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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series




Champagne Flows For Rowan Pennink’s
2013 VMRS Championship

Denise DuPont/Polly Reid

Keith Rocco chalked up another2013 modified win after crossing the finish line first in the Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) 75 lap feature at Thompson Speedway’s World Series of Racing Weekend. Rocco held off hard charges by Ted Christopher, Tommy Barrett and then at the end Rowan Pennink. “We just got out front and tried to hold the lead. The guys put a lot of pressure on me. Ted made me work real hard. And Barrett was saving it right until the end. My spotter told me we had them by two to three cars lengths at the end so I knew that we had a shot. Then Pennink was right there on my bumper at the end. I have to thank this whole team. They are really awesome and we have a lot of fun. This is a great night. This track (Thompson) is where we started.

"We started third - our plan was to get out front and kind of cruise." Rocco made a bold but timely move on the first circuit to become the new leader on lap one. "I didn't think we'd get the lead that soon, I figured it would take a couple of laps." Once out front, Rocco's plan was to save his tires and ride. But that went away as Ted Christopher shadowed the Wallingford, CT driver. "Ted got to second, drove pretty hard and put a lot of pressure on me. I tried not to spin the tires and keep the car balanced. I knew at the end Pennink and Barrett were coming. It seemed like Barrett made a charge there- got to me, then faded. The car was good, the team worked well together, it all went smooth." With 2013 racing winding down in the northeast it is a sure fire thing this won't be the last time we hear about Keith Rocco.

Before ten laps were in the books, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver Rowan Pennink had pitted twice. So what happens when you take the green flag and realize a few laps into the event you have a problem? Let the crew fix it then go out and be a threat for the win. That's pretty much how Rowan Pennink's night went. "It started out, I thought I had a bouncing left front tire because the thing (car) was shaking so bad," explained Pennink who took the green flag ninth. "The left front was bouncing up and down so bad -it ended up being two bolts broken in the rack and I didn't have any power steering for the majority of the race." Pennink pitted three times, the last trip down pit row was after a spin in turn four just prior to the 50 lap mark. "Thank God I have a good crew, if it wasn't for them, I would have never come back and finished second- this is all credit to them."

Pennink pretty much restarted in another zip code with 25 to go. But ten circuits later, Pennink was well into the top ten and with the way the cautions fell, Pennink had cracked the top five two laps later. With five to go, Pennink passed Ted Christopher for third and when the two to go signal came from the flag stand, Pennink passed Barrett to take the checkers with a hard earned second.

It was then that Pennink pulled into victory lane to officially celebrate his 2013 VMRS championship title with the #25 crew and car owner Gary Casella and his wife Kim.

"It means everything in the world," said Pennink. "I think tonight pretty much summed up this whole year for us. You saw what happened to us, the power steering bolt broke in the rack- these guys battled back, didn't quit. We pitted, caution after caution, these guys got the 25 car back to bring it home in second place which was unbelievable."

"We were pretty far back there," admitted Pennink, "there were a lot of cars racing side by side- it was tough getting through because of the side by side, you can't set them up and pass them when they are like that. A couple of three wide moves, a couple of bottom shots and we got ourselves up there for contention for the win. We just needed a couple more laps and I think we would have had a shot at Keith, he had a really good car. After a night like this, I can't complain about second."

Tommy Barrett of Millis, MA running his second season in the VMRS crossed the line for third.

"We started 17th, I worked my way up the field real slow, trying to save my tires, get through the field without burning them up too much. I was working my way up slowly to the top ten, eventually I got up to Savary and Nocella- then there was 25 to go and the caution came out, I was behind Teddy and Keith. That was when it was time to really hammer down, I was really up on the wheel with 25 to go. After I got by Teddy I was up on Keith's bumper but the car gave up on me with five to go and that's when Rowan got by me. It was a good run."

"We definitely had our ups and downs this season," said Barrett. "We're tied for the most wins with Masse, we both got three wins this season." Headed to the North South Shootout next month at Caraway Speedway, Barrett has definitely left his mark in the VMRS in 2013.

On lap 62, the yellow flag was thrown for an incident in turn one. Steve Masse’s #13 car snapped around spinning into the outside wall. The damage that the car sustained was minimal but it was enough to tow the #13 modified off the track. “I am not really sure what happened. I am not sure if it was fluid or if I got a little contact from behind but it was just a racing thing. I do not know if something broke or less loose in ther3ar end of the car. Whatever happened it did not feel natural and that is the best way to describe it. Honestly I will not know until they go through the car.” Enduring his fair share of hard luck on the track 2013, the Bellingham, Ma driver managed to complete the VMRS chase for the championship eighth in points.

The VMRS teams will now have the winter to go through their cars and prepare for the series eleventh year of competition. Thank you for joining TheChromeHorn and its coverage of VMRS modified racing in 2013. We are already looking forward to seeing you at the track or online in 2014.

Source: Denise DuPont/Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 22, 2013

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