Yarmouth, Maine's Bill Penfold hasn't had the best stretch of races recently, but he overcame the mechanical troubles and bad luck that has plagued his Penfold Motorsports team to post his first top ten finish since Seekonk in May, in Saturday's...
Yarmouth, Maine's Bill Penfold hasn't had the best stretch of races recently, but he overcame the mechanical troubles and bad luck that has plagued his Penfold Motorsports team to post his first top ten finish since Seekonk in May, in Saturday's New England 125 held at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Using the team's most potent VIP Charter Coach Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Penfold used information gathered at a test session at the track three weeks ago to fine-tune a race setup, and then prepare for qualifying time trials. He went fast enough to start 23rd.
"We got set up for qualifying and found some things wrong with the car and had to do a 'Curley Shuffle'," he said with a grin. "Bob [Harrison, crew chief] changed a whole bunch of things on it and the car was really good. I left a lot on the table because I wasn't sure about the car going out. I couldn't afford to back it into the wall or something. We're 23rd, we've got a good race car, we'll be all right."
Penfold ran inside the top 20 for most of the race's early stages, and pitted with the majority of the field on lap 31 under caution. He came out of the pits 14th and started working his way towards the front. The track was starting to break up in the turns, causing Penfold to slip back until he saw how Mike Stefanik handled the track conditions. Penfold changed his line after seeing how well Stefanik was working, and wound up passing Stefanik on his way to a ninth place finish despite losing a cylinder late in the race.
"We were conservative at first, just trying to stay where we were and we didn't want to burn the tires up, we were afraid of blistering them," he said after the race. "We could run inside and outside. Guys said that they couldn't pass on the outside, maybe they couldn't but I could. I liked it. You just had to dirt-track it a little bit.
"At the end of it the sealer started coming up when I was behind Stefanik," he continued. "I tell you what, Mike Stefanik is a clever driver. He changed his whole line of driving for the last 25 laps, he cut across where the sealer was coming up and he gained on me. So I did the same thing, it gave me a line that passed him. I've got to thank Mike Stefanik for teaching me a new line around the racetrack when it's not handling. With 25 to go when I was passing Tracy [Gordon] on the outside, I lost a cylinder. It would come in and come out, it must have a plug wire burned or something."
After a number of sub-par finishes, Penfold was all smiles to be back in the top ten.
"We're tickled to death," he said. "Bob Harrison worked his butt off to get the car right and he did a heck of a job. Maybe we should have not put on tires and just gone with fuel, but we didn't know what the track was going to do. We probably would have done a little bit better if the cylinder hadn't have dropped, but we'll take tenth going into Stafford, we're going to run for them again."
Stafford Motor Speedway hosts the Busch North Series on Friday night, and Penfold is considering bringing the car that performed so well at NHIS to the Connecticut half-mile track in hopes of improving his fortunes there as well.