With one massive wreck, the favorite was gone from the Daytona
500. So was the sentimental favorite.
An early crash in the Daytona 500 on Sunday knocked out several
top contenders, including 2007 race winner Kevin Harvick and
three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, shaking up NASCAR’s
Winner of two races at Speedweeks, Harvick was sent to the
So was Stewart. He must now wait another season to try for his
first Daytona 500 win after he failed in his 15th try at winning
”The Great American Race.” In 17 seasons spanning NASCAR and
IndyCar, Stewart has been able to cross most everything off his
to-do list. Just not the Daytona 500.
”If I didn’t tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I’d
be lying to you,” Stewart said.
While taking the checkered was out of the picture, Stewart
ditched the safety goggles and grabbed some tools in the garage to
repair his No. 14.
Stewart eventually returned to the track – only 82 laps back.
Safe to say, he was a bit of a long shot.
The nine-car wreck started when Kasey Kahne let off the gas to
slow as they neared the first turn at Daytona International
Speedway. Kyle Busch tried to do the same, but couldn’t avoid
Busch sent Kahne spinning across the track. Juan Pablo Montoya,
2010 race winner Jamie McMurray and defending series champion Brad
Keselowski also were involved. So were Kurt Busch and Casey
”It’s crazy. I can’t believe it,” Kahne said. ”I mean, I
wanted to race.”
The accident came a day after a horrific wreck in a second-tier
NASCAR series race hurled chunks of debris, including a heavy tire,
into the stands and injured nearly 30 people.
It also ended Harvick’s attempt to become the first in NASCAR
history to win the exhibition Sprint Unlimited, a twin qualifying
race and the Daytona 500 in the same Speedweeks.
”I don’t know who was behind me, but it was just one of those
deals,” Harvick said.
Harvick stripped his firesuit down to his waist and rode off in
a golf cart, a more solemn ride than his two trips to Victory Lane
this week. Harvick had dominated in Speedweeks as the prelude to
his final season driving a Richard Childress Chevrolet. He won last
weekend’s Sprint Unlimited and one of the Duel races, each time
plopping his son Keelan into the cockpit for a quick rub of good
This time, his battered No. 29 couldn’t be saved. Crew members
pounded away at sheet metal trying to salvage a return for
The parade of wreckers entering the garage hauled the dented or
totaled remains of some of the sport’s heaviest hitters. Montoya is
a former Indianapolis 500 winner. Busch won the 2004 Cup
championship. None of them had a chance to pad his resume.
”You could see it coming. They were all checking up,” Montoya
said. ”And I thought, `Somebody isn’t going to check up and screw
up.’ And, then, they did.”
Stewart won the crash-marred Nationwide Series on Saturday for
his 19th victory at Daytona in all other levels of NASCAR except
for Cup. He has more wins at one of NASCAR’s most famous tracks
except for Dale Earnhardt (34). Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in
his 20th try.
Stewart will at least stretch it out to 16.
The race might not be a total loss for Stewart. His Stewart-Haas
Racing team fields the car for pole winner Danica Patrick. Patrick
became the first woman to lead a lap in the famed Daytona 500 on
Sunday. She led two laps – Nos. 90 and 91. On the starting grid,
Stewart gave her a big hug and whispered into her ear before she
slid into the cockpit.
Told the accident spoiled the start of his season, Stewart
wasn’t buying it.
”To hell with the season,” he said. ”I wanted to win the
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