LOS ANGELES, Calif. – With the laps closing down in the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it looked like Ryan Preece was going to make a statement win.
The 32-year-old driver appeared to be pulling away from the pack in his first race in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41.
But with less than 30 laps to go, the fuel pump on Preece’s car started to miss, resulting in Martin Truex Jr. passing him with 25 to go before cruising to the win.
While the problem was happening, Preece radioed the team that the car was blowing up and having electrical problems.
“In the car, in the moment, you think it’s electrical,” Preece said. “You shut off all the fans, doing everything you can, but it was cutting in and out. That’s why I lost all those spots so quick and even that’s how [Truex] caught me so quick.”
Preece continued to drop out, falling out of the top five before he finally figured out what the problem was.
“When I lost four [spots] in a row, all of a sudden on the straightaway, I flipped the fuel switch and it changed everything,” Preece said.
The No. 41 car had life again, but it was too late and Preece settled for seventh. Still, it was quite the return to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition for the Berlin, Conn., driver.
After three underwhelming seasons with JTG Daugherty Racing, Preece only made three starts in 2022, including the Clash, with Rick Ware Racing (through an SHR alliance). He also ran in 13 races in the lower NASCAR touring series, winning at Nashville Superspeedway in the Craftsman Truck Series.
SHR liked Preece enough to demote Cole Custer to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and put the 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion in the No. 41. The strong showing at the Coliseum showed that shuffle by the team might pay off.
“I’m sure I’ll feel a little better as it settles but no I’m really not [feeling good after the run],” Preece said. “I’m competitive. I hate losing more than I love winning, and we had such a fast racecar. Days where you have cars like that, you don’t want to give them away, or at least race Martin [Truex] for it.
“It’s upsetting. It really is, because this is our first opportunity together and I’ve been asking for this for a long time.”
Winner Truex was extremely complimentary of Preece afterward.
“I’m not shocked at all really [that Preece ran well]. He’s a great short track driver,” Truex said. “Won tons of short track races, modifieds, etc. He’s run a lot of races in tracks like this or a similar to this.
“I wasn’t surprised at all, and I’ve raced with him before, and he’s in really probably better equipment now than he’s ever been, and I’m sure he’s got a really good team. … No telling what would have happened, but it was fun to race with him. He’s a great kid, and he’s a great talent.”
Preece only led the Clash one time, but he led for 43 of the 150 laps, the most of anyone. That’s more than Custer led (29) in his past three seasons in Cup combined.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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