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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. - Ryan Preece is officially on a roll. The young driver scored his third consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season Saturday night in the Hoosier Tire 200 at Riverhead Raceway.
The 22-year-old from Berlin, Conn., began the race on the front row and was able to overtake pole winner Ron Silk on Lap 44. Things took a turn for the worse for Preece, Silk and other race leaders, however, when Preece had a tire go down on Lap 95 that collected the frontrunners. But for the second time in three weeks, Preece was able to charge through the field to victory.
In the later stages of the event, Ted Christopher looked to have a trip to Victory Lane well in hand, but a caution brought Preece alongside for a restart on Lap 195. On that restart, Christopher was turned coming out of Turn 4 into the infield and Preece was found himself back at the front once again, where he was able to hold on through a green-white-checkered finish for his eighth career triumph.
Eric Goodale crossed the finish line second with John Beatty Jr. third. Shawn Solomito and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top five finishers in the first of two events on the 2013 schedule at the Long Island bullring.
Woody Pitkat, Ken Heagy, Frank Vigliarolo Jr., Bryon Chew and Ed Flemke Jr. completed the top 10.
|3||John Beatty Jr.|
With the win, Preece became the first Whelen Modified Tour driver to win three races in a row since Christopher did it spanning the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He's the first driver to pull the feat off in the same season since Donny Lia did it in 2007.
“This is a career high for me and it definitely seems like I’ve been having a heck of a month, but I know it can change as quick as it can come, so I’m just riding the wave and having a lot of fun,” Preece said. “Hopefully we can keep winning races.”
Saturday also marked the second consecutive Whelen Modified Tour victory for Preece at Riverhead. He also won in the tour's lone trip to the track last season. It's Preece's third career victory overall at Riverhead.
Despite having significant sheet metal damage following the Lap 95 accident, Preece credited an adjustment his crew chief Stan Szaban made when they came to pit to change the flat tire as a key to his comeback.
“He loosened me up a little bit and we could really make the outside work,” Preece said. “I had a ton of fun here at Riverhead. I really like quarter miles – I don’t really like coming from the back – but it seems to be a habit lately.”
Preece wound up with a race-high 64 laps led. He’s won all three Whelen Modified Tour races since he was named to the NASCAR Next driver roster in early June.
The Riverhead native Goodale’s runner-up effort was the best result of his 64 career Whelen Modified Tour starts. Weekly Riverhead competitors Beatty and Solomito had their best tour finishes as well in third and fourth, respectively. In fact, it was the first tour start for Beatty, who led 42 laps.
“He [Preece] was pretty good,” Goodale said. “I just couldn’t get any help down there on the bottom, I needed to be running by myself down there to have anything for him.”
Earlier in the evening Silk captured his eighth career Coors Light Pole Award and went on to lead the first 43 laps in the event. Reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby had less luck in pole qualifying, however, as the throttle stuck on his No. 52 and he hit the wall at speed in Turn 1 following his second lap. Coby was not able to start the race and was scored in last place.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race next in the Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, July 13.
Ryan Preece and the East West Marine/Sophie's Rest No. 16 race past the competition at Riverhead Raceway. Courtesy Mike Stobe/Getty Images for NASCAR