STAFFORD, Conn. — There has been nobody better than Ryan Preece lately when it comes to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing at Stafford Motor Speedway.
For the second straight year, Preece drove the No. 6 TS Haulers Chevrolet to Victory Lane at the track’s NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200. It continues a hot streak for the Berlin, Connecticut, driver at the historic half-mile. He’s the first driver to win the Sizzler in back-to-back years since Bobby Santos III in 2013-14.
“Winning the Sizzler, it’s a big deal,” Preece said. “Guys 30 years from now, they are going to think of me how I think of Bugsy (Stevens), Richie (Evans) and Ted (Christopher) right now. I want to move up, but at the same time, I want to create a name for myself.”
Preece, who won his second career NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 14, has finished inside the top two in seven of his last eight Stafford starts, and has now been victorious in six of his last 16 Whelen Modified Tour races driving for Ed Partridge.
Preece won two of three events at Stafford last year, finishing runner-up in the other.
The victory was the 21st career in Whelen Modified Tour competition for Preece, and his eighth at Stafford.
To get the latest win, Preece had to gamble a little. He stayed out on the track for the entire first half of the race, while other competitors pitted. After leading for a long stretch, he began to fall back after losing the point on Lap 115. He got caution he needed on Lap 152, and pitted for three new Hoosier tires. The 27-year-old began his drive to the front and took the lead from rising star Chase Dowling on lap 171, never looking back en route to the win.
Preece led a race-high 91 laps, including the final 29.
Dowling, who led 69 laps, finished second. It was the third straight top 10 finish for the Roxbury, Connecticut, driver to open the season and his best career finish at Stafford, where he is also a full-time SK Modified competitor as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
“Overall, it was a pit strategy race, and we had a fast car all day,” Dowling said. “I’m just trying to soak in everything we have and I appreciate all of these good runs that we have been having.”
Rowan Pennink scored his second straight podium finish back from injury with a third. Patrick Emerling, who led 40 laps, and Craig Lutz rounded out the top five.
Jon McKennedy was sixth, followed by Matt Swanson, Justin Bonsignore, Timmy Solomito and Rob Summers.
Bonsignore holds a one-point lead over Dowling, and a five-point advantage over Lutz.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track in Massachusetts at Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, June 2.