DARLINGTON, S.C. — Beyond the bruising under both his eyes, NASCAR driver Ryan Preece had no other noticeable injuries Saturday when he spoke to the media about his violent wreck that occurred a week ago at Daytona International Speedway.
Preece crashed late during the Daytona Cup Series race last Saturday night, flipping wildly 10 times down the backstretch before his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford finally slammed to rest on its wheels. The 32-year-old quickly extracted himself from the car with assistance from safety workers, was placed on a gurney and transported to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center for further evaluation. He was released from the hospital the next morning and traveled back to his home in North Carolina.
“This is what we’re supposed to be — we’re supposed to be tough,” Preece said Saturday at Darlington Raceway, the site of Sunday’s Southern 500. “And it’s OK to be tough. It’s OK to do those things. I feel good. My wife even joked with me on Monday morning and said, ‘You got out of bed quicker than me.’ Me as a person, my father raised me to be the way that I am, how tough I am and how I want to be as a person, so it’s OK to be that way.”
Preece received medical clearance Friday to compete this weekend at Darlington. On Saturday, he said he did not suffer any broken bones or any other serious injuries, nor did he ever give any consideration to sitting out.
“I’m good. I’m OK. I’ve got no broken bones. I’m not sore,” Preece said. “I wasn’t sore after it — a little bit of bruising, but nothing too crazy.
“I have no concussion-like symptoms. If I had headaches or blurry vision or anything like that, that I felt that I’d be endangering myself or anybody here racing, I wouldn’t be racing. I have a family at home that I have to worry about as well. This is my job. This is what I want to do, and I feel completely fine to do it.”
NASCAR brought Preece’s car to its research and development center in North Carolina for further evaluation. A review is ongoing in areas related to the roll bar padding, roof hatch, window net and liftoff, as well as some grass areas along the backstretch at Daytona. The findings and any potential changes resulting from the wreck will be shared by NASCAR with drivers during a scheduled meeting with drivers next Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
“Obviously, being one of my teammates, you want to make sure that everything that we’re doing as an organization inside the race car with the way we mount our seats and steering brackets and all the things internally inside the car held up, and they did. They held up really well,” said Aric Almirola, Preece’s SHR teammate. “So really encouraged about the way that the cocoon around him in the driver’s compartment stayed intact and didn’t get really too beat up.”
Said Preece: “Flipping was completely different, but the cage held up. I don’t think we’ve tested that, nor do I feel like you go through tests to see how that would. You’d just hope that it would, and all that stuff was good.”
The accident began when contact between Preece and Erik Jones caused Preece’s car to turn across the nose of Chase Briscoe’s car. Preece’s car then went airborne and flipped multiple times, with parts and pieces flying off the car. During the crash, the window net on Preece’s car came partially undone and the roof hatch opened up then became detached after impacting the ground.
“I’ve seen interviews from other drivers in the past talking about when you get sideways like that and as you go in the air, it gets real quiet,” Preece said. “After experiencing that, that’s 100 percent true. Everything beyond that everything is happening so fast and you’re just flipping through the air. Until that ride stops all you’re thinking about is trying to contain yourself. You tense up and you hope that you’re going to be OK, which, obviously I am and was.”
In the days since the accident, drivers have described it as one of the more violent wrecks they’ve seen in recent memory. Spire Motorsports driver Corey LaJoie said he’s watched multiple replays of the wreck throughout the week.
“He got a 10 on the crash scale, for sure,” LaJoie said. “I give him the award for most impressive, maybe of all-time — I was watching some YouTube videos this week of like, ‘Best All-time NASCAR Flips,’ and I think Ryan Preece has a case.”
(Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)