BERLIN — Berlin native Ryan Preece is speeding uphill five races into his best season yet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“I’m competitive, I would say it feeds the fire when it comes to that competitive nature,” Preece said. He finished 1st in the April 14 race at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and has placed in the top five an additional three times.
“It was definitely pretty cool because when you look at Bristol, its a track that most racers around the country they want to win at,” he said.
Preece has been up against some tight competition from Joey Logano, of Middletown, who also got his start at some of the same local race tracks as a kid. While Logano drives in Nascar’s top circuit, the Monster Energy Cup, he also will go up against some of the upcoming racers in the Xfinity Series.
That wasn’t their first race together, as came decades earlier they were both starting their career behind the wheel locally. For a year or two in the late 1990s, the two both honed their turns on the track at the Silver City Quarter Midget Club at the same time. “That’s where myself and Joey Lagano, we all got started,” Preece said.
“You can tell that there’s a bond there, and it started here,” said Wendi Cordova, publicity director for the club.
“We’re very proud of the fact that Ryan is doing as well as he is,” she said. “He’s an excellent role model for our kids.”
While watching Preece’s win at Bristol, she was elated to see that Logano was watching the race alongside the commentators and gave the club a shout out. After the race, Logano also tweeted out a photo of the two of them back in their Silver City days.
Many of the families with children racing at Silver City have that same attachment to the track, where generations of kids from Meriden and across the state spent countless hours of their childhood. Parents have fun too, launching their kids onto the track with a good push and working as a pit crew.
“It’s a family sport, you don’t drop your kid off for an hour and come back after practice,” Cordova said.
“It becomes a way of life,” said Mary Trapp, the club’s secretary and a former racer, as her children buzzed about while getting ready to go onto the track. With a slightly tighter loop than the usual midget racing track and families from across the region, she said it’s a perfect place to hone reflexes and get exposure for young racers.
“Some things have changed, but the track is still here… it’s building the dream,” Trapp said.
Preece comes from one of those families of racers, having been inspired by his dad and maternal grandfather, both of whom were racers.
“I don’t think there’s any memories I can recall that don’t have anything to do with racing,” he said. “It’s been a heck of a ride and hopefully it’s even better from here on out.”
Preece’s next race is at the famous Indianoplis Motor Speedway, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, on Sept. 8, a track he’s especially looking forwards to. “I’m excited about it, going to a track that has a lot of history is pretty exciting,” he said. “I feel pretty confident, I'm really happy with the results we’ve been having.”