Whelen Modified Tour driver and Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway SK Modified division regular Ryan Preece has been selected to participate in the 2013 NASCAR Next program.
Preece, of Berlin, is the first Modified driver to be selected for the program, which began in 2011.
The program is an initiative by NASCAR to help spotlight rising stars in stock car racing and help mold them to carry the sport in future years.
Officials will announce those chosen for the 2013 NASCAR Next program at a press conference Friday at Iowa Speedway. Sources close to NASCAR confirmed that Preece is one of 13 drivers that will be part of the program in 2013 and the only Modified driver. NASCAR officials couldn’t confirm the drivers in this year’s group until Friday’s announcement.
“It’s definitely a shocker to tell the truth,” Preece said. “Obviously it’s a great opportunity. And not only a great opportunity, but to be chosen as one of the NASCAR Next means a lot to me. I plan on making the best of it and doing as many appearances with that program as I can.”
Participants in the group will make appearances representing NASCAR at numerous events over the next 12 months, while also being involved in specialized training to prepare them for a future at the higher levels of NASCAR.
Preece, 22, has been competing full-time on the Whelen Modified Tour since 2007. He finished second in the Modified Tour standings in 2009 and 2012. He has five victories and 34 top-five finishes in the division over 83 career starts and sits second in the standings this year after two events.
He was the SK Modified division champion at Stafford in 2011 and won the SK Modified division title at Thompson in 2012. He also competes in a Tour Type Modified weekly at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway.
The program was rebranded “NASCAR Next” this year. It was known as the “Next 9” when it was introduced in 2011.
Drivers between the ages of 15-25 competing in any NASCAR regional touring division or at a NASCAR sanctioned short track, as well as first year drivers in the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series, are eligible for selection in the program. The participants are selected through a voting process by a group of motorsports industry personnel selected by NASCAR.
Selected drivers who have been part of the program the last two years include Nationwide Series regulars Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, Camping World Truck Series regulars Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr., Hendrick Motorsports developmental driver Chase Elliott and Richard Petty Motorsports developmental driver Corey LaJoie.
“It’s definitely one of those things that I feel like whatever you put into the program you get out of it,” Preece said. “So I plan on putting everything I can into making sure that I can end up like a Kyle Larson or a [Darrell Wallace Jr.] or one of those guys. It seems like it’s really propelled some of them forward and I’m going to really try to make that work for me.”
It proved a fruitful week of breakthroughs for Preece. On Monday he was contacted by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner Michael Waltrip, who informed him he is one of ten finalists for the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge driver search contest, which could lead to a developmental contract with Waltrip’s organization.