First Big One beats the early rain at Daytona

Matthew Thacker/Motorsport Images

First Big One beats the early rain at Daytona

NASCAR

First Big One beats the early rain at Daytona

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It didn’t take long for Daytona International Speedway to turn into a race car junkyard.

On Lap 14 of the season-opening Daytona 500, Kyle Busch gave a shove to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell going down the backstretch. The momentum propelled Bell forward and his run ended on the back bumper of Aric Almirola. But their bumpers were not flush, and Bell turned Almirola to trigger a 15-car wreck.

“We were just getting pushed too hard too early,” said Almirola, who won his Duel race and started third. “It’s a long, long race. Man, we were in a fine position, just sitting there riding around in the top two, three, and the 20 (Bell) just came with a big run and hit me really hard in a bad spot, and it turned me to the right and tore up our race car and ended our Daytona 500 way too early.”

Almirola was the second car running in the inside line behind leader Kevin Harvick. When Almirola was turned, he collided with polesitter Alex Bowman, who was leading the outside lane.

“It looks like (Almirola) kind of got turned sideways there, and I was the guy that got ran into,” said Bowman. “Bummer — I hate it for Ally. Obviously, we had a really fast Camaro. The Chevrolets were working good together; hopefully, a Chevy still ends up in victory lane.”

Bell and Kyle Busch avoided the carnage.

In addition to Almirola and Bowman, the drivers collected were: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, David Ragan, Anthony Alfredo, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez.

Almirola, Ragan, Blaney, Suarez, Jones, Bowman, and Newman are already confirmed out of the race.

“It’s just unfortunate to have a bunch of tore-up race cars that early,” said Ragan. “I’ve never met a driver that said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna start this 500-mile race and just be super aggressive.’ We all talk about give and take and making it to the end, but it seems nobody does that once they get out there.

“It’s frustrating that everybody is pushing and shoving, and I just saw the 48 (Bowman) get turned, and whenever someone wrecks in the top five or six, it tears up a lot of cars.”

As the field paced under caution from the accident, a lightning strike occurred within eight miles of the speedway. That forced a 30-minute hold, which has turned into a rain delay.

Byron went for a wild ride that saw his Chevrolet up on its two right-side tires.

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