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Ryan Preece Survives Riverhead 200 Green, White,
Checker To Post Second NASCAR WMT Victory Of 2012
by Bob FInan
The old saying that good things come to those who wait rang true Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to Long Island to run the Riverhead 200, a race that was rained-out on the original date July 28th. It was the 51st WMT race at Barbara & Jim Cromarty's quarter mile oval and arguably the most competitive one of those 51 races with Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. surviving a green, white checker to collect his second WMT victory of the season. Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett Jr. of Howell NJ actually took the checker flag first getting the jump on Preece on the final restart but NASCAR WMT Officials ruled Jimmy got to the line first and dropped him to last of the lead lap cars, 12th.
Preece got off to a fast start winning the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 11.902 giving him the pole for the 200-lap event. The race was supposed to be 175-laps but when the 25-lap Qualifying race was not needed Barbara & Jim Cromarty along with Chad Little, WMT Race Director and NASCAR headquarters got together and indeed those 25-laps were added to the feature event.
When the field took the green flag it was Preece, a two time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series winner at Riverhead in 2012, bolted out front with Eric Goodale, who qualified second putting the heat on Ryan right from the start. For the first 112 laps of the event Preece and Goodale would race hard for the lead with Ryan leading the first 77 circuits before Eric made an inside pass to come to the front on lap 78. Undaunted about losing the lead Preece instead of being the hunted became the hunter and once again the duel between him and Goodale for the lead was intense. The duo rubbed their nerf bars on more than one occasion before Ryan Preece moved back out front on lap 112, while Goodale not only dropped to second but soon thereafter he faded a bit further as the handle went away on his car.
Meanwhile Todd Szegedy who was sitting third having the best seat in the house for the Preece/Goodale tussle moved to second on lap 113. Justin Bonsignore, defending race winner of the Riverhead 200 started to make his way towards the front coming to third just past halfway, while Jimmy Blewett was another driver on the march as he approached the top five as well. Bonsignore would come to second on lap 158 passing Szegedy with Todd returning the favor on lap 176. This was the point of the race where things really started heating up with Bonsignore and Blewett appearing to have the best cars of the top four and both wheelmen were hungry for a win.
The added 25-laps would prove to be, aside from the Preece/Goodale battle for the lead, the most intense and entertaining laps of the event. Jimmy Blewett was taking no prisoners as he worked his way past Bonsignore and then Szegedy on lap 188 for second, once he got to second it was time to go after race leader and go after him "Showtime" did.
A late race caution for a minor spin would set-up the green, white and checker finish and when the green light came on Blewett got the better of Preece as the crowd went wild for the former Riverhead raceway regular. As quickly as Jimmy came to the lead the call came over the NASCAR frequency to post the #76 for beating the leader to the scoring loop making Preece the race leader, with Justin Bonsignore now second even though Blewett was out in front of them.
After the final laps and being declared the race winner, Preece noted he knew when Blewett beat him to the line NASCAR would address the issue, "they preach to us at every meeting the leader has to be the first to the line so I knew NASCAR would handle it". Ryan added "I'm so happy for Eric Sandersen and this Diversified Metal group. It's an honor to drive their car, along with Bill Park's machine here at Riverhead. We had a good points night tonight with Doug Coby dropping out of the race so we closed in on his points lead, I hate it for Doug but we'll take it". Ryan also took a moment to dedicate the race to his Grandfather, famed former car owner Bob Judkins, "my grandfather had a heart attack yesterday, he's going to be fine but this win is for him".
With Jim Schaefer aka Long Island Mod Maniac and his bonus money program the victory will exceed $11,000 for Preece and his team. The bonus money included $1,000, plus $3,300 in a "gambler's buy in". Each WMT received $300 from Schaefer and his bonus program and were asked if they wanted to put that towards the buy in, Ryan was one of eleven teams that chose to do so. Preece also won the Tri-Track Modified Championship that was held on three quarter mile tracks which, aside from Riverhead, included the WMT event at Monadnock Speedway in May and an open competition race at All-Star Speedway. The Tri-Track series was the brainchild of not only Schaefer but also Area Auto Racing News writer Kevin Rice. The remainder of Ryan's winnings came in the form of lap money.
Justin Bonsignore of West Islip was runner-up and admitted afterwards "I wish I had known a bit sooner that NASCAR was posting the #76, I probably would have pushed the envelope a bit more with Ryan". None the less the driver of the M3 Technologies Chevy continues his late season hot streak having won the week before at Thompson which was proceeded by a 4th at Bristol, "things are coming together" Justin boasted.
Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Ct. was third in the Dunleavy Truck Repair Center Ford and afterwards he took up the fight for Jimmy Blewett, "I don't like that rule, the leader spun his tires and Jimmy got him, he's the race winner in my eyes" the usually soft spoken former champ said.
Howie Brode of East Islip led the Riverhead Raceway regulars with a solid 4th place finish; Brode was in the mix all race long in his Freightliner of Long Island Chevy. Brode was placed second in the final Riverhead Raceway standings and did a great job managing his tires to post the finish. Many teams were thrown by the minimal cautions flags and caution flag laps during the race that had two extended green flag runs with many drivers holding onto their cars at the end of the race.
"TC" Ted Christopher in the Eastport Feeds #3 of Wayne Anderson fought back from a two-lap deficit to come home 5th and in the process the Plainville, Ct. wheelman perhaps passed more cars than any other driver in the field. Teddy also drove the Chris Young back-up Legend Race Car earlier in the night but that effort ended with a trip into the first turn wall.
Tom Rogers Jr. of Patchogue, a six time feature event winner, was a stellar 6th in the Planet Earth Recycling & Recovery Chevy. Former two-time Riverhead Raceway champion Frank Vigliarolo Jr. of Mount Sinai was 13th in his Frankie's Towing Chevy, while Eddie Brunnhoelzl III of Levittown was 16th in his LI Mod Maniac Chevy owned by Ralph Solhem.
The $500 Mike Ewanitsko Hard Charger of the Race Award went to Jimmy Blewett of Howell, NJ in the John Blewett Inc/TS Haulers Chevy. Ewanitsko, an 11-time NASCAR WMT winner at Riverhead, tops in the 27-year history of the WMT at Riverhead was impressed with the youth on the current tour. "Man, I'm feeling really old watching guys like Ryan Preece, who was running a Quarter Midget at Thompson when I ran the WMT, and Justin Bonsignore go at it the way they do. The WMT is in good hands with all these young guys running today"
In honor of Jamie Tomaino's 548th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start Jim Schaefer and his associates awarded the driver of the Supreme Manufacturing Chevy $548.
1. Ryan Preece 2. Justin Bonsignore 3, Todd Szegedy 4. Howie Brode 5. Ted Christopher 6. Tom Rogers Jr. 7. Eric Goodale 8. Donny Lia 9. Ron Silk 10. Eric Berndt 11. Eric Beers 12. Jimmy Blewett 13. Frank Vigliarolo Jr.14 . Rowan Pennink 15. Wade Cole 16. Eddie Brunnhoelzl III 17. Ed Flemke Jr. 18. Ron Yuhas Jr. 19. Jamie Tomaino 20. Patrick Emerling 21. Jon McKennedy 22. Doug Coby 23. Ken Heagy
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