Ryan Preece May be a contender for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year Award, but he drove like a cagey veteran in his first-ever Daytona 500.
Preece, 28, rolled off the grid from the 21st-position and for the majority of the race he was feeling out how to put his car in a position to pounce for the final laps of the race.
On lap 196, Preece saw a vicious melee ensuing in front of him.
Ryan Preece is a wizard. pic.twitter.com/y1CO6s8Z0P
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 17, 2019
When Ricky Stenhouse decided to make a bold three-wide maneuver on the backstretch, he ran out of room and started a chain reaction crash. Preece stood in the gas and gunned it right for the center of the accident. The No. 47 car cleared the smoke and came out the other side unscathed.
Others weren’t as fortunate.
This put Preece in a position to chase a win in the closing laps. Preece, a long time modified driver from the Northeast, hitched his ride to the front to a fellow Northeast-native Joey Logano.
“I got taken to school, to be honest with you,” Preece said after the race. “A lot of learning to be had, for sure. Today was a big learning day.”
With help from Preece, Logano began to knife through the field until the two were separated on the final lap.
Logano would finish fourth, while Preece would come home an impressive eighth in his first-ever Daytona 500.
“… a really good friend of mine told me a goal is to finish. And I did just that,” Preece stated. “So, my first finish at Daytona, a top 10 for JTG and Kroger and what more could you ask for?”
How did Preece feel about the wild pack racing throughout the day? It was a different experience for the young driver.
“It’s intense, man. It’s something I’ve never been a part of,” Preece explained. “So, I have a lot of learning to do, for sure. Today was the type of day that you just wanted to race around these guys and not be erratic and not do anything stupid and hopefully when we go to Talladega or come back to Daytona, I can get a little bit more help. But, all in all, it’s really great for this Kroger Camaro. I’m looking forward to Atlanta next week.”
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