THOMPSON – Two races, two poles.
It’s fair to say NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece and his Flamingo Motorsports team have quickly mastered the action of qualifying together.
Preece, of Berlin, was fastest Saturday in qualifying on the way to winning the pole for Sunday’s Whelen Modified Tour season opening Icebreaker 150 at Thompson International Speedway.
It was the seventh career Whelen Modified Tour pole for Preece in 68 division events dating back to 2007.
Preece, 21, joined the Flamingo Motorsports team a week before the Modified Tour’s season ending event at Thompson last October and won the pole in his first event for the organization.
“When things click they click and right off of the bat when we started last year everything was just there and everything that’s needed to win races and get poles is all there with how me and [crew chief Stan Szaban] and the team all gel. I really feel that we should win some races this year and I’m going to try the best I can to not screw up.”
Preece has three career Whelen Modified Tour victories. His last win came in 2009. He drove full-time in the series from 2007-10, but ran a part time schedule last season, competing in 10 of 16 events for a number of different teams. He replaced seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik in the Flamingo Motorsports ride after Stefanik left the team with one race left in the season last year.
For Preece, optimism reigns when it comes to his new relationship.
“I’d like to say I’m going to win a lot, but you never know,” Preece said. “Anything can happen. There’s no excuse on why we shouldn’t win or be a contender for the championship. [Team owner Eric Sanderson gives] us everything we need to win races and [Szaban] and I do our best to try and put us in victory lane.”
Preece went out 27th of 29 cars attempting to qualifying Saturday and toured the five-eighths mile oval in 18.387 seconds (122.369 mph). Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y. went 18th and had a lap of 18.402 seconds (122.269 mph) and had to settle for the second starting spot in the field.
“We did that last year, we set a track record and ended up fourth,” Bonsignore said. “You don’t really think about it, you just want to go out and put on the pole for the first race. I knew Ryan was going to be fast. We had the rest of the field covered. It’s really close and it’s going to be a good race.”
Bobby Santos III was third in qualifying at 18.545 seconds (121.327 mph). Former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series short track national champion Keith Rocco of Wallingford, making his first start for Boehler Racing Enterprises, was fourth in qualifying.
[Editor's Note: Preece did not break the track record as originally reported. NASCAR officials mistakenly reported that Preece had broken the track record, but had accidentally reported the track record set by Santos in 2010. Santos went on to break that record with a lap of 18.237 seconds last year. That record still stands]
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