Christopher Bell won his first race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 9. However, this took a backseat to incidents between two other drivers — Ryan Preece and Kyle Larson.
The first moment occurred in Stage 2. Preece and Larson were battling for position when the driver of the No. 5 moved up the track and appeared to pinch the No. 41 into the outside wall. Radio chatter from Preece’s team then included conversations about how there needed to be repercussions for these aggressive moves.
Fast-forward to the final stage when Preece and Larson were battling with each other once again. They slammed together multiple times on the straightaway before one final collision spun Larson around and into the wall. This incident ultimately ended his day and relegated him to a 35th-place finish.
“He had a short temper, obviously,” Larson told media members after exiting the care center. “He tried to crash me, I think, after that. He was swerving at me under yellow. 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. I thought he would chill out, but obviously, he didn’t.
“…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 grown-ups and get the f*** over it, but I guess not.”
Preece Responded After the Cup Series Race
With Preece hitting Larson multiple times and sending him into the wall, there were immediate questions about his intentions. Did he purposely hit the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro multiple times, or was it incidental contact?
Larson indicated that Preece had intentionally wrecked him during his post-wreck interview with Jamie Little and later during the media availability. Though Preece provided a different explanation during his own post-race media session.
“I was trying to run the top. It was just real slick,” Preece told the assembled media members. “Got loose, and we both ended up in the fence. I mean, I don’t race dirt. I don’t know. I was trying to run the top — I’m a guy that runs the bottom — and I know he was making speed up top and I tried to move up there and we were just too loose.”
Preece continued and said that he agrees that many drivers will stand their ground, but he said once again that the contact with Larson was “by no means” intentional. Preece added that he does not expect to have future issues with the Hendrick Motorsports driver considering that they haven’t had any in the past.
Questions Remain About the Potential Repercussions
The two drivers involved in the multiple incidents had different responses after the Food City Dirt Race on April 9. One indicated that the contact was intentional while the other said that he had just gotten loose.
Now the only question remaining focuses on NASCAR’s response. Will the sanctioning body penalize Preece ahead of the trip to Martinsville Speedway, or will it view the contact as a racing incident?
Larson responded to a question about potential NASCAR involvement, and he said that he doesn’t think the sanctioning body should step in. He did not provide any further context before moving on to another question.
NASCAR penalized Denny Hamlin after the trip to Phoenix Raceway because he made intentional contact with Ross Chastain’s No. 1 and sent them both into the outside wall. The sanctioning body said that he violated Sections 4.4: NASCAR Member Code of Conduct of the Rule Book and then it fined him $50,000 and docked him 25 driver points.
Hamlin appealed the penalty ahead of the trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. However, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld the penalty.
One major difference between the two situations is that Hamlin said on his “Actions Detrimental” podcast that he had intentionally made contact with Chastain. Preece said that his contact with Larson was not intentional and that he was just loose.