This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of Ryan Preece‘s standout performance at Iowa Speedway. One year later, he’s not even entered in the race.
That weekend was Preece’s breakthrough NASCAR moment, coming in just his second start for Joe Gibbs Racing. The Connecticut native led a career-high 141 laps en route to victory, his first national touring division win.
Yet this year, Preece has competed in just seven XFINITY races, out of a possible 33. He was signed on to race in 10 events this year, though he made it to 11 after finding sponsorship for New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his home racetrack, last weekend.
In five starts this season, Preece has a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he led 39 laps, while also posting two additional top-five efforts. He also has a ninth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway and started first at Daytona earlier this month before blowing an engine midway through the event.
“They’ve been really good,” Preece told Frontstretch of his five starts this season. “We struggled really badly at California [Auto Club], but then we started gaining momentum. Texas went really well, and then Bristol went as good as you could possibly ask. We’re looking forward to getting on a roll here.”
However, Preece is competing for an organization that has been the standard bearer of the XFINITY Series for the past decade. Results are expected, and in nine total starts for JGR, the 27-year-old has two victories, six top fives, and eight top 10s, with an average finish of 7.2, which includes a 39th-place finish at Daytona.
“I don’t put any pressure on myself,” he said. “I just want to win, and that’s what we try to do. I race all the time. I’m racing two or three times per week, so I’m totally focused and definitely looking forward to the next few races. Jumping in and out of the seat isn’t a big deal, as much as I would love to be in the seat, I’m racing all the time so it’s not a big deal.”
Fans native to the northeast have almost certainly heard of Preece before he entered the NASCAR in 2013 when he drove for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Over the past 12 years, he’s racked up 22 victories in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, while also competing in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Tri-Track Open Modified Series, and open modified events.
But racing modifieds doesn’t take nearly as much money to fund as does NASCAR, a problem Preece has had throughout his NASCAR career, even while running full-time for JD Motorsports in 2016.
Preece said: “Am I content with being a modified driver? I love modified racing, and it’s great racing. But when you want to be the best at everything you get in. I feel like I’ve done a really good job in a modified, and I would always go back and keep racing it, but I’m trying to move up to this level and that’s where I want to be.
“Moving up was harder than I thought it was going to be. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to being a good driver for winning races.”
Additionally, Preece mentioned that it takes approximately $5,000 worth of sponsorship to fund one of the top modified teams per race and roughly $75,000 for the full season. Compare that number to the $100,000-$150,000 per race cost in the XFINITY Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, and there lies the problem.
Winning has helped Preece, who doesn’t proclaim to be a good marketer, to find sponsorship. Both Ruud and Rheem have hopped on-board for a few races, while also partnering with full-time JGR driver Christopher Bell.
“My full-time job is working on racecars and driving racecars, so for me to put 100 percent into marketing, I didn’t go to school for it, I just know what I can do and be as a representative,” Preece said. “I don’t know what the future looks like.”
Since being successful in the XFINITY Series, sponsors have reached out to help with Preece’s modified deal. Companies such as Louisiana Hot Sauce have helped, including last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Despite being a successful modified competitor, Preece wants to continue climbing the ranks of NASCAR, hopefully, sooner rather than later.
“I want to be full-time, Preece mentioned. “I’m not trying to be a part-time driver, which don’t get me wrong, I’m in great equipment, which makes it that much better. I think when you’re winning races, you want to take that step to being full-time and constantly battling for wins week in and week out.
“I feel like I have to keep winning, because you can’t look at somebody and say ‘well, they didn’t win.’ I’m just going to keep trying to win.”
Preece isn’t scheduled to be back in an XFINITY car until Aug. 3 at Watkins Glen International. That will start a stretch of seven starts over the final 13 races of the season.
- This weekend the series makes its second trip to Iowa over the past six weeks. There are 39 drivers on the entry list and none who are doing double-duty, since the Cup Series will be competing at Pocono Raceway.
- Casey Roderick will be making his first series start since 2012 this weekend, while Max Tullman will be making his series debut. Roderick will be driving for GMS Racing in the No. 23 machines, while Tullman will be in the No. 26 for Tullman-Walker Racing, the first of three scheduled starts this season.
- Andy Lally announced this week that he will compete at three of the upcoming four road courses over the next two months in the No. 90 Chevrolet for DGM Racing. He will make his first start of the season at Mid-Ohio Sports Course (Aug. 11), while returning to the car at Road America (Aug. 25) and the ROVAL (Sept. 29)