Monday, Nov 28

Ford Performance NASCAR: Ryan Preece Media Availability Transcript

RYAN PREECE, No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Mustang – IT’S BEEN A BUSY MORNING, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY?  “A busy morning is definitely a good way of putting it.  Last night, there’s just been a lot to think about over the last week or so, just things have been happening so fast, but, to me, this is a great opportunity.  This is a second chance and something where I’ve won in everything I’ve ever been in.  I’ve won so many different championships at a local level, whether it was track championships or regional championships it’s just been something where I’ve learned how to be a winner and I wanted to do it at NASCAR’s highest level.  I’ve bet on myself a lot throughout my career, and KHI has bet on me as well when they helped me do those two truck races a year ago and we were able to go out and win Nashville, so it’s a great opportunity for me to do it with Ford Performance and Stewart-Haas Racing.  I’m ready.  I hear everybody talking about being ready for the off-season and kind of just disconnecting and decompressing, but I’m certainly not in any position to do something like that.  I’ve never been able to turn off that switch anyways, so I’m ready to jump in.”

 

DID YOU TURN DOWN ANY RIDES JUST ON THE FAITH THAT THIS ONE WOULD COME THROUGH?  IF SO, WHY?  “That’s a good point.  I did turn down truck opportunities, Xfinity opportunities.  There were quite a few different teams that came to me, whether they were full-time or part-time, and I thought about if there was the smallest bit of opportunity for me to end up at Stewart-Haas, I wasn’t gonna walk away.  I was willing to sit there until there was absolutely no hope and possibly be jobless, possibly not have a ride, but I was willing to take that risk.  Ultimately, it’s worked out and this opportunity has come.  It’s kind of like when I think back to 2017 and the risk that I took then.  It’s five years later and I think about that risk and think to myself, ‘Man, that could have gone way different,’ just like this could have gone way different, but I’ve never been the conservative type of person.  I’m willing to risk it all and it’s worked out.  It’s a great opportunity and something that not only myself, but my fans and a lot of the northeast has been very vocal about it, and I’m not saying – Tad and Jodi Geschickter were great to me and it just didn’t work out with us.  It didn’t work out how either of us would have liked it to, but this is that next opportunity and something that, like I said, I’ve won so many races at different tracks and championships that this is what I’ve been trying to do all my life at NASCAR’s highest level.”

 

WHY WILL YOU WIN WITH THIS OPPORTUNITY WHEN YOU COULDN’T AT JTG?  “It’s just within the team’s building there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle and that’s something that I feel is extremely important.  This year when I was doing the sim work and just being around the teams, it’s kind of seeing a first-hand look at how Kevin and Rodney work their relationship or even Chase with theirs.  It’s kind of an eye-opening experience, but I’ve learned what I need as a race car driver in order to communicate or get the most out of the people that are working with me, or what I can do better, so it’s a second chance, but, at the same time, there’s a lot to be said for having OEM support and having Ford Performance in your corner and everything that they bring to our table creates a great opportunity for myself.”

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY INPUT ON YOUR CREW CHIEF?  “That’s still something that’s being worked through.”

 

WHAT HAVE THE EMOTIONS BEEN LIKE THESE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS?  “I’d say it’s definitely a feeling of relief.  It’s something that it still really hasn’t sunk in.  It’s definitely sunk in a little more than yesterday, but it’s that opportunity that being able to – first off, I’ve been somebody who has driven Fords all my life and to be associated with Ford Performance and Stewart-Haas Racing, somebody who I have idolized as well, just as a grassroots racer I’ve done the grind.  I’ve done as much as you can possibly can on a short track level trying to make it and the sacrifice that I’ve done to get to this point, so it’s definitely a feeling of relief and I’m really looking forward.  It’s crazy, the season just ended for most, but I’m ready to start the season and get working with the team and hopefully start off running.”

ONLY TWO STARTS IN THE NEXT GEN LAST YEAR.  WHAT DID YOU LEARN?  “I actually did three because I did L.A., Dover and Charlotte, so I was actually watching Charlotte’s practice last night as well as Dover’s and even qualifying, so I’m already looking back and trying to see some of the things that can help you going forward, but the car is just so different from what it was years ago to the old car, and I think that’s just a process that everybody is working through right now – the drivers, the teams.  It’s a constantly evolving sport and something that everybody is learning about it.  We haven’t had anything like this, so I’m looking forward to being a part of the process and just really trying to get ahead of that curve and win some races.  That’s what I have to do in order to succeed, so that’s what we’re gonna try and do.”

 

WHAT DID THINGS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU THIS YEAR WHEN YOU WEREN’T RACING?  “That’s a good question.  I’ve already been trying to structure my days so I feel like they’re the most benefit to everybody, whether that’s spending time with the pit crew.  I had this conversation with one of the guys from the 41 team and how beneficial would it be for me driving the pit car a couple times a week just so they’re used to how I enter the box because we’ve seen how important that is.  Three-tenths of a second didn’t necessarily make or break you before with track position and now three-tenths of a second is like a second-and-a-half from what it used to be, so it’s just making sure that I’m doing all the little things and being a part of that process I’ve been talking about and just maximizing everything and anything that you can as a race car driver and being the most prepared that you can be.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU PERSONALLY?  A LOT OF GUYS WHO LOSE CUP RIDES DON’T GET THEM BACK.  “Usually, it works the other way around.  Usually, when you go out of the Cup Series full-time, you tend to be part-time and then it seems like your career could be over.  This is that shot in the arm or shot of adrenaline that I feel like my career needed.  My career in general has been unorthodox anyways.  Most people, what makes the difference between winning and this opportunity more than JTG, I guess you could ask the same thing on why I didn’t win in 2016, or what made the difference between me winning in 2016 versus 2017 or ‘18.  It’s just what I need as a race car driver to succeed I see the same things at SHR that I felt like I needed at JGR and that’s ultimately what it’s gonna come down to.”

HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH COLE ABOUT THIS?  “I haven’t.  I’ve known Cole a long time.  We were actually in NASCAR Next together and I have a lot of respect for him.  It’s just the way things worked out, so I’m looking forward to having the opportunity that’s in front of me and thankful for all the people and everything that we have going into the off-season.”

 

HOW DID YOU CONFIDENCE CHANGE AS THE SEASON PROGRESSED?  “I can tell you there’s been a lot of deep breaths and a lot of nights where you try to think of what more can you do?  What more can you say?  There are so many different factors when it comes to getting an opportunity like this.  It takes people that believe in you.  It takes sponsors that believe in you.  It takes the blessing from multiple different people.  I mean, I’m pretty sure that there were a lot of people that are really close to me that thought I was crazy a month-and-a-half ago, where people are asking you to drive their race cars and you’re basically saying I can’t walk away from it.  I’m not willing to do that.  I’m not gonna look in the mirror, like I said earlier, and wonder that if I waited – it could have been a day, it could have been hours, it could have been a week, I don’t know – but I wasn’t willing to walk away from it, which might seem crazy to most, but, to me, it made perfect sense.  I hoped for the best and I did all the things that I felt like I could do to help push it along and, at the end of the day, it took everything and everyone to make it happen and it’s happened.”

 

REPORTS SAID THAT TONY STEWART WAS PUSHING HARD FOR YOU TO GET THIS OPPORTUNITY.  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE TONY GO TO BAT FOR YOU?  “It’s just like I say about Kevin, it’s moments like that that you never forget, and the respect that you have for people like him.  I have a lot of respect for guys like Gene as well and everybody in this industry, but Tony – I remember I was sitting at home on my couch when somebody sent me the screenshot of what was taking place a month ago.  That could have gone either way, so a guy like Tony Stewart – I’ve always been a huge of USAC Midgets and sprint cars and Silver Crowns.  That’s something my father used to take me to when I was racing quarter midgets a long time ago.  I have a diecast that is a Bass Pro midget that I still have in the sprint car, and I’ve just been a fan of his since I was a little kid.  I remember I had a broken wrist way back when I was 15 or 14 years old and he was racing a modified at Loudon and he signed my cast for me.  There’s a lot of memories there and to have a guy like him in your corner trying to help you fight for that opportunity because sometimes it just takes somebody cracking that door open so you can bust through it and ultimately it’s taken a lot of people to do this.  LIke I said about Kevin, Kevin has been a huge part in creating opportunities for me and letting me do what I can do and show everyone that I can win.”

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE COLE AS FAR AS GETTING BACK TO THE CUP SERIES ONE DAY?  “I think Cole is gonna be fine.  He’s gonna go and I feel like they’re gonna succeed.  It’s not easy by any means.  It wasn’t easy going into the off-season myself in November and December and really not knowing what I was doing until January.  This sport is as much mental as it is anything.  Like I said, I know Cole and he’s a great guy and I wish nothing but the best and, obviously, I’m gonna see him around plenty.  I hope it goes really well.”

 

YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT THIS YESTERDAY, CORRECT?  “Correct.”

 

CAN YOU SET THE SCENE FOR HOW THAT HAPPENED AND WHAT YOU WERE DOING?  “It’s just been a wild ride, let’s just put it that way.  There’s really no moment where I could pinpoint and say, ‘Oh man, this is happening or it’s not happening.’  But it really wasn’t until late last night that I think everything really, ultimately was coming together.”

 

HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS LAST YEAR WITH NO GUARANTEES?  WHAT DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU COULD DO TO PROVE TO EVERYONE THAT YOU COULD THRIVE WITH A CUP OPPORTUNITY?  “You’ve been around me a long time.  You’ve gotten to know me more than just Ryan Preece the Cup driver, but Ryan Preece the racer, and who I am and how relentless I’m willing to be.  You’ve been around us modified racers and we’re just a different breed.  We’re relentless and I’m relentless, so I think a lot of people have seen that this year.  I feel like the perception or really who I am I’ve won in anything and everything I’ve ever been in and this isn’t gonna change.  I don’t feel like I don’t know how to drive a race car or win in the Cup Series, so it’s maximizing the little opportunities that you can get.  I feel like there was a few other opportunities where sometimes things don’t go your way and we could have had a few more truck wins, but it was maximizing things I could maximize and I feel like all those things came together as well as having the support from different partners and all those things that are coming together.  There’s so much to it, but dating back, what I’m proud of is, actually, I got a text earlier from a guy – Ken Schrader.  I’ll tell you guys a quick little story.  I remember I met Ken Schrader about three years ago because I was renting a race shop that David Ragan owned but bought it through Ken Schrader.  I didn’t know Ken.  All I knew was who he was and how bad-ass it would be to see a guy like him in person show up at your shop, and he texted me and said that this one is a check box for the grassroots guys.  For those of you that follow local racing – Kyle Larson follows the World of Outlaws.  I follow the Modified Tour and modified racing, so I have competitors that I race against at that level texting me congratulations.  I have their respect.  I have respect of people – my elders and people that I respect, so I think that’s just what I’m really gonna work on this year is being more of a voice for all the guys that I’ve raced against or watch on the grassroots level and try to succeed for all of them.”

 

DO YOU APPROACH THIS YEAR LIKE A ROOKIE AGAIN?  “No.  I think I have enough experience and people know who I am or have been around me enough.  There’s definitely a truth to the racing up front.  It’s a respect more than anything, so I would say you have to earn the respect of the people that are racing in the top five or top 10 week in and week out, but that’s something that I’ve done my entire career and I’ll continue to do that.  It’s no different than I’ll use one example.  Ross is somebody I was teammates with and before this year did you guys write him as going to the playoffs for the final four or see him as a contender week in and week out?  A lot of that comes down to how bad somebody wants it and what they’re willing to do, and I think my past experiences show that I’m willing to do whatever it takes.  I’m not willing to lose.  I’m not willing to fail.”

 

ROSS CHASTAIN, JOSH BERRY AND TY MAJESKI ALL RACED FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THEIR SERIES THIS YEAR.  DO YOU FEEL TEAMS ARE MORE OPEN TO THOSE TYPE OF GUYS OR MORE AVENUES ARE OPEN FOR THESE OPPORTUNITIES?  “I think the cream rises to the top at the end of the day.  I think there’s something to be said about that, but we’ve all had our different ways of going about it.  I’ve never run a full-time deal with an Xfinity or Truck team to go after those opportunities, but I have helped get teams to the owner’s championship final four or even give them an opportunity like we did with the 17 this year, so I’ve been a part of this process.  I’ve been a part of that process it’s just really difficult to go back and go into detail of how all of our careers are so different yet so close and similar, but we’re all representing that grassroots racing brand.  Josh Berry is a late model stock guy in North Carolina.  Ty Majeski is a super late model standout from up in Wisconsin, and I’m just a modified guy from Connecticut.  We’ve all been champions or won lots and lots of races, but we’ve had to dig deep, we’ve had to fight for every opportunity because we don’t necessarily have the easy path of having the funding that it takes to make some of these cars or some of these organizations run.  The little opportunities that we do get we have to take advantage of them.  There are no second chances typically.  This is a second chance for me, but they’re few and far between.  I would say that there’s been a lot of past experiences that I can learn from and I feel like I have been learning from, but it’s gonna be a grind and I’m certainly excited for it.”


DO YOU FEEL A RESPONSIBILITY ON HOW YOU VIEW YOUR ROLE WITH THE GRASSROOTS RACERS?  “There’s absolutely a responsibility to it and that’s something that I think I can do a better job at and I could have done a better job at it the first time, but it’s certainly something that I carry proudly.  I’m from the grassroots.  I’m from Stafford Speedway.  This year, I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters working to try and win races, which we did, and that’s a small glimpse of what a racer, in my eyes anyways or where I’m from is what we are.  It’s what I was taught growing up, whether it’s trying to go to the racetrack on a Friday or Saturday night or a Thursday or a Sunday or something you need to get done.  Racing has taught me so much.  I’m gonna try and do a better job to not only speak on it, but represent it and be who I am and be a little bit more open on this is what I think a racer is and what I want to be as a race car driver.”

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