‘The Big One’ doesn't wait for the Daytona 500

AJ Allmendinger led the abbreviated first Daytona 500 practice with a top speed of 199.574 mph.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—It didn't take long for chaos to claim its first victims Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

Four laps into the afternoon NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session for Sunday's Daytona 500, Cole Whitt scraped the outside wall after a piece of debris punctured the nose of his No. 26 Swan Racing Toyota.

Trouble for Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Trouble for Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: General Motors

In an attempt to avoid Whitt's car, Brian Vickers collected Casey Mears' Chevrolet and shot nose-first into the outside wall. The impact sent parts and pieces flying, and one of the square cowl flaps from Vickers' Camry lodged edge-first into the nose and hood of Jeff Gordon's Chevy.

As it turned out, that was just the warm-up act for a subsequent seven-car wreck that sent Parker Kligerman for a ride on his roof, damaged five cars beyond repair and knocked a hole in the bottom portion of the chain-link fence that separates the track from the frontstretch grandstand.

NASCAR canceled the remainder of the practice session, giving track workers time to repair the fence before the start of the second practice.

Contact between Joey Logano's Ford and Matt Kenseth's Toyota triggered the wreck as drivers were drafting in close quarters.

"We were coming off of (Turn) 4 there, and the 20 (Kenseth) started making a move to go down," Logano explained. "I assumed he was going to go down there (to the inside lane). I had the run, so I was going to fill that hole, and then he started to come back up and I was there.

"Maybe I shouldn't have been racing as hard as I was there in practice, but everybody was in a big pack there, trying to make things happen."

Logano got no argument from Kligerman, whose Toyota got airborne, rode the top of the SAFER near the start/finish line, flipped over on its roof and slid to a stop past the end of pit road.

"I guess from what I could see, the 22 (Logano) was just being overly aggressive, and it's a shame," Kligerman said. "He's supposed to be a veteran.

"You go up here to the Sprint Cup Series, and it's supposed to be the best of the best, and you have a guy who in practice is racing people like that ... like it's the last lap of the Daytona 500."

Others involved in the wreck included the No. 27 Chevrolet of Paul Menard, the No. 83 Toyota of Ryan Truex, the No. 77 Ford of Dave Blaney and the No. 21 Ford of Trevor Bayne, which sustained damaged to the nose but was being repaired.

Menard, Truex, Kligerman, Logano and Blaney all were forced to go to backup cars and will start from the rear in Thursday night's Budweiser Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying races.

From the first wreck, Vickers went to a backup, but the teams of Whitt and Mears opted to repair their cars. Swan Racing teammates Whitt and Kligerman had but one backup car between them.

NEW TRUCKS UNVEILED

Brad Keselowski is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, having won the title in 2012.

But Keselowski also is an owner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, fielding Ford F-150s for Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick, and he was front and center Wednesday in the Daytona International Speedway Fan Zone during the unveiling of the series' new body styles for 2014.

"I don't think you can overstate the importance of moments like this for the Truck Series," said Keselowski, as fans and media got an up-close look at the new Ford, Toyota Tundra and Chevrolet Silverado. "The Truck Series is a series that I've been a part of from the inception with my family starting in 1995 and owning a truck team.

"And as I got to grow up and watch them race, even make my own first NASCAR start in 2004, I've always had that love affair."

Both Keselowski and NASCAR NCWTS managing director Chad Little underscored the importance of brand identity in NASCAR racing.

"The goal was to make these trucks more relevant to what the consumer sees on the street for both Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, and I think we accomplished that," Little said. "They're great looking trucks.

"They tested here in January, and they performed well. The drivers have run them at some downforce tracks, and the feedback has been positive, so we're really looking forward to seeing them on the track."

TOPPING THE CHARTS

AJ Allmendinger led the abbreviated first Daytona 500 practice with a top speed of 199.574 mph.

The second practice started 15 minutes early, at 6:15 p.m., after repairs to the catchfence were completed. In a session that was incident-free, Denny Hamlin, Saturday's Sprint Unlimited winner, posted the fastest time, identical to Allmendinger's 199.574 mph.

NASCAR

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Breaking news
Tags brian vickers, casey mears, cole whitt, jeff gordon, joey logano, matt kenseth, nascar-cup, nascar-truck, parker kligerman, paul menard