PHOTO: Tommy Barrett, seen here at the Valenti Modified Racing Series season opening event at Waterford Speedbowl, has been suspended two VMRS races for his aggressive driving at Lee USA Speedway. Barrett took out then-leader Jon McKennedy with ten laps remaining. (VMM file photo)

Leader taken out by second place three times at Lee

–by T.J. Ingerson

LEE, N.H. — Valenti Modified Racing Series officials have suspended Tommy Barrett of Millis, Mass., two races for his aggressive driving during the Laticrete Port City 100 that resulted in an on-track incident with race leader Jon McKennedy.

Barrett, who was previously on probation for his aggressive driving at Seekonk Speedway, has had that probation extended for the rest of the season. Barrett will miss the Firecracker 100 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H., and Ricky’s Race for Kids 112 at Canaan Fair Speedway in Canaan, N.H., as a result of his suspension.

“The Valenti Modified Racing Series, since its inception, has taken a strong stand on aggressive driving,” Series Director Pete Newsham stated in the release. “This is an unfortunate situation, but based on the Seekonk issue and what happened at Lee, the series is forced to take action. We preach respect and patience in this series. Tommy Barrett is a very talented driver. We hope, by this decision, he will learn from it.”

Barrett drove under the No. 2 of McKennedy as the duo headed into turn three with ten laps remaining, and made contact, which caused both cars to spin. Barrett’s car landed partially on top of McKennedy’s, and other cars behind were collected as they attempted to avoid the incident.

“It was simple, really,” McKennedy said of the incident on Friday night. “The 9 (Barrett) had a decent race going and I felt like it was a clean couple of laps side-by-side with him. He was behind me (going into turn 3) and the next thing, he was diving down to the bottom and off he went into the side of me, over the hood, and spun us out. It broke the axle so we were done after that. It’s unfortunate because the race would have come down to me and him. I just with the kid would have been a bit more patient.

“We went a lap or two and he just flat wrecked us. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be back. What comes around, goes around.”

The others cars collected in the incident were eventual top-ten finishers Chris Pasteryak, Norm Wrenn, and Jim Dolan, while Rob Goodenough, Mike Holdridge, and Dwight Jarvis were all sidelined. Jarvis was running in the fifth position at the time of the incident.

Rowan Pennink inherited the lead after the McKennedy-Barrett incident, only to have himself get turned around off the bumper of Joe Doucette out of turn 4. Doucette admitted fault for the incident, and was able to rebound to finish seventh. Pennink finished ninth.

“We should have really finished third,” Pennink said after the race. “But with the 2 (of McKennedy) and the 9 racing for the lead, and the 9 being impatient and wrecked those two, it gave us the lead. And then we ended up getting taken out, too. It’s just a shame for this 25 team. We should have had a top five, maybe a win. But we come home spun out with ten laps to go. It’s just a shame that people have to race that way.

“Everything got destroyed here today and none of it was necessary. It was just people driving like idiots.”

Pennink and Doucette gave way to Jeff Malave, who appeared to have won with one lap remaining. Malave was turned around by Larry Barnett as the cars entered turn one, which also collected fourth place runner Timmy Jordan.

“It was just somebody who has a lack of patience,” Malave said following the race. “(Barnett) just got into me. That’s all. I heard it was a banzai move and by the time my spotter said something, he was already there.

“It’s just a lack of respect. It’s a great series with a lot of great drivers. Ninety percent of them are patient drivers. There are just a couple guys that have to tone it back a bit and learn to wait. That’s all. And then we can have beautiful races, like we did for 58 laps.”

The Lee incidents come just over a month after a ten-caution, one hour and 48 minute 75-lap race at Thompson Int’l Speedway. Only 11 of the 35 starting cars finished the race on the lead lap, and only one other car was within seven laps of the leader at the end of the race.

The fifth race of the season at Lee was the first time McKennedy has finished outside the top five all season. His 17th place finish has put him in a tie atop the series point standings with Pennink. Pennink has yet to finish outside the top ten.