Preece Shines in Debut with Stewart-Haas at Busch Light Clash

Preece led 43 laps during Sunday's Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


hero image for Preece Shines in Debut with Stewart-Haas at Busch Light Clash

LOS ANGELES - Ryan Preece was not given a shiny medal, nor did he earn a place on the podium following Sunday night’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum. But he was a winner.

The 32-year old led the most laps – 43 of 150 - in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and was so strong that the FOX Sports television booth had all but declared he would run away with the victory until a mechanical problem slowed him late race.

“He has answered the call and is poised to win this thing,“ FOX analyst and former NASCAR Cup Series star Clint Bowyer excitedly said as Preece was leading the race.

Ryan Preece, driver of the #41 United Rentals Ford, drives during the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Ultimately, Preece finished seventh in the 27-car Clash field after a fourth place showing in his heat race. But in so many ways, the night still felt victorious.

It was Preece’s debut for the championship Stewart-Haas Racing team; a big night for his NASCAR Cup Series career even if it was an exhibition, non-points paying race. Outside of a few random starts he was sidelined in 2022 with no fulltime ride, after racing fulltime in the series from 2019-2021 with JTG Daugherty Racing.

Perhaps Preece’s career is still too young for his work in The Clash to be considered a “come back,” but it sure delivered a huge boost of confidence for him and a huge boost of encouragement for the team.

Even The Clash race winner Martin Truex Jr., a fellow Northeasterner, took note and applauded Preece’s effort. He fully conceded that his closest competition that night was Preece and furthermore, Preece’s work did not surprise him at all.

“I’m not shocked at all really, he’s a great short track driver,“ Truex said, adding, “He’s run a lot of races in tracks like this or similar to this.

“I wasn’t surprised at all and I’ve raced with him before and he’s in really probably better equipment now than he’s ever been and I’m sure he’s got a really good team.”

Truex said he actually expected the race to come down to the two of them.

“We were starting to get real equal to him, maybe a little faster, when he started having his issues,“ Truex said. “No telling what would have happened, but it was fun to race with him. He’s a great kid and he’s a great talent.“

In his time at the NASCAR Cup Series level with JTG Daugherty, Preece earned a pair of Top-5 finishes and nine Top-10 runs, including a career best third place at Talladega, Ala. his 2019 rookie season. Without a fulltime driving position last year, Preece was picked up by SHR as a reserve driver and made starts I all three national series for various teams.

He ran 15 races in 2022 – two in the NASCAR Cup Series, three in the Xfinity Series and 10 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where despite the part-time work he won from pole position at Nashville, Tenn. Preece earned an impressive nine Top-10 finishes – seven Top-5 finishes - in those 10 starts with a runner-up at Pocono, Pa. and third place showings at Texas and Kansas.

Months later, that performance and patience was rewarded when he was introduced as the driver of the No. 41 Ford for 2023.

And the Busch Light Clash was certainly a fine entrance.

“I’ve been waiting for 2023 all my life,“ Preece posted on social media after the Clash, “Let’s go.“

-Photo credit: Adam Fenwick/NASCAR