THOMPSON – The road to shaking off a season of doldrums in an SK Modified at Thompson Speedway began Wednesday morning at about 4:30 am in Charlotte, N.C. for Ryan Preece.
And about eighteen hours later the frustrations were in the rearview.
Preece, of Berlin, got his first victories of 2016 in style Wednesday at Thompson Speedway.
Preece won the first segment of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified 20/20 Sprint and scored victory in the last of three segments to also take the overall win for the event.
Preece is competing full-time in the SK Modified divison at Thompson this year for car owners Cathy and Al Moniz, despite running full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and living in North Carolina. He is also running part-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Keith Rocco had won the first four SK Modified events this season at Thompson.
“It’s pretty special,” Preece said. “This year, it’s been a rough year. … Tonight was the night we took the monkey off our back hopefully. … I’m looking forward, I’m not looking backward. I feel like that’s what’s going to turn this season around.”
Preece was quick to rattle off the timeline of his day.
“Wake up at 4:30, got on a flight, landed 9:30 in Boston, took an Uber here,” Preece said. “Ate at the clubhouse, slept on the bench over by the snack shack in the pits. … It’s a long day.”
Preece said he isn’t worried that his busy schedule of racing and travel this year is hindering him in any way.
“I feel like you hear that sometimes people will think he’s traveling everywhere, he’s got too much going on,” Preece said. “But I think any racecar driver will tell you the more you’re in a seat the better you are and the more confidence you’ll gain. I’m definitely not getting tired. I love it. I miss that weekly grind, but at the same time I love the XFINITY Series.”
The event saw SK Modified drivers run two 20-lap feature races followed by a 10-lap shootout that was not considered a track feature. The overall winner was determined by the driver with the best average finish overall.
Preece finished fourth in the second segment.
Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. finished second in all three segments tying Preece for the average finish in the standings for the overall winner, with Preece winning the tiebreaker with the victories.
Keith Rocco of Wallingford won the second segment and finished third overall for the event with an average finish of 2.6. Rocco finished fourth in the first segment and third in the final shootout.
Preece got his first SK Modified feature win of the season at Thompson in the first 20-lap SK Modified feature of the night. Ronnie Williams of Tolland was third.
Preece took the lead from Pennink on lap eight and never trailed again.
“It was pretty tough there,” Preece said. “… We’ve been struggling with the brakes with this car and it’s been making us so free [into the corners]. … My owners, Al and Cathy, they work, they put their heart into this car. To fly up here today and win with them, it’s a lot of fun for me.”
In the second 20-lap segment it was Rocco holding off Pennink for the victory with Woody Pitkat of Stafford finishing third.
Pennink took the lead from Rocco on lap six, but Rocco fought back to regain the top spot on the next lap.
“It’s just a game up front when the cars are that equal and you have talent up front,” Rocco said. “You can just swap the lead back and forth and put a show on for the fans.”
In the final segment, Preece held off charges from Pennink and Williams over the closing laps to score the victory.