With a ninth-place finish in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona’s Road Course, Ryan Preece and JTG-Daugherty Racing are continuing to put down a solid base, for what could end up being the organization’s best season to date.
After finishing sixth in the 63rd Annual Daytona 500 – his second top-10 in “The Great American Race” – Preece was awarded a sixth place starting spot, virtue of NASCAR’s “Performance Metric” lineup determination. In the chaos of the race’s initial start, the Kroger / Coca-Cola Chevrolet was able to cycle into the top-five.
Preece wouldn’t return to the top-10 until the closing stages of the event, recording 15th and 23rd-place results in each of the race’s two preliminary stages, therefore earning no stage points. The Berlin, Connecticut-native worked his way back into ninth by the end of the 70-lap event, coming up short in a tight battle for eighth place with Daytona 500 Champion Michael McDowell.
“Our No. 37 Kroger / Coca-Cola Chevrolet was the best road course car we’ve had, said Preece. “We struggled early in the race needing a little more forward drive, but Trent (Owens, crew chief) made some really great adjustments and kept working on it to get us where we could make moves. I’m really proud of everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing for giving us a car that was fast and even with the damage from a late-race caution, we were able to hold our track position and get a second top-10 finish for the season. It’s been a great start so far and we’re just going to keep digging forward next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”
Sunday’s race marked the second consecutive top-10 finish for Preece and the No. 37 Chevrolet, a feat JTG-Daugherty Racing has been unable to accomplish since Spring 2019. Throughout the entire 2020 season, Preece only scored two top-10s.
The strong start to the season is the total opposite of what Preece experienced to start the 2020 season, which left the 30-year-old relegated to 35th in points after a crash, engine issue and points penalty in the first three races of the season. These setbacks left the second-year driver to claw his way back into the top-30, eventually finishing 29th in points.
However, Preece’s 2020 season will likely be remembered for a bizarre accident in the closing stages of the Super Start Batteries 400 at Kansas Speedway, which saw Preece’s No. 37 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet annihilate the inside wall, sending the car airborne. Amazingly, Preece walked away uninjured.
Through just two races this season, Preece has already accumulated more championship points than he did in the first seven NASCAR Cup Series events of 2020.
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) February 22, 2021
Preece enters Homestead-Miami Speedway – the third race of the 2021 campaign – seventh in points, 39 points ahead of 17th-place Kyle Busch – the first driver outside of the provisional playoffs. With the recent streak of momentum and confidence for Preece and JTG-Daugherty Racing – scoring four top-10s and 10 top-20s in the last 12 races – the question must be asked: “Could Ryan Preece and JTG-Daugherty Racing sneak into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs?”
If Preece is able to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, JTG-Daugherty Racing’s No. 37 would become the first open team to claim a spot in NASCAR’s post-season.
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