Ryan Preece Content To Enter The Rare World Of NASCAR Reserve Driver

Like most NASCAR Cup series drivers, Ryan Preece didn’t just appear overnight. The 31-year-old Connecticut native began his climb towards the highest level of professional stock car racing in 2007. He first made his name in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winning the series title there in 2013. He still races in the series part time and has amassed 25 wins, three of those coming last season.

He made the final step in his journey in 2019 when he was signed to replace A. J. Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing. He also added a part time Xfinity series ride with JR Motorsports to his schedule.

His best finish for JTG came in his first year when he came home third at the spring Talladega race. A big help for Preece and JTG came thanks to a charter.

NASCAR’s charters first came about in 2016 and were recently extended until at last 2024. There are 36 Charters currently available and teams who own one are guaranteed a starting spot, and the money that comes along with that, at every Cup series points paying race. With the Cup series fields limited to 40 that leaves four non-Charter (also called “open”) spots available to no-Chartered teams. To gain, and keep, their Charter a team has to maintain a certain performance standard; if a team with a Charter finishes in the bottom three of the owner standings in three consecutive years, NASCAR can remove the Charter.

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Charter owners can sell, or even lease, their Charter to another team once in five years. With all the money that can be had, Charters have become hot commodities with owners selling them for reportedly millions of dollars.

In 2018, JTG purchased Furniture Row Racing’s No. 77 charter for the No. 37 the car Preece would take over starting in 2019. That Charter, however, was leased to Roush Fenway Racing and then sold to Team Penske for the No. 12. Ford.

That meant that last season the No. 37 of Preece had no Charter and so became the only full-time non-Chartered team and while they did make every race there was only enough sponsorship for 24 of 36 races. As the 2021 season neared its end, Preece learned that the JTG would shutter the No. 37 team leaving only Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as their lone fulltime driver (and with the team’s lone Charter) and Preece without a ride for 2022.

“You know, not knowing where you’re going to be in six months or a year, it can kind of weigh on you,” Preece said. “But like I’ve said that next opportunity that was going to happen it just needed to be something that I felt like I could win races, that I had the resources and the tools around me to do that.”

That opportunity came from an unlikely place, and in a position that is somewhat unusual in the world of NASCAR.

Formula 1 teams have had reserve drivers for years. It’s usually a big deal when a Formula 1 team announces who their reserve driver will be for the upcoming season. That reserve driver may only turn a few laps in practice, but they still get some of the attention that comes along with being on a Formula 1 team.

By Greg Engle

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