If you have spent any time in the NASCAR Cup Series garage you probably know that Ryan Preece is one of the most personable competitors at the track with a quick smile and charismatic personality.
Once he straps into his racecar, however, Preece is all business with an unrelenting drive to succeed.
In his second year at JTG Daugherty Preece was paired with crew chief, Trent Owens, after switching to the No. 37 Chevrolet. The transition was not without its hurdles due to practice and qualifying restrictions during the pandemic. But this year the duo seems to have hit their stride, earning three top-10s plus three additional top-15 finishes.
Last week at the Pocono Mountains 350, Preece finished eighth. But that’s only half of the story. After damage to his primary car during practice, he had to drive a backup and start the race at the rear of the field. Most would see that as an obstacle but Preece wasn’t worried. Only a week earlier at Circuit of the Americas, he started in 36th place and finished 15th.
“I was really confident that even in a backup car, we could go out there and pass to have a good day,” he said. “Everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing works so hard every week to get all of our cars prepared, so the fact that we were going to a backup really wasn’t concerning for me.”
It wasn’t the only challenge Preece faced during the race.
“We knew we were going to be a little short on fuel, so we started early with fuel-saving techniques to make sure we had enough to make it to the end. Trent (crew chief) did a great job of keeping me informed throughout the race so I could do things myself in the car that would help us make it to the end.”
It was Preece’s first top-10 since finishing ninth at the Daytona Road Course in February. There have been ups and downs throughout the season but the eighth-place result at Phoenix is another indication that the team is headed in the right direction.
Although he experienced another disappointment with an engine failure at Road America, the stats confirm that his average start and average finish are better than they have ever been in his Cup Series career. The only missing ingredient is consistency.
Preece credits their continuous improvement to a number of factors.
“I think just having two good races to start the season has helped to put us in a good position to continue learning throughout the season, rather than trying to dig ourselves out of a hole from the start. Working on my second year with Trent has also helped. Last year was our first year working together, and then we were without practice or qualifying which can really help him learn my driving style and help me learn how he makes adjustments with my feedback.”
As the season progresses, Preece isn’t concerned about next month or next year. His goal is simple.
“We take every week one at a time,” he explained, “doing all we can to get a win or a top finish. Obviously, last year was not our best, and we had a lot of bad luck that went along with that. Being consistent and having strong runs right out the gate was a big help for our season, and we just continue to focus one race at a time.”
Consistency – focus – one day at a time.