WINCHESTER, N.H. – Rowan Pennink's championship lead took a hit on Sunday at Monadnock Speedway, but things could have been worse for the Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver.
Pennink thought his day was going to end on Lap 99, when he nearly barreled head-on into the outside wall in Turn 2.
"Someone got into the back of me pretty hard. I thought we were going right into the fence," Pennink said. "I was able to save it and keep it going. Then we ended up coming back from the back and salvaging a Top-10 out of it."
Pennink finished second in each of the first three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races this season before heading to the Monadnock 200 – where he brought a 51-point lead into the race. By the time he left, though, he scraped to finish 10th in the 26-car field and leave with his point lead over Ron Silk cut by more than half to just 25 points.
There was no caution when Pennink came to a complete stop at the top of Turn 2, but he did manage to stay on the lead lap.
"You're going to have races like this," Pennink said. "We could have ended up (worse). We were right close to ending up in the fence there, and if we did, we would have finished dead last. It would have been nice to sneak a Top-5 out of this, but we were able to come from the back and get a Top-10 out of it so it's not too bad."
HIRSCHMAN FINDS PODIUM: For the first time this season, the marriage of Ol' Blue and Matt Hirschman produced a podium finish.
Hirschman finished third at Monadnock.
"Better than just a Top-5, it's a podium finish.," said Hirschman, who joined the No. 3 team during the off-season after Ryan Preece left the team. "We've shown we can finish in the Top-10, but coming together this year as a new team, we weren't coming together to (just) finish in the Top-10. Top-5s is definitely where we need to be and, hopefully, a win sometime this season.
"We've got something to build on here."
After winning twice in 2008 on the Tour and finishing second overall in the standings, Hirschman only competed in handful of races over the next two seasons – with no Top-5s and only three Top-10s in seven starts.
This year, he joined the Jan Boehler-owned No. 3 that finished second in the championship hunt in 2009 and sixth last year.
It was seen as a match made in heaven, but it's been a struggle. In the three races entering this weekend, he'd not finished better than eighth.
"This is competitive," Hirschman said. "I think certain years are tougher than others. To finish in the top five or six spots here is a tough deal. There's a lot of good equipment, some top drivers and there's some smart people.
"We've got a little bit of work to do, but we're at least making progress. I'm happy with that."
BACK TO THOMPSON: The Tour has a quick turnaround with a race at Thompson International Speedway just four days away.
Monadnock 200 winner Todd Szegedy, for one, is ready to go on Thursday night.
"I really think we can (win)," said Szegedy, who has three of his 15 career wins at Thompson, as well as three poles. "At Thompson at the beginning of the year, (Ron) Silk and I swapped the lead a whole bunch of times. I ended up getting into a wreck coming back up after getting tires, but I think we have a really good shot at this time.
Szegedy, who warmed up for Monadnock by finishing second in two 25-lap Modified features at the track, has also spent some time at Thompson on off-weekends for the Tour. He won a Tour-Type Modified Shootout at the track earlier this month.
"We got a win on an off-night at Thompson a couple weeks ago, so we're going to go try and repeat that," he said.