By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
RICHMOND, Va, – Ryan Preece scored his best finish since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) earlier this year in Sunday’s Cook Out 400.
The Ford Performance driver ran strong throughout the 400-lap race at Richmond Raceway. In the final Stage of the race, Preece’s No. 41 United Rentals Ford Mustang team slowly picked off position after position. The Berlin, CT native climbed up to fourth before the only natural caution of the race waved with 10 laps to go.
After pit stops by the Chad Johnston (crew chief) led team, Preece chose the inside, lining up behind race leader, and eventual winner Chris Buescher. In the mad scramble Kyle Busch and Joey Logano snuck by for position in the final three laps. Preece held on to take the checkered flag in fifth.
“We just didn’t have enough there (to catch Buescher), but really proud of Chad Johnston and the United Rentals Ford Mustang No. 41 team from Stewart-Haas Racing,” Preece said. “It was a really good day for the whole organization. If we can consistently bring cars like that and all of us keep holding ourselves accountable, we’ll get to we’ll continue to be where we want to be.”
One factor in Preece’s top-five finish were flawless stops on pit road throughout the race. In total there were four rounds of green flag pit stops during the race. Unlike several of his competitors, Preece never had any issues, self-inflicted or otherwise on pit road.
“My (pit crew) guys are badass so I’m pretty happy,” Preece said. “I love the relationship we all have. I joked with (Chad) before I walked out to intros that I gave him a good job for a qualifying spot. Chad gave me a good quarter race, so everything was on them from there on out.
“They held up their end of the bargain and unfortunately, I wish we could have won the race or finished top three like we probably were going to, but the hands we were dealt for that final run. We were just a little too tight.”
After he qualified 11th, Preece never fell outside the top-15 beyond rounds of green flag pit stops. In the nearly caution-free race the 32-year-old finished the first two Stages in sixth and seventh respectively, netting an additional nine points.
The fifth-place finish was Preece’s first top-five of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season and the third of his career. It was also his first top-five since the 2021 regular season finale at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Preece’s top-five was also the first for the No. 41 car since Cole Custer’s victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2020.
The top-five finish moved Preece up from 27th to 24th in the points standings. He is 88-points below the cutline, currently held by Michael McDowell and 362-points behind leader Martin Truex, Jr.
Next for Preece is the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan Int’l Speedway. He has five starts at the 2.0-mile Brooklyn, MI track with one top-10 finish, seventh in the 2019 running of the event.
The FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan is scheduled for Sunday, August 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.