Ryan Preece is not known as a road-course racer. The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series grew up racing Modifieds on short tracks across the Northeast.
So when it comes to competing at Sonoma Raceway, the location of Friday’s General Tire 200 for the ARCA Menards Series West and Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 for the Cup Series, Preece is a little out of his element.
That’s why the 32-year-old is competing not just in Sunday’s race, but also Friday’s West Series event. In an era when track time is limited, Preece will take every opportunity he can get to put rubber to asphalt at Sonoma.
“Right now, track time means everything,” said Preece, who will pilot the No. 9 Ford in Friday’s West Series race. “We usually get 20 minutes on practice and qualifying day [in the Cup Series]. Anything you can do, especially myself not really being a road-course racer by any means, to get more laps to give yourself the best foot forward to have a good day on Sunday.
“This was a great opportunity to get more laps I felt. I’ve always been somebody who has come through the local NASCAR system, whether it was through the Whelen Modified Tour or racing a regional series or racing your local series. I’ve always been a big advocate for racing, so when this opportunity came up, I definitely wanted to do it.”
This won’t be the first time Preece has raced at Sonoma; he competed in two previous Cup Series events at the track, earning finishes of 29th and 21st, respectively. He also made his lone West Series start at Sonoma in 2019.
That’s a race that still sticks with Preece, because he crossed the finish line first but was penalized for jumping the final restart and was relegated to a 20th-place finish after leading 33 laps.
“We basically won it until I was called for jumping the last restart,” Preece said. “I’m looking forward to going out there. We felt like we were going to get the trophy last time, so maybe we can get it this time.”
While a victory in Friday’s General Tire 200 would mark a good start to the weekend, the goal for Preece is to secure a strong finish in Sunday’s Cup Series event. He’s hoping the extra laps Friday and a good attitude heading into the Toyota/Save Mart 350 will help boost his odds of a strong showing Sunday.
“With us not being able to test and be in the race car, I feel like seat time is always important,” Preece said. “Going and doing those things helps you as a race-car driver to always be in that environment and in that mindset.
“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t say I’ve done a lot of road racing, but I’ve always enjoyed it. Having a good attitude toward doing it when you’re going to do it always helps.”