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THOMPSON, Conn. – Rowan Pennink won the Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart but it was Ryan Preece who left Thompson Speedway with the heavy hardware on Sunday as he captured the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.
Preece, from Berlin, Conn., capped off a stellar season highlighted by four wins for his first NASCAR touring series title. To do it, he had to dethrone defending champion Doug Coby, who entered Sunday as Preece’s lone competition.
With a 26-point lead, however, Preece only had to finish 22nd or better to secure his first title. For good measure, Preece led 33 laps late in the race in the No. 16 East West Marine/Sophie’s Rest Ford and cruised to the crown with his seventh podium finish of the campaign.
Preece had a stated goal heading into the day of being the only driver in Victory Lane as both the champion and race winner. Although he wasn’t able to accomplish both, Preece was nonetheless ecstatic following the event.
“We definitely had a really good car,” Preece said. “Things didn’t work out our way [to win the race], but the championship – the big picture – did and that’s what it’s all about. We race all year for this big crown at the end.”
Preece, whose first Whelen Modified Tour victory came at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in 2008, looked forward to adding the tour’s sizeable championship trophy to his collection.
“Now I get to have this nice trophy in my room along with the [Martinsville] grandfather clock and everything else, so it’s awesome,” Preece said. “It’s just amazing right now.”
Sunday’s checkered flag went to Rowan Pennink, who drove the No. 93 Monk Mechanics Hand Cleaner Chevrolet around Donny Lia on Lap 133 and held the lead through the 150th and final circuit for his second Whelen Modified Tour victory in what was his 100th career start.
Pennink, from Huntingdon Valley, Pa., ended a 48-race winless drought with the triumph. In between wins he had four runner-up finishes, two of which came at Thompson, and a number of other near misses at the famed .625-mile oval.
“We’ve had so many good cars racing here the last few years and pit strategy and cautions never fell our way,” Pennink said. “Today we pitted earlier than some people and it finally fell right for us. We were able to have a great pit stop, get out in front of a bunch of people and bring this think into Victory Lane.”
Lia crossed the line second followed by Preece, polesitter Bobby Santos and Ron Silk. Max Zachem finished sixth in his Whelen Modified Tour debut while Matt Hirschman, Coby, Todd Szegedy and Justin Bonsignore brought home the top 10.
Coby, who celebrated his first championship following this same race last year at Thompson, had a large deficit to overcome to start the day if he wanted to keep the title. That challenge became even greater when he made contact with the wall on Lap 9 and ended up a lap down. Although he was able to get back on the lead lap and ultimately rally to a top-10 finish, Preece’s performance was too much to overcome.
At 22 years, 11 months and 25 days, Preece – a member of the prestigious NASCAR Next program that highlights up-and-coming drivers – became the youngest champion in the 29-year history of the Whelen Modified Tour. He’s also the sixth different first-time tour champion in the last seven seasons, and the fourth in a row.
The finale of the Whelen Modified Tour’s 14-race schedule featured six lead changes among five different drivers and was slowed by 10 caution periods.
The Sunoco World Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart will be telecast on Fox Sports 1 on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 12 p.m. ET.
Rowan Pennink ended a three-year winless drought with the Thompson World Series triumph. Darren McCollester/Getty Images for NASCAR