Ryan Preece’s Dream Comes True As He Edges Kyle Benjamin In Iowa For First XFINITY Series Winby Hunter Thomas July 29, 2017
NEWTON, Iowa – Known for his success in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Ryan Preece finally broke through to win his first-career NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday after he held off Kyle Benjamin in the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.
Preece, a native of Connecticut, led a race high of 141 laps throughout the 254-lap race. A late-race caution set the field up for NASCAR Overtime, where Preece, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 MoHawk Northeast Inc. Toyota Camry battled side-by-side with Easely, South Carolina’s Kyle Benjamin. The two drivers are teammates, but they raced each other incredibly hard in the final three laps. Both were fighting for their first series win. Preece battled on the high side with Benjamin below him. As the two raced into Turns 3 and 4 for the final time, Preece was finally able to get to the bottom of the track. In the end, Preece edged Benjamin to the finish line by a mere 0.054 seconds.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Preece said. “I’ve just got to thank everybody. I’m at a loss for words right now – I don’t even know what to say. This is what emotion is I could tell you that. I thought this race would never end – that’s for sure. But, man, nothing is going to beat today.”
Preece ran the entire 2016 season with JD Motorsports that’s based out of Gaffney, South Carolina. His best finish was a 10th-place effort at Darlington Raceway. The U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday marked only his second start of 2017. He finished second in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Camry at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earlier in July.
Although Benjamin came up just short in the No. 18 Reser’s Toyota Camry, the runner-up finish is by far his best performance of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career. In his four starts, Benjamin hasn’t started a race below second, but until Saturday, he hadn’t yet finished an event in the top-15. Benjamin has earned his way into the series through his past success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
“It was a lot of fun there,” Benjamin said. “It just hurt that we didn’t get the win, but I’ll take second any day. We needed a good run and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot in that race. I learned more in that race than I have in any of the previous ones so a lot to take away from it. And, congratulations to Ryan Preece.”
Brian Scott, Brennan Poole and Cole Custer rounded out the top-five. JJ Yeley finished sixth, followed by Daniel Hemric, Blake Koch, William Byron and Brandon Jones.
During the U.S. Cellular 250, there were seven cautions, but only one was for a multicar accident. On lap 248, the seventh and final caution that set the field up for a NASCAR Overtime finish involved three cars. Matt Tifft spun through Turns 1 and 2 after trying to stay off the side of Brennan Poole’s car. Tifft spun to the apron. Ty Majeski and Dylan Lupton made contact with each other while trying to avoid the spinning car of Tifft’s.
On Saturday, August 5, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will turn left and right as the drivers will visit Watkins Glen International for the Zippo 200 at The Glen. Live coverage will broadcast on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images