Preece Ready To Begin Daytona Battle
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Ryan Preece is in the business of collecting trophies. Next up on his wish list is the UNOH Battle At The Beach on Feb. 18 at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Preece, from Berlin, Conn., captured his first tour title last fall. The long-sought-after championship trophy followed four triumphs during the campaign at northeastern modified strongholds Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut, and Riverhead Raceway on New York’s Long Island, where he won twice.
The 23-year-old even went down south and added another bucket list trophy to his collection from North Carolina’s famed Bowman Gray Stadium in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action.
Now the calendar has turned to 2014, and Preece has a revised to-do list that starts with the “World’s Center of Racing.”
“Whether it’s the short track, the big track or a running race, the trophy is going to say Daytona on it,” Preece said. “So to me, that’s a bucket list thing.
“It’s just like Bowman Gray, it’s something that I could add to my résumé, to say that we won at Daytona.”
In 2013’s inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach, Preece wasn’t able to survive the battle of attrition and was relegated to a 26th-place finish after getting caught up in an accident with 33 laps to go. The upcoming second edition of the short-track showcase should see Preece as one of the favorites, however.
Since establishing himself as a winning driver at age 17, Preece has been arguably the premier bullring competitor on the northern tour. Six of his nine career Whelen Modified Tour wins have come on tracks measuring between .25 and .375 miles. In nine combined Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour bullring starts the last two seasons alone, he posted five wins and four poles.
“Those bullrings are the types of tracks that you can really hustle the car at, and that’s what I like to do, I like to get after it,” Preece said. “It makes you manipulate the car into the things that you need it to do.
“I’m looking forward to going back there. We had a pretty strong car there last year, and this year we’re going to have an even stronger car.”
Preece won’t be the only short-track expert vying for the UNOH Battle At The Beach trophy though. Bowman Gray weekly modified veterans Burt and Jason Myers figure to be factors on Daytona’s similarly flat track layout. There are also eight drivers entered from Long Island with plenty of experience from the confined quarters of Riverhead, led by Eric Goodale, who was the Daytona runner-up and highly competitive on the northern tour’s bullrings a year ago.
One thing is for sure, there will be a new Daytona short track winner in 2014. Inaugural event champ Steve Park is not entered for next week’s second running, leaving the door open for Preece and company.
With the biggest race purse of the season on the line in addition to the aforementioned trophy, there will be no shortage of competitiveness.
“Guys are going to do what they need to do because $20,000 [to win] is $20,000,” Preece said. “I wouldn’t say that I would move somebody out of the way, but I’m sure there could be some rubbin’ going on.
“It’s going to be a race, that’s for sure, and having a lot of money on the line only makes it more interesting.”