Modified Race Preview: Thompson

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece went to Victory Lane in the series' last trip to Thompson. (Photo: Kyle Rickey)

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Eight races down, eight races to go on the 2017 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season.

And with the second half of the season set to get underway on Wednesday night at the Connecticut's Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the championship battle is starting to heat up. The top seven drivers are seperated by just 38 points heading for Wednesday's 28th annual Bud King of Beers 150. On the strength of three victories, Islip, New York driver Timmy Solomito enters the race with a seven point lead over Boelher Racing's Rowan Pennink (310-303).

Solomito's three victories behind the wheel of the No. 16 Starrett Tools Chevrolet came at three different tracks, and he was able to regain the title lead after Friday's race at Stafford. Pennink, who has a top 10 finish in all but one race this season, is returning to Thompson with a win on the 0.625-mile, high-banks already in his pocket. He returned 'Ole Blue' to the winner's circle in the Icebreaker on April 9. 

Behind the top two are a pair of Long Island drivers with 285 points apiece. Eric Goodale enters the race quietly in third spot, just 25 points from the lead. Although the Riverhead, New York, driver hasn't visited Victory Lane, he has five top 10 finishes. He is currently tied with Justin Bonsignore, who enters the race fourth in the standings coming off his best finish of the season, a third in Friday's Stafford 150. 

Ryan Preece enters the race fifth in the standings, 26 points from the top even though he missed the race at Virginia's Langley Speedway. Four-time series champion Doug Coby is sixth, 32 points from the lead as he continues to try to dig out of a whole due to two straight finishes outside the top 10 to begin this season. Max Zachem rides seventh, 38 points from the lead as he continues to chase his first career win. 

Fast Facts

The Race: The ninth race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points championship schedule will take place on Wednesday at the high-banks of Thompson (Conn.) Speedway Motorsports Park. The 28th annual Bud King of Beers 150 is the third of three appearances at the 0.625-mile oval this season. In the first two races, Rowan Pennink and Ryan Preece went to Victory Lane. The fourth and final appearance will take place on October 15, where the champion will be crowned.

The Procedure: The maximum starting field for the Bud 150 is 36 cars, per the entry blank. The first 30 positions will be awarded through the qualifying process, with six provisionals also available that would make up the 36 car field. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (93.75 miles). 

The Track: The 0.625-mile banked asphalt oval opened back in 1940 as the only asphalt track in the country. The track has held 136 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races in its history – the most of any facility on the current schedule. 

Race Winners: There have been 35 different tour drivers that have rolled into Thompson’s Victory Lane. Mike Stefanik leads all drivers with 15 career wins, while Ted Christopher leads all active drivers with 13 career wins at Thompson. Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and Bobby Santos III are second on the list of all active drivers with five wins each.

Pole Winners: There are 46 drivers who have a Coors Light Pole Award at Thompson. Doug Coby and Ted Christopher are tied and lead all active drivers with seven career poles on the high-banks.

Race Notes

Quick Turnaround: Wednesday's Bud 150 marks the first and only time there will be two races in five days on the 2017 schedule. Last Friday, Ryan Preece made a late charge to score the victory in the Stafford 150 at Connecticut's Stafford Motor Speedway. Teams will have just four days to prepare their cars for Wednesday's Bud 150 and the short preparation time will be a true test for the teams. They won't have long to work following Wednesday, either. The annual stop at Bristol Motor Speedway comes just one week later on August 16. 

Band Is Back For Bonsignore: Following the July 15 event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway,  Bonsignore and his team decided to make a change. They received an opportunity to bring back crew chief Billy Michael, who had resigned from the team following the 2016 season. At Stafford, Bonsignore seemed to have some of the speed he did at the end of last season and came home with a solid third-place finish. Since the band is back together, Bonsignore's confidence will be flowing as the series heads to Thompson on Wednesday night. The No. 51 won both races to close the season Thompson last season, including the Bud 150. Bonsignore led 77 laps in route to the win in this race in 2016.

Preece Is Rolling: It's hard to explain the roll that Berlin, Connecticut driver Ryan Preece is on. Over the last two months, Preece has two Whelen Modified Tour victories in four races and also added a NASCAR XFINITY Series win to his resume at Iowa Speedway. He enters Wednesday's Bud 150 sitting fifth in the championship standings even though he missed a race at Langley on May 13. He will also miss the second stop at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23 to compete for Joe Gibbs Racing at Kentucky Speedway. Even though Preece's driver's title chances may be falling to the wayside, the chances for to win the owner's championship are strong. As of now, the Ed Partridge-owned No. 6 is in the lead of the owner standings in a tie with the Eric Sanderson-owned No. 16. 

New Ride For Pitkat: Last Friday's Stafford 150 marked a one-time deal for Woody Pitkat behind the wheel of the Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7. When the checkered flag flew, Pitkat came home with an 18th place finish because of a crash. Wednesday at Thompson, he will unload with a brand new team behind him. Pitkat has come together with his former SK Modified team owner Steve Greer and current Tour-Type Modified team owner Dan Stebbins. Pitkat will carry the No. 52 on the side for Wednesday night's Bud 150 and will be looking to capture his first top five finish of the season. Entering the race, he has a best of eighth twice so far this year. 

NASCAR Coast to Coast
Each Wednesday at 4 p.m. (ET) exclusively at MRN.com, hosts Kyle Rickey and Buddy Long update you on all the news from NASCAR Modified, K&N Pro Series East and West Series, along with interviews with the drivers.

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