Collision Course: Whelen Mod Tour Title Contenders Ron Silk, Jon McKennedy Move On From Heated Thompson Event 

Jon McKennedy (left, Photo: NASCAR) Ron Silk (right, Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

A razor close battle for the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver’s championship got too close for comfort on multiple occasions Thursday in the Phoenix Communications 150 at Thompson Speedway. 

Ron Silk went into Thursday’s event holding a four-point lead over second place Jon McKennedy in the Whelen Modified Tour driver’s championship standings. 

By the time the dust settled on wreck-filled event at Thompson, McKennedy and Silk had two big issues on the track and had flip-flopped places in the standings. 

With his fourth place finish at Thompson, coupled with Silk’s 12th place run, McKennedy moved into the driver’s championship standings lead, five points over Silk with five races remaining in the season. The next event is on Aug. 27 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. 

Eric Goodale’s second place finish helped him cut his deficit to the lead from 21 points to 16 points. Three-time series champion Justin Bonsignore, who is looking for his third consecutive driver’s championship, cut his deficit from the lead from 28 to 26 points with a fifth place run. 

The drama between Silk and McKennedy started on lap 79 in a battle for second place. Silk made contact with McKennedy in the outside lane in turn one and McKennedy then lost the back end of his car and came back down in front of the field with Silk ultimately driving over the top of him. 

“I certainly got into him a little bit when he got spun out there earlier in the race,” Silk told RaceDayCT Friday. “I was just racing hard. I was stuck on the bottom every time and I probably got in there a little too hard. I did make contact with him when he went around. There’s no doubt it. It wasn’t an intentional thing that I was trying to get him, I was just racing hard.”

Said McKennedy Friday: “Ronnie got in the corner and got into my left rear, spun me out, drove over the top of my car and pretty much took any chance of me winning away with the front end all bent. … It was disappointing. Pretty early in the race to do an aggressive move like that.”

Both teams were able to get their cars back on the track and fight back through the field. On lap 134 McKennedy and Silk were fighting side-by-side down the front stretch for fifth place. With Silk on the outside heading into turn one the pair encountered the lapped car of Gary McDonald in the low lane McKennedy tried to squeeze between McDonald and Silk and contact from McKennedy sent silk into the wall. 

“I was in the middle of him and a lapped car,” McKennedy said. “I certainly wasn’t going to roll out of it getting in the corner considering what happened earlier in the race and the situation I was in. We made contact and he spun. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a fair game now.” 

“If he feels like what he did got even with me, yeah I guess, my car is destroyed and I think his is in pretty good shape,” Silk said. “Probably not even. I don’t know if that was directed to get back at me or just misjudged with the lapped car on the bottom. I would rather like to believe that he misjudged with the lapped car on the bottom.” 

Neither driver reached out to the other after the event. 

“I’ve raced with Jon quite a long time, me and Jon have never had a problem in the past,” Silk said. “If we talk about it, we talk about it, but I’m going to go race the next race like I normally would.” 

Said McKennedy: “Last night was one of those situations where people were being real aggressive and sometimes you’ve got to get a little aggressive back.” 

McKennedy, who has one win this season, is looking for his first series championship. 

“I feel like there’s still five races left, which is obviously quite a bit of racing left,” McKennedy said. “Yeah, the points are in my mind, but I’m just going to kind of let it all shake out like it’s going to shake out. All you can do is try to do the best you can and keep yourself out of trouble and wherever the points fall they fall.” 

Silk, who is winless this year, won the 2011 Whelen Modified Tour title. Silk said his focus is more on getting a victory than the championship. Tommy Baldwin Racing, with a stable of three drivers this season, leads the owner’s championship standings. 

“Everyone wants to win the championship, there’s no doubt about that,” Silk said. “In all honesty I really just want to win a race. I could care less about the championship. At this point it looks like it’s going to be a split owner’s and driver’s championship. The owner is the one that gets all the money anyway. Would it be nice to have another a driver’s championship trophy? Yeah. But I just want to go win.” 

For more from Silk and McKennedy, plus reaction Friday from team owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. on the incident between Doug Coby and Jimmy Blewett, listen to the latest Unmuffled.

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