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Newman, Preece prepare for Modifieds return at Martinsville

Joe Gibbs Racing's Martin Truex Jr. wins the at Phoenix Raceway for the first time and snaps a 29-race winless streak in the process.

Next month, NASCAR Modified racing will be back at one of its spiritual homes.

The flat half-mile at Martinsville Speedway hosts a 200-lapper April 8 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. It raises the curtain on a weekend that also includes the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series.

Cup regulars Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece will compete in that NWMT race, the first at Martinsville since 2010. Both were at the track Wednesday for testing in their respective machines.

Newman made 27 NWMT starts from 2008-19, but only competed at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. He has four career NWMT wins, two apiece at each track.

“If you look at the big picture of it, the modified is just an amazing race car,” Newman said in a Wednesday media teleconference. “If you, as an engineer, had to draw up a car to design to make it go fast, turn left and accelerate, you’d draw a Whelen Modified ... Whenever I can fit it into my schedule and it makes sense geographically and time-wise, obviously, I do it.”

With that in mind, Newman mentioned plans to run additional Modified races this season, specifically at New Hampshire and Richmond Raceway.

“It’s just fun racing against these guys,” he said. “They do it for a living. We’re all hobby racing, but they do it for a living. They’re the best and it’s fun to come out and race against them.”

As for Preece, Modified racing is in his blood. The 2013 NWMT champion has 22 career wins in the series. His first came at Martinsville in 2008 after the original winner, Burt Myers, was disqualified a few days after the race; Preece learned the decision in a phone call.

Preece talked Wednesday about how lucky he was to be able to move between the Cup and Modified worlds.

“As a racer, your ultimate goal is to get to NASCAR’s Cup Series,” Preece said. “That’s where it is. That’s where you want to be. But at the same time, I know where my roots are. I know where I’ve cut my teeth. I know where I’ve put many hours in the race shop to go and win races. And I enjoy racing these race cars and I know quite a bit about them and they’re a lot of fun to race.

”... I’m definitely pretty blessed to be able to have owners like Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) that allow me to come do things like this and do these races, and it’s a lot of fun. The best thing for a race car driver is to be in the seat all the time.”

For the Martinsville Modified race, Newman will run the No. 77 entry owned by Gary Putnam. Preece will run the No. 6 entry owned by Ed and Connie Partridge.