(Stafford Springs, CT)—With the 2016 season in its closing stages at Stafford Speedway, defending SK Modified® track champion Rowan Pennink and the #99 Van Wickle Auto Supply / Independent Wheel team are closing in on securing back to back championships. He enters this Friday night’s SK Modified® feature event with a 68 point lead over Keith Rocco and an 86 point margin over third place Ted Christopher.
In order to clinch the track title for the second year in a row, all Pennink will need to do is finish in the top-9. In the 15 SK Modified® feature events run this season, Pennink has recorded 14 top-10 finishes and his worst finish of the season has been 11th. So while on paper it might seem like an easy task, Pennink says that he and the #99 team are focused on putting the car into NAPA Victory Lane for the 7th time this season, which would put an exclaimation point on the season.
“We’re going to try to win the race Friday night,” said Pennink. “We definitely want to win the championship but we also want to get win #7 on Friday night. If we win the race, that will take care of both goals so that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
The 2016 season has been a stark contrast to the title chase of 2015 for Pennink. Last season saw Pennink have a lead of 48 points over Ryan Preece with 3 races left. With Pennink struggling to maintain his season long form in the last few races, Preece was able to whittle the lead down to 12 points heading into the NAPA Fall Final where anything could have happened. With the luxury of a large lead this season, Pennink is hoping to wrap up the championship chase with 1 race left to avoid the stress of last season in the NAPA Fall Final feature event.
“We struggled a little at the end of last year and we just didn’t have a car that was capable of winning in the last 4 or 5 races,” said Pennink. “Everyone on the 99 team has been doing their homework and they do a great job with the maintenance stuff. We’ve had great cars and Kevin Crowley has done a great job on keeping up with the car setup and the changes that the track has gone through during the season. I think our issue last year was we kind of kept coming back with the same thing that we were running all year long and that didn’t work at the end of the year. Kevin has been doing his homework and making changes to the car to keep up with the changes in the track and I think that’s made a big difference for us. It would definitely be great to show up to the Fall Final and just be able to concentrate on going for the win and not being under the same stress that we had last year. We won’t have to worry about if something is going to break on the car, or if I make a mistake on the track, is that going to cost us the championship. It would really take the edge off for us and we can have some fun during the weekend.”
Should Pennink and the #99 team take home the championship laurels this season, he would join some exclusive company at Stafford. With the SK Modified® division set to complete its 35th season in existence, only 4 drivers have ever won back to back track championships. Jerry Pearl was the first to accomplish the double in ’84-’85, then Mike Christopher joined the club in ’89-’90. Bob Potter accomplished the double twice, first in ’91-’92 and then in ’94-’95, and Ted Christopher scored the double in ’00-’01.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.