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Ryan Preece cleared to race after violent Daytona NASCAR crash

Ryan Preece has been cleared to compete this weekend in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway following a violent crash on Saturday in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona.

Preece climbed out of the Stewart Haas Racing No. 41 under his own power but was transported to a nearby hospital for additional evaluation. He remained there overnight and was released the next morning.

Preece rotated at least a dozen times after getting in the air off the grass on the backstretch but landed on all four tires. It was one of the most violent looking superspeedway crashes in over a decade and led to his peers expressing shock and immediate feedback during Cup Series media day on Thursday.

“I don’t like the grass,” said Kevin Harvick. “That wreck was more violent than it probably would have been if it wasn’t going from one surface to the next. … I didn’t like how it would grab in the grass and twist in a different direction.

“I know we’ve talked about it for a number of years to get the grass off the back straightaway and there’s more to it than just taking the grass off from all the rules [the track must follow]. The grass really needs to go.”

Joey Logano expressed concern that the car did not dissipate enough energy.

“The car didn’t really shed any parts while it was spinning,” Logano said. “It stayed together and it holds him tight like a figure skater would when they’re spitting and that’s why they spin so quick. There was nothing really getting off the car and dispersing that energy.

“On the bright side, the cage looks like it did its job and he’s okay.”

Denny Hamlin said the roof hatch was Tupperware but couldn’t offer a better solution in that moment. William Byron also expressed concern about the roof hatch.

“Preece’s wreck was a little concerning in how the roof hatch went away and honestly how much air he got when he hit the grass the second time when the splitter dug in,” Byron said. “I thought that was kind of concerning how high in the air he was.”

Kyle Busch was surprised how the No. 41 lifted the way it did.

“It was a sheet of plywood — it just lifted way to easy,” Busch said. “That was concerning obviously, and just how fast it took off. It looked like an iRacing wreck. It was crazy. I didn’t know that 3,600 pounds could move that fast.”

Daytona’s sister track in Talladega, Alabama has a paved backstretch and NASCAR says it is investigating the crash to determine if grass played a factor in lifting the car off the ground.

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Ryan Preece gives update following violent Daytona crash

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Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

In a series of social media posts, Preece said he feels fine, and echoed that sentiment on Friday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Preece said. “It was almost a fight in a joking sense that I was ready to do tests and everything on Sunday but I wanted to go through the steps so we did it twice just to make sure there were no symptoms that appeared later in the week. Everything is good, no concussions and I’m ready to go out there and go race.

“That just goes to show the amount of work NASCAR has put into improving this race car. They’re going to look over that car in the R&D Center and continue to make it even safer. I’m not downplaying the wreck by no means because it’s probably the biggest wreck I’ve taken in my career but … there’s nothing stopping me from racing this weekend.”

Preece is shown wearing sunglasses in the social media posts and Kyle Larson suggested there’s a reason for that too.

“When I wrecked (a Sprint Car) in New Zealand a few years ago, it was not as crazy as that, but very similar where I had like really quick rotations and it’s just wild,” Larson said. “Like the gravity pulls your hands and whole body off the wheel. My eyes were bloodshot for a few months, and I am sure he looks pretty attractive right now.”

Preece’s teammate, Chase Briscoe was involved in the crash on Saturday and pointed to the grass as a factor after the crash too.  

“We can’t wreck cars like that every time we come to a superspeedway,” Briscoe said. “Last year, this exact race last year, I got airborne off (Turn) 4 and was lucky enough not to flip. These cars with how the bottom is, it just flips them right over. When you’re running 190 mph and you get airborne, it’s definitely not good, especially when there’s grass involved.

“Definitely need to do something. Not sure what that is but we need to do something for sure.”

Related: NASCAR implements safety changes over Talladega crash

Ryan Blaney endorses front clip improvement

NASCAR: Cup Series Playoff Media Day
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the crash that sent Ryan Blaney head-on into the wall at Daytona was the first real significant test for a new front clip that was mandated by NASCAR in July. Blaney offered praise for the piece that crushed in a way that showed energy dissipation in a way the previous front clip did not.

The changes, which were mandated after the May race at Talladega, are detailed here.

“I felt the front clip updates definitely helped me,” Blaney said. “Obviously hitting a SAFER Barrier wall was positive, but the front clip updates were huge. I felt like if those weren’t in and we wrecked at Daytona, I feel like it would have been a lot worse for sure.”

Blaney suffered a similar head-on impact in June at Nashville Superspeedway and said he felt a difference. The portion of the wall at Nashville was not protected by a SAFER Barrier.

“I felt better after this one,” Blaney said. “Some of the circumstances involved in it helped. My body felt more sore after this one than my head. That was good.”

Hamlin, who is one of the leading veteran voices in the driver’s advisory council said he liked a lot of what he saw from a directional standpoint.

“Both (Preece and Blaney) said that they feel okay so that’s a good sign that it’s heading in the right direction,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, from what we’ve seen, the crushing of the front of the 12 car is certainly a gain than what we’ve had in the past.

“I’m pleased with it. NASCAR has got to continue to look at it, but I’m certainly pleased with the progress that has been made. And it seems like the drivers who have been involved in it are pleased as well.”

Byron also expressed directional satisfaction with how the front clip seemed to perform.

“He was obviously out of breath but I felt like, just watching his in-car camera, it was a lot better than say Preece’s crash earlier in the year at Talladega,” Byron said. “But (Blaney’s) crash looked more like it should. It was a huge hit no doubt but it looked like everything handled it pretty well.”

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