Marcos Ambrose was the other driver at the epicenter of Friday’s major accident that began when the Tasmanian moved across the bumper of Dale Earnhardt Jr., sending his No. 9 Ford Fusion into the wall and into oncoming traffic.
When the accident ended, 10 cars had been caught up, causing most of the teams to pack up and head home to Charlotte due to lack of resources and spare parts for the new Generation Six race car.
Earnhardt attributed the accident to his Chevrolet SS not lining up with the Ford the way it would have under previous cars, a notion that Ambrose agreed with.
“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.”
The Car of Tomorrow featured splitters and bumpers that lined up, allowing for two cars to link up like pieces of a puzzle. That combined with the grip level of the newly-paved Daytona and Talladega track surfaces allowed for cars to stay linked up all the way around the track.
In an effort to eliminate the two-car draft, NASCAR decreased the size of the grille opening last season and altered the capacity of the radiator pressure relief valves that made the cars overheat if they remained in tandem for more than four-to-five laps.
The result was a very unstable pack that allowed for very little maneuverability and some of the most dramatic crashes in NASCAR history, including one that involved 25 cars at Talladega last October. Following the accident on Friday, Ambrose thinks drafting will look slightly different when Speedweeks begins in Daytona.
“Well, certainly we used to get greedy with the old cars,” Ambrose said. “It was very easy to bump draft. You really had a good square surface to push from. You could get across on an angle and still get away with it. So I guess we are used to that. I didn't think anything of it.
I got a couple shots from (Earnhardt) down the backstretch and we carried some steam. Just the third shot just spun me out. So I definitely think it's a consequence of the new shape, and like a downforce, the car’s very light and it doesn’t take much.”