DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2014) – The championships just keep coming for Ryan Preece, who drove his Sunoco Modified to a second NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in 2014.
It marked the fourth year in a row that the Berlin, Connecticut, driver earned a NASCAR championship. He wore the Stafford Motor Speedway crown in 2011, followed by his first Thompson title in 2012, and a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship came in 2013.
It was a slightly different route to the second title at Thompson when compared to the first. Preece had the competition completely covered in 2012 as he won 10 of 19 features. This season saw a very similar winning percentage as he was victorious in three of eight, but it was the consistency in the five non-winning efforts that posted him six points ahead of Keith Rocco in the final standings.
“In 2012, we kind of dominated,” Preece said. “This year we won three races, we were a really good car, but it wasn’t to the extent of what we were in 2012. This was a really good year, we won races and were consistently up front, and did everything we needed to do to win that championship.”
Rocco also notched three wins, but that’s where Preece’s consistency – and perhaps a little good fortune – paid off. Preece finished no worse than sixth in 2014 behind the wheel of his Falmouth Ready Mix No. 31 modified, which essentially prohibited Rocco from overcoming a mid-season blown engine.
“We won when we needed to win and we were consistent when we needed to be consistent,” Preece said. “There were nights when Keith won but we finished third, so it was hard for him to gain many points.”
Preece, the only modified driver in the NASCAR Next program, actually experienced a championship chase from both angles year. Consistency at Thompson netted the title while a different focus of solely chasing wins at Stafford – he had originally planned to miss a race – left him two points shy of a track championship there.
“Winning races isn’t everything when you’re trying to win a championship. You’ve got to be consistent, and everything just kind of came together for us at Thompson,” Preece said. “It was hard work and dedication in the shop from (car owner) Albert Moniz when it came to getting the cars prepared, and to beat Keith and all of those guys there at Thompson is pretty cool.”
Rocco did get the best of Preece when it came to the Whelen All-American Series state standings as Preece finished second for the fourth year in a row. While they go head-to-head weekly at Thompson and Stafford on Thursdays and Fridays, Rocco stays in Connecticut on Saturdays to run at Waterford Speedbowl while Preece heads to New York’s Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.
“When it comes to the state points, I really don’t run Waterford much and it seems like they get full fields over there and Keith has really dominated over there,” Preece said. “I’m satisfied with that. I just go from week to week trying to win races, and that’s the way it seems like it works for me.”
So a second place points finish in the Connecticut standings, the second at Stafford, and a runner-up on the Whelen Modified Tour. Some might say that there was unfinished business in 2014, but considering the differing circumstances in each case, Preece is happy with the net results.
“To have a championship and three seconds in the points standings, I guess that’s pretty good.”
Now that the book is closed on his 2014 weekly and touring series schedule, Preece is already focused on what’s next. The 24-year-old made a surprise decision to change teams on the Whelen Modified Tour one year removed from a championship, but he anticipates keeping his Whelen All-American Series schedule of Thompson-Stafford-Riverhead pretty much intact.
“We’re just going to try to race as much as I can,” Preece said of his 2015 intentions. “It’s crazy to think, as busy as I’ve been, that we can fit more races in, but we’re figuring out that we can. So we’re going to have some fun next year.”
And defending the Thompson title?
“I love the team I’m with so we’re planning on going back and trying to do it again.”
The No. 31 Falmouth Ready Mix team was guided to a second Thompson title in three years by car owners Albert and Cathy Moniz and crew chief Mike Paquette. Shawn Waddell served as Preece’s spotter while additional crew help came from Mike DeMello, Adam Fohlin, Bob Fortier, Geoff Hicks, Bruce Holbrook and Jerry Mocarsky. Associate sponsorship was provided by Locust Street Signs and Tiny & Sons Glass.
Preece will be recognized alongside champions from each of the 58 NASCAR-sanctioned tracks at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 12 in the Charlotte (North Carolina) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
-NASCAR IMC Release. Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR