OSWEGO, N.Y. — Ryan Preece said at Bristol Motor Speedway last month that he “has to keep winning” if he wants to have any shot at taking home his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.
Saturday evening at Oswego Speedway, the Berlin, Conn. native held true to his vow as he captured his fifth Tour victory of the season and extended his points lead in the process.
Preece drove inside polesitter and race-long leader Matt Hirschman on lap 118 and took off from the field, opening up a full straightaway advantage as he led the final 33 laps en route to victory.
The win is Preece’s first at Oswego, making him the 50th-different modified winner all-time at the ‘Steel Palace’.
“I’ve been here (at Oswego) a few times, but I’ve never been here in victory lane,” said Preece. “This win is pretty special to me, but there’s one more (race win) that would be even more special, and that’d be to win the Race of Champions. Hopefully one day I can come back for that race and get back here on the frontstretch.”
Preece has already missed one race this season, and will still have to miss the New Hampshire Motor Speedway race on Sept. 23, due to racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky Speedway that night.
However, he said Saturday after winning that he’s not worried about that speed bump — not right now, anyways.
“We’re not out of it yet,” he affirmed. “I feel good for my car owner, Eddie Partridge … because he’s got a pretty good lead (in the owners’ standings) right now, but we’ve just gotta keep winning races. That’s all that really matters.”
“It’s going to be tough to miss that (Loudon) race, but sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. I’m trying to take that next step, and that Gibbs race means a lot to me, so hopefully we can win that one and put modified racing back on the map.”
Hirschman sped off to the early lead from the pole position, while Ryan Preece climbed from fourth to take the runner-up spot from Timmy Solomito on the 10th circuit around the five-eighths-mile oval.
Preece then took to stalking Hirschman all the way through the end of the first run, when the caution flew on lap 39 for a slowing Kyle Ebersole, who finally stopped at the Turn 3 pit entrance to bring out the yellow flag.
Green conditions returned a scant four laps later, in which the top two continued their dancing battle for the race lead in and out of traffic, never more than a car length apart as Preece applied heavy pressure to Hirschman’s back bumper for the top spot.
The battle was quelled momentarily by the halfway break following the completion of lap 75, but it heated right back up again when the green flag flew with 69 to go. As Hirschman worked traffic, Preece followed right in his tire tracks.
With 50 to go, Preece had a look inside of Hirschman, but the Pennsylvania native held serve.
Finally, Hirschman got a chance to breathe when the yellow flag flew for the third time coming to 41 laps to go, when Ted Christopher made heavy contact with the foam barriers in Turn 3 and sustained considerable damage to his Danny Watts-owned machine.
That set up a restart with 36 laps to go, in which Preece laid in wait briefly before charging to Hirschman’s inside in Turns 3 and 4, making the pass for the lead with 33 to go as he quickly jumped out front with clean air on the nose of the Ed and Connie Partridge No. 6.
From there, Hirschman could do nothing but watch as Preece darted off into the New York night, forced to settle for second in the end.
“We had the car to beat in the first half, but he’s definitely got that late race pit stop and adjustments figured out,” said Hirschman of Preece. “We just missed it a little bit after the break. We were pretty equal in the first half, but he was just better than we were in the second half tonight.”
Solomito finished third ahead of defending series champion Doug Coby and Eric Goodale.
Justin Bonsignore, Craig Lutz, Max Zachem, 36 and Rowan Pennink completed the top 10.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on Sept. 16 at Riverhead Raceway.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…