Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that it has promoted Ryan Preece to the full-time driver of the No. 41 Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series beginning in 2023. The 32-year old driver and NASCAR Modified standout from Berlin, Connecticut, spent the 2022 season as Stewart-Haas Racing's reserve driver while also running a partial schedule across NASCAR's top three series.
Preece returns to the Cup Series after running three full seasons from 2019 to 2021 for JTG Daugherty Racing. Preece was runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors in 2019, and he had two top fives and nine top 10s with a best finish of third at Talladega in his rookie season. Preece made two Cup starts in 2022, both of which came with Rick Ware Racing.
Preece replaces Cole Custer, who has been moved to the Xfinity Series where he will drive a second Stewart-Haas Racing car alongside teammate Riley Herbst. Custer was the 2020 Cup Series Rookie of the Year, but experienced two down seasons that put his standing as a Cup driver in jeopardy. According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, team co-owner Tony Stewart had pushed for Preece to take over the No. 41 despite co-owner Gene Haas' desire to keep Custer in Cup.
"This is the opportunity I've been working for," Preece said in a press release. "Nothing was guaranteed at the start of this year, but I felt like if I put in the time, whether it was in a racecar or in a simulator, that SHR was the place for me. It's a company built by racers, for racers, and it's exactly where I want to be.
"I know this season just finished and most people are looking to take a break, but I can't wait to get going."
Preece made a name for himself in NASCAR's Modified Tour out of the northeast, then bet on himself on his way up through stock car racing's national touring divisions. Last season, Preece spent the bulk of his time racing in the NASCAR Truck Series, winning a race at Nashville and posting seven top fives and nine top 10s in 10 starts. Preece also made three starts in the Xfinity Series with a best finish of fifth at Charlotte.
Preece joins a Stewart-Haas team that is looking to turn its fortunes around after a disappointing season in 2022. Although the company won three races and saw Chase Briscoe finish ninth in the final Cup standings, it also saw drivers Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola and Custer finish 15th, 20th, and 25th respectively in points.