Hands On: Ryan Preece Uses NASCAR Cup Series Off Weekend To Get Back To Work On Modified





Ryan Preece prepares his tires at the Tri-Track Open Modified Series SBM 121 Saturday at Star Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

EPPING, N.H. – As part of his job as a driver in the NASCAR Cup Series for JTG Daugherty Racing Ryan Preece is responsible for communicating to his crew chief Trent Owens what he wants in his cars before they hit the track for each event. 

“That is my job, to work on the driver giving feedback and helping to direct the ship,” said Preece, the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and a former regular at Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway and Riverhead (N.Y) Raceway. 

But when it comes to getting the rare opportunity to get back to his roots of Modified racing, Preece wants to be the captain of the ship. 

On a blazing hot Saturday at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H, this weekend, it was Preece playing crew chief, crew member, setup guy, tire guy, shock guy, whatever guy in addition to strapping in and piloting his ride in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series SBM 121. 

Preece was making his first appearance competitively in a Modified since racing at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in February. 

“It’s good,” Preece said. “I like racing with [car owner Eddie Patridge] and my friends. It’s a lot of fun. And I just want to run good, I don’t care. I want to win ultimately. But guys like [eventual race winner Matt Hirschman] and [Ron Silk] aren’t easy to beat in this Open Show stuff. And when you’re not doing it all the time, you’re showing up and trying to control everything you can.” 

When it comes to racing his Modified Preece wants to be hands on with all elements of the car throughout the event. He said he has no desire to be the Cup Series driver who shows up for a short track Modified appearance just to put the helmet on and go race. 

“There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s fine, it’s definitely easier doing that,” Preece said. “You hang out, you go drive and you do whatever. … But when I come do this, I feel like I can do a good job for myself and Eddie allows me to do that. And my owners [JTG Daugherty team owners Tad and Jodi Geschickter] let me do this. At the end of the day, with [my Cup Series team] I’ve got somebody who’s working on the car for me at the shop. All I have to do is tell them what I want in it. When I get to the track at a place like this I feel like I can put my hands on the car and it’s not a distraction to anybody and I want to do that.” 

Preece got to Star Speedway Friday to test his Modified following a Cup Series event Thursday night at Kansas Speedway. Thursday’s event was a race that garnered a huge amount of attention for Preece, but not for any sort of reason he wanted. 

With 85 laps remaining in the event at Kansas Preece was involved in a massive wreck that had NBC Sports announcers gasping as they watched it live. 

The incident started when Christopher Bell and Ryan Newman made contact on the backstretch. Bell hit the wall and came back down the track in front of Preece. It sent Preece heading nearly head-on into the inside wall. After slamming the wall Preece’s car nearly flipped before landing back on the track on four wheels and getting hit again by Newman. 

“I’ve had hard hits, that was definitely not a gentle one,” Preece said of what was the most visually dramatic wreck of his two seasons in the Cup Series. “It was heavy. … I don’t know, that stuff doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t scare me. To be honest I think that’s just a testament to how far these cars have come safety-wise. … Probably 30-40 years ago, you wrecked you could get killed. I don’t know if that’s part of the reason we all race so aggressively, because there’s no repercussions for it for the most part. But I was fine.” 

After 19 events this season Preece is still looking for his first top-10 of 2020 in Cup Series action. The team returns to competition in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Aug. 2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Preece said it’s hard for people to see from the team’s results that there are positive steps taking place. 

“I’ve always hit it off with people before where you have instant success,” said Preece, who was paired with Owens before the start of this season. “At Cup it’s not that easy. I really like that Trent and I are on the same page. We’ve been getting the car really good, just unfortunately we’ve got nothing to show for it. At the end of the day we’re taking steps in the right direction. Our finishes don’t show it, which is extremely frustrating. All you can do is get to where you want to be and the finishes will come and then everybody will notice.” 

After getting caught up in a lap one crash in his heat race Saturday at Star Speedway, Preece came through a consolation heat to make the feature and ended up sixth. He said he’s unsure when his next appearance in a Modified will happen. 

“It’s so tough,” Preece said. “The schedule is open, but my focus right now, that’s on my job [driving the Cup Series car]. This just happened to be an off weekend and it worked out perfect. Right now it’s just an every once in a while thing.” 

Comments

  1. Love Ryan’s honesty. He’s not making excuses or pointing fingers, like allot of drivers do. Hopefully before the end of the season he’ll achieve satisfying results. Wish him the best of luck going forward

  2. Hirschman, Dowling, Rocco, Owen, Kopcik and Preece all get their hands dirty working on cars. More importantly they know how to make them go fast Respect the hell out of that. Not just driving but physically preparing a car to race and taking responsibility for it. The trend is to pay for the car and knowledge and have someone else do the work but the roots of racing is hands on and it’s not dead yet.
    Is Preece toast after this year in Cup as some have mentioned. I’ll say absolutely no. The same guy doing what is shown in the pic is the guy that JTG Daugherty Racing knows well. A quality guy and pure racer that they’ll dig hard to find reasons to keep.

  3. Doug, hope you are right.
    Surely, the man is dedicated. Doing the cup grind, trying to persevere and get better results, with little to show for hard work. And dedication? With a rare off weekend, where is he and what is he doing? Wrenching and driving a modified.
    You know how I feel about JTG stuff, but i really think it’s his only shot. The rides that open up at that level, if they are top tier, will be Xfinity rookie fed. Would I love to see him in the 14 if Clint is not resigned? Absolutely. But I just don’t think that will happen. No other top tier rides that I can see. Jtg and Ryan have to find a way to get on the “upper curve”, or I think it will be over at that level for Ryan. Sponsors want results. Even if it ultimately means firing the guy who is not the root cause of the problem. Jmo.

  4. In the interest of playing devils advocate I’ll throw out a couple ideas that may not be main stream for race fans. With rose colored glasses firmly on.
    The first being a twentieth place team in the bigs is fine. It’s not in fans nature to look at the leader board, see their guy running 18th and saying man he’s having a good day. I’d posit that the JTG team has been doing it for a long time and know the pecking order well. They have goals and seek to maximize performance in a window the does not routinely include poles and top tens. Obviously I cannot know it but they may very well evaluate their drivers based on not just finishes but performance within the race. Did they take advantage of the opportunities given the cars potential on a given day, on a given track. They get the drivers that fit their more restrictive budget, want the driver to meet expectations within the budget, work well with the entire team and be great as a sponsor advocate.
    Secondly I’d suggest the sponsor may not care as much about results as much as getting the exposure they sought given the price they are paying for the exposure. Again not knowing but one may assume Kroger pays less then the sponsors of top tier cars and the exposure twentieth place cars get nationally is within their expectations. Even Preece crashing with the Kroger name being played over and over with national exposure has value.
    Kroger is in 35 states from California to NY but they mainly are in the heartland and racing country. On Saturday most of the TTOMS race had Summer Thunder sponsored by Kroger in the upper right hand corner. That does nothing in modified country but Speed51 carries most of it’s races in Kroger country. My point being that Kroger has a specific marketing strategy that includes money for a 20th place NASCAR cup team and exposure to the heartland short track race fans. We can’t know but they may be very happy with the JTG team with Stenhouse this year and Preece last year breaking into the leader territory every now and then and saying man we got a good deal with those guys.
    I like every other Preece fan would like to see him with a top tier team and run up front like we saw Bodine, Spencer and others did. On the other hand it seems unfair to paint where he is now, with a chartered NASCAR Cup team as some kind of unfulfilled or wasted career. He won’t be let go in my view but if it happened tomorrow his career would still be an unqualified success given the odds he overcame.
    Whether Preece is on the ground at Star checking a tire, in an interview with Mr. Courchesne, sitting in his sim racing rig in a nationally televised race during the pandemic, in a pre race interview at Daytona, at a Kroger store promoting Maxwell House coffee or anything on his Facebook page he always looks good and says just the right thing. That has value.

  5. Doug;
    I’ll take that, and hope you are correct.
    I just read all the silly season pieces (so far) on the cup site. With all the speculations of contracts, open seats, what’s available, who may be available, nowhere, and in no verse, is Preece’s name mentioned for any potential open ride. Now I’m not sure if Preece is under contract beyond this year, as I’m old and I tend to forget easily. But Hopefully, he is. If not, hopefully he is resigned with (gulp) JTG, if he is up this year.

  6. R.I.P. U.S. REP. JOHN LEWIS

  7. I would hope either JTG gives Ryan another year or two, as he adjusts to a new crew chief. Or, that a top tier team recognizes his talent, and signs him.
    Cup racing is cutthroat, just look at generic, who was only given 1 season at RCR. These teams seem to want young talent, and there’s an abundance of young kids, with very few rides up for grabs.

  8. Meant to say Hemeric, Damm spellcheck

  9. Ryan, for the love if god please get a proven chassis before you lose all interest in competing. I watch you struggle race after race and drive way over the limits of that car to try and win in a modified. Son, life is short. Please stop wasting time and get back to what you know works and add to the win column before Father Time takes over. You will NEVER win a race in the equipment you currently are using. While you have been racing down south, the modified has evolved. Dramatically. Please take advantage of these improvements and go back to winning races. The fans miss you up front where you belong. And not at New Smyrna either.
    Randy
    Vernon CT

  10. I’ll take the opposite view of that argument.
    Preece and Paquette did win at New Smyrna in 2018 and Stafford in 2019 with the CD special. Ran 4th last February at New Smyrna and passed a lot of cars at Star for a good finish if that was one of the CD cars. Passing cars is fun. Working with Mike and their crew goes back years and years and that’s fun apparently.
    Last January Preece said they were experimenting with the four link and he liked doing something different. Who knows what they are doing now but they’re having fun improving something unique. A new, latest best chassis would be a big expense for a part time gig and I get the impression those guys are more interested in being more Hirschman unicorn then another LFR or Fury face in the crowd.
    In the end we just don’t know what Preece is running either the engine or the chassis. There are other priorities in RaceDayCt stories and that stuff is a bit in the weeds. It would be nice if Ryan or Mike or anyone could say what they are doing in the chassis arena on Facebook.

  11. Randy posted, “While you have been racing down south, the modified has evolved. Dramatically. ”

    No, the modified has not evolved in that time frame. Let me remind you, lap times are not any faster. Hence, therefore and forthwith, the modified has not evolved.

    Many teams have bought the latest and greatest, and they still can’t compete.

    But I respect that Preece is trying something new, for whatever reason. Hopefully he gets it better, and far better, than what’s out there.

  12. Wait till they get that beast lined out. Paquette won’t be able to build them fast enough. An insider, who’s working with them on this, told me they are still in the experimental stages with the car, playing with different things to get it perfect. It’s tough because of Ryan’s schedule though
    Anybody remember when if you wanted to win at Stafford, you had to have a CD car? I think all of this may be to re establish CD’s dominance at Stafford and tracks similar.

  13. Was he even in the CD car? I thought Ryan had that car down south and Ed Partridges car was a Troyer TA-3.

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