Ryan Preece at long last lands ride at NASCAR’s top level
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Ryan Preece believed if he could get in a fast car, he could prove he deserved a competitive ride.
Pulling it off required Preece to give up a full-time job, step back into a partial ride and show he wasn’t a fool for taking a gamble. It took him two years but Preece on Friday landed that big job when he was hired by JTG Daugherty Racing to replace AJ Allmendinger next season.
“I just knew that I had tried everything to get the opportunity that I needed, and it just wasn’t happening,” Preece said. “And it wasn’t because of not being able to win. I’ve won a minimum of 17 races for the past four years, or whatever it may be. There have been plenty of wins. It’s just I haven’t gotten that opportunity, and I really want to thank these guys again, because this a true opportunity.
“It’s really nice being wanted, you know what I mean?” he said.
JTG signed Preece to a multi-year contract to drive the No. 47 Chevrolet beginning with next season’s Daytona 500 opening race. The 36-year-old Allmendinger has spent the past five seasons with the team with one victory and a spot in the 2014 playoff field, but the team felt it could build for the future with the 27-year-old Preece.
Preece is an established racer in the Northeast with 22 victories in NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour. He won the series championship in 2013 and was part of NASCAR’s developmental class of future stars in 2013 and 2014.
“I have checked him out pretty thoroughly and he is a hardcore racer,” said JTG competition director Ernie Cope. “I definitely feel he is a winner. He is going to force, he is motivated, and he just will not accept losing he will figure it out.”
It has taken the Connecticut native longer than he expected to get to NASCAR’s top level. He has run nine races this season for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series with one victory, and said he’s never given up trying to get a full-time NASCAR ride.
He ran a full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2016 for JD Motorsports, with one top-10 finish, but scaled back to the JGR partial schedule to show what he could do in competitive cars. Preece won in his second start of a four-race deal with Gibbs last season, and expanded the ride into more races this year.
“It’s kind of the way I was brought up, there is never ‘I can’t’. It’s ‘Make it happen’ no matter what you’ve got to do,” Preece said. “I’m not going to be the weak link. I’m going to work very hard week-in and week-out and we’re going to work really hard next year to get where we all want to be.”
Chris Buescher will return to JTG next season for a two-car operation that will use engines from Hendrick Motorsports.