Kyle Larson saw a dominant weekend come to a crashing halt on lap 175 when he was turned by Ryan Preece, who felt that Larson had wronged him earlier in the race by putting the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang into the outside wall.
Preece who vowed to take no prisoners after the incident with Larson and a subsequent on-track incident with Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon broke the toe-link on his race car, forcing him two laps off the pace as his team made repairs.
When Larson went for a spin to open Stage 3, after making an interesting call to remain on old tires during the pit stop in the Stage break, it gave Preece a chance at retaliation. A chance that Preece seemingly cashed in to end Larson’s night.
After his trip to the infield care center, where he was evaluated and released, Larson expressed frustration that Preece still had an axe to grind with him around an hour and a half after the two made contact on the track.
“[I] Assumed it had been an hour and a half or so since that happened, and it wasn’t my fault why he ended up spun out and in the back, so I thought he would chill out,” Larson stated. “But obviously, he didn’t and ran me into the fence, and ended our day. It is what it is.”
Larson continued by saying that he was surprised by the move by Preece that ended his race, and that he felt that the two could be adults and get over slight contact on the track.
“[I was] A little bit surprised, because it had been so long. And like I said it wasn’t my fault why he was back there. I think something happened to him off of [Turn] 2 earlier and then he ran into the back of somebody and spun out,” Larson explained. “Like I said, it had been an hour and a half, I would have to guess since then. I figured we could just be grown-ups and get the fuck over it, but I guess not.”
Another surprising aspect of the run-in for Larson was that he can’t recall ever having any on-track beef with Preece in the past.
“I haven’t honestly raced with him much,” Larson said. “He’s been kind of out of the Cup Series a little bit the last couple of years, and he wasn’t in the best stuff when he was Cup racing before. I haven’t spent too much time around him. I don’t remember if I’ve been, or if he’s been mad at me before — I’ve never been mad at him.”
Ultimately, Larson says that he will not carry on a feud with Preece past Sunday night at Bristol simply because he feels he is at fault for even being in a position to have someone pay him back.
“I’m not going to let it carry forward, but really I’m just mostly mad at myself,” Larson stated. “I shouldn’t have been back there. I spun out. I shouldn’t be in here right now. It’s just racing.”
Here is a video of Larson’s post-infield care center media availability from Noah Lewis:
While it looked like an obvious retaliation job from Preece on Larson, the 32-year-old Preece insists that the accident, which ended Larson’s night was just that — an accident.
“[I was] Just trying to run the top, it was real slick. Just got loose and we both ended up in the fence. I don’t know,” Preece explained after the race.
This past week, Denny Hamlin saw a 25-point penalty and $50,000 fine get held up by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel for admitting that he intentionally crashed into Ross Chastain in the closing laps at Phoenix Raceway earlier this season.
While Preece contends that the accident with Larson was an accident, it’s reasonable to assume that Preece knows the price that would have to be paid if he openly admitted intent.
Either way, Preece stuck with his story as he was pressed further about the incident.
“I mean, I don’t race dirt. I don’t know. I tried running the top. I’m a guy that runs the bottom. When you’re trying — I know he was making speed up top, so I tried moving up there. We were too loose,” Preece explained. “Ultimately, I still agree that a lot of people are going to stand their ground. By no means was that intentional. I was just trying to get everything I could.”
Preece had shown impressive speed all weekend long, and it was kind of surprising as Preece isn’t known as a renowned dirt racer. Then he saw a sure-fire top-10 run evaporate when his toe-link was broken in an incident on Lap 103.
After climbing back from two laps down, by way of receiving two free passes, Preece was able to battle back to a 24th-place finish on Sunday night at Bristol.
Preece says he didn’t intentionally crash Larson, and Larson says that the feud won’t boil over past this weekend. We’ll have to keep an eye on the No. 5 and No. 41 cars moving forward to see if the two drivers find themselves fighting for position in upcoming events.