Stefanik edges Silk in Whelen Modified Series
Three one-thousandths of a second. The finish couldn't have been much closer.
Mike Stefanik edged defending champion Ronnie Silk to win the 100-mile race in the Whelen Modified Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. Stefanik was so curious to see who won he raised up a bit in his seat as the two cars were about to cross the finish line.
''I'm 54, but I still feel like I'm 21,'' he said. ''I actually physically sat up in my seat and rolled my eyes to the right to see who won. It's very exciting, boy, very exciting. This is my closest victory ever.
''If his car had been adjusted properly, I don't know if I would have been able to run him down.''
Silk leads the series in points and passed Stefanik heading into the last turn. But Stefanik nudged in front just before the finish line.
''Me and Mike just kept passing each other back and forth,'' Silk said. ''I'd let him lead a few laps, he'd let me lead a few laps just to cool our engines down.''
But they were going all-out at the end.
''I couldn't tell who won when we went over the line,'' Silk said.
The only closer finish in the series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was in June 2008 when Ted Christopher won by one-thousandth of a second.
Doug Coby finished third on Saturday, followed by Eric Beers and Todd Szegedy.
SAM'S SECOND CHANCE: Sam Hornish Jr. gets another chance to compete in the Sprint Cup on Sunday as the replacement for AJ Allmendinger, who is suspended for violating NASCAR's drug policy.
Hornish warmed up for the 300-mile race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway by finishing fourth in Saturday's 200-mile Nationwide Series race at the one-mile oval.
''We only lost one point to one of the guys that we're running against in the championship hunt,'' he said. ''I'm pretty happy with how we ran. (I) just wish we would have had a little bit more for those (other drivers) at the end of the race.''
Brad Keselowski won by about six car lengths over Kevin Harvick. Austin Dillon was a distant third.
''I had a real tough battle with (Dillon) for most of the second half of the race,'' Hornish said. ''I have nothing to complain about other than I tried to get back to the throttle a little bit too soon.''
Hornish was a late replacement last Saturday for Allmendinger in the Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. He's had plenty of time to prepare for Sunday's race.
''I've got 24 hours to get ready for it vs. last week where I had about two hours,'' he said. ''If we do the right things and make some good calls, we'll have a good car.''
GORDON'S GOOD WORKS: Jeff Gordon has a long trip planned for Monday, the day after he hopes to be the fastest driver at the Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
He's heading to Rwanda for the ribbon-cutting of a cancer center, part of his effort to raise money and awareness for health issues in that country. Former President Bill Clinton and Rwanda President Paul Kagame also are expected to be there, Gordon said.
''I'm excited,'' he said. ''It's going to be a very short trip, but it's one that I'm really looking forward to getting back there. It's such a beautiful area.''
On that previous trip last year, he wanted to see what Partners in Health was doing with its hospitals.
''We had already made a commitment to fund a cancer center there. Now we are actually doing the grand opening,'' Gordon said. ''I am able to be a part of something that is groundbreaking in rural East Africa. ... Cancer is on the rise there and can be very curable and treatable in many cases. It's just not happening. This is a big step and I can't wait to get there and be a part of this event.''
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR BICYCLES: One night, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were driving in a Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway. The next day, they were racing again - this time in a sprint triathlon in Charleston, S.C., last Sunday.
Kahne beat his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports by about 30 seconds, a difference Johnson blamed on his troubles during the 5K run. His total time was 1 hour, 11 minutes, 57 seconds, he said. But he averaged just under 8 minutes a mile on the run when he had cramps.
''I should have been down around the 7-minute-mile mark,'' Johnson said. ''But my swim time I was very happy with and my bike time was near the top of my age group.''
He placed seventh in the triathlon in his age group and 46th overall.
''I had butterflies like I was getting ready to start a Cup race or something,'' Johnson said. ''That cut into my sleep, the little bit of sleep that we had following the Daytona race.''
Johnson, who was involved in an accident, finished 36th at Daytona. Kahne was 7th.
Tony Stewart won the race and another Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 15th, but neither was upset he wasn't invited to the triathlon.
''The only thing I would have been invited to do is stand on the side of the road and hand them water as they went by,'' Stewart said. ''They're pretty tough.''
Earnhardt wasn't asked by Johnson either.
''I think Jimmie knows better than to waste too much time on that,'' he said with a laugh.
Johnson, a five-time Sprint Cup champion, competed despite the hard crash he was involved in the night before.
''The pain that I had was relative to the triathlon and not the crash,'' he said. ''I think I worked out all the kinks in Charleston.''