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The Sports Journal

Preece Races to Next Level in NASCAR Xfinity Series

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Ryan Preece has shown no sign of slowing down in his highly-decorated racing career.

Having proved himself as a top contender in the modified division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series over the past 10 years, Preece of Berlin will now carry that momentum into 2016 as a full-time driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the second tier of NASCAR’s national series.

The Connecticut native will be driving the #01 Chevrolet Camaro as a part of the JD Motorsports racing team. Owned and operated by 27-year NASCAR veteran Johnny Davis, the team has been fielding cars in the Xfinity Series since 2002.

Preece brings with him an extensive track record of success as he has captured local racetrack modified championships at Stafford Speedway and Thompson Speedway, as well as claiming the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship as the top modified driver in the Northeast, becoming the youngest in history to do so at 22 years old.

His wealth of achievement has also allowed him to be recognized among the top up-and-coming drivers in the country by being named to NASCAR NEXT, class of 2013 and 2014.

Although the road to victory lane has seem to come with relative ease for Preece in recent years, success at the next level will come with time and experience as adjustments are made to perfect the new mode of driving.

“When you’re loose in a modified, you’re cranking the wheel. When you’re loose in these Xfinity cars you’re not able to put wheel into it, and it’s a little different feeling for me,” Preece explained of the difference between the two car types. “It’s something I’m going to be learning as we go.”

The change of pace created a roadblock for Preece in the opening race of the season. At the Daytona International Speedway, a shard of debris forced the #01 team to the garage early following a flat tire in the initial laps.

Despite the tough day, Preece has never been one to hang his head. The 25-year-old has had a history of resiliency with an uncanny ability to bounce back from devastating losses.

During the middle of the 2015 season at Stafford Motor Speedway, Preece and the Mike Paquette headed team were the recipients of the largest payout in modified racing history by capturing the victory in the NAPA Auto Parts SK5K event on July 10.

The win came as a result of redemption having wrecked the #6 car at Stafford the week before in the remaining laps in which he lead of an SK Modified feature. The wreck was caused by a three-wide battle for first in the final stretch of the race.

In last Saturday’s Xfinity race, the Berlin driver rebounded yet again as he took home a solid 22nd place

finish in a field of 40 cars, driving the G&K Services/Kubota Tractors Chevrolet in the Heads Up Georgia 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I think the biggest thing in this sport is being able to just say ‘that was last week and this is this week, and we’re going to go about it different,’” noted Preece going into the Feb. 27 race.

Preece recognizes how critical experience has been in his collection of podium finishes and will work to gain as much as possible in the Xfinity Series this year.

“The only thing I’d say that I had over in the modifieds was a lot of experience and understanding of what makes these cars go. Where in the Xfinity car, I’m kind of learning about that and your key adjustments,” Preece said. “Experience is huge, that’s what we’re going to concentrate on getting, and I’m sure we’ll be fine over time.”

Last Saturday in Las Vegas, the #01 team improved from the last week yet again by battling some early-race troubles to finish with a season-best 18th place in the Boyd Gaming 300.

Ryan Preece will look to continue his momentum as the Xfinity Series next heads to Phoenix International Speedway for the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 on Saturday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m.