When he knew that Stewart-Haas Racing might come calling for him, Ryan Preece decided to play the waiting game.
After protracted rumors regarding who will drive the No. 41 car for SHR, Preece won the choice above his predecessor Cole Custer. Owner Tony Stewart was rooting for Preece while Gene Haas wanted to give Custer one more year to prove himself.
And mixed in this indecision, Preece had to give up on Xfinity and Truck opportunities, just with the hope that he would be favored over Custer. He said that he even risked being jobless to get the position.
“I did turn down truck opportunities, Xfinity opportunities,” Preece said. “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 [mortgaging his house to secure starts with Joe Gibbs Racing]. 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.”
It has been a long journey to the top for Preece. Before the 2022 season, he was hired as a reserve driver for SHR and he divided his time driving for various teams in all the top-three NASCAR tiers. Next season, he will have the consistency to drive for just one team and prove his worth.
As for Custer, after three mixed years with SHR in the Cup Series, he is back to Xfinity Series, driving for the same team.