The worries of many drivers came to fruition early in Sunday’s Daytona 500 knockout qualifying session, with Clint Bowyer perhaps getting the worst of it and blasting NASCAR in the aftermath for what happened.
The wildness began as the cars rolled off pit road in a bunch in Round 1 of qualifying, as the field stacked up and Bowyer made contact with the rear of Reed Sorenson’s No. 44 Chevrolet. The contact buckled Sorenson’s right rear bumper and slowed his car.
Despite the damage, Sorenson remained at the front of his pack, with a much faster Bowyer pressuring to get by. As the pack roared into Turn 1, Bowyer tried to make a move to the inside, but Sorenson threw a block to the low side.
With one minute, 22 seconds left in the round, the two cars made contact and triggered a massive wreck in Turn 1.
"It’s just idiotic to be out here doing this anyway," a very frustrated Bowyer said. "There is no sense in being able to try and put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is, then you’ve got a guy out there in desperation doing crap like this. There’s no reason to be out here. These guys have been working for six months, busting their ass on these cars, to go out there have some guy out of desperation pull this crap."
In the end, Bowyer and Sorenson’s cars were destroyed, collecting Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley and Bobby Labonte. Rookie Jeb Burton just barely missed the incident as he attempts to make his first Daytona 500 start.
After climbing from his car, Bowyer walked over to Sorenson’s car and yelled at him through the window net. All drivers were able to walk away from the cars.
But Bowyer did not place the majority of the blame for the incident on Sorenson. Instead, he shifted his attention to NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format for the Daytona 500.
"It ain’t his fault. It’s not. It’s NASCAR’s fault for putting us out here in the middle of this crap for nothing," said Bowyer. "We used to come down here and worry about who was going to sit on the front row and pole for the biggest race of the year. Now all we do is worry about how a start-and-park like this out of desperation is going to knock us out of the Daytona 500. We’ve been in meetings for 45 minutes just to figure out what the hell everybody’s going to do just to make the race. It’s stupid. There’s no sense in doing this."
Of course, Bowyer didn’t completely absolve Soreson of blame.
"I wasn’t behind the 44 (Sorenson). He came flying around, jumped up in front of me, then runs into the 51 (Justin Allgaier), stacks us all up and I run into him," Bowyer said.
At the time of the incident, Yeley had the third-fastest time of the session, while Labonte had the seventh fastest.
With no back-up car, Sorenson will likely miss the Daytona 500, and took blame for the incident saying he was doing all he could to stay at the front of the pack.
"We don’t have a back-up car now," he said. "I was just trying to block. That’s what got Matt Kenseth a win (Saturday) night, and I was just trying to do everything I could to stay in front of Clint. Pretty obvious what I was trying to do, I didn’t mean to wreck anybody or anything like that.
"It’s just a product of this type of qualifying," he said.