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Preece’s Investment In Himself Pays Off In Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 14 2018

Ryan Preece, who won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol, has battled his way to a good gig in NASCAR. (RacinToday/HHP photo)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – A Modified champion and short-track star, Ryan Preece knew he possessed the talent needed to succeed in NASCAR’s top touring series. He simply needed a chance to prove it.

That chance came last year, but only because Preece possessed a strong belief in himself and the passion to make a childhood dream come true. Preece took a calculated risk, or a gamble to some, borrowed money and purchased a two-ride deal in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing. He had competed in the Xfinity Series before, but in under-funded equipment.

The Berlin, Conn., native knew he had to make those two races with JGR count and he did, finishing second to Kyle Busch at New Hampshire and then winning Iowa, both in July. He brought sponsorship to JGR for the September Kentucky race and JGR rewarded him with a ride at Homestead last November. In those four races, Preece never finished lower than fifth.

On Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Preece parlayed last year’s gamble into a $100,000 bonus. And there was no controlling his jubilation. But why should he? He gambled and he won – big time! He became the first winner this season in the Dash 4 Cash and his winnings would allow him to pay off the debt he incurred last year.  

“I’ve been slowly paying them back and it’s going to feel good to be debt free,” said Preece, who in his last seven Xfinity races for JGR has recorded two victories, six top-five and seven top-10 finishes. “I’m going to have the normal worries that everybody else has – a mortgage, car payments, insurance and typical things like that.”

In Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, Preece led four times for 39 laps, battling Brandon Jones down the stretch for the victory. In the final 15 laps, the two exchanged the lead three times with Preece snatching the No. 1 position for good with 10 laps remaining.

“I was mentally ready for this and I think (crew chief) Eric (Phillips) would probably agree with that,” Preece said. “I’m a little high strung sometimes and I’m working on calming down for him, but when it comes to restarts and when it comes to those pressure situations, I feel I’m ready. I’m just going to focus on my next race. The way I look at it, I have two months to prepare for Daytona, which is my next one and that’s a game of chess.”

Preece’s plans call for him to remain in the Charlotte, N.C., area through Monday and then he’ll return to Connecticut to resume working on his Modified.

“I’m going to go work on race cars, which is a dream come true, but I’m going to get my hands dirty,” Preece said. “I’m not going to be sitting around. My father has been a huge inspiration. He’s a hard worker and without him, without my parents, none of this would be possible. I wouldn’t have the work ethic that I have today.” 

The 27-year-old Preece has won already in his Modified this year, claiming the Richie Evans/Ted Christopher Memorial 100 in February at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. And that’s where his focus will be, on his Modified, until July when he once again pilots an Xfinity car.

Preece doesn’t consider himself a role model for drivers competing with under-funded equipment, but he doesn’t mind if people want to give him that label.

“I like to make my own way in life,” Preece said. “Would I advise somebody to do what I did? Probably not, but it was the only way I was going to get the chance. I wanted that chance and it all worked out. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way.”  

Saturday’s victory wasn’t Preece’s first at the tough half-mile Bristol track. He’d won there previously in his Modified; but this one certainly was his sweetest.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 14 2018
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