To say that the month of June has been exceptional for Ryan Preece is an understatement.
On June 3rd, he was named as part of the ‘Final Ten’ in the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge. Each of these drivers will compete for the opportunity to win a development deal with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Four days later, NASCAR released the roster for the 2013 NASCAR Next initiative.
This program is designed to highlight the next generation of NASCAR’s rising stars. The drivers will participate in media and promotional activities throughout the coming year. Ryan was one of 13 drivers chosen and is the only representative from the Modified Division.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of it,” he says. “As a modified driver I’m representing the entire modified tour and that’s pretty special.”
June 13th brought more news. Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) announced that Ryan would make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut with them in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He will participate in testing with the Nationwide Series car before the race and due to a scheduling conflict, Ryan had to withdraw from the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge. The decision was difficult but he feels he made the right choice.
“It’s unfortunate,” he admits, “but I feel like the deal with TBR is important and I’m excited. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Sometimes in life you have to make decisions and go down the path you think is right.”
To round out the weekend, Preece won back to back races Friday evening at Stafford Motor Speedway, adding his name to the record books. His first win was in the SK Modified feature event. An early spin on lap two sent him to the back of the field but he wasted little time charging to the front and captured the checkered flag.
After a quick celebration, he jumped into his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) car for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 presented by G-Oil. A flat tire sent him to the rear of the field but Ryan rallied back once again and captured his sixth career NWMT series win.
Ryan has been racing full-time in the NWMT division since 2007. He was championship runner-up in 2009 and 2012 and is the current point leader this season. He also races full-time at Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson International Speedway, part-time at Riverhead Raceway and participates in any other events he can fit into his schedule.
Ryan’s recent recognition and success should come as no surprise. He lives and breathes racing.
A native of Berlin, Conn., the 22 year old has been surrounded by the sport his entire life.
“My mother’s father owned modifieds and my dad started out in street stock and drove pro stock for a little while,” Ryan reminisces. “Then he stepped back and got me into racing when I was about 6 or 7 years old.”
He began competing in quarter midgets at Silver City in Meriden, Connecticut. He eventually began traveling and competing at more tracks. From there he progressed to a dirt Sprint Micro car and continued to move up as he gained experience.
At the age of 13 Ryan had a chance meeting that would significantly impact the direction of his career.
“There was a guy parked across from us at a race track in Pennsylvania,” Ryan explains. “He owned a modified and his name was Billy Swartz. He came over to my Dad and was joking with me and kept trying to get me to try out the modified. I was young and shy at the time but a few weeks later he convinced me to sit in the car. So I sat in it and they buckled me in and sent me out for a practice run. For my first time, I was pretty quick. That’s what started me down the path to driving modifieds.”
The family soon made the decision to sell the Sprint Micro and buy a modified car. Ryan gives his Dad credit for encouraging him to take the time to learn before rushing to compete.
“I think it’s a big reason that a lot of car owners trust me to race their cars,” he told me. “I don’t tear up a lot of equipment and we run really well.”
He appreciates the continued support of his car owners and sponsors including East West Marine, Gunsmoke Stables, Flamingo Motorsports and Falmouth Ready Mix.
“They make all of this possible,” he stated. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact qualities needed to produce a successful race car driver but if passion and dedication is any indicator, you haven’t heard the last of Ryan Preece.
He summed it up best saying, “racing is pretty much all I do. I really have no interest in anything else. I want to win races.”