CASELLA #25 RACE TEAM GRABS THE
"MAD DOG" BY THE EARS FOR FIRST WIN
Rowan Pennink Captures
Eighth VMRS Career Victory
On Saturday, April 20th, the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) came to
the high banks of Monadnock Speedway returning to where the series began ten
years ago. Celebrating their anniversary with a return to Monadnock was a
special event for the series. It was here ten years ago that an idea went
from the founding thoughts to where the rubber met the track. And from that
start, the series has continued through the tough economy to provide veteran
and new modified drivers with a more affordable race option.
into this race, Rowan Pennink had seven VMRS career wins. But that first win
at Monadnock has always eluded the #25 Roscoe race team of Gary Casella. The
team came to Monadnock to win and in the end they met their goal crossing
the finish line first. The team had finally conquered the “Mad Dog.”
“We just had to be patient tonight with that long green flag run.” Pennink
stated about the team race strategy going into the Bond Auto Spring Dash
100. Even though the leaders were taking off, I just had to keep it in the
back of my mind that they were wearing their stuff out. And reminding myself
to be patient and hope that the cautions would fall our way and it did.”
Starting the race mid-pack, the #25 team knew that it was going to be a
challenge to make their way through the pack and avoid mishaps. “I kept
pretty clear of all the incidents tonight and did not hurt the car. We just
had to stick with it (the plan) and stay patient and we go the job done. The
car was awesome for us all night. I have to thank Gary Casella and Brad (Lafontaine)
from Northeast Race cars. The car was just a pleasure to drive tonight.”
Up until this Monadnock race, the Victory Lane Bar & Grill #9 VRMS modified
team has been noted for pitting during races to tweak the
car and switch tires. Then the team’s driver, Tommy Barrett, has taken the
freshened car from the rear of the field to the front to challenge the
The team used a different strategy at Monadnock. They stayed out, managed
their tires and and found they were chasing the leader at the end for a win.
But when the checkered flag flew, the team was one spot shy for a second
place finish. “I usually stay way in the back and then stop to make
adjustments and to swap tires. But today I had a lot more tire at the end of
the race. I had something for him at the end but I just could not get on the
throttle coming off the corner. Rowan was able to hold me off and he blocked
me quite well. I just could not get around him.”
So why did Barrett’s team change their race plan? “I honestly thought that
it (the race) would be a wreck fest so I did not want to get caught up in
all the stuff way in the back of the pack. Then we went 52 laps without a
caution. I will take a second after last week at Waterford. There it was a
rough outing. I will take this and hopefully we will continue to do this and
get a win at Thompson.”
Louie Mechalides may not have been the fastest in practice, but the team
took the time to shake out their car to ensure they were ready to race.
Prepared to run, the team qualified fourth in the second heat race and from
there it was just set your pace, stay clean and charge for the win.
was a major crash on lap 72 that started with Dana Smith getting sideways
coming out of turn two. Several cars were collected up in the incident
including third place finisher Mechalides. He wheeled the #85 Stuart
Automotive modified down under the incident but the right side of his car
just skirted accident cars coming down the track in front of him. The impact
inflicted enough damage to force him to pit. “The nerf bars were bent into
the tires. So they unbent the nerf bars and lined the front end back up just
to try to get everything going into the right direction. I saw the cars
coming down off the wall at me and that was it. I thought I made it by them
but I had not. “
So unlike the first two finishers, the #85 team was involved in an accident.
They had pitted, repaired the damage and started from the rear with less
than thirty laps to go. Mechalides spent the final laps of the race charging
to the front taking each restart with stride. “I was just happy to get out
there racing because the car was bent up pretty bad. I was happy that the
car was still rolling. So a third place finish was pretty good. “
Finishing fourth in the MRS Spring Dash 100 was short of amazing for Todd
Patnode. "We got here late, and we barely got the car together. By the time
we got here we got in one warm up- we had hit the set-up."
efforts of the 24 team paid off. After qualifying in the heat race, Patnode
lined up seventh for the main event. Moving forward, Patnode was well into
the top three by the half and on lap 72, battled Max Zachem for the top spot
becoming the new leader with just over 25 to go. Patnode held off a strong
field through the next two yellow flags. The restart with just two to go was
the game changer for Patnode who suddenly found himself with a car that was
a handful and hung on to cross the line fourth. "We hit the set-up but when
we came in Dennis was doing the tire pressure and the right rear was at
eight pounds. Apparently we got a small leak. This car kind of went away
pretty fast after that caution but with a small leak that would explain it.
We started to lose the tire probably around lap 85 or 90 I would say."
Patnode was appreciative of the team effort. "The guys did a good job- they
got the car here. The car was still all apart Thursday night- they pretty
much put it all together yesterday and this morning." Patnode is undecided
on the number of races for the season, but for now, they have something to
build on. "It's in one piece, I'm happy."
Zachem started his day at Monadnock Speedway with a convincing win in his
heat race. The day only got better for Zachem who picked the pole position
on the redraw. And at the end of the Spring Dash 100, Zachem crossed for a
solid fifth place finish.
"Awesome race car - all the work we did today really showed. Starting up
front we burnt the tires up a little bit compared to some of the other guys,
the right rear was completely gone."
Zachem teamed up with NWMT crew chief Phil Moran for the Spring Dash 100.
The Preston, CT driver continues to grow his race program taking each event
as a learning experience. "We have a month, you can recollect on what
happened, you can work on the car and make it better. We had fun, a top
five, we'll go to Thompson and see what happens."
The VMRS teams will return to racing on Sunday May 19th for 75 laps of green
racing as the Chase for the Tenth Year Champion continues at Thompson
International Speedway. If you cannot join us at the track, please join us
follow the action on
Notes From Monadnock Speedway:
What went through your mind when the caution flag flew three times within
the last 6 laps?
Rowan had the lead after first restart passing Todd Patnode on the start. He
had Tommy Barrett behind him and was making his final run for the win when
the yellow flag flew bringing out a caution. The field regrouped, the green
flag flew and cars went racing. Then a car spun with two laps to go bringing
out another caution.
“It always stinks when you get a really good restart and you get a strong
lead and then the caution comes out. After that restart I knew I had a
better car than the #24 (Todd Patnode) so I figured I could do it again. On
the second one (restart) he got a better start than he did the first time. I
drove side by side with him for a little bit but I was able to go around the
outside of him for the lead.”
How Do You Like Racing at Monadnock Speedway?
“Monadnock is definitely one of the more difficult tracks. Turns one and two
are so much more different than turns three and four. But I enjoy driving
here. It is a fun track and is definitely a driver’s track.”
“I like Monadnock Speedway, It is a tough place but I always have had a good
time racing here.
Source: Denise DuPont/Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com