SONOMA, Calif. — A few days before the General Tire 200, Ryan Preece explained he was entering the ARCA Menards Series West race at Sonoma Raceway to log laps and gain experience on the famed road course ahead of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 for the NASCAR Cup Series.
But the 32-year-old also admitted he was looking to avenge the heartbreaking defeat he suffered in the 2019 West Series race at the same track.
Preece more than made up for that loss Friday evening. The Cup Series regular dominated the General Tire 200 at Sonoma to earn a victory in his first ARCA platform start. He finished more than nine seconds ahead of second-place Sammy Smith.
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) June 10, 2023
The General Tire Pole Award winner, Preece might have led all 67 laps of Friday’s race had he not pitted for fuel on Lap 19. Of course, that astute strategy contributed to his dominant run.
Preece had led every lap prior to that stop, and it took him just eight laps to get back to third place on the track after restarting outside the top 10. It was at that point when a caution prompted the leaders to make for their fuel stops, putting Preece back on the point.
Wheeling Gene Haas’ No. 9 Bonanza Cabernet Ford Mustang, Preece never looked back despite Smith’s best efforts. Through multiple restarts in the second half of the race, Preece held the lead and, in longer runs, drove away from the field at every opportunity.
It was similar to that 2019 race. Preece technically crossed the finish line first in his first West Series start four years ago, but a time penalty relegated him to a 20th-place finish.
Preece’s second West Series start provided a happy ending, one that seemed inevitable for most of Friday night’s race.
Fellow NASCAR national series competitors Riley Herbst and Jack Wood finished third and fourth, respectively, behind Preece and Smith. ARCA Menards Series East championship points leader William Sawalich finished fifth in his third West Series start driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Sean Hingorani, Bradley Erickson, Todd Souza, Johnny Borneman III and Ethan Nascimento rounded out the top 10.
Landen Lewis, who entered the Sonoma race leading the West Series championship point standings off his victory last week at Portland International Raceway, finished 19th — his first finish outside the top two this year.
Lewis for much of Friday’s race had the second fastest car, but he and his team elected to stay out when others (including Preece) pitted on Lap 19. The strategy did not work out for Lewis, who wasn’t able to make it back through the field after the halfway caution. He was caught up in an accident on Lap 56.
We’ve got TROUBLE!
— ARCA Menards Series (@ARCA_Racing) June 9, 2023
Friday’s General Tire 200 featured six cautions and no red flags.
A replay of the race will broadcast on CNBC on Sunday, June 18, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET.
After back-to-back road course races — last week at Portland and Friday at Sonoma — the West Series gets a lengthy break before returning to action. Next on the schedule is the NAPA Nightvision 150 on Saturday, July 1, the series’ second of two visits to California’s Irwindale Speedway this year.
That race will be shown live on FloRacing; it’s scheduled to start at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET.