In the National Football League, there are players and coaches that spend their entire careers trying to chase down a Super Bowl Victory. Some achieve that goal. Most fail.
In short track racing, the same can be said about drivers and teams who spend countless hours in the shop and at the race track trying to win their series or track championship. Some teams achieve their goal, but most come up short.
Valenti Modified Racing Series car owners Gary and Kim Casella are two of those people involved in short track racing that, prior to the 2013 racing season, had been searching for their first series championship. In 2013, with Huntingdon, Pennsylvania’s Rowan Pennink in the driver’s seat of their No. 25 Modified, the Casellas were able to capture their first Valenti Modified Racing Series championship after 10 years of trying.
“This being my first championship was awesome in itself, but it was also Gary Casella’s first championship,” Pennink said. “We locked up the championship at Lee, which used to be his home track, so it was pretty special.”
Being the driver that helped deliver the first series championship for the Casellas is something that Pennink is proud to be associated with. With the Casellas behind him, Pennink looks forward to going to the race track every week and working with his race team.
“I know Gary and Kim had wanted to do that for many years now,” Pennink told Speed51. “To be the driver that was able to get it done for them is awesome. Both of them are great people and I love being with them at every race. I couldn’t have done it with better people.”
En route to the 2013 VMRS championship, Pennink showed consistency all season long. The Huntingdon, Pennsylvania driver registered two victories and 13 top-five finishes in 17 starts on his way to his first career Modified championship. That sort of consistency, as well as staying out of trouble on the race track, is what allowed Pennink to beat out his nearest competitors.
“What won us the championship was getting all the top-fives and top-10s throughout the year,” Pennink said. “There’s a bunch of things all together that put us in the position to finish top-five almost every race. One big part of it is Gary, Bob, and the whole crew bringing well-prepared race cars to the track every week. They prepared a good car for me every week and combined with that, we stayed out of wrecks.”
The 2013 VMRS champion looked back on the final race weekend of the year at Thompson International Speedway’s World Series of Speedway Racing as a moment that helped to define the Gary Casella-owned team’s 2013 season. In that race, Pennink brought his No. 25 down pit road numerous times during the early stages of the race to fix problems on his race car. After a variety of adjustments to his car, Pennink rallied during the final 20 laps of the race and finished the race in the second spot.
“We had a couple issues during the race and the team battled back,” said Pennink. “It kind of summed up the year for how the team has worked. We came back from running almost laps with about 20 laps to go and we came back to finish second. With a couple more laps, we probably had a shot at winning.”
Pennink has now set his focus on winning back-to-back Valenti Modified Racing Series championships and will return to the Casella-owned No. 25 in 2014. In addition to his plans to run full-time with VMRS, the 28-year-old driver will run full-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and compete weekly with the SK Modified division at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway.