Reigning NASCAR Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece was announced Friday as part of the NASCAR Next program for the second consecutive year.
Preece, of Berlin, was part of a group of 12 drivers that will participate in the program in 2014. Participants in the program were introduced Friday during an announcement at Richmond International Raceway.
The program is an initiative by NASCAR to spotlight rising stars in stock car racing and help mold them for futures at the higher levels of the sport.
“I’m very excited to be back as a part of the NASCAR Next program and excited for this year’s up and coming opportunities that are presented by being part of the program,” Preece said. “I can’t wait to get rolling and keep moving forward.”
The “Next 9” program, which was introduced in 2011, was rebranded as NASCAR Next for the 2013 season. Preece became the first Modified driver included in the program when he was announced as a participant last year.
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.
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.
During his first stint in the program, Preece won his first NASCAR Modified Tour championship and made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last July, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Preece is back defending his Modified Tour title this year and is slated to make two Nationwide Series starts (July 11, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Sept. 5, Richmond International Raceway) for Tommy Baldwin Racing.
Preece has been competing full-time on the NASCAR Modified Tour since 2007. Before racing to four victories and a series championship in 2013, he finished second in Modified Tour standings in 2009 and 2012. Overall has nine victories and 42 top-five finishes in the division over 96 career starts. He was ninth in the NASCAR Modified Tour season opening Icebreaker 150 April 6 at Thompson Speedway. The NASCAR Modified Tour runs its second event of the 2014 season Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway, the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler 200.
Preece also competes full-time in the NASCAR All-American Series SK Modified divisions at Stafford and Thompson. He competes part-time in the SK Modified division at the Waterford Speedbowl and the Tour Type Modified division at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. He was the SK Modified division champion at Stafford in 2011 and won the SK Modified division title at Thompson in 2012.
The NASCAR Next Class Announced Friday
- • Cole Custer (16 years old, Ladera Ranch, Calif., Twitter: @colecuster00) – A two-time winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2013, he opened the K&N Pro Series West season this year with a victory from the pole in Phoenix.
- • Rubén García Jr. (18, Naucalpan, Mexico, @rubengarcia4) – The 2012 NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series Rookie of the Year continues to improve and finished fourth in the standings last season. Earlier this season, he made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
- • Gray Gaulding (16, Colonial Heights, Va., @graygaulding) – Holds the mark for youngest pole winner in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, and recorded his first series win at Phoenix last fall.
- • Ryan Gifford (25, Winchester, Tenn., @ryangifford2) – The NASCAR Drive For Diversity driver scored the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win at Richmond and posted an impressive top-10 finish in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last August in Iowa.
- • Austin Hill (20, Winston, Ga., @hillbroracing) – The winner at last year’s K&N East race at Dover, he has two top-five finishes in this season’s four races.
- • Erik Jones (17, Byron, Mich., @erik_jones) – Made his mark on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last November in Phoenix by becoming the youngest winner in series history.
- • Jesse Little (17, Sherrills Ford, N.C., @jesselittle97) – The 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. He made his first series start just 11 days after turning 15 in 2012.
- • Dylan Lupton (20, Wilton, Calif., @LuptonDylan) – The 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Sunoco Rookie of the Year picked up his first series victory at Evergreen Speedway in August.
- • Brandon McReynolds (23, Mooresville, N.C., @Bmcreynolds28) – With starts in four different NASCAR series, he is chasing the championship in the K&N Pro Series West, where he is second in points.
- • Ryan Preece (23, Berlin, Conn., @RyanPreece16) – He became the youngest champion in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour last season while balancing a 43-race schedule in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (finished fourth in the national standings) and making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
- • Ben Rhodes (17, Louisville, Ky., @benrhodes) – The current points leader in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with three poles in four races, and a win at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway. He scored an impressive top-10 finish in his NASCAR Camping World Truck series debut at Martinsville.
- • Kenzie Ruston (22, El Reno, Okla., @KenzieRuston) – She finished sixth in last season’s K&N Pro Series East season standings and has top 10 finishes this season at New Smyrna and Daytona. She has the highest finish – both in a race and in the championship standings – for a female driver in K&N Pro Series East history.