Haas has brought their F1 way of thinking to the NASCAR world. In F1, they use reserve drivers. Now, they’re doing the same here Stateside.
Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Thursday that they’ve hired Ryan Preece as its reserve driver for the 2022 NASCAR season.
The 31-year-old racer from Berlin, Connecticut, will perform simulator work while running a mix of races across each of NASCAR’s top-three touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. Preece will be a Ford Performance driver in each series, and he will be the default driver if any of SHR’s fulltime drivers are unable to compete due to COVID-19 or any other unforeseen circumstance.
“Ryan is a versatile wheelman with a racer’s mentality who fits extremely well within our culture at Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition, SHR. “Between the amount of testing and development work we’re doing with the NextGen car this year, his added insights and time in the simulator will make us better by allowing us to learn faster.
“Plus, we’re still dealing with COVID. As much as we all want it to be over, it’s not. We needed a more robust plan in the event COVID sidelines one of our drivers. We have that now with Ryan.”
Preece will run a total of 12 races – two in Cup, three in Xfinity and seven in Truck. His Cup and Xfinity Series races will be in coordination with SHR and its technical alliance partners. His Truck Series starts will come with David Gilliland Racing.
By process of elimination, it would make sense that Preece will run one of the Rick Ware Racing cars since they’ve formed an alliance with SHR in Cup. For NXS, the only Ford teams are Penske, SHR and RSS Racing. It would make sense if he’s in one of these cars.
“This is a unique setup, but I feel like it provides me with the best opportunity to win races and contribute to a championship-caliber team while expanding my racing experience,” said Preece, who spent the last three seasons (2019- 2021) competing fulltime in Cup. “I’m a racer, and Stewart-Haas Racing is a team built by racers. They measure success by wins. Whether I’m in the simulator, in one of their cars, or in a Ford Mustang or Ford F-150 for another team, I’m here to help SHR and Ford win.”
Preece’s two Cup Series races will be May 1 at Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway and May 29 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. His three Xfinity Series races will be April 2 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, May 28 at Charlotte and June 25 at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. His seven Truck Series races will be March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 19 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, May 6 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, May 20 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, June 24 at Nashville, July 23 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and Sept. 9 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Preece made two Truck Series starts last year, winning in his series debut June 18 at Nashville. He is a two-time Xfinity Series victor, winning in July 2017 at Iowa Speedway in Newton and April 2018 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Preece is especially known for his exploits on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He won the series championship in 2013 and has amassed 25 victories, three of which came last year – July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Aug. 6 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, and Sept. 10 at Richmond.
Where this is big for Preece is that he could be the defacto replacement for Kevin Harvick when he decides to step away. Harvick, signed an extension to remain at SHR through the 2023 season. Could Preece be the replacement waiting in the wings?
This is a similar role Alex Bowman had with HMS. He was a simulator driver and HMS’ test driver and got the nod to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet when he decided to retire. Could Preece have a similar role with SHR? It sure sounds like it.