One year ago, Ryan Preece was making his first start with Joe Gibbs Racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Now in 2018, he returned with two victories and an even greater fan base pointing toward his No. 18 Toyota.
It almost paid off for him again in Saturday’s Lakes Region 200, as the 27-year-old started the day third, led for six laps and battled Brad Keselowski hard for the race lead late.
However, the run didn’t end in Victory Lane, with Preece losing out on the final restart to finish third.
One more restart, Preece thinks the win could’ve been his.
“Restarts were in my favor there,” Preece said. “I was hoping for a green-white-checkered finish because we were so good in the VHT. Ultimately, I was good on restarts but too tight once we got racing.”
With a close three-way battle against Keselowski and race winner Christopher Bell, it was Preece who fell off in the final laps due to running the inside lane.
“You aren’t going to beat that [top] lane when they get that straight shot, they carry so much momentum,” he said.
Despite using the VHT on the bottom lane, Preece wishes NASCAR would do away with it, as the short-tracker wants the driver to make the difference instead of a sticky track.
“I honestly wish it would’ve worn out,” he said. “Sometimes you wish teams were thrown a curveball, it’s hard to make up for some things when we get going.”
In just his fifth start of 2018, the Bristol winner knows his opportunities aren’t on a weekly basis. Racing for a victory in the XFINITY Series, he put it all on the line against Keselowski.
“Being inside 20 or 15 laps to go, you’re going to race hard,” he said. “I didn’t know if his car was going to fire better. I knew he had two tires, so I was racing him for everything I had trying to get in front of him and chase down my teammate. Especially to win here in New England.
“All I’m going to do is focus on my last race and try to show everybody I’m going to be a contender every time I step into this garage.”