After competing in 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series races so far in 2016, the art of driving Modifieds has not been lost byRyan Preece. He returned to Connecticut and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park once again on Wednesday night to compete in the track’s Sunoco Modified division. The Berlin, CT native put on a show which included fast driving and crafty moves as he swept both of the 25-lap features on the evening.
It was not the first time Preece has won in the division this season, but it was the best performance he and the number-31 team have put together.
“We showed tonight that we’ve got a really good race car. I feel we found something over the last few weeks. When I do come home we keep working with it. It makes me wish sometimes that I could run Stafford more than I can because it’s really something I feel can help us there,” Preece said to the media.
In the first race, Preece was third behind Keith Rocco, with the two trying to catch leader Rowan Pennink. Rather than pass Rocco, Preece put his nose right on the rear bumper of Rocco’s 57 car, and the two quickly gained ground on Pennink on the long Thompson straights. When Rocco ducked inside looking to pass Pennink, Preece switched drafting partners locking on to Pennink’s rear, passing Rocco. Then he put the inside dive for the lead on Pennink a lap later.
“I feel like him (Rocco) and I like to play mind games with each other and I was pushing him trying to give him that big run to get Rowan and he pulled out. Here, I think you know we get a little rough and I tried to close that hole and stay as close as I could to Rowan and do the slide job right there, and the slide job is when you don’t hit somebody.”
Race two saw the same three drivers race hard again with Pennink and Rocco exchanging the lead with multiple crossover moves with Preece watching from third. When Pennink lost momentum, Preece took over second and soon went at it for the lead with Rocco.
“Once the opportunity arose and I followed Keith through, it was pretty much play that cat and mouse game. Just push him down the straightaway and kind of work that inside/outside move. When the time came, I got a really big run off of two and we made it happen.”
Rocco has been the dominant driver at the “Big T” in 2016, winning six races coming into Wednesday, which has helped put him in the hunt for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. It is not the first time Preece has played spoiler against Rocco in 2016, as he snapped a four race winning streak that Rocco had going back on July 27. Despite the heavy schedule for Preece, he is perfectly happy with his open-wheel outings, even wishing he could do just a bit more.
“All the people that surround themselves around me that know I love racing Modifieds. I love racing, but I do it for the people around me also. It’s a lot of traveling, but because Albert and Kathy are phenomenal people that have backed me from the beginning. Eddie and Connie Partridge are phenomenal with me, my parents, and my entire crew. If you’re around, you see we like to keep that group small. It’s a lot of fun, I like coming here to Thompson, I like going to Stafford, and I wish I could be racing Waterford (Thursday night).”
Two races remain for the Sunoco Modifieds with Rocco still leading the points over Preece in second, with Preece ready to come back again on September 7.
“I’m looking forward to coming back here in two weeks, I think we’ve got a really good race car and hopefully we can do it again.”
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com