LOUDON, N.H. – New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice-president and general manager Jerry Gappens had a special guest in tow with him Thursday at the track for his Sylvania 300 weekend kickoff press conference.
Ryan Preece of Berlin was Gappens’ special guest on Thursday at the track.
Preece, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at the track in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 driving for Premium Motorsports.
Though the first focus for Preece is Saturday’s Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100 on the 1.058-mile oval. With three events left in the 2015 Whelen Modified Tour season, Preece leads second place Woody Pitkat of Stafford by a single point in the standings. Preece won his first Whelen Modified Tour title in 2013.
Pitkat, the defending champion of the F.W. Webb 100, is looking for his first series championship. Doug Coby, the 2012 and 2014 series champion from Milford, is third in the standings, 25 points behind.
“Ryan, he’s a great example of what we do here when we bring all these regional touring series’ in,” Gappens said. “We try to give them a Super Bowl type venue and platform to race in front of [Sprint Cup team owners and sponsors] and to see him be able to make his Sprint Cup debut right here at New Hampshire is really satisfying because we do all these other divisions throughout the weekend. It’s very gratifying for me personally as a guy that loves short track racing and local hero’s.”
Said Preece: “Obviously to do it here at New Hampshire is pretty phenomenal. When I was seven or eight years old we had a camper and we’d come up here and I was that kid riding around on a bike.”
Preece said he has spent a lot of time watching in-car camera footage of driver’s in recent Sprint Cup Series events at New Hampshire in preparation. He said he will also connect with some around the Sprint Cup garage through the weekend to ready for the event. Preece started XFINITY Series events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2013 and 2014.
“There’s a lot you can take [from racing in the Whelen Modified Tour],” Preece said “It’s the same racetrack. It’s not like anybody is putting cones in the middle of the corner you’ve got to drive around. As far as going from car to car, characteristically a Modified, it drives more off the right rear. It’s not really like the Cup car is going to be. It’s just a different driving style. But as far as grooves go, I’ve got so many laps here that I have kind of an idea where we need to be. And racing that XFINITY [Series] car here the past couple years has helped quite a bit.”
And in the Whelen Modified Tour car, Preece is looking to shake the monkey of the track he has yet to tame. Preece is winless in 18 career Whelen Modified Tour starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway dating back to 2007.
“I think this is the only track I haven’t won at on the Tour that we go to now,” Preece said. “It seems like every time – I’ve led quite a few laps here – I’ve finished third three times, I finished second in the All-Star race in July – I don’t know. I’ve never really been good at chess and this race seems like a chess game. I’ve got to study a little bit. Doug Coby seems like he’s been pretty good to put himself in positions to win these races. I know one thing for sure, I don’t want to be leading going down the backstretch [on the final lap].”