There’s few around the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway that would have likely pegged Sean Foster as a championship contender at the track for the 2013 season.
It’s no knock on Foster. The Willington driver competes in a division stocked heavily with guys who spend their time away from Stafford competing for victories on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
And beyond that, in four years competing in the division, Foster hadn’t really separated himself into the category of regular contender even by the close of the 2012 season.
But there’s one person definitely not at all surprised by a hot start in 2013 that has landed Foster in a tie for the division points lead after three races this season. Count Sean Foster himself in the group of not surprised at all by a start to the season that has seen him record podium finishes in the last two events at Stafford.
“I’m not surprised,” Foster said. “Between the hard work and all the research on how the car works. Having all the people on my side helping me out this year, I did expect to run really well to be honest. Hopefully we can keep it up. If we keep on looking like this, it is what I had in mind. I did kind of feel like we would be one’s to beat this year, and I think we can get better.”
Foster goes into Friday night’s event at Stafford tied for the points lead in the SK Modified division with Ryan Preece.
Not that this is a day that Foster has spent four years predicting would come. He says the reality is, it’s a wonder in some ways that it even has arrived.
“There were a lot of times when I thought we were done in a Modified,” Foster said. “We had a lot of downs throughout the years in the Modified.”
The 27-year old, following in the footsteps of his father and brother – both former racers at Stafford – began his career at the track in a Limited Late Model ride in 2006. A year later he was celebrating a championship in the division. After finishing second in the division in 2008 Foster readied for a big jump.
In 2009 he returned to Stafford to run the track’s premier SK Modified division with team owner Glenn Johnson.
Foster did not look like he was long for the division though. He started 14 of 16 events that year, recorded one top-10 finish and ended the season 25th in points.
“That first year, there were a couple huge wrecks that I had that I said ‘Holy [expletive], I’m done racing Modifieds, that’s it for me.’” Foster said. “We were racing for Glen Johnson and he kept at it with us when I didn’t think he would. That first year was ugly. Most of the year was because of the car not being good and then we finally figured out the car and that’s when I really started wrecking. It’s not to say I wasn’t wrecking before that, but it was a different thing. It was a thing where we had a fast car all of the sudden and I still kept wrecking.”
In 2010 Foster started all 20 events at Stafford, finishing the season 11th in points with six top-10 finishes.
After the 2010 season Foster left Johnson’s operation to run a family owned car in the SK division. Crew chief Steve McCarthy followed him to the startup team.
“We had our own car, but we just couldn’t get it to work,” Foster said. “It might have been halfway through the season when my crew chief [McCarthy] quit on me. He was helping out at the very end with Glenn Johnson and when my father and I decided to try doing it on our own, my crew chief Steve was a big part of it. He was going to be my right hand man and everything was going to be perfect.
“And then he quit on me and things weren’t looking good. That was a huge downer. That was another instance when, when he told me he quit I kind of thought about quitting there for a second myself. I was like ‘I don’t know anything about these cars, I can’t set this thing up.’ It took me a day of pouting a little and realizing that it wasn’t even going to work.”
Instead of quitting, Foster poured himself into educating himself about the car he was driving.
“I said ‘I’m going to start learning about how these racecars work and I’m going to start doing it myself and be my own crew chief.’” Foster said. “Yes, I had a lot of smart people helping me out. But that was kind of the deal. The rest of that season, we still sucked. I was trying to learn a lot of things. It really took a few races into [the 2012] season that a couple things started clicking, and it’s just been a slow process.”
On Aug. 31, 2012 Foster celebrated his first victory in the division.
“It changed things, but I’m not really sure how,” Foster said. “In all honesty it was like, we got it off our back. It wasn’t even like we were there yet. We kind of lucked out that night to be honest. We started in the front and we stayed out in front without any cautions. So, we kind of got lucky in that race, but it was a good confidence boost and something to work on for the following year.”
Foster was 14th in the season opening event this year on April 28. He was third in the first Friday night event of the season on May 10 and second on May 17, an event that saw him fighting with eventual race winner Rowan Pennink for the lead for most of the feature.
Pennink is one of six Whelen Modified Tour regulars competing in the SK Modified division at Stafford this year. That group also includes Preece, reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, Ted Christopher, Woody Pitkat and Eric Berndt.
“We have something to be proud of because of how high ranked these guys are and the talent in the field really,” said Foster, who is documenting his season with weekly videos on his own YouTube channel. “I’ve said for a long time that I think the Modified Tour is the most competitive division in the country. Arguably, it is. And when you put all those guys at the Stafford Speedway in one division, you’re looking at arguably the most competitive track division in the entire country.
“How far we’ve come, this is definitely something to be proud of. This is what the cliché, ‘Hard work pays off’ definitely means. It’s pretty cool.”
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