Thirty-four minutes into Saturday’s opening practice for the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway, a session that had been relatively benign to that point went haywire for four prominent drivers.
Drafting in a pack of cars through Turns 1 and 2, the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 of Chase Elliott was trapped in the middle lane and lost positions. Moving up the track slightly, Elliott ran out of room and clipped the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang of Ryan Newman with his right rear quarter panel.
Both cars spun out of control. Checking up behind the collision, Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry got nailed from behind by the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang of Kevin Harvick, who slid into the infield grass and came to a stop. Hamlin’s car suffered severe damage as it plowed through the grass.
“I was really excited to see that there was actually a pack formed,” Elliott said of the moments that led up to the wreck.
“Typically, guys ride around here in practice and don’t ever do anything, so I was glad to see there was a good pack lined up. We were making an effort to try to get in it before it was over and Aric (Almirola) and I were coming up to speed together.
“He got to the bottom and kind of got in line, so I thought I would just hop in line, too, and it didn’t work out. Ended up kind of being in the middle, and I was going to ride out the middle until the back, and I came off (Turn) 2 there and it looked like I crowded Ryan (Newman) a little bit. When you get close to guys, it kind of brings you together. So, yeah, like I said, just messed up.”
Both Elliott and Hamlin had to go to backup cars for the Advance Auto Parts Clash (Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). NASCAR allowed Harvick and Newman to extricate their cars from the infield, change tires where necessary and drive them back to the garage, avoiding additional potential damage from being hauled on a tow truck or rollback.
“I didn’t really see anything other than I hit the car in front of me and just jammed on the brakes, wheel-hopped and spun out,” Harvick said.
“I kind of got stuck in the mud there, and they helped us out by letting us bring tires. It would have destroyed the car dragging it out of there, so I appreciate NASCAR helping us out.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!