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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Riverhead Raceway
by Polly Reid

The Riverhead 200 originally scheduled to run in July, postponed because of rain is finally in the books two months later. One would have to agree the wait was worth it for Ryan Preece. The Berlin, CT driver set fast time earlier in the day at Riverhead Raceway in the Eric Sanderson owned, East West Marine sponsored Ford earning his 6th pole of the season and ended his day with a trip to victory lane in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Riverhead 200.

“It’s awesome,” smiled Preece. “Sly, Jerry, everybody in the shop, Fred, Jack everyone that works on this car, they do a phenomenal job, they work their tails off and to get this win for them it means a lot to me. And to get our sixth pole of the year, that’s pretty cool. We’re clicking away, we’re getting better and better every week- I’m very fortunate to be with the car owner I have, Eric Sanderson, he’s a great guy and car owner- he has all the confidence in the world in me. I’m proud of these guys and I can’t thank them enough.”

Justin Bonsignore was second with Todd Szegedy third, Howie Brode fourth and Ted Christopher fifth.

It is Preece's second win of the season, the first coming at Monadnock Speedway in May.

The night was not without controversy. It might be categorized as hard short track racing when the seventh and final caution of the night waved as four cars tangled in turn two with only four circuits remaining on the board. After the track was clear, the night was going to come down to a green white checker finish. Preece leading came around turn four for the final restart of the night with Jimmy Blewett on the outside. With the green flagin the air, Blewett got the edge on the restart and passed Preece too soon. Blewett was immediately penalized by NASCAR for jumping the restart, the win scored to Preece as the Riverhead 200 was extended to lap 203. Preece awarded the victory, Blewett scored 12th, the last car on the lead lap.

“Jimmy Blewett on the outside,” said Preece about the final restart. “He always runs me clean. There’s nothing wrong with a little bumping and banging. I respect Jimmy a lot, I’ve always looked up to him as an idol figure- he’s one of the guys as when I started racing, he would always come over to me, he gave me a lot of advice when I was younger and tearing up race cars, I got thank him a lot- Mike Herman, Ken Bouchard- my family, all those people played a big role in my racing career and development.”

Preece earned his season 6th Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the day and led the first 77 circuits. Hometown driver Eric Goodale in the Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet lined up on the outside of Preece and tucked in for second becoming the shadow of the 16 car. Doug Coby however had other plans and took over second from Goodaleby lap 50, suddenly a threat to Preece until the next caution came out on lap 58. Coby was forced to pit with engine issues, leaving the track under his own power, however, he would not return, the Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Furnace & Duct Chevrolet was unexpectedly done for the night. Goodale lined up second again and finally made his move becoming the new leader over Preece on lap 78.

At the half, 100 down, 100 to go, the longest green run of the night underway, the top ten were Goodale, Preece, Szegedy, Donny Lia, Bonsignore, Ron Silk, Tom Rogers, Howie Brode, Blewett and Jon McKennedy. As the green continued, Preece made his move out of turn four, going low to capture the lead back on lap 113, Szegedy followed with Bonsignore third.

“As soon as he got by me he definitely looked a little free off so I knew with a little bit of patience we’d have it back and we did,” said Preece. “He ran a good race, he was fast, he definitely worked me over and it seems with me saving my tires at the beginning, being patient it kind of paid off for me.”

The trio of Preece, Szegedy and Bonsignore remained in that running order until Szegedy in the Mike Smeriglio III owned, Delicacies Gourmet/Dunleavy Repair sponsored Ford took over second on a restart with 25 to go. Blewett became part of the top three by lap 177 and on the next restart, took over second with 12 to go in the Riverhead 200. Starting 13th after qualifying, Blewett was suddenly a contender to take it all as the final restart lined up double file for the green white checker dash. Preece on the point with Blewett on the outside, Szegedy, Bonsignore and Tom Rogers made up the top five. Blewett crossed the line first at the checkers but the call had already been made by officials- the win to Preece, Bonsignore second, Szegedy third. In the end, Blewett 12th.

“This one of those moments I wish it was a 175 lap race,” said Preece referring to the original distance. “We won, it is what it is- it was a race that’s for sure I was up on the edge. We were really good (on the long green run). Todd was good but we were a little bit better- I didn’t know if he was saving or not. I love Riverhead, it’s awesome, it really is a driver’s track, you have to get up on the wheel but you have to be smart at the same time.”

Bonsignore in the Kenneth Massa owned M3 Technology Chevrolet with crew chief John Sanford, the winner of this event one year ago, somehow made it despite being under the weather. “I guess I’ve been fighting the flu it seems since we left Thompson- we got in the truck to come home that night and I felt like heck ever since then. There may not have been a lot of cars today but the field is so close, so competitive. We missed the pole by 9 one-hundredths of a second and started 10th. We just had to race really hard to get to second – I had a good long-run car. We caught Ryan- if it had gone green we probably could have caught him, it would have been awesome but our car just wasn’t good on the short runs. I had a wheel on Ryan coming to the white, it was a good run. We’re starting to turn the season around, we wanted to win at home but you can’t win every year. We’re trying to finish off strong, get a win or two, we’d like to win every week but obviously you’re not going to. I’m looking forward to next week, it’s when you start stringing these weeks together like this you want to keep going, you don’t want the season to end.”

Another podium finish at the quarter mile NY bullring for the Ridgefield, CT driver- Szegedy has developed a new attitude over the years about his approach to running at Riverhead. “I like it here now, we finished second here last year, we finished second for the 77, this year we finished third at the 77 and now another third. You’re nothing without the equipment underneath you,” said Szegedy referring to the MSR Team headed up by crew chief Phil Moran. “They give me a car I can drive.”

2012 marks the 17th year as a Tour car owner for Eric Sanderson. “I’m beginning to be one of the old guys on the Tour,” said Sanderson who actually made his start in racing when Stafford went from dirt to asphalt. “They started what’s called the All American Sportsman division- I put my first car in that in the late sixties. I drove a few years myself, the All American Sportsman, I drove a modified for a couple of years but decided to quit because I felt I was getting in the way- which I was,” smiled Sanderson. Racing stopped when the money stopped and Sanderson took up golf, “until I got involved with Chris Kopec in ’94 when he was running for the track championship at Riverside. Then we went Tour racing and the rest is history.”Sanderson is more than appreciative of the efforts of his Flamingo Motorsports team. “This is the first time we’ve won two races in one season. It’s been an incredible season. These guys work their butts off- it’s a great bunch of guys and we’re having fun- that’s what it’s all about, having fun.” Sanderson confirmed that Preece will return as the driver of the 16 for the 2013 season.

From his point of view, the day became an immediate challenge for crew chief of the Flamingo Motorsports team- Stan ‘Sly’ Szaban admittedthe car was not where they thought it would be when practice started. “It didn’t start out too good, we went out in practice and the car was surprisingly terrible, we didn’t expect that, we thought we’d come here with a pretty good car, but the first half was terrible. We made some changes-different shock package, different spring package and it kind of woke the car up. I said to the team, at that point, practice starts now, just forget what happened- I was like this is where our day is starting now- start fresh. We went from there, made our adjustments and with Ryan’s help on the chassis, we got him what we needed.” Preece ended up second fastest by the end of the practice session and went on to set fast time to earn his sixth pole of the season. “I mean, without a doubt it’s a team effort, every piece of the puzzle is just as important as the other piece- Ryan happens to be a big piece of it. If you just get it close, he does the rest, he is an amazing driver. I’d like to take credit for it, but I just can’t. Our car owner gives us everything we need to get our job done- Eric has given us all the tools.”

The season has come a long way for the Flamingo Motorsports team that has risen from their 16th place finish at the Icebreaker. Szaban continued,“If someone told me at the beginning of the season that we would have two wins, six poles, a track record, I would not have believed it. I don’t know why we’re having a season like this, I don’t feel like we’re doing anything different, I mean we’ve had seasons like this with Mike where you could do no wrong- call it luck, whatever, they just happen.”

The remaining top ten include Tom Rogers, Jr. crossing for sixth with Eric Goodale seventh, Donny Lia seventh, Ron Silk eighth and Eric Berndt tenth.

Three events remain on the 2012 NWMT schedule. Finishing the night 22nd, Coby remains the point leader by nine over Preece who moves up a spot to second with Silk in third only 19 behind Coby. The NWMT heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Saturday September 22nd for the F.W. Webb 100.

A big thank you to all the people at Riverhead that helped Denise DuPont and I with the live updates for The Chrome Horn- from getting us situated so we could report the race to spotting when the action was at its most heated- it was all much appreciated.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 15, 2012

©2012 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.