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Unless something drastic happens, expect Ryan Preece to return to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2017 to chase a second championship.

The 26-year-old recently decided to step back from his pursuit of a full-time national touring career and opted not to return to JD Motorsports. In his debut Xfinity Series season, he finished 17th in the final standings and posted a single top-10 in 33 starts. It was a solid effort by the blue-collar JD standards but Preece felt he needed to be someplace where he could win, even if that meant returning home to race on the Tour for Eddie Partridge and the TS Haulers team.

“I feel like I may need to take a step back and look at what the future can hold for me,” Preece said. “I could have run another year with Johnny [Davis] but I feel like that wasn’t the best situation for me to be in long-term. Johnny is a great guy, stand-up, and honest so I don’t want this to come across the wrong way.

“I don’t regret racing with these guys at all. But after Homestead, I took a couple of weeks to see where I was in my career and decided that I just needed to be someplace where I could win.”

In short, he’s still open to racing at the highest level but only in a car capable of regularly contending for top-10s. He’s guy deeply driven to win and has achieved a cult status in the Northeast in open-wheel Modifieds.

If he does return to the TS Haulers No. 6, he expects to have a lot of fun. In eight starts for the team last year, he posted six finishes in the top-6. He knows he could be a championship contender over the course of a 17-race campaign.

He’s even more excited at the prospects of contending on the unified division that absorbed the former Southern NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

“I can’t wait to see how this plays out,” Preece said. “I’m curious to see exactly how many guys are going to go up and down the east coast for the full season. The opener at Myrtle Beach is going to be exciting. I’m not sure what the tire rule is yet, but surface is worn out and that’s going to make it a driver’s race.

“The underdogs could win a race like that.”

The season will begin at Myrtle Beach on March 18 and will go back to the Northeast on April 2 for the Thompson Icebreaker. The preliminary schedule still has one more yet-to-be-named southern event that needs to be added before the season starts.

“These races are going to pay a little bit more and it just feels like a bigger deal already. But at the end of the day, it’s the same old Modified Tour. It’s a great series even without the changes. But I do hope they draw more cars.

But more than anything else, Preece wants to renew his rivalry with four-time and defending champion Doug Coby.

“We have a lot of great drivers up there, but when I’ve been full-time in the past, the championship came down to me vs. Doug,” Preece said. “I really had fun racing for championships against him and it would be cool to compete for another one against him, Justin and Timmy next year if that’s how it plays out.”

Preece also intends to race full-time in a SK Modified at Thompson for Al and Cathy Moniz. This is all dependent on what NASCAR national touring opportunities present themselves over the next few months.

Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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