Ryan Preece is a 22 year old racer from the Northeast who was recently announced as a member of the NASCAR Next class for 2013-14. He has twice come home as a runner-up in the Whelen Modified Tour. He runs weekly at Thompson International Speedway, Stafford Speedway and Riverhead Speedway. He also runs races in the Whelen Modified Tour, Valenti Modified Racing Series and NEMA Midgets.
As Preece prepared for his Nationwide Series debut at Loudon this past weekend, he took some time to chat with Frontstretch’s Mike Neff to talk about short track racing, where he’s from and where he’s going.
Mike Neff: How long have you been racing?
Ryan Preece: I’ve been racing since I was seven years old so that is…..15 years.
MN: What did you start out racing?
RP: I started out racing in quarter midgets and moved along the midget path for quite a while until I was 13 years old. That is when I got into a modified for the first time.
MN: Now you run at Thompson, Riverhead and Stafford every week?
RP: Yes, those are the weekly tracks that we run.
MN: You also run the Whelen Modified Tour, Valenti Modifieds and the occasional NEMA race?
RP: Yeah, I’m supposed to be running a couple NEMA races at the end of the season.
MN: In looking at the track schedules, they don’t all list them as SK Modifieds. Is there any real difference between what they run at Thompson, Stafford or Riverhead?
RP: Stafford and Thompson are basically the same type car. The SK Modified is the same thing as the Sunoco Modified. At Riverhead it is basically a Whelen Modified Tour car, it is basically the same rules.
MN: What is the difference between the two?
RP: The main difference is less horsepower at Stafford and Thompson. You run a two-barrel carburetor. You run pretty much a stock transmission. You can’t run a Jericho for the most part.
MN: Are the tires different? Down here in the South the guys who run the Stadium wish they’d run the Stadium tire on the tour.
RP: No difference in the tires. Down there they run the 10 inch tire at the Stadium I believe. We are all strictly 15 inch tires.
MN: You’re a part of the NASCAR Next program. For those reading this who don’t know a lot about it, what does it mean for you and your future?
RP: Being a part of the program is free advertising and marketing for NASCAR. Being a part of the program you are put in front of people that you normally wouldn’t have access to. We’re the only modified guy in the program and one of only a couple Whelen All-American guys in it. Getting to attend all of the events and be in front of the right people is going to give me an opportunity to perform and be rewarded. If I do my job and win races and do everything I can to get my name out there it is only going to help me.
MN: Speaking of winning races, since they announced your participation in the program you’ve been on a roll. You’ve won eight out of 13 races this season and five of them in a row since the announcement.
RP: Yeah, we’ve been hot. We’ve run 13 times and scored eight wins, five of them in a row.
MN: That’s got you sitting around the top 5 in points in the Whelen All-American Series National Points. You’re 150 or so points back from the top guys, do you think you still have a shot at this thing?
RP: I do. I’m curious to see where I’m going to end up after the two wins this weekend because they were full field races. (Preece moved into the 5th position in points.) I think, if we keep winning full field races, we’ll be right there at the end of the season. As long as those guys don’t cap off with 18 full field wins I think we’ll be right there.
MN: Curious to hear, you run against Keith Rocco, 2010 Whelen All-American Champion, while you’re up in the Northeast, also against Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik and guys like that. How cool is it to be running with the current legends of Modified racing on a weekly basis?
RP: It is definitely good. Those guys have a lot of experience and you learn off of them. If you run with rookies all of the time you make the same mistakes and learn with everyone else rather than watching somebody when you’re behind them and trying to set them up. You’re seeing what they’re doing and seeing what you can do. It is a good thing to be around them, not only because of what they’ve done but also what they know. You have to be willing to learn to grasp it all but it is very beneficial.
MN: Where are you in the points standings at the three tracks you’ve been running?
RP: I’m leading the points at Stafford. I believe I’m third or fourth at Thompson, they’ve only had a few races. At Riverhead I’ve only raced part time and I’m third in points. I was leading up until I had to skip a couple of races. Right now we’re third in points there and I’m leading the points for the Whelen Modifieds.
MN: Speaking of tours, I’ve followed the Valenti Modified Tour a little but what is different from their cars to the weekly and touring shows that you’ve run?
RP: The motor rules are a little different. You run a different style motor. You can’t run Tri Y headers. You have to run a quick change rear end. It is little things to tell you the truth, there really isn’t much difference.
MN: As things progress down the path for you in racing, is your goal to make it to NASCAR national touring series, open wheel series or whatever comes your way?
RP: To tell you the truth, whatever the opportunity it brings me. Obviously right now my goal is to be in a Cup car, Nationwide car or Truck, something like that. We’ll see, I just need to keep doing what I’m doing trying to win some races, keeping the car clean and we’ll see what happens.
MN: When you aren’t racing what do you like to do for fun?
RP: Go-karting, that is pretty much what I do. I have a Subaru WRX that I like to tinker with. Pretty much anything with a motor and wheels on it is all that I’m around.
MN: Are you planning on making a move to the Carolinas to chase your racing career or do you need to have a secured ride before you’re going to head down to the heart of stock car country.
RP: I would need a ride first before I would give up anything I have going on in the Northeast. I have too many good rides. I get paid to race cars, I don’t have to bring sponsors to race cars. It is pretty hard to just pick up and move and leave everything unless I have something waiting on me when I get down there that will give me a shot.
Preece ran third in the Modified race at New Hampshire to Doug Coby and Ted Christopher before turning his attention to his Nationwide debut. Preece started the Nationwide race 27th, finished four laps down to leader Kyle Busch and crossed the line in 24th. The objective of completing laps and gaining experience was accomplished. Preece heads on to chase the Whelen Tour Title, the track titles at Stafford, Riverhead and Thompson, along with some more races in the Nationwide Series.
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