RACING

Ryan Preece embraces his role at SHR, still eyeing Cup goals

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Jacques Gilbert | Getty Images

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Ryan Preece is still waiting for his breakout moment in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The Connecticut native has spent each of the past three years as a full-time competitor for JTG Daugherty Racing, following several part-time years throughout NASCAR’s National Series.

Now the 31-year-old finds himself on a part-time driving basis but aligned with one of the sport’s flagship teams at Stewart-Haas Racing, signed by the program in January to serve as a reserve driver and work closely collaboration on simulation. .

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It’s a different role for Preece, the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion who returns to the open-wheel series Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FloRacing). But the job is one he said he enjoyed. In his current position, Preece attends every pilot debrief and absorbs what each of his teammates has to offer in addition to analyzing the SMT data available to him.

A new aspect for Preece has been observing the different tendencies of each driver, learning who owns the strengths, where and how he can maximize those skills in his limited opportunities in 2022.

“We all have things that we’re better at than others,” Preece told NASCAR.com on a conference call Wednesday. “And one thing that I feel like I’m extremely good at is pressure situations, late restarts and restarts and aggression. And those are the things that put me against anybody and I feel like I can win. I will do the job.

“But there are other things that I look around other drivers and I’m like, man, he’s doing a really good job with that. How does he see this situation? Or how does he feel right now on the race track what does he do different from me and i watch this and hope next time i’m on track or if i’m in this situation or if my car is running d ‘somehow I can look at some of that or some of the conversations that I’ve had and put that in place and try to be better as a racing driver.

Competing part-time — two Cup Series races with SHR affiliate Rick Ware Racing, three with Xfinity Series affiliate BJ McLeod Motorsports and six Camping World Truck Series races with David Gilliland Racing — is nothing new for Preece. But having access to simulation data is something Preece never had.

“You have different opportunities like others, where they have the opportunity to come in and go to the simulation or have done tire tests or other things,” Preece said. “And I think I beat that drum (that) I didn’t have those opportunities. I wasn’t able to do that stuff. So for me, I feel like I’m in the sport for a long time. You’ve known me for over six years now. But really, as far as a full-time National Series career goes, it’s not much.

Logan Riely |  Getty Images
Logan Riely | Getty Images

That’s why Preece focused on building relationships around the sport to align with a winning organization. Previously, Preece bet on himself and took what would have been full-season sponsorship dollars at a small Xfinity Series team and competed part-time at Joe Gibbs Racing instead. In those 19 Xfinity races between the 2017-18 seasons, Preece won twice and collected 11 top fives and 14 top 10s.

Four years later, he finds himself winning gear again and proving to be a repeat winner at the Nashville Superspeedway driving the #17 truck for DGR.

“I’ve worked really hard to try to build relationships and get into an organization that I feel I can win and be successful with,” Preece said. “I’m still working towards that long-term goal and I want to win. I want to win at the Cup Series level. I want to run after the championships. I want to do these things and be full time. I don’t want to be part time.

“My whole career is known as this guy who fills in whenever somebody needs somebody, or if he’s got eight races where he wants to go out and he wants to compete for a win. I don’t want to be just that guy. I feel like I’ve worked really hard in my career to keep working and giving myself opportunities. So I’m ready for that step. I’m ready for that role.

Being on the Stewart-Haas Racing payroll since January has sparked widespread speculation that Preece is the likely heir to the No. 10 Ford that will be vacated by Aric Almirola at the end of the season.

Preece claimed nothing was signed for his racing future in 2023 or beyond. But there is optimism.

“Here’s what I can tell you: I can tell you that I feel as confident as ever that the partners and all of these things could come together and it’s going to be a big fairy tale ending for me,” Preece said. “But at the same time, there is nothing, certainly not at all, on paper. And until all the stars and all these things align, I have absolutely nothing right now. It takes everything to get in place. »

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The biggest piece to align remains sponsorship. While Preece’s potential ascent to the No. 10 car – a journey that Almirola has led to two Cup Series victories – seems like an obvious point to connect, nothing can be guaranteed without business partners getting involved. attach to him or the vehicle.

This is where Kevin Harvick, Preece’s quasi-teammate, focuses more. Harvick’s management company, KHI Management, represents Preece and has brought in existing partners such as Hunt Brothers Pizza for Preece’s current deals.

“Nashville is a good representative of that,” said Preece, who was sponsored by Hunt Brothers when he won the 1.33-mile Nashville oval in June. “And being able to partner with Hunt Brothers Pizza and Morton Buildings and I’m wearing (a) United Rentals (shirt). He’s someone we’ve created a relationship with and hopefully we can continue to build that relationship and win more races and get more opportunities.

“As a racing driver I want to win, man. I want to be full time. I want to compete for wins. I want to be in the mix and hopefully we all know where this is going sooner rather than later.

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