WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR CHAMPION:
The scenario was set- a hopeful champion Ryan Preece leading the charge
heading into the Sunoco World Series of Racing at Thompson Speedway with a
26 point lead over defending champion Doug Coby. A 22nd place finish or
better was all Preece needed to take the Flamingo Motorsports team to a
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title.
Tied for the points lead with Rowan Pennink after the Stafford Spring
Sizzler, Preece became the sole NWMT point leader from the third event of
the season on, leading the way through the World Series finale. The
expectation for a title was there- finish at least 22nd and the hardware
goes home with the 16. Pressure was added when the title could have been
clinched at the Stafford Fall Final- but a broken rear end in the closing
circuits wiped out that scenario. The Flamingo Motorsports team now had to
wait three long weeks to find out if this was their year, fully
understanding that in racing there are never, ever any guarantees until the
final checkered flag waves.
A picture perfect weekend for racing, Thompson Speedway welcomed the 15
divisions of racing to the Sunoco World Series – Bobby Santos had the pole
with Mike Stefanik on the outside row. Preece going out fifth in the
qualifying order, lined up on the starting grid fifth for the final event of
the 2013 season.
While Bobby Santos led, Preece stayed with the front pack and with the first
50 laps slowed by only one caution early on, Preece moved into fourth. Matt
Hirschman became the new leader on lap 67 but it was the caution two
circuits later that was the reset button with wholesale pit stops being made
including leader Hirschman and Preece. The Flamingo Motorsports team, taking
on three tires, was the first team back out lining up seventh behind Santos,
Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher, Eric Goodale, Doug Coby and John Beatty, Jr.
who elected to stay out.
A caution on the restart kept the field close but by lap 81, Preece was up
to fourth and two circuits later, passed for second place. The next yellow
on lap 90 set up a duel with Santos and Preece on the front row- Preece made
his move for the top spot becoming the new leader on lap 93. Preece led the
way through four more cautions before Donny Lia made a pass in turn two.
Preece battled back on the front stretch moving low, Lia answered making an
inside move into turn four when coming into the picture, Rowan Pennink took
over second with 22 to go, Preece dropping back to third. The final caution
set up a restart with 18 to go. Preece was 18 laps from a dream season. What
the entire 16 team had worked so hard for was whittled down to a mere 18
circuits around the 5/8th mile oval. A little over 11 miles stood between a
season of success or a season of heartbreak.
A clean restart, Lia, Rowan Pennink, Preece, Ronnie Silk and Justin
Bonsignore led the way. Pennink made a muscle move on the outside of Lia in
turns three and four to become the new and final leader of the Sunoco World
Series 150 presented by Xtra Mart on lap 133. Preece held his own, on the
rear bumper of Lia and as Pennink went on to claim the win, Lia second,
Preece made the podium for third, pulling into the Thompson Speedway victory
lane as the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion.
For everyone who saw the race, there was no riding around, no laying back-
Preece ran hard, ran smart and was a part of one of the best World Series
NWMT events in recent memory.
Exiting the Eric Sanderson owned, East West Marine/Sophie’s Restaurant
sponsored Ford, Preece was folded into a flurry of congratulations from
well-wishers and his elated team.
“There are a lot of emotions going on- I can’t thank my girlfriend, my
family, my car owner Eric, the team, all my sponsors- East West Marine,
Diversified Metals, R&B Enterprises, Bob Bruneau Racing Engines, Racing
Electronics, Sunoco Race Fuels, the Hoenig’s for having us here this is
awesome and all the fans for coming out- I’m sure it’s going to sink in
“We had a really good car, I can’t thank Sly enough – we definitely made
strong steps forward, we had a really good car- things didn’t work out our
way for the win, but the championship, the big picture did and that’s what
it’s all about. We race all year long for this crown at the end, it’s just
amazing right now.”
George Silbermann, Vice President of NASCAR of Regional and Touring Series,
presented the coveted hardware to Preece in victory lane.
“I did not give up until the last lap- it’s just not my style to give up.
The first half, Sly and I talked about what we wanted and we definitely hit
it. We were just waiting for the pit stop, we ended up making some
adjustments and the car was just that much better- I was really happy. When
you see progress, we’re really starting to gel, it’s hard to believe when I
say gel, but we haven’t even begun to yet, we really started tonight. I’m
really thankful for that and I’m looking forward to next year.”
“I came into this deal saying I’m going to race as hard as I can,” said
Preece. “If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. If something happened
out of my control, it just wasn’t meant to be, there is another year ahead.
I was just going to try and do my best and try to win the race. We came up a
little bit short but we did a heck of job, we tried.”
“Fantastic,” said car owner Sanderson about the way Preece ran the race.
“That’s the way I want to see it, it was great. I didn’t want to see him lay
back and say where is Doug Coby and let’s just finish ahead of him. What he
did was fantastic. Ryan is not the kind of guy to lay back- he is going to
run, I thought he was going to win the race.”
It was a relieved crew chief after who confessed his thoughts, “If he was my
kid, it would be like, ‘no TV’ for him tonight,” smiled Stan ‘Sly’ Szaban.
“They don’t listen. Even with ten to go, we could have lost it if something
happened. Ryan did a heck of a job.”
The Berlin, CT driver is the youngest NWMT champion in the series history at
22 years, 11 months and 25 days old. With four wins this season, Preece adds
a prestigious title to his growing resume which includes a NASCAR Whelen
All-American Series track championship at Stafford in 2011 and a 2012 title
This is a second championship title for car owner Eric Sanderson, the first
with Mike Stefanik in 2006. “This just doesn’t get old,” said Sanderson.
“This is just incredible. There is no way to rate the two titles, they are
both great. It’s great to win- I can’t say one is better than the other,
they are championships.”
For Szaban, the title is his fourth series title spanning nearly 25 years,
the first three with Mike Stefanik in ’89, ’91 and ’06. “Those championships
mean a lot to me. This is my fourth – in four different decades,” pausing,
Szaban added smiling, “I guess that means I’m old.”
“My strategy was to run a good, safe race,” said Szaban about the season
finale. “We gave him the best race car we could give him. We tried to give
him a winning car, but we wanted him to be conservative- Ryan doesn’t
listen. He ran a good race, he wanted to win. He did lead a lap, that was a
point- that was important. The last three weeks- there are only so many
things you can check on a car- we checked everything on that car at least
three times. To the best of our ability, we were putting a car under him
that could go the distance but there are things you can’t control in racing-
parts failure- transmissions, rear ends, so many things that can go wrong-
no fault to anybody- parts do break. I knew Ryan would do a good job
driving, I was just worried about the things I couldn’t control- like what
happened at Stafford.”
“Ryan makes us look good, I can’t say that enough- it’s totally different
than going racing with Mike Stefanik. Mike is a legend in this Series, I got
three champions with him and it was an honor to be part of that. Ryan- it’s
nice to be able to do this with a young driver- Ryan, plain and simple got
it done today. The crew did a great job preparing the car.”
Szaban has come a long way from his start in racing- a passion he shared
with his father. “From the first night my father took me to the races, I
loved it. My father took me every single Saturday night to Riverside Park.”
Szaban has just turned another page in his racing
The 16 Flamingo Motorsports Team has gathered to celebrate their success in
Charlotte, NC for the official recognition and celebration of the 2013
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring
Awards Saturday night, December 14th. The 16 Team, Ryan Preece, Heather
DesRochers, car owner Eric Sanderson and wife Diane, Stan ‘Sly’ Szaban, Paul
and Terry Les, Amanda Les, Adam Skowyra, Andrew Les, Tim Pascale, Kevin
Reardon, T.J. Pascale, Jerry Mocarsky, Fred Silliker, Bob Dymon, Jay Hill,
Joe Skotnicki, Bob Douillard and William ‘Bear’ Calicchio, enjoy what was
hard earned and well deserved, this is your night.
To the 2013 NWMT Championship 16 Flamingo Motorsports Team, congratulations.
Whelen Engineering Vice President Phil Kurze speaking with Preece at
Thompson summed it up best, “You’ll make a great champion.”.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com