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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ron Silk’s impressive run to end the season has him on the brink of a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, and his string of successes has earned him attention outside of just the Modified circles.
The Norwalk, Conn., driver won the tour’s first race in Canada in September and then turned in a dominating performance on one of the tour’s biggest stages, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Those pair of wins, coupled with taking over the championship points lead heading into the season finale at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway earned him the spot as the top driver in the October edition of the Hunter Index, as voted on by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives.
“Ron Silk has long been a threat to win races on the Whelen Modified Tour,” said Len Sammons, editor of Area Auto Racing News. “This year, he has really been impressive in his consistency and his ability to bounce back from a setback.
“After his win at Delaware, he ran into some issues on the road course at Lime Rock. He came right back at New Hampshire. Even in his seventh-place at Stafford (Conn.), early troubles looked like they were going to knock him out of the title picture and he rallied. He’s shown all the characteristics of a champion – not the least of which is the ability to step it up late in the season.”
Silk picked up two first-place votes and was one of six drivers to earn a top vote.
He edged NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver Andy Seuss for the overall honors, 163-160. Seuss’ teammate, George Brunnhoelzl, was voted third with 146 points, followed by Darrell Wallace Jr. (120) and Philip Morris (86).
Drivers are ranked on their performance over the previous month. The rankings are compiled by a panel of auto racing writers and NASCAR representatives. This season, the panel was expanded to 12 media members from across North American with experience covering NASCAR’s touring and weekly series, along with two voters from NASCAR.
Panelists rank their top 15, with first place receiving 15 points, second 14, third 13 and so on.
Seuss collected three first-place votes after he won two of the four NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races in September. Brunnhoelzl, the tour’s points leader, also won twice but Seuss got the nod between the two on most ballots by virtue of finishing in the top five in all four events to Brunnhoelzl’s three.
Wallace won the pole award at the final two NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races of the season and finished it out by claiming the “Monster Mile” trophy by winning the finale at Dover International Speedway. He had the second most first-place votes with three.
Max Gresham, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion, finished sixth overall and earned a first-place vote.
“Point racing sometimes isn’t pretty, but Max Gresham had the wins and consistency to bring home the championship,” said Elgin Traylor of Speed51.com. “Top 10 runs in nearly every race but one and being the only driver to run every lap. The tight points battle went down to the final laps at Dover, and Gresham did what he needed to do to claim the title.”
Morris won his fourth NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship with a victory at his old home track, Motor Mile in Radford, Va. The Ruckersville, Va., native had previously clinched the Late Model championship at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.
Ted Christopher missed a pair of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races but came back to record four top five finishes in four starts, including at win at Stafford, was sixth in the voting. Todd Szegedy (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) was seventh, followed by Sergio Pena (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East).
Scott Steckly wrapped up his second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series title and was tied for 10th in the voting with German Quiroga. Quiroga, the NASCAR Mexico Series points leader looking for his third straight title, won at Autódromo de Querétaro.
Brett Moffitt of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East picked up the other first-place vote and was among five drivers to earn honorable mention. Moffitt was second at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway, won at New Hampshire, and was leading at Dover before cutting a tire with four laps remaining.
The Hunter Index, which was launched in 2010 on NASCARHomeTracks.com, is a monthly power poll designed to highlight the standout performances in the NASCAR developmental series. This year, the monthly winners will be presented with a trophy designed by Jostens.
Moffitt (April), Christopher (May), Morris (June), Greg Pursley (July), Keith Rocco (August), and Dylan Kwasniewski (September) were top vote getters in previous months.
The Hunter Index is named for the late Jim Hunter, NASCAR’s vice president of corporate communications and a longtime supporter of the weekly and touring series that make up the NASCAR Developmental Series.
The Index was designed as an opportunity to compare the top drivers from the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series all the way up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. It will also encompass drivers from the NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The panel also included media members: J.A. Ackley, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated; Shawn Courchesne, Hartford (Conn.) Courant; Bob Dillner, SPEED; Tim Haddock, haddockinthepaddock.blogspot.com; Keith Lair, Los Angeles Newspaper Group; Spencer Lewis, Inside Track Motorsports News; Jorge Mondaca, FOXSports.com; Pat Patterson, SIRIUS NASCAR Ch. 128/ESPN Radio; Len Sammons, Area Auto Racing News; David Smith, DavidSmithMotorsports.com; and Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com. They are joined by Brett Bodine, who is the chairman of the NASCAR Résumé Committee and represents the NASCAR competition side on the panel, and Jason Christley, a NASCAR public relations representative.
HUNTER INDEX - OCTOBER
|1.||RON SILK (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why he’s here: The Norwalk, Conn., driver picked up a pair of victories to move to the cusp of winning his first tour championship.|
|2.||ANDY SEUSS (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Second-half surge has kept his teammate George Brunnhoelzl III from running away with the championship, as the Hampstead, N.H., driver picked up two wins and four top fives in four races.|
|3.||GEORGE BRUNNHOELZL III (NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Has sights set on a second tour championship thanks to another pair of wins in the past month and a continued string of top finishes.|
|4.||DARRELL WALLACE JR. (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Surged to second in the final standings thanks to a third-place run at New Hampshire and a win in the finale at Dover.|
|5.||PHILIP MORRIS (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series)|
|Why He’s Here: The four-time national championship put the finishing touches on his title at Motor Mile with his 20th Late Model win.|
|6.||MAX GRESHAM (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: Two top fives and three top 10s in the final three races were enough for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to hold off Darrell Wallace Jr. and Brett Moffitt for his first title.|
|7.||TED CHRISTOPHER (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Not even two missed races could slow the Modified veteran, who continued his mastery at Stafford with yet another victory at the historic half-mile.|
|8.||TODD SZEGEDY (NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)|
|Why He’s Here: Dominating performance at Lime Rock along with top fives at Delaware, Thompson and New Hampshire has kept the former tour champion in the title hunt.|
|9.||SERGIO PENA (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East)|
|Why He’s Here: A win at Greenville and a runner-up finish at New Hampshire marked a remarkable turn-around in his sophomore season in the series.|
|10.||SCOTT STECKLY (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series)/GERMAN QUIROGA (NASCAR Mexico Series)|
|Why He’s Here: Steckly rolled to his second championship thanks in part to a win at Riverside; Quiroga moved closer to his third straight crown with a win at Queretaro.|
HONORABLE MENTION: DJ Kennington (NASCAR Canadian Tire Series), Ryan Preece (Stafford/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series), Brett Moffitt (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East), Eric Holmes (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West) and Keith Rocco (Waterford, Stafford and Thompson/NASCAR Whelen All-American Series).