Ryan Preece of Stewart-Haas Racing experienced one of the craziest and most violent flips in recent memory during the closing laps of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Preece’s No. 41 Ford Mustang made contact with SHR teammate Chase Briscoe on Lap 157 of the 163-lap race as it raced down the backstretch in the middle of the pack. The two vehicles flew over the infield road track used for the Rolex 24 at Daytona and plummeted into the infield grass.
Preece’s automobile was flung into the air as the road changed from grass to tarmac and back to grass. When the vehicle hit the ground again, it struck the driver’s side window straight before launching into a terrifying series of barrel rolls that caused his vehicle to flip over nearly a dozen times before coming to a stop.
Preece was able to escape his damaged vehicle and was escorted to the infield care facility before being taken to a nearby hospital for additional treatment. Greg Zipadelli, the director of SHR competition, reported to Racing America that Preece was awake and conversing but was shaken up from the rough ride.
Preece shared the following statement on social media at 11:52 p.m. ET, giving a brief description of his state.
Ryan Preece is awake, attentive, and mobile, according to Stewart-Haas Racing, although he will stay the night at Halifax Health Medical Center for ongoing observation. Later on today, he will be subject to more medical observation. In the afternoon, there will be a report.
Briscoe showed his concern and support for his teammate after being examined and let go from the care facility, lamenting the fact that he was unable to speak with him while he was there.
“Obviously, Ryan got turned or something and came across my nose and then we all started wrecking,’ said Briscoe. “Just thinking about him and his family, you know that’s a teammate there. Just super unfortunate to see that happen to anybody, let alone a teammate. Hopefully he’s OK. Just thinking about him and praying for him.”
In the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in 2022, Briscoe spun off Turn 4 and was propelled into the air, but unlike Preece, his car did not flip.
“We can’t wreck cars like that every time we come to a superspeedway,” he said. “These cars, with how the bottom is, as soon as they get any air it just flips them right over. Whenever you’re running 190 mph and you go airborne, it’s not good. Especially, when there’s grass and stuff involved. We definitely need to do something. I don’t know what we can do, but we need to do something.”
The safety features put in place to keep the Gen 7 cars on the ground when they flip over are typically effective until other factors come into play, according to Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford, who also believes the new car does a better job of keeping the car on the ground than the previous generation car.
“When they flip it’s because they come across at a bad angle when the flaps and everything are doing their job and they got hit by another car,” said Blickensderfer. “Every time this car has gone upside down it’s been a weird circumstance where everything on the car is doing its job to keep it down and another car hits them in a vulnerable spot when they are sideways. I’m not sure how you can control that.”
Following the victory in the 2022 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, RFK Racing crew chief Scott Graves saw his driver and vehicle flip down the frontstretch. He claimed that in order to fix safety issues with the Gen 7 car, NASCAR worked hard and rapidly.
“NASCAR has been very responsive trying to, when something does come up, react to it,” said Graves. “I don’t have a lot of details on the 41 or what happened tonight. Hopefully everything is okay there with Ryan. So far from what I’ve seen, it’s been very safe. Obviously, like I say, there were some issues. I feel like NASCAR has reacted fairly quickly to those things to try to address them.”
Buescher claimed that he had not watched a video of Preece’s incident and that he was not currently interested in doing so. He recalled his flip in the Coca-Cola 600 from the previous year and said that the accident “knocked me around a good bit and jarred me.”
“I’m appreciative of how safe our race cars are,” said Buescher. “I think as an industry sometimes we forget that it is dangerous still, and that can certainly lead to some of our wilder moments. It’s a dangerous sport. We know that getting in. Sometimes you push it a little too far to the back of our minds. Got to remember it.”