It has been 13 years since Ryan Preece last ran the Snowball Derby, so for him to run as he ran, and earn the result he did on Sunday Afternoon was impressive, considering the list of tenured Super Late Model drivers that populate the entry list for the event, every year.
Preece, who continues to be a free agent when it comes to NASCAR plans for 2022, brought his Morton Buildings entry home in fourth-place, a run that may be surprising considering his sporadic appearances in Late Model Racing.
However, the 31-year-old looked to be disappointed in his result, as he spoke with TobyChristie.com’s Judson O’Neil.
“I was really happy from where we started the race in that first run, to drive up to second, we had a pretty good car,” Preece told TobyChristie.com. “Even the second run it was pretty solid, it was just as the track took rubber, and kind of what we were thinking with practice, we just needed one or two quick little things to help us fire off to be better, as good as Chandler [Smith] or Derek Thorn.”
The Berlin, Connecticut-native was able to put together a strong qualifying effort on Friday to earn the 12th starting spot in the 300-lap event, ensuring he wouldn’t have to continue racing through the Last Chance Qualifier.
After only 10 laps, Preece had moved into the top-10, further progressing up the running order, breaking into the top-five by the time the race’s only natural caution flags wrapped up at lap 36.
As the race continued to progress, the Morton Buildings entry continued to show long-run speed, moving into second by Lap 80 and firmly remaining in that position for the middle portion of the event. The NASCAR Cup Series competitor would play accordion with his gap to Derek Thorn, and looked to be in a position to strike at various points in the race.
However, with the final ‘controlled caution’ triggering a restart with 15 laps to go, Preece’s long-run strength didn’t get the chance to shine, and the short-run weakness reared its head, shuffling Preece to the back of the top-five.
“Just too tight there at the end of a run, and when you have a 15-lapper, some people can make more speed,” Preece continued. “Ultimately, we came here to try and win, and it would have been really cool to do it, but fourth place isn’t so bad.”
Upon deciding to build a Super Late Model and enter the Snowball Derby, Preece enlisted the help of NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Chris Gabehart, who works on the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team, with Denny Hamlin.
“When you get to work with a guy named Chris Gabehart, it’s always fun. We wished we could have won, we all gave it everything we had.
“…but we’ll see, you never know.”
Indeed we will see, Ryan, as post-race technical inspection at the Snowball Derby has always been one of the headlining features of the event. We have seen winners be disqualified before, most recently in 2019, when Stephen Nasse’s disqualification handed the win to Travis Braden.