Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked his 2011 Daytona 500 pole-winning car on Wednesday afternoon after a practice incident, forcing him to start in the back of the field for NASCAR’s biggest race.
Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. – his hunting buddy and frequent drafting partner – both spun and had damage after Earnhardt Jr.’s two-car draft with Jimmie Johnson went awry.
Johnson spotted some slower cars up ahead and rolled out – as did Earnhardt Jr. – but the Brian Vickers/Truex combo nailed Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car from behind as he slowed.
"We were coming around (Turns) 3 and 4, and some guys on the inside moved up toward the top lane, and me and Jimmie checked up because we didn't know if they were coming into our lane," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We got run over from behind. It was just a tough deal. Same ol' stuff that always happens here."
Earnhardt Jr. will be forced to use his third car of Daytona Speedweeks after also wrecking his Bud Shootout car — which had originally been scheduled to be the Daytona 500 backup.
A frustrated Earnhardt Jr. said he had been nervous about running in practice because he had a bad feeling something would screw up his promising start to Speedweeks.
"I had a pole-winning race car," he said. "Don't need to practice. ... I had a fast car and I didn't want to practice it."
Asked his emotions at the moment, Earnhardt Jr. said of his mindset: "Get the next (car) ready."
– Motorsports editor Jeff Gluck contributed to this story