Drivers crash in drafting practice
A multicar crash during the first major drafting session for the 2013 Daytona 500 occurred less than an hour into the Friday afternoon testing session.
The wreck began when Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped Marcos Ambrose from behind and initially collected Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski on the back straightaway.
“We were going around (Turns) 1 and 2,” Earnhardt said. “I thought Marcos was backing up to me, like he was laying off the leader a little bit and looking to get a run on the back straightaway. And we got off of 2 and I was trying to push him a little bit and had a hard time getting our bumpers kind of lining up. There’s a roll bar on the front end of my car and his car – that's the first time I pushed it forward and his car sat up on top of that roll bar. And then I was kinda wheel barreling him around a little bit and we ended up getting turned I guess.
“So, I was hoping I didn't start it, but I don't know if I did. Tore up a lot of cars. Guys down here trying to work and it's unfortunate. But pushed the Toyota pretty good. You know, lined up well with the Chevy and, for whatever reason, our two cars didn't work together very well, but hopefully everybody's all right.”
Other drivers involved in the incident included Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Regan Smith, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne. McMurray and Ambrose were evaluated and released from the infield care center while Earnhardt Jr. returned to the track about 90 minutes later.
Keselowski, who didn’t see what initially triggered the wreck, said it was “unfortunate, but sometimes you got to wreck 'em to learn.” On Friday, teams learned that bump-drafting could be a method of the past.
“The sport is rewinding," Keselowski said. "That’s an important thing to say, because the sport advanced to where we got the two-car tandem about three or four years ago. There were certain things that you could do them that you could never do in the past without wrecking. Now the rule package has been changed back to where we were in the early 2000s, where I think the fans and everybody else enjoyed the racing a little better. So, as drivers, we have to rewind back to how we used to drive those cars. This is how you do it.
"You learn and you make mistakes and that’s part of it. I might be the guy that makes the mistake next time, so I can’t really be mad about it. It’s unfortunate that there are torn-up cars, but let’s be honest — it’s January, and we’ve got another month and a half to build 'em right. I’m sure nobody in the field here is going to race these cars (in the Daytona 500) anyway, so we’ll build another one and have the Miller Lite Ford back for the Daytona 500.”
Regardless of Friday afternoon’s incident, which sidelined 11 of 32 participants, NASCAR Sprint Cup Director John Darby is pleased with the progress of the Generation 6 car in the draft. Prior to the wreck, 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne posted a lap of 199.650 mph during the initial mock draft.
“The first session – the first pack – obviously with a few guys getting sideways off the corner – they were a little bit free, a little bit loose,” Darby said. “So after that everyone pulled in, worked on their cars to tighten them up a little bit and it showed that the cars were slower in the second session than the first but they were driving better. Even from a few of the driver comments, they wished the (wreck) wouldn’t have happened so soon because the cars felt so much better. It’s just a matter of making adjustments and trying it again.
“I’m still feeling really good about everything that involves the test and the cars and the way they drive, everything.”
Greg Biffle lost control of his car earlier in the afternoon drafting session but did not sustain damage.
It’s unlikely that NASCAR will have the opportunity to create a pack that large to draft with over the next day and a half. The only contest remaining in Daytona is the race for the teams with damaged cars to pack up and return to North Carolina.