Ryan Preece wanted to leave Halifax Medical Center in Daytona the night of his crash because he felt no worse for the wear after a violent crash on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway.
But the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was kept overnight for observation before being discharged the following morning. Preece is cleared to race this weekend at Darlington Raceway and told reporters outside of his hauler Saturday morning he’s fine felt all week and wasn’t even sore.
“At 11:30 or 12 o’clock, I was looking at them saying, ‘Let me go. I’m ready to leave,’” Preece said. “But out of caution, I guess, so they felt better, I decided to stay until 6 in the morning. But I felt fine. The difference between us and most people who would go and drive a car is this is what we’re supposed to be. We’re supposed to be tough, and it’s OK to be tough. It’s OK to do those things.
“I feel good. My wife even joked with me Monday morning, she said, ‘You got out of bed quicker than me.’ So, me as a person, my father raised me to be who I am, how tough I am, and how I want to be as a person. It’s OK to be that way.”
Preece did not bruise from the seatbelts but does have two bruised eyes. Although he’s not sure why it happened — he was not hit by anything — Preece said the look is similar to what happens when a sprint car driver goes for a nasty flip.
“They aren’t bad,” Preece said of his eyes after taking his sunglasses off to show the bruising. “I’m just going to 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 or modified, anything, it’s dangerous. So, there are consequences to everything.
“I’m fine. My vision is perfect; everything about it. They don’t hurt. They look bad to you guys, but you look at a 410 driver after some flips, they get this. It’s from spinning in the air, all that. The blood flow, whatever. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor, and a lot of other people out there aren’t either. What I can tell you, I went through all the tests. I feel fine. If I didn’t feel fine, I wouldn’t be in this car this weekend. But obviously, I’m grateful and excited to be there.”
“I have no concussion-like symptoms,” Preece emphasized. “If I had headaches or blurry vision or anything like that that I felt 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. So, this is my job, this is what I want to do, and I feel completely fine to do it.”
The crash occurred on the backstretch on lap 156 when Preece was tagged from behind by Erik Jones. Preece’s car veered to the left and collided with teammate Chase Briscoe before sliding through across the apron pavement and grass, which sent it airborne.
While he wants NASCAR to learn from his Daytona wreck, Preece isn’t dwelling on it. Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images
Preece has watched the video of the crash and said it felt like he was watching a wingless sprint car wreck. And the contact from Jones was most likely in the wrong spot on the rear bumper, as Preece said he might have been checking up in reaction to what was happening in front of him.
“I don’t know how the air got under the car, if it was from going from the asphalt to the grass and it was bouncing” Preece said. “We run these cars really ridged to get the most performance out of them as we can, and that’s just what we’re going to do. I’m not saying that’s an issue at all. I’m saying whatever happened to allow the air under the car, it made it go up.”
After being released from the hospital and returning to North Carolina, Preece took it easy this week. Preece has yet to talk to NASCAR or seen his mangled car but does want to be involved going forward on any changes that need to be made and does want to explain what he went through in the crash.
During the crash, the roof hatch came off and the window net loosened. Preece did not have much to offer on either of those incidents since he hadn’t thoroughly reviewed the crash. One thing Preece did say is that the roll cage held up during the crash.
“I don’t think we’ve tested that, nor do I feel like you go through tests to see how that would,” Preece said. “You just hope that it would, and all that stuff was good.”
Daytona was the second significant crash Preece has been involved in at a superspeedway this season. In the spring, Preece t-boned Kyle Larson in the right-side door at full speed at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I saw a lot of comments talking about the underbody and kind of creating a plywood effect,” Preece said of his car going airborne in Daytona. “I’m sure we’re all going to look at this and work on something to help if that situation occurs that the car will not want to take off like it did. From a safety standpoint, I feel like I’ve kind of been the test dummy, so to speak, from the frontal impact (with Larson) and even the rollover. Joking, obviously, but I feel fine.
“And to be honest, I was a lot more sore after the frontal impact than after this one. I look, from an optics standpoint, worse today than I did after the front impact.”
Preece did not think about missing the race at Darlington for additional rest since he didn’t earn a postseason berth. He also pushed back at anyone suggesting he sit out a week.
“But why?” he said. “As a racer, why? You go talk to a guy who’s racing a 410 or a modified we love to race and I feel completely fine, so why stop? I get what you’re saying, it’s OK to not race, but it’s OK to race, and I think that’s what really needs to be said here.”
As for the wreck itself, Preece said, “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. After experiencing that, that’s 100% true. Everything beyond that, everything’s happening so fast, and you’re just flipping through the air. Until that ride stops, you’re just thinking about is just trying to contain yourself. You tense up, you hope you’re going to be OK, which obviously, I am and was.
“Thank you to everybody at Daytona and the infield care center, the crew that came to me, and then as well as Daytona med center for taking care of me.”