By Lou Modestino
This week starting on Thursday through Sunday is the first annual Mello Yello NHRA National at the New England Dragway in Epping, NH. It’s the first time since the early 70’s since that series has made an appearance at NED. All of the top names in several pro classes will be in action including Funny Car standout John Force. Also competing in that class is Bob Tasca, III of Cranston, RI. Qualifying goes Friday, Eliminations Saturday and the Finals go Sunday.
The 21-year-old driver fought his way up from the back of the field to overtake Ron Silk in the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 presented by G-Oil Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway en route to capturing his sixth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory.
Preece, who was second-fastest in qualifying earlier in the evening, had to start the race shotgun on the field instead of the front row. Before the completion of the first official lap of the race, he made slight contact with polesitter Bobby Santos and went spinning with a cut tire that brought out the caution.
But in the shortest of the four races on the schedule this year at Stafford, Preece patiently worked his way up through the 27-car field. Silk dominated the race for the first 106 laps, but he couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Preece, who took the top spot and held it through the final 18 circuits.
“Sometimes it’s better to come from the back to the front – you know what kind of race car you have,” Preece said. “I had a really good race car. I could pass on the outside, I could pass on the inside. We were really good.”
For Preece of nearby Berlin, Conn., it ended a 13-race winless streak in Whelen Modified Tour action at his home track.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been in Victory Lane here in a tour modified,” Preece said. “I was just waiting for something [bad] to happen and it never did. I just can’t explain how happy I am right now. This is unreal.”
It was Preece’s second come-from-behind win of the night. In the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified event earlier in the evening, Preece found himself behind the rest of the field after spinning out on Lap 2. In similar fashion, he worked his way back up to the front and captured the lead in the final laps.
Silk finished in the runner-up spot followed by Rowan Pennink, Donny Lia and Santos. Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore, Mike Stefanik, Jimmy Blewett and Woody Pitkat completed the top 10.
The runner-up finish was the best for Silk since his win at Bristol Motor Speedway last August, a span of seven races.
“We had a good car, the guys did a great job,” Silk said. “It’s disappointing to lead that many laps and not win, but Ryan [Preece] was really flying there at the end.”
With his pair of wins Friday at Stafford, Preece is not only the Whelen Modified Tour points leader, but the track’s SK Modified division frontman as well. On the tour he holds a six-point lead on Pennink through three races.
Friday’s TSI Harley-Davidson 125 presented by G-Oil was twice postponed due to rain. It had been 50 days since the previous race that the Whelen Modified Tour had been in action, the longest in-season layoff since 2006. The tour will next head to Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl for the Mr. Rooter 161 on June 22.
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR-TSI Harley-Davidson 125 pres. by G-Oil
At Stafford Motor Speedway
Lap length: 0.5 miles
(Start position in parentheses)
1. (2) Ryan Preece, Berlin, Conn., Ford, 125 laps, 33.678 mph.
2. (3) Ron Silk, Norwalk, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
3. (9) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., Chevrolet, 125.
4. (17) Donny Lia, Jericho, N.Y., Dodge, 125.
5. (1) Bobby Santos, Franklin, Mass., Chevrolet, 125.
6. (10) Doug Coby, Milford, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
7. (4) Justin Bonsignore, Holtsville, N.Y., Chevrolet, 125.
8. (13) Mike Stefanik, Coventry, R.I., Chevrolet, 125.
9. (6) Jimmy Blewett, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 125.
10. (14) Woody Pitkat, Stafford, Conn., Pontiac, 125.
11. (12) Ron Yuhas, Jr., Groton, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
12. (15) Bryon Chew, Mattituck, N.Y., Chevrolet, 125.
13. (5) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield, Conn., Ford, 125.
14. (20) Ted Christopher, Plainville, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
15. (11) Zane Zeiner, Bath, Pa., Chevrolet, 125.
16. (8) Eric Berndt, Cromwell, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
17. (19) Jamie Tomaino, Howell, N.J., Chevrolet, 125.
18. (25) Gary McDonald, Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Pontiac, 125.
19. (24) Wade Cole, Riverton, Conn., Chevrolet, 124.
20. (16) Cole Powell, Mount Brydges, Ontario, Chevrolet, 120.
21. (18) Richie Pallai,, Jr., Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Chevrolet, 119.
22. (21) Ed Flemke, Jr., Southington, Conn., Chevrolet, 96, suspension.
23. (7) Eric Goodale, Riverhead, N.Y., Chevrolet, 86.
24. (27) Patrick Emerling, Orchard Park, N.Y., Chevrolet, 76, accident.
25. (26) Brian Schofield, Monson, Mass., Chevrolet, 48, overheating.
26. (23) Ken Heagy, Calverton, N.Y., Ford, 45, rear end.
27. (22) Timmy Solomito, Islip, N.Y., Chevrolet, 21, accident.
Time of Race: 1 hour 51 minutes 21 seconds
Margin of Victory: 2.056 seconds
Fastest Qualifier: B.Santos (98.355 mph, 18.301 seconds)
Caution Flags: 7 for 35 laps.
Lead Changes: 1 among 2 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Silk 1-106; R. Preece 107-125.
Standings: 1. R. Preece, 130; 2. R. Pennink, 124; 3. M. Stefanik, 118; 4. J. Bonsignore, 115; 5. B. Santos, 113; 6. D. Coby, 113; 7. R. Silk, 111; 8. T. Christopher, 110; 9. J. Blewett, 109; 10. D. Lia, 95.
Matt Hirschman managed to win the SBM 125 Modified at Star Speedway in Epping, NH and in the process took home $9,595.64. Several top name drivers made the trip up to southern NH. Total prize money was $45,000 and drew a field of 40 Modifieds. Second generation driver Hirschman held off all challengers and to and some big name driver for a big payday.
In the support classes Joe Squeglia of Derry, NH won the Late Model main his second victory of the season besting Jim Renfrew and Ron Bolduc. In the Street Stock feature Billy Osborne picked up that win.
SBM-125 Official finish: 2. Les Hinckley, 3. Ryan Preece, 4. Steve Masse, Bellingham, 5. Richard Savary, Canton, 6. Todd Patnode, 7. Andy Seuss, 8. Jacob Dore, 9. Zane Zeiner, 10. Austin Kochenache, 11. Jon McKennedy, 12. Justin Bonsignore, 13. Doug Coby, 14. Rob Summers, 15. Jeff Rocco, 16. Ted Christopher, 17. Anthony Nocella, 18. Chris Pasteryak, 19. Tommy Barrett, Millis, 20. Max Zachem, 21. Ron Silk, 22. Todd Annarummo, 23. Mike Stefanik, 24. Mike Douglas, Jr., 25 Josh Contara.