Race Weekend Central

Ryan Preece Comes Up Shy of Playing Playoff Spoiler

Ryan Preece just needed a little bit more and he could’ve had his first career NASCAR Cup Series win and a playoff spot.

The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 driver was running third in the closing laps of the Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday (July 30) afternoon. He was narrowing the gap to leader Chris Buescher but wasn’t going to have enough laps to get there.

Then the caution came out, and Preece lost one spot on pit road and another on the restart before finishing fifth.

See also
Chris Buescher Gets 1st Win of Season at Richmond

“The [No.] 17 was really, really good,” Preece said. “I’m really happy for Chris.

“Our car, our long run was our ticket. I think it showed. We tried to free it up a little bit for the short run, but we just didn’t have anything there.”

Still, it was the best finish of the season for Preece. Not only was it his first top five of 2023, it was also his first top 10 of the year and first top five since the summer 2021 Daytona International Speedway race. (Granted, he did not race in Cup full time last year.)

“I’m really proud of [crew chief] Chad Johnston and the United Rentals Ford Mustang [No.] 41 for Stewart-Haas,” Preece said. “It was a really good day for the whole organization, it looks like.”

The other SHR cars finished eighth (Aric Almirola), 10th (Kevin Harvick) and 11th (Chase Briscoe).

“If we can consistently bring cars like that and all of us keep ourselves accountable, we’ll continue to be where we want to be,” Preece said.

Preece came into Richmond with three consecutive finishes outside the top 20. That’s not ideal for a driver in his first year with a super team after replacing Cole Custer.

Additionally, he had been involved in post-race disagreements with other drivers the previous two weeks. He and Michael McDowell exchanged words at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and he went after Corey LaJoie last week at Pocono Raceway.

“It’s frustrating because you don’t get results that you want,” Preece said. “But there have certainly been races where we’ve been consistently top 15 and laying a foundation. You don’t get the results you feel like you should end up with.”

Preece noted they had top-15 cars at Atlanta Motor Speedway and New Hampshire and didn’t have anything to show for it.

But at Richmond, Preece showed pace from start to finish. He started 11th before scoring points in the first two stages. The final stage was when the No. 41 car took off, laying down the quickest laps on the track several times.

And even though his pit crew lost him a spot on the final stop, Preece still had high praise for his team.

“My guys are badass, so I’m pretty happy,” Preece said. “I love the relationship we all have. I joked with them before I walked out to intros that I gave them a good job for a qualifying spot, Chad gave me a good car to race, everything was on them from here on out. Obviously, they held up their end of the bargain.”

Still, Preece came into Richmond 27th in points, 114 points out of the playoff cut line. The top five Sunday won’t be enough for him to make the playoffs — he needed to win.

“Unfortunately, I wish we could’ve won the race or finished top three like we were going to,” Preece said. “But the hands we were dealt for the final run, just a little too tight. But man, that long run was our ticket.”

Even if the strong day at Richmond won’t get Preece into the playoffs, it was a much-needed result for a team that had been underdelivering. It could be the start of a momentous run to end the season for the No. 41 team.

“We want top fives, we want wins, we want top 15s,” Preece said. “But I know that I’m confident in Chad Johnston, and he’s confident in me as a racecar driver. And we’re building to make this team what it could be.”

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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Mr X

There wasn’t a possibility of more green flag laps. Preece had a third place car all day.

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