ROWAN PENNINK WINS INAUGURAL
NAPA AUTO PARTS SK 5k RACE
The Race Is Not Over Until You Finish
And Winning Is A Bonus
Nature’s delayed plans for the ‘Inaugural NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k’ early in
July with rain which allowed social media to take advantage of the situation
to build up the hype around the event. With fans allowed to vote for how
many laps the event would be, SK Modified teams came to Stafford Motor
Speedway practiced and tweaked their cars all ready to take home the $5,000
When their time came, SK teams put away their wrenches to line up for heat
races. All were prepared to run 8 lap heats competing for the four
qualifying positions. The lucky teams made the race while others headed back
to the pits to prepare for another 10 lap run in one of the two consi races.
Thirty-one teams vied for one of the twenty-seven starting spots and in the
end it was a stout field of competitors that took the green flag.
The inaugural event had drivers come through the grandstands down onto the
track for driver intros increasing race drama and excitement. Drivers
organized there for a group picture. When camera flashes stopped, the moment
came for everyone to finally know the duration of the prestige SK Modified
race. With the odds of the longer race skewed in its favor the pellet for
100 laps was selected. Fans cheered at the choice and teams headed to the
pits to psych themselves for the run for the money.
Through the luck of qualifying inversion Rowan Pennink started on the pole
leading the field to the green. Stafford’s track may not provide the
drafting venue that other tracks provide, but it does have a surface where
drivers can go three wide or sling shot on the bottom to advance. Race’s
excitement continued with fifteen lead changes among five driver’s that had
fans sitting at the end of their seats from race start.
competitors sliced and diced things swapping positions running the race of
their life. But in the end Pennink passed Ryan Preece and did not look back
to take the win. While Pennink stayed focused on finishing the race, he
missed Preece spinning in turn two.
Racing hard Preece was in second when he came down on the track not
realizing Ted Christopher was already there. Christopher collected himself
and went forward to capture second while Preece managed to get his car
around and finished in a frustrating nineteenth position.
Part time competitor Frank Ruocco crossed the finish line third followed by
Keith Rocco fourth and Glen Reen rounding off the top five.
Pennink had a car that from start to finish that could win. “We started up
front, got shuffled back a couple of times but I could drive it back to the
front when I needed to. And that was what I did. I got shuffled back towards
the end. Towards the end we were back and forth then I got up there into
second and made the move with two to go”.
After a year of issues followed by bad luck, the Robert Hitchcock & Kelly
Iverson SK Modified finally was setup to finish the race. Pennink’s
determination to finish provided the confidence he needed to wait for the
last lap to make a winning move. “I knew if we could get a couple of laps
going in a row I would be alright.” Then on the last lap: ““I knew that we
had a strong car and we just had to get in the right position at the end and
we did. We were behind Preece in second and with two to go I made the move.
I got a good run down the backstretch. Preece tried to block me a little bit
but I got up underneath him and stayed off of him in the center to drag race
him down the front stretch”.
The team’s goal was just to finish the race and winning was an added bonus
to them. When he pulled into victory lane the whole #99 team exclaimed: “’We
finally finished a race!’ Pennink confessed, “The car was awesome. I guess
it was a better finish than last. I cannot thank everyone enough. Bob and
Kelly are the best car owners ever.”
Scoring a second place finish after 100 laps with this group of experienced
and accomplished drivers was an accomplishment but it was one spot short of
where Christopher wanted to be. He wanted the win. “It was a good race. The
SKs put on a good race for the 100 laps from the start all the way to the
Frank Ruocco of Chesire, CT. racked up a podium finish which ranked right up
there for the 2014 part time modified driver. Ruocco is a full dirver unable
to race as often as he would like to and so far this year he has not
finished always where he wanted to be.. “I just have not had as much luck as
I woul like to this year. This is the first race that I have finished with
all four wheels on it. We had a good car and we were one of the five cars up
front that could have won it in the end depending on the caution and where
you restarted from. It was a great race.
An exciting night of SK Modified racing has fans, teams and track owner’s
already looking forward to the next year’s NAPA Race Parts SK 5k .
Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com