Ever since he arrived on the NASCAR Cup scene in 1992, team owners have been looking frantically for the “next Jeff Gordon.” The last three decades have seen scores of teenage drivers to the sport- including Joey Logano and William Byron. As the silly season dominoes continue to fall, the 2019 rookie class begins to fall into place.
Ryan Preece will pilot the 47 car for JTG Daugherty once occupied by AJ Allmendinger. Daniel Hemric will ply his trade for RCR in the 31 car being vacated by Ryan Newman. There’s something different about these guys.
For one- take note of their age. Preece will be 28 when the 2019 season unfolds. Hemric is 27. These drivers will actually come in with something of a resume. Preece has run 50 races in the Xfinity Series, and has two wins to show for it- one at Iowa, another at Bristol. Oh, he’s also run a handful races at NASCAR’s top level.
Between the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series, Hemric has 111 starts to his credit. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Daniel Hemric has two recent starts. He has no wins, but has 64 top tens to his credit.
Ryan Preece also has something old school about him. Described as a “racer’s racer.” What it means is Preece will race, and perform pretty well in pretty much anything. Not only has he enjoyed success in the Whelen Modified Tour, he’s also been known to turn wrenches, not unlike the drivers of yore. This article at what racing folks in his backyard think of him. It’s telling.
A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hemric hails from the racing heartland. Sharing a hometown with the Earnhardt’s seem to make him a natural fit for The Intimidator’s old team- RCR. With all that racing, Hemric has made a long, slow climb to racing’s top level. Fans love underdogs. This guy fits the bill. Heck, he’s even married to a fellow racer, Kenzie Ruston of K&N Pro Series East fame.
How they’ll fare is anyone’s guess. The teams they’re joining are neither lousy nor great these days. While the future isn’t guaranteed for Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric, one thing’s for sure: they got to the Cup series the old-fashioned way- they earned.