Caymus Vineyards Racing: Ryan Preece Sonoma Advance

Stewart-Haas Racing

●  Ryan Preece will make his 20th career road-course start in the NASCAR Cup Series when he takes the green flag for Sunday’s Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. The driver of the No. 41 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing finished 23rd in his most recent road-course start on March 24 at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. Preece’s best road-course result is ninth, earned on Feb. 21, 2021 at the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Road Course.

●  The Save Mart 350k will mark Preece’s fourth NASCAR Cup Series start at Sonoma. Preece earned his best Cup Series result at the Northern California track last year when he finished 13th.

●  Preece’s best NASCAR Cup Series finish at Sonoma was preceded by a victory. On Friday of last year’s NASCAR race weekend at Sonoma, Preece competed in the ARCA Menards Series West race. He dominated from start to finish, winning the pole and leading twice for a race-high 50 laps, including the final 32 tours around the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course, to take the victory by a commanding 9.675 seconds over runner-up Sammy Smith. It was Preece’s first ARCA victory and the first ARCA win for Stewart-Haas.

●  Joining Preece for that victory at Sonoma was Bonanza, a California Cabernet Sauvignon created by Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. The wine’s name is inspired by the “bonanza” of the great state of California, where diverse vineyard land that produces delicious Cabernet can be found. Preece got to enjoy the fruits of his labor quite literally. From his race-winning chalice in victory lane, Preece sipped on Bonanza, soaking in the moment amid TV interviews and photographs.

●  Caymus Vineyards is back with Preece at Sonoma, this time on Sunday where the iconic wine producer will adorn Preece’s No. 41 Ford Mustang. The Napa-based winery’s paint scheme pays tribute to its recently released 50th vintage of Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. After serving as an associate partner last year, Caymus Vineyards expanded its role with Stewart-Haas in 2024. The family-owned and operated winery has a season-long presence on the lower-rear quarter panel of the No. 41 Ford along with branding on Preece’s firesuit. And at all NASCAR Cup Series races, guests of Stewart-Haas enjoy Caymus Vineyards’ lineup of wines, most notably, its renowned Cabernet Sauvignon, at the team’s trackside VIP hospitality area.

●  Chuck Wagner and his late parents, Lorna and Charlie Sr., opened Caymus Vineyards in 1972, starting off with 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Based at its original “home ranch” in Rutherford, California – deep in the heart of Napa Valley Wine Country and just a 45-minute drive north of Sonoma Raceway – Caymus Vineyards remains a hands-on family affair. In addition to their famed Cabernet Sauvignon, Chuck, Charlie and Jenny Wagner make a range of white and red wines, each with a character all its own. Said Preece about partnering with Caymus Vineyards: “Representing Caymus Vineyards and Bonanza last year at Sonoma allowed me to see just how hands-on the Wagner family is when it comes to their winemaking. It’s impressive, and it’s something I can really appreciate. I’m hands-on with my racecars because I want them to be the very best. They have the same mindset at Caymus. That’s why they’re a great partner for our race team.” 

Ryan Preece, Driver of the No. 41 Caymus Vineyards Ford Mustang Dark Horse

You had a great weekend at Sonoma last year, winning the ARCA Menards Series West race on Friday and scoring a top-15 finish in the NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday. What are your thoughts as you head back to Sonoma this weekend with Caymus Vineyards joining you for the Save Mart 350k?

“I like Sonoma. I played a lot of video games growing up, and Sonoma just happened to be one of my favorite racetracks in the games. Who would’ve thought 20 years later it would turn out to be one of my favorite road courses that we go to on the actual schedule? It’s certainly a place that I enjoy racing at.”

You said earlier this year that you channel your short-track experience for road courses. How is short-track racing and road-course racing similar?

“Sonoma is pretty different in general since it wears tires out, so you can compare it to managing your tires on the short-track side. Keeping your tires cool has been important there in the past. Of course, going to Sonoma this year with the repave could change that a bit. Braking is also a big part of road-course racing, like it is at short tracks.”

Sonoma offers a change of pace, as it’s been nine races since the NASCAR Cup Series last visited a road course. Is it refreshing to get out of the oval-only mindset and turn left and right for a weekend?

“I would say it’s nice to go to a road course. Sonoma is somewhere that we can hit reset and use it as a track to gain momentum.”

The entire Sonoma layout has been repaved. Does that help you in the fact that even though you’re competing against other drivers who have a lot of experience at Sonoma, it’s kind of a brand new track with the new pavement?

“Sonoma has always been a place I’ve enjoyed. I don’t think you can look at it as a completely new track, but none of us drivers will really know what the surface is going to bring until we hit the track on Friday. You’ll either roll off the truck good or not so good. Hopefully, we won’t have to make a lot of changes, but that’s just something we’ll have to do if we think we’ve missed it. I’m pretty hopeful we’ll show up with a good balance because the dynamics of the track will be the same, just with a new surface.”

When you’re at a newly paved track, how aggressive are you in finding the grip level? Do you try to sneak up on it or are you aggressive from the get-go because track time is so limited?

“I think you have to be aggressive right out the gate. New pavement means more grip. Track time is limited, and if we miss it on the setup, we’ll have to be that much more aggressive to find the limits and what works balance-wise before practice wraps up on Friday.”

How important is qualifying at road courses? Has it become a bit like Formula One, where track position is so precious that in order to finish up front, you really need to start up front?

“I certainly don’t think qualifying is as important for us as it is in Formula One. There are a lot of things in Cup that make our field and competition so close. Formula One is a really different series, but I think we’ve also seen that qualifying holds a lot of value pretty much everywhere in our sport, not just the road courses, because all of the teams, manufacturers and drivers are right there together. For us, qualifying is an area that we’re still working to improve and, hopefully, we can turn things around this weekend and find a good starting spot at Sonoma.”


Spread the love