In the tumultuous year that has been 2020, things have been equally as tumultuous for NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece on the race track. But, in the waning days of the racing season, the Connecticut native returned to his Modified roots and scored his first win since June 2019.
Competing Saturday at Riverhead Raceway (NY) in the fourth running of the Islip 300, Preece did what he does best over the final 100 laps. Driving the Eddie and Connie Partridge owned No. 6NY Modified, Preece stormed to the lead, then kept Craig Lutz and Justin Bonsignore at bay to claim the $7,000 victory.
“It certainly feels better than not being in victory lane, that’s for sure! We definitely played the strategy right and we just had a really good race car, that’s what it came down to,” Preece said. “I didn’t know how the day was going to go, I threw everything I knew at that race car, and kind of said ‘so be it,’ and it all worked out.”
Choosing to take his fresh tires on the early side, Preece put himself in a position where he would set the tone for the race’s final stages.
“It was early, but at the same time I wasn’t sure how many people had or had not taken tires yet,” he explained. “I know it’s not easy to pass people when everyone has good tires, so I wanted to make it to where they had to get by me to win that race. I knew I had the car to do it, I wanted to take them and get track position to control the race from there.”
The day had gotten off to a tumultuous start, when Preece’s longtime friend and occasional spotter Shawn Waddell along with Tri-Track Open Modified Series official Ed Bennett were involved in a highway accident early in the morning while en route to Riverhead.
“I talked to Shawn on the phone. I’m glad he’s okay, and that Ed Bennett is okay. The win is for him and it’s also for my father whose 60th birthday was yesterday. That was really cool.”
While Preece is a proud Connecticut native, with track titles at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, he considers Riverhead to be a third home track. Way before his days with JTG-Daugherty Racing, he competed regularly for a period of time on Long Island for legendary Modified driver Bob Park at the rough and tough quarter-mile bullring.
With the Partridge family also taking over the ownership of the track, Preece’s bonds with Riverhead are still as deep as ever.
“Riverhead has been a big part of my career. I remember when I didn’t necessarily have a Tour ride, I got a call from Bill Park in I want to say 2011 to come drive for him,” Preece began. “That was all during the time when everything started to jumpstart in my career. It’s a place I’m really familiar with. Racing for Eddie and Connie Partridge, who are huge racing advocates, not only provide myself and the TS Haulers team great equipment, but also everybody on Long Island a great atmosphere to race at Riverhead Raceway.”
Preece now hopes to get one last laugh in 2020, as he plans on returning to New Jersey’s Wall Stadium Speedway for the Turkey Derby Tour-type Modified race on Saturday, November 28.
“I’m planning on going to Turkey Derby. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m definitely planning on it.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Michael Jaworecki / MyRaceNews