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Ryan Preece and Kyle Larson have a history. It started a couple of weeks ago on the Bristol dirt when the pair didn’t see eye-to-eye on contact made during the race. On Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, the two added an ugly and much more violent chapter.  

It came on an overtime restart when the Stewart-Haas Racing car t-boned the 2021 champion in the passenger-side door in a massive impact. The No. 41’s in-car camera shows the driver’s body thrust forward in response to the jarring hit. And in slow motion, it’s that much worse.   

Ryan Preece hits Kyle Larson in overtime at Talladega

After 500 miles of racing at speeds near 200 mph, it came down to an overtime restart. On that restart, Kyle Larson lined up third on the outside lane. Ryan Preece started in the same line but seven positions back.

Soon after crossing the start-finish line, Ross Chastain, who started directly in front of Larson, saw a hole opening between the front cars of Ryan Blaney and Noah Gragson and tried to drive through. The resulting contact shot the No. 42 up the track to the right for a hard blow into the outside wall.

The No. 5 checked up when the contact started and got hit from behind by Kyle Busch, which sent the Hendrick Motorsports car to the left down onto the apron and into the infield grass. The HMS driver then abruptly shot up the track across traffic, where multiple cars made evasive moves to avoid him. Unfortunately, the No. 41 couldn’t and slammed hard into the door on the right side of the car.

Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart react

Ryan Preece during qualifying.
Ryan Preece during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 race on April 22, 2023 at the Talladega Superspeedway. | Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Several minutes after the impact, Fox’s cameras showed the collision from multiple angles, including a view inside the SHR car from the dashboard looking directly at the driver. On the first real-speed replay, the visual of Preece’s body and head suddenly jolting forward produced an intense response from former drivers Clint Bowyer and Tony Stewart.

“Oooh! I told you that was a hard hit,” Bowyer said as Preece’s body jostled back and forth inside the car. “You think these boys aint tough? I’m telling you. That’s a shot!” 

“I’m telling you, he is going to be sore tomorrow,” the guest analyst and driver’s co-owner said.  

Slow motion shows Preece head snap forward

The real-speed replay is violent enough. But slowing it down reveals an even more dramatic response from the driver’s body at impact, as his head unexpectedly surges forward and his hands simultaneously come off the steering wheel.

It’s hard to tell if Preece’s helmet actually hits the steering wheel, but if it didn’t, it’s close. Another surprising effect of the impact was the driver’s helmet visor suddenly flung open, which revealed his eyes opening and closing and, at one point, looking off to the side.

It’s all very disturbing to watch. And that was just Preece’s perspective. Larson’s car and the badly damaged bars indicated just how severe the crash was on his end. 

Most importantly, and to NASCAR’s credit, both drivers walked away. That cannot be overlooked. As easy as it is to criticize the Next Gen car for its shortcomings on short tracks or a multitude of other things, it prevented the drivers from suffering serious injuries in an accident that could have been a lot worse.

NASCAR is taking the matter seriously. The No. 5 car joined the Nos. 2 and 45 for a more thorough inspection at the R&D Center.  

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