It was just last August at Daytona International Speedway when Preecewho drives the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racinggot turned exiting Turn 2 on lap 156 of the scheduled 160-lap race.

Preece’s car darted across the track and collected his SHR teammate Chase Briscoe. His car slid on the grass island and asphalt near the entrance of the chicane used on the road course, then onto the larger grass area on the backstretch, where the car went airborne.

The car flipped nearly a dozen times before coming to a violent stop on its wheels. Preece was held in a local hospital overnight for observation but released the next day and raced the following weekend.

Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing, RaceChoice.com Ford Mustang wrecks

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

With Cup season set to begin with the annual Daytona 500, Preece said he has no second thoughts about returning to the track of his harrowing accident.

“As a race car driver, I think we all understand the risks that we take,” he 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.”

Removing grass

There are changes to the 2.5-mile superspeedway since last summer’s race at Daytona.

By early December, the track had paved part of the grass area where Preece’s wreck occurred – beginning in the area to drivers’ left where the grass began entering the chicane to the exit of the chicane.

The “island” and grass at the chicane currently remain but more of that will be repaved following the Feb. 18 Daytona 500.

Preece said returning to Daytona does add an element to the race apart from simply trying to win.

“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,” he said.

“At the same time, I want to be able to drive out of that tunnel on my own at the end of the day.”

Preece, 33, enters his second full-time season with SHR. He joined the organization in 2022 as a reserve driver, doing simulator work while also running a mixed schedule across NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

He won his first Cup Series pole last April at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and had a season’s best finish of fifth at Richmond, Va., in July.

While he ended the year 23rd in the Cup standings, Preece did win an ARCA West race at Sonoma, Calif., and picked up his 26th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory last October at Martinsville.

Ryan Preece, Stewart Haas Racing, United Rentals Ford Mustang

Ryan Preece, Stewart Haas Racing, United Rentals Ford Mustang

Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images

Preece said he’s hoping for a better start to the season this year – he finished better than 23rd just once in the first six races in 2023.

“It’s important to start your season not in a hole. We were pretty good, we had some solid runs going at the beginning of the season, but unfortunately, we either didn’t capitalize on them, or we didn’t get the points that we needed to,” he said.

“That put us in a hole, and for the rest of the season, we ended up having to climb ourselves out. Going into this season, it’d be nice to be on the other side of things and be aggressive and be able to put some good points up.”

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