(Stafford Springs, CT)—While an 8th place finish is usually not cause for celebration, an 8th place finish in last Friday night’s SK Modified® feature was all Rowan Pennink and the #99 Van Wickle Auto Supply / Independent Wheel team needed to clinch their second consecutive track championship.
Pennink and the #99 team entered the 2016 season with a question mark hanging over them as they changed crew chiefs from Jimmy Fuller to Kevin Crowley. After a 6 win championship season, how would the team fare with a new crew chief calling the shots? Any doubts were put to rest at the very first race of the season as Pennink and the #99 team won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event. But their winning ways didn’t end there as they won 3 of the first 4 SK Modified® races to firmly establish themselves as contenders for a second consecutive crown. Former SK Modified® champions Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco, who between them have 11 SK titles at Stafford, both gave Pennink a run for his money but in the end the #99 team wasn’t to be denied as they won the championship in dominating fashion by leading the standings from start to finish.
“We’re really happy we were able to clinch the championship one race early and now we can go to the Fall Final and have some fun and try to win the race with no pressure,” said Pennink. “I don’t know if doubt is the right word, but as good as we ran last year and winning the championship, it’s usually pretty difficult to do it again two years in a row. With the changes in crew chief I was really hoping we could win a bunch of races and have a chance at the championship again. Kevin did a great job picking up where we left off last year and we were able to go out and win the first race with him as the crew chief, so that was a big confidence booster and it set us in the right direction for the rest of the season. We had a good notebook from the 99 team’s previous seasons and combined with Kevin’s knowledge with all his years of racing, we were able to get 6 wins so far this season. I think Fall Final will be a fun weekend for everybody. We’re not really in the points chase with the Tour car so we’re going to try to go out and win that race just like the SK race. The Fall Final is always a fun weekend but having the championship locked up will make it just that much more fun with no stress.”
By winning a second consecutive track championship, Pennink joins some impressive company in the Stafford record books. With the 2016 season marking the 35th year of existence for the SK Modified® division, only 4 drivers have ever won back to back championships. Jerry Pearl was the first to accomplish the feat (1984-1985), Mike Christopher was next (1989-1990) Bob Potter went back to back twice (1991-1992, 1994-1995), and Ted Christopher was the last driver to go back to back (2000-2001).
“It’s definitely an honor to be put on the same list as those guys who have won back to back championships at Stafford. And with the history that Stafford has itself, I’m really happy and honored to be able to do what we’ve done the last 2 years with the 99 team. Hopefully we can come back next season and try for another championship. I’m sure it’ll be tough because Stafford has some of the best competition in all of racing and it takes a lot of hard work to run like we have. All the guys on the 99 team are up for the challenge and I don’t see why we wouldn’t have a chance at it again next season. We really haven’t discussed anything yet but I’m sure we’ll be back just the way we were this season.”
Pennink will officially be recognized as the 2016 SK Modified® champion at the 47th Annual Stafford Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony to be held on Friday, November 18 at Maneeley’s in South Windsor.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.