Ryan Preece was prepared for the question and already knew the answer would be a statement about the physical fortitude of race car drivers.
How are your eyes?
He lifted the unusually large sunglasses off his face, revealing bloodshot eyes and skin around the orbital bones that were black and blue, both resulting from blood vessels bursting under the immense load of almost a dozen high-speed rotations during his crash last week at Daytona International Speedway.
“I’m just going to put an end to it right now because obviously people, what I want you all to know is racing (and) racing in general, whether you’re racing a sprint car or modified anything, it’s dangerous,” said Preece during a scheduled press conference outside of his hauler on Saturday at Darlington Raceway.
“There are consequences to everything, and what we do as race car drivers is respect one another to not put ourselves in positions to be like that.”
“But look, I’m fine. My vision is perfect. They don’t hurt. They look bad to you guys, but look at (Sprint Car drivers) after some flips, and they get this. It’s from spinning in the air, the blood flow, whatever. I’m not a doctor, and a lot of other people out there aren’t either.”
To wit, Preece says his actual doctors have cleared him twice, both earlier in the week and after a late week check-up before making the drive two hours south to Darlington, South Carolina for the Southern 500.
“What I can tell you is I went through all the tests, and I feel fine,” Preece said. “If I didn’t feel fine, I wouldn’t be in this car this weekend, but obviously, I’m grateful and excited to be here.”
Preece says he spoke to mixed martial artist Miesha Tate, as both are represented by the agency owned by Cup Series veteran Kevin Harvick, because he considered putting makeup on to diminish the appearance of the bruising.
At first, he didn’t want any questions about his readiness or his ability to race at the highest level so soon after the crash, but ultimately embraced it. Again, he passed the mandated tests twice, and this is just what happens at all levels of racing sometimes.
Preece was admitted into the hospital around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night and said he was ready to leave by midnight. He was talked into staying overnight and was released the next morning. Preece woke up at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, his wife joking that he was more spry at that hour than she was.
“My father raised me to be the way I am, how tough I am, and how I want to be as a person,” Preece said. “So it’s okay to be that way.”
Preece hasn’t seen the car yet, mostly because he’s just focused on resting and recovering the past six days, but he would like to be involved with NASCAR’s process to determine what safety improvements can be made as a result.
Preece can’t entirely speak to what happened to his safety net or the roof flap but says his experience tracked to what other drivers have historically said about airborne crashes in that the car gets really quiet when it gets in the air.
He also noted that his head-on crash at Talladega resulted in changes to the front clip of the Next Gen car.
“I’m sure we’re all going to look at this and figure out something to help that, for when that situation occurs, that the car will not want to take off like it did,” Preece said. “But, you know, from a safety standpoint, I feel like I’ve kind of been the test dummy, so to speak, with the frontal impact and then even the rollover, joking, obviously.”
Kind of, but also seriously.
“But, I feel fine, and to be honest with you, I was a lot more sore after the frontal impact than I was this one. I just look from an optic standpoint worse today than I did after the front impact.”
Preece also said he never truly considered sitting a week, even when he has little to obviously race for having missed the playoffs this season, his first with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“You’re talking to a guy that races as often as he can, Cup car, Late Model or Modified, and we love to race, and I feel completely fine, so why stop,” he said. “You know what I mean? I get why you ask, but it’s okay to race.”
“And that’s what needs to be said here. I have no concussion-like symptoms. If I had headaches or if I would be endangering myself or anyone here racing, I wouldn’t be racing. I have a family at home to worry about as well, but this is my job, it’s what I want to do, and I feel completely fine to do it.”
Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.