Ron Silk led a majority of the 2017 running of the John Blewett III Memorial 76, but it was the Ryan Preece and Matt Hirschman show near the conclusion at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) Thursday night.
On the final restart with 13 laps remaining, Silk, a former winner of the annual event, was able to get the advantage. Nevertheless, Preece did not give up and drove his Tour-Type Modified in deep into turn three. The 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion made it stick and led at the line and the rest of the way for his first win during the 51st Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
“I was definitely saving early on, probably around lap 35 or 40 when Ronnie was running hard and I was running hard, I started to go,” Preece told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I felt I was better on restarts. I’m still learning myself with adjustments I need to do with this race car, and I feel like I’m getting better with these long distances finding what I need in the race car.”
Preece was not in the clear just yet in his Ed and Connie Partridge-owned No. 6 ride, as Matt Hirschman was hot on his tail with Silk still ready to pounce behind them as well.
“I think everybody knows that Matt always has good forward drive there at the end,” Preece mentioned. “My thing was to try to roll the center the best that I could do and those laps were feeling pretty long. I felt like I was trying to keep the momentum going, trying not to stop in the center.”
Hirschman made every effort, a few nights after the two accomplished drivers collided at Bronson Speedway. The culprit for coming up one position short for the Northampton, Pennsylvania driver and the PeeDee Motorsports team could have partially been mechanical and something potentially critical.
“We were right there contending,” Hirschman said. “I don’t like to sound like I’m making excuses, but the right front tire was falling off the car. It was knocking the brake pads away from the rotor down the straightaway so when it got to the corner I didn’t have the brake I needed to have.”
“We were beating ourselves there and I’m not saying that was the difference of getting him or not, but you can’t make mistakes like that and expect to win races. It hurt our chances in the end.”
Silk held on for third over the closing laps, but the Danny Watts-owned No. 82 machine began to slightly fade when it came to having a car capable of winning once the caution came out when Jeremy Gerstner spun in front of the leaders.
“I think without that last yellow I would have been alright and easily just scoot away a little bit, but it just got too loose,” Silk admitted. “On the last restart I went into one and two and it drove in really good like it did all night, and I just started feeding it the throttle and it jumped loose sideways on me.”
“Didn’t have enough forward drive at the end, but it’s a new car for us and a new design and really just trying to figure it out. Made some big gains on it tonight and will try some more for tomorrow.”
Friday night will feature another marquee Modified event, the annual Richie Evans Memorial 100 for the impressive field of ground pounders on hand this week.
But tonight, it was all about the memory of a talented racer, which meant a great deal to the night’s winner.
“I have a pretty good relationship with Jimmy Blewett and John was somebody that I always idolized,” Preece said. “I didn’t get to talk to him much, but when you’re sitting back from a distance and you see how hard of a worker John really was and how good of a setup guy he was; when I was probably 17 years old I kind of idolized him. To win a name in his honor, we won a race in Richie Evans honor; I just want to keep on winning races and put my name in the history books. That’s really what I want to do.”
For on demand coverage of Thursday's racing, visit Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage presented by Troyer Race Cars and AR Bodies.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor - Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman
John Blewett III Memorial Unofficial Results
|7||17||Richie Pallai, Jr.|
|18||73||Paul Hortwig, Jr.|