A multi-car accident marred the first hour of preseason draft practice on Friday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
More than 10 cars were involved in the accident that began when Marcos Ambrose shifted down the track and clipped the front bumper of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevrolet. This caused the No. 9 Ford to get into the wall, sideways, and collected at least eight other drivers including defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.
This effectively ends the drafting portion of preseason testing as several teams, including those of Keselowski, Gordon, Kahne, Amborse and Aric Almirola are heading home to Charlotte due to a lack of resources and parts to continue testing.
Earnhardt Jr. said this was the first time his new Chevrolet SS had pushed the Ford Fusion and thinks the conflicting designs of their Gen-Six cars contributed to the cause of the accident. Earnhardt also drafted with Chevrolets and the new Toyota and said those combinations lined-up well.
"I thought Marcos was backing up to me coming out of turn two," Earnhardt told Speed’s Bob Dillner after the accident. "I was trying to push him a little bit and had a hard time getting our bumpers lined up. There’s a roll bar on the front end of my car and that’s the first time I’ve pushed a Ford.
"His car is sitting up on my roll bar and I was wheelbarrowing him around a little bit and we ended up getting turned. I was hoping I didn’t start it – don’t know if I did."
The accident completely caught Keselowski off guard.
"I didn’t see anything," Keselowski said. "I saw cars smoking in front of me. I ran into the back of Almirola and someone ran into the back of me. It’s just the way this deal is. It’s unfortunate but sometimes you have to wreck them to learn."
Keselowski thinks restrictor plate racing is "rewinding" back to where it was in the early part of the last decade. He believes that drivers have to adjust to the old style of pack racing and accidents like this are just a part of the learning process.
"The sport advanced to where we had the two car tandem about three or four years ago and there were things you could do that you couldn’t do in the past without wrecking," Keselowski said. "But now the package has been changed back to where it was as in the early 2000s and fans are going to enjoy it a little better.
"But as drivers we have to rewind back to how we used to drive the cars. This is how you do it. You learn and make mistakes and that’s just part of it. I might be the guy that makes the mistake next time so I’m not going to be mad about it.
"But let’s be honest, it’s January and we have another month and a half to build these cars, right?"
Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer each missed the wreck but have also decided to leave Daytona. They don’t want to risk tearing up their cars and only planned to draft for the next two days. But with so many teams heading home, drafting really isn’t an option.
A video of the accident can be found below.
Complete list of those involved in the crash: