BRISTOL, Tenn. – Contact between Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece during Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway left Larson ousted and Preece insistent his final hip check was accidental.
Larson’s night came to an end after a side-swipe by Preece entering Turn 3 sent Larson spinning driver-side into the wall, ultimately ending his day. That incident followed an earlier collision on the frontstretch, when Larson slid Preece into the outside wall with both running inside the top five.
Preece didn’t take kindly to the contact, relaying on his radio he was sick of “excuses.” Larson, on the other hand, didn’t see an issue.
“I mean I haven’t seen the contact from earlier in the race. It was a tight, tight clear off of four,” Larson said. “Obviously I’m looking at my mirror and it didn’t seem that he was to my outside yet, and I don’t know if he got into the wall but he had a pretty short temper obviously. He was trying to crash me I think after that then was swerving at me under yellow.”
By the Lap 176 spin that sent Larson home early, both Preece and Larson had gone for respectively separate solo spins. The final contact came as both were working their way through the field.
“I think something happened to him off at two earlier and he ran in the back of somebody and spun out,” Larson said. “Like I said, it’d been probably an hour and a half, I would have to guess, since then. So I figured we could just be grownups and get the (expletive) over it, but I guess not.”
After the race, Preece denied any intent to wreck Larson as the two banged doors entering Turn 3.
“I was just trying to run the top. It was real slick,” Preece said. “Just got loose and we both ended up in the fence.
“I don’t know. I don’t race dirt. I tried running the top. I’m a guy that runs the bottom, and I know he was making speed up top. I tried to move up there and we were just too loose.”
The frustration was evident through his radio communications though, noting it was “game over” for other competitors as grievances grew following additional incidents at Circuit of The Americas on March 26.
“I think you just get mad getting run in the fence, right?” Preece said. “There was no meaning. It’s just from inside that race car, you’re like, well, I’m not gonna lift when it comes to being run into the fence.
“Every time you lift, if guys see you lifting when you’re at their right-rear corner, they’re just going to keep running you up into the fence. So I think when I (said) ‘game over,’ I meant I’m just not gonna keep lifting and giving that respect of, ‘hey, I’ll give you this room.’ It just comes down to that.”
Larson said he doesn’t believe he and Preece have had prior issues, noting he hasn’t raced much around him.
“I’m not gonna carry it forward, but really, I’m just mad at a lot of stuff,” Larson said. “I’m mostly mad at myself. You know, I shouldn’t have been back there. I spun out, so I shouldn’t be in (the infield care center) right now, but just racing.”
And Larson, at least initially, explained that he doesn’t plan to seek further discussion on the matter.
“I mean, what’s there to talk about?” he said. “Like, he’s mad at me. I guess I’m mad at him. What’s there to talk about?”
Preece finished 24th while Larson was relegated to a 35th-place result.
Both drivers are in for more door-to-door racing when the Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway on April 16 for the NOCO 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), race three of a difficult short-track stretch.