|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
Preece, a 25-year-old standout from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, has won at least two modified races a season since 2012 in addition to the 2013 series championship. That same year, he made his XFINITY Series debut with team owner and fervent modified supporter Tommy Baldwin, Jr., finishing 24th in that first race at Loudon. Just last year, Baldwin coordinated with Premium Motorsports to give the youngster his first try at Sprint Cup, again at Loudon, where he came home 32nd in the #98 Mohawk Northeast / East West Marine Chevrolet. After returning to Premium to run the final four races of the season, Preece was hired by Johnny Davis to drive his flagship #01 Chevrolet for the full XFINITY Series season in 2016.
48 cars showed up to make the 40-car field for Saturday’s race, and Preece looked to make an impression in his first superspeedway start. He ran 34th in the opening practice, then leapt to 4th in the second session behind David Starr, Brandon Jones, and veteran Joe Nemechek. He didn’t participate in Happy Hour and instead turned his sights to qualifying, where he timed in 31st with a speed of 177.322 mph. Among the eight DNQs were 1990 Daytona 500 champion Derrike Cope and Mike Harmon, whose Truck also missed the race the night before.
Starting 40th in the field was all-time last-place leader and five-time and defending LASTCAR XFINITY Series Champion Jeff Green. Green was making his first XFINITY Series start for a team other than TriStar Motorsports since he ran a one-off for ML Motorsports at Daytona in 2013. This time, he would be driving the #17 Dashub.com Chevrolet for Rick Ware - ironically the same team with which Ryan Ellis finished 40th last September at Darlington to end Green’s record streak of eight last-place runs in a row. Coming into the Daytona race, Green had finished last in the final six rounds of the 2016 season and had a chance to extend his record once more.
By the end of Lap 1, however, Green had moved all the way up to 29th, dropping Joey Gase and his Jimmy Means-owned #52 JT Concrete / TransLife Chevrolet to the last spot. Gase held the spot until Lap 5, when the caution flew for the first time for a wreck in Turns 1 and 2.
FOX Sports 1 only caught the tail end of the wreck, but it was clear that Preece’s #01 had made contact with the #85 Lucas Oil Chevrolet of ARCA veteran Bobby Gerhart, causing severe right side damage to both vehicles. Also involved was the #46 of Belgian driver Anthony Kumpen, whose EL Systems / Nexteer Automotive / LeasePlan Chevrolet made it to pit road along with Gerhart. Preece, however, had to climb out and let his car be towed behind the wall, leaving the #01 and #85 in the final two spots.
Finishing 38th that afternon was Canada’s Martin Roy in the #90 Gamache Truck Center / Cote Chevrolet. Roy’s team owner Mario Gosselin failed to make the field in his #92 and Roy fell out on Lap 23 when he clipped the apron in Turn 1 and smacked the wall. Despite his early strong run, Green ended up 37th at the finish, citing transmission issues. Morgan Shepherd, celebrating his 49th year in NASCAR, rounded out the Bottom Five when his #89 Racing With Jesus / Courtney Construction Chevrolet broke a rear gear.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #01 in an XFINITY Series race since August 10, 2013, when Mike Wallace’s unsponsored #01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet wrecked on the opening lap of the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.
*This is the first last-place finish for JD Motorsports since November 8, 2014, when Jeffrey Earnhardt’s unsponsored #4 JD Motorsports Chevroelt lost an engine without completing a lap of the DAV 200 Honoring America’s Veterans 200 at the Phoenix International Raceway.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #01-Ryan Preece / 5 laps / crash
39) #85-Bobby Gerhart / 6 laps / crash
38) #90-Martin Roy / 22 laps / crash
37) #17-Jeff Green / 50 laps / transmission
36) #89-Morgan Shepherd / 59 laps / rear gear
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ryan Preece (1)
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) JD Motorsports (1)
2016 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER’S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (1)