NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 Notebook: Young Guns Chase Dowling, Craig Lutz Stay Hot

Chase Dowling (Photo: Jim DuPont)

By Shawn Courchesne & Polly Reid

STAFFORD – In the build up to the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, many around the series have pointed to Chase Dowling and Crait Lutz as part of a base for a solid future for the series.

So far in the 2018 Dowling and Lutz are showing that the future is now.

Dowling, of Roxbury, and Lutz, of Miller Place, N.Y. both continued their hot rolls through the first three events of the season in Sunday’s Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Dowling finished second in the event and led 69 of 200 laps. His 130 laps led this season tops the series.

Dowling had a fourth place finish in the season opening event at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway on March 17. He was in contention for his first series victory on April 9 in the Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway before he was penalized for jumping a restart. He rallied back for an eighth place finish.

After three events Dowling sits one point behind standings leader Justin Bonsignore.

“I’m just trying to soak in everything we have,” Dowling said. “Just appreciate all these great runs we’ve been having.”

After a career best runner-up finish to Bonsignore at Thompson, Lutz was fifth Sunday in the Spring Sizzler 200 and sits third in the standings, five points off the lead.

“We had a strong car at the end,” Lutz said. “We qualified 13th but knew we had a good race car. We just started off a tick too tight early and lost some track position. As soon as we were able to fix that we were able to charge back to the front. I can’t thank my guys enough, we’ve had two top fives in a row. Hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling.”

Another Heartbreaker For Williams

After three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, Ronnie Williams sits 12th in the division standings.

It’s a ranking that hardly reflects how much of a contender for victories the 21-year old from Tolland has been this year.

For Williams, second place hasn’t been a great place to be in the last two Whelen Modified Tour events.

Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway Williams was running second to Patrick Emerling during the NAPA Spring Sizzler 200, but just before lap 150 Williams slid through the frontstretch infield grass.

Williams, who ended up coming back to finish 14th after the miscue, was able to joke about it after the event.

“I thought I could cut through and I would get the lead through the grass, but it didn’t work out,” Williams said. “I just made a mistake. It is what it is. I think we were burning up the right rear pretty good. And those guys had fresher tires than us at that point. It is what it is. We didn’t wreck the car. My plan on going through the grass and coming out first didn’t work so I’ll know that first next time.”

After winning the pole for the April 9 Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 at Thompson Speedway, Williams was in contention to battle for his first series victory late in the event.

On an attempt at a green-white-checkered finish at Thompson, Williams tried to make a move by leader Justin Bosnignore. The two made contact with Williams ending up the in the wall.

Emerling Bounces Back 

After a rough day in the Icebreaker 150 that saw him finish 33rd, series part-time Patrick Emerling scored a fourth place Sunday at Stafford, but it was hardly withouth drama.

“We had some issues we had to overcome,” Emerling said. “I had a left front bouncer towards the beginning of the race, it lingered. Under caution I tried to scuff it off, it didn’t hurt us too bad. Then the bottom of my window net fell off, I had that in my lap. Then I lost power steering and we were a little free at the end. For all that, not bad for being here for the first time in three years. It wasn’t a bad day for us.”

Emerling went by eventual race winner Ryan Preece for the lead on lap 116, but surrendered the top spot to pit under caution on lap 155.

“There were quite a few cautions there so it kind of landed our way a little bit,” Emerling said. “We threw a right rear on early to get out front, gained some track position there then we were able to lead. Then we came in and put on tires about the same time everybody else did, we didn’t have a bad car just a little too free at the end.”

“We got wrecked pretty early at Thompson so to come back, we’re a part timer, to come back and get a top five that’s not a bad day for us.”

Emerling said he expects to run about seven Whelen Modified Tour races this year. The Sizzler was a last minute addition to that schedule.

“This race here actually wasn’t on our schedule, we signed up last week,” Emerling said. “The tracks weren’t ready in our area so we decided to come here. It was a little bit of redemption after Thompson being out early, A little frustrated, we wanted to come here, do well and pick us up a little bit.”

Down the road Emerling expects to be at both Whelen Modified Tour events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and also events at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway.

Pennink Continues Hot Start

Rowan Pennink is the only Whelen Modified Tour driver to finish on the podium in all his starts this year.

The problem for Pennink is that he had to miss the first event of the season at Myrtle Beach Speedway because of offseason back surgery.

Pennink, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., finished third on April 9 at Thompson and followed that up with another third place finish Sunday at Stafford.

Despite missing the first event of the season, Pennink is now 10th in the standings.

“I didn’t want to miss that first race at Myrtle Beach, but I had to,” Pennink said. I’m just glad we started off the year with … two strong finishes.

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  1. knucklesmahoney says

    I have to say the Lutz is impressive. After taking over the seat last year. he goes out and wins the pole. Very solid finishes this year, in a car that none before could get around the track. Woody who??

  2. There’s a whole bunch fresh, new drivers. We are in the midst of one of the largest influx of new drivers in a long time. And they are all very good. The future looks to be fast.

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