Ryan Preece had a front row seat to witness how Ross Chastain had bet on himself and eventually make it the top of the NASCAR Cup Series with a Championship 4 appearance this past season. The pair were teammates with JD Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series during the 2016 season. Preece bet on himself for 2017. He took a four race deal with Joe Gibbs Racing on the Xfinity Series level a year later and it paid off. He finished 2nd in his first start and won his second. That led to a more expanded role in 2018 with the team with making 15 starts.
The problem is, as he shined, there wasn’t much room to move up with JGR or Toyota to the Cup ranks. That’s why he took his Cup shot with JTG Daugherty Racing in 2019.
Meanwhile, Chastain witness that and bet on himself in 2018. He returned full-time with JDM in 2017 but did what Preece did in 2018 and took a three-race deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. Like Preece, he won his second start. That led to a full-time opportunity with them for 2019 only for the sponsor to get federally indited which left Chastain on a wild path from Kaulig to Niece in the Truck Series, back to Ganassi in the Cup Series and then to Trackhouse this past year.
Preece meanwhile struggled in his first Cup opportunity. In 108 career starts, he had just two top five finishes, 9 top 10’s and 25 laps led with points finishes of 26th, 29th and 27th respectively. With JTG downsizing from one car to two for the 2022 season, it left him without a ride.
SHR picked him up as a developmental driver. He would race in all three NASCAR divisions for Ford and SHR. It was another risk for him to punt on a full-time ride and hope that being a reserve driver and doing simulator work would lead him back to the Cup Series. Nothing is guaranteed.
Which is why Wednesday’s announcement is so massive for him because he now lands with a top team like SHR in a Cup seat and has a future solidified so long as he performs.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been working for,” Preece said. “Nothing was guaranteed at the start of this year, but I felt like if I put in the time, whether it was in a racecar or in a simulator, that SHR was the place for me. It’s a company built by racers, for racers, and it’s exactly where I want to be.
“I know this season just finished and most people are looking to take a break, but I can’t wait to get going.”
Which is why I also think Preece has a Chastain like capability for a breakout performance in 2023.
Think about it.
Chase Briscoe won with this team in 2022 and marched all the way to the Round of 8. Preece is more than capable of doing the same. He’s not a rookie. He has 115 Cup starts under his belt. He knows these tracks. He knows these cars. He helped set them up in a simulator role. When given good equipment, he can win.
In 19 starts with JGR in the Xfinity Series, he had 2 wins, 11 top 5 finishes, 14 top 10’s and 218 laps led. In two part-time years with David Gilliland Racing in the Truck Series, he had two wins 8 top 5 finishes, 11 top 10 results and 133 laps led in just 12 starts.
He consistently took a 15th to 20th place car or Truck to a top 10 and a top 10 car or truck to a top 5. He far out drove the equipment he was handed and when he was handed a good piece he’d compete for wins. Which is why I feel like 2023 could be Preece being the new driver on the scene turning heads like Chastain did in 2022.
“Ryan has bet on himself a couple of times in his career and it’s always paid off. Now we’re betting on him,” Stewart said.
“I’ve run some Modified Tour races and it’s a tough series with a lot of talent. Ryan’s Mod Tour championship speaks to his talent, and I think he proved that when he pushed all his chips into the middle of the table and bet on himself by getting those Xfinity Series races with Gibbs. When he finally got the right opportunity, he delivered in a big way.
“Now, Ryan’s got the right opportunity in Cup. We’re proud to have him and look forward to seeing what he can do in our racecars.”