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WATERFORD, Conn. – Same track, same race, same scenario, but this time Ryan Preece got the result he wanted as he powered to victory in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s Mr. Rooter 161 Saturday night at Waterford Speedbowl.
A year ago in this event, it was Doug Coby who held off Preece on a green-white-checkered finish for the win. This time around, Preece was able to reverse the roles and celebrate in Waterford Victory Lane.
It was the second win in a span of eight days for the Whelen Modified Tour points leader, who won on June 14 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. The Mr. Rooter 161 triumph was the seventh of his tour career and first at Waterford’s .375-mile oval.
Reigning tour champion Coby settled for second with Donny Lia in third followed by Justin Bonsignore and Bobby Santos. Todd Szegedy, Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink, Ron Silk and Bryon Chew rounded out the top 10.
After getting by the polesitter Szegedy on Lap 102, Coby looked untouchable, and destined to repeat as the Mr. Rooter 161 winner. Navigating deftly through lap traffic, Coby had nearly a straightaway lead as the race wound down, but two late cautions set the stage for yet another green-white-checker scenario.
Meanwhile Preece, from Berlin, Conn., ran near the front of the pack all evening, but was never quite able to find his way around race leaders Szegedy or Coby. That changed late, however, as a spin out by polesitter Szegedy on the 159th of 161 scheduled laps brought out a caution and set up the green-white-checkered finish.
On the restart Coby – who chose the outside lane on all of his restarts as the leader – slid just a bit and Preece got his best start, even beating Coby to the line by inches. The pair drag raced for the two ensuing laps that included some contact, but Preece was first to the finish line on the 166th and final circuit.
“All the restarts before Doug [Coby] was just killing me, I couldn’t get the drive up off,” said Preece, driver of the No. 16 East West Marine/Diversified Metals Ford. “But this one we just timed it right. It was unreal.
“I felt like I did everything I had to do to try and at least stay with him, because if I didn’t at least stay with him, he obviously would have probably won that race. If I had just sat there and finished second my team would have been disappointed in me and I would have been disappointed in myself, so just did everything I could.”
Coby was frustrated with the race finish, but took solace in the runner-up result being his best of the season.
“I should have beat him,” Coby said. “The 52 team had a stout car here tonight, the thing was on rails. I’m really happy for my guys, it’s our first top-five finish of the season, hopefully keep on a roll here and get some wins later on.”
It marked the second time in his Whelen Modified Tour career that Preece has won back-to-back races. He first accomplished the feat in 2009, winning at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway and Stafford. The victory was also the 10th consecutive top-10 finish for the 21-year-old driver who is part of the NASCAR Next program.
With the victory Preece extended his season points lead to 17 over Pennink. The second-place finish for Coby moved him from sixth to third in points, 21 behind.
The Waterford stop was the fourth event on the 14-race tour schedule. Up next is the Hoosier Tire 200 at Riverhead on June 29.
Ryan Preece and Doug Coby battle for the lead late at Waterford Speedbowl. Preece overtook Coby on a green-white-checkered finish. Alex Trautwig/Getty Images for NASCAR