Despite being a part of the carnage in Turn 3 on the last lap of the Daytona 500, Ryan Preece limped to a sixth-place finish in the Great American Race kicking off his 2021 season with solid footing despite an enormous amount of uncertainty ahead this season.
Courtesy of Catchfence/Chris Knight
Without a charter, Preece’s No. 37 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet had to make NASCAR’s Super Bowl either by his qualifying speed from Wednesday night or earning the top spot in his qualifying duel on Thursday at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Even though he carried the speed to guarantee him a starting spot into the Daytona 500, Preece surged ahead at the checkered flag and became the top finisher in the first Bluegreen Vacation Daytona Duel — putting him 11th for his third Daytona 500.
During Sunday’s 200-lap race that included nearly a six-hour pause for weather, Preece kept his No. 37 Kleenex Cottonelle Chevrolet at the front and despite getting shuffled back at times during the race and a miscue on pit strategy during Stage 3, Preece was able to fight back through the adversity to be in the hunt when the white flag waved.
Preece was able to gingerly coast his car back to the checkered flag in sixth – edging his eighth-place performance in 2019 also with JTG-Daugherty Racing.
The Berlin, Connecticut native’s solid end to Speedweeks 2021 will also guarantee him a starting position next weekend at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.
Without a charter, Preece was fighting for one of two positions available based on their 2021 owner point standings.
Entering this weekend’s season-opener, Preece is expected to run a majority of the season but still needed funding for at least 11 of the season’s 36-events.
Sunday’s delayed Daytona 500 had a lot of New England representation. Corey LaJoie, son of two-time Xfinity Champion Randy LaJoie from Norwalk, CT, ended the night in ninth place. After leading the race going into the in the final laps, Middletown, CT’s Joey Logano got punted out of the lead just before the finish and salvaged a 12th place. Not so fortunate was Boston’s Kaz Grala who ended up 20th overall while Ridgefield, CT’s Anthony Alfredo went out the early going and ended up 32nd.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Featured image – (Photo Credit: James Gilbert | Getty Images)