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Preece returns to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition with as the newest driver at Stewart-Haas Racing.
The 32-year-old was off to a strong start in the Los Angeles exhibition race, leading more laps than any other driver in the main event. He drove from 16th on the grid to the front of the field, and was one of the few able to make passes on the outside.
But after leading a race-high 43 laps, it all went wrong in the closing stages of the race. A fuel pump issue cost him several positions, becoming a “sitting duck” once the issue arose. Although he still brought home a seventh-place finish, all his thoughts remained on what could have been.
“The primary (fuel) pump went bad,” he explained post-race. “I don’t know. I don’t think we were close on fuel. At first, I thought it was ignition because usually when it’s fuel it just keeps cutting, so I shut off my alternator and all of my electrical stuff and it seemed to help a little bit. It did it again and I lost four spots, so I just flipped the switch and a miracle happened. Ultimately, this car was so badass. It was so fast. We drove from 16th outside, inside, everything it took. I’m proud of the speed. I’m happy for the opportunity, but it sucks giving them away.”
Ryan Preece, Stewart Haas Racing, United Rentals Ford
Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images
Preece is no stranger to the tight, aggressive racing that short ovals always tend to produce. His past experience as a highly successful Modified driver proved valuable on Sunday. He was especially strong on restarts, never passing up an opportunity to gain track position.
“That just comes from, first off, my grassroots experience, just working hard and just having a fast race car,” he said. “(Crew chief) Chad (Johnston) and I, we’re a new team but we’ve already got a year-and-a-half experience together and knowing lingo. If it’s off, I’ll let him know it, but if it’s that close, he’ll go with his gut. I’m hoping that we can use this as a good start, go to the 500 and win that one and get ourselves in the Playoffs and then try to win some more.”
The 2023 season is just around the corner, and with the best ride of his career, it should be no surprise if Preece finds Victory Lane this year. He has 115 previous starts at the Cup level, but remains winless … for now.