All in all, the 2019 rookies had a tough time.
Daniel Hemric was released from his ride to make room for Tyler Reddick and Matt Tifft experienced health issues that forced him to miss the final three weeks of the year and ultimately the 2020 season. That leaves Ryan Preece as the last man standing. He will not be the only sophomore this year, however, as Quin Houff – who declared as a rookie in 2019 – will race the No. 15.
Perhaps in part to reward Preece for his seniority with the organization, Preece will move into the No. 37 that was vacated when Roush Fenway Racing exercised an option on Chris Buescher’s contract, and while that might not seem like much of a positive intangible, it could very well play a role in how the second-year driver runs in 2020. This team regularly surprised fantasy owners with solid results with Buescher behind the wheel; Preece is up to the new challenge.
Preece improved in the second half of the season with an average finish that was 1.89 positions better than the front half; that equates to about 34 positions on the track.
It is much too soon to make accurate predictions about where Preece will run best, but based on 2019’s performance players will want to pay close attention to him on short tracks. Last year Preece scored 11 top-20 results; five of these came on tracks 1-mile or less in length.
Since 11 races are run on tracks that size, it gives Preece a top-20 percentage of .455 and with a full season under his belt, he should improve not only by elevating his finishing results overall, but also by increasing the number of times he runs in the first half of the field on this track.
Preece has also shown an early ability to stay out of trouble on aero-restricted superspeedways. He drew the third-place position in the April Talladega race and was eighth in the Daytona 500. Preece finished 18th in the other Talladega race and might have been perfectly in the top 20 if not for an accident at Daytona in the summer.
And while tapered spacer tracks are incredibly difficult to predict with a 'Big One' crash constantly looming, there have been other drivers who kept alive their early tradition of excellence on this track type. One of those racers is Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will join the organization as driver of the No. 47. This will give JTG-Daugherty Racing a powerful tandem on the big tracks when they are able to find one another.
Determining where to avoid Preece is a little more difficult. He finished outside the top 30 six times on a variety of tracks, but all of those were DNFs and most were because of accidents. Only two full time drivers were running at the end of fewer races last year.
Preece was also one of the most penalized drivers in the field with 21 infractions that ranks 11th on the chart.
In order to be fantasy relevant ever week, this team and driver are going to have to stop making mistakes.
Three Best Tracks
Talladega (10.5 in 2 attempts)
Michigan (16.0 in 2)
Kansas (18.5 in 2)
Three Worst Tracks
Phoenix (33.3 in 3)
Homestead (31.5 in 2)
Pocono (30.0 in 2)
Victories: None (Best finish = fourth, Daytona 2)
Top-fives: 1 (.028)
Top-10s: 3 (.083)
Top-15s: 4 (.111)
2019 Finishes at or above rank = 24 (66.7%)