Teen Driver Takes Wheel of Historic Modified by Mike Twist
Ryan Preece is Ready for a Season With Ole' Blue
For 2008, there will be a new driver behind the wheel of what is arguably one of the most storied cars in Modified racing, if not the entire short track world.  Teenager Ryan Preece will take over the controls of the #3 car starting at this week's Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway (CT).

It is the same track where Ole' Blue won its most recent event, last fall's World Series (with Bobby Santos, III at the controls), so the combination of the team's history and it's recent success might seem overwhelming to a new 17-year-old driver.  But while Preece is very respectful of the past, he isn't intimidated by it either.

“There is definitely a lot of history there,” said Preece.  “It is a really good car that has been up front a lot.  It's a great car and a great team.  I know that for a fact.  They won the World Series just last year.  I'm real excited to be working with them.”
Ole' Blue will have a new driver in 2008.  (51 Photo)
OK.  We admit it.  Around here at Speed51.com, we're all pretty big fans of Ole' Blue.  In fact, a good test of just how long any particular 51 staffer has been a Modified fan is by asking them who they remember was driving the legendary Boehler Racing Enterprises #3 Modified went they started following the sport?  Was it Bugsy Stevens, Ron Bouchard, Tony Hirschman, Jerry Marquis or even Eric Beers?
Preece comes into racing with plenty of family history as well.  His grandfather is Bobby Judkins, whose #2x Modifieds won their fair share of New England races as well - often after battling with Ole' Blue.

“They used to race against each other and those two cars were two of the best cars at that time in the division,” said Preece.  “I don't know if they were rivals or anything, but I do not that they were both very fast and going for the same wins.”

Last season, Preece competed on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as a rookie driver for his father's #40 team.  Being new to the Tour though meant having to learn from scratch, and joining up with the Boehler family means having access to all kinds of new information.

“The experience of the guys and the notebook that they have is amazing,” said Preece.  “We had a really good set of guys working on our crew and we had real good equipment for what we could afford.  But coming here takes a lot of pressure off my Dad.  This team has notebooks that go back years at each track.  Our notebook only goes back to last year.  They've been doing this since the 1960's and 1970's.”

2008 has already started out well for Preece.  He won his first major Modified race during Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway.  That gave him an extra boost of confidence, but he doesn't want to get too comfortable either.

“I'm still staying level-headed,” said Preece.  “I know that these [NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour] races aren't 25 laps.  They're 150 laps.  It's a lot different.  You have to pace yourself for the first half and then make your moves the second half.  I definitely have more experience now since my first year on the Tour and I think that will lead to a very good year.”

That good year starts with the Icebreaker, a race that has special meaning to Preece.

“It's definitely a big race.  That, the World Series and the races at Stafford are probably the biggest races to me,” said Preece.  “What I want to accomplish in life is to win those races.  Growing up around them and going to watch the races as a fan means a lot.  If I can win at Thompson, I'll think about how I used to sit there as a fan. I can
remember going to my first Modified Tour race at Thompson.  It was just something that I saw and I knew that I wanted to do someday.  Now, I'm doing it.”

Finally, let's go back to the earlier question.  Who does the newest driver of Ole' Blue first remember driving for the team?  Well, Preece might only be 17 years old, but has heard enough stories from the past that his answer might surprise you.

“That would be probably Kenny Bouchard,” said Preece.  “I used to go to the races with my Grandpa and my Dad.  I remember watching it a lot and hearing a lot of stories too.”

Preece in victory lane at New Smyrna.