Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Over the past several seasons, Rowan Pennink and the #25 Gary Casella owned team have proved to be one of the cars to beat at Stafford when it comes to VMRS or open modified shows.
Pennink has 3 VMRS wins over the past three seasons and he ran among the leaders in the June 8 Open Modified 80 before finishing fourth. With the Bud Light Open Modified 80 set to take the green flag on July 13 at the Connecticut half mile, Pennink will be looking to add another win to his victory tally.
“We didn’t win the last race at Stafford so I’m sure the guys at the 25 shop will put their thinking caps on and come up with something a little different because they all want to win,” said Pennink. “I’m sure they’ll have another strong car for me like they’ve had all season long. The 25 guys have a good setup for Stafford and the group of guys that Gary Casella has working on the car all work really hard, so it’s usually right where it needs to be when we show up at the track. A lot of times races are won with the hard work in the shop and those guys always do a good job and hopefully it’ll be the same when we get to Stafford. Tommy Barrett had a great car last time out and he ended up winning the race so you definitely have to be on the top of your game.”
The Bud Light Open Modified 80 allows teams a total of 6 tires for qualifying and the race, allowing for teams to change tires during the 80-lap run. Pennink ran among the leaders in the first half of the June race but after the tire change his car wasn’t quite as good in the handling department and he finished fourth. Pennink says that a little different strategy could see them once again fighting for the win.
“We ran with the leaders for most of the race, we just fell off a little towards the end so hopefully we can improve on that,” said Pennink. “It seems like the 25 guys always have a fast car at Stafford. When we changed tires in the last race, the car was a little off balance so we’ll need to have it a little better for the end of the race so we can be towards the front. I think mainly changing our pit strategy around a little as when to come in and get tires will be the difference. Maybe a little later pit stop would help us keep the balance on the car so it’s fast at the end.”
As well as the Bud Light Open Mod 80, Pennink will be looking to add another SK Modified® feature win to his credit. The 2018 season began strong for the #99 NAPA Van Wickle Auto Supply team with a win and top-6 finishes in each of the first 5 races, but he has managed only one top-10 finish in the last 5 races. With the TC 13 Shoot Out and $1,313 going to the winner, Pennink is hoping to get his season turned back around in a positive direction.
“It sounds like a pretty interesting race and it should be a lot of fun,” said Pennink. “It’s something new so we’ll have to see how it goes. It’s pretty cool that Stafford changes things up and comes up with new races for us. We haven’t had a great season so far. We finally got our primary car going pretty good and we won a race and we were running up front when we got wrecked. We still don’t have that car back yet, so we’ve been running our backup car and we just haven’t been able to get it quite as fast as our primary car. That’s how seasons go sometimes so we’re going to have to keep moving on to get back in the right direction. We want to run up front and the team could use a boost, so it would be great to win that race.”
Joey Cipriano Looking Forward to Bud Light 80
With the Bud Light Open Modified 80 set to take the green flag on July 13 at Stafford Speedway, SK Modified® driver Joey Cipriano is looking forward to the race. Cipriano has already made 2 starts at Stafford this season with the #27 Gunsmoke Stables car owned by Steve Greer in the VMRS 80 in May and the Twisted Tea Open 80 in June. Cipriano was caught in a wreck in the VMRS 80 and finished 24th but with a solid 7th place finish in the June Twisted Tea 80, Cipriano is looking forward to the Bud Light Open 80 and thinks he could potentially have a winning car.
“I’m excited for the race,” said Cipriano. “We’ve had a good car both times at Stafford with the MRS and the Open show. While we finished 7th last time out, everyone who finished ahead of us has won races at that level, whether it’s MRS, Modified Tour, or Open shows, so to be able to run with guys like that was encouraging for us running a limited schedule with the #27 car. I think we can win. The car is fast and it’s run really well. We got caught up in a wreck in the MRS race and then in June we got stuck behind a car that broke and lost a bunch of spots and I used the tires up trying to get back to the front. We’ll see how things are when we show up to the track but I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
With two races already under his belt with the #27 car added to his weekly racing experience in the SK Modified® division, Cipriano feels like he has a good baseline to work with on car setup and his confidence is growing behind the wheel of the higher powered open modified car.
“Seat time is everything,” said Cipriano. “Obviously I don’t have a ton of time in that style of car and I feel like in the MRS race I had a tough time with the difference in speed between that car and the SK car and how to back the corners up and how to run that car versus an SK. Last time out in the Open 80 I felt like I was a lot more comfortable with the two cars. I’m still learning how to run these longer races and what we need to do to have the best strategy to be able to win the race. You go with the same baseline and tune on it from there. The biggest thing will be keeping up with track conditions throughout the day. Running weekly definitely helps but at the same time the guys who win races are going to be up front no matter what. I think guys like Richard Savary and Ronnie Silk who don’t race here every week are going to be contenders and it’s going to be a good race for sure.”
In addition to the Bud Light Open Modified 80, Cipriano will be looking to log triple duty on July 13. Cipriano will take part in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature with his #78 J.G. Poulin Drywall machine and he will be hoping for a top-13 finish to be able to take part in the TC 13 Shoot-Out, which will invert the top-13 cars for a 13 lap race that will pay the winner $1,313 in memory of Ted Christopher. With Cipriano coming off his first career SK Modified® feature win on June 22, he has high hopes for the taking down another win.
“It’s really cool that Stafford is putting together a race in Teddy’s memory. Running Teddy’s car for a couple races last year and getting to know him it’s pretty cool to try to win some money in his memory. The guys who just ran 40 laps getting flipped around with a bunch of money on the line and not many laps, it’s going to be exciting for sure. Hopefully we can have a good run in the 40-lap race and we’ll see how things play out if we can be in the 13 car invert. It was great to not have to answer that question any more about when are you going to win. The first win is always the hardest to get. It’s an accomplishment to have our name on the SK winners list and now we want to go do it again and this would be the perfect night to get it done.”
With 1 week left to go until the Bud Light Open Modified 80 and TC 13 Shootout take the green flag, teams are encouraged to contact the speedway office to register for the Mod Open 80-lap event or complete the online form. Tickets for the Bud Light Open Modified 80 are priced at $30.00 for adult general admission, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seat tickets are $32.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking along with overnight parking available for self contained Recreational Vehicles.