Long Road To The Top Paying Off For Modified Veteran Ryan Preece In XFINITY Series

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Ryan Preece celebrates a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory on June 24 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. (Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

From the sour taste of frustration at his local short track to the thrill of rolling under the checkered flag as a winner in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ryan Preece has been through just about everything in racing.

That frustration he felt multiple times over the years when he climbed from his car at his local NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track was normal. Just about every driver who buckles the belts feels that at least a few times in his career. It’s just the nature of the sport.

His background really is filled with multiple stories of triumph, though. Just like anyone else, his path to the top in motorsports had plenty of bumps and bruises along the way that he had to fight through if he wanted to accomplish his ultimate goal. But he’s made the right moves at the right time to find his path to glory.

And after a career filled with racing at short-tracks in New England, Preece now finds himself competing on a part-time basis with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he has two wins across nine starts over the last year.

“When you look back a year ago, just before New Hampshire, the position I was in then is really no where like I am in today. If you believe you can get the job done, you can make it happen,” Preece said.

Preece started as a grassroots, short-track modified racer in New England where winning races really is never a given when you fire the engine each week. Competing against names like Keith Rocco and the late Ted Christopher for SK Modified wins probably goes down as some of the most difficult racing Preece has ever done or ever will do behind the wheel.

His first real “break” in racing flashed in front of him in 2011, when he was without a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ride and the career path in front of him wasn’t clear about where it was headed next.

“Every driver needs a break, and my first real break was from Eric Sanderson,” Preece said. “It was a very unexpected ride because all of a sudden there was turn of events for that team. I was hired for the last race (of 2011), and it turned into driving for them full-time in 2012, and then I came back and won the championship in 2013.”

In his Whelen Modified Tour championship campaign, Preece won four races and put together a sixth-place average finish driving the No. 16 East West Marine/Diversified Metals Chevrolet. At the time it was the pinnacle of his career.

“It was a sense of accomplishment because it’s not just one race — it’s every race throughout the season that you capitalized on. Essentially you were better than every other team there. It was nice to finally do it.”
Then, Preece moved to the next rung on the ladder with help from winning crew chief Tommy Baldwin, who aided Preece in making his first Xfinity Series start in 2013 at New Hampshire.

“Tommy was huge, without him and East West Marine and various other people when it was first getting started, the chances of me doing what I have done would have been really slim,” the Connecticut native said. “Tommy really introduced me into it, the business side, and all of us in the Northeast, we race hard and hope we will get that phone call. Essentially, Tommy was that phone call for me.”

Ever since that day at New Hampshire, Preece eyed the chance to get a ride on one of the highest levels of the sport for more than just one chance to show his talent. In 2016, he accomplished the goal — sitting behind the wheel for Johnny Davis Motorsports.

After parting ways with the team over the offseason, Preece found his golden chance to show what he could do behind the wheel with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It all really started with Carl Edwards retiring, drivers were shifting, and there were some opportunities for other drivers like myself to get into the equipment, and it created an opportunity where I had local supporters to come with me and get involved and help get me the shot I had been trying to get for so long,” Preece said.

“Without the people that were behind me, it wouldn’t have happened. To have the opportunity I had because of those people, I am going to be forever thankful. I am focusing on doing the best job I can do for Joe Gibbs Racing and my sponsors, and that is winning races. We all (drivers) do this to win races and be successful.”

In many ways, Joe Gibbs Racing has provided him with the opportunity to win races, but also the chance to learn from some of the best in the garage area.

“Their leaders that they have, Chris Gabehart, Eric Phillips, Jason Ratcliff (just to name a few) … they are real leaders. As much as the drivers get a lot of credit, those guys are superhero’s, really. We are just the ones that drive the cars and make sure we help to show-off what a job they have done.”

Thursday, an adjustment to the Xfinity Series schedule for Preece means he will compete in four additional races than he had originally planned in 2018. He will be part of Craftsman’s return to NASCAR as a primary sponsor for the Gibbs team — including Preece’s No. 18.

“This is one of the most exciting announcements I have ever had. Being able to represent Craftsman, I just think about all the races I used to watch when it was Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague…. I can just think about that series and it’s really cool for me to be able to have my name with a brand like Craftsman, it’s a big deal for me. My hobby is anything with an engine and wheels, so I use Craftsman tools all the time. To be able to work with their brand is just natural for me. I love tools, and I really love all of the different tools that they have.”

Out of everyone, a veteran of modified racing who made his way to the Xfinity Series winner’s circle looks at his current situation and feels thankful for the attention he is bringing to the modified ranks — which in many ways — is truly his home.

“I am someone who grew up in Connecticut, I went to the local races, and I started racing modifieds at a young age. When you watch on T.V., you see a lot of guys from Sprint Cars, Late Models, but you don’t see many from an asphalt modified. To see the attention modifieds are getting right now, it’s really awesome,” Preece said. “Modifieds are a race car — they do what you want them to do — but they are a handful when you go to short-tracks, it’s some of the toughest racing that I have done in my entire life. There are so many short-track legends who maybe didn’t make it to T.V., but those guys are tough. I learned a lot of lessons in modifieds, and without that path I chose, I wouldn’t be the racer I am today.”

All in all, although Preece has plenty of accolades that separate him from some of his competitors on the track, his mindset remains the same as every other driver who tightens the belts and fires the engine getting set to roll out of the pit area.

He wants to win.

“What really drives me is winning races. Working on the race cars, setting them up and knowing the satisfaction when you know how much work and time you put into the race car when you pull into Victory Lane, it’s a different feeling that most drivers probably don’t get the chance to have. It’s almost an addiction to do it as much as I possibly can. Everyone has things that they want to accomplish in life and mine is to win as much as possible.”


  1. Glad to see Ryan Preece getting 4 more races with major corporate sponsors. Hop the folks at Craftsman Tools see the potential this guy has. The article provided an insight into Ryan’s desire to race, and how tough it’s been to get where he is. And by the way, nowhere did I see the phrase ” Good blessed me with the talent to drive a race car… And I’m good at it”. Good drivers like Ryan don’t toot their own horns, they let their talent behind the wheel do the talking. Hoping to see Ryan sign a deal soon, but if he does will miss watching him in the Modifieds.

  2. From Connecticut, raced everything locally and still does. National exposure. Really our only local guy with national exposure. And that big charismatic personality. Saying bad things about Preece in these here parts would be just about as popular as trashing someone’s mom.
    Sure sure the on track exploits are great but it can’t happen without money and not just sponsor money. Ryan needs to make a living at it appears he’s having a good your. Kicking it off with the Richie Evans/Ted Christopher Memorial at New Smyrna. The huge payoff in the XFINITY Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Another payoff in the Islip 300 at River head. His regular duties in the 6 in the NWMT including a win at Langely. Representing Rheem and now Craftsman/Stanely Tool. He can’t continue to race unless he makes money. No one can know what he’s made this years but I’m thinking it’s been a pritty, pritty, pritty good year. Good for him.

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