DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Returning to Riverhead Raceway with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship lead has to make Ryan Preece a happy man.
With four wins in 10 career tour starts at the venerable Long Island quarter-mile, Preece has found more success at Riverhead than at any other track on the schedule. His average finish of 3.7 is the best among 181 all-time competitors across 31 years of Whelen Modified Tour competition at the track.
The Berlin, Connecticut, native’s success at Riverhead is not limited to Whelen Modified Tour competition either. A semi-regular runner in the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified division, Preece has nine career weekly feature wins, including three so far in 2015.
Preece will lean on that record of success in this week’s Riverhead 200 with the hope of creating some room in an intense battle atop the Whelen Modified Tour championship standings. With a win last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, Preece moved back into the lead, albeit by just two points over Woody Pitkat.
Preece and Pitkat have swapped the points lead five times this year, with the greatest margin eight points. Despite Preece having three more race wins, Pitkat has held tight thanks to a tour-best 10 top-five finishes.
With four races to go there is still plenty to be settled, and the Riverhead 200 will play a prominent part in shaping the championship picture.
RACE: Riverhead 200
PLACE: Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway
DATE: Saturday, Aug. 29
TIME: 8 p.m. ET
TRACK LAYOUT: .25-mile, banked asphalt oval
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 3-4 p.m., Qualifying 5:30 p.m., Driver Autograph Session 6:45 p.m.
EVENT HASHTAG: #Riverhead200
The Race: The Riverhead 200 will be the 12th of 15 races on the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and the second of two trips to Riverhead Raceway on New York’s Long Island.
The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying and the remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. This is an impound race with no tire changes allowed during the event, which is scheduled for 200 laps (50 miles).
The Track: A quarter-mile banked asphalt oval, Riverhead Raceway opened in 1949. The track has held a total of 56 races since the Whelen Modified Tour began in 1985, and is one of only two venues to play host to the tour in each of its 31 seasons.
Race Winners: There have been 24 different drivers that reached Victory Lane at Riverhead, led by Mike Ewanitsko’s 11. Justin Bonsignore was victorious in this year’s first event there.
Pole Winners: Thirty-three different drivers have captured a pole at Riverhead, led by Ewanitsko’s eight. Chuck Steuer set the qualifying record at 11.546 seconds (77.949 mph) in 2000 and Tom Rogers Jr. earned his first career pole in the June event.
Riverhead 200 Notes:
Championship Contenders at Riverhead: Ryan Preece’s sustained success at Riverhead Raceway is well established, but how have the other NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship contenders fared there? Woody Pitkat, just two tallies behind the leader Preece, has experienced mixed results with three finishes of sixth or better and three of 15th or worse. Reigning titlist Doug Coby slipped to 32 points behind Preece with an early accident last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, but will remain in the hunt with four races to go. Coby recorded his best finish in 10 career Riverhead races this past June when he crossed the line third following a sixth place finish last year – which marks two of his three best runs at the track.
Coby’s List Down to Two: Coby has reached Victory Lane at Monadnock Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, leaving only Riverhead and Bristol as the tracks on the current schedule at which he has yet to win. In 10 total appearances at the quarter-mile he has posted an average finish of 12th with just two top-five finishes. He did, however, earn his first quarter-mile track victory in July at Monadnock.
Lia Looks for Breakthrough: Donny Lia’s first season with the No. 8 Sypher Racing team has seen its share of bad luck. The two-time titlist has qualified in the top 10 in seven of 11 events, but didn’t improve his finish position in any of those seven instances due to varied circumstances. This week’s Riverhead 200 provides an opportunity for redemption, however. The Jericho native is tied with Preece for the active wins lead at his home track, where three of his first four Whelen Modified Tour triumphs were recorded. He’s gone eight races without a win at the bullring, but Lia should be counted among the drivers to watch, and he’s trending in the right direction with top-five finishes the last two times out at Thompson and Bristol.
Bonsignore Goes for Sweep: Much like fellow his Long Islander, Lia, Justin Bonsignore has had a roller coaster 2015 campaign. Bonsignore turned in a dominant performance at Riverhead in June, but his four top-five finishes are exceeded by six in the 20s. If the Holtsville native can duplicate his winning effort from earlier this year, he would become the fifth different driver to win two races in a calendar year at Riverhead along with Jimmy Spencer (1985), Mike Ewanitsko (1987, 1998), Mike Stefanik (2001) and Preece (2013).
Long Island Strong: Nearly half of the Riverhead 200 field figures to be Long Island drivers as fourteen of the projected 29 entries hail from the racing hotbed. Among those, three have previously won a Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead: Bonsignore (2), Eric Goodale (1) and Lia (4).
New Ownership: Riverhead recently announced that owners Jim and Barbara Cromarty have sold the facility to Ed and Connie Partridge, and the change in operations will go into place at the conclusion of the current race season. Partridge has been a car owner on the Whelen Modified Tour since 1999 – currently for the No. 6 driven by Preece – and his ties to the Long Island racing scene extend to the 1960s as a crew member for the late Charlie Jarzombek. Partridge will continue to operate the facility as a raceway.
Tour Gets a Breather: The Riverhead 200 will draw to a close a stretch of four events in a 23-day span for the Whelen Modified Tour. In fact, counting the non-points All-Star Shootout at New Hampshire on July 17, the Riverhead 200 will make seven races in 43 days, or one every six days. The tour teams will get a month break after Riverhead, however, and will resume with the F.W. Webb 100 on Sept. 26 in Loudon.
Home Tracks: Rogers Runs for Another Title
Tom Rogers Jr. is once again positioned for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track title at Riverhead Raceway. Through racing on Aug. 24, Rogers had compiled a lead of 42 points on Kyle Soper with a division-best six feature wins in an attempt to gain a third Riverhead crown. Although Rogers’ lead is significant, the battle for second is quite tight as four other drivers are within 12 points of Soper, including NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader Ryan Preece, who is eight back.
-NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications Press Release. Photo credit: Speed51.com