Preece ready to get back on track in Xfinity Series

first_imgWhen Ryan Preece gets back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, nearly three months will have passed since his victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. Preece is set to drive in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 (Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway.During that down time, Preece participated in a Xfinity Series test at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has gotten behind the wheel in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour — winning at Stafford Motor Speedway in his native Connecticut at the end of April and also at Langley Speedway last month.“Any seat time is good and that’s pretty much how I keep going,” Preece said of how he spends his time when he’s not racing in the Xfinity Series.RELATED: Preece’s career stats | Ryan Preece wins at BristolWhile it’s hard to have such a prolonged absence from the Xfinity car, Preece knows there is nothing he can do to control it. He did make three straight starts from Fontana to Bristol with a top five (Texas) sandwiched in between a ninth-place at Auto Club Speedway and the Thunder Valley win. The Bristol win brought with it increased attention and some additional spending money with the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash prize. In addition to paying off a debt, Preece splurged on one of his racing love’s, a modified car. A 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion, Preece made his name in that touring series and has 22 wins there to date.“We’re racers. We’ve been jumping from different types of cars our entire life so it’s a little different,” Preece said. “Going from modified, which is two inches off the ground, static and low and then you jump in these cars and you feel like you’re in a Toyota Tundra or whatever; something tall off the ground. It’s a little different but the first lap as soon as you get out there, it’s just like riding a bike; you’re right back to it.”RELATED: Xfinity Series schedule for 2018 | Every winner in the Xfinity SeriesDespite the intermittent starts, Preece has also caught the attention of Kyle Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.“Ryan’s been showing some really good promise in the races that he’s run for us so it’s been really cool to watch,” Busch said at Pocono Raceway.Preece is no stranger to putting his nose to the grindstone and just getting after it. He reached out to JGR in 2017 to see if there were any open races available with JGR’s Xfinity Series program — specifically at his home track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway where he would make his first of four starts for JGR in 2017. The now 27-year-old was victorious last summer at Iowa Speedway.RELATED: Preece wins at Iowa in second start with JGR“Several of our people knew him,” Steve de Souza, Joe Gibbs Racing executive vice president of XFINITY and development told NASCAR.com. “In fact, one of our Cup crew chiefs Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin’s crew chief on the No. 11 team), worked with him years ago. Tony Hirschman (Kyle Busch’s spotter) — his family races modifieds up there. Everybody was really integrated and when they heard we were talking, I started getting inundated with all the Northeast emails saying ‘hey this guy’s good, you got to try him.’Preece is far from a rookie in the series as he drove a full season for the No. 01 Chevrolet team of JD Motorsports and owner Johnny Davis in 2016. That season, he finished 17th in the point standings. It was Preece’s experience that also appealed greatly to JGR.“He is just really mature and has a 100-percent, wide-open attitude,” de Souza said. “He has very little discouragement in him. He’s there for one reason and he’s totally focused on that reason — that’s to do well and win races.“… The fact that he’s been building his own race cars for so long. He understands every component and there are things we are doing on Xfinity that are new to him but he understands the concept. He can transfer information to the crew chiefs and what the car is doing. He’s got a true racer mentality.”The second half of the Xfinity season will see Preece pretty busy, according to No. 18 crew chief Eric Phillips. Kyle Busch, Noah Gragson, Kyle Benjamin, Daniel Suarez and Riley Herbst have all taken turns in the No. 18 car with Phillips atop the box.“We’ll spend a lot of time together and a lot of time in the simulator before we go to the race tracks,” Phillips said last month at Pocono. “Excited about what he’s going to bring to this program. Our ultimate goal is to win an owner’s championship this year and that’s the goal that Ryan’s got to do for us when we get to the end of the year.”last_img

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