Stafford Springs, CT -- Still in search of his first career NAPA Spring Sizzler® victory, 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece will face an uphill battle in this year’s edition of “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring”. Preece has taken over the driving duties of the #01 Uptick Vineyards Chevrolet for Johnny Davis Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the full 2016 season. Due to those commitments he will be unable to qualify the #6 T.S. Haulers, Inc. car for the Sizzler®, meaning he will have to start the 200-lap race from the rear of the field. But Preece says he’s not worried about his situation.
“I won’t be at the track on Saturday, but I’ll definitely be there Sunday,” said Preece. “Right now Todd Szegedy is scheduled to practice and qualify the car for me, we just have to make sure he doesn’t have any other commitments that weekend. As good as it is to start out front, I like passing cars and working my way forward. Hopefully we’ll have a car that is capable of doing that and obviously Eddie and Connie Partridge give us the equipment that we need to do that. I’m hoping that by lap 150 we can be up front and battling for the win.”
While Preece is no stranger to Stafford having raced SK Modifieds® since the 2010 season, he will be in a new car for this year’s Sizzler®. Preece will also have to acclimate himself back to the Whelen Modified Tour car, which is 2,645 pounds with open wheels versus the 3,400 pound full fendered Xfinity Series machine.
“I’ve raced at Stafford quite a bit over the last couple years so it’s not like I’m going to be learning a new track,” said Preece. “The only thing I’m iffy about is we haven’t brought this car to Stafford yet and it’s not like anything we’ve had there in the past. I’m confident we have an idea of what we need to go to the track and be good right off of the truck and then work on it from there. I don’t think it’ll be that bad. I tested the car at Thompson this past weekend and Eddie [Partridge] was joking with me that driving a stock car is kind of like driving a Cadillac. There’s a lot of positive steering and it’s a different feel and Eddie was telling me that I had better keep on driving hard once I got back behind the wheel of a modified. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 13 so it’s kind of like riding a bike. I’m not really worried about the difference between the Xfinity car and the Whelen Modified Tour car.”
Unlike most races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Schedule, the NAPA Spring Sizzler® is 200-laps in length and with Preece knowing he has to start at the rear of the field, it opens up a variety of strategy options that Preece and the T.S. Haulers team can utilize to get to the front of the pack.
“The cool thing about the Sizzler® is that it’s 200 laps,” said Preece. “I think there’s going to be a bunch of guys pitting around lap-30 for fuel and I think the race is going to be interesting with those guys giving up track position. If we’re in the back at that point, there’s no point in not coming in with those guys and filling the car up so we don’t have to worry about that later in the race. Last year we tried to pit late but the cautions didn’t fall the way we needed them to. The cool thing about the longer races is it opens up some different ideas for strategy during the race.”
In 8 career NAPA Spring Sizzler® starts, Preece has posted 4 top-5 finishes with a best finish of second in 2012. That 2012 race also saw Preece set the Stafford Motor Speedway track record in qualifying with a quick lap of 17.924 seconds for an average speed of 100.424mph. Preece knows it will be a tall task to come from the back, but he has come from the back before at Stafford, winning the 2013 TSI Harley-Davidson 125 after being involved in a lap-1 incident that relegated him to the rear of the field for the restart.
“To win the race would be a total team effort,” said Preece. “Between Todd [Szegedy], my father, and the whole T.S. Haulers team, all I’m going to be doing is the easy part of showing up and going racing. It’s all the maintenance and understanding of what you have to show up to the track with so the car is good when you unload. Especially in the Whelen Modified Tour, when you show up to the track, you’d better be good or you’re going to be in trouble. An hour of practice will usually give you about 4 runs on the track and just changing sway bars or springs 9 times out of 10 won’t get you from a 10th place car up to a winning car. It’s all about having a good base setup when you first get to the track.”
In addition to the NAPA Spring Sizzler®, Preece says he has plans to race the NAPA Fall Final 150 in October as well as a handful of SK Modified® races during the 2016 season along with his Xfinity Series commitment.
“We’re planning on coming back for the Fall Final with the same deal of just race on Sunday and I’m hoping to make a couple of SK Modified® races during the season,” said Preece. “We’re trying to figure out if we want to have my Thompson owners Al & Cathy Moniz put an engine and transmission in the car that I’ve always run at Stafford, or if we want to take their car to Stafford. I was hoping that Stafford would change the NAPA SK 5k date so I could make that race as well!”
Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $38.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount Tickets will be available at all 57 participating NAPA Auto Parts stores beginning on Monday April 4th. For a full list of the 57 locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island, call the speedway office or visit us on the web at www.staffordmotorspeedway.com/participating-napa-auto-parts-stores.
For more information on the 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
-Stafford Motor Speedway Press Release
-Photo Credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com