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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen All-American Series



Thompson International Speedway
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Test and Tune

Polly Reid

The calendar says it, the budding daffodils say it and Saturday, under bright blue skies and a slight March breeze, the roar of engines said it all- racing season is here. The 2013 Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway, the traditional NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener is less than two weeks away.

Thompson held their open Test and Tune Saturday with several NWMT teams taking advantage of the track time including defending NWMT champion Doug Coby, Ron Silk, Rowan Pennink, Ryan Preece, Eric Goodale, Rob Fuller and Patrick Emerling.

Like everyone else, Ron Silk is glad the winter is over. “It’s much better being here than at home on the couch watching it snow.” Winner of the Icebreaker in 2012, Silk was making good use of the open practice, the Norwalk, CT driver planned to take the Calverton Tree Farm sponsored modified out several times under the watchful eye of Tommy and Danny Grasso and car owner Ed Partridge. “We’ve had some success here at Thompson- hopefully we’ll have more and get the season started off on a good foot.” His first time hitting the track since the UNOH Battle of the Beach at Daytona and New Smyrna in February, Silk is more than ready for the green flag to wave. “Over the winter, the work really falls on Tommy and Danny Grasso. They get everything rebuilt- do all the hard work that goes into the cars. We talk about what we want to do, the direction we want to go in, but they do all the work. We’re excited to get going. Hopefully we can do a good job to get ourselves in contention.” The 2011 NWMT champion, Silk will again be one to watch all year.

Shaking down two NWMT cars, Ryan Preece in the Eric Sanderson owned, East West Marine sponsored modified with crew chief Sly Szaban, kept busy at Thompson as he was also practicing his Thompson SK modified entry. “We’re in pretty good shape this year,” said Preece. “The car we had at Daytona, we took it out for a few laps and we’ll run that here in a couple of weeks.”

Preece will be the first to tell you, with a smile, that he didn’t have much of an ‘off’ season. “I think every month I raced. The indoor races, Daytona and last week we were at Southern National Speedway.” Preece is strong at Thompson- including taking the pole award last year at the Icebreaker, but the big ‘W’ has eluded the Berlin, CT driver. “We always run well, we just have not been able to get to victory lane. The day I pull into victory lane here, the fans are going to have a show when I climb the fence. Thompson has not made it easy for us- we’re going to change that.”

Rowan Pennink fans will have plenty of opportunities to cheer as the Huntingdon Valley, PA will be hitting the track this year competing in both the full NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season under the watchful eye of crew chief Don Barker as well as the complete Modified Racing Series schedule in the Gary Casella machine. “I’m planning on being at all the races for both series. A couple will be tight but we’ll make it. “Feels good to be back in the car, hope to get a good jump start today for the season opener. This officially begins the busy season,” smiled Pennink. “We’re on old tires today, but we’ll get it dialed in and see how it goes later on with some newer tires.”

Fresh off a run at Southern National Speedway last weekend, Eric Goodale is ready to get the NWMT season under way. “We’re sticking to the northern tour- the race at Southern National looked enticing, so we went down there.” The UNOH Battle at the Beach, New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt Racing, a trip to North Carolina last weekend, Goodale is turning his focus to the upcoming NWMT season. “To run good on the Tour all year, there are two staple tracks you need to be good at, here at Thompson and Stafford. We’ve had a pretty good car here in the past.” Motor issues last year kept the Riverhead, NY driver from “putting together good finishes.” However, Goodale is optimistic for the Icebreaker in two weeks. “We’re definitely capable of having a top five car every time we show up here. We’re trying to get close to that today so when we come back we only have to make small adjustments.” Ask Goodale what he thinks about Thompson and he’ll bust into a big smile. “I love Thompson. We could race 16 times a year here and it wouldn’t get old. This is one of my favorite tracks to drive at, we’re pretty excited.”

Doug Coby will be back to defend his NWMT title in the Wayne Darling owned modified with crew chief John McKenna- the championship combination is looking forward to the new season. The winter is long but as McKenna puts it, “there is never enough time to do everything you want to do. We’ve got one car we probably won’t use as much as we did last year.” McKenna hesitated smiling, “well it depends on how this one goes.” Car owner Wayne Darling confirmed they will be doing the full NWMT again this year along with the open shows at Seekonk and Star. A top ten finish last year at the Icebreaker was the start of a title winning run for the Coby who ran his first full season with Darling in 2012.

Darling has something special planned for the Doug Coby ride for the first NWMT event at Riverhead Raceway June 29th. “We have a one race deal to carry Red Roof Inn which will be on the rear quarter panel when we get to Riverhead. We’re going to auction off the rear left and right quarter panels after the Riverhead race. The proceeds will go to Meeting Street School in Providence, RI a school for children with autism. I’m hoping to have all the drivers sign the quarter panels before the race.” Bids are already starting, if you want to put in your bid and win a quarter panel off of Coby’s modified, as well as support a great cause, you can go right to their Facebook page “Meeting Street School Charity Auction.” Just checking the page now, the bidding is fast and furious, all in fun and for a great cause.

Rob Fuller made his practice runs putting down some comfortable laps as he prepares for the season opener. Jimmy Fuller will be the crew chief of the 15 car that will be running a part time schedule. “We’re planning on Thompson, Bristol, two Loudon’s and maybe a Stafford.” Being behind the wheel of a modified may seem like a natural thing for Fuller, but the beginning of this season is a little different. Fuller had rotor cuff surgery in December and was still having physical therapy as late as last week. “My biggest concern coming here today was not the car test but the driver test. The surgery was more than the doctors thought which made the recovery take longer. It doesn’t feel too bad so far,” said Fuller. “I’m sure after a 150 laps, it could be a different story.” Thompson is Fuller’s home track, a place he has been coming to since he was 5 years old. “Back when there were sandbanks here,” said Fuller who added, “It’s pretty cool to have this place only 20 minutes from the house.” Fuller staying busy with work was taking a look at his Thompson statistics earlier in the week. “I’ve only had eleven starts in the NWMT and I think five of them were here. We can qualify on the pole, we can run top five- it makes me curious thinking what the stats would look like if I 30 or 40 starts here like everybody else. A lot of people think because of who I am, that I should be running up front here but I really haven’t raced much in a modified.” Fuller is looking forward to being back in two weeks.

A quick road trip to Waterford Speedbowl later in the afternoon to catch their open practice for the season kick off there next weekend, Denise DuPont will have that full report. While at Waterford, Karl Fredrickson, publisher of Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated was on hand passing out copies of their latest issue. Always a great read, be sure to check out Bones Bourcier’s piece on Lew Boyd - it sure made me smile.

2013 is off to a fantastic start and as long a Mother Nature doesn’t get any silly ideas, the countdown to the Icebreaker is on.

See you April 13th and 14th.

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: March 31, 2013

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