Throughout most of the True Value Modified Racing Series event that made up half of the Memorial Day Classic Doubleheader at Thunder Road Speedbowl (VT), there were two things that were obvious facts.
The first was that there was plenty of trouble to be dodged. Spins, wrecks and slides over the track added up to plenty of caution laps being run - 12 yellows and one red flag during the 100 lap feature to be exact.
The second fact was that Chris Pasteryak was doing a masterful job of dodging all the trouble. Then again, he was so far out front for much of the event that trouble was going to have a hard time finding him.
But trouble did find him, and it came right within his own racecar. Pasteryak struggled with the handling of his #15 late in the race and dropped to a finish of ninth while Stephen Masse turned up the wick late in the race and emerged as the latest first time winner in TVMRS competition.
Masse emerged from the top three, where he ran for much of the race, into the race lead with just 11 laps to go. The 19-year-old might still just be a sophomore on the tour, but his approach to the race was something you'd expect from an old-timer - and it worked out perfectly.
“I was just picking them off one by one and taking it one car at a time,” said Masse. “I was taking it one lap at a time and one pass at a time. I was just trying different lines to see what my car could do and what it couldn't do. I was just trying to gain some knowledge so that I could pass the faster cars in front of me. It turned out good.”
Masse's good fortune was Pasteryak's misfortune. When it got to lap 89, Pasteryak slid out of the lead with Masse and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Rowan Pennick both gunning to get by him and decide who would win the race.
“Something happened. Either my set-up is horribly unbalanced or something went wrong,” said Pasteryak. “Something failed or broke. After that [late] caution, it just wasn't the same.”
That set up a dogfight between Pennick and Masse for the lead.
“The #15 [Pasteryak] was really tight getting into the corner. The officials were on me because he kept getting into the corner hard and stopping,” said Pennick. “I'd get into the back of him, so they were getting on me for that. So I tried to back up and get a run on him and the #13 [Masse] snuck underneath me.
There wasn't much that I could do. I think that if I had gotten by the #15 to the lead, the #13 was better than me anyways and was going to get by.”
Once Masse got by, he stayed by and cruised to the victory over Pennick and Kirk Alexander. The victory was easily the high point, so far, of his young career.
“There are no words that explain this feeling,” said Masse. “I've had some big wins down in quarter midgets, but this is my first Modified win and there is nothing like it.”
Pasteryak Is Left Scratching His Head
After the race was over and the competitors were all back to the pits, Chris Pasteryak's team was hard at work looking over their racecar and trying to figure out just what went wrong with in the closing laps at Thunder Road.
“I'm almost thinking that something somewhere gave up the ghost or something moved,” said Pasteryak. “It acted like it was a tire that went down, so we'll try and figure it out.”
Even though Pasteryak was disappointed with the way that his own race unfolded, the 2008 TVMRS champion did manage to feel good for Masse - a first time winner in the series.
“Good for him, he ran a real good race,” said Pasteryak. “He's gotten better every week in this series and that's good for him.”
Alexander Rounds Out the Podium
There have been plenty of races in Kirk Alexander's career where he has put a whipping on the field and dominated a True Value Modified Racing Series event. Thunder Road wasn't one of those races though.
Alexander was just hanging on en route to a third-place finish.
“She was free the whole race,” said Alexander. “We got real lucky to be where we were at the end. We were just in the right place at the right time and avoided the wrecks.”'
Where Did He Come From?
Casual observers of the True Value Modifieds might wonder just where did race winner Stephen Masse come from? Well, the 19-year-old from Massachusetts is entering his second year of competition in the series and didn't have a whole lot of full-sized racecar experience before finding a home in the series.
“I started out in karts and raced SK Modifieds down at Thompson for a year or two before deciding to come to this series,” said Masse. “I really like it here and it's been a whole lot of fun.”
“Brad at Northeast Racecars set this up and I can't thank him enough.
Another Runner-Up Finish for Rowan
“We had a shot for the win there, but came out second,” said Rowan Pennick after the race
Pennick is getting used to runner-up finishes. He placed second in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour opener at Concord Speedway (NC) earlier this season and has been running very well on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this year as well. Still, he wants to take down a victory and is in the position to do that very soon in either TVMRS or one of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours. He's not getting frustrated though.
“What are you going to do? If you run up front, it [a victory] is going to come at some point,” said Pennick.
“It's great to run up front and everyone on the teams have come together and we're learning more and more every race.
“We had a real good car today. I've got to thank Gary Cassela, Bob Keith, Brian Crowley and the rest of the guys from my team. The car was great all day. It was a little free at the beginning and kind of got a little worse need to the end. But overall, we had a great car.”
Although he is quick to credit his crews, Pennick left out the role of the driver in his recent success. When asked about that, the Pennsylvania driver was modest.
“Maybe I got a little bit better,” Pennick laughed.
Seuss Sees Good Run Go Bad
Andy Seuss got spun early in the TVMRS race at Thunder Road and then came back as high as sixth before getting caught in a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch. He is now two-for-two when it comes to getting caught in wrecks while racing at Thunder Road.
“We haven't come out of here with a body straight yet,” said Seuss. This place wasn't good to us last year either. We made some adjustments and it was hard because of the limited practice due to the rain, but we were happy with it. It started to come in for us. It was hard passing. We got together with another car early on and that sent me through the infield and I lost a ton of positions. We gained them back and we were sitting in sixth when there was a wreck in front of us. We checked up, but the people behind me didn't.
“I got taken by the widowmaker here in turn four at Thunder Road. I'd heard about it and thought that it was only for when you got out of shape, but you can also end up in it when you get pushed from behind. But that's racing. It's just unfortunate. “
Seuss was credited with a finish of 16th.