By Mark Long
NASCAR driver Ryan Preece, whose car rolled about a dozen times during a terrifying crash at Daytona International Speedway, was on his way home about 12 hours later after being discharged from a hospital Sunday.
Stewart-Haas Racing said Preece was headed back to North Carolina after getting clearance from doctors at Halifax Health Medical Center. The team earlier said Preece was “awake, alert and mobile" and “had been communicating with family and friends.”
The 32-year-old Preece was able to climb out of his mangled No. 41 Ford on Saturday night with help before emergency workers put him on a gurney and into an ambulance. He initially went to the track's infield care center before being transported to Halifax Health for overnight observation.
Preece tweeted about two hours after the race, posting: “If you want to be a race car driver, you better be tough. ... I’m coming back.”
Preece and SHR teammate Chase Briscoe made contact coming out of Turn 4, and Preece's car turned hard left and then went into an uncontrollable barrel roll as soon as it slid from the asphalt to the infield grass. The car came to a halt on all four tires, with some minor damage to the roll cage.
Preece being able to climb out with help was a testament to NASCAR's Next Gen car, which is considered the safest iteration in its 75-year history.
The car was roundly criticized following its debut in 2022 because rear-impact collisions wreaked havoc on drivers. Kurt Busch of 23XI Racing suffered a life-changing concussion during a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway last summer, and Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman missed five races because of a concussion.
Multiple other drivers complained about the violence felt during what they considered routine hits and wondered if they too had suffered head trauma.
NASCAR spent much of last year and the offseason testing and tweaking its car to try to limit the G-forces delivered to drivers. The changes were welcomed, resulting in considerably fewer missed races and no reported concussions in 2023.
Busch, meanwhile, has yet to return to racing and formally retired from the Cup Series Saturday at Daytona. The 45-year-old Busch held back tears as he called it quits, saying his “body is just having a battle with Father Time.”
Busch added that he's dealt with arthritis and gout while trying to shake lingering effects of a brain injury that rocked stock car racing a year ago.
Preece's accident harkened memories of Ryan Newman's harrowing wreck in the 2020 Daytona 500. Newman was able to walk out of the hospital days later, another testament to NASCAR safety improvements made since Dale Earnhardt's death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.