Ryan Preece finishes eighth in Daytona 500 debut

Rookie Ryan Preece wheeled his way to an eighth-place finish Sunday evening in overtime scoring a top-10 in his debut Daytona 500.

It was an impressive performance considering he only had four previous Cup Series starts in 2015 with a best finish of 32nd. But, while it might sound like a dream come true, Preece had conflicting emotions about the outcome.

On the final restart, Preece was in the top five competing for the win. However, as he helped push Joey Logano into the top three he was shuffled back to eighth on the final lap as he tried to hold off the hard-charging No. 20 of Erik Jones.

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“Sitting here watching this (replay), I’m probably going to get frustrated with myself because there’s a couple of things I could have done different to help my chances,” Preece said. “I was so committed to pushing Joey (Logano) that I focused more on him than I did on some of the runs I probably should have focused on. All in all it’s a good day. It’s an eighth-place finish.”

While Preece was second-guessing himself, his prowess on the track was undeniable to anyone watching the race. He started in 21st place in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet and worked his way toward the front as he maneuvered his way through a few late race collisions including an incident on Lap 192 that collected 21 cars.

He may be a relative newcomer to the Monster Energy Cup Series but Preece has made his mark in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series with 22 wins, a championship in 2013 and four runner-up finishes in the series standings.

“A lot of you guys might not know me, but I’m from a racing background,” he said. “Typically I’m competitive. I’m going to nitpick myself right now, but when I get in my truck and drive home, I’m going to be happy, but I’m going to sit here and watch this finish and say I could have had fifth, I could have had third.

“But at the end of the day, it’s still a great day.”

Heading into the race, Preece was aware that he had a lot to learn and his goal was “to race around these guys and not be erratic and not do anything stupid.”

He also received some advice from former Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick.

“It was the best advice,” Preece said, “Keep it in one piece until the end.”

Mission accomplished.

Follow @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.

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