By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
For the first time in 2018, Ryan Preece will return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Auto Club Speedway. Preece will be behind the wheel of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Rheem Toyota Camry for the Rosanne 300.
Preece hedged his bet on a two-race deal JGR last year, finishing runner-up at New Hampshire and then winning at Iowa Speedway. Those runs turned two races into four in 2017, and now 10 races in 2018. In those four races last year, Preece scored four top-five finishes and one pole position, in addition to the win at Iowa.
Preece has just one prior start at Auto Club Speedway. While driving the JD Motorsports No. 01 Chevrolet Camaro SS, he started 24th and finished 25th in 2016.
Auto Club Speedway has the oldest paved surface on the NASCAR schedule, still utilizing the original pavement poured during the ground-breaking for the track in 1995. Only Dover International Speedway has an older racing surface, made of concrete.
“I am really excited to be racing the No. 18 Rheem Camry in Fontana this weekend,” Preece explained. “Auto Club Speedway is a worn out two-mile track that replicates a short-track. There will be a lot of moving around on the track and it will lead to some great racing. This is a big deal for me, having a sponsor like Rheem team up with me for my first start of 2018. I am looking forward to getting on track and hopefully ending the race in victory lane.”
The Rosanne 300 will also be the first race for Preece since the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year. In that race, he attempted to help JGR win another Owner’s Championship in the Xfinity Series. While battling for position, Preece, and Elliott Sadler, a competitor for the Driver’s Championship made contact. It ended the possibility of a championship for Sadler, who has since suggested that Preece won’t want to race near him this season.
Now Preece and his Joe Gibbs Racing team will prepare to continue his streak of top-five finishes while driving for the team.