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XFINITY

Preece’s Performance Attests to Struggle Between Funding and Talent

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A long standing struggle in NASCAR between sponsorship and talent was again showcased in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Ryan Preece made his first of two scheduled starts with Joe Gibbs Racing this season and excelled.

He finished second to teammate Kyle Busch and beat many prominent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors and XFINITY Series regulars including William Byron, Kyle Larson, and Brad Keselowski.

Loudon marked Preece’s 37th series start but the first with a top-tier organization. He previously competed with Tommy Baldwin Racing and JD Motorsports but never had the quality of equipment that earned him a career-best finish on Saturday.

By thriving when climbing behind the wheel for arguably the strongest team in the series, it showed Preece’s skill but also served as a reminder that a lack of sponsorship often keeps Preece and other talented drivers out of competitive rides.

Alex Bowman has faced a similar situation over the last couple of years. After racing for smaller teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, an opportunity to compete for JR Motorsports arose and changed the landscape of his career.

He captured seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts for the organization after only scoring six in 39 races previously.

Those impressive performances put him in a position to fill-in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in one of the best  Cup Series cars last season and earned him the full-time ride in the No. 88 car beginning in 2018 following Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement.

Preece similarly showed promise with JGR and could follow in Bowman’s footsteps if additional opportunities surfaced. 

While the 26-year-old had caught the eye of those in the sport before New Hampshire, he believes this performance turned even more heads.

“It means a lot to do it at this stage,” Preece said. “To prove to people that I feel like I belong to be here. I would only get better with seat time.”

Although it’s an unfortunate truth that many competitive drivers will never have the chance to compete for a high-quality team because of funding, it highlights the challenge of reaching the top levels of racing.

The importance of sponsorship will always be a given in the sport but seeing talented drivers such as Preece not able to land a competitive ride because of funding continues to be a difficult reality to accept.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.