Test Drive: Ryan Preece Gets Behind Wheel Of Nationwide Series Car At Thompson Speedway

THOMPSON – Ryan Preece got to kick the tires and then some on a Nationwide Series car Wednesday at Thompson International Speedway.

Dave Blaney (left), Ryan Preece (center) and Tommy Baldwin Jr. talk about what Preece was feeling while testing his Nationwide Series car Wednesday at Thompson Speedway

In preparation for his expected debut in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Preece got to test the Tommy Baldwin Racing ride he will pilot in Loudon during a test session Wednesday at Thompson Speedway.

The 22-year old Preece was one of three drivers testing at Thompson on Wednesday. Also hitting the track was NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney in his Tommy Baldwin Racing Sprint Cup ride and Bobby Santos III in his Tinio Motorsports NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car.

Much of the attention was focused on Preece. The 22-year old from Berlin watched Blaney take the No. 8 Nationwide car onto the .625-mile Thompson Speedway oval to start the day off. From there, it was Preece’s seat for the rest of the day.

Preece will have a full day Saturday in Loudon. He will have Nationwide Series qualifying at 10 a.m., the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Town Fair Tire 100 at 1 p.m. and the Nationwide Series CNBC Prime’s The Profit 200 at 3:30 p.m. With victories in three of the first five events of 2013, Preece is the Whelen Modified Tour points leader and goes into Saturday’s event looking to become only the third driver in series history to win four consecutive events.

Tommy Baldwin Jr. is the son of former Whelen Modified Tour regular Tommy Baldwin Sr. who was tragically killed during an event at Thompson in 2004. Baldwin thought Thompson was the perfect place to get Preece some laps in the Nationwide car before the running of Saturday’s Nationwide Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Baldwin has long used Thompson as a testing site, whether it was as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief for other teams or for testing with his own organization.

With Preece, Baldwin figured Thompson was the perfect place to eliminate one variable in the learning curve for Preece, who is a regular at Thompson.

“Really, that’s the real reason we’re here with Ryan,” Baldwin said Wednesday morning on the infield at Thompson Speedway. “We’re trying to take all the equations away for Ryan. He knows the place. He’s not worried about being here. He just has to worry about the car. He doesn’t have to worry about a new track. If we tested somewhere down [south] he would have had to worry about never being there. At least now he knows the track and it takes that out of the equation.”

Baldwin has liked what he’s seen of Preece during the 2013 season. In addition to his successes on the Whelen Modified Tour this year, Preece has won five of eight SK Modified events this year at Stafford Motor Speedway, he has two Tour Type Modified division victories at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway and he has an SK Modified victory at Thompson.

“Obviously the kid’s got talent,” Baldwin said. “His confidence level in the last couple months I think has grown because of all the things that have been thrown at him. That’s a good thing to have. He’s taking the pressure and the things that are coming for him, with all the possibilities, and he’s taking advantage of it right now. He reminds me of Steve Park. When we were growing up he took those advantages, the situations he was in, and grew stronger with them. He didn’t choke under pressure. That’s the thing we’ve noticed in the past couple months watching Ryan with all the things that he’s done.”

Despite the fact that many times are looking to sign teenagers to developmental contracts these days across the ranks of NASCAR, Baldwin said he doesn’t see Preece’s age being a hindrance to him possibly moving up the ladder.

“He’s right in the middle of where he needs to be with age,” Baldwin said. “Obviously you’ve got some guys [younger]. The good thing is Ryan has a lot race car experience. He’s got so much seat time. He started early. I remember him at 14 or 15 years old at New Smyrna [Speedway in New Smyrna, Fla.] driving a Florida Modified.

“He’s got a really big learning curve ahead of him as soon as he steps in this thing all the way through Saturday. He’s just got to take everything as a really good learning experience and take advantage of it.”

Preece said he’s not worried about nerves kicking in on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“It’s just another day,” Preece said. “One thing, nobody can put pressure on me like I do on myself. My goals right now are to keep the car clean, run good and bring the car home in one piece. I don’t have much full-fendered experience, but I’m one that’s willing to learn and I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity that I can get. I’ve been doing everything I possibly can to be as ready as I can be to get into this car.”

Preece said the biggest surprise for him Wednesday was the brakes on the car, which didn’t react quite like his Modified rides do at Thompson.

“They just don’t quite stop nearly as good as a Modified, or if I sent it in like a Modified, I don’t think this thing would make the corner,” Preece said. “But forward bite wise, it’s basically similar characteristics of a Modified. It just takes a little bit longer to have the car set and drive off. It feels good, I’m pretty happy. Obviously it’s going to take me a little adjusting to get used to it, but I’m pretty excited. I’m more confident now after getting in the car than I was before today.”

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  1. Hey Shawn did you get any video of the cars going around the track?

  2. Just a couple short clips. They are posted on Instagram.

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