For the tour-type modifieds, the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna is a full racing season rolled into a mere five days.
And in each season, teams will experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
That contrast was never clearer than in the opening race of the week for Ryan Preece and Jon McKennedy.
McKennedy, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, led the final seven laps of the 50-lap ground-pounder battle Monday night to take his first victory of 2018, along with the tour-type modified point lead in the World Series title hunt. McKennedy was followed by Kyle Ebsersole in second and Chuck Hossfeld in third. Matt Hirschman and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top-five.
After joining forces with Tommy Baldwin to run the World Series, McKennedy was all too happy to get his brand-new owner a checkered flag.
“Tommy gets great equipment,” said McKennedy. “He’s a smart guy. I feel extremely comfortable running these cars… The whole package was there and I’m glad we could capitalize on it today.”
For much of the night, the race looked like it belonged to Preece. The three-time World Series champion started on pole, pulling away from the other 30 competitors from the get-go. For the first 43 laps, the No. 6 TS Haulers Chevrolet was all but untouchable. Despite two red flags, Preece held onto the lead. But just seven laps away from yet another victory at New Smyrna, Preece had to bring the modified down pit road for a terminal problem.
“I run a different suspension than a lot of people,” a disappointed Preece told Short Track Scene. “I was trying to get heat in the rear tires and it caused something to break.”
“I guess my bad luck streak kind of continues.”
For McKennedy, who was fastest in practice and in time trials before the redraw sent him back to sixth for the start, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. When he saw the Preece make the hard left turn into the pits, McKennedy was just as shocked as the fans in the grandstands.
“I almost followed him down pit road,” said McKennedy. “I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not sure what happened. Ryan had a good car. Me and him were really even at times… It was probably going to come down to me or him either way.”
“I’m just happy to get a win here.”
Happy he should be. With only five nights determining the champion, one must fight for every single point.
McKennedy will look to extend his point lead in the second race for the tour-type modifieds, a 35-lap feature, on Tuesday night.