Stafford Motor Speedway for The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) first 2012 race at the half mile track. There were thirty-one modifieds in the pits ready to qualify and compete. Seventeen year old, Tommy Barrett of Millis, MA. was the lucky driver in the end that took the checked flags to win his first ever VMRS race.

Barrett pitted just before the race began for last minute adjustments and started the race at the rear of the field. “We qualified third and I pulled in just before the race started so I started the race last. I was trying to save my tires and just pick off the slow cars so that we would not go a lap down.”

He made his way up to mid-pack on Lap 30, when he decided to pit during the race’s first caution. While in the pits, Barrett’s crew made adjustments to the family owned Victory Lane Bar and Grill #9 modified and sent him right back out.

Two laps later another caution came out and Barrett pitted one last time (Lap 32). “When we pitted, it was the team’s plan to come in and swap tires so that I could pass more cars.” After his crew swapped tires, Barrett headed back out again picking up again at the rear of the field. But he was not in the back for long as he started a forward charge. “I knew that the car was going to be good. We have been good pretty much almost every week from the first two races. I did not really think that we would have a problem that was why we took the risk and went to the back, saved the tires and then swapped the right side tires.”

The #9 car was on rails running a strong outside groove making his way back to mid-pack as the race passed the half-way mark. Barrett followed Ted Christopher up through the field for a while until he passed not only Christopher, but also Doug Coby, Louie Mechalides and Jon McKennedy to settle in to fourth by lap 65. As the laps ticked off there was no stopping Barrett’s forward momentum.

“I followed Teddy up for a while until I got by him and then worked my way around the top five. Then before you know it there were 15 laps to go and I was battling the #25 car for the lead.” said Barrett in victory lane. “I started to get a little loose but I had a lot more to pass the lead cars because I saved my tires a little more. When I got up to the top five cars it was all tour guys – Pennink, Christopher, Hirschman, Coby and I did not know what was going to happen but the car was good enough and I finally got there.”

Barrett took the lead on Lap 70 and then the race went to caution. On the restart with only ten laps to go, the cars lined up single file. When the green flag flew, Barrett ran hard for the next ten laps to take down the win. “I was able to get a run, get under him (Rowan Pennink) and pass him coming off of turn three. This is pretty much the best moment in my career. I grew up watching Teddy Christopher. I watched him my whole life and I wanted to try to be like him. I just tried not to be aggressive and get to the front.”

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and VMRS regular, Rowan Pennink started the race on the pole and lead for 70 laps until he was passed on the outside by a hard charging Tommy Barrett. “As the end of the race approached, I was just hoping for no more cautions. The car was good all night. It just took a little bit to get going on the restarts and that was what hurt us with all those cautions.”

In the end after each caution and restart, Pennink saw Barrett coming through the pack in his rear view mirror. “My spotter said that Barrett was quick but I really thought that I was going to be able to hold him off. If I was not quite so tight on the bottom when he had me pinned down I would have been alright if I got out in front of him. He had gone in and swapped tires around that helped him a little bit but I do not know if something happened to the Monks Hand Cleaner #25 car or not but it got wicked tight at the end after it was good the whole race. But second is a good night for the points I guess but I would have liked to have gotten the win here.”

Defending series champion, Jon McKennedy, started the race ninth and race with the leaders all night long. His car was a little off but good enough for a podium finish for the Art Barry team. “It was a good run. We started ninth and a third place finish is good. The car was a little tight in the middle and I had a hard time rolling the car into the corner. All and all it was a good night, the guys worked really hard and I want to thank everyone at SPAFCO and Art Barry. They are a great bunch of guys and I am glad that I can drive for them. So a third place finish overall it was a decent night. I want to thank CARQUEST and Shark Cycle for helping us out with the race.”

Ted Christopher, driving Joe Brady’s 00, took the green flag deep in the pack, eighteenth in the twenty-eight car field. Up to seventh twenty circuits in, Christopher picked up another spot before the first caution of the night on lap 30. Lining up sixth, the field was up to speed when contact sent Timmy Jordan around in turn four. Officials penalized Christopher sending him to the tail end of the lead lap for the incident. “He came down,” Christopher explained. “I was like, stay in your own lane, he didn’t want to be on the bottom. He crowded the #85 (Louie Mechalides) the lap before- I was watching, I was going like, oh boy, he doesn’t want to be there. Oh well.”

After pitting, Christopher headed to the rear of the field. “I passed like 70 cars- back to the front, back to the front, back to the front. It was fun.” With his strategy changing as fast as his track position, Christopher wasted no time going forward. “It really screwed us for the win going to the back again. You can only pass so many cars once, let alone twice. I beat up the right rear too much.” At the checkers, Christopher crossed for a fourth.

The night for Todd Owen started playing out well – on the starting grid fourteenth in the Jack Bateman owned #17, Owen was in a solid tenth by lap 30 when the first yellow waved. Catching a piece of the Timmy Jordan /Ted Christopher incident, Owen needed to pit and found himself back to the tail end of the lead lap with Christopher.
Back up to twelfth by lap 50, Owen was tenth when a game changer came on a restart with fifteen to go. Chris Pasteryak, running third had a tire going down on a lap 65 restart and went around going into turn one. A red flag was called to remove Pasteryak’s bumper from the outer wall in turn two. Owen was collected in the melee and was forced to pit. His restart found him once again, at the tail end of the lead lap cars. The final yellow with ten to go, Owen was in seventh and as the final circuits ticked off, Owen got by Doug Coby to claim a respectful top five at his home track.

“I passed a lot of cars,” said Owen. “The wheels were still turning after both of those incidents. There were a couple of saves, it was a good run.” Driving for car owner Jack Bateman, Owen is having fun competing on the VMRS. “We haven’t had the finishes a couple of times that we should have had but we’re having fun.” Bateman echoed in the background, “That’s what it’s all about.” The longer races have suited Owen. “We’ve had some bad nights but basically it’s different racing. You can take your time, pick off a spot here and there, people pretty much race you clean, it’s about all you can ask for. It’s a whole learning curve for me, the longer races, save it, but the opportunity Jack has given me here, working with these guys, it’s been awesome from the time we first got together.”

The VMRS returns to Stafford in two weeks and Owen is looking forward to putting more of his home track experience to good use. While Tommy Barrett will see if he can repeat that; ”Once in a Blue Moon win.”

Extra Notes - Stafford Motor Speedway MRS Race:

How could you pass Jon McKennedy and save tires at the same time?

Tommy Barrett
“Ever since the Lee race, Jon McKennedy and I have been racing real clean and real hard together. He did not throw a block on me like other guys were. He gave me the room to get in front of him.”

How much did your Stafford experience in SK Lights help you in today’s race?

Tommy Barrett
“I never learned to save tires in the SK Lights. The MRS and the tour cars are completely different. The groove is completely different. So it helped me a little bit just having been here but the ride was nothing alike.”

What are you thought after tonight’s race?

Rowan Pennink
“I hate it for the #25 team, we really wanted to get a win here at Stafford, but we will have to get them next race. We will take notes on what to do different. We had a good car but we ended up in second. We will get them next time.”

Source: Denise DuPont/Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 1, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.