Friday night was much the same as the season had been for Ryan Preece in the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). Everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong. But this time around, Preece and company were able to rise above it all and take home the biggest payday of the season in the second running of the NAPA SK 5K.
“This is as big as winning Loudon as far as purse goes,” Preece said after the race.
By night’s end Preece had collected upwards of $12,500 between the $5,000 base winner’s prize and a $7,500 Gambler’s Challenge bonus, which Preece had entered. But from the very beginning of the night it seemed doubtful that the team could come close to competing for the checkered flag.
The problems began in first practice after a power steering hose, which had not been tightened properly, came loose spraying power steering fluid inside the front of the No. 6 SK Modified. The team would fix the problem and rebound, but this was only the beginning of their problems.
“Go out for second round of practice, it wouldn’t start up for some reason,” said Preece. “We had an electrical issue and changed the master power in the ignition switch. Went back out, thought it was fine. Go out for my heat race, car shuts off, now it’s like there’s a lot of money on the line. I went over to the SPAFCO trailer and bought a brand new distributor, put a brand new battery in the car and it ran great.”
Although the car was fixed, Preece found himself having to line up in the 13th row for the 100-lap feature, making him vulnerable to incidents occurring throughout the field. On Lap 11, despite gaining 10 positions, trouble struck again when he caught a small piece of an incident on the backstretch, bending the rim on the right rear tire and forcing him to pit road for a new one.
This would only set the stage for the biggest hurdle of the night when, on Lap 26, a loose clamp under the hood knocked off the radiator hose, spilling water on the track. That sent Preece into a slide, and Dan Avery & Mike Christopher Jr. head on into the turn one wall.
Preece’s crew would take advantage of the long yellow to go behind the wall, reattach the hose and refill the system with water, just getting out before the green flag waved and managing too stay on the lead lap.
“When you’re sitting in the car you don’t know, what’s not there and what is there, so I’m relying on them and they did a great job getting it back out there.”
From then on Preece would take advantage of other cautions, other competitors pitting for adjustments, and would drive hard on the outside to work his way to the front, breaking into the top five by Lap 57.
After getting to third following a dogfight with Justin Bonsignore, Preece suddenly inherited the top spot after Frank Ruocco and Ronnie Williams both spun racing for the first position on Lap 87.
After Preece lost and regained the lead from Matt Galko on the restart, Bonsignore would close back in with the seemingly better car on the green flag run. But Bonsignore’s momentum was broken when Galko spun and brought out the final caution with three laps to go.
On the restart, Keith Rocco entered the fray lining up behind Preece. Rocco pushed hard on the restart eventually getting side by side with Bonsignore with two to go. Then on the final lap, Bonsignore would disentangle himself from Rocco, taking one last shot at the win going into turn three, but Preece would block inside while absorbing a big tap on the rear bumper.
“On the restart when the 88 (Rocco) smashed me going into three, that kind of set the tone for what I figured was going to happen and Justin (Bonsignore) didn’t really drive into me going to three, that was nothing,” Preece said of the racing over the last three laps. “Everything played out my way because Justin would’ve won that race if the caution hadn’t come out.”
The win is the first for Preece in the 2015 Stafford SK Modified season, and the first where he had overcome so much difficulty in one night.
“We won a tour race here when I got spun around on the first lap, there’s been a couple of times where I’ve had to come from the back to the front, and to the back to the front, but I don’t think three times in one night and actually pull a win off, so it’s pretty awesome.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Correspondent
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
SK 5K Unofficial Results
Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) – July 10, 2015
|20||00||Tommy Membrino Jr.||83|
|23||2||Anthony Ryan Jr.||60|
|25||82||Mike Christopher Jr.||25|