Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that Ryan Preece will drive their No. 41 Ford full-time in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series.
Preece will replace Cole Custer, who will run for an Xfinity championship with SHR next year.
Each driver has run three Cup seasons and was signed to SHR in 2022 but Preece was their reserve driver after JTG-Daugherty Racing downsized to one car.
In 2022, Preece had one Truck win and 11 top-10s in 10 Truck starts and three Xfinity starts.
Preece appeared likely to replace Aric Almirola, who announced he was retiring after 2022. However, his position shifted after Almirola forewent his retirement and co-owner Tony Stewart vouched for Preece as Custer struggled.
In 2022, Cole Custer was one of three full-time drivers who failed to score a top-5 finish. He also finished 25th in points – five spots below Aric Almirola – with a 20.6 avg. finish – 2.8 spots worse than Almirola.
Custer has also had the fewest top-5s, top-10s and laps led, and the worst average finish and points finish, of any SHR driver in each of his three full-time Cup seasons.
In contrast, Custer’s five Xfinity starts in 2022 resulted in a win and three other finishes of 11th or better. At Road America, he finished 25th after a mechanical failure and subsequent crash, but he led 6 laps and finished third in each stage.
Custer will get to back up his strong 2022 performance with a run at his first Xfinity title in 2023. No word on any specifics about his number or crew chief but it will likely be a Haas-CNC-branded entry similar to what he drove in 2017-19.
In 2017-19, Custer earned nine wins, 38 top-5 finishes, 69 top-10s and 12 poles in 99 starts, with points finishes of 5th, 2nd and 2nd respectively.
Ryan Preece will unofficially start his fourth full-time NASCAR Cup Series season where he started his reserve driver stint – at the Busch Light Clash in the L.A. Coliseum.
The Clash will take place Sunday, February 5, at 8 p.m. ET (TV: FOX; Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90). Preece will likely have to race his way into the main event.