After teams voluntarily made single car runs an exclusive in the morning practice session, a familiar sight at Daytona came back. Drafting. Teams were hesitant to form a pack during the course of the test, mostly due to a lack of components and cars needed to repair and replace mangled or damaged equipment.
The drafting started with drivers minding their manners and taking it easy. Well, as easy as you can at 199.000 mph on a super speedway. Then, about an hour into the practice session, the big one. Twelve cars tangled after Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped Marcos Ambrose, sending Ambrose spinning and the field in chaos.
“We were going around one and two I thought Marcos was backing up to me,” Earnhardt said to Speed’s Bob Dillner. “It looked like he was laying off the leader a little bit, looking to get a run on the back straightaway. We came down off of two and I was trying to push him a little bit and had a hard time getting our bumpers to line up. There is a roll bar on the front of my car and his car. Thats the first time I had pushed him forward and his car sit up on top of that roll bar and then I was kinda wheel barreling him around a little bit and ended up getting him turned I guess. I was hoping I didn’t’ start it, I don’t know if I did.”
Earnhardt did, in fact, “start” the big one, and Marcos Ambrose agrees with Earnhardt that the shape of the cars is what really started the crash.
“I guess I just got caught on the edge of his bumper there,” Ambrose said. “The shape of the nose and the tires just spun me out. It was hardly even a bump. It was just enough at the wrong angle, wrong time and I just went for a spin.”
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski also attributes the overall change in the cars. He said that drivers need to take a look back to the way they used to race before the days of the Car of Tomorrow.
“The sport is rewinding,” said Keselowski. “That’s an important thing to say, because the sport advanced to where got to the two car tandem about three or four years ago and there were certain things you could do then that you could never do in the past without wrecking. Now the rules package has been changed back to where it was in the early 2000s. I think the fans and everyone else enjoyed the racing a little bit better [referring to racing in a pack versus tandems], so as drivers we have to rewind back to how we used drive those cars and this is how you do it. You learn and make mistakes.”
Following the crash, single car runs filled the remainder of the day and possibly will be the order of things tomorrow.
Several teams loaded up their mangled machines to return home while others are doing so without any damage at all. The Michael Watrip Racing trio of Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., and Clint Bowyer will not participate in tomorrow’s sessions. Neither will Scott Speed in the 95 car. The only teams involved in today’s accident that will return tomorrow are Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards.
Earnhardt’s car wasn’t damaged by the nudge that sparked the crash. Busch’s car received repairable damage to the left rear and Carl Edwards is driving for the only team that has a backup car to use.
Timing and Scoring from the afternoon practice session: