Familiar Grounds: Ryan Preece Comes Home To NHMS As Monster Energy Cup Series Rookie

Ryan Preece (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

LOUDON, N.H. – Homecoming weekend. For NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series rookie Ryan Preece that’s what Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway means for him. 

In 2019 the Berlin, CT native became the first driver since Steve Park to rise from the ranks of Northeast Modified racing and land full-time in NASCAR’s premier division. 

And when it was announced late last September that he would replace A.J. Allmendinger in the JTG Daugherty No. 37 Monster Energy Cup Series ride, Foxwoods 301 Resort Casino weekend immediately got highlighted on the 2019 calendar for Preece. 

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been the site of many highlights in the career of the 28-year old Preece. It’s where he made his first XFINITY Series start in July 2013 and his first Monster Energy Cup Series start in September 2015. 

“It’s really one of those places, I’ve been to a lot of tracks across the country and I’ve been growing my fan base outside of the Northeast and the east coast, but when I come to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and get introduced, there’s a lot of people that support me and cheer for me,” Preece said. “Whenever I go to New Hampshire it’s like me going to Thompson [Speedway] or Stafford [Speedway]. That’s my home track for the Cup Series. It’s a big deal for me. Obviously the amount of laps I’ve had, there I’ve been going there for the last 11 years, it’s a lot of laps. … It’s a place that I just really love going to.” 

Preece, the grandson of legendary Modified team owner Bob Judkins, began racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2007 at 16 years old. He won the series championship in 2013. 

In 2016 he landed a full-time ride in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with the Johnny Davis owned JD Motorsports team. Preece knew he was stepping into underfunded equipment that was not up to the level of the division’s premier teams, but he made the most of the opportunity by running clean, staying smart on the track and getting his name and face noticed in the garage. 

Before the 2017 season Preece decided that if he was to cling to his dream of making it to the top in stock car racing he was going to have to gamble. He could have returned to JD Motorsports for a second season and continued to run in the middle of the pack. Or he could take the financial support he was getting and use it for a limited effort with a premier team. 

Preece landed what was originally a two-race deal with the Joe Gibbs Racing XFINITY Series team. In his first outing with the organization he finished second to Monster Energy Cup Series star Kyle Busch on July 15, 2017 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

In his second start with the team he shocked the racing world, winning on July 29, 2017 at Iowa Speedway. 

“That was the risk that I needed to take,” Preece said of forgoing a full-time ride for just the chance at running two events. “Is that the risk somebody else needs to take? I don’t know. But that was what I felt was needed. That’s the decision that I made and what I thought that I needed to do to get where I’ve gotten. When I made that decision and took that risk and all those people coming in and helping make it happen, that’s really gotten me the opportunities that I needed and have now.” 

The Iowa victory opened the door to two more starts for JGR in 2017 and Preece made the most of them, finishing fourth at Kentucky Speedway in September of that year and fifth in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

The success in 2017 led to 15 more races with the JGR XFINITY Series team in 2018. Preece got his second XFINITY Series victory for the organization in his third start of 2018 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 14, 2018. 

On September 28, 2018 JTG Daugherty announced that Preece would run full-time in 2019 in the Monster Energy Cup Series. He became the first driver to rise through the Modified ranks to the Monster Energy Cup Series full-time since Steve Park raced for the former Dale Earnhardt Inc. in Cup from 1998-2003. 

Ryan Preece (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

“It’s a great deal because it’s kind of that barrier that’s been hard to break for anyone from the Northeast,” Preece said. “To really get here, to get to Cup, and now to stay here. It’s really awesome to be the first guy really to break through since Steve Park. It’s been 15 plus years. Hopefully we can just continue to keep digging and be successful.”

Preece makes it clear that the satisfaction of reaching the top and just staying there is not enough for him. 

“I think some people, once you get into that situation and once you live that situation, you aren’t just happy being there,” Preece said. “You want to be successful. At least myself. I’m somebody who is competitive and wants to be successful. Yes I’m very proud that I made it to this level. I’ve fought and clawed every bit of it to this day, but now to stay at this level you have to be successful. You have to want more. And if you don’t you won’t last. 

“It’s one of those things where if you’re content with just being somewhere and just being out there and just being out there and being part of the show, that’s great. But if you’re a racer and you want more and you want to win races and you want to be successful for not only yourself but for everybody that’s helped you get to where you are because they believed in you, and also for the team that believes in you and gives you that opportunity, you want more. That’s just kind of the attitude I have.” 

The early goings of the 2019 have had their ups and downs for Preece. He finished eighth in the season opening Daytona 500 in February, running as high as third over the closing laps. He got his first Monster Energy Cup Series podium finish with a third place at Talladega in May. But most weeks early this year have seen Preece fighting to crack the top-20. Preece was 28th in qualifying Friday for Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. He sits 26th in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings.

“We’ve been building,” Preece said. “It’s such a different package. It’s been a learning experience on both sides. But we’ve been gaining on it every single week. We’ve been getting better and better. We miss a little bit in a race and the way things are right now you cannot miss it. But moving forward I feel really good about everything we have and getting back to where I feel like we can run. I think as an organization we have really good cars. We have plenty of downforce. There’s a lot of good things and great power. … I definitely see us jumping some spots and running better.” 

And for Preece, part of the excitement of Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 weekend is returning to his roots. Preece will compete for his longtime Whelen Modified Tour team owned by Ed and Connie Partridge in the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 Saturday. He was 13th in the Friday’s Whelen All-Star Shootout at NHMS.

Preece has 23 career Whelen Modified Tour series starts in points event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway dating back to 2007, but is still looking for his first points win at the track. He did win the exhibition Whelen All-Star Shootout in 2017 at NHMS. 

“Not that I’m comparing myself to Dale Earnhardt, but where he won a lot of races on the Cup Series, but never had that [Daytona 500] until late [in his career], with the Modified, I’ve won a lot of prestigious races in Modified racing, but when it comes to New Hampshire I haven’t won a points one,” Preece said. “I won the All-Star, but I haven’t won a points race there. Maybe one day I can get it. 

“At the end of the day, I’ve had great cars to contend for wins and that’s really one of the toughest parts in racing is having fast cars to be able to do what I feel like I can do, and that’s contend. Any day that you’re given opportunities with cars like those, you want to capitalize on that. The goal is to show up with a fast race car in July and give ourselves another opportunity to contend for a win.”

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  1. Jerry Fascione says

    Nobody cares Ryan get over yourself your not that good.

  2. Wow! Jerry, where’s the love? You have to realize Ryan is doing what many drivers from New England only dream of, and very few have accomplished. You also have to realize he’s in his rookie season, driving a car with a whole new package that even has some top teams struggling to understand. Give it some time, and I think you’ll see Ryan’s performance improving.

  3. Well Jerry, Ryan is racing at the highest level and you’re sitting behind a keyboard posting stupid comments. Ryan has done a lot more to ‘get over’ than you ever will.

  4. Drivers always have to be self confident but I’ve never found any part about Preece arrogant or full of himself as Jerry implies. I’ve always found his public personality it be engaging and charismatic. He takes the time to share his experiences on social media whether it’s simply killing time making his way to a race or working on a modified to get it ready for a race he clearly doesn’t need to be running.
    He’s a hands on grinder with a great personality. He’s putting the best face he can in yet another outstanding article from Shawn Courchesne regarding his season but that’s what you have to do at the Cup level. He does have two outstanding finishes this year at Daytona and Talladega that in my view make this season a resounding success no matter what else happens.
    If Ryan isn’t as genuine as he appears it’s the best fake act I’ve ever seen.
    What’s not to like?

  5. Andrew B. says

    Loudon qualifying:
    2016 – Xfinity, driving for JD Motorsports : Preece 0.65 seconds behind Keselowski
    2017 – Xfinity, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing: Preece 0.15 seconds behind Keselowski
    2018 – Xfinity, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing: Preece 0.05 seconds behind Keselowski
    2019 – Monster, driving for JTG Daugherty: Preece 0.70 seconds behind Keselowski

    Is it the driver, or the car? If the above data doesn’t provide the definitive answer on that, then I can’t help ya.

  6. Not to defend Ryan Preece, but you have to realize the following. In the Modified many teams use the same car for a few seasons. Drivers become comfortable in the car, kbowi g how it will handle and what amount of speed it has. In Cup, most of the teams debut a new car every race or so. While the cwtersn drivers adjust easily to this, guys like Preece stumble. His performance is lackluster in this first half of the season, logic says he should improve as they visit tracks for the second time. Almendinger was about even with Ryan performance wise. Also the rules package has many teams trying to learn setup, and what the car will do on track. In Ryan’s case, the quipment is more at fault, than the driver. Ryan gives it his all every time on track, and I feel he will get better with time.

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