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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


NWMT Icebreaker 150 by Polly Reid

Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon Valley, PA in the Jan Boehler owned, Cape Cod Copper sponsored modified nailed the final restart with three to go passing leader Bobby Santos to score the NWMT Icebreaker 150 victory at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. A third career NWMT win for Pennink, his second at Thompson, it is Pennink’s first trip to victory lane in the famed Boehler 3 ‘Ole Blue. Timmy Solomito of Islip, NY was second, Max Zachem of Preston, CT third, Bobby Santos of Franklin, MA fourth and Patrick Emerling of Orchard Park, NY was fifth.

“The guys gave me an unbelievable car,” said Pennink in victory lane. “To get it out front there and stay out front and kind of runaway there in the beginning half of the race. It looked like the laps were winding down, wasn’t sure if we were going to get a caution soon enough to be able to come in, pit and get new tires, it worked out right for us this time. The guys got me a good stop and we were able to blast through the field, this thing was unbelievable on new tires. Can’t thank everyone enough, Pettit Racing Engines, BRE Racing, Waddell Communications, all the guys on the 3 team, couldn’t do it without any of them.”

Coors Light Pole Award winner Timmy Solomito in the Eric Sanderson owned, Starrett Racing modified led the thirty-one-car field to green with Chase Dowling, Doug Coby, Rowan Pennink and Craig Lutz the top five.

Unfortunately, one car not up to speed at the start set off a chain of evasive action and two potential contenders for the day were out of it before the first circuit was on the board. Doug Coby in the Mayhew Tools modified was done after hard contact with the outside backstretch wall and Ryan Preece in the TS Haulers modified, after lengthy repairs on the right front, did return to log as many laps as possible, finishing seventeenth. The event red flagged, once the track was cleaned up, it was green flag racing with a strong and consistent pace set by the top three.

Qualifying fourth, Pennink was part of an early car break away pack with Timmy Solomito leading, Pennink and Andy Seuss the top three. Once Pennink made his move on Solomito out of turn four for the lead on lap twenty-one, he became the dominating factor in a long green run, stretching his lead to as much as twelve car lengths over Solomito.

The first caution on lap 58 brought pit road alive however, the leaders including Pennink, Solomito, Seuss, Santos, Craig Lutz, Matt Swanson, Woody Pitkat, Dave Sapienza and Max Zachem the top nine, stayed out and brought the field back to green on lap sixty-six. Pennink picked up where he left off, leading the way and at lap one hundred, the field still under green, it was Pennink, Santos, Ron Silk, Zachem, Seuss, Bonsignore, Swanson, Eric Goodale, Timmy Solomito and Craig Lutz the top ten. The long green flag run continued until lap 122 for a single car spin in turn four. The leaders came down pit road for tires on lap 126. Inheriting the lead, the new front runners became Ron Silk, Eric Goodale, Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling, all who had pitted earlier. The final fifteen laps heated up with Santos and his fresh Hoosiers making a move in turn four passing Silk for the lead with Pennink following. The yellow waved on lap 135 for a jumble of cars collected in turn two including Jimmy Blewett, Woody Pitkat and Brendon Bock. The next restart on lap 144, six to go, Santos, Pennink, Goodale, Solomito, Bonsignore, Emerling, Zachem, Swanson, Seuss and Silk the top ten, never completed a lap after contact scattered cars in turns one and two, ending amongst others, the contending run for Silk and Seuss. Pennink who had made a strong start and pulled to the lead over Santos, lined up in second place again since a lap was not complete, ready for the final restart on lap 147. Pennink repeated another strong and determined restart, the Huntingdon Valley, PA driver passed low and emerged the new leader on lap 148, taking the Boehler car to the checkers.

“It’s really tough when you have a really good restart in the closing laps and it gets called back like that,” admitted Pennink. “You hate to lose one like that. I was thinking I had to get another really good start so I could win this thing. I didn’t get as good as one, Bobby was really slowing down the pace coming to the green there, but I was able to get a good enough one where I could sneak up in behind him into one, I got a really good run through the middle there then I got underneath him down the backstretch right away.”

The last time the Boehler car was in victory lane at Thompson was August of 2009 with driver Ryan Preece. Pennink broke the drought with a dominating performance and sealed the deal with a determined pass on the final restart with three to go.

“One of most historical teams that still runs the Tour,” said Pennink, “the group of guys on this 3 team, even before I drove for them I was good friends with them because they were always a great group of guys. I got the opportunity to work for them. I’ve seen the 3 car go around with a bunch of other drivers before, I knew that thing had the potential to win - we probably should have had some last year. We had a really good car at Myrtle Beach and following it up here with a win at Thompson, it’s really unbelievable for this 3 team especially with it being the 60th anniversary of racing. I couldn’t be happier for the whole BRE team.”

Pennink led a total of 109 laps. “I knew we had a good car after practice,” continued Pennink. “But the way the thing got out front there, I had to hold it back, we got ourselves a comfortable lead and ran the pace we needed to run. Then when they put tires on that thing, I mean it was one of the best cars I’ve ever driven in my life in those final laps. Hats off to all the guys on this team, Greg, Scottie, John McKenna- I mean those guys put their heart and soul into this car.”

Timmy Solomito, on the same pit strategy as Pennink, coming in for tires on lap 126, restarted eighth and began his march back to the front. Solomito led the opening twenty circuits. “We had a really good car all day,” said Solomito. “We waited there to get tires but we were able to get back through the field. The 3 was strong all day, congratulations to them but winning a pole and a second, that’s pretty good, that’s a win in our book.”

Taking the green flag thirteenth, Max Zachem in the MPZ Motorsports/Lu-Macs modified recovered from an early spin and worked his way through the field, back to eighth by the half way mark, cracking the top five by lap 90 and to fourth by the time the caution waved on lap 122 when Zachem pitted with the leaders. Seventh place with six to go, Zachem on fresher tires was confident he was a contender on the final restart. The Preston, CT driver piloted the MPZ Motorsports modified to a solid third place finish. “Steve Lemay and the boys, they hooked this car up,” said Zachem. “We spun out there over in one in the grass at the start and to pass all those cars, we got all the way up to fourth, pitted, put three tires on and we were there at the end.” A challenging day going from the back to the front, Zachem’s patience behind the wheel was rewarded. “It’s hard when you mix and match guys with different pit strategies. It paid off for me last year, it didn’t pay off those guys this year. It makes for a little hairy of situations at times but we made it through in one piece and got something to build upon and go to Stafford.” A solid fifth at Myrtle Beach, Zachem is on track for the season he has envisioned. “I want the championship in the worse way. Steve Lemay is a great guy leading this group and I’m real excited.”

Rounding out the top was Eric Goodale in sixth, Matt Swanson seventh, Woody Pitkat eighth, Justin Bonsignore ninth and Todd Szegedy tenth. Dave Sapienza finishing eleventh, was the last car on the lead lap.

Finally - it was a different Icebreaker, missing some great people this season. Jamie Tomaino has officially broken his start streak. Tomaino’s record of 615 starts over a thirty-three-year career will stand for the ages. Another legend absent as well - Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile. I’ve never been to an Icebreaker without seeing either of those people.

And of course, the loss of Howie Hodge. Mary Hodge was invited to the Icebreaker as Thompson honored Howie in the pre-race ceremonies and son Kevin waved the green flag for the Tour race. Thank you to Thompson for getting them back to the track, back to their racing family.

Next on the schedule for the NWMT is the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway on April 30th.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: April 10, 2017

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