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Kyle Busch Shares Safety Change He'd Like to See After Dramatic Ryan Preece Wreck
Rowdy, who wrecked on grass in 2015 on the same track that Ryan Preece did last week, told reporters: "I don’t know why we have grass."
With the field of 16 drivers officially set for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, most of the postseason contenders have their eyes squarely affixed on Darlington, the first stage toward capturing the ultimate prize. But, for some, the memory of Ryan Preece’s No. 41 Ford Mustang doing aerial pirouettes before savagely bouncing to a fiery stop at Daytona International Speedway last Saturday is still top of mind.
The wreck occurred on Lap 156 with just four laps to go. The No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro piloted by Erik Jones made contact with Preece, causing his Ford to careen perpendicularly across the track. Once it touched the grass, Preece’s car launched into the air, flipping several times as it continued to ricochet off the ground.
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What’s been so perplexing about the wreck for both drivers and fans is that Preece’s vehicle never impacted any obstructions such as rocks, boulder or debris of any kind. Simply put, it hit grass and grass alone, leading Kyle Busch to point the finger at the slender, green blades when he spoke to reporters this week.
“I mean obviously, you know going that fast, car getting turned around backwards, touching grass, lifting, it’s completely... It’s a sheet of plywood,” Busch told FOX Sports reporter Bob Pockrass on Thursday. “You know what I mean? So, it just lifts way too easy. So, that was concerning obviously, and then just how fast it took off, like it looked like an iRacing wreck, you know? It was crazy! [I] didn’t know 3,600 pounds could move that fast.”
The 38-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native once had an incident of his own on grass at the same track, and asked NASCAR to change how track infields are designed at the time.
In 2015, Busch was competing in the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona International Speedway. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing at the time, Rowdy’s Toyota slid through the grass around Turn 1. With no control, Busch was unable to slow down and slammed into a concrete retaining wall. As a result of the impact, he broke his right leg and his left foot, sidelining him for 11 Sprint Cup races.
"I think that we all need to just take a step and really pour every effort into everywhere around the race tracks," Busch said at the time, according to USA Today. "In reality, there's no sense in grass. We have absolutely no reason to have grass at any of these facilities. I think that needs to be one of the next biggest pushes that we can all have."
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While NASCAR and track officials clearly have not removed the grass portions at Daytona, 200,000 square feet of asphalt were added to the vicinity of where Busch wrecked, and more than 4,000 feet of concrete walls outfitted with the SAFER Barrier were added to the track. Translating into “Steel and Foam Energy Reduction,” the SAFER Barrier system aims to absorb and reduce the transmission of kinetic energy during a crash, effectively decreasing the dangerous forces on a driver.
Though Busch praised the league and track officials back then for making pivotal changes, he also said at the time that there was still room for improvement, specifically calling out the issue of grass.
"When a car turns around backwards, and it gets to grass, and it starts to lift, and then it tumbles because it continually keeps getting chunked up in the grass, that's not right," Busch declared in 2015.
"The hits that keep coming are pretty violent. I've been in a hit like that. I've been over on my lid a few times, and it's not fun to continually get those beating and banging around inside; that race car does not feel good."
Fast forward to 2023, and Busch — a two-time Cup Series champion — is still having to echo the same safety concerns that he felt plagued NASCAR nearly a decade ago, and on the same legendary track.
When Busch was asked a follow-up question this week as to whether Preece’s wreck reaffirmed the need to remove grass, Rowdy’s emphatic answer left no question about his thoughts on the matter.
“A thousand percent, all day long, everywhere you look,” Busch said. “I don’t know why we have grass.”