Stafford Springs, CT—Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday night, November 18 at Maneely’s in South Windsor to officially honor Rowan Pennink, Tom Fearn, Tony Membrino, Jr., Duane Provost, Johnny Walker, and Noah Korner as the 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.
With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and John Gates serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 47th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the six track champions, they also recognized the top-15 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, DARE Stock, and U.S. Legend Cars divisions. Special awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, NAPA Auto Parts Parts Rookie of the Year, R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year, and the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.
Rowan Pennink and the #99 Independent Wheel team entered the 2016 season as the defending SK Modified® champions and the question looming over them was could they repeat with Kevin Crowley taking over as the crew chief from Jimmy Fuller? The #99 team put to doubt any questions about their prowess with wins in 3 of the first 4 SK Modified® events of the season and they exhibited a high level of consistency with top-10 runs in all but one of the first 16 races of the season. They wrapped up the championship with one race to go and next season will see them attempt to become the first team to win 3 consecutive SK Modified® championships at Stafford. Pennink is the fifth driver, joining Jerry Pearl ’84-’85, Mike Christopher ’89-’90, Bob Potter ’91-’92 and ’94-95, and Ted Christopher ’00-’01 to have won back to back championships but a three-peat has yet to be accomplished. For the season, the #99 team posted a division leading 6 wins, 11 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 4.9.
After winning 10 races last season and coming up short of the championship, Tom Fearn and the #92 SAFCO Foam team entered the 2016 season as favorites to be among the championship contenders and they lived up to that pre-season billing with a performance that was a combination of dominance and consistency. Fearn won 7 times and had 16 top-6 finishes in 17 starts this season but Michael Wray and the #42 DMW Graphics team took the championship fight with Fearn all the way to the season ending NAPA Fall Final. A second place finish for Fearn wrapped up his fourth career Stafford track championship and his first since winning the 1998 ProStock championship. Among Fearn’s 7 wins, 16 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes this season were 13 podium finishes that helped lower his season average finish to 2.8.
The race for the SK Light championship was a seesaw affair between Tony Membrino, Jr. and Joey Ferrigno for much of the year. Membrino and the #44 Additive Manufacturing of New England team had a blazing hot start to the year with 4 wins in the first 5 races. But as dominant as Membrino was, Ferrigno was right on Membrino’s heels and they would swap the point lead several times during the summer. Membrino took control of the points race at the very end of the season as Ferrigno ran in to a string of bad finishes and he collected his second career SK Light championship at Stafford to go along with his DARE Stock championship. Membrino posted 7 wins, 11 top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes this season for an average finish of 5.3.
The race for the 2016 Limited Late Model championship saw long shot Duane Provost cash in to take home his very first career championship. The driver of the #88 Facchini Law Firm Chevrolet was in the championship mix for much of the season along with Paul Arute and Al Saunders. All three drivers had a share of the point lead at some point during the 2016 season. Provost entered the NAPA Fall Final 12 points behind Saunders and a third place finish, combined with a 10th place finish for Saunders, was enough to make Provost the champion by a scant 2 point margin. For the season, Provost posted 1 win, 12 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 4.6.
Johnny Walker entered the 2016 season having taken a year off from racing after back to back 2nd place finishes in the DARE Stock division. Having nearly won the championship twice already, Walker knew what it was going to take to win the championship from the very first race and he was a model of consistency during the 2016 season, driving to 13 podium finishes in 17 starts this season with a final tally of 2 wins, 16 top-5 and 16 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 3.2. As dominant as Walker was finishing in the top-3 almost every week, Brandon Michael was keeping pace with him for much of the year and took the title fight down to the last race but Walker wasn’t to be denied as he collected his first career championship.
In the U.S. Legend Cars division, it was a year of domination for Noah Korner and the #31 Midstate Site Development team. In the 11 race Legend Cars schedule, Korner won 7 times, finished second three times, and finished third once. Such a level of dominance was too much for Teddy Hodgdon to overcome as Korner locked down the track championship in a season that also saw him win the National Championship in the Semi-Pro division of the U.S. Legend Cars.
The NAPA Auto Parts Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Stephen Kopcik from the SK Modified® division and Joel Monahan from the Late Model division. Taking home R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year honors were Joe Graf, Jr. in the SK Light division, Frank L’Etoile, Jr. in the Limited Late Model division, and Michael Hopkins in the DARE Stock division. The NAPA Auto Parts rookie awards will be worth a $1,000.00 gift card redeemable at participating NAPA Stores to Kopcik and Monahan, with Graf, L’Etoile, and Hopkins each winning a $500 bonus from R.A.D. Automachine that will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2017 season.
The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Tom Fearn in the Late Model division, Daniel Wesson from the SK Light division, Bryan Narducci from the Limited Late Model division, Alexandra Fearn in the DARE Stock division, and Teddy Hodgdon in the U.S. Legend Cars division. The Most Popular Driver Awards are voted on by the fans who attend Stafford Motor Speedway race events and fill out the ballots found in the track’s weekly PitStopper Magazine.
The UNOH Youth Achievement award was won by SK Light Modified driver Daniel Wesson. The UNOH Youth Achievement Award is a program that is open to all drivers at Stafford between the ages of 14-17. The eligible driver who scored the most track points from their best 14 finishes this season won a $500 cash award from UNOH as well as a $500 scholarship award from UNOH.
For more information about the 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway’s track office at (860) 684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.