Ryan Preece earns full-time Monster Energy Series ride with JTG Daugherty Racing

JTG Daugherty Racing announced Friday that Ryan Preece will drive the team’s No. 47 Chevrolet next year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Preece, who made his mark as a decorated champion in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, will succeed AJ Allmendinger, the No. 47 team’s driver the last five seasons. Allmendinger scored a breakthrough premier series victory for himself and JTG Daugherty at Watkins Glen in 2014. The team announced Sept. 25 that Allmendinger would not return in 2019.

“To finally get to this level and earn it, it’s really a short-trackers’ dream,” Preece said. “To get here and to race for people with such class, it’s a family-owned team and that’s something I’ve always been a part of. Hopefully we can start out strong and compete for wins.”

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Preece, 27, has driven on a part-time basis for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series the last two seasons. In that span, he’s collected two victories — last season at Iowa Speedway and earlier this year at Bristol Motor Speedway. He’s scheduled to run the majority of the races left in the season in JGR equipment.

It was that Bristol race where Preece first hopped onto the radar of team competition director Ernie Cope and team owner Tad Geschickter, who watched the underdog in good equipment give more experienced drivers all they could handle.

“I’m excited,” Cope said. “I started watching him at the end of the year at Homestead, and he drove hard. Watching that Bristol race and watching him go after it and I’m like, ‘This guy is something.’ Then you hear his backstory, and that’s the mold I’m looking for.

“Every time I’ve called him he’s in the shop.”

Preece made five career starts in NASCAR’s top division in 2015 for car owner Mike Curb. He followed that partial schedule with a full-season Xfinity Series slate for JD Motorsports in 2016.

Preece secured the Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2013. He also has four runner-up finishes in that series’ standings. Preece has competed in the majority of the Modified Tour’s races this season, locking up two wins (at Stafford and Langley) in eight starts.

“I’m not saying this is easy,” Preece said of his ascension to the Monster Energy Series. “It’s not. There were a lot of nights where I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was going to try though. I was going to try like hell.”

The team release also stated that JTG would remain a two-car operation next year. Chris Buescher currently drives the organization’s No. 37 Chevrolet, and Geschickter confirmed he would return.

Geschickter added that the team would move to engines provided by Hendrick.

“We’re really looking forward to having Ryan join our team for the 2019 season,” team owner Tad Geschickter said in a release. “Ryan has an impressive list of accomplishments in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and is now being given a great opportunity to compete at NASCAR’s highest level full-time. We really believe in him and think he’s a great addition to the team.”