A crash less than eight minutes into the second practice at Daytona International Speedway Wednesday will force several drivers to backup cars for Sunday’s Daytona 500. The crash happened as teams and drivers prepare for the Can-Am Duel Qualifying races Thursday night that will set the field for Sunday’s race.
An incident free first practice saw Michael McDowell top the charts with a speed of 200.173 during the 45-minute session. The Roush-Fenway racing team who have struggled the past two seasons made a good showing in the first round. Trevor Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 in 2011, was second, Greg Biffle (199.619 mph) was third with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (199.252 mph) and Germain Racing’s Casey Mears (199.164 mph) who rounded out the top five.
“This is a nice change,” Bayne said. “Unfortunately we had some issues in qualifying so we changed the rear gear and have to start in the back for the Duels. We got it fixed and now the car is running really good. It has a lot of speed and drives really good. Hopefully on old tires it will keep that handling because right now it drives great.”
Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip, Martin Truex Jr. and the entire four-car team of Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin, defending series champion Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth) remained in the garage during the first session.
Those eight drivers joined the field for the second round but just eight minutes in the Chevy of Ty Dillon began to lay down oil. Behind him, Reed Sorenson and Ryan Newman slowed and Michael Waltrip hit Newman and spun his Chevy into the wall. Behind Waltrip, David Gilliland struck the Waltrip car and chain reaction swept up Chris Buescher and Kyle Larson.
“The oil cooler cracked,” Dillon said taking complete responsibility for the accident. “I really hate it for those guys behind us. It’s just one of those weird situations. I hate that it tore-up race cars. I couldn’t do anything to make it any different. We were just getting the pack going. It was unfortunate for everybody involved. I hate it for our guys that our race car is torn up. It’s just as simple as a cracked weld on an oil cooler. Hey, we didn’t catch it early enough.”
Newman’s Richard Childress Racing team began to work on his car as soon as it was in the garage. The team felt it would be repairable, however the same could not be said for the Chevy of Larson whose team began preparing the backup car. Waltrip’s crew began prepping their backup car as well.
“It will be fine,” Larson said. “You hate to wreck one in practice here because you kind of assume you are going to get some damage tomorrow. We will probably have to send down our Unlimited car now as a back-up for this one. But, they say the car that we will run in the Duels and hopefully the 500 is just about the same as this primary car that we had.”
Because they are going to backup cars, Larson and Waltrip will be forced to start from the rear of their respective Duel race Thursday. Also starting at the back of the field are Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne. Both teams changed rear gears. Biffle and Bayne already are guaranteed spots in Sunday’s Daytona 500, the Duels however set the starting order after the front row.
Brian Scott led the second practice session; there were no further incidents. Scott put down a lap of 199.800. Scott was followed by Austin Dillon (199.769), Kyle Busch (199.729), Jimmie Johnson (199.645) and Paul Menard (199.601).