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LOUDON, N.H. – Who says the older drivers can’t mix it up with the young ones? Mike Stefanik proved he can still take home checkered flags.
Seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik edged Ron Silk by .003 of a second to win the Town Fair Tire 100 in a photo finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday.
“I am just happy this old man can mix it up with the young guys out here,” said the 54-year-old Stefanik after climbing out of the No. 66 Canto & Sons Paving/Robert B Our Co. Ford in Victory Lane. “I asked my spotter how many to go. She said 5 to go. I counted two more and went for it.”
Stefanik and Silk swapped the lead 17 times over the final 48 laps of the 100-lap event on the 1.058-mile oval. Stefanik took the lead for the final time on Lap 97 and held on for his 72nd career victory. It was also Stefanik's eighth win at New Hampshire, where he is the winningest driver.
"Believe it or not, I came out of Turn 4 and I said, 'Oh boy, this is going to be tight,' " Stefanik said. "And I actually physically sat up in the seat as much as I could and peered over the front of my car and rolled my eyes to the right to see which bumper was ahead. It's kind of funny you would think about doing that but I just wanted to win after such a hard fought battle with Ronnie Silk."
Silk won the Coors Light Pole Award Friday in the No. 6 Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Schnitzer Chevrolet and led nine times for a race-high 82 laps Saturday, including the first 51. Once Stefanik passed him for the first time, the two traded the lead back and forth as they jockeyed to be in position for the win on the final lap.
"I didn't want to make it with one to go because I thought they'd probably pass me before the one to go because they would want to be leading," Stefanik said. "I made the pass on Ronnie and then thought, I've got to hold this guy off for three laps. I do not want him going back by me."
Said Silk: "I was in the spot I wanted to be in on the last lap. I wanted to be in second coming off Turn 2. I had the run off the backstretch, I just wasn't able to get him.
"Mike did an awesome job on the last lap. I got a run on him. I even ran him up a little bit. He was able to hang on to it in the marbles and beat me back to the line, so congratulations to him and those guys. They did a great job."
The win also gave Stefanik a locked-in spot to the UNOH Battle At The Beach on the .4-mile oval at Daytona International Speedway next February during Speedweeks,
Points leader Doug Coby closed late to finish third after pitting four times in the first half of the race to adjust the car. Coby leads Silk, 261-244.
Coby said his No. 52 Reynolds Auto Wrecking Chevrolet struggled over the first half of the race with his car setup, citing the tire rubber put down during NASCAR Sprint Cup practice prior to the Modified race.
"We just made the right adjustments at the break," said Coby, "and I don't know how it happened but we found ourselves in the top five with 10 to go. We just tried to make some smart moves."
Off the final turn, Rowan Pennink made a brief bid to make it three-wide for the lead but lost ground in the scrum and wound up sixth.
Eric Beers finished fourth and Todd Szegedy fifth. Afer Pennink, Andy Seuss, Donny Lia, Zane Zeiner and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman, a two-time winner in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, qualified fifth but finished 30th after being involved in an accident just prior to the race's halfway point.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race next on Saturday, July 28 at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway.
Mike Stefanik (left) edges Ron Silk in one of the closest finishes in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour when he won the Town Fair Tire 100 Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Getty Images for NASCAR