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XFINITY

Preece Earns Top 10 in Darlington Debut

JD Motorsports earned its first top 10 of 2016 when the No. 01 Chevrolet driven by Ryan Preece crossed the finish line 10th at Darlington Raceway on Saturday.

Preece, a XFINITY Series rookie, knows his finish at the track called “The Lady in Black” was hard-earned after qualifying 22nd and flirting with the top 15 for the first 100 laps of the 200-mile event.

A four-car accident in Turn 4 on Lap 103 brought out the final caution of the race and ensured Preece would have a decent position on the restart and a lead-lap finish.

“Track position was pretty important and that caution just happened to fall our way when the 13 [Carl Long], Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and my teammate, Ross [Chastain], ended up wrecking,” Preece told POPULAR SPEED. “That caution came out at a good time for us because it was kind of between pit cycles. We hadn’t talked about pitting yet.

“I knew after that [caution] that we were going to pit soon because tires were so important. That caution came out when we were on the lead lap. We restarted ninth and ended up staying 10th, so it all worked out. It’s a worn out racetrack, and personally, I like it.”

The South Carolina track is notorious for giving racecars the “Darlington Stripe,” which happens when a car brushes the outside wall on one of the turns. Inexperienced rookies of any NASCAR series are particularly susceptible to the “Stripe” and often become victims of the track that can be “too tough to tame.” But Preece kept his JDM machine in fine shape by the race’s end.

“[The track] goes toward the feel that you’re looking for. In [Turns] 1 and 2, there’s so much throttle time, and you’re driving off the right rear of the car. In 3 and 4, it’s a combination of right rear [drive] and overall grip,” Preece said.

Preece’s goal for the rest of 2016 is to remain a top-15 car. At the season’s start, he aimed for top-20 finishes every weekend, but as the summer has progressed and he improved, he feels confident in more opportunities at top-10 results.

He expects to be back with JDM for the 2017 XFINITY season, along with teammates Garrett Smithley and Chastain.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

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By John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.