Just as Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway was approaching the final stages of the race, a major wreck exiting Turn 1 collected a total of 13 cars, eliminating some of the race’s top contenders.
The incident occurred as the field restarted the race with 44 laps to go at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway.
Denny Hamlin was in the middle of a three-wide situation with Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer exiting Turn 1 on the restart. As Bowyer powered to his outside, Hamlin lost the rear end of his No. 11 Toyota.
Brian Vickers, following close behind Hamlin, avoided low, but the No. 55 Toyota shot to the top of the track and made contact with Matt Kenseth to his outside.
As the two hit the outside of the wall, the rest of the field piled in, blocking the track and creating a Talladega-like ‘Big One’ that collected a total of 14 cars.
Among those involved included: Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Michael Annett, Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kenseth, Paul Menard, Aric Almirola, A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Vickers, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards.
"I was in the middle lane and I got stuck three-wide," said Hamlin. "Just the guys getting runs and guys that can accelerate much faster than what we can and so that put me three-wide in the middle. The 15 (Clint Bowyer) was right on my door and it sucked me around and I was just hanging on at that point and I think it was mayhem from everyone checking up from behind. Like I said, I just got sucked around."
Once Hamlin’s car was sucked around, Vickers tried to avoid, but lost the car as it exiting the corner.
"I was coming out of Turn 1 and the 11 just spun in front of us," Vickers said after leaving the infield care center. "I was trying to avoid him and the car got out from under me and I don’t know if somebody got into me or not, but one thing led to another as I was trying to avoid the 11. Then I got into the wall. It’s a shame because everyone on this Dream Machine team did a great job. The whole Aaron’s crew, we had a really good car, fantastic through the corners, and thought we were setting ourselves up for a good finish."
Hate that we got caught in the wreck today. Tried to avoid it. The Aarons Dream Machine was great today.
"I was following Denny on that restart," said Matt Kenseth. "He kind of went to the middle, so I went to the bottom and got behind Brian. Chris (Osborne, spotter) told me I was clear high so I just went up to go off the corner and saw the 11 sideways. The 55 went to miss him and we all got collected. I’m good, just crabby."
While Vickers and Kenseth had front-row views of the start of the incident, Tony Stewart was further back in the pack and had nowhere to go.
"It started far enough ahead of us that we couldn’t see it," Stewart said. "We were just coming off of two there and somebody got sideways and started wrecking in front of us and we got caught up in it. I ended up on top of Paul Menard’s hood so it wasn’t where we wanted to end up by any means."
Despite the wild ride, Stewart said his leg felt fine after the incident
"I told Tony (Stewart) the last time we did that was about two years ago at Talladega," Menard said. "So we have got to stop doing that. We had a really good Menards/CertainTeed Chevy. There were a lot of different pit strategies going on and the one that we had was going to work out okay for us, maybe come away with a top 10. The car was good, just that stuff happens I guess."
Much like Stewart, Aric Almirola could not see how the wreck developed and was along for the ride for much of the incident.
"I honestly didn’t see it," Almirola said. "I saw a little bit of smoke in front of me. Cars probably four or five rows in front of me, and I saw a car make a hard right. I don’t even know who it was, but instantly I knew that they were wrecking. I was trying to get low and I was following Keselowski and everybody started to check up. I was on the brakes as hard as I could and I got creamed from behind and pushed into the wreck. There’s nothing you can do when it gets like that, so it was just a big pile up trying to get all we can get on the restarts."