A bold strategic call vaulted Ron Silk to the lead in Saturday night’s SBM 125 VIII. A fast car helped him stay there. The Norwalk, Conn. Modified veteran led the final 54 laps and held off a hard-charging Ronnie Williams en route to victory in the all-star Modified showdown at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H.
Silk’s victory is his first win in the SBM 125. The event, founded as an open Modified invitational when Star hosted a weekly Tour-type Modified division, became a cornerstone of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series in 2014.
Silk started deep in the field after winning the consi to qualify, despite being fast in practice all day. By the event’s sixth caution on lap 71, Silk was deep in the pack after an early pit stop, though few had shown the pace to keep up with early leaders Matt Hirschman and Woody Pitkat.
But when the leaders came pitside for tires and adjustments, Silk and Andy Jankowiak stayed on the track, restarting from the front row for the final segment of the race.
Hirschman and Ronnie Williams cleared Jankowiak quickly. Catching Silk was another story, as the 2011 NASCAR Modified Tour champ built an advantage over the next thirty laps, catching the tail of the field.
A spin with 17 laps remaining put Hirschman alongside Silk for the restart, but the four-time SBM 125 winner could not find the grip he needed on the outside. Ronnie Williams dispatched Hirschman and locked down the runner-up position. Another quick caution bunched up the field, with Silk left to defend his lead in an eleven-lap shootout to the finish.
Williams committed to the inside line, with Silk defending the low groove at every turn. On the last lap, Williams dove into turn three, forcing Silk up the track and drawing alongside the leader. But Silk held traction in the high line while Williams slipped, giving Silk the drive off turn four to keep the lead and claim the victory.
Williams, racing for car owner Gary Casella, was second across the line, with Star Speedway graduate and NASCAR Modified star Matt Swanson third in the famed “Ole’ Blue” #3 for the Boehler family.
Hirschman, who started from the front row after the redraw and led the opening 71 laps, was relegated to fourth in the final sprint. Andy Jankowiak, who restarted second to Silk after the competition caution, held on for a fifth-place finish.
Richard Savary, Cam McDermott, former Star 350 Supermodified champion Brad Babb, early runner-up Woody Pitkat and Brian Robie rounded out the top ten.
Other NASCAR Modified Tour racers in the field included 13th-place finisher Calvin Carroll and Anthony Nocella, who was 24th after suffering early suspension trouble. Regional star Tommy Barrett was 18th. Josh Cantara, the only driver besides Hirschman to enter all eight SBM 125s so far, finished last after an early-race crash with Jon “Johnny Kay” Kievman.
Babb, Swanson, Savary and veteran Kirk Alexander won heats to set the first twenty cars on the grid. Ron Silk won the consi, with another five cars advancing to the feature and Carl Medeiros, Jr. taking the lone provisional. Weekly features were won by Alby Ovitt (Street Stocks), J.T. Cashman (Six-Shooters) and Matt Sonnhalter (Mini Stocks), with Shaun Buffington winning the NELCAR Legends feature to open the evening’s program.
Four different drivers have tasted victory in Star’s SBM 125, with Silk joining four-time winner Matt Hirschman, two-time winner Jon McKennedy, and last year’s winner Todd Patnode. Hirschman, one of two drivers to enter every SBM 125 so far, was the only previous winner in the field.
Silk is the third different winner in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series this year, with Hirschman winning the season opener at Claremont (N.H.) Motorsports Park and Williams winning June’s event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. The series, which formed as a three-race three-track all-star showcase of Tour-type Modified racing, has evolved into a five-track, six-race championship series. Teams are drawn from NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour, the Valenti Modified Racing Series, other regional tours like the Race of Champions Tour, as well as weekly programs throughout the Northeast.
The Tri-Track Open Modified Series’ next race is August 24, when the series will visit Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway for the first time. The Modifieds will square off in a doubleheader with the American-Canadian Tour on the evening before the Oxford 250.