THOMPSON, Conn. – A wild, wild day at Thompson International Speedway ended with a first-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner in Victory Lane and a first-time champion celebrating in a spray of champagne.
Glen Reen made his last-minute decision to enter the event pay off, surviving a number of late-race restarts – including three green-white-checkered attempts – two win the Sunoco World Series 150. Ron Silk, meanwhile, fought back from an early accident to finish 16th and win the first Tour championship for both he and car owner Ed Partridge.
"If you told me this morning that I was going to start 24 and win this race, I would have told you you were out of your mind," said Reen, who called his mother from Victory Lane to tell her about the win, only to have her tell him that it wasn't funny to joke around like that.
"We decided on Monday, 'Oh, screw it. Let's go have some fun. This is definitely fun, I can tell you that."
Reen's win was due, in part, to a number of contenders being caught up in one accident after another. Silk, Eric Berndt, Rowan Pennink, Doug Coby, Ted Christopher and Justin Bonsignore all ended up with wrecked race cars. Like fellow championship contender Silk, Todd Szegedy squeezed by a few incidents around him before finally being dealt a final blow on Lap 148 when his wrecked race car skidded to a stop on the frontstretch.
Silk limped home to win the championship.
"Oh man, there's a lot of great drivers that have never won the championship," Silk said. "I don't think it defines who you are as a driver, but it's certainly an awesome feeling to win one. You take the whole year, and to know you came out on top – it's a pretty good feeling."
Silk chose to pit out of eighth-place on Lap 43. Only a handful of laps later, he ran through the oil left on the track by Timmy Solomito's car and ended up backed into the Turn 1 fence. He lost several laps in the pits making repairs.
"I could feel it when I hit the wall," Silk said. "I was like, 'That's it. It's done.' Luckily, the guys, there was no quit in them. They went right to work, and they kept me up on it to stay in it. I just did the best I could do and ran as many laps as I could, and I was just glad it worked out for all those guys."
Reen looked to be a sitting duck out front as contenders lined up behind him. He was able to hold them all off – even as he felt like his car was about to give out on him.
"Praying to the Good Lord upstairs, that's how it happened," Reen said. "We just had horrible restarts those last five or six. The clutch was breaking the last six restarts, and I didn't even know how much fuel we had in the car."
Reen's best previous career finish was a fifth-place effort at Riverhead, N.Y., in 2009. He's made just five starts in 2011.
Bobby Santos III finished second, while Matt Hirschman capped a frustrating season with a third-place run. Chuck Hossfeld and Tom Rogers Jr. rounded out the Top-5.
But after setting a season-high for cautions with 16 in the event – and 84 of the 168 laps being run under the yellow flag – the day belonged to Silk.
"The first couple of years (as a team), I didn't think we were really championship-caliber," said Silk's car owner, Eddie Partridge. "We ran very good, but we just didn't have a championship guy behind the wheel, but now we do. I think we're going to be very good for a few years to come.
"This is as good as it gets in racing."