Several strong challengers were eliminated in an early wreck in Sunday's rain-delayed race at Daytona International Speedway.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. triggered the pileup when he broke loose near the front of the field on Lap 19 of the Coke Zero 400. Jeff Gordon tried to avoid Stenhouse, but he turned into Tony Stewart, who then spun. Altogether, 16 different cars received damage of some kind including Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth.
NASCAR was planning on throwing a competition caution on Lap 20 after heavy rain Saturday night forced the postponement of the race until Sunday.
"We're a quarter of a lap from the competition caution and Stenhouse is going to be a hero," Stewart said. "I don't know what happened to him there, but it took out a bunch of good cars for no reason. I don't know what it is. No matter what I say right now, somebody's going to be mad and somebody's going to disagree with it. I think it's a pretty dumb excuse to have the caution come out 500 yards too early."
Earnhardt, Kenseth and Danica Patrick continued with minimal repairs. Meanwhile Johnson, Stewart and Stenhouse all went to the garage with significant damage.
Stenhouse disagreed with Stewart's assessment and directed blame towards Gordon.
"I was heading straight and from the replay it looks the (Gordon) kind of checked up and got into the outside of (Stewart) and turned him into us,'' Stenhouse said. "Had it saved and had it straight again and got caught in the left rear.''