Sometimes a chain of events in a race day go your way in the end. That happened for Ryan Preece in his first Modified start in just over a month at Wall Stadium Speedway (NJ) for the running of their Turkey Derby XLII Tour-type Modified race.
“That’s a race you always kind of want to win,” Preece told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Probably today was one of the days where I didn’t really expect it. We just struggled. It all worked out and it’s pretty cool.”
Even after halfway through the 150-lap race, the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion appeared not to be a factor after incidents that sent him in the wrong direction twice.
Matt Hirschman was the fast qualifier and was seemingly untouchable during the first 88 circuits. At that point, Hirschman and almost all of the leaders headed for the pits for the two tires they were permitted to change.
In the midst of all the shuffling, Hirschman was clipped by another competitor and was forced to pit again to fix a tire rub, and Long Islander Dave Sapienza inherited the top spot until 38 laps remained.
The whole complexion of the race changed when a light mist throughout the afternoon turned steadier and red flagged the event on lap 112.
More than three hours later, the race resumed and it was Preece and Hirschman noticeably making their march to the front. Sapienza held the fierce competitors off for several laps, but Preece finally maneuvered below with 24 laps remaining and took off.
Sapienza later ended up going around after contact from local favorite Jimmy Blewett.
“It would have been nice if it ended with the rain,” Sapienza commented. “I would have liked to have walked out of here with a win considering last year I led so many laps. Those guys just get crazy. Everybody was going for the win and I understand it’s the Turkey Derby, but there’s consequences.”
In the remaining laps it was an all-out battle between Preece and Hirschman. Hirschman challenged for every one of the last green flag circuits, but there was one main game-changer.
“The cautions kind of flew right where they needed to,” Preece said. “(Hirschman) was really good. Every time we got a caution he would have to duel it out with (Doug) Coby or he would have to get momentum going. It all just worked out in our favor.”
Another difference-maker that got Preece to the front was the strategy they decided on.
“We late-pitted because we knew we didn’t really have a shot,” Preece explained. “When it came to straight up we weren’t as good as these guys. Right before that rain, the red flag came out right when we pitted so we never even put a cycle on the tires. I think that’s really what ultimately won us this race.”
Hirschman had similar strategy late in the going, but the groove, or lack thereof after the rain, played the major factor.
“For one, there was no outside after we went back out after the rain, so on the restarts where you have your best chance there was just nothing
out there,” Hirschman said. “(Preece) did what he had to do. He protected the bottom. He did choke up his corner speed a little bit and I tapped him a few times, but I’m not dumping him and I’m not throwing away second place either.”
2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, local driver Anthony Sesely, and Ron Silk, driving for Danny Watts, rounded out the top five in a marathon of a day of racing to conclude the 2015 Modified racing season.
For an on-demand replay of Saturday’s Trackside Now coverage presented by Stanley Tools, click here: http://speed51.com/trackside-now-turkey-derby-saturday-at-wall-stadium/
Speed51.com will have more from Turkey Derby XLII, including highlights of the Tour-type Modified feature soon on the Speed51 Network.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Contributor – Twitter: @Aaron_Creed
-Photo Credit: Daryl Canfield/Speed51.com
Turkey Derby XLII Tour-Type Modifieds
Wall Stadium Speedway, Belmar, New Jersey