● Wrapping Up in Phoenix: The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series campaign concludes this weekend on the desert mile oval at Phoenix Raceway with Sunday’s 312-lap race set for 3 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The weekend will also wrap up Ryan Preece’s first fulltime season in the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Cup Series stable. Preece and the No. 41 United Rentals Ford Mustang team are looking to end the season on a positive note. Preece will be back behind the wheel of the No. 41 for his second fulltime season with SHR in 2024.
● By the Numbers: Sunday’s race will mark Preece’s ninth Cup Series start at the Arizona track. His first came in 2015 and his 12th-place finish in March, after starting 25th, is his best Phoenix finish. In his eight previous Cup Series starts at Phoenix, Preece has completed 95.6 percent of laps attempted. He has also made three starts at Phoenix in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a best result of fifth from the fifth starting position in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing in November 2018.
● About United Rentals: United Rentals, Inc. (NYSE: URI), the largest equipment rental company in the world, is back on the No. 41 SHR Ford Mustang, serving as the primary sponsor for the final time in 2023. The partnership began with the non-points Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum, Feb. 4-5 in Los Angeles. United Rentals has an integrated network of 1,449 rental locations in North America, 13 in Europe, 27 in Australia and 19 in New Zealand. In North America, the company operates in 49 states and every Canadian province. The company’s approximately 24,700 employees serve construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities, homeowners and others. The company offers approximately 4,700 classes of equipment for rent with a total original cost of $19.3 billion. United Rentals is a member of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the Barron’s 400 Index and the Russell 3000 Index®. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. Additional information about United Rentals is available at UnitedRentals.com.
● Turns for Troops – Making Every Lap a Lap of Honor: Join United Rentals in supporting military veterans and families through the Turns for Troops program. United Rentals will donate $50 for each lap that one of its three sponsored drivers completes for specific races throughout the season. So far this season, Preece has completed 1,368 laps during the campaign, raising $68,400. This weekend, Preece has the opportunity to raise $15,600 if he completes all 312 laps at Phoenix Raceway. Funds from the Turns for Troops program go to SoldierStrong or Operation Homefront. Click here to learn more.
● Last Weekend: The Cup Series competed at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday. Preece and the No. 41 team qualified ninth but struggled with drive at the outset on race day. Pit strategy varied throughout the field over the course of the race. The No. 41 team opted to take four tires during the final caution, sending Preece further back in the field for the ensuing restart. He drove to a 20th-place finish.
● Where He Stands: Preece heads to Phoenix 24th in the driver standings with 614 points.
You had a decent day at Phoenix earlier this season and it’s one of the tracks where SHR has shown strength this season. Your thoughts about finishing the season there?
“Yeah, you know, at Phoenix in the beginning of the season, we had a really bad practice and qualifying session. But we were able to turn it around for the race. If we had a few more laps at the end of that race, I think the car would have been right where I needed it to be. So, we have a lot of notes from that race that we’ve been using to prep for this race and build on. I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ll have another fast Ford Mustang and can be up in the mix on Sunday.”
What do you like most about racing at Phoenix?
“I really enjoy Phoenix. It’s not necessarily a short track but it’s your cross between an intermediate and short track. I feel like we’ve been consistently gaining on it and speed has not been a problem at all. I think Phoenix matches my driving style a lot and we just need to see where we stack up in practice.”
What is one thing you can take from your first fulltime season in the Cup Series with SHR and implement heading into next season?
“Our short-track program has been our bread and butter. We’ve been really strong at those tracks and that’s where I feel like we’ve really shown progress. The exciting thing is that we have really improved all around this season. Our mile-and-a-half program got so much better throughout the season and we worked hard on that. We’ve always emphasized the short tracks on the schedule because that’s where I have a lot of confidence, but the mile-and-a-halves and the superspeedways and those 2-mile tracks, we’ve seen improvement. We’ve been in position to have solid days and we have had solid days, just always needed a little more. A lot of times, by the time we made the adjustments that worked best for me as a driver, we just needed some more laps in the race to get into those top-10 and top-five positions. Those improvements are what make next season really exciting for us. We have all worked so hard. This is about the whole team, it’s not just me. It’s about the people, I’ve always said that. We really are a team and we have busted our butts every week and it’s going to pay off.”
It was a busy week for you at Martinsville, starting with you winning the Modified Tour race on Thursday, then diving right into practice and qualifying for Sunday’s Cup Series race. What did that success on Thursday do for your confidence?
“I mean, yeah, any time you go out and race, you’re wanting to win. I’m always wanting to win. The Modified Tour is where I came from and I’m friends with a lot of those guys. The timing worked out and everything came together for me to get on track Thursday for that race. I love going back and racing my Modified. It was a ton of work, I did everything on my own pretty much throughout the week and then had my guys from SHR come out and help. My father was there, as well as some of the guys that have been with me since I started racing Modifieds. It was awesome taking home another Grandfather clock and it was a really special win for me personally. My wife (Heather) was there, and my daughter Rebecca. It was my daughter’s first Modified race and first visit to victory lane, so that was pretty special. All around, it was just a really great time and I’m so glad I did it and got to share it with some of the guys at SHR for their first time. We had a decent practice session at Martinsville on Saturday and we were able to get our car dialed in, and then we qualified in the top-10, which is exactly what we wanted. Ran up front a lot during the race, but at a place like Martinsville, everyone’s strategy is so different. We took four tires when most only took two or fuel only, and we just couldn’t get back through traffic to the top-10. Still a solid effort by our team and we’ll take what we learned and store it for next year.”
This weekend marks your teammate Kevin Harvick’s final Cup Series race as he heads into retirement. Kevin is someone that you’re very close to on a personal level, and you’re also a client of Kevin Harvick Incorporated. What has your relationship with Kevin meant to you and what will it be like without him in the No. 4 car next season?
“Kevin has been someone that I’ve always looked up to. He’s a driver that my younger self watched on TV, and then, fast forward, I got to become teammates with him. Kevin’s influence on not only me, but the entire sport, is one that will always be remembered. You know, Kevin’s someone that I’ve always been able to go to for advice when it comes to racing, but also anything else. He’s been a huge asset to me and my career. Lucky for me, I have his phone number so I’ll still be able to talk to him whenever I want, and that’s something I really appreciate. I’m excited for him in this next chapter. He’s going to be a great addition to the broadcast booth, but he also gets to go support Keelan and Piper in the stuff they’re doing and I know that’s what he’s excited about. Man, to leave behind a legacy in this sport like Kevin is something most of us can only dream of. I’m lucky to have had him as a teammate and competitor, and especially as a friend. He’ll be missed every weekend at the track, for sure.”