Ryan Preece utilized his free weekend away from the NASCAR Cup Series by returning to his Modified roots at South Boston Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
The performance Preece turned in mirrored the ones from his days in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, as he dominated the 99-lap SMART Modified Tour feature after starting from the pole.
“It wasn’t easy by any means,” Preece said. “I just had a really great car and I’m really fortunate to drive for people like Eddie and Connie Partridge who give you nothing but the best. We made the right adjustments but we had a good car from the start of the race.”
Although Preece did not post the fastest lap in qualifying, he earned the pole position on a re-draw and proceeded to take command of the race up until a caution came out on Lap 49 for James Civali’s spin.
Preece and most of the field pitted for tires and adjustments during the ensuing caution but it would only take a couple of restarts before Preece powered past Chuck Hossfeld to assume control of the front once again
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Preece said about climbing through the field. “The opportunities with the restarts kind of helped out and the outside was really rolling. I did enough restarts while leading on the bottom to know if it was going to be good. We got the lead and from there we controlled the race.”
As the laps wound down, Preece’s biggest challenges came from Hossfeld and Burt Myers. Hossfeld attempted to pass Preece on the bottom while Myers found momentum up top.
Myers was initially unsure of how competitive he would be on Saturday after being forced to change engines overnight but was satisfied with his performance despite being unable to find his way around Preece.
“Our run was solid,” Myers said. “The top three were pretty equal. You run so fast here with so much grip that it’s really hard to pass, but the outside becomes the third groove late in the run. Coming home P3 was not what we envisioned on the weekend but this is one we’ll take.”
When Myers’ effort to pass Preece failed to materialize, Hossfeld took his shot at passing the former Whelen Modified Tour champion but had to settle for second when he fell behind on the final restart.
Hossfeld, who set the fastest lap in qualifying before being shuffled to sixth on the re-draw, was proud of the way his weekend turned out and is confident that he will find his way into victory lane before the season concludes.
“Our PSR chassis was awesome,” Hossfeld said. “To get hooked up with this team has been an excellent experience. This is only our second outing together and we’ve had a fourth and a second. Once we get a couple of bugs worked out, we’ll be a threat to win races.”
Preece admitted that it was a challenge holding off Hossfeld and Myers during the closing laps, adding that his car’s performance after the final restart was crucial in deciding which of the three would end up celebrating the win.
“[Myers and Hossfeld] were pretty good,” Preece said. “Our car had awesome forward drive and when it comes to restarts, you need to have that ability to clear people before Turn 1. That makes your job a lot easier but our car really came to life during those last six or seven laps.”
Although Preece remains busy with his full-time Cup Series ride, he enjoyed his first outing in the SMART Modified Tour and is open to making more appearances whenever there is an opening in his busy schedule.
SMART Modified Tour Results:
1. Ryan Preece
2. Chuck Hossfeld
3. Burt Myers
4. Dennis Holdren
5. Jason Myers
6. Zach Brewer
7. Jimmy Wallace
8. J.R. Bertuccio
9. James Civali
10. John Smith
11. Daniel Yates
12. Danny Probst
13. Brian Weber
14. Tom Buzze
15. Brian Loftin
16. Jeremy Gerstner
17. Bobby Labonte
18. Jon Kieven
19. Brandon Ward
20. Chris Finocchario
21. Tim Brown
22. Frank Fleming
23. Brodie Jones (DNS)