RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — Ryan Preece drove to the front, pitted, then drove to the front again when it mattered most.
The Berlin, Conn., native – who now lives down south competing in the NASCAR Cup Series for JTG Daugherty Racing – won the fourth annual Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night.
The win gave the driver of the No. 6 TS Haulers modified a $7,000 paycheck and marked his second win in the prestigious event in four years.
Preece outran one of the most talented Modified fields Riverhead has seen in years, featuring a mix of track regulars, Whelen Modified Tour drivers, Connecticut SK Modified champions and more.
He has been running modifieds part-time all year on top of his Cup schedule.
Preece rode inside the top-five for the first 195 laps, before pitting for fresh tires under a caution — while leader Justin Bonsignore elected to stay out. Preece charged back through the field, took the lead back, and drove away from the field in the final laps.
The Islip 300, a race that stems from the old Islip Speedway history, has become the top modified race of the season at the New York bullring.
Craig Lutz finished second, while NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bonsignore, Kyle Soper and track champion Tom Rogers Jr. rounded out the top-five.
Bonsignore and Lutz pitted for tires on lap 219, and a late flurry of cautions briefly slowed their chances to get back to the front. Lutz got through to second and was just five car lengths behind Preece, but lost ground in the final stages, and finished 1.95 seconds back.
Rogers Jr. celebrated his fifth NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead prior to the drop of the green flag.
Soper, the 2019 winner of the Islip 300, led the field to the green and led much of the first third of the race. Once he slid back, it was McKennedy, Preece and Bonsignore who paced the field most — dicing inside the top-five.
Early exits from the race included Eric Goodale, Ronnie Williams and 2017 race winner Dillon Steuer.
Bonsignore, who sealed his second Whelen Modified Tour title at Thompson in October, swept the two tour races at Riverhead last year — but the tour didn’t race at Riverhead due to COVID-19 in 2020.
Track regulars John Fortin Sr., Roger Turbush and John Beatty finished sixth through eighth, while Keith Rocco and Matt Galko closed the top 10.
Rocco, who earned his fourth career SK Modified championship at Stafford Motor Speedway this season, is now the NASCAR all-time leader for the most Division I track titles.
Riverhead Raceway’s 2020 season concluded two months later than a normal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryan Preece, Craig Lutz, Justin Bonsignore, Kyle Soper, Tom Rogers Jr., John Fortin Sr., Roger Turbush, John Beatty, Keith Rocco, Matt Galko, Max Zachem, Michael Rutoski, Ed Brunnhoelzl III, Jon McKennedy, Dave Sapienza, Artie Pedersen III, Justin Brown, Matthew Brode, Dave Brigati, Chris Young, John Fortin Jr., CJ Lehmann, Dylan Slepian, Anthony Bello, Dillon Steuer, Ronnie Williams, Eric Goodale, Jimmy Rennick Jr., Brian Webber.