Big Shot: Ryan Preece Ready To Make Most Of Xfinity Series Opportunity With Joe Gibbs Racing

Republished from the Hartford Courant
By Shawn Courchesne ~ Special To The Courant

Ryan Preece’s Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity Series ride for Saturday’s Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

LOUDON, N.H. – Recently, while driving through Meriden, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Ryan Preece stopped at the Silver City Quarter Midget Club, the place where his racing career began at six years old.

It was there in Meriden where the seed was planted in the Berlin driver of some day making a career out of racing at the highest levels of NASCAR stock car racing.

“That was a dream that started when I was six years old,” said Preece, a longtime regular in the SK Modified divisions at Thompson Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway. “And not just me, this has been a hope and dream for my parents also. They understood the risks and the slim chance that it could ever happen. It’s been our life since I was six years old. I’m 26 now. That’s 20 years of sacrificing family vacations that other people probably do, so we could travel to Indianapolis or Maryland or Florida or whatever state it was that we went to go racing.”

Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway arrives a crossroads moment for Preece in the realm of dream versus reality. Preece, who has built his reputation over the last decade as one of the top short track racers in the Northeast, has what could be a career defining, life changing, opportunity.
Preece will get the chance to compete in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Overton’s 200 at NHMS driving for the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing team.

It’s the first of two starts Preece will make for the team. He will also start in the Xfinity Series event at Iowa Speedway on July 29. The Xfinity Series is one step below NASCAR’s top level Monster Energy Cup Series.

“This is a career defining moment,” said Preece, who has two wins in five Whelen Modified Tour starts this year. “I feel like I have to win. I’ve got to win or make a huge impact. And that’s my plan anyways. As a racer that races as many times that I do a year, for any short track guy, this is the opportunity that we all talk about, that we all want. This is what’s been given to me. It’s cool. I’ve always handled pressure really well when it comes to situations where you have to perform. … If that happens, that should take of everything. It should prove to everybody that I belong there and I can get the job done. My number one goal and focus is to win the race. I have a lot of laps here at New Hampshire and now I feel like I have a car capable of doing the job I need to do.”

Preece was 12th fastest of 38 cars cars during the 55-minute first Xfinity Series practice session of the day Friday. He was third fastest in the rain shortened second practice. He was surrounded by Monster Energy Cup Series regulars in the second practice with Kyle Busch fastest, Brad Keselowski second and Kyle Larson fourth.

Preece has driven regularly on the Whelen Modified Tour since 2007. He won the 2013 series championship.

Last year he got the opportunity to race full-time in the Xfinity Series with Johnny Davis Motorsports. He ended up 17th in the series standings racing for the highly underfunded organization.

“It got me to all the racetracks,” Preece said. “That’s a huge thing. Seat time at tracks like Michigan [International] Speedway or Kentucky [Speedway] or so many others, it’s all different driving styles. To learn those driving styles, it got me one step ahead of my game.”

What he lacked in good finishes with the team, he gained in experience. And his efforts of getting the most out of less than stellar equipment in the three-car Johnny Davis Motorsports team didn’t go unnoticed.

“A number of our guys at Joe Gibbs Racing knew of him and have watched him and know what he’s done,” said Steve deSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing.” “Typically he was the best of their program [at Johnny Davis Motorsports].”

In January Preece made the decision not to return to the Johnny Davis owned team for the 2017 season. Some in racing saw it as Preece giving up on the dream to keep moving up.
Preece said leaving the team was actually a calculated plan to get a better opportunity.

“It’s just hard when you’re with an underfunded team,” Preece said. “… Those days of getting in an underfunded car and hoping for that opportunity to get into a car or with a team of the caliber of Joe Gibbs Racing or Roush Fenway or any big name team like that, it’s a lot harder than what it used to be. I felt like I needed to make myself available and step back in order to get that opportunity, and I think I was right.”

When Carl Edwards surprised the NASCAR world in January by retiring, it meant Joe Gibbs Racing would move Daniel Saurez from their No. 20 Xfinity Series car up to the Monster Energy Cup Series to replace Edwards. The day the news broke Preece was on the phone reaching out to deSouza.

“I’m sure everybody was calling,” Preece said. “I left him a voice mail. That night I got a call back from Steve and that kind of got the ball rolling.”

“We recognize that he’s got some experience in these cars and he’s doing very well in his own cars,” deSouza said. “And you don’t see this much anymore in a lot of drivers, but he can build a car from the ground up, so he understands everything about the car mechanically. That’s somewhat of an advantage for a driver who can communicate that to his crew chief.”

Qualifying for the Xfinity Series is Saturday morning with the race scheduled for 4 pm (NBC Sports Network).

“We want him to learn what he can learn and get the car back underneath him and at the end of the day take what the car will give him and call it a good day,” deSouza said of the expectations from the team. “That’s what we want to do for him. Hopefully with our equipment and the people that we’re surrounding him with and the tools we have to make some adjustments will hopefully be conducive to what he’s looking for in a car and afford him a great day.”

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments

  1. Ray Skoglund says:

    I met Ryan thru Joe Civali at Civali’s Auto in Meriden.
    Ryan is a respectful, well spoken young man.
    And he can wheel a race car Like few can!!
    Best of luck Rayn.

  2. Give Ryan more than just two races, put half dozen races under his belt, Give him a real chance and he will show the nascar world the next jeff Gordon, mark my words……..

  3. darealgoodfella says:

    Preece can drive. He’ll make the most of the equipment he is given.

  4. Go Ryan!

    I’ll be rooting for you

  5. darealgoodfella says:

    Third fastest in practice. Looking good.

  6. jeffrey says:

    He is a good dude and a great driver
    It is amazing to read a normal entry from darealgoodfella. He usually bashes all the greats
    JEALOUSY IS HIS THING
    I ONCE SEEN HIM ARGUE WITH A SOMEONE OVER HOTDOGS
    HE WAS MAD AT THE OTHER PERSONS CHOICE OF EELISH
    HIS NEW NAME SHOYLD BE THEREALHATER

  7. humphry says:

    I don’t know if he is the next Jeff Gordon, he has a long way to go for that. Let’s keep the pressure off him and see what he does!

  8. darealgoodfella says:

    Hope the weather doesn’t put a damper on Preece’s debut in Gibbs’ equipment.

Speak Your Mind

*

Copyright 2017 E-Media Sports

Website Designed by Thirty Marketing