By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
In the 2019 Daytona 500 life imitated art not once, but twice, as Ryan Preece avoided wrecks in a manner very reminiscent to the 1990s movie ‘Days of Thunder.’ The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year survived the carnage to finish eighth.
With six laps to go in the scheduled distance at Daytona International Speedway, contact between Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. sparked the second ‘big one’ of the night. Preece’s No. 47 Kroger.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was at the back of the pack.
With both Larson and Stenhouse sliding in the middle of the track, and Chase Elliott spinning on the apron, Preece shot through the smoke between the two cars.
The move left many stunned. The NASCAR on FOX broadcasters laughed in disbelief, equating the move the JTG-Daughtery Racing driver made to the iconic NASCAR-inspired movie. Preece somehow made the move with ease, transitioning from the apron to the turn three banking.
“It’s intense, man,” Preece explained. “It’s something I’ve never been a part of. So, I have a lot of learning to do, for sure. Today was the type of day that you just wanted to race around these guys and not be erratic and not do anything stupid and hopefully when we go to Talladega or come back to Daytona, I can get a little bit more help. But, all in all, it’s really great for this Kroger Camaro. I’m looking forward to Atlanta next week.”
Preece lined up fifth on the final restart. With few undamaged cars left in the field, he had few opportunities to attempt to win the Daytona 500 in his first attempt. However, Preece was shuffled out of line on the final overtime attempt. He slipped from fifth to eighth by the time the checkered flag waved.
“I got taken to school, to be honest with you,” Preece admitted. “A lot of learning to be had, for sure. Today was a big learning day. But a really good friend of mine told me a goal is to finish. And I did just that. So, my first finish at Daytona, a top 10 for JTG and Kroger and what more could you ask for?”
Before the final restart, NASCAR’s first attempt at overtime, Preece again juked his car to the apron to avoid an incident. This time, as William Byron’s car spun in the middle of the backstretch, he dove from the middle of the track to the grass. The power slide that Preece’s Chevrolet made left skid marks on the apron as he made the wreck avoidance look deceptively easy.
The eighth-place finish was the first top-10 in NASCAR’s Premier Series for Preece. He sits 12th in the championship points standings, 22-points behind race winner, and points leader, Denny Hamlin.
Ryan Preece is a wizard. pic.twitter.com/y1CO6s8Z0P
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 17, 2019