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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Rowan Pennink began the 2016 season with uncertainty, but he ended it by making a little bit of history at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway.
The Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, driver captured his second straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship in the SK Modified Division at Stafford this year, becoming just the fifth different driver to win back-to-back track championships at the half-mile asphalt oval.
All that happened despite the fact that 31-year-old Pennink was working with a new crew chief after the departure of Jimmy Fuller following his championship at Stafford last year. His new crew chief, Kevin Crowley, stepped right in and made sure the team never lost a step.
“We started off the year with a new crew chief this year. The rest of the team remained the same,” Pennink said. “We went into the season hoping to pick up where we left off last year and we ended up winning the first race of the year, which was a huge boost for the team and the new crew chief. We kind of never looked back.
“We won a couple more right in a row (at the start of the year) and we just stayed out of trouble and picked up wins where we could through the season,” Pennink said. “Finishing all the laps at each race and getting top fives is what propelled us towards the championship.”
Pennink and company ended up winning six times in 17 starts this year at Stafford, four more than anyone else competing at the track in the SK Modifieds this season.
Pennink hardly ran away with the championship as throughout the season he had both Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher, who have 11 SK Modified track championships and two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National championships between them, hot on his heels.
“It was really a whole team effort. Everything that Bob Hitchcock and Kelly Iverson, who are the car owners, do, and all of the guys that work on that 99 car on a weekly basis do an amazing job in the shop,” Pennink said. “We ended up getting the championship and a lot of that is due to my team’s effort.”
He ended up winning the SK Modified track championship by 30 points over Rocco and a further 54 points over Christopher. In addition, Pennink was ranked eighth overall in the final NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National standings and was third in the state of Connecticut, ironically behind only Rocco and Christopher.
U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.
The back-to-back track championships at Stafford made Pennink a member of an elite group of drivers who have won consecutive championships at Stafford. The only other drivers to accomplish that feat are Christopher (2000-2001), Bob Potter (1991-1992, 1994-1995), Mike Christopher (1989-1990) and Jerry Pearl (1984-1985).
“He (Ted Christopher) has the most career wins out of anybody at Stafford. It is awesome to put on a list of accomplishments like that and be up there with Ted,” Pennink said.
After taking part in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 9 inside the Charlotte Convention Center, where he will be honored alongside other NASCAR track and state champions, Pennink will again turn his attention to preparing for a full season of racing at Stafford.
The goal for Pennink next year? Become the first driver to win three-straight SK Modified track championships at the Connecticut oval. He knows it won’t be easy.
“I’m definitely going to go run Stafford in the 99 car again,” Pennink said. “Hopefully we can go back there and try to make it three in a row next year.”
Pennink secured six wins in 17 starts en route to his second track championship. Courtesy of Driscoll Motorsports Photography