Race car drivers are referred to as “wired different.”
One of the many reasons is because of their ability to return to action fearlessly after a traumatic wreck.
For Ryan Preece, this week’s Daytona 500 brings the Stewart-Haas Racing driver back to Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway, where he endured a vicious wreck last August.
The wreck came on the Daytona backstretch with Preece’s No. 41 Ford flipping 10 times before coming to a crashing halt in the grass.
Miraculously climbing from his battered race car under his own power, Preece was transported to the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona where he was later released with no broken bones.
Despite two bruised eyes, Preece competed at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway the next weekend.
Nearly seven months following the accident, Preece recalls having his eyes closed as he awaited the spin cycle to stop.
“I would say a lot of things were happening at that moment in time. So for me, whenever a wreck of that magnitude is happening, you close your eyes when it’s happening and you open them when it’s over,” Preece said.
“Going back now is going to be something where I get to drive through that tunnel and the goal afterward is obviously to try and win that race and put ourselves in the best position possible.
“At the same time, I want to be able to drive out of that tunnel on my own at the end of the day.”
When asked if he has any trepidations regarding a return to the World Center of Racing, Preece was firm.
“No, there’s not. As a race car driver, I think we all understand the risks that we take,” Preece said. “I chose this profession for a reason, so if I’m afraid to drive a race car and get the max potential I can, then I should probably retire and just quit.”
Driving for SHR for a second straight season, Preece enters Daytona with a fresh mindset — kicking off the year on the right foot.
Last year, the Connecticut native began his season with two straight DNFs, quickly pinning the former asphalt modified standout 34th in points after two races. Preece failed to make the NASCAR Playoffs and ended a disappointing first season with SHR 23rd in the standings.
“I think just starting the season out strong is the big thing,” Preece acknowledged. “The beginning of these seasons can really dictate how the middle of your season is also going to go and how much of a hole you may or may not have to dig out of.
“And with it being superspeedways that we’re starting at, those are two wild cards, so to speak, and I think it’s going to be really important to put yourself in good positions.
“But at the same time, I don’t want to say points racing, but you’ve got to make sure you don’t put yourself in a bad position and put yourself in a hole to start the season.”