The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 took place at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) on a sunny April Saturday afternoon. Ryan Preece and his team were one of four teams that were in contention for the Xfinity Racing Dash-4-Cash with $100,000 on the line. Qualifying kicked off the morning with Preece running his No. 18 Rheem Toyota Camry into the seventh position for the upcoming race start.
The half-mile track hosted a caution filled race where teams and drivers tried to make their way to the finish unscathed. The first caution that influenced the running order came on lap 45 with Preece taking the yellow flag in seventh. The team opted to come down pit road for a stop where crew chief, Eric Phillips, asked Preece what adjustments needed to be made to his Camry. Preece asked for some help getting through the center and off of the corners. The pit crew went to work and had Preece restarting seventh on lap 54.
There were two quick cautions on lap 58 and 66 where Preece entered the top-five. The first stage came to an end on lap 85 where Preece finished in fourth position. Phillips told Preece that he wanted to take on a different strategy and save fresh tires for the end of the race. With there being so many caution laps, Phillips said that the tires from lap 45 should still be in good shape. Preece would lead the field to the green on lap 98 as the second stage was underway.
Caution came out quickly on lap 101 with Preece still leading the race. The drivers who took fresh tires at the end of stage one started to work their way back through the field. The next caution flew on lap 141 with Preece recorded in the second position. Preece came over the radio and told Phillips “I love where the racecar is right now”. Quick cautions on lap 143 and 150 led to the end of the second stage.
Preece was able to win the second stage on lap 170 with old tires. Preece raved how great his Rheem Toyota handled on the long run even with worn tires. Phillips had Preece pit during the stage end where he would receive four sticker tires and fuel only. Restarting in fifth on lap 177, Phillips came over the radio preaching patience to Preece as the last stage was beginning.
The No. 18 Rheem Toyota Camry made its way up to second where Preece would battle with teammate Brandon Jones for the lead. A caution came out on lap 186 putting the drivers on the front row for the ensuing restart. Preece took the green and reclaimed second as the field started to stretch out single file. Phillips said to let the car settle in as it is all about the long run.
The race would go green for a long stretch where Jones and Preece would battle for the top spot. The last caution of the race came on lap 283 with Preece pitting from the second position. Phillips used the last sticker set of tires and told Preece “This will be Days of Thunder action right here…”, with Preece replying “Let’s let her rip”. The No. 18 Rheem Toyota Camry battled Jones and took the lead with nine laps remaining in the Fitzgerald Glider kits 300.
Preece would go on to win his second race with Joe Gibbs Racing and his first of 2018. Winning the race also meant that he beat out the other three Dash-4-Cash drivers, claiming $100,000. The No.18 team brought a fast Rheem Camry to the track and Preece was able to drive it to victory lane.
How difficult was it to maintain patience today?
“First off, this Rheem Toyota TRD Camry JGR car was awesome. These guys right here, they work hard and they don’t get on TV and I want you all to focus in on them and this guy (Eric Phillips, crew chief) – I have to thank everybody last year for helping me make this all possible. Without last year, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, I wouldn’t be sitting here in Bristol victory lane in an Xfinity Series car with Joe Gibbs Racing. To win here, it’s unreal. I guess I didn’t make Joey Logano look like a fool today.”
What are you going to do with the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus?
“You know what, probably do something for my parents, my brothers, my wife and my team. We’re going to go get something to drink later. Man, I can’t thank Eric Phillip (crew chief) enough. I know he works his butt off, he doesn’t just sit behind a desk, he’s out there in the shop working hard and I have a lot of respect for him. It was a good run for us, good run for my teammate Brandon (Jones). If that caution hadn’t come out, he had it in the bag. He’ll be up there soon enough.”
How special is this moment in Bristol victory lane?
“Words can’t even describe. My mom’s super happy, my dad’s super happy – I’m 27 years old and I’m not getting any younger. I’m looking for opportunities. We did it last year at Iowa and now we did it here at Bristol. I hope I don’t get labeled as a short track racer, I want to win on mile-and-a-halves soon. Nothing beats winning. That’s what I told somebody earlier today. They asked me what was the most exciting thing and I said winning – I hate losing more than winning. Today we did it.”