It had been a while since Ron Silk was able to celebrate in Victory Lane.
For the first time in just under three years, the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion is back at the top of his game following a victory at South Boston Speedway on Saturday.
Even though Silk won, the South Boston 150 was filled with storylines — including a near perfect performance by Burt Myers, a return of Chase Dowling to the podium and a track surface that had fans on the edge of their seats for the entire distance.
Silk Takes The Checkered Flag Again
It may have been awhile, but Ron Silk looked like he was back in prime form Saturday.
After pitting for tires, he charged through the field and was beginning to inch closer to Myers, who was the leader inside the final 50 laps. When Walter Sutcliffe spun in turn four with 24 laps to go, Silk was lined up to the bottom for the restart — but the bottom didn’t seem like the preferred groove for much of the day.
However, as the field rolled off turn two, it was Silk edging out from Myers — and eventually pulling away. It was the 11th career win for the former series champion and first since his victory at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 2016. It was just his second win in his last seven years.
“When I won back in 2016, I ran the rest of that year, but I only ran three or four times in 2017,” Silk said. “The guys have been working hard and building towards this, getting better and better. You just have to be in contention enough times and your time comes.”
Even though he has just 14 starts with Kevin Stuart Motorsports, the experience they have as a team is growing constantly, and their setups have been close each time they hit the track. Previous to the victory, Silk had finished inside the top-10 nine times in the 14 races.
“It’s great. They are very easy-going guys that work hard on the car,” Silk said. “I’ve enjoyed my time with them and hopefully we can have quite a long time together.”
For now, the plan is hopefully to run the entire Whelen Modified Tour slate, which will see Silk return to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park next — a Connecticut oval that he has four wins at in his 49 starts.
“We came to Myrtle Beach and South Boston and we figured we would go to those two and see how we did because they were the furthest away,” Silk said. “If we are running well and competitive, the plan is to go to them all. If we get to a point where we are struggling, we will take some time to regroup. But hopefully we can build off of this.”
Dowling Impresses with Tomaino Team
You may have seen the famed No. 99 Jamie Tomaino Modified in the race on Saturday, but it wasn’t the Whelen Modified Tour veteran piloting the car. Instead, it was 21-year-old Chase Dowling who made his first start of the season.
Dowling, who finished second in the championship point standings last year, was without a ride when Rob Fuller and LFR Chassis decided they weren’t going to run the full slate. After spending the early portion of the winter searching for a seat behind the wheel, Dowling pounced on an opportunity to pair up with Tomaino — who has 622 career series starts.
At least for now, the decision to scale back and run part-time with emphasis on select events is working. He ran at the front of the field for much of the distance and passed Burt Myers on a late restart to seal a second-place finish.
“Originally we came to this race today to shake the car down for Stafford, we really want to go there and do our best,” Dowling said. “But I was pretty happy with this for being a brand new car. We had a fluent day. It’s been really fun to be partnering up with Jamie.”
The relationship between Dowling, a rising star of NASCAR’s Modified ranks, and Tomaino, a polished veteran, is one that seems to be growing quickly. The age gap between the two? Forty-one years.
Track Surface Puts On A Show
The stands were packed for Saturday’s South Boston 150, and with the way the facility is taken care of, there was no surprise in that. After a repave just a short few years ago, Whelen Modified Tour drivers tested prior to the race, and many thought the surface and track had a similar feeling to Bristol Motor Speedway — a place where drivers are nearly flat-out on the edge. The race itself showed that.
In the morning driver’s meeting, Whelen Modified Tour Series Director Jimmy Wilson told teams he was hoping to have them take some laps on the top groove in practice to put some rubber down. A few teams did — and the top groove actually became the preferred lane for a bit at the end of the race.
“After our pit stop, we made the top work really well, I saw Burt was running up there,” Silk said. “When you went out on a new set of tires, you were on edge. Once the race went on and the tires wore out, it was comfortable. The race was great. Obviously they put a lot of hard work and money into this track, so I hope this is a place we can keep coming.”
Tire wear didn’t seem to matter that much, as Myers never pitted for fresh rubber, and although he did drop back at the end, he was able to lead 73 laps at the front while some others behind him had fresh tires.
Whelen Modified Tour teams will have no chance to rest, as the series headlines the 45th annual Icebreaker weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, on Sunday, April 7.