Last August, during the Daytona International Speedway event, an unsettling incident unfolded involving Ryan Preece, the driver behind the wheel of the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.
As Preece navigated Turn 2 on lap 156 of the scheduled 160-lap race, his car was spun, setting off a chain reaction that ensnared his teammate, Chase Briscoe.
The sequence of events saw Preece’s car careen across the track, colliding with Briscoe’s vehicle before sliding across the grass and asphalt terrain near the chicane’s entrance on the road course.
Momentum carried the car onto the expansive grass area of the backstretch, where it became airborne, flipping nearly a dozen times before finally coming to a violent halt, landing back on its wheels.
Although Preece was held overnight in a local hospital for observation, he was released the following day and resumed racing the subsequent weekend.
With the upcoming Cup season slated to kick off with the prestigious Daytona 500, Preece expressed unwavering determination about returning to the scene of his traumatic accident. “As a race car driver, I think we all understand the risks that we take,” he remarked. “I chose this profession for a reason, so if I’m afraid to drive a race car and get the max potential I can, then I should probably retire and just quit.”
In the aftermath of Preece’s harrowing crash, modifications have been made to the 2.5-mile superspeedway. By early December, part of the grass area where the accident occurred had been paved, stretching from the entry of the chicane to its exit.
While the chicane’s ‘island’ and remaining grass sections persist, plans are in place to repave more of the area following the Daytona 500 on February 18.
Returning to Daytona now holds added significance for Preece, who views it as more than just another race. “Going back now is going to be something where I get to drive through that tunnel and the goal afterward is obviously to try and win that race and put ourselves in the best position possible,” he stated. “At the same time, I want to be able to drive out of that tunnel on my own at the end of the day.”
At 33 years old, Preece enters his second full-time season with SHR after initially joining the organization in 2022 as a reserve driver. Alongside his simulator duties, he balanced a varied schedule across NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks.
Notably, he clinched his maiden Cup Series pole at Martinsville Speedway last April and achieved a season-best finish of fifth at Richmond, Virginia, in July.
Despite ending the year 23rd in the Cup standings, Preece’s accomplishments extended beyond the Cup Series. He secured victory in an ARCA West race at Sonoma, California, and notched his 26th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win last October at Martinsville.
Looking ahead to the new season, Preece aims for a stronger start, recognizing the importance of avoiding early setbacks. “It’s important to start your season not in a hole,” he emphasized. “Going into this season, it’d be nice to be on the other side of things and be aggressive and be able to put some good points up.”