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Ryan Preece Happy with Direction After First Top-10 Finish of Season

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver methodically worked his way through the running order from the 22nd starting spot and finished ninth at Martinsville Speedway.


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Ryan Preece walked away from Sunday's Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway, the site of his most impressive race yet biggest heartbreak in 2023, with a season's best ninth-place finish.

While the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang ultimately didn't lead 135 laps from the pole, as he did a year ago before finishing 15th after a pit road speeding penalty, he felt the car his team brought to the track was actually better than last year's car.

“At Martinsville last year we had a good car, but not that good of a car, so we are definitely working toward something," Preece said with optimism after Sunday's race. "I am really happy with the direction, finally, that we are going in and I think we are going to be a lot better moving forward.”

With a car that was able to move forward through the field, Preece put in an incredible effort as he climbed from the 22nd starting spot to secure his first top-10 finish of the season.

"Plus 13 [positions] for the day, on a day where we I don't think we saw a whole lot of passing, so, I would say it was somewhat a win," Preece explained in a post-race interview on pit road with The Podium Finish.

While the top-10 finish felt like a win for Preece and his No. 41 team, the driver knows if he can start the race weekend with better qualifying efforts, he'll probably start competing for actual race wins.

"Even though I felt like I had a really good car, and to come from where we did, I felt like we did a good job. Ultimately, have to qualify better," Preece admitted.

While qualifying will be the target for Preece moving forward, the racer is encouraged as he feels his team has learned from the mistakes they have made in their car setups at tracks earlier in the season.

Preece said he and crew chief Chad Johnston learned a lot about what not to do with their Martinsville car last weekend at Richmond Raceway. They applied the things they learned, went in a different direction this weekend, and found success.

And when you start to look at the overall body of work for Preece and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team this season, you see a team that is really starting to trend in the right direction.

While Preece has only one top-10 in the opening eight races of the season, the driver has only finished outside the top-23 once, and if you remove the 35-point penalty that the team incurred due to illegal roof rail deflectors discovered prior to qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Preece would rank 21st in the championship standings.

While that may not sound ultra-impressive at surface level, Preece ranked 28th in the championship standings after eight races last season. Even with the 35 points deducted for the Las Vegas infraction, Preece sits two places higher in the point standings than he did at this time last year.

It feels like Preece is gaining some confidence, and Johnston is starting to find what works best for his driver in the Next Gen car. If they can have luck fall their way, who knows, Preece could really make some noise in the near future.

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance

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