NEWTON, Iowa — Ryan Preece wanted to make a media appearance on behalf of Iowa Speedway last week. Unfortunately, his job got in the way.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it?
“If I had done it, I would have had to miss work,” Preece said Friday at Iowa Speedway, site of Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN). “And that’s my job. That’s what pays the bills.”
Actually, the “job” he couldn’t miss was racing related as well: The 26-year-old Preece works for his team owner in the Whelen Modified Series, preparing his car each week before heading off to race on weekends.
Preece won the modified title in ’13 and he has two wins this season.
He competed fulltime in the XFINITY Series last year, finishing 17th in points for team owner Johnny Davis, but by the end of the year he had decided to return to his Modified roots. And hope a better opportunity would present itself.
It did when Joe Gibbs Racing came calling earlier this season with a two-race opportunity in the organization’s No. 20 Toyota. In his first start with the team, Preece finished second to teammate Kyle Busch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The result brought the Berlin, Connecticut, native a bit more attention than he expected.
“Yeah, just because when does somebody who finishes second usually get a lot of attention?” Preece said Friday.
“I think I accomplished what I needed to accomplish and that was to show that I can do it if I had the right opportunity. I think it’s very obvious that Joe Gibbs Racing brings a very well-prepared race car and (crew chief) Chris Gabehart absolutely has a great team behind him … to have a great car on the track.”
Six drivers have competed in the No. 20 this season – Preece, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Benjamin.
Saturday’s race is Preece’s final scheduled start for the group, and he would like to join Hamlin and Jones, who won with the team this year.
He nearly did so at New Hampshire, but felt he left a good impression.
“I just felt like I needed to show three things,” he said. “A) Don’t wreck a race car, don’t put a dent in the panel; B) pass race cars like we did in that first segment, coming from 15th or wherever it was to finish second to Kyle; and C) show I could finish off a race, too. Not just run in the top five and then disappear somewhere toward the end but finish there also. That was pretty much what the goals were.”
He also hoped to win.
“I went there with the full intention to try and do it; we came up one spot short but it was to Kyle Busch, who wins all these races all the time,” Preece said. “I learned a lot being behind him, just kind of seeing what he looks for in a race car so if I get another opportunity to go there or to a track’s that’s similar I know what to look for in the future.”
The future has arrived. Opportunity No. 2 awaits Preece in Iowa.
He was second-fastest in Friday’s final practice after running third-fastest in the opening session at Iowa.
“We’re getting there,” he said.