The magical early summer of Ryan Preece of Berlin, Connecticut, continued Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway as he won his third consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race of 2013 in the Hoosier Tire 200 in a thrilling come-from-behind drive to the front. The win was also the second straight WMT triumph for Preece at the demanding quarter-mile oval as he won the Riverhead 200 last September.
Ron Silk of Norwalk, Connecticut, scored the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 11.890, putting him at the front of the 28-car field with Preece alongside after he turned a lap of 11.919. Silk put his TS Haulers Chevy out front at the throw of the green flag with Preece in hot pursuit and the duo testing each other hot and heavy. Lap 43 found Preece working his way by Silk for the lead and one lap later Donny Lia got by Silk for second. Lia, who knows the Riverhead oval well, was now putting the heat on Preece and during their fight for the lead they made contact in turn two. Lia rode up the left rear body panel of Preece, sending his car into a spin, while Preece, despite some heavy body damage in the left rear, kept on going. Lia and Eric Goodale, who was forced to stop to avoid contact, lost numerous positions while Preece remained the race leader.
On the ensuing lap 93 re-start, disaster would strike race leader Preece and nearly the entire outside lane on the double-file restart. Preece’s right front wheel went flat going into the first turn which sent Silk, who was on the outside, into the wall. Justin Bonsignore among others was also caught up in the melee.
When the field was reset, the new race leader became Riverhead Raceway regular John Beatty Jr. with fellow NASCAR Whelen All-American Series regulars Timmy and Shawn Solomito running now second and third. However, during the red flag after the big crash Timmy’s car overheated and when the field went back to yellow he dejectedly took his car to the pits, done for the night. When the race resumed it was Beatty Jr. showing the way around in his Freeport Collision entry with Shawn Solomito giving chase until he was overtaken by Ted Christopher.
Once to second “TC” wasted little time in making a bid on Beatty Jr. for the lead which he did successfully on lap 136 after the duo ran several laps side by side as Beatty Jr. impressed many with his stay in the lead and his overall race effort. Laps later Todd Szegedy moved to second and he quickly wiped out any advantage that Christopher had built up. Meanwhile Ryan Preece with a new right front tire was putting on a show as he roared through the pack to come to third late in the race but he was still quite some distance back of the race leaders and he would need a caution if he were to catch them.
The race for the lead intensified between Christopher and Szegedy as the laps started to wear down and Szegedy tried making an outside pass of Christopher off turn four, but Christopher moved up the track to thwart the attempted pass and Szegedy wound up in the wall. That was the caution Preece needed to win the race.
On the lap 193 restart, Christopher seemed to spin his wheels off turn four and got contact from behind which sent him into a wild and fast spin into the infield, striking the caution car and its occupants Walter Bonczyk and Terry Fallon. Both officials were okay but the car was heavily damaged. That turn of events made the comeback drive of Preece complete as he was the new race leader with a green, white, and checker finish in the offering and Eric Goodale now the challenger to Preece.
When the green light came back on it was all Preece’s race in the East-West Marine Ford and he drove off to victory over Eric Goodale of Riverhead who was runner-up in the Riverhead Building Supply Chevy. John Beatty Jr. of Merrick placed third in what was a career race for the driver of the North Shore Recycling Chevy. John also took home the highest amount of lap money ($775), sweetening the pot for his fine run.
Defending Riverhead Raceway champion Shawn Solomito in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chevy was fourth while “Mighty” Mike Stefanik of Coventry, Rhode Island, completed the top five in his Canto & Sons Paving entry. Completing the top ten were, Woody Pitkat of Stafford, Connecticut, in the Coors Light Pontiac; Ken Heagy of Calverton in the Buoy One Seafood Ford; Frank Vigliarolo Jr. of Mount Sinai in the Frankie’s Towing Chevy; Bryon Chew of Mattituck in the Buzz Chew Chevy-Cadillac Camaro; and Ed Flemke Jr. of Southington, Connecticut, in the Ron Bouchard Auto Stores Chevy.
The win was worth an estimated $7,745 to Preece and his Flamingo Motorsports team which included the $500 Mike Ewanitsko Hard Charger of the Race Award for his winning drive from deep in the field after his tire issue all the way back to victory lane. Ryan also pocketed some $745 in lap money, as well $2,700 in “gamblers” money as some teams bought into the program for the Hoosier Tire 200.
The bonus money for the NASCAR WMT race as well the supporting Legend Race Car and Blunderbust feature events totaled an estimated $13,110 according to Jim Schaefer, “The Long Island Mod Maniac,” who raises the extra prize money along with some close and good friends including Area Auto Racing News writer Kevin Rice.
“What a roll we’re on right now,” Preece boasted in victory lane. “Sly made an adjustment when we pitted for the flat and he knows I like a loose car and we went right to the front.”
Looking forward a couple of weeks Ryan said, “I can’t wait to run for the Park family in the Cromarty Cup race here next Saturday and then it’s off to New Hampshire with our Flamingo Motorsports WMT team and of course driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing in the Nationwide Series race, life is good right now.”
Aside from the top ten efforts of John Beatty Jr., Shawn Solomito and Frank Vigliarolo, who both were around the top five all race long, it was a tough night for the remaining three Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified regulars.
Timmy Solomito despite his overheating issue did earn $300 as the highest finishing Riverhead driver with his 23rd place finish. Solomito has started all the Whelen All-American Series races at the track in 2013. Dave Brigati of Calverton in the WPW Growers Chevy was 25th after a tangle prior to halfway while David Roys of Coram wound-up 27th in the Angela’s House Chevy after he was shoved into the wall earlier in the race.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will make its second and final stop at Riverhead Raceway Saturday September 14th for the Green Earth technologies 200 on Buzz Chew Chevy-Cadillac night.
Legends And BlunderbustsPrior to the running of the Hoosier Tire 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Raceway Saturday, Richie Davidowitz of East Moriches realized a lifelong dream when he led wire-to-wire to win the 30-lap Legend Race Car feature which was worth a handsome $1,000 to the young driver. Meanwhile, Jimmy “The Kid” White Jr. of Southampton was declared the winner of the 30-lap Blunderbust feature event. Jack Handley Jr. had crossed the line first for what appeared to be his second win in a row but in post race technical inspection was found to have an unapproved camshaft.
In Legends pre-race qualifying, Kevin Nowak of Medford set fast time with a lap of 13.976 but was only able to pull a sixth starting spot in the re-draw among the top eight while Davidowitz drew the pole and Justin Strumpf picked the outside of the front row. With $1,000 on the line for the winner of the race, many expected a rough and tumble race with numerous caution flags but in fact the exact opposite occurred as the Legends ran a non-stop 30-lapper.
Davidowitz wasted no time in asserting himself as the car to beat as he jumped out front at the drop of the green flag with Strumpf finding himself for the second week in a row chasing the race leader. At first Strumpf made some early race bids on Davidowitz but after about 10-laps Davidowitz opened a gap on the challenger who then found himself in a fight for second with teammate Timmy Solomito. On lap 14, Strumpf and Solomito made momentary contact with each other, having to lift for a moment which allowed veteran Paul Dodorico to come to second and leader Davidowitz to pull away even further.
The only remaining challenge for the race leader would come in the form of lapped traffic which Davidowitz handled masterfully in his SAM mechanical machine as he drove off to a very popular win. Paul Dodorico of Miller Place was runner-up to the first time winner in his Dr. Martha Baker DDS entry while Timmy Solomito of Islip crossed the line third in the Monsters Recycling mount.
Pre-race time trials for the Blunderbusts found White Jr. posting the quickest lap at 15.209 with “The Kid” picking third in the re-draw while Brian Brown and Jack Handley Jr. drew the front row. Handley and Brown tested each other for the early race lead before all-time leading Blunderbust winner Tommy Walkowiak moved by Brown with an inside pass for second on lap 5. With Handley getting away, Walkowiak’s main concern was now holding onto second as White Jr. was pressuring him from third. At the time, little did these drivers know this would turn out to be a race for the lead.
On lap 9, White Jr. put his Busy Bee Pest Control racer by Walkowiak for second and it was now White Jr.’s turn to try and reel in race leader Handley which he was not able to do as Handley crossed the line first. After the race the top three cars were summoned to the inspection area by NASCAR Officials and it was there that the unapproved camshaft was discovered on Handley’s car, handing the win over to Jimmy White Jr., his second of the year.
“The Wildchild” Tommy Walkowiak of Ridge was runner-up in the Blaze Fuel Oil Chevy while point leader Tom Pickerell of Huntington was third in his Premier Utility Service Chevy.