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NASCAR Cup Daytona 500

Ragan, Preece lock themselves into Daytona 500 field

Eight teams came to Daytona International Speedway this week to fight it out over four starting spots in the in the Daytona 500.

Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Cottonelle

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Following Wednesday night’s qualifying session, two of those four positions are now claimed.

As the two drivers with the fastest qualifying speeds among the eight non-charter teams, Ryan Preece (eighth-fastest overall) and David Ragan (13th fastest) are guaranteed to start in Sunday’s race.

Two spots remain – the highest finishing non-charter team in each of Thursday night’s qualifying races.

Preece was especially relieved by his performance. He is planning to run a second full season in the Cup Series with JTG Daugherty but his No. 37 Chevrolet team does not have a charter this season, which meant he had to race his way into the 500.

Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Cottonelle

Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Cottonelle

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

“I knew we would have speed in our No. 37 Chevrolet, but I am really proud of the effort that everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing organization put in to get our car as fast as it is and qualify on speed into the Daytona 500,” Preece said.

“We ran some solid laps in practice and I think that prepared me for tonight to put down one solid lap to qualify us in to the race on Sunday.”

Once he knew his spot in the 500 was secure, Preece left DIS and headed to nearby New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, where he started last in the John Blewett III Memorial 76 modified race.

“This is the best start to Speedweeks and the 2021 season that we could think of and I’m looking forward to a strong night tomorrow and a stronger race on Sunday,” Preece said.

For Ragan, the stakes weren’t quite as high but as his only scheduled race in 2021, he didn’t want to miss out taking the green flag.

David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports, Ford Mustang

David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports, Ford Mustang

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

“It was a different feeling to come to Daytona and not be locked in and knowing that I had a lot of pressure. I mean, I had a sponsor and employees that our car owner Bob Jenkins invests a lot of money and I didn’t want to let those guys down,” Ragan said.

“I really thought it could happen either way. I knew we had a good chance to qualify in and race in. They built this car new over the offseason. Doug Yates has great horsepower, but we’re going against some pretty fast race cars.

“I knew that regardless of what happened I was going to give God the glory and it was going to be meant to be whatever happened.”

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