Ryan Preece is doing everything he can to find a permanent home in a stock car.
At the top of his to-do list is winning, which he did for the second time in seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts on Saturday when he outran Justin Allgaier to win the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
With the victory came a $100,000 bonus, courtesy of the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash program. In Victory Lane, Preece was already spending it.
“You know what? I’ll probably do something for my parents; do something for my brothers; do something for my wife and my team,” Preece said. “We’re going to get something to drink later.”
Preece is the fourth different driver to win a Bristol race for team owner Joe Gibbs, who now has 12 wins at the track. In his seven starts for Gibbs, Preece now has two victories, a runner-up result and an average finish of 3.86.
Had the 11th caution flag of the race not waved on Lap 282 of 300 — when Shane Lee hit the outside wall in Turn 2, Preece’s teammate Brandon Jones likely would have gotten his first victory in the series. Jones had a lead of nearly two seconds when Lee hit the wall, but when all seven lead-lap cars came to pit road under the yellow, Jones got two tires to four for the rest of the contenders.
That gave Preece the chance to pull ahead of his teammate on the restart with 10 laps left. Ultimately, Preece crossed the finish line .286 seconds ahead of Allgaier, as Jones faded to sixth.
“If that caution didn’t come out, (Jones) had it in the bag,” Preece said. “He’s going to get there soon enough.”
Allgaier earned eligibility for next week’s Dash 4 Cash bonus at Richmond, as did Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler and Spencer Gallagher, who finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Preece, who is running a limited schedule, is not entered at Richmond.
But Hemric’s No. 21 Chevrolet subsequently failed post-race inspection, costing him the Dash 4 Cash eligibility, which fell to Jones in sixth place.
“I’m just going to prepare for my next race, which is in two months at Daytona,” said Preece, who risked his own money last year to secure two races with Gibbs and finished second and first in his first two starts. “That’s my next one.”
Preece’s success earned three more starts last year, and he has made the most of every opportunity in Gibbs equipment.
“I’ve got to thank everybody last year for helping me make this all possible,” Preece said. “Without last year, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I wouldn’t be sitting in Bristol Victory Lane in an Xfinity Series car with Joe Gibbs Racing. I’m kind of at a loss for words…
“I’m 27 years old and I’m not getting any younger. I’m looking for opportunities. We did it last year at Iowa, and now we did it here at Bristol. I hope I don’t get labeled as a short track racer. I want to win on mile-and-a-halves soon. Nothing beats winning.”
Dash 4 Cash driver Christopher Bell had a rollercoaster day that ended in a brutal crash on Lap 141. Much earlier, on the fifth lap of the race, Bell scraped the outside wall exiting Turn 4 and dropped to 28th for a restart on Lap 18.
By Lap 55 he was running fourth, and on Lap 66, Bell assumed the lead with a two-tire pit stop and held the top spot through the end of the first 85-lap stage.
He was running third on Lap 141 when the No. 01 Chevrolet of Vinnie Miller slid up into the No. 74 Dodge of Cody Ware. With the track block ahead of him, Bell stood on the brakes, slid sideways and plowed into the wreck with the right-side door of his No. 20 Toyota. All three cars were eliminated.
“I don’t know, that’s the second time this weekend that I’ve crashed from guys going seconds off the pace,” Bell said after leaving the infield care center. “Can’t slow down whenever they spin out, and it’s frustrating.
“We had a really fast GameStop Camry and, I don’t know, just trying to get the top [lane worked] in pretty much all race long. That was our worst run of the day, handling wise, and we were still up there. Unfortunate.”