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One Week After Daytona Tumble, Southern 500 is ‘Same Thing as Usual’ for Ryan Preece

After a massive tumble at Daytona, Ryan Preece is cleared to return for Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington, but is treating it like any other race weekend.


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On Saturday, when NASCAR Cup Series practice begins at Darlington, Ryan Preece will strap himself back into his racecar - less than seven days after being placed on a stretcher on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway.

Since the accident, which saw Preece transferred and subsequently released from Halifax Health Medical Center, the 32-year-old has gotten clearance from his doctors to return to NASCAR Cup Series competition.

"I feel fine," Preece said in a social media video posted Friday by Stewart-Haas Racing. "Obviously, really grateful for everybody at Daytona and the infield care center, at the hospital, and all of the doctors here in North Carolina that I've been working with, just to make sure everybody is comfortable with me going back racing."

No matter the situation at hand, it's evident that there isn't a single place that Preece would rather be, than at the racetrack, scratching and clawing for every ounce of speed with his Stewart-Haas Racing team, as he's done all season.

"For me, it's all I know as a racer," said Preece. "I don't want to be out of that car. I don't want anyone else to be in my racecar. I know we've been working as a team and making things better week-in and week-out, and one of these days it will click and we can go out there and contend for wins, and do what we want to do."

"I don't want to be out one week. I've worked too hard this season. After every struggle or after every good weekend. Every Monday, it's get in here, work, and continue for our team to improve. So, I'm not stepping aside, that's not who I am as a person, that's not who I am as a racer. It would take a lot for somebody to get me out of that racecar."

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So, I'm not stepping aside, that's not who I am as a person, that's not who I am as a racer. It would take a lot for somebody to get me out of that racecar.

Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang

Rising through the ranks of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Preece has been in every position imaginable, all in an attempt to one day hold a competitive ride at the top echelon of NASCAR, something he's found with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2023.

Jumping between mid-field teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and backmarker rides in the NASCAR Cup Series, it took Preece gambling on himself with a four-race Xfinity Series deal with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017, to have his true talent realized.

That discovery would eventually land Preece a three-year stint with JTG Daugherty Racing at NASCAR's top-level, which came to an end following the 2021 season, after the team had lost its charter for a second entry.

Left with nothing, Preece was forced to regroup, leaving him to take on a reserve driver role with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2022, which afforded him the chance to run 15 NASCAR National Series events.

"This is a sport that I've given so much to, and so much for," Preece continued. "So, it's something I've worked my entire life, something I've sat out an entire season to build for to get this opportunity. So I'm not coming out, it's not even a thought."

Granted, with every mountain-like obstacle that Preece has had to climb over just to get into the position he currently sits, taking a tumble down the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway probably doesn't phase him much.

"Growing up, being around a lot of old-school racers, a lot of fabricators, and just local racers in Connecticut, the biggest thing about a racer is being tough," recalled Preece. "No matter what it takes to be out there, when you make commitments to your team, to the race team, to fulfill those commitments. So, that's what I want to do as a race car driver, that's who I want to be as a person, and whatever it takes to get out there and do my job."

That's why, despite the concern for his health and well-being, the 25-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winner is treating Sunday's 500-mile gauntlet at Darlington as just another race weekend.

"[It's] no different than any other Sunday or Saturday," explained Preece. "It's going to be the same thing as usual, same thoughts, what can we do to execute. Hopefully this weekend we have a really fast Ford Mustang, and we can go and kick some ass."

In the modern-day, where driver safety is at the forefront of discussion more than ever before, Ryan Preece competing in one of NASCAR's most grueling races, seven days after a brutal flip at Daytona, is a story of mental and physical toughness that we're likely to tell for years to come.

Photo Credit: Ben Earp, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance

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