Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – With Rowan Pennink announcing his retirement from racing, Gary Casella has tabbed SK Modified® and Whelen Modified Tour driver Chase Dowling to pilot the #25 Mully’s Auto Repair machine in this Friday August 31st Lincoln Tech VMRS 80.
The #25 team has won the last 2 VMRS races at Stafford and 3 of the 6 VMRS races run at Stafford from 2016 through this season. Based on the 25 car’s winning background combined with Dowling’s experience around the Stafford half-mile, Dowling is feeling good about his chances in the Lincoln Tech VMRS 80.
“With Rowan’s retirement, I’m very fortunate for Gary Casella allowing me to drive his car,” said Dowling. “I know those guys have a fast race car at Stafford. I’ve definitely got some big shoes to fill and those guys want to win really bad and so do I. I’m definitely looking forward to the race. I’ve won a couple races at Monadnock with the 25 team in the past and it’s a good feeling whenever you can get in a car that has a winning history. I just have to go out and do my job on the track.”
With the #25 car not in the championship hunt for the Valenti Modified Racing Series, Dowling and the #25 team are racing for the win in the Lincoln Tech VMRS 80.
“We can have a totally different mentality not having to worry about points racing,” said Dowling. “Our focus will be on winning the race. I can give it my all and I have nothing to lose at the end of the day. It would be cool for me personally and for the team to win. Those guys expect to win races and I’m going to do my best and I’m sure they’ll put all their effort in to give me a great car.”
The last VMRS race at Stafford back in May saw Rowan Pennink employ a race strategy of hanging towards the back of the pack for the first half of the race before charging through the field in the second half. While Pennink’s strategy was somewhat influenced by the fact that he couldn’t start higher than 18th since he had won the prior VMRS race, Dowling says that his race strategy will be determined by several factors.
“It all depends on where you start,” said Dowling. “If you start towards the front, you can stay mid pack and set your own pace and then go when you think its time to go. With the soft tire compound in the MRS, you don’t want to chew the tires up too early and you want to be in the right spot for the end of the race. It seems whenever you go into a race with a plan it usually doesn’t play out like you think so we’ll take things lap by lap and see what happens.”
In addition to the Lincoln Tech VMRS 80, Dowling will also be in search of his second SK Modified® feature win of the 2018 season behind the wheel of his #36 Wicked Powersports car. Dowling recorded his first win back on June 1st and he will also be using his SK Modified® experience to get a better idea of how the track will change for his VMRS effort.
“It’s been a progression since the beginning of the year with the SK,” said Dowling. “I think now we can consider ourselves a top-5 car every week. We’ve showed some speed lately and it’s getting better and better and that’s all I can ask for as a driver. We’ve been working on figuring out the LFR car, my guys have all stuck with me and hopefully we can get another win before the season ends. The track obviously changes a lot from practice to the time we race and you know what the track is going to be like going from the SK car to the MRS car and vice versa so I think it’s a benefit being able to run both cars and knowing what the track is going to do.”
Jeff Gallup Equates Speed To Victory
When the Valenti Modified Racing Series comes to Stafford this Friday, August 31 for the Lincoln Tech 80, Jeff Gallup, driver of the #4 C+G Surfacing Chevrolet, will be looking to turn the speed that he has shown at Stafford during the 2018 season into a victory.
“Stafford is a premier half-mile track and we always look forward to racing there,” said Gallup. “Whenever we race at Stafford, it’s always a date that we have circled on the calendar and we love racing there whenever possible. Any time we go to Stafford we feel like we have a good shot at winning the race. The first time I was there in a tour modified I finished third so we’re hoping we can repeat that and maybe go a couple of spots better this time.”
Gallup led 30 laps in the May VMRS 80 and he ran in the top-5 in both Open Modified 80 shows that were held in June and July. Unfortunately he couldn’t maintain that speed throughout the entire 80 lap distances and his finishes of 10th, 12th, and 8th have been frustrating for the Monson, MA native.
“It’s been frustrating at Stafford this year,” said Gallup. “We’ve led laps, we’ve been fast, and hopefully we can be fast again. I’m pretty confident with what we’re doing with the car. The key for me is making the tires last for 80 laps. We’ve shown that we have the speed to run with the leaders, we just need to be fast at the right point of the race. We need to go slower in order to go faster at the end of the race.”
Unlike the Open Modified 80 races where drivers could change tires during the race, VMRS rule dictate that drivers must run the qualifying heat race and the feature on the same set of tires. Gallup will have to devise a strategy behind the wheel that will allow him to show the speed at the end of the Lincoln Tech 80 as he has demonstrated in previous 3 Stafford starts this season.
“I usually put my race strategy together after running the heat race and see where we’re starting the race,” said Gallup. “If we start in the top-5 we can ride a little but if you start in the back, you want to get in the top-5 as quickly as you can to try to position yourself for the end of the race. We’re coming back with a similar setup as our other Stafford starts this year and hopefully the car will be just as good as it was earlier this season. I like to go as hard as I can in the heat race so I know what I have in the car for the feature.”
With Stafford being Gallup’s home track, he would like for nothing more than to join his father Richie on the Stafford winners list. Richie Gallup scored a total of 7 SK Modified® feature wins at Stafford between 1984 through 1992 and Jeff Gallup is confident that he will have a car that is capable of winning the Lincoln Tech 80.
“There’s always tough competition at Stafford with guys like Keith, Woody, and Chase in the 25 car, but the only reason we go to the rack is to win the race,” said Gallup. A win at Stafford would mean a lot to me. I’ve been watching races at Stafford since I was 5 years old and my dad has won a few SK races there so it would be nice to add my name to the winners list at Stafford too.”
Tickets for Friday night’s Lincoln Tech VMRS 80 are available and on sale now. Tickets 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. Grandstand gates will open at 5:15pm with VMRS qualifying heats starting at 6:30pm and feature events immediately following VMRS qualifying.