Ryan Preece is no stranger to victory lane at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) and on Sunday afternoon he added another victory to his already impressive resume. Preece bested a field of 25 Sunoco Modifieds to claim his latest win at the 43rd Annual Icebreaker. After a slow start last season, Preece was happy to score the early season win.
“I think towards August last year we really found our stride and we got the car to work a little better and it carried over to this year,” Preece said after the race. “I am not saying that we are going to go out and win every race but I feel like we definitely have a car that can contend.”
Veteran modified driver Ted Christopher paced the early laps of the 30-lap feature as he got the jump on Nick Salva on the initial start. On lap 2, Preece moved past Salva for the second position and wasted no time as he quickly caught up to Christopher. Heading into turn three on the third lap, Preece dove to the bottom and took the lead from Christopher.
The victory did not come easy as Preece had to fend off challengers on multiple restarts throughout the event, using the outside lane to his advantage.
After the first yellow flag, Preece and Christopher opened up a large gap between themselves and the heated battle for third between Rowan Pennink, Nick Salva, Matt Gallo and Keith Rocco.
On lap 16, a three-car crash on the backstretch brought out the third yellow of the afternoon and forced Christopher to come down pit road with a flat right front tire. Pennink inherited the second position after Christopher’s pit stop and looked to challenge Preece for the first time.
On the ensuing restart, Preece jumped back out front, but Pennink stuck to his bumper for a handful of laps waiting for the Berlin, Connecticut driver to make a mistake. Preece only started to pull away when Rocco jumped up to challenge Pennink for the second spot.
With five laps remaining, Rocco was able to slip past Pennink and started to cut into Preece’s lead. Rocco was only able to close the gap to three car lengths before the checkered flag flew as Preece cruised to the finish line for the win.
In victory lane, Preece slipped climbing out of his Modified and almost fell down, avoiding a potentially serious injury.
“My legs were shaking, I can tell you that,” he joked. “Really driving it hard there those last five laps and my legs were a little shaky I guess so they didn’t want to hold me up. I guess that would have been interesting if I’d broke my ankle but no one would have known anyways. I probably still would have run the tour race using my right leg to brake, so it’s alright.”
Rounding out the top five in the Sunoco Modified feature was Keith Rocco, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat and Ronnie Williams. Christopher recovered from his flat tire to come home 11th.
For full results and an on-demand Trackside Now replay of Sunday's race, click here.
-By Anthony Pagliarulo, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent - Twitter: @APags87
-Photo credit: Speed51.com