Heading into Wednesday night’s Budweiser 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT), many that follow the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had a feeling that it would be a night people would talk about for some time. Low and behold, that’s exactly what happened.
Ryan Preece was in the middle of it all again. Leading the race’s first half, he opted out on pitting with the majority of lead-lap cars on a Lap 75 caution when most took on tires. Preece led on the restart, but not for long with Justin Bonsignore getting to the outside of Preece for the lead. Now stuck on the inside, Preece began to slide backwards and out of the top 10.
But Preece’s race took an interesting turn on Lap 114 when he spun to the inside off of turn two. Preece immediately restarted the car, managing to stay on the lead lap, getting desperately needed fresh tires, and restarting 15th with just around 30 laps to go. But he would need just ten to get to the front catching Doug Coby immediately after he had snagged the lead from Timmy Solomito on Lap 131. Preece would make an authoritative dive past Coby just three laps later for the lead.
But Coby would not let Preece get away, getting one last shot in heavy traffic with two laps to go. But Coby’s chance at redemption was blown away at the white flag when he blew a tire heading into turn one, hitting the wall. Coby finished second as NASCAR determined he maintained a reasonable speed after the field was frozen.
Preece celebrated his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of 2017 and second straight after his win Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). With both coming on the heels of his NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph at Iowa Speedway, Preece voiced how important every win is from here on out.
“I’ve got to keep winning races. My career depends on that. I’m just riding the wave, but you’ve got to keep winning, though. That’s the only way I’m going to stay relevant right now. As long as people keep seeing my name winning races, especially after Iowa, it’s the only way I’m going to make a future for myself,” Preece told the media in the press box afterwards.
A top question posed to Preece was about the circumstances of the Lap 114 spin.
“I got a little nudge from behind and I don’t know, it just went around. The tires were really worn out at that point,” Preece stated.
He also defended the late pit move after being asked if staying out late had been a mistake.
“Not really, I don’t think so, it ended up working. Races here can go two ways, they can be strung out and not have a caution, or they can be caution after caution. From in the seat it’s hard to dictate how many cars are racing for positions, and Shawn Waddell (Preece’s spotter) was doing a great job telling me. When cars get undrivable here, you always get strung out. The track felt that way today too, it was going to be that kind of racing. A safe bet would be pit Lap 75, somebody who’s going to gamble, wait. (Coby) had a good strategy putting whatever tire he had on at Lap 75 to help get him in case. In the end, it worked out, that’s all that matters. Think that opened the door for something I’ll try in the future.”
While Preece was a little surprised by how Coby was able to stay with him, he was not surprised that he had a shot with two to go, getting frustrated by lapped cars.
“It was a little frustrating, I pulled an evasive maneuver heading into one and Doug broke. But these guys man, I know they’re racing for position, but when it’s two to go and you got the two front cars that are within a car length or two, just get out of the way. That’s something I’ve always been told, just don’t screw the race up. I know it’s my job to get around them, I don’t think it’s their spotters not telling them, but the courteous thing to do, it’s two to go, you’re about to get lapped, that 14th or whatever isn’t worth it anymore.”
Speed51.com reached out to Coby after the race’s conclusion, but he declined any major statement.
“I’ve got nothing to say,” was his only comment.
Other drivers had comments on the race’s circumstances, including Ted Christopher who had pitted early and eventually overcame a pit road speeding penalty to finish third.
“We were best in class. We wanted to do a late pit, but we were too free right in the middle. Those guys, when they pitted, I knew it was going to be one of those two guys to get through. I don’t know how they didn’t penalize Ryan for bringing out the yellow, but that’s another story right?”
Points leader Timmy Solomito came home fourth and was also a little critical of what had transpired.
“I’m not really sure, you can say it was strategy, I’m sure people are saying a number of things. I guess he thought of it and nobody else did, I’m not really sure. In a way, is it disappointing, yeah a little bit, but it’s racing and sometimes the guy with the best strategy wins and guess his was the one tonight. It’s racing, if that caution didn’t come out, who knows where he would have finished, but it’s all part of the game.”
In the end, it was Preece savoring the spoils, all coming after a hard drive through the field.
“That’s fun, that’s what I tell everybody. If you’ve got a car like that, coming from 15th is not a problem. You’ve just got to get your way through, pick your holes, and make the right decisions. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun, I had a blast. When Doug and I got out front it became a game of chess at that point. That’s when it becomes fun.”
For a more in-depth look at Wednesday’s race, visit our Speed Central coverage here.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Budweiser King of Beers 150
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Thompson, Connecticut
|24||78||Walt Sutcliffe, Jr.|