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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series




Rowan Pennink Clenches
2013 VMRS Championship Title

Denise DuPont

This past weekend the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) went to Lee USA Speedway for their traditional fall weekend race - the ‘Oktoberfest 100’ presented by Laticrete. Tommy Barrett of Millis, MA. made it two for two by winning for the second year in a row.
Barrett won his heat race and re-drew to start twelfth. So the #9 team had their work cut out for them. They went to Lee with their notes from last year’s win and a strategy. The plan was to switch tires on both side mid-race and then go for the win. “This was basically the same race as last year,” said Barrett from Victory Lane. “Except I started twelfth this time and went to the back of the field slowly. We did the regular swap actually a double swap -both left and right sides tires.”

Barrett’s team completed their mid-race tire switch during the series’ first caution on Lap 56.His challenge now was to pass drivers that had pitted for fresh rubber along with those that had not pitted. “Savary was not giving me an inch. I would not expect him to but the right front was giving up on my car and I could not turn under him all that well. Eventually an opening opened up and I got him going into turn one and I found myself on Masse’s rear bumper. I then made my way pass Masse. Once in front, the car was fast and we pulled away.” Barrett passed for the lead with nine to go securing the top spot.

Steve Masse was running second when a caution came out on lap 56. The team struggled with whether they should pit or not. The car was strong and they felt a win was within their grasp so they decide to stay out. Masse went forward and maintained his lead until the closing laps. Then on lap 91, he could no longer not fend off Barrett’s challenges and slipped to second. “I just came up a little bit short. I thought that I was going to be able to get the win. But we ran out of tires.” Masse crossed the finish line with a solid second but the ‘what ifs’ just kept running through his mind: “If I had gone just a little bit easier at the beginning of the race, I think that we would have been OK. But the right rear definitely took a big beating. The right front looks OK. Maybe we could have swapped tires, but I do not really know.”

Jon McKennedy is a master at driving consistently and pacing himself to have just enough rubber under him to win. But on Sunday, McKennedy pitted with 25 laps to go and finished two spots shy of a  win. “Overall it was a decent day. We had a plan to pit late and swap our tires and drive up through the field at the end. It worked out I guess. We restarted around tenth and I drove up to third. Another lap and I probably would have had second.”

Richard Savary ran in second place for so long Sunday that it was his territory. He fought hard to maintain his position when driver’s with fresher tires challenged him. “Almost everyone pitted and we stayed out,” said Savary frustrated with his finish. “We thought that we were going slow enough that we could go the whole race. Then at the end with twenty to go they said I could go get the lead. Right away when I tried to get under the #13 it kicked out from me. And I said “Oh, oh let’s go easy and not do that again”.

Savary reacted quickly and straightened his car out rather than wreck. “So with twenty to go I lost the right rear tire. This track is notorious for that. We knew the best thing to do is to come in and swap the tires half way through - Put your right front on the back and then it will last until the end. But on lap 50, we were running second and the plan was to pit at 50 and swap. I asked: “Are we were sticking to the plan?” I waited as my crew chief paused, then “Nope stay,” he said. I said alright we will just do the best we can and just ride”. In the end, Savary salvage a fourth place finish. Not bad, but not what he wanted.

Les Hinckley has run a limited schedule this year. He returned to Lee where he has had success hoping to repeat history. At race end his expertise and zeal to win were not enough for that win, but good enough for a top five. “We finished fifth today after losing a spot on the last couple of laps. Boy was the car good early then we came in and did the swap and it just got tight on us. We think that we hurt the right rear a little bit early on the run and when it went to the right front it just got tight. The car was just not the same after that stop. It (the car) was close, it was really good. I wish I had it back. It was a good run. We got a top five. It was good, but we just missed it a tick”.

Rowan Pennink came to Lee looking for a good run to seal the ‘2013 VMRS Championship’. Pennink won his heat race, started mid-pack and raced as conservatively as he could. He came across the line ninth which was enough to crown him the champion. “We had a good car. It just got a little bit tight three quarters of the way through the race. We decided that it would be better to pit and fix it and try and come back through. The guys did a good job in the pits and we were able to come back up to ninth. The car was getting so tight on me I do not think that I could have finished if I did not pit. It was a good call by the guys and it got us the finish that we needed to win the Championship.”

“I am glad that we clenched the championship at Lee,” said Pennink relieved that the day was over. “Now we can go to Thompson next week and all bets are off. I am really happy for this whole #25 team. Since I started driving for Gary and Kim this team has come a long way. I think this year we hit our stride perfect. We had something like twelve top fives so far and a couple of top tens. We could not have asked for a much better season so far this year with the #25 team.”

The VMRS teams will return to racing on Saturday October 19th for 75 laps of green racing as part of World Series racing at Thompson Speedway. If you cannot join us at the track, please join us follow the action on http://www.thechromehorn.com

Notes from Lee USA Speedway:

There were four cautions during the second half of the 100 lap race. Mid race, both cars and tires started to go away and teams made the judgment call to pit or not to pit when cautions came out. The #9 team pitted during the first caution on lap 56 and then made their way slowly to the front.

Tommy Barrett
“The cautions definitely helped me. When that caution that flew right after half way I was banking on to do a double flop (swap of tires). Then I got up to third or fourth. Once I got past Pennink for third, the run brought me right to the back of Masse’s back bumper on the next restart. It took me a little to get around him but we managed to do it.”

What happened on lap 83 that caused you to hit the outside wall?

Andy Seuss
“I am just struggling with the car. I do not know what happened to the right front tire but when we put the right rear on the right front, it just started shaking real bad. And making the car push real bad. I do not know if the tire was going down or not but we starting slipping through the field. We were running on the outside and the car was real tight, so cars were going to go by me. It was just a matter of time something was going to happen. One car just turned right at the end of the straight away and took us out.

The VMRS racing has changed its style on the track more this year than any of the previous nine years. Be it the drivers, tracks or tires, drivers have been frustrated after races and after Lee’s Oktoberfest race driver’s expressed their thoughts.

Jon McKennedy
“It stinks racing this way. I mean you put all this time, money and effort into the car just to go fast and you spend 75 laps of the race just running around. So because of that, the racing kind of stinks and I am not really a big fan of it. They need to give us a tire that we can race on because I think that the racing is pretty horrible myself.”

Obviously very frustrated with going from second to fourth Savary expressed his thoughts on the tire wear at Lee USA Speedway.

Richard Savary
“I think that they are going to have to look at these tires for this particular track or do something. I do not think that the fans thought that was a good 50 laps of 16 second laps, guys not racing each other, everybody’s running half throttle. It is not fun for us, so it cannot be fun for the fans. I do not know an answer but be what happens, happens - because of no grip on this track and these tires. What Tommy (Barrett and the #21 (Jon McKennedy) did, that is what you have to do. So now you have to ride in the back for 50 laps, go slow and then wait. Then you come in and pit. It is hard. You tell yourself I am just going to run laps. i just congratulated Tommy and I asked, “How do you do it?” He is like you just have to do it, you just have to do it. I was going as slow as I could go and stay on the lead lap.”
“I do not have an answer on what to do to make it better. But I do not think that you could ask any driver here if that was fun. I do not know if it crazy to say but maybe it should be a 50 lap race. The tires will go 50 laps. So if the race went 50 laps, you could race all 50 laps here. 100 laps you just cannot do it I proved it, the #13 proved it. He (Steve Masse) did the same thing that I did. He was leading, does he pit? No so he did the same thing.”

Both Savary and Masse took the gamble. They did not pit, continued to lead the race and then were passed at race end.

After the incident at Canaan Fair Speedway that took you out early and destroyed your car, do you believe the team could have been a closer contender for the championship?

Steve Masse
“Definitely if we had finished that race we would have we would have been right there. We would have been running for the championship. It was just a misfortune on our part. We still had a good year and we had fun.”

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 16, 2013

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