Digging Deep With Denise: Visiting With Ryan Preece

“Digging Deep With Denise” is a semi-regular question and answer feature with local racers and racing personalities produced by RaceDayCT’s Denise DuPont

LOUDON, N.H. – This weekend NASCAR heads to New England for the New England Racing Fuels Dirt Duels, the Xfinity Series Ambetter Health 200, the Whelen Modified Tour Mohegan Sun 100 and the Cup Series Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Berlin native Ryan Preece returns to the track bringing with him a lot of memories of racing. Preece’s last win at the track was in the Whelen 100 Whelen Modified Tour race on July 17, 2021. On that day fans saw Preece go from third to first in the final corner.

Berlin, Connecticut has been noted as a hotspot for generating those deeply involved in motorsports, one of them being Preece. His thoughts on his roots:

“When I was young a lot of my friends liked working on race cars. I have a lot of memories where we would go to the track and then come back to Berlin and work on race cars. [Berlin] is just a town that you can not get anywhere else. It is just that place that you will not find anywhere else.”

Why do you race?

“I race because I want to. There were obviously multiple times in my career where I just could have settled in and raced. My thing was that I had a vision for what I want to be and how I wanted to do it. That was to be a successful race car driver; a winning race car driver; a champion race car driver. I always had an understanding of how to go fast and how to make a car go fast. It has just been a roller coaster ever since the start.

“A lot of drivers as kids growing up did not say ‘I am going to be a NASCAR Cup Driver.’ Myself, I just wanted to win races. It had absolutely nothing to do with being a race car driver or racing at the Cup level.  The dream of any kid is to be like an astronaut.  [A Cup driver) was not necessarily anything that I had my eye on or that I was dead set on. There was not anything in my mind when I was winning races or championships. There were a lot of thoughts that came to mind on how do I do this or get attention of someone that will give me an opportunity.  Ultimately, Tommy Baldwin started this whole process and this whole thing.”

What do you see as your goals or expectations for the future?

“Those goals and expectations change as you get older. Me, I have gotten so those boxes get checked. I am at another opportunity and I feel like I have an organization or a team around me that I can work with to try to win races.  I feel like if I go back to [Los Angeles] and if that fuel pump did not go, I could have held on and won that race. But it created other learning experiences and opportunities to keep working for that goal. Because I know anything that comes easy is not usually worth it. Right now, my goals are to become a winning Cup driver. I will have won in national divisions: the Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Camping World Truck Series,  ARCA Menard Series and the Whelen [Modified Tour]. That is five different NASCAR divisions.

“My goal right now is to win in the Cup Series. Win a lot of races hopefully. And maybe one day contend for a championship and do all those things.”

Which race track do you love running on the best?

“There are so many different tracks, I do not know if I could pick just one. A lot of them have helped mold me to what I am today. One of them that you would not even believe, is Evergreen [Speedway] in Pennsylvania where I first started racing a Modified. That started the whole thing on how to go fast. How to drive the car loose and be that way. But obviously from a success standpoint, the rivalries and how to learn to deal with them and be ready in those pressure moments it is Stafford [Speedway]. Then there is Riverhead Raceway. That is a place where I dominated for years. I guess I just cannot pick one.” 

Do you feel that you have earned respect with the Cup Drivers?

“To be honest with you, yes. When I am around Kevin [Harvick] or Martin Truex or some of the veterans, I feel that there is a level of respect even if they don’t know me personally. There is a level of mutual respect similar to even if there are people that I race locally, we may not have gotten along but there was mutual respect. So, I do feel that there is respect there.”

Back in the day there was Dale Earnhardt in the garage whose presence was known At the current time is there anybody like that?

“Kevin Harvick is definitely the guy that you feel he is the respected guy who has the presence in the garage.”

Driving the newly designed Cup Car and getting into an accident or bumped from the rear, it has been stated that all the energy goes to the driver, has that gotten any better?

“We just made changes in Atlanta for the cars. So fortunately, I have not had to front clip it and felt anything, so I am hopeful. We took a hard hit in Tallendaga, which is the heaviest that I have ever taken. Moving forward they have made changes. They do not want to have a bad moment.”

What about all the shifting?

“The shifting is different. It has created a tool to get the car to turn. Yes, it is just different, but I do not mind it.”

Right now the Cup Drivers do not get a lot of practice at a track. And the setups are computerized. Your thoughts on that?

“Settings are what they are and it is fine tuning. We are trying to find the balance that I want. To maximize. We usually have just been a little bit too tight. And that is not a top-15 or top-10 for qualifying. But the car is good in the race because my crew chief is tops. He is great and we talk about things. This is a new car. I have raced in the Cup Series for three years and I have worked with [crew chief Chad Johnston] in the past. This is a new car. All the things that he learned or what I had on how you set up a race car before is not useful. This is totally different. So, it is a process for him and I go through and figure out what I like and what I do not like and how to get it to where we want to. They raced on 12-inch tires or whatever they were. These tires are 15 inches wide tires and there is independent wheel suspension, coil covers and they allow certain bars that you cannot change. They are all common parts, so you just have to figure out what lever to pull.

“For a full-bodied race car, the car right now is the most similar to a Modified that I have ever had. That is why we will get there. I know we will.”

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