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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ryan Preece's homecoming has been all he could ask for and more. And he owes it all to family.
When the Berlin, Connecticut, driver originally decided he was coming back to the Northeast in the offseason and returning to his modified roots, he needed a job. When he spoke with car owner Eddie Partridge, who Preece had driven for part-time in 2016 while pursuing a full-time schedule on the NASCAR XFINITY Series, the combination decided that Preece would be working on his modifieds full-time and maintaining them out of his own house.
"Ryan and his dad had their own family car and they were pretty successful with that when they did it," Partridge said."Ryan had a good plan on what they were going to do, so I figured that since we didn't really have a crew chief, we would do it. When Ryan said he wanted to do this he said he wanted to maintain everything at the house with his father. He was basically going to do it all on his own."
It was a change for Preece, who had driven for owners in the past who required little more than for him to show up with his helmet and firesuit and drive.
It turned out to be hugely impactful move for Preece.
"Not a lot of people get to experience this, where you do it with your father, you set it up and you maintain it in the shop," Preece said. "You do all the hard work and you don't just show up with a helmet. I've done that before and I've success doing it, but it came to a point where I needed to take control if I was going to take the next step and be the dominant car."
Wednesday, Preece delivered the No. 6 TS Haulers Chevrolet to Victory Lane for the second time in 2017. In addition to the Thompson 125 win at Connecticut's Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Preece also won in April in the NAPA Spring Sizzler at Connecticut's Stafford Motor Speedway
For Partridge, having Preece as a driver is everything he could have hoped for.
"He's a great driver, naturally all the great drivers want to go up in class and they want to end up in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but they don't have the funding to do it," Partridge said. "I think he's the best driver out there. We have a great team right now, we're having a lot of fun and that's what you want to do."
In more ways than one, the second verse is turning out to be as good or better than the first for Preece and Partridge.
Two years ago, the duo joined forces and rocked the tour, winning four races and nearly seizing the championship from Doug Coby in a thrilling late-season stretch run.
Then came an interruption, as Preece joined JD Motorsports to make a full-time effort in the XFINITY Series last year, while still running select races for Partridge as his schedule permitted. But after a year at the XFINITY level, the duo reunited ahead of this year’s Whelen Modified Tour season with aspirations of claiming the title they missed out on two years ago, picking up right where they left off despite a similar, yet smaller interruption in their planned proceedings.
Preece missed the fourth race of the season at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginias, last month. Prior to the schedule being released, the May 13 date had been reserved for a very special occasion: Preece married his longtime girlfriend, Heather.
"Missing that race, it was tough for Eddie," Preece said. "I know he wants to win that championship and he could have fired me on the spot at the beginning of the season, knowing I was missing a race. I have a great bond with everyone on the team, especially because a couple of guys have been with me since a little kid.”
Missing the race at Langley certainly hurt Preece's chances at the title, but he is taking a different perspective than most would think when looking at the situation.
"The way I look at it, it's as if I just finished dead last. I just want to keep winning races and if those guys have a bad race, I'll be right there," Preece said. "Eddie and Connie give me everything I need. As long as I don't have any mechanical failures and I have a car like I had at Thompson and Stafford, I think it'll work out."
His second career win on the high-banks of Thompson came in convincing fashion.
He pitted later than some of his top challengers and the team didn't have the best pit stop. But Preece drove right back to the front. After restarting outside the top 10, in less than 40 laps he charged back to the top and took the lead for the final time with 17 laps to go.
"My guys have been working really hard, they have been practicing and getting better down on pit road," Preece said. "Obviously (Timmy Solomito, Justin Bonsignore and Eric Goodale) all have really strong pit crews. Our guys live in Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island, so it's hard for them to come and practice for pit road.
"I know they give it their all and that's all I can ask for. As long as the car is good and I can drive it forward, it's my job to get it back there. I shouldn't have to depend on them to get me to the front."
Preece's run to success on Wednesday night didn't start exactly how he would have liked after his practice was cut short with mechanical failure.
"We had a driveshaft break, it was the yoke on the end of it," Preece said. "It could have had a fracture from when I tried to do a burnout and failed when I won. I didn't see it when I put it on a new driveshaft. It didn't hurt us. Wednesday and Thursday last week I was working on the car all day setting it up and I was really happy with the way it was coming out. I told my Dad I had a really good feeling that the car was going to be good. Thompson has been one of those tracks for me, I've led a lot of laps but winning here is tough."
Although Preece currently sits 10th in the championship standings, 54 points from the top, he is still hoping to have a shot at carrying his second crystal bowl trophy at the end of the season.
"Last year not being here and running in the XFINITY Series, when I did race it was almost like a test session," Preece said. "I almost used last year as what to do and what not to do. Now I just stay in my box and it's been good to me. I never think I don't have a shot."
Two wins later, Preece has been using advice from his mother to help him get through the races on the schedule.
"My mother gave me a great piece of advice before the season started, she said that i wasn't going to have a perfect car every race and if it's close, i just need to do what I have been trained to do and just drive it. I've used that as my motto and it seems to be working out."