RACE: DC Solar 300
TRACK: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Ryan Preece Fights Back to Earn Sixth Place Finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The DC Solar 300 took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday September 15th at 5:00pm EST. The Rheem Toyota Camry failed to make a qualifying attempt due to the car not passing tech in time. Ryan Preece was then slotted in the 34th position to start the race.
The first caution of the day flew on lap five where Preece was tangled up in a small wreck with a mid-pack car while running 16th. The team was forced to pit under the caution to repair damages to the Rheem machine in hopes of regaining track position. The pit crew went to work hammering out the quarter panels trying to avoid tire rub at all cost. Preece would restart the race from 31st on lap 13.
One lap later, Preece had to pit again due to him believing something may be broken in the rear end of the car. The crew took a quick look at it and thought the feeling may have been from tire rub so they bent the quarter panels even more. The stop was under the green flag causing Preece to go one lap down to the field.
Stage one was complete on lap 45 with Preece hanging on to the 29th position, still one lap down. After the early caution the crew had to put the damaged tires back on the car, causing Preece’s lap times to fall. Preece came down to pit with the lapped cars, taking four sticker tires and fuel. Eric Phillips, crew chief, told Preece to hang in there and to work towards the lucky dog spot as the next stage started.
Preece was able to rebound and get to that lucky dog position by lap 58, putting himself in a great position to get back on the lead lap.
Lap 65 brought out the caution the team needed for Preece to finally get back on the lead lap. Preece would restart the race from 18th with 20 to go in stage two.
Stage two would come to a close on lap 90 with Preece in the 14th position. Phillips gave Preece an air pressure adjustment with fresh tires and fuel. Preece would advance three positions coming off pit road before being hit with a speeding penalty. The penalty would put Preece at the rear end of the field as the final stage started.
Preece would bring out the caution for the second time during the DC Solar 300 for spinning out entering turn two. Preece was running in the 10th position when the spin occurred. Preece would report to the team that he got loose when another driver cut down in front of him. The No. 18 Rheem Camry had four flat tires due to the spin, forcing Preece to come down pit road and lose a lap again while repairing his Toyota. The team preached positivity to Preece letting him know that there is a lot of racing to do and that he is highly capable of getting his lap back.
Caution flew again on lap 176 with Preece in 19th, still one lap down on the field. Phillips told Preece to stay out on track while the field came down pit road to get his lap back. Phillips relayed that Preece would only have about six green flag laps of fuel and that the team would need a quick caution to come out in order to stay on the lead lap. Preece would restart from 18th on lap 181.
The caution that the team needed would come out on lap 182, allowing for the Rheem machine to come down pit road to take its last set of tires. This would give Preece the opportunity to try and run down the leaders as the race came to a close. Preece would restart 17th with 13 to go.
By the end of the race, Preece was able to advance his Camry to sixth. There were a lot of ups and downs for the No. 18 Rheem team but they were able to capitalize on an opportunity and come away with a top-10.
How do you feel about the race?
“We made it a whole lot harder than it needed to be. I honestly wasn’t expecting to have to drive as hard as I did, but I am so proud of the fight that this No. 18 team showed today. We fought a ton of adversity and I am thrilled to come away with a top-10. There was a point in the race where I didn’t know if I was going to get my lap back on the field, and when it finally came, I knew we had to do everything we could from then on to make the most of our day. We came away the best result we could considering the circumstances, but I am ready to move on and get ready for Richmond.”