Power Drive: Rowan Pennink Wins SK Modified Championship At Stafford Speedway

Rowan Pennink celebrates winning the SK Modified championship Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Rowan Pennink celebrates winning the SK Modified championship Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway (Photo: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images for NASCAR)

STAFFORD – Rowan Pennink arrived in an SK Modified at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2006 as a little known 20-year old from Pennsylvania.

Despite winning the 2006 SK Modified Rookie of the Year award, Pennink hardly made much of an impression that year at the track.

But over the last decade the Huntingdon Valley, Pa. driver has established himself as one of the most consistent Modified pilots in the Northeast.

Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway the 30-year old cemented his legacy forever at the half-mile oval.

Pennink finished fourth in Sunday’s 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature to clinch his first career SK Modified championship at the track.

“It feels awesome to be the SK Modified champion, especially here at Stafford,” said Pennink, who drove a Kelly Iverson/Bob Hitchcock owned ride to the title. “… The level of competition and the hype that this place brings, I just couldn’t be happier to have won the championship here at Stafford. I can’t thank my team enough. They give me an awesome car to drive around here every Friday night. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here.”

Eric Berndt won Sunday’s SK Modified feature.

Pennink finished the season with six victories, 17 top-fives and 19 top-10’s in 22 events this year. He led second place Ryan Preece by 10 points to end the season. Preece finished second in the SK Modified standings at Stafford for the third consecutive year.

The championship chase for Pennink essentially began in July of 2014. After a rough start to the 2014 season Pennink got on a roll over the closing half of the year, rolling to five victories to close out the season.

“Everyone asks me, ‘What happened at the beginning of last season?’ because we won like five out of the last 10 races last season,” Pennink said. “Everyone is like ‘Where were you at the beginning, you would have won the championship?’. I’m like ‘Well we had a lot of bad luck.’ We just needed to start off this season like we ended last season and that’s exactly what we did. We had our ups and downs here and there, we just kept them to a minimum.”

Those downs came late in the year for Pennink and made for some drama going into the final event. With three races left this season Pennink held a 48-point lead over Preece, but Preece lopped 36 points off that lead going in the two events before the season finale. Preece finished third in Sunday’s feature.

“The only reason it was nerve-wracking for me, I know I can go out there and get the job done myself, but if someone else makes a mistake and ends your day when you really did nothing, that’s what you just hope nothing like that happens to ruin the whole season or the championship,” Pennink said. “We were able to stay away from those kinds of things and get it done.”

Though Sunday’s feature wasn’t without drama for Pennink, right from the start. On the first lap Pennink had to dodge a diving Joey Cipriano in turn one.

“The first lap, I couldn’t believe it, I was underneath [Joey Cipriano] and especially on the first lap I didn’t think he’d come across and he came right down,” Pennink said. “I was able to back out of it all the way and just caught him a little bit. First lap, I was like ‘Man I hope the rest of the race doesn’t go like this.’”

On a lap 23 restart Pennink fell from fifth to eighth in the field, a spot that would have cost him the championship with Preece leading at the time.

“I was having a little bit of trouble shifting into high gear,” Pennink said. “That one restart I really didn’t expect to fall back like that. But I was able to battle back and get back up there to finish fourth. I definitely didn’t want that to happen, but we were able to overcome it.”

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