A three-wide move by Ryan Preece in turn four of the final lap of the Whelen 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway put another Modified classic in the history books.
“One of the biggest wins of my career”
When a Cup driver drops down to a lower series and wins there, the crowd’s first response is generally a chorus of boos. Ryan Preece was met with cheers when he climbed out of his No. 6 Modified after a last-lap pass to win the Whelen 100 Saturday afternoon.
Despite 33 prior starts across all series, Preece had never been to victory lane at New Hampshire. Understandably, Preece was ecstatic after getting the win.
“This is New England, and all of us New Englanders are kind of our own breed,” Preece said. “It’s just really cool to win in front of them all… I’m a true New Englander, and I’ve been that kid in those grandstands. It might not be the Cup race, and I aspire to win that Cup race, but I gotta win here.”
And while he’s now been in the Cup Series for three seasons, the Modified chip that was on Doug Coby’s shoulder when he won the first SRX race at Stafford sticks with Preece.
“I’m still that goober,” Preece said. “I love racing and [Modified racers] love it too… What I appreciate about it is, a lot of the people are volunteers, and it’s a big community. It’s awesome to be a part of and it’s fun to race against these guys.”
Calculated risk pays off for Bonsignore
Justin Bonsignore wasn’t thinking about points on the last lap Saturday.
He made that as clear with a dive on leader Ron Silk off of turn two that resulted in contact when Silk tried to block.
“I knew what Ron was going to do, and Ron knew what I was going to do,” Bonsignore said. “He said it. As soon as he saw my roof move, he just hung a left. I would’ve done the same thing. I did it in the [Musket 250] the first year.”
Just because Bonsignore made the decision to go for the win, however, doesn’t mean it was checkers-or-wreckers in doing so.
“We’re at the Daytona 500 of Modified racing,” Bonsignore said. “We’re here to win that race. I’m not going to put myself in a position to clean out 10 cars just because I don’t want to race like that anyway.”
Off turn four, Bonsignore felt his No. 51 sputtering on fumes, and he couldn’t keep up with Preece down the frontstretch.
In the end, thanks to championship rival Patrick Emerling’s 18th-place finish and a dominant performance that saw the No. 51 lead the most laps, Bonsignore will be headed to Lancaster in two weeks points lead as the series begins the second half of the season.
It puts Bonsignore in the driver’s seat to claim his third championship in four years.
Silk pushes through adversity for season-best finish
Late in practice Saturday morning, Ron Silk was staring at a wrecked Modified.
The car slammed into the turn one wall and was destroyed. Luckily for Silk, Kevin Stuart Motorsports had brought two cars to the track this weekend, with the intention of having Joey Cipriano drive the second car. Silk ended up driving the backup car, forcing Cipriano to withdraw, but allowing the No. 85 team to compete.
Coming to the white flag of the Whelen 100 less than three hours later, Silk found himself in the lead with a chance to win.
After a frantic last lap battle with Preece and Bonsignore, Silk ended up settling for third. While it wasn’t the win Silk was hoping for, it’s the best finish of the season for the team so far.
“Our primary car was a lot better than this one,” Silk said. “Would’ve liked to have gotten to race that one, but… to have no practice on this car and finish third with a shot to win, it’s a good day. Can’t ask for much more than that.”