Ryan Preece’s discolored eyes and bruises on his face were reminiscent of Ricky Rudd’s bruised and swollen eyes from a 1984 Busch Clash crash.
Preece’s horrifying crash last weekend at Daytona occurred on the backstretch while Rudd’s at the turn four exit.
Preece admitted without hesitation that the Daytona crash was the worst of his racing career.
Ryan Preece stepped outside the back of his team hauler in the Darlington Raceway garage on Saturday wearing sunglasses to conceal his severely bruised and bloodshot eyes that made him look more like a boxer than a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
Preece’s eyes were reminiscent of Ricky Rudd’s bruised and swollen eyes from the 1984 Busch Clash crash when Rudd had to tape his eyes open so he could qualify for that year’s Daytona 500.
Even though the crashes occurred in different decades their cars became airborne when they slid across the grass at the 2.5-mile Daytona track, hit a transition to asphalt, then gyrated, flipped and barrel rolled before stopping on what remained of the car’s four wheels.
Preece’s horrifying crash occurred on the backstretch while Rudd’s at the turn four exit. Today, the grass at the turn four exit no longer exists as the area was changed to all asphalt. Whether or not the same change occurs at the site of Preece’s terrifying crash in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 remains to be seen. It’s not something that concerns Preece at this time. He’s ready to move on and focus on Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 at the cantankerous Darlington track.
“I’m just gonna put an end to it right now because what I want you all to know is racing in general, whether you’re racing a sprint car, a modified or anything, it’s dangerous,” Preece told a group of media. “There are consequences to everything.
“I’m fine. If I didn’t feel fine, I wouldn’t be in this car this weekend. My vision is perfect, everything about it. They (eyes) don’t hurt. They look bad to you guys, but you look at a 410 (sprint car) driver after some flips and they get this. It’s from spinning in the air, all that, the blood flow.”
Preece admitted without hesitation that the Daytona crash was the worst of his racing career. One he escaped without a concussion and a single broken bone, “a little bit of bruising, but nothing too crazy.”
“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,” Preece says. “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.”
Preece spent Saturday night in Halifax Health Medical Center and when he arrived home on Sunday, he hugged and kissed his wife, and held his weeks old daughter most of the day. His wife even joked Monday morning, less than 48 hours after the crash, that he got out of bed quicker than her.
“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 says. “We’re supposed to be tough.”
The 32-year-old Preece confirmed what other drivers have told him about an airborne crash, “it gets real quiet.”
“Until that ride stops all you’re thinking about is trying to contain yourself,” Preece says. “You tense up and you hope that you’re gonna be OK.”
Preece has watched video of the crash, but he’s not dwelling on it. However, he admits jokingly that after his crash with Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet at Talladega in April and now the airborne rollover at Daytona, he feels like he’s been a “test dummy.”
“I was a lot more sore after the frontal impact (with Larson) than I was this one,” Preece says. “I look, from an optics standpoint, worse today than I did after the front impact.”
Preece says his crotch belt area didn’t hurt like it did after the Talladega crash with Larson and his roll cage maintained its integrity. He would like to see his car which remains at the NASCAR R&D Center.
“I’d like to explain to them what I went through as well as figuring out a way to help keep the car on the ground,” Preece says. “We’ve come so far from the early ‘90s when the roof flaps and all that stuff.”
The angle at which the car became airborne prevented the roof flaps from deploying. The roof laps are designed to deploy when a car spins backwards. At the time the car lifted off the ground, Preece’s Ford was traveling faster than the 199- mph or the 173 knots needed for a F/A 18C fighter jet to take off.
“I don’t necessarily know how the air got under the car,” Preece says. “We run these cars really rigid to get the most performance out of them … and that’s just what we’re gonna do. I’m not saying that’s an issue at all. I’m just saying that whatever happened to allow the air under the car, it made it go up.”
Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola says everything inside Preece’s Ford held up really well, including the seat mount and steering brackets. He’s also encouraged by the way the “cocoon around him (Preece) in the driver’s compartment stayed intact and didn’t get really too beat up.”
“I think the only thing that we’ve got to look at is the window net coming out,” Almirola says. “It stayed latched in the front. The back part, it got bent kind of in the shape of a banana. The back part came out of the roll cage and then it was whipping around and was hitting him in the helmet. We’ve got to figure out a way to keep the window net more secure in those situations.”
Almirola said the roof hatch came off because of the way the car landed on its roof.
“You take anything and crunch it together, parts and pieces are going to move and give, so when the car landed on the roof, it buckled the hatch and the hatch blew open,” Almirola says. “Obviously, once it starts flipping around the hatch gets ripped off. I don’t know of any way that you would actually be able to fix that.”