June 24, 2013



Berlin's Ryan Preece gets his chance in front of potential NASCAR car owners

Ryan & his Hall of Fame Grandfather Bobby Judkins at New Smyrna Speedway.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Ormsby (SpeedwayLineReport.com)

By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press


BERLIN — It seems that everything young Ryan Preece of Berlin has touched lately has turned to gold.

Besides being a threat to win the NASCAR Whelen modified tour and the NASCAR Whelen All-American series titles every year, now the 22-year old has the biggest opportunity in his life as he was selected as one of NASCAR’s Next, a program that helps put young drivers in front of potential car owners.

“I was shocked when I got the call.” Ryan said when reached by phone. “This is certainly quite an honor.”

Preece, along with the other 12 drivers, were flown out to Iowa Speedway where the announcement was made. The following night, Preece won the Richie Evans 100 modified race at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

“Being part of the NASCAR Next program opens up a whole new realm of opportunity for me, it’s a great chance to move my career forward.” Ryan said. “It’s awesome to be part of a great marketing push by NASCAR for a new generation of drivers.”

Preece, whose grandfather is modified legendary car owner Bob Judkins, started his racing career at the age of 14.

He has six career wins as 12 poles. NASCAR Whelen modified tour and has won titles at the Stafford Motor Speedway in the SK modified division and in 2012 at the Thompson International Speedway. He currently is the points leader on the NASCAR modified tour and at the Stafford Speedway.

Then the good news continued for Preece when he was tabbed to make his Nationwide debut at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway next month driving a car owned by former modified crew chief and Sprint Cup team owner Tommy Baldwin, Jr., who has employed many people that were involved from the modified series including Berlin’s Doug Campbell, who is the spotter for Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney.

“I am excited to have Ryan Preece in our No. 8 Nationwide Chevrolet in New Hampshire,” Baldwin said in a statement. Watching Ryan’s career grow over the years, mixed with my continued support of the Northeast racing community, have all combined to give us this opportunity to put Ryan in the car. I am looking forward to seeing him take to the track at Loudon.”

Preece will be sponsored by East West Marine, suppliers of marine lumber and timber as well as vinyl seawall, composite sheet pilings and many varieties of seawall accessories based out of Manorville, N.Y.

“Ryan runs in a lot of different series and we try and support all his efforts,” Brian Slaga, owner of East West Marine said. “Ryan is a great ambassador for East West Marine and we are extremely proud to have him representing us.”

Ryan Preece earned his sixth tour victory, second at Stafford, and second overall victory of the evening.
 Jim Rogash/Getty Images for NASCAR

While the exposure is a plus for the drivers, Preece said that ‘nothing is guaranteed’ but that he would do everything he could do make sure he optimizes his opportunities.

“I am really glad that I am the first driver that this program has looked at who runs the modifieds. They have been overlooked so I think this is great for the series.” Preece said.

When asked if he knew any of the other participants in the program, Preece said he knows just a couple of them to say hello.

“The whole program is that NASCAR will help get you in front of the right people. They will guide you along and make sure you meet the right people.”

Racing has been in the Preece family as his father, Jeff was a competitor at the Riverside Park Speedway and that is where he met and later married Jodie Judkins daughter of Bob Judkins.

It was in the modified that Preece first got his start in racing.

Preece is a racer. This year the youngster plans on making over 90 starts, including weekly racing at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday, Stafford Motor Speedway on Fridays and at the Riverhead Raceway on Saturdays.

Mix in another 14 starts on the modified tour and you have one hectic schedule. It is that schedule, however, and his easy demeanor, not ot mention his many trips to victory lane, that has put this Berlin resident on the front row to NASCAR racing success.


Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.


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