NASCAR fans who watched the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series season probably wouldn’t have expected Ryan Preece in Victory Lane in an XFINITY event anytime soon.
That’s no knock on Preece’s driving ability, just his circumstances. In his first full-time season in a NASCAR national series, Preece finished 17th in points for Johnny Davis’ No. 01 team, scoring one top 10, before departing the series at the end of the year without as much as a sniff of a win. The modified standout ended up back in the Whelen Modified Tour for much of 2017, accruing two wins entering Saturday’s XFINITY event at Iowa Speedway.
Well, chalk up another win to his tally this year.
In the second of two scheduled starts for Preece in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 in 2017, Preece held off a charge from teammate Kyle Benjamin to win his first XFINITY Series race in the US Cellular 250.
Oh, and he won it from the pole.
Preece was visibly emotional in a Victory Lane interview, thanking multiple people — including his modified team owner — for getting him to that point.
His finishes since joining Gibbs for his part-time campaign now? First and second, the latter coming at New Hampshire Motor Speedway just two weeks ago.
Benjamin, meanwhile, also scored a career-best finish after coming home second, after previously finishing no higher than 16th in his maiden XFINITY campaign with JGR.
In fact, each of the top eight finishers had never won an XFINITY race prior to Preece’s eventual triumph. Brian Scott, back for his part-time schedule with Richard Childress Racing for his first start of 2017, finished third, followed by Brennan Poole and Cole Custer.
JJ Yeley, Daniel Hemric, Blake Koch, William Byron and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 10.
Exiting Iowa, Elliott Sadler holds the series points lead, followed by JR Motorsports teammates Byron and Allgaier.
The series is back on track at Watkins Glen International next Saturday, Aug. 5.