Berlin, CT’s Ryan Preece is one of the top names still in limbo for a 2023 NASCAR ride.
And on Saturday, he drove like it.
Chasing, blocking, dipping and diving around race leader Chandler Smith, it was a two-truck fight for the win in the Camping World Truck Series at Pocono Raceway. Preece, who led six laps on the day, fought Smith’s dominant Kyle Busch Motorsport Toyota until there were no more laps to be run.
Unfortunately for the driver of the No. 17 David Gilliland Racing Toyota, aerodynamics were against him.
“You can’t do anything,” Preece said. “I mean, you could wreck him. That’s what you’re going to do if you do that.”
Losing the lead to Smith on the race’s final restart with 14 laps remaining, Preece was unable to muster a threat of the top spot. Despite his hardest efforts in a high-drag truck, second place was his max.
“I tried to pack a little air but the nose was chattering pretty bad,” he said. “I just felt like — myself as a racecar driver, when I’m tight, my toolbox isn’t very full. When I’m loose and able to rotate, there are a lot of things I can do as a racecar driver to make that pass. My hands were somewhat tied and we just had to maximize our day.
“In the Cup car, you have more horsepower, you can downshift. You do have a little more options. This gear is so tall, the horsepower is not nearly as much. I understand they’re draggy, but if you’re tight, you can only do so much with it.
“Honestly, I think it would be really cool if we could give drivers 1,000 horsepower. Just give us all the horsepower because trying to build runs if so difficult in dirty air. Everything I was trying to do to pass him in Turn 3 had to start going on in Turn 1. It was a real struggle.”
Looking at the big picture, Preece was eventually happy with the result, given his uncertain future in the sport. Having ties with Stewart-Haas Racing has led to speculation regarding a potential return to full-time Cup. However, the popular short tracker is keeping his eyes on earning trophies in both Xfinity and Truck Series opportunities, hoping to improve his chances.
“The uncertainty is probably the same,” he said. “But at the same time, having runs like this is better than what I was doing.
“A second-place run isn’t so bad. I constantly emphasize that I have to win because when I finish second, some people look at it as a disappointment. I honestly understand and realize you can’t win everything, you can’t win them all. But, you want to contend for it. It would have been nice if we won it.”