Long before Ryan Preece turned heads by avoiding not one, but two big wrecks during the closing laps of the Daytona 500, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie-of-the-year candidate was turning heads at Martinsville Speedway as a 17-year-old behind the wheel of a modified.
Preece, who is now driving the No. 47 Chevy for JTG Daugherty Racing, won at Martinsville in 2008.
“My Martinsville clock is in my foyer when you walk into the house,” he said. “It’s pretty special when you walk through that door and know that you’ve won at Martinsville. To be able to go back for the first time since 2010 and have another opportunity to chase after another clock, that’s pretty special to me.”
Like so many weekly racers before him, it seemed as though the 28-year-old from Connecticut would make a career out of racing on Friday and Saturday nights, with an occasional start in one of NASCAR’s top divisions.
Now, his career will consist of racing in front of big crowds, on big tracks, such as Daytona, where he finished eighth and had the at-track crowd of 101,000 shouting “Let’s Go Ryan,” with more watching on TV at home likely joining in the cheers.
While that is a thrilling feeling for any driver, Preece also spent the week racing at New Smyrna Speedway, a half-mile bullring located 15 minutes south of Daytona. It’s racing that he knows and it’s why he’s excited to return to the Half-Mile of Mayhem for the STP 500.
“I love close quarters racing and half-mile race tracks where you’re up on the wheel the entire time and I’m definitely looking forward to my Cup debut there,” Preece said. “I love short-track racing and it doesn’t get much better than Martinsville.”
While he would love to add another clock to his collection, he knows his Cup Series debut at Martinsville will bring a challenge: a challenge he looks forward to.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty solid day,” he said. It’s just about getting the car to turn in the center of the corners. Everything is about turning the center and getting forward drive. It’s a pretty tough balance, but I’m confident we can get it and we’re just going to have to play the race as it goes.
“There’s definitely a lot of mistakes to be made and those can ruin your day, so hopefully we minimize them and come out with a really good day.”
The STP 500 weekend is March 22-24.
The weekend starts with a practice day for the truck series on Friday, followed by NASCAR America Fan Friday and the Hauler Parade.
On Saturday, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is in action with a 250 lap race. Following the race the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will qualify for Sunday’s STP 500.
Sunday the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in action with the running of the STP 500. The race is the first short-track race of the season and the first race back on the East Coast after the Series’ “West Coast Swing.”
Advance ticket prices for the STP 500 begin at $47 with youth tickets for fans 17-and-under just $25 regardless of location. Youth 17-and-under are admitted free to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250 lap race on Saturday. Friday’s practice day is free to everyone.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.