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Preece Dominates Call Before You Dig 150  by Polly Reid

Ryan Preece of Berlin, CT in the Ed Partridge owned, TS Haulers/East West Marine sponsored Chevrolet, capitalized on a restart just past the half way mark to take the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 82 and extended his lead on the long green run for a dominating 1.5 second margin of victory in the NWMT Call Before You Dig 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Doug Coby crossed for second, Woody Pitkat third, Ted Christopher and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five.

“We had a great race car,” said Preece in victory lane. “My car started off a little free but Tommy (Grasso) my crew chief made some adjustments on that stop to give me the car that I needed on that restart, it was just a rocket ship.”

For Preece it is his 3rd win this season, his second at Stafford this year and his 14th NWMT career win overall.

Bringing the 26 car field to green, Coors Light Pole Award winner Patrick Emerling led the first four circuits before being passed by Bobby Santos on lap five. From there, the top spot was taken over by Coby from Milford, CT in the Dunleavy’s Repair, A&J Romano Construction Chevrolet on lap seven, only to have Santos come back as the new leader eleven circuits in. Santos appeared to be the car to beat, strong on restarts and Preece, who started mid pack in 15th place was bogged down outside the top five in sixth and as far back as eighth as the laps ticked off.
A caution on lap 70 was the start of the game changer for Preece.

When pit road opened on lap 72, the field came down for tires and adjustments. Justin Bonsignore in the M3 Technology modified was the first out and lined up behind Brendon Bock and Ted Christopher. Bock elected to stay out and Christopher had short pitted on lap 46.

The lap 80 restart shaped up like this- Bock, Christopher, Bonsignore, Coby, Santos, Preece, Jeff Goodale, Rowan Pennink, Patrick Emerling and Timmy Solomito were the top ten.

Christopher took the lead after the green and Preece, in one circuit, clearly in the ‘go row’ was suddenly a threat for the lead. After a brief side by side battle with Christopher, Preece prevailed going low into turn three under Christopher and emerged the new leader out of turn four on lap 82.
Unfortunately for Brendon Bock, who had just led his first career NWMT laps, the Franklin Square, NY driver was the next and final caution of the night on lap 83. Hitting the turn one outside wall hard, his night was done.

The field gathered up for the restart on lap 89- Preece, Christopher, Bonsignore, Coby and Pennink the top five- Woody Pitkat was out of the picture at this point restarting 13th.

Preece cleared Christopher for the lead- the duo made a break from the pack and at lap 100 it was Preece and Christopher leading the way- ten car lengths back it was Timmy Solomito, Pennink and Coby the top five. Pitkat had cracked the top ten and was now running 9th.
A half a dozen circuits later, Coby passed Solomito for third, meanwhile by lap 110- Preece had put some comfortable real estate between himself and Christopher.

Preece in command, Coby set his sights on Christopher making his move for second on lap 123- a low into turn three pass, Coby now credited with running second on lap 124, was hammer down trying to catch Preece. Meanwhile, Pitkat in fifth, passed Solomito then Christopher taking over third place by lap 134.

The long green run continued and while Coby would slightly close the gap, Preece simply dominated and at the checkers, Preece crossed the line for the win with a 1.5 second margin of victory. Coby, Pitkat, Christopher and Bonsignore the top five, Emerling claimed sixth, Timmy Solomito, Eric Goodale, Bobby Santos and Chase Dowling completed the top ten.

“I like coming from the back, it’s a lot of fun, but I like winning more,” said Preece. “We did a little bit of both today. We got our track position when we needed to, then made all the right calls, we drove forward when we needed to, got the lead, kind of rode there with Teddy, tried to ride as long as we could, then started to stretch it out on him- the car was staying pretty consistent. This is probably one of the most dominate years I’ve had at Stafford; we’ve won two out of three. It’s been a lot of fun racing with these guys.”

The win puts Preece back on top in the NWMT points with Pitkat and Coby the top three. “This is probably the most intense battles we’ve been a part of,” said Preece. “The past three years, me and Doug, we either have our bad race or a good race, the other will capitalize on the other one. But I won today and I see Doug and Woody right there- it’s not easy. You have to run consistently the top three. That’s what it’s going to come down to- whoever wins these races – gets all these bonus points- that was huge when I got under Teddy and led that lap. I’m not sure if we led the most laps but if we did, that would be huge. On top of the win, leading a lap and leading the most laps, those are very valuable points.”

The first car to go out for qualifying, Preece was not overly concerned about starting 15th. “It was a hornet’s nest out there for quite a little while. But it all cleared out, we made the lanes we needed to make, we picked up positions slowly but surely and got us into a position where when we came in for the pit stop, those guys had a good, clean stop, got me out there, got me in the lane I needed to be in and we drove to the top- everything kind of went our way.” Preece continued, “A flawless car, a great team- Tommy, he works countless hours on these cars- he lives, eats and breathes all this stuff. He’s a great guy, very compassionate and driven- a really good guy.”

Coby in the Mike Smeriglio III owned modified was the only car in the field that had a shot at taking the top spot from Preece on that green flag run but it wasn’t meant to be.

“We had a really good car tonight and we were starting to gain a little bit on Ryan but he had such a good car on that restart and got out front,” said Coby. “Ryan, Woody and myself on the podium, I think there is a reason for that- we all have great crew chiefs and teams setting up our cars, we try to make the right moves in traffic and it seems like we run up front all the time. Congratulations to the 6 team, they were strong, the 88, they were strong too because they came from nowhere to finish third- we had a good night over all, I’m a little disappointed because I thought we had a winning car.”

Six more races are on the 2015 schedule, Coby, the defending NWMT Champion, had this to add. “I studied a whole lot of championship seasons before I ended up competing for a championship. You have to learn how to compete for one before you can win one. Ryan and I have obviously won one and now Woody, he has learned how to compete for one and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up winning one. It’s a lesson to be learned for everyone, myself included.”

The NWMT goes to Thompson in five days- a track that has been extra good to Coby who has won both events there this year. “Thompson- I think we’ll have a great car there. We’ve had a great car there this year so if we could go to Thompson and leave there on a high note – go from Monadnock, to Stafford to Thompson and get to Bristol on a roll, that’d be great. There’s still a long way to go and the points are going to get tight.”

“I tried to drive the wheels off this thing,” said Pitkat about finishing third. “We got bounced around all night, we couldn’t get in the right line, and the front end is knocked in pretty good. You know, these two guys we’re trying to beat, they’re not falling off. We just need a little more luck on our side and we just have to keep working hard.”

“I tried to go easy and lost a couple of spots there, let the race play out,” said Pitkat. “We got a couple of cautions, after the pit stop we got stuck back in 8th or 9th, then we just couldn’t get in the right lane or anything- we got bounced around- the left front A frame got pretty tore up- after that, the field got strung out a little bit and I drove the wheels off of it to get up to the front as quick as I could.”

A break out season for Pitkat of Stafford, CT in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet, a run that coincidently started with his first career NWMT win one year ago here at his home track, Pitkat was reflective about his podium finish. “Ryan has been a champion- Doug has been a champion- they’ve been in this positon before. I don’t really know, this is the first time I’ve ever ran like this- we try not to think about it, we try to do the same thing every week, prepare the car really good, try and give them the best feedback we can and go out there and give them the best we can. We’ll keep using that never give up attitude.”

Winning car owner Ed Partridge will be the first to tell you he’s having fun this year and getting a third win of the season, especially doing the way it was done tonight- his team and driver all stepping up to the plate, is very satisfying.

“Ryan is a great driver, he makes miracles happen,” said Partridge. “It was pretty amazing how he made it from sixth to the lead on the straight away- I knew it when he came on the radio and said the car is ready to go.”

“Tommy, he works hard all week, everyone works hard on these cars. We have a good team- they’ve been together for a long time. Ryan, he’s good with the media, he’s good with the fans, its fun- he has a lot of good energy. We came with a whole different car this time. We were a little unfamiliar what we were going to do with it tonight but Tommy made the right calls and it worked out.”

This has to be a memorable night for winning crew chief, Tommy Grasso who was able to share it with his uncle and his family that traveled from NY to see the race tonight- that was ‘pretty special.’

Grasso talked about the day they had. “At Stafford, unfortunately when you get an early draw, and we were first, it’s usually not good. The car was good, we just didn’t get that position we could because of the draw. We were confident with the car- it felt good in practice, we made our normal adjustments to the car and let Ryan do his job. He races here weekly, he comes from the back all the time and he did it again tonight. He got us up to 7th or so there at the pit stop, the car was a little free so we made a couple of adjustments to it – he liked it and went right to the front.”

“These guys have been with us for a while, they’re all good guys, they know what they need to do,” said Grasso about the team. “We got ready for the pit stop, everybody did their job and it went very smoothly. There have been two or three races where we’ve gained spots in the pits- we don’t pit often so two or three is a lot. They always come through for me- hats off to them. We made quite a few adjustments to the car and they did it in the time it takes to change tires- they did a good job.”

Glancing over at the top three cars in tech, their 6 car, the 2 and the 88- Grasso thoughtfully added, “The three cars here, especially the 88, he seems like he’s in tech at every race, those guys are very consistent and it’s going to take a good, consistent car and probably take one or two more wins out of one of these three cars to win the championship. I can see it’s going to be close from here to the end.”

A five day turn around for the NWMT teams, Preece becomes the point leader by 4 over Pitkat with Coby a serious threat just 17 points back as they head to Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park this Wednesday August 12th for the Budweiser King of Beers 150.
Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
: August 7, 2015

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