Ryan Preece rebounded from a broken driveshaft suffered during practice to win the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Thompson 125 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) Wednesday night.
Preece of Berlin, CT suffered the broken driveshaft just two laps into the day’s only practice session, but those watching the 125-lap race would have never noticed.
“We had something break in practice, so we only got about two laps,” Preece said in Victory Lane. “But I guess it worked out so we couldn’t mess with the car.”
Preece proceeded to qualify in the fifth position and quickly made his way towards the front in the main event, inheriting the lead for the first time on lap 20 after NASCAR handed down a restart violation penalty to polesitter Donny Lia.
Preece maintained the lead until lap 60 when Chase Dowling made his way by on the inside.
On lap 82, while riding in the second position, the 2013 NWMT champion joined the rest of the leaders on pit road for fresh tires. A subpar pit stop resulted in Preece exiting pit road behind the majority of the cars who pitted.
"My guys, they work really hard, they’ve been practicing, been getting better. Obviously the 51, the 16, the 58, they have really strong pit crews. Our guys, the live on Long Island, they live in Connecticut and Rhode Island, it’s so hard for them to come out and practice," Preece explained. "But I know they give it their all and that’s all I can really ask for. As long as the car is good and I can drive forward, it’s my job to get it back there, if I have to depend on them to get me to the front, then we got problems."
Throughout the next 25 laps, Preece picked off the field one by one before chasing down and passing Rowan Pennink on lap 108. From there, the rest of the field remained in his rear-view mirror as he pulled away for his 17th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win.
“I’ve got to really thank that guy right there with the Hoosier hat on, Eddie Partridge,” Preece stated. “Eddie and Connie do so much for me. I’ll never forget that phone call I got from him to come drive for him. Last year when I was talking to him about coming back north, I said I needed a job and he gave me one. It takes a lot for someone to put you in a race car, but it takes even more for them to let you work on it. I’m really thankful for that.”
It is the second straight win for Preece who won the Spring Sizzler at Stafford (CT) in late April, but missed the following round at Langley (VA) in May, which was the same day as his wedding date. Preece was also very appreciative of the opportunity to drive, despite the chances of a second Tour championship taking a hit.
"It was tough for me for Eddie, because I know he wants to win that championship. Could’ve fired me on the spot knowing at the beginning of the season that I was missing a race. Like I said, I’m very lucky, him and Connie, believing in me to setup that racecar, to make sure nothing falls apart on it and to drive it."
Pennink, who won the Icebreaker earlier this year at Thompson, held on in the closing laps to finish second in the historic Ole Blue No. 3 ride.
“I had a good lead out there and he ran me down. Pretty much when he (Preece) got to me, he went right by me,” Pennink said. “He had a really good car. We were just a little bit too tight at the end of the race there, but I couldn’t be more proud of this three team. They brought a brand-new car here and after winning with the other car they brought a different car, and they did an awesome job preparing this thing and giving me a chance to win this race tonight.”
Bobby Santos, defending NWMT champion Doug Coby and Riverhead, NY driver Eric Goodale completed the top five.
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage from Wednesday's race by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
NWMT Thompson 125 Unofficial Results
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) - June 14, 2017
|24||78||Walt Sutcliffe, Jr.|