Last Friday, JTG Daugherty Racing announced Ryan Preece would be driving for the organization in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series beginning with the Daytona 500 in February 2019.
Preece worked his way up the ladder over the years racing at different short tracks. He’s a racer’s racer. He shows dedication along with the passion.
Springfield’s Mike Hopkins races in the Street Stock division at Stafford Motor Speedway. He told 22News that it speaks volume.
“Ryan’s worked super hard. The kid just lives, eats, breathes racing. He’s 100 percent worked his way to that point. He was in the Xfinity car for a while a couple years ago. He just got out of it because he wanted to be in a better ride and I think he was right in doing that. Maybe some people didn’t think so. The kid has definitely worked his butt off to get to where he is today and I am proud of him,” said Hopkins.
Jimmy Blewett and his family and have raced for years in the modifieds. He told 22News that it means a lot.
“Every time I watch a kid like Ryan out on the race track. He does good at that level. Even watching Martin Truex a friend that I grew up with even Joey Logano. You see guys that grew up close to home making it out there. Watching them is like watching one of your own go around. You feel like your actually apart of it watching them go around. The feeling that you have. Your gut dropping going for the win. It’s bittersweet. Being a friend of Ryan his mom and his dad his family. Just watching him grow throughout the years has been something special in itself,” said Blewett.
Blewett believes it doesn’t matter what Preece has gotten into along the way. He shined in it even when the car was not at it’s best. He made it go. He figured out a way and that he never gave up with his talent and the never give up attitude and being in the right place at the right time. His father Jeff has helped him along the way.
“It’s nice. It’s nice for the sport. I feel like the sport for along time and even still the majority of us feel that you would never make it to the next level without having that big checkbook. Ryan proved that you need a little of a checkbook but you can do it. Hopefully, the up and coming kids see it, use that and take that energy by watching him and hopefully gives them the drive to do what they have to do to hopefully get themselves to the next level,” said Blewett.
Burt Myers out of North Carolina came up to Stafford Motor Speedway this past weekend. He told 22News how happy he was for Preece.
“He’s one of the few drivers that actually paid his dues and worked his way there and earned the spot. A lot of politics get involved this day and time with NASCAR racing. It just does our heart good as the modified community to see something that paid their dues in this series and was able to make it happen,” said Myers.
Myers hopes that Preece is going to be the face of the new movement in the sport where it turns the page for the teams and owners.
“For a long time, everyone was relying on a checkbook and hopefully Ryan is going to be the face of the new movement that turns the page that owners and teams understand that there is guys all across this country that can get the job done if they just have the opportunity to do it and to maybe take a chance. Not expect the big pocketbook to start with but take a chance on a guy. Let him prove himself and then hopefully the big money will come behind it,” said Myers.
Doug Coby told 22News how much he is happy for Preece and his accomplishments.
“It speaks volume kind of set your mind to something and kind of creating his own path. He kind of did the whole with JD Motorsports and to get his face out in the garage. Made that car run better than it had run in the past and I think people started noticing what his potential was and then of course getting into the Gibbs car and taking that big chance was something unheard in a sense,” said Coby.
Rivals or not, Coby would tell Preece he is a great driver. He is a great representative of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Coby thinks anything Preece does is only going to come back to reflect on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour very well.
Coby believes a lot has changed in NASCAR over the 15 years is over time there were young kids who had big dreams and would go out there and work their way up and win races and championships and dreams might be fulfilled.
“I think what happened over a 15 year period was people started seeing that it wasn’t how big your dream was. It’s was how big your checkbook was and there was a lot of younger drivers who got opportunities not because they grew up racing but because they had a father who owns a multi million dollar business and they decided their kid was going to be a racecar driver. Ultimately I think that’s why the fans have left the stands in the Cup Series is because there is not a huge connection to the drivers. A lot of the drivers that people had connections too have since retired. The Matt Kenseth’s, Dale, (Earnhardt) Jr, Tony Stewart and you start losing those guys and now you just have a bunch of young drivers who have only ever raced against young drivers and getting a guy like Ryan out there who’s cut his teeth against some really difficult competition here at Stafford in the SK’s and then on the (NASCAR Whelen) Modified Tour.”
Coby would tell you Preece is a real racer that has been in real race situations and knows how to handle that without coaching and with maturity and that’s what Coby is most excited for that he is mentally millions of miles ahead of most of the younger kids who are new to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series or the NASCAR Xfinity Series and that’s why he has been successful with Gibbs and that he will be successful in his new ride next season.
Steve Park got the opportunity 20 years ago to race for Dale Earnhardt. Park was a modified driver that got his chance down south to want to race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and then the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“It’s a shame that it took 20 years because there is a lot of good drivers in between now and then that should of had the opportunity. With as many race fans as there are in New England. We have 15 asphalt tracks within a four hour drive of Stafford let’s say and there’s a lot of race fans who are itching one of us to get a chance,” said Coby.
Coby believes there is going to be a lot of renewed interest in the Northeast with Martin Truex, Jr, Ryan Preece along with Dirt Modified racer Stewart Friesen doing really well in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series bringing in a contingent of dirt fans from the Northeast and hopefully it will be good for the sport in the long run.
Dave Sapienza out of Long Island is very happy for Preece as he watched him throughout the years as a young guy coming through the ranks and dominating a lot.
“How many guys like that we’re good in the tour over the years and didn’t make it? For him to go in with that opportunity to be picked by a top team especially running for Gibbs earlier on. He got some exposure. Somebody saw the talent. I am really happy for him. I hope he does well,” said Sapienza.
Sapienza believes Preece deserves it and that he fought hard to make it.
Preece will be back racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend at Dover International Speedway for the Bar Harbor 200. The race will be held on Saturday.