STAFFORD - Not only did Ryan Preece of Berlin have the best car at the 47th NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway, he also had the best pit strategy.
That combination was just too explosive for anyone else to handle.
Preece waited until a lap 152 caution flag to change tires for the first time. During the ensuing seven caution laps, he was able to enter and exit pit road while changing three tires.
Adding the fresh rubber was like giving Warren Buffet a fresh billion dollars. The rich was able to get richer.
It took Preece only 13 laps to go from fifth place to the lead on his way to his second consecutive 200-lap Spring Sizzler win.
He surged past Chase Dowling to move in front, and then spent the final 29 laps fattening his lead.
“I love short track racing,” Preece said in victory lane. “I think everybody knows it. This is my home right here, Stafford Motor Speedway, racing short tracks. This is what I love to do.”
There’s a reason for that - Preece is good at it.
Preece took the lead for the first time from Dowling on lap 55 and owned it until lap 115.
Preece, however, started to lose the grip on his tires and was going backward. He needed a tire change, but stayed out on the track when cautions came out on laps 99 and lap 107. It appeared as if Preece might never get the opportunity to replenish his runner supply.
When Walt Sutcliffe spun out in turn 2 on lap 152, however, Preece had an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
The stop was lengthy enough for Preece to change three tires and when he came out, the car looked like it was sanctioned by NASA, not NASCAR.
“I was going back and forth on pit strategy,” Preece said. “Then I decided to go back to the original plan. And it worked.”
The win capped a dazzling month of April for Preece, who is a part time driver on NASCAR’s Xfinity tour for car owner Joe Gibbs.
He grabbed a fifth place in a Texas Infinity race on April 7, and then grabbed a win in Bristol - and a bonus of $100,000, on April 14.
He saved his Sizzler win is just as special as his Xfinity win.
Winning the Sizzler is a big deal,” Preece said. “Guys 30 years from know are going to think of me the way I think of drivers like Bugsy Stevens and Ted Christopher. That’s what I want. I want to move up in the sport, but at the same time I want to create a name
Dowling made his last stop for tires on lap 100 and was no match for Preece down the stretch. Rowan Pennink, meanwhile, was able to finish third for the second consecutive race.
No one, however, had an answer for Preece after he revitalized his car with the late tire change.
“Just because I’ve won an Xfinity race doesn’t mean it’s easier to win here,” Preece said. “There are guys that are really tough to beat. But I feel that I’m going to outwork a lot of people.”
On Sizzler Sunday, he also was able to outthink them.
Two defending champs won features Sunday. Keith Rocco started on the pole and led every lap to win the 40-lap SK Modified feature.
“I didn’t have that great a car today,” Rocco said. “But it was good enough to stay in front.”
Glen Reen, meanwhile, came from behind the win the 30-lap Late Model feature. Darrell Keane of Enfield led for virtually the entire race, but his car went sideways in turn 2 on lap 27 and Reen was able to roar past him.
Marcello Rufrano took the lead from Andrew Moeller with five laps remaining to win the SK Light feature.
“I wanted to win one of these big races since I was 8-years-old,” said Rufrano, 18. “This is a big deal.”
Saturday’s winners included Johnny Walker in the Street Stocks, Justin Bren in the Limited Late Models and Alan Coates in the Pro Trucks.