By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
NASCAR Cup Series veteran Ryan Preece put on a show in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. He passed inside, outside, and up the middle to lead the most laps before a part failure derailed his night.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver jumped to the outside at the 0.25-mile oval inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As most of the field freight-trained on the inside, Preece put the lessons he learned as a NASCAR Modified driver at Stafford Speedway and other short tracks to the test.
While the competition got bogged down on the inside line, the Berlin, CT native cruised by. That was until the No. 41 United Rentals Ford Mustang reached the top-three. Preece easily slipped by Martin Truex Jr. before he caught Bubba Wallace just after the half-time break.
Preece took the lead from Wallace on lap 83. He charged away from the Toyota Racing driver by several car lengths, until repeated cautions erased that advantage. With 30 laps to go, Preece’s race unraveled. When Truex caught back up, the Ford Performance driver’s main fuel pump failed.
“As soon as Truex caught me (I started to have trouble),” Preece stated. “I don’t know if it was with 30 to go, but five laps before he caught me it was the fuel pump going bad. I mean, what are you going to do? You’re a sitting duck. This is a motor racetrack. It’s two drag strips and when you lose all the power, you’re just a sitting duck.”
Over the next few laps Preece dropped further down the running order. First, he fell out of the top-three positions. Then Preece was knocked out of the top-five. By then, the troubleshooting had solved the problem, but it was too little too late. Preece now ran eighth.
The fuel pump problem was unrelated to the issues two of his fellow Ford Performance drivers faced. Both of Front Row Motorsports’ drivers, Todd Gilliland and Michael McDowell ran out of fuel.
Preece picked up one position when contact from Austin Dillon sent Wallace spinning. However, he never challenged for the lead, or a podium position, again in the race. The 32-year-old took the checkered flag in seventh.
“The primary pump went bad,” Preece explained. “I don’t think we were close on fuel. At first, I thought it was ignition because usually when it’s fuel it just keeps cutting, so I shut off my alternator and all of my electrical stuff and it seemed to help a little bit. It did it again and I lost four spots, so I just flipped the switch and a miracle happened.
“Ultimately, this car was so badass. It was so fast. We drove from 16th outside, inside, everything it took. I’m proud of the speed. I’m happy for the opportunity, but it sucks giving them away.”
The exhibition race was Preece’s first official race in the NASCAR Cup Series with Stewart-Haas. In 2022 he was a reserve driver for the team and competed in sporadic races for Rick Ware Racing, B.J. McLeod Motorsports, and David Gilliland Racing across the three National Touring Series.
Next for Preece is the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. It is the fourth 500 in his career and his first since the 2021 season.
The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday, February 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.