Story By: PAUL LAMBERT / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Taking a race off of the 2020 Whelen Modified Tour season might have been the best thing to happen to Ron Silk and the Kevin Stuart-owned No. 85 team.
Instead of traveling to Jennerstown for the fourth race of the season, the team chose to skip the race and regroup for a run to the end. 2020 hadn’t gone to plan to that point for Silk. After finishing third in points in 2019, winning three times and scoring 10 top-five finishes, the No. 85 team had gotten off to a bit of a slow start. A sixth at Jennerstown, plagued with shifter problems, was followed up by a DNF on the 4th of July at White Mountain, along with a 10th, almost certainly out of championship contention.
Once the team returned from their one-race sabbatical, the improvement was immediately noticeable. At Monadnock, Silk started third and led the most laps on the way to a runner-up finish. Four days later at Thompson, Silk returned to victory lane for the first time in over a year. The No. 85 team won again at Stafford two races later, and didn’t finish worse than third the rest of the season.
Even though a points title wasn’t feasible by that point, the run on which the team was able to finish the season impressed Silk.
“The speed was never really an issue, we just needed to get out of our own way a little bit,” Silk said. “I think it showed a lot of determination and effort on my team’s part.”
From 2019 to 2020, Silk nearly doubled the number of laps he led during the season despite running only half as many races. He improved both his average starting and finishing position.
The No. 85 bunch has continued to gel since Silk joined the team back in the middle of the 2017 season. He credits the relationship with crew chief Kenny Stuart as a big part of the team’s evolution into a championship contender.
“Kenny’s a great guy,” Silk said. “He’s a lot of fun to race with. He’s been racing for a long time, but really open to my suggestions and what I want to do with the car. I’ve been racing for a long time, so I kind of have an idea of what works for me.
“It’s been really good. The guy’s done a great job. The amount of progress we’ve made as a team over the last two, three years is pretty substantial. Just a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. They’re a good group of guys to work with, and there’s no doubt that they’re 100 percent behind me.”
Before the 2019 season, the team would run about half the Tour schedule and a smattering of other Modified events throughout the northeast. But they weren’t finding much success together at what they were doing.
“Our attention was divided between a bunch of different kinds of racing, and we didn’t do particularly well at any of them,” Silk said. “Talking with the team and Kevin [Stuart], we kind of just laser-focused on running the Tour and putting all of our eggs in one basket.”
Now that the team has made the pivot to full-time competition on the Tour, the results have begun to show. In 24 starts since the start of 2019, Silk has five wins, 15 top-fives, and 19 top-10s, along with two top-five finishes in the points.
While everyone remains focused on Justin Bonsignore and Doug Coby as the drivers to beat come April, keep an eye on Ron Silk. The No. 85 team has established itself as a true dark horse threat for the 2021 Tour championship.