According to a press release issued on November 16, Ryan Preece will no longer be the reserve driver at SHR. He will take over the No. 41 Ford Mustang that Cole Custer drove from 2020 until the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Custer will move back to the Xfinity Series for the 2023 season.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been working for,” Preece said in a statement. “Nothing was guaranteed at the start of this year, but I felt like if I put in the time, whether it was in a racecar or in a simulator, that SHR was the place for me.
“It’s a company built by racers, for racers, and it’s exactly where I want to be. I know this season just finished and most people are looking to take a break, but I can’t wait to get going.”
Preece will make his official SHR debut on February 5. He will join the other Cup Series teams for the Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Two weeks later, he will make his points-paying debut during the Daytona 500.
Preece Makes This Change After a Unique Season
Preece, who signed as the reserve driver prior to the 2022 season, has been active across multiple series. He made 15 total starts — two in Cup, three in Xfinity, and 10 in Trucks — while driving for a variety of teams.
Preece achieved some success with his opportunities. He won his second consecutive Truck Series race at Nashville Superspeedway, and he posted nine top-10 finishes in 10 starts with David Gilliland Racing. The only exception was an 11th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a late incident started by Carson Hocevar.
Along with the win in the Camping World Truck Series, Preece turned in some strong performances in the Xfinity Series. He made three starts for BJ McLeod Racing and made the No. 5 Ford into a very competitive ride.
Preece started two races inside the top 10 and he posted top-20 finishes in all three starts. This includes a fifth-place run at Charlotte Motor Speedway and a sixth-place run at Nashville Superspeedway.
The Connecticut native will now shift his focus back to the Cup Series where he has made 115 career starts with nine top-10 finishes and two top-fives. All of these strong finishes were with JTG Daugherty Racing, but now Preece will have an opportunity to surpass them with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Preece’s Previous Gambles Have Paid Off
Securing a spot in quality equipment at SHR is another step in Preece’s unlikely journey. He has had to fight for his opportunities over the year, to the point that he mortgaged his house to secure two starts with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017.
Though this gamble paid off as he ultimately made 19 stars with JGR in 2017-2018 and delivered two wins before landing a full-time Cup Series opportunity in 2019 with JTG Daugherty Racing.
Taking a role as a reserve driver with SHR was another gamble for the Connecticut native. He didn’t have a guaranteed seat with the team; his only set starts were with other members of Ford Performance, but he delivered some solid performances and set himself up for another full-time opportunity.
“Ryan has bet on himself a couple of times in his career and it’s always paid off. Now we’re betting on him,” Tony Stewart said in a press release. “I’ve run some Modified Tour races and it’s a tough series with a lot of talent.
“Ryan’s Mod Tour championship speaks to his talent, and I think he proved that when he pushed all his chips into the middle of the table and bet on himself by getting those Xfinity Series races with Gibbs. When he finally got the right opportunity, he delivered in a big way. Now, Ryan’s got the right opportunity in Cup. We’re proud to have him and look forward to seeing what he can do in our racecars.”