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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
Fall Final NAPA 150
Polly Reid

The Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway lived up to its expectations when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour NAPA 150 went into overtime with a green white checker finish between two of the hottest home track drivers. Ryan Preece brought the field around for the closing circuits with Ted Christopher on the outside and while Christopher took the edge going into one, Preece wheeled back and using his NAPA Know How around Stafford Motor Speedway pulled ahead to claim the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour NAPA 150 checkers. Ron Silk restarted sixth but after pitting for fresh Hoosiers with ten to go passed Tommy Barrett, Jr. for third. Barrett half a wheel behind crossed fourth with Patrick Emerling the top five.

“My pit crew did a phenomenal job, I think everyone saw that,” said Preece in victory lane. “That got me out there in front then Sly (Szaban) we talked before we came in and we made the right adjustments, the car was awesome.”

Preece in the Eric Sanderson owned, East West Marine/Diversified Metals sponsored Ford gained key track position coming out first after a pit stop setting up the Berlin, CT driver’s march to the front on the lap 64 restart. Sixth at the green behind cars that did not pit, Preece was up to third one circuit later behind leader Bobby Santos and Woody Pitkat, both yet to pit. It took only one circuit later for Preece to get by Pitkat for second, his sights now set on Santos. Then just prior to the half way mark, Preece made his move passing Santos to become the new leader on lap 74.

At the half it was Preece, Santos, Eric Goodale, Ted Christopher, Donny Lia, Barrett, Pitkat, Rowan Pennink, Doug Coby and Ron Silk the top ten. One more quick caution on lap 81 then it was green flag racing and Preece dominated with as much as a ten car length lead over Christopher who moved into second on lap 82.

With twenty-five to go, Preece led Christopher, Goodale, Barrett and Pitkat the top five. A caution waved on lap 137 closing the field up with half a dozen cars pitting including Ron Silk and Patrick Emerling. Silk and Emerling who picked up the field for the green after their late pit stop deep in the pack had already moved into sixth and seventh when the final yellow waved on lap 145.

Coors Light Pole winner Bobby Santos, hovering around the top five, suddenly pitted on lap 145 under caution for a possible tire going down but officials made the call the tire was not flat and Santos went back out. Nursing along what he had, Santos who dominated early and led a total of 64 laps, became a non- factor in the hunt for the checkers finishing the Fall Final 12th.

The final restart went green on lap 150 with Preece at the point, Christopher on the outside, Goodale third, Barrett, Pitkat, Silk, Emerling and Coby the top eight. Christopher with a slight lead high going into turn one was thwarted by Preece and while the duo battled side by side, it was Preece at the checkers with a .151 margin of victory over Christopher. Silk came from sixth on the final restart to take third from Barrett at the line with Emerling crossing for fifth. Pitkat, Goodale, Coby, Donny Lia and Rowan Pennink completed the top ten.

“When I got to the lead I was like ‘alright, it’s early, I’ve got to save some stuff and see what we got,” said Preece. “Then the laps kept clicking off and I knew the 44 and the 88 weren’t really coming hard so the call to come in when we did was a good decision- we did everything we did just to hold on. I know my crew did what they did to get me track position. Sly did what he did to give me a car and I did what I did to win on that green, white, checker. Everything kind of played in our favor, everything that we needed to happen, obviously the strategy, the pit crew, the adjustments, it all added up today.”

“That’s what helped win the race,” said winning crew chief Sly Szaban about the team effort on the pit stop. “These guys practice all summer for that, they work hard at it and that’s what won the race. I mean obviously Ryan did a great job, the car was good, but it wouldn’t have happened without that pit stop- this was definitely a team win. We needed that- the morale was kind of down not winning. We won four races last year, won a championship and we’ve been struggling this year. It’s huge for the team morale.”

The NWMT NAPA 150 was the first Tour win of the season for the 16 Flamingo Motorsports team.

“I didn’t want to see that green, white, checker,” admitted car owner Eric Sanderson. “I was on the edge of my seat all day. What a pit stop these guys made. To go in wherever we were then to come out first, the guys- it was a real team effort. Ryan is 150% driving that car, never gives up and the guys never give up. I think we got rid of the black cloud hanging over us.”

“This is huge,” said Szaban. “The season was just wearing us all down, not winning races, not getting the results we want, going into the off season, this helps realize we can still do it. It’s easy to doubt yourself, no matter what your past was, what you’ve done, when things go away, you can’t help but start to doubt yourself and we were.”

“It was a good race,” said second place finisher Ted Christopher who had earlier in the afternoon clenched his ninth Stafford Motor Speedway SK modified championship. The Plainville, CT driver edged out Ryan Preece for the SK title where Preece did all he could including winning the SK event.

Christopher was pleased with his NWMT finish. “A couple of times we had him on the outside but he did what he had to do - he’s as hungry to win just as much as we are. It was good to win the championship earlier, this is a good second place finish for us, we gained a little bit in points on some guys and we’ll go to Thompson. This is a really good car, I really want to thank Mike O’Sullivan, he’s the one who put this car together for us, Robert Yates Racing and everyone else who is involved with it, it’s a great race car, one of the old Mystique cars that we redid. We didn’t do anything on the pit stop except tires, it was a good car.”

“The car was pretty good the whole race,” said Ron Silk of Norwalk, CT in the TS Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm sponsored, Ed Partridge owned modified, who pitted with ten to go and up on the wheel, drove from the back passing Tommy Barrett at the line to finish the Fall Final third. “It didn’t look that good because we were on such old tires. Luckily we got that caution at the end and we came in – there was only ten laps left at that point so we freed the car up like you’re going time trialing then go as fast as you can and see what you got. We made a few minor adjustments to free it up and went. A couple of more laps, it would have been pretty tough to hold me off I think- to rally back to finish third, it’s a good day. It was fun. Congratulations to Ryan and those guys, we’ll get them at Thompson.”

“It sets us up with some momentum I think at Thompson,” said Preece about the importance of the win. “We’re going to run a spec motor there at Thompson and see how that goes- I’m really looking forward to that. This is giving us momentum and that’s what we needed right now.”

“We had a lot of good fortune the last two years and we just haven’t had it this year,” said Szaban who confirmed the 16 will run a spec motor at the NWMT season finale at Thompson. “We’ve had some fast race cars but something always seemed to go wrong that we couldn’t control. I guess it’s just fate. You have so much good luck, tides turn and it goes to someone else and you lose it. You can’t put a finger on it why it happens but it just does.”

Doug Coby in the Mike Smeriglio owned Dunleavy’s Repair sponsored modified heads to the Thompson World Series on October 19th with a 28 point lead over Ted Christopher. If you can’t make the NWMT season finale in person, please join Denise DuPont on thechromehorn.com for live updates all weekend. 

Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: September 29, 2014

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