By the narrowest of margins, the media placed Ryan Preece one point ahead of Ted Christopher as the championship favorite in the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll.
Preece, a 19-year-old driver from Berlin, Conn., earned 142 points in the Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll, and was the recipient of the most first-place votes with five. The championship runner-up in 2009 in just his third season in the Whelen Modified Tour, Preece compiled 10 top-five finishes in 13 starts and recorded wins at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway and Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. He finished 16 points behind champion Donny Lia, which marked the fourth-closest championship race in Tour history.
Christopher, from Plainville, Conn., received 141 points and three first-place votes in preseason balloting. The 2008 Whelen Modified Tour titlist, Christopher made a strong effort to defend his championship a year ago, but was passed in the standings by Lia with one race left on the schedule. Christopher’s third win of the year in the season finale at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway was not enough to regain the lead, and despite those three wins and 10 top 10s, he finished third in the standings. The winningest driver of the past decade, the 51-year-old Christopher’s 34 career triumphs are one short of Tony Hirschman, who ranks third on the Tour’s all-time list.
Todd Szegedy, of Ridgefield, Conn., ranked third in the Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll with 118 points and garnered three first-place votes. The 2003 Whelen Modified Tour champion finished fifth in points last year and has been among the top five in the final standings the last four seasons. Szegedy has finished in the top 10 in 63-percent of his career starts and has recorded at least one victory in six of the seven seasons he has competed full-time.
Rowan Pennink finished fourth in the final 2009 standings, and fourth in 2010 preseason balloting. The Huntingdon Valley, Pa., driver tallied 108 points and received one first-place vote after he recorded 11 top 10s in 13 outings a year ago. Pennink, who did not have a top-five finish in his first two seasons, recorded five such efforts in 2009 and became a consistent lead-pack competitor. Pennink will seek his first career Whelen Modified Tour victory in 2010.
Bobby Santos garnered three first-place votes in the 2010 Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll and finished fifth overall with 100 points. The Franklin, Mass., native will take over the No. 4 Dodge this season, which earned the Whelen Modified Tour title in 2007 and 2009 with Lia behind the wheel. Santos, an accomplished open-wheel driver in various racing series, has 12 top 10s in 29 career Whelen Modified Tour starts, highlighted by a win in the 2007 Thompson World Series.
Seven-time champion Mike Stefanik, Ron Silk, Chuck Hossfeld, Ed Flemke Jr. and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top 10 in the Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll. Defending champion Lia is now competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and did not receive any points in balloting.
Poll vote totals were weighed on a point scale that ranged from 10-1, with 10 points for first place and one point for 10th place. The voting pool was made up of members of both print and electronic media who cover the Whelen Modified Tour.
The 2010 Whelen Modified Tour season will being at Thompson International Speedway this weekend. Practice and qualifying will take place at the historic Connecticut oval on Saturday, April 10 and the 150-lap race is slated for Sunday, April 11. For ticket information, please visit Thompson’s official Web site (www.thompsonspeedway.com).
Preseason Poll Top 10
Driver Points (1st-Place Votes)
1. Ryan Preece 142 (5)
2. Ted Christopher 141 (3)
3. Todd Szegedy 118 (3)
4. Rowan Pennink 108 (1)
5. Bobby Santos 100 (3)
6. Mike Stefanik 79
7. Ron Silk 58
8. Chuck Hossfeld 32
9. Ed Flemke Jr. 26
Chris Pasteryak 26
Others Receiving Votes: Eric Beers, George Brunnhoelzl III, James Civali, Woody Pitkat, Glen Reen, Erick Rudolph (1).